Was the Prophet Isa (Jesus) crucified? Will you explain the issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The following two verses exists in the Quran about Jesus being killed:

“…But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them… Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself…” (an-Nisa, 4/157-158)

“Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/55)

We will express the conclusion of the different interpretations of those two verses by tafsir scholars:

In the first verse, it is clearly stated that the person whom the Jews crucified to death was not Jesus (pbuh), but another person whom they mixed up with him. The majority of tafsir scholars has stated that Jesus (pbuh) lived with his body in the fourth layer of the sky based on the fact that “he was not killed but raised to Allah”.

Two different views have been put forward at this point. One is that he died after his ascension to the heavens, and the second is that he will wait in that state until the Day of Judgment and will descend to the earth again close to Doomsday and will die after this descent.

Those whose minds cannot comprehend this second option try to discuss it and argue that it cannot happen and that a human being cannot remain alive in the fourth layer of the heavens, which is far beyond the realm of the stars. At this point, I must state the following:

God Almighty keeps the human spirit alive without an atmosphere both when it is on the ground and when it ascends to the heavens; it continues its life without the need for food and drink. If he were to apply this law, which he imposed for the spirit and the angels, to the body of Jesus, who and with what logic could object to it? As a matter of fact, it is emphasized in tafsir books that his body was “raised to an angelic station, freed from eating, drinking, lust and other things”.

The future tense is used in the second verse. According to this verse, it is not certain that he died, but he will certainly die before Doomsday. When it will happen is not explicitly stated in the verse.

A minority of tafsir scholars has stated that Jesus was killed and raised to the sky. Since there is no certainty in the verse, we will refer to the hadiths, which are the first tafsir of the Quran. It is stated in sound hadiths that Jesus (pbuh) will return to earth and cleanse Christianity of superstition and subordinate it to Islam.

However, there are two different opinions about the nature of this descent. According to the first view, Jesus will return to earth with his body and perform his mission; then, his spirit will be taken away and he will die. According to the second view, his descent to the earth in the end times, practicing Islam and saving his ummah from the creed of trinity and inviting them to tawhid is a spiritual event, a manifestation of the spirit in the form of a body and a spiritual deed.

In both cases, not everyone will see this descent. He himself, perhaps in the guise of a cleric, will cleanse Christianity of superstition, that is, he will bring it together with the Islamic faith. Like every mortal being, he will eventually surrender his spirit to his Lord and, like the other prophets, he will await the resurrection and the gathering.

As it is well known, some verses of the Quran are muhkam (clear/definite) and some are mutashabih (ambiguous/interpretable).

“He begetteth not, nor is He begotten.” (al-Ikhlas, 112/3)

“It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son.” (Maryam, 19/35)

“There is nothing whatever like unto Him.” (ash-Shura, 42/11)

For example, the verses above are muhkam; there is no place for interpretation.

“Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him.” (an-Nisa, 4/171)

The verse above is mutashabih (ambiguous).

That Jesus was a word of Allah was interpreted to mean that he was created without a father and directly with the command “Kun: Be”, and that he “was a spirit from Him” was also considered to be an honor, i.e. a compliment from Allah to the spirit.

As a matter of fact, the following is stated in the chapter of al-Anbiya: “We breathed into her (Mary/Maryam) of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples.” The phrase “of Our spirit” in the verse is also an attribution, a compliment. There is also an expression of honor and compliment in the phrase ‘of our spirit’ in the verse too. If God Almighty had said, “I have given you fish from My sea, fruits from My soil, and light from My sun”, we would have understood those expressions as a compliment to the sea, soil and sun. The phrase “of Our spirit” would be understood as “of Our creature called the spirit”.

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi includes the hadith “I and the end of the world are like these two fingers” in his book named “Muhakemat” and makes the following important explanation:

“This hadith contains three judgments:

One: It is the word of the Prophet…

Two: The meaning expressed in this hadith is true … [In other words, what the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) meant by this hadith is true.]

Third: That is what is meant by this hadith. ... (In other words, that is the meaning conveyed by this hadith.)

Disagreements arise from the third judgment. (In other words, differences of view occur in this third judgment.)”

Then, it is stated that if the first two options are accepted, the different opinions that arise in the third option, which are based on ijtihad, will not lead a person to unbelief. And it is emphasized that this judgment holds true for the verses of the Quran too.

According to this criterion, if a person accepts the verses about Jesus being raised to the sky and the hadiths that he will return to earth and serve the cause of tawhid, but believes that both of these events can happen spiritually rather than physically, he cannot be accused of opposing the verses and hadiths. However, it can be said that he has made wrong interpretations.

Since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last prophet, Jesus’ descent to the earth will not be in terms of “risalah” (i.e. prophethood), but in terms of “guardianship (walayah)”. As it is known, every prophet is a servant and messenger of Allah. Their aspect of servitude is walayah (guardianship) and their mission of conveying the truth and reality to people is risalah (prophethood).

Moreover, this descent is not an event that can be seen and known by everybody. Only a certain number of people to whom Islam conveys the belief of tawhid will know that it is Jesus.

Another important aspect of the issue is this: The structure of this century is suitable only for such a descent. Allah is the All-Wise. In accordance with His Wisdom, He will make Jesus a spiritual member of the ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the greatest of the prophets, and make Jesus serve Islam under his command.

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