The founder of the Barelwi sect, Mulla Ahmad Reza Khan, when confronted with a solid and powerful argument from the Qur’an al-Karim declaring in no uncertain terms that the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth (peace be upon him) is dead and not alive, was forced to admit that the issue of the life or death of the Messiah is a subsidiary issue (Furu’ee Mas’alah ) and also a disputed issue. He went on to say that having a position either way far from being a matter of faith or infidelity, is not even a matter of guidance and misguidance. Hence he writes:
حیات ووفات سیدنا عیسے رسول اللہ علی نبینا الکریم وعلیہ صلوات وتسلیمات اللہ کی بحث چھیڑتے ہیں، جو ایک فرعی مسئلہ خود مسلماں میں ایک نوع کا اختلافی مسئلہ ہے جس کا اقرار یا انکار کفر تو درکنار ضلال بھی نہیں
Translation: “They dispute about the issue of the life or death of our master Jesus the Messenger of Allah, (peace and blessings of Allah upon him and our Prophet), which is in fact a subsidiary issue [Furu’ee Mas’alah] concerning which the Muslims themselves differ. Acceptance or rejection (of the life or death of Jesus) is, far from being a matter of Kufr (unbelief) does not even result in a state of being misguided.”
Reference: Al-Juraaz ad-Dayyaani ‘alaa al-Murtad al-Qadiyaani; p.612
In summary, the Barelwi sect at least is in no position to declare as Kaafir (unbeliever) anyone who believes that Jesus (peace be upon him) has died. Nevermind that, the Barelwis according to the verdict of Mulla Ahmad Reza, cannot even declare someone who believes Jesus has died as being outside of the fold of Ahlus Sunnati wal-Jama’ah (Walhamdulillah).
Now you may be scratching you head and wandering how such a fanatical Mulla the founder of such an extremely rigid and polytheistic sect was forced to confess this fact. The reason is that the Mulla was confronted by a questioner who posed before him such a powerful argument from the Holy Qur’an which categorically proves the death of Jesus (peace be upon him) that the Mulla had no choice but to state this opinion in order to escape giving an answer to the Verse:
وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ لَا يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ ﴿٢٠﴾ أَمْوَاتٌ غَيْرُ أَحْيَاءٍ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ ﴿٢١﴾
Translation: And those whom they invoke, besides Allah, are unable to create anything, but are themselves created. They are Dead, not living, and are unaware of when they shall be raised back (to life).
This passage of the Holy Qur’an is quite categorical in stating that all those objects of worship and invocation (besides Allah) are dead and lifeless. And please remember that after Allah Himself (God), the person who is most worshiped and invoked by the majority of humanity for the last two millenia is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. Christians, who form the largest religious community in the world, not only believe that Jesus is God incarnated into a flesh and blood body, but on a daily basis worship him, pray to him, and invoke him in their supplications.
Some people argue that this passage is referring only to the idols. That is an extremely weak and baseless argument for a number of reasons.
(1) Allah says “Those that are invoked besides Allah”. This is a general statement and there is absolutely not specification in this passage whatsoever that Allah is only referring to the idols.
(2) Elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an, Allah makes it clear that Jesus is included in the category of “besides Allah” (Surah 5:116)
(3) Allah does not simply refer to the objects of worship intended in this passage as “lifeless” but as Amwaat (dead) which throughout the Holy Qur’an is a term reserved for living, animated creatures (human beings and animals) that have died. The term Amwaat is never used to refer to inanimate objects like idols, statues, etc.
(4) The passage emphatically states that the intended objects of worship are not aware of when they shall be raised back to life. Idols, statues, etc., are neither buried in graves nor will they be resurrected back to life since they never possessed life to begin with. It is quite clear from the phrase WAMA YASH’URUNA AYYAANA YUB’ATHOON that Allah Most High is referring to dead human beings, including Prophets and Saints, who are falsely invoked by their followers besides Allah.
Regarding the last point, some have desperately tried to argue that “when they shall be raised up” that the imperfect verb and subject pronoun “Yub’athoon” is not referring to “Amwaatun Ghayru Ahyaa’in”. Therefore, they understand it to mean that the dead and lifeless idols are unaware when other people (not themselves) will be raised back to life. In this way they attempt to solve the dilemma of how this verse can refer to idols when idols are not raised back to life and so on.
However, this is an inconsistent way to understand the wording of the Holy Qur’an. Examine the proceeding Verse with similar wording:
قُل لَّا يَعْلَمُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ
Translation: “Say: None in the Heavens and in the Earth know the Unseen except Allah, nor are they aware when they shall be raised up.” (Surah 27:65)
In this verse the phrase “Wama Yash’uroona Ayyaana Yub’athoon” occurs as it does in 16:21, and it is the Dhameer that is connected to Object spoken of in this verse, in this case “those who are in the Heavens and the Earth.” Likewise, the phrase “Wama Yash’uroona Ayyaana Yub’athoon” as it occurs in 16:21 is referring back to the object of that verse “Amwaatun Ghayru Ahyaa’in”.
Hence there is no possibility that the verse is referring to only idols as is often argued.
If we consult the classical Tafsir al-Baidawi, he has written that there is a possibility for both meanings (the dead lifeless objects are unaware when they themselves will be raised to life, or are unaware when their worshipers will be raised back to life):
ولا يعلمون وقت بعثهم أو بعث عبدتهم
Translation: “And they do not know the time when they will be raised back to life, nor (when) their worshipers will be raised back to life.”
Reference: Tafsir al-Baidawi; v.3 p.223
And perhaps the reality is that both meanings are correct, for Jesus of Nazareth (peace be upon him) and other human beings that are invoked besides Allah are dead and lifeless, they are unaware of both things 1. When they themselves will be raised back to life, and 2. When their “worshipers” will be raised back to life.