بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
As I’ve proven repeatedly on my blog, the Holy Qur’an explicitly and unequivocally teaches that Prophet and Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth عليه السلام is dead. Those who oppose this idea have nothing explicit and unambiguous from the Qur’an or even the Sunna that states that Jesus did not die but is still alive. Instead, they bring some Verses of the Holy Qur’an through which they claim there is implicit and suggestive evidence for the idea that Jesus did not die but is still alive. In this entry I will examine some of those Verses. In the previous entry I discussed the two Verses regarded the Rafa or ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, and argued they are referring to a spiritual ascension and not a bodily raising to the Heavens. Those who insist, however, that the Verses of Rafa (3:55; 4:158) prove that Jesus was raised to the Heavens alive in his earthly body conveniently ignore the fact that those Verses omit any mention of “heavens” or “sky”, instead they say that Allah raised Jesus up to Himself. Apart from the Salafis/Atharis, the majority of traditionalist Sunnis, such as the Asharis and Maturidis, believe that Allah exists without a place, and would otherwise find it reprehensible to believe that a human being could be physically raised in his body up to where God Himself is. This would likewise be the feeling of the Shi’ites. Yet all of these Muslims consider the Verses of Rafa (3:55; 4:158) as evidence that Jesus was physically and bodily raised into Heaven, again, despite the fact that the Verses omit any mention of the word السماء (“sky”).
In fact, the Holy Qur’an alludes to the fact that it is not possible for a Bashar (mortal human being) to ascend into Heaven, at least in his physical body:
أَوْ يَكُونَ لَكَ بَيْتٌ مِّن زُخْرُفٍ أَوْ تَرْقَىٰ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَن نُّؤْمِنَ لِرُقِيِّكَ حَتَّىٰ تُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْنَا كِتَابًا نَّقْرَؤُهُ ۗ قُلْ سُبْحَانَ رَبِّي هَلْ كُنتُ إِلَّا بَشَرًا رَّسُولًا
“Or you have a house of gold or you ascend into the sky. And [even then], we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read.” Say, “Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger?”
This Verse is in the context of several challenges put forward by the disbelieving polytheists to our beloved Prophet ﷺ. The last challenge that is quoted in this Verse is that if the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is truthful, he should ascend into Heaven and bring down with him a book that the people can read. In answer to this and other challenges, Allah Most High instructs His beloved Prophet ﷺ to say: “Holy is my Lord! Am I not but a human messenger?” meaning that the challenge put forward to our Prophet to ascend into Heaven is impossible for a Bashar. This is like the fact that it is impossible for a Bashar, including a Prophet, to live forever, or to live without nourishment and sustainance. Similarly, the Holy Qur’an is teaching in this Verse that it is impossible for a Bashar to ascend physically and bodily into the Heavens.
Now let us come to a Verse quoted by those who believe that Jesus is alive, and is unique in this respect in comparison to the rest of the Prophets who have died:
وَإِن مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا لَيُؤْمِنَنَّ بِهِ قَبْلَ مَوْتِهِ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكُونُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا
And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.
Now I have quoted the translation of Saheeh International, but in fact this translation is somewhat problematic, because Jesus’s name is omitted in the actual text of the Verse. Instead there are two pronouns “There is none from the People of the Book except he believes in him/it (به) before his death (موته).” The reader should be aware that there is a difference of interpretation among the classical exegetes concerning to whom these pronouns are referring back to. Those who regard this Verse (4:159) as a strong evidence that Jesus is alive quote the interpretation of Abu Huraira رضى الله عنه who cited this Verse when narrating the Hadith regarding the descent of Jesus, implying it is a proof for him being alive. (Sahih al-Bukhari).
According to this interpretation, Allah is saying that the Jews and Christians (People of the Book) will all believe in Jesus before Jesus dies. Hence, when Jesus comes down before Judgment Day, the Jews and Christians will all believe in him as he is meant to be believed in, and then Jesus will die thereafter. Since at present, the Jews and Christians do not believe in Jesus, as least in the way they are supposed to believe in him, as a true, human Prophet of God, it means that Jesus has not yet died; because all the Jews and Christians will believe in Jesus before his death.
Although apparently this is the personal interpretation of Abu HurairaRA, nevertheless, there are some obvious problems with it:
The Verse says there is none from the People of the Book except that he will believe in Jesus. In other words, every single Kitabi (Jew and Christian) will believe in Jesus before Jesus dies. Firstly, there have been millions if not billions of Jews and Christians who have already died without believing in Jesus. Secondly, the Hadith prophecies themselves state that when Jesus comes down he will be faught against by the Jewish followers of the Dajjal. Instead of those Jews repenting and believing in Jesus, the Hadith states that they will be exterminated:
قَالَ عِيسَى عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ افْتَحُوا الْبَابَ . فَيُفْتَحُ وَوَرَاءَهُ الدَّجَّالُ مَعَهُ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفِ يَهُودِيٍّ كُلُّهُمْ ذُو سَيْفٍ مُحَلًّى وَسَاجٍ فَإِذَا نَظَرَ إِلَيْهِ الدَّجَّالُ ذَابَ كَمَا يَذُوبُ الْمِلْحُ فِي الْمَاءِ وَيَنْطَلِقُ هَارِبًا وَيَقُولُ عِيسَى عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ إِنَّ لِي فِيكَ ضَرْبَةً لَنْ تَسْبِقَنِي بِهَا . فَيُدْرِكُهُ عِنْدَ بَابِ اللُّدِّ الشَّرْقِيِّ فَيَقْتُلُهُ فَيَهْزِمُ اللَّهُ الْيَهُودَ فَلاَ يَبْقَى شَىْءٌ مِمَّا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ يَتَوَارَى بِهِ يَهُودِيٌّ إِلاَّ أَنْطَقَ اللَّهُ ذَلِكَ الشَّىْءَ لاَ حَجَرَ وَلاَ شَجَرَ وَلاَ حَائِطَ وَلاَ دَابَّةَ - إِلاَّ الْغَرْقَدَةَ فَإِنَّهَا مِنْ شَجَرِهِمْ لاَ تَنْطِقُ - إِلاَّ قَالَ يَا عَبْدَ اللَّهِ الْمُسْلِمَ هَذَا يَهُودِيٌّ فَتَعَالَ اقْتُلْهُ
'Eisa (as), will say: "Open the gate." So they will open it and behind it will be Dajjal with seventy thousand Jews, each of them carrying an adorned sword and wearing a greenish cloak. When Dajjal looks at him, he will start to melt as salt melts in water. He will run away, and 'Eisa (as), will say: "I have only one blow for you, which you will not be able to escape!" He will catch up with him at the eastern gate of Ludd, and will kill him. Then Allah will defeat the Jews, and there will be nothing left that Allah has created which the Jews will be able to hide behind, except that Allah will cause it to speak - no stone, no tree, no wall, no animal - except for Al-Gharqad (the box-thorn), for it is one of their trees, and will not speak - except that it will say: "O Muslim slave of Allah, here is a Jews, come and kill him!"
So what then is the correct interpretation of this Verse (4:159)? Based on what many exegetes have said, I believe the Verse is saying:
“There is none from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) except that he will believe in Jesus, right before he (Jew or Christian) dies.”
In other words, when the Jew or Christian is about to die, it will be disclosed to him through a sort of Kashaf that Jesus is a true Prophet of God, or that he was neither killed nor crucified, but that Allah raised him to Himself (as stated in the two preceeding Verses – 4:157-158). This interpretation has been narrated from Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, ‘Ikrima, al-Dahhak, al-Hasan al-Basri, and Muhammad b. Sirin رضى الله عنهم among others.
Reference: Tafsir Ibn Jarir; v.7, p.667-671