Friday, 7 December 2018

Government Upon Shoulder of the Messiah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وصلى الله على نبينا محمد
وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين
One of the obvious similarities between the Prophets Moses and Muhammad عليهما الصلاة والسلام is  that they both were responsible for the administrative and political affairs of their communities. In the holy Torah, the Lord God says to Moses:
נָבִיא אָקִים לָהֶם מִקֶּרֶב אֲחֵיהֶם, כָּמוֹךָ; וְנָתַתִּי דְבָרַי, בְּפִיו, וְדִבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּנּוּ
“I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.”
[Deuteronomy 18:18]
This is in contrast to the promised Messiah of Nazareth عليه السلام who, during his lifetime, was a subject of the Romans and their client, Herod Antipas. Now regarding the Messiah, Isaiah apparently prophesied:
כִּי-יֶלֶד יֻלַּד-לָנוּ, בֵּן נִתַּן-לָנוּ, וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה, עַל-שִׁכְמוֹ
“For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder”
[Isaiah 9:5/6]

Now of course, Christians and Muslims believe that this messianic prophecy regarding the Messiah being a ruler with real, earthly power and dominion, shall be fulfilled during the second coming of Christ:
“Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
[Mark 14:62; Matthew 26:64]

“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
[Revelation 19:15]
لاَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى يَنْزِلَ فِيكُمُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ حَكَمًا مُقْسِطًا
“The Hour will not be established until descends among you the Son of Mary, a just ruler.”
[Sahih al-Bukhari]

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus the Messiah warned the people about the coming of false messiahs: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be... And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” [Matthew 24:23-27, 30]
“The Son of man” is the title with which Jesus refers to himself, I think because of the prophecy in Daniel: “one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him” [Daniel 7:13-14]
It should be pointed out here that the Aramaic word pelach does not mean “worship” as some Christian Bibles have mistakenly translated it, but rather “to pay reverence to”, corresponding to the Hebrew verb palach which means “to cleave” [Strong’s Concordance].
The holy Qur’an likewise mentions the attribute of the Messiah as being close or near to God, which may be a reference to his spiritual ascension:

اسْمُهُ الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَجِيهًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ
“His name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, held in honor in [this] world and in the hereafter, and among the near.”
[Sura 3:45]

The Muqarrabin are in fact a category of Angels that are near God [Sura 4:172], who may also be termed the Kurubiyin [Cherubim]. As a consequence of his spiritual ascension, Jesus the Messiah was placed in the category of the Muqarribin, meaning he too was brought near the presence of the Most High, the Ancient of days, though in spirit and not with the corporal, earthly body. In the passage from Matthew chapter 24 which I have quoted above, it is apparent that Jesus the Messiah warned against “false christs”, and that people should be on their guard against such deceivers. The distinction between these false christs and the true Messiah “the Son of man” is that the latter’s advent shall be undeniable and clear, drawing on the parable of lightning that comes from the direction of the east though clearly visible in the west. And perhaps this is a prophecy that the Messiah shall come from an eastern direction, which corresponds to the Hadith of him descending to the east of Damascus. Coming in or with the clouds of heaven is from the Book of Daniel and Jesus repeats this as a sign of the Messiah in the Gospels. However, whether this is a literal descent from the sky or a simile expressing the heavenly authority that the Messiah shall exercise in establishing a heavenly kingdom here on the Earth that is powerful and glorious, is a debatable point. The authentic Hadith speak of the nuzul or “coming down” of the Messiah, and this is usually interpreted to mean coming down physically from Heaven. An isolated narration even states:
كَيْفَ أَنْتُمْ إِذَا نَزَلَ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فِيكُمْ وَإِمَامُكُمْ مِنْكُمْ
“How will you be when comes down the Son of Mary from Heaven among you, and your leader is among you?”
[al-Asma was-Siffat lil-Bayhaqi]

It appears to me that the addition “from Heaven” cannot solidly and genuinely be attributed to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم because the same Hadith, as reported in the Sahihayn, omit them, and the principle of Hadith sciences is that when a narration, despite being technically authentic in its chain, differs with another narration from the Sahihayn, the narration of the Sahihayn is given preference, and Allah knows best.
According to an authentic Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad met with Jesus the Messiah عليهما السلام during the night of his Isra – the spiritual night journey to the Holy Land – and it was at that time that the Messiah informed him:

“I shall descend”
[Sunan Ibn Maja #4081]

Therefore, the second advent of the Messiah is the coming of he himself, though we do not know the reality of how it shall be, i.e., whether it is physically coming down from Heaven, or the spirit of the Messiah coming down in another body – Allah knows best. I have previously stated that prophecies regarding the second coming of a historic prophet may be interpreted to mean the coming of that prophet’s likeness, where the likeness is nevertheless a distinct person. I cited the examples of the second coming of King David and the second coming of Elijah, fulfilled in the persons of Jesus and John the Baptist respectively عليهم السلام. However, in light of the Hadith and the messianic prophecies of the Bible, the stronger view is that Jesus son of Mary himself is coming. For if Jesus the Messiah will not return as a ruler with power and dominion, then in what sense has the holy Qur’an refered to him as al-Masiha? It is clear from the Bible and the words of Jesus himself that the concept of the Messiah is that the latter shall wield dominion on the Earth, acting as a ruler and king. I truly believe that the Davidic Messiah whom the Jews are still expecting is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, but if Jesus of Nazareth shall not return to exercise dominion over the Holy Land, then it is meaningless to consider him the Messiah, but Allah knows best. Some Christians and apparently some Muslims too have spiritualized the concept of the Messiah and do not think it is necessary that the Messiah actually exercise any kind of political authority in the Earth. This Christian idea that prophets of God are never meant to exercise dominion in the Earth can be seen in their objection to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. In the Teaching of Jacob, a 7th century Greek Christian text, one of the earliest Christian historical references to our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, it is stated: “And they were saying that the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come. I, having arrived at Sykamina, stopped by a certain old man well-versed in scriptures, and I said to him: ‘What can you tell me about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?’ He replied, groaning deeply: ‘He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword.’”
This idea that prophets do not come armed with a sword is of course un-Biblical. Both the prophets Moses and his successor Joshua led battles in the name of God against the pagan tribes, such as Amalek. It is in this sense that the Prophet Muhammad has been compared to Prophet Moses عليهما السلام [Deut. 18:18] as both prophets led their people into battle against the pagans, with divine instruction and aid. It is also interesting that the text of the Teaching of Jacob acknowledges that the prophesy of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم revolves around proclaiming the advent of the Messiah. This is an early historical witness that Islam is an apocalyptic religion, and that the doctrine of the coming of the Messiah, though not explicit from the holy Qur’an [though certainly implicit], nevertheless was held to and preached by Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم and the early Muslims. Moses was immediately succeeded by his right-hand man, Joshua, who was granted the gift of prophesy. Under his leadership, the Israelites conquered the Holy Land, defeating the pagan tribes, famously in the Battle of Jericho. Subsequently, the nation of Israel was ruled by a series of judges, military strongmen, until the advent of the Prophet Samuel عليه السلام, in whose time the Lord God blessed Israel with a monarchy. So we see how the history of ancient Israel, after their deliverance from bondage in Egypt and the last days of Moses, parallels that of the early history of Islam. In both instances, the community of the faithful were granted dominion in the land and real political authority. The succession to Moses by another prophet, Joshua, then a series of judges, is like the succession to Prophet Muhammad by the Siddiq, Abu Bakr, and the rest of the rightly-guided Caliphs رضى الله عنهم who may be likened to the Israelite judges [Othniel, Ehud, Gideon, Samson, etc.] These were not merely righteous men who were spiritually close to the Lord God, they were granted dominion in the land and political authority over their communities as a divine favor. Because the would be followers of Christ deviated from his message so early on, largely due to the influence of Paul of Tarsus – they were deprived of this divine favor for centuries. Only when Constantine converted to Christianity in the early 4th century CE did the Christian Church get its first taste of power and dominion, but by that time the religion had undergone so many fundamental deviations from the original teachings and beliefs of Jesus that it would have been absolutely unrecognizable to him.

1 comment:

  1. That the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was a judge who exercised political authority over Arabia was a divine blessing but not a part of his Nubuwwa (prophesy), or his office of being a Prophet, can be understood from the fact that the Jews of Medina would bring their legal disputes to Prophet Muhammad in his capacity of judge, recognizing him to be a judge with power and authority, but not recognizing him to be a prophet and apostle of God. Although God does appoint individuals to political offices, such as the appointment of Talut (Saul) as King of Israel through the agency of Prophet Samuel, this is as a divine favor. It could not be possible that God would appoint Saul as King and the latter should not be enthroned but instead set up a "government in exile". This refutes the Imamiya Shi'a notion that Allah appointed the Twelve Imams to the office of caliphate, though historically the majority of those Imams were subject to the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. If Allah had indeed appointed them to the office of caliphate, they would have necessarily been caliphs and rulers in reality, exercising actual power and dominion in the land.


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