The Prophet Jesus (as) will Return to Earth in This Century
Allah Foiled the Unbelievers' Plot Against the Prophet Jesus (as)
The plan to kill the Prophet Jesus (as) is not an isolated event, for throughout history unbelievers have made similar plans against the prophets sent to them. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals that whenever a prophet came to his unbelieving people and began calling on them to live by the moral values of the true religion, the unbelievers would inevitably set about preparing traps for them and even try to kill them:
We gave Moses the Book and sent a succession of messengers after him. We gave Jesus, son of Mary, the clear signs and reinforced him with the Purest Spirit. Why then, whenever a messenger came to you with something that your lower selves did not desire, did you grow arrogant, and deny some of them and murder others? (Surat al-Baqara, 87)
Those who cast the Prophet Abraham (as) into the flames, pursued the Prophet Moses (as) with their armies, sought to kill our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saas) in a nocturnal attack, and left the Prophet Joseph (as) at the bottom of a well solely because all of these prophets said: "Allah is our Lord" have exactly the same mindset, even though they lived at different times. All of them sought to rebel against Allah and His messengers, opposed the moral values commanded by Allah, and ignored the fact that they would have to account for their deeds in the Hereafter. Their anger arose out of the prophets reminding them of several facts: that they were Allah's servants and therefore should be faithful to Him, give alms and perform good deeds to win His good approval, be just and modest, and that the prophets were chosen and immaculate messengers in His Presence. As a result, these people set traps for the prophets. This mentality is described, as follows:
… We sent messengers to them. Each time a messenger came to them with something their lower selves did not desire, they denied some and they murdered others. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 70)
A similar plan was devised by the leaders of the Meccan polytheists, who hoped that they could expel the Prophet (saas) or perhaps even kill him. Our Lord warned him of this plan. But as the unbelievers soon discovered, Allah is the most superior of planners:
When those who did not believe were plotting against you, to imprison you or to kill you or to expel you: they were planning and Allah was planning, but Allah is the Best of Planners. (Surat al-Anfal, 30)
As we have seen, the unbelievers sought to kill the Prophet Jesus (as). They drew up a wide-ranging plan and thought that they would succeed if they captured him. According to historical and Islamic sources, some polytheistic Jews spread many lies and slanders about the Prophet Jesus (as) in order to incite the Romans against him, for they wanted Rome to take action against him. Their plan is revealed in the Qur'an as follows:
When Jesus sensed unbelief on their part, he asked: "Who will be my helpers of Allah?" The disciples said: "We are Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah. Bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord, we believe in what You have sent down and have followed the messenger, so write us down among the witnesses." They planned and Allah planned. But Allah is the best Planner. (Surah Al 'Imran, 52-54)
Allah foiled their plot in a completely unexpected manner: They were shown, and killed, a double in his stead. Our Lord protected His chosen servant from the unbelievers:
The Prophet Jesus (as) is not dead, but is alive in Allah's Presence. The fact that Allah has revealed that He foiled the traps set for him is one of the important pieces of evidence that the Prophet Jesus (as) is still alive. Had the Prophet Jesus (as) really died, as some people (erroneously) maintain, then the unbelievers would have achieved their goal of killing him. However, "… Allah will not give the unbelievers any way against the believers" (Surat an-Nisa', 141). Allah revealed that He would not allow the unbelievers to kill the Prophet Jesus (as). Moreover, many verses reveal that the unbelievers would never achieve their goal and that their failure is a requirement of Allah's Divine plan. Some of these verses are given below:
They concocted their plots, but their plots were with Allah, even if they were such as to make the mountains vanish. (Surah Ibrahim, 46)
Allah always confounds the unbelievers' schemes. (Surat al-Anfal, 18)
Or do they desire to dupe you? But the duped ones are those who do not believe. (Surat at-Tur, 42)
Allah will defend those who believe. Allah does not love any thankless traitor. (Surat al-Hajj, 38)
They are hatching a plot. I too am hatching a plan. So bear with the unbelievers – bear with them for a while. (Surat at-Tariq, 15-17)
Those before them also plotted. Allah came at their building from the foundations, and the roof caved in on top of them. The punishment came at them from a direction that they did not expect. (Surat an-Nahl, 26)
How Are Prophets' Deaths Recounted in the Qur'an?
Examination of the stories in the Qur'an that mention how prophets died, and the verses that describe the ascension of the Prophet Jesus (as), reveal an important fact. In this section we shall examine the meaning of the Arabic words used in the story of the Prophet Jesus (as) as well as those used to describe the deaths of other prophets, and will see how they are used in the verses.
As we shall be seeing in greater detail later, a number of words are used in the Qur'an to describe the deaths of prophets, such as qataloohu (to kill), maata (to die), halaka (to perish) and salaboohu (they crucified him). However, it is clearly stated in the Qur'an that, "They did not kill him (wa ma qataloohu) and did not crucify him (wa ma salaboohu)", meaning the Prophet Jesus (as) was not killed in any way. It is emphasized that, in fact, someone who resembled the Prophet Jesus (as) was put forward for the unbelievers to see and that the Prophet Jesus (as) was raised to the Presence of Allah. In Surah Al 'Imran, we are informed that Allah took the Prophet Jesus (as) back and He raised him up to Himself.
When Allah said, "Jesus, I will take you back (mutawaffeeka) and raise you up (wa rafi'uka) to Me and purify you of those who are disbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are disbelievers until the Day of Resurrection..." (Surah Al 'Imran, 55)
The following are the ways in which the words referring to "death" in the Qur'an have been used:
1) Tawaffa: To Cause To Die, To Take In Sleep Or To Take Back
The word tawaffa as used in this verse has other meanings than simply 'death' in English. A study of the Arabic equivalents of the words in the verses reveals that the Prophet Jesus (as) did not die in the accepted sense. This is how his being taken back to Allah is described in Surat al-Ma'ida:
I said to them nothing but what You ordered me to say: "Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." I was a witness against them as long as I remained among them, but when You took me back to You (tawaffa), You were the One watching over them. You are Witness of all things. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 117)
Surah Al 'Imran states:
When Allah said, "Jesus, I will take you back (mutawaffeeka) and raise you up (wa rafi'uka) to Me and purify you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection..." (Surah Al 'Imran, 55)
This verse informs the believers that Allah will "take back" the Prophet Jesus (as), protect him from the unbelievers, and raise him to His Presence. Many great Islamic scholars and commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that the Prophet Jesus (as) did not die.
In Arabic the word that is translated in some translations of these verses as "You have caused me to die" is tawaffa and comes from the root wafa – to fulfil. In fact, in Arabic commentaries it is not used in the sense of death. The commentary of Imam al-Qurtubi is one example of this; he used the expression "the taking away of the selves" for the word in question. From the Qur'an again, we understand that "taking the self back" does not necessarily mean death. For instance in a verse in which the word tawaffa is used, it is not the death of a human being that is meant but "taking back his self in his sleep":
It is He Who takes you back to Himself (yatawaffakum) at night, while knowing the things you perpetrate by day, and then wakes you up again, so that a specified term may be fulfilled... (Surat al-An'am, 60)
The word used for "take back" in this verse is the same as the one used in Surah Al 'Imran 55. In other words, in the verse above, the word tawaffa is used and it is obvious that one does not die in one's sleep. Therefore, what is meant here is, again, "taking the self back."
The same word is used again in the verse below:
Allah takes back people's selves (yatawaffa) when their death (mawtiha) arrives and those who have not yet died, while they are asleep (lam tamut). He keeps hold of those whose death (mawt) has been decreed and sends the others back for a specified term... (Surat az-Zumar: 42)
As these verses suggest, Allah takes back the self of the one who is asleep, yet He sends back the selves of those whose deaths have not yet been decreed. In this context, in one's sleep one does not die, in the sense in which we perceive death. Only for a temporary period, the self leaves the body and remains in another dimension. Upon waking up, the self returns to the body.
Another instance in which sleep is regarded as a kind of death, but which does not refer to biological death, is the following supplication, which the Prophet Muhammad (saas) often used to recite when he woke up: "All praise is for Allah, Who has made us alive after He made us die [sleep]. (Al-hamdu li Allah illadhi ahyana ba'da maa amatana; wa ilayhi al-nushoo)" (Narrated by Abu Hudhayfa; Sahih Bukhari). (Narrated by Abu Hudhayfa; Sahih Bukhari; Being the Tradition of Saying and Doings of the Prophet Muhammad as Narrated by His Companions, New Delhi, Islamic Book Service, 2002, hadith no. 6324, 239; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib ar-Rafa'i, London, Al-Firdous Ltd., 1999, 176) No doubt, he used these wise words not to refer to biological death when one is asleep, but rather to a sleeping person's soul being "taken." Ibn Kathir, the famous Islamic scholar and commentator, used this hadith, along with many other proofs in his commentary on Surah Al 'Imran, to explain that tawaffa refers to sleep. In addition, he indicated the word's meaning in other verses where it appears. He then gave his opinion using a hadith handed down by Ibn Abi Hatim:
Ibn Abi Hatim says that: "My father told us … from Hassan that the meaning of the verse 'I will take you back...' is this: Here it means that 'I shall kill you with the death of sleep; in other words, I shall cause you to sleep.' So Allah raised the Prophet Jesus (as) to the heavens while he was asleep … As an incontrovertible truth, Allah caused the Prophet Jesus (as) to die the death of sleep and then raised him to the sky, rescuing him from the Jews, who were inflicting suffering upon him at the time." (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, 1:573-576, Cairo, 1996)
Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, another Islamic scholar who examined the meaning of tawaffa, stated that it did not mean death, and drew attention to the use of mawt in one verse of the Qur'an:
Had the Prophet Jesus (as) died [which is not the case], then the word mawt revealed in the verse: "Allah takes the souls [of people] at death" (39:42), would not have been revealed… This is because if, as has been claimed, Allah had referred to normal death [in the biological sense], then this would have been clearly stated. Since Allah refers to the fact that the Jews did not kill the Prophet Jesus (as), but that he was taken and raised to the sky, then one must think of a meaning beyond that of ordinary death. (Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira fi Maza'im Man Yankur Nuzul 'Isa 'alyhi al-Salam aabla al-Akhira (A Cursory Look at the Claims of Those Who Deny Jesus' Descent before the Next Life), Egypt, 1980, pp. 34-37)
Abu Mansur Muhammad al-Maturidi, regarded as one of the first Qur'anic commentators, also stated that the verse does not refer to the Prophet Jesus (as) dying in the familiar biological sense:
The thing being referred to in the verse is not passing on in the sense of death, but in the sense of the body being taken from this world. (Abu Mansur Muhammad al-Maturidi, Kitab Tawilat al-Qur'an, Beirut, p. 67)
The famous commentator and scholar, al-Tabari, stated that the verb is used in the sense of "removing from earth" and interpreted the verse in the following terms:
In my opinion, the soundest thing is to take this word in the sense of "to take into one's possession," "draw [away] from earth." In that case, the meaning of the verse is: "I shall take you from earth and into the heavens." The rest of the verse emphasises the [believers'] victory over unbelievers in the End Times, which confirms the above idea." (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari, 3:290-291, Beirut, 1997)
In his commentary, Hamdi Yazir of Elmali stated that the verse in question means:
In my view, a summary of this interpretation and belief is as follows: The soul of the Prophet Jesus (as), described as a "word from Allah" and reinforced with the "Purest Spirit", has not yet been taken. His soul has not come to the hour of death. "The Word" has not yet returned to Allah. He still has work to do in this world. (Hamdi Yazir of Elmali, Hak Din Kuran Dili (The True Religion, the Language of the Qur'an), 2:1112-1113, Eser Publishing, Istanbul, 1971)
We can conclude from these extensive reference sources that the Prophet Jesus (as) was placed in a condition similar to sleep and then raised to Allah's Presence. The Prophet Jesus (as) did not die, but was merely removed from this dimension by His will and Allah knows the truth.
2) Qatala: To Kill
The word generally used for "to kill" when speaking of death in the Qur'an is the Arabic word qatala. For example in Surah Ghafir:
Pharaoh said, "Let me kill Moses and let him call upon his Lord! I am afraid that he may change your religion and bring about corruption in the land." (Surah Ghafir, 26)
The expression "let me kill Moses" in the verse appears in the Arabic form aqtulu Musa. That word comes from the verb qatala. In another verse, the same word is used in this way:
... (That was because they) killed (yaqtuloona) the Prophets without any right to do so. (Surat al-Baqara, 61)
The words "they killed" in the verse appear as yaqtuloona in the original Arabic, which again derives from the verb qatala. And as the translation makes quite clear, it means "to kill".
It is clear how the verb qatala is used in the following verses that describe the death of prophets. All the words whose meaning appears in brackets derive from the verb qatala.
... We will write down what they said and their killing (wa qatlahum) of the Prophets without any right to do so... (Surah Al 'Imran, 181)
... Did you grow arrogant, and deny some of them and murder (taqtuloona) others? (Surat al-Baqara, 87)
... Say, "Why then, if you are believers, did you previously kill (taqtuloona) the Prophets of Allah?" (Surat al-Baqara, 91)
As for those who reject Allah's Signs, and kill (yaqtuloona) the Prophets without any right to do so, and kill (yaqtuloona) those who command justice... (Surah Al 'Imran, 21)
... So why did you kill them (qataltumoohum) if you are telling the truth? (Surah Al 'Imran, 183)
... The one said, "I shall kill you (la aqtulannaka)." ... (Surat al-Ma'ida: 27)
Even if you do raise your hand against me to kill me (li taqtulanee), I am not going to raise my hand against you to kill you (li aqtulaka) ... (Surat al-Ma'ida, 28)
"Kill (uqtuloo) Joseph or expel him to some land ..." (Surah Yusuf, 9)
The wife of Pharaoh said, "A source of delight for me and for you; do not kill him (la taqtuloohu)..." (Surat al-Qasas, 9)
... "Moses, the Council are conspiring to kill you (li yaqtulooka) ..." (Surat al-Qasas, 20)
The only answer of his (Abraham's) people was to say: "Kill (uqtuloohu) him or burn him!" (Surat al-'Ankabut, 24)
3) Halaka: To Perish
The verb halaka is used in the Qur'an meaning "to perish". This verb is used in verses in the sense of "to perish, be destroyed, die". An example of its occurrence can be found in Surah Ghafir:
... when he (Joseph) died (halaka), you said, "Allah will never send another Messenger after him."... (Surah Ghafir, 34)
In the verse, the expression translated in English as "when he died" is idha halaka in Arabic, used in the sense of "to die".
4) Maata: Death
Another word used in the Qur'an in the context of prophets' deaths is maata. The word maata – he died – and other words from the same root are used in several verses. One of these concerns the death of the Prophet Solomon (as) in Surah Saba':
Then when We decreed that he should die (mawt), nothing divulged his death (mawtihi) to them except the worm which ate his staff ... (Surah Saba', 14)
Another word from the same root is used in reference to the Prophet John (as):
Peace be upon him the day he was born, and the day he dies (yamootu), and the day he is raised up again alive. (Surah Maryam, 15)
The word translated here as "when he dies" is the Arabic word yamootu. The same word appears in verses in the context of the death of the Prophet Jacob (as). It appears in Surat al-Baqara, for instance:
Or were you present when death (mawt) came to Jacob? ... (Surat al-Baqara, 133)
The word mawt in the verse comes from the same root and means death. In a verse about the Prophet Muhammad (saas) the verbs qutila and maata are used at one and the same time:
Muhammad is only a Messenger and he has been preceded by other Messengers. If he were to die (mata) or be killed (qutila), would you turn on your heels? ... (Surah Al 'Imran: 144)
The word mawt which comes from the same root as mata (to die) appears in other verses to do with the deaths of prophets:
... She said, "Oh if only I had died (mittu) before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!" (Surah Maryam, 23)
We did not give any human being before you immortality (khuld). And if you die (mitta), will they then be immortal? (Surat al-Anbiya', 34)
"He Who will cause my death (yumeetunee), then give me life." (Surat ash-Shu'ara', 81)
5) Khalid: Immortal
Another word that appears in some verses without directly meaning "to die" or "to kill" but which means "immortality" is khalid. The meaning of the word khalid suggests something along the lines of being permanent, for example, in Surat al-Anbiya':
We did not give them bodies which did not eat food, nor were they immortal (khalideena). (Surat al-Anbiya', 8)
6) Salaba: To Crucify
One of the words used in the Qur'an when speaking of the death of prophets and others is the verb salaba (to crucify). The verb carries meanings such as "to crucify, hang, and execute". The verb is used in the following verses:
... They did not kill him (Jesus) and they did not crucify him (wa ma salaboohu)... (Surat an-Nisa', 157)
... (Joseph said,) One of you will serve his lord with wine, the other of you will be crucified (yuslabu)... (Surah Yusuf, 41)
... they should be killed or crucified (yusallaboo)... (Surat al-Ma'ida: 33)
(Pharaoh said,) "I will cut off your alternate hands and feet and then I will crucify (la usallibannakum) every one of you." (Surat al-A'raf: 124)
... (Pharaoh said,) "I will cut off your hands and feet alternately and have you crucified (wa la usallibannakum) ..." (Surah Ta Ha: 71)
... (Pharaoh said,) "I will cut off your alternate hands and feet and I will crucify (wa la usallibannakum) every one of you." (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 49)
As can be seen from these extensive examples, very different words are used in verses dealing with the death of other prophets. Allah has revealed in the Qur'an that the Prophet Jesus (as) was not killed, that someone who resembled him was shown in his place, and that he was taken back (in other words that his soul was taken). While the word tawaffa meaning "to take the soul" is used in the context of the Prophet Jesus (as), expressions such as, qataloohu and mata, expressions of normal death, are used to refer to other prophets. These facts demonstrate once again that the situation of the Prophet Jesus (as) is an extraordinary one.
Allah Raised the Prophet Jesus (as) to His Presence in Body and Soul
The most undeniable proof that the Prophet Jesus (as) neither died nor was killed is the fact that Allah has revealed that He raised the Prophet Jesus (as) to His Presence:
"… [I will] raise you up (rafi'uka) to Me and purify you of those who are disbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection..." (Surah Al 'Imran, 55)
On the contrary [bal] Allah raised him up to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa', 158)
Allah protected and rescued the Prophet Jesus (as) by raising him to His Presence. The words rafiu'ka and rafa'ahu that appear in the verses come from the Arabic root rafa'a, which means "to rise".
There is a consensus among Islamic scholars, based on these verses, that the Prophet Jesus (as) did not die but was raised to Allah's Presence, and that this ascension took place in both body and soul.
The Islamic scholar, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, interpreted Surah Al 'Imran 55 together with Surat an-Nisa' 158, and wrote that: "There is a consensus among the community of the faithful [ijma' ummat] that the Prophet Jesus (as) was raised alive to the heavens." (Al-Ash'ari, Al-Ash'ari's al-Ibana 'an Usul al-Diyana, Cairo, 1986, 2:115) (Ijma' ummat refers to the agreement on this issue of those Islamic scholars who expounded upon Islamic law and lived during the same century). In his commentary, Hasan Basri Cantay interpreted rafiu'ka as meaning "raising and lifting up to Himself," and wrote that "Allah raised and lifted up the Prophet Jesus (as) in both body and soul." (Hasan Basri Cantay, Kuran-i Hakim ve Meal-i Kerim (Tafsir of the Qur'an), Risale Publishing, Istanbul, 1980, 1:92)
Imam Ibn Taymiyya opined: The verse "He raised him to His Presence" … explains that the Prophet Jesus (as) was raised in both body and soul. (Imam Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu' Fatawa, trans. by Abdurrahman ibn Muhammad ibn Qasim al-Asimi an-Najdi, 4:323)
Zahid al-Kawthari stated that the ascension is so clear and certain that there is no room for any objections. Al-Kawthari cited Surah Al 'Imran 55 and Surat an-Nisa' 157-158 as evidence and said that this event is beyond doubt. He uses the word nass, which means certainty or indisputability stemming from a Qur'anic verse or a hadith. He went on to say:
That is because the basic meaning of the word (rafa'a in the verses) is transportation from below to above. There is no element here that could be used to interpret the verses metaphorically. Therefore, there is no evidence for seeking to produce a meaning in the sense of ascension in honor and station. (Al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira fi Maza'im, p. 93)
As clearly seen from the verses and the Islamic scholars' comments, the Prophet Jesus (as) was raised alive, with his body, to Allah's Presence. This is a miracle of Allah, and a wonder that will inspire great enthusiasm and excitement among all believers. Claims that only his soul was raised to His Presence, or that his ascension was only spiritual (in station), do not reflect the facts. The invalidity of such claims has been proven by many Islamic scholars as shown above.
Another important proof of this event is the Arabic word bal, which appears in Qur'an, 4:158, and has the literal translation of "on the contrary". The features of its meaning and use in Arabic linguistics indicate a very important fact: according to the rules of Arabic linguistics, the sentence that comes after it must have a meaning that is completely opposite to the preceding statement. That being the case, it is likely that the verses referring to the Prophet Jesus (as) "… They did not kill him," (Surat an-Nisa': 157) "on the contrary [bal] Allah raised him up to Himself…" ((Surat an-Nisa': 158) refer to the state of being alive, rather than the state of being dead. Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri offered the following interpretation:
If the term bal, which appears in Surat an-Nisa' 158 and which I have translated as "on the contrary," comes after a sentence expressing a negativity, then, according to the rules of Arabic linguistics, the sentence following it must mean the exact opposite of the one preceding it. The opposite of death is life. This is a requirement of the rules of linguistics. If we say that "the ascension here is a spiritual one" and "the Prophet Jesus (as) died in the normal sense," then we are violating that rule. In that case, the ascension following the expression "on the contrary" would not represent the opposite to the verbs of "killing" and "crucifying" in the negative sentence preceding it. That is because it may be possible for a person to be killed and for his or her soul to rise to the skies. Otherwise, this term would be meaningless, and there are no meaningless terms in the Qur'an … According to those who support the thesis that the ascension is only one of the soul, the meaning of the verse is this: "They did not kill him and did not crucify him … on the contrary, Allah raised his station." There is no particular oratory here, let alone succinctness … No rational person could take the words "The elevator in my building raises me to the fourth floor every day," to mean that I am only raised to the fourth floor in spirit. Therefore, neither was the Prophet Jesus (as) raised only in spirit. (Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri, Mawqif al-'Aql (Position of Reason), Beirut, 1992, p. 233)
Said Ramadan al-Buti interpreted the subject in the same way:
The mutual compatibility between the verse's previous and later sections necessarily reveals a fact. For example, if an Arab says: "I am not hungry; on the contrary, I am lying on my side," this is not a correct sentence. In the same way, there is a discrepancy between the components in the sentence: "Khalid did not die; on the contrary, he is a good man." What would be correct is to say: "Khalid did not die; on the contrary, he is alive." To say: "The chairman was not killed; he is a man with a superior station in Allah's Presence" also leads to a break in meaning in the sentence, for his having a high station in Allah's Sight is no obstacle to his being killed. The term bal expresses a contradiction between the preceding and the following words. In other words, bal cancels out a previous statement. (Said Ramadan al-Buti, Islam Akaidi (Islamic Catechism), Istanbul, Mavde Publishings, 1996, p. 338)
Clearly, Almighty Allah confounded the unbelievers by raising the Prophet Jesus (as) alive to His Presence. All of this evidence shows that the Prophet Jesus (as) is still alive and will return to Earth when Allah wills and Allah knows the truth.
Allah's Purification of the Prophet Jesus (as) of the Unbelievers
One piece of information provided about the Prophet Jesus' (as) ascension is that Allah will purify him of the unbelievers. It is revealed in the Qur'an:
… raise you up [wa raafi'uka] to Me and purify [mutahhiruka] you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection… (Surah Al 'Imran, 55)
The root of mutahhiruka is tahara, meaning "being clean." Islamic scholars regard this word as one proof that the Prophet Jesus (as) was raised alive to Allah. According to them, the interpretation of the verse is: "I am taking you, raising you to Me, and removing you from this environment polluted by unbelievers and sinners." (Zeki Saritoprak, Islam Inanci Acisindan Nuzul-i Isa Meselesi [The Issue of the Second Coming of the Messiah from the Perspective of Islamic Belief], Izmir: Caglayan Publishings, 1997, p. 63) Thus, Allah purified the Prophet Jesus (as) from the unbelievers, the unbelievers' plot to kill him was foiled and they failed to achieve their goal. (Allah knows the truth.)
Moreover, this verse also shows that the Prophet Jesus (as) was purified by his physical separation from an environment containing unbelievers. (Allah knows the truth.) Thus, the assertion that the Prophet Jesus (as) died and that only his soul was raised to Allah is proven false. A spirit-only ascent would mean that he was not purified.
In order for the Prophet Jesus (as) to have been purified in the manner revealed in the verse, he would have to have departed from his surrounding environment in both body and soul. Furthermore, a spirit-only purification cannot apply to a prophet with superior moral values, one who is honored in Allah's Presence and has deep faith, such as the Prophet Jesus (as). Another verse reveals his superior moral values: "Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised up again alive" (Surah Maryam, 33). As a devout believer and a Messenger of Allah, the Prophet Jesus' (as) soul is immaculate. However, his environment was not immaculate, due to the unbelievers' irreligious behavior and corrupt morality. Indeed, our Lord reveals that they were unclean because of their moral corruption:
O you who believe! The idolaters are unclean, so after this year they should not come near the Sacred Mosque [Masjid al-Haram] ... (Surat at-Tawba, 28)
Therefore, purifying the Prophet Jesus (as) means his physical removal from their presence. Thus, Allah purified and protected him by raising the Prophet Jesus (as) to Himself. (Allah knows the truth.)
The Egyptian scholar Khalil Herras offers the following explanation regarding the wisdom of the term "purification":
The purification of the Prophet Jesus (as) from the unbelievers comes about with his salvation from their wicked snares. This cannot take place with the death and burial of the Prophet Jesus (as), but only by his ascension in life to the heavens, for his foes could have inflicted torture on his body, as they did with the person they believed to be him … (Muhammed Khalil Herras, Fasl al-Maqal fi Raf`i `Isa Hayyan wa Nuzulihi wa Qatlihi ad-Dajjal, p. 66)
As Hamdi Yazar of Elmali set out in his commentary, the Prophet Jesus' (as) purification from the unbelievers is manifested by his ascent:
… and with this raising I shall purify you of the deniers and unbelievers, and you will no longer have anything to do with them… (Hamdi Yazir of Elmali, Hak Din Kuran Dili [The True Religion, the Language of the Qur'an], 2:1112-13)
The Return of the Prophet Jesus (as) to Earth
The Return of the Prophet Jesus (as) to Earth in the Qur'an
From what has been related so far, it is clear that the Prophet Jesus (as) did not die but was raised to the Presence of Allah. However, there is one more point that is underlined by the Qur'an: the Prophet Jesus (as) will come back to earth.
The Qur'an explicitly declares the return of the Prophet Jesus (as) to earth and there are several proofs to confirm this:
Surah Al 'Imran 55 is one of the verses indicating that the Prophet Jesus (as) will come back:
When Allah said, "Jesus, I will take you back and raise you up to Me and purify you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are disbelievers until the Day of Resurrection. Then you will all return to Me, and I will judge between you regarding the things about which you differed. (Surah Al 'Imran, 55)
The statement in the verse, "And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection" is important. Here, there is reference to a group strictly adhering to the Prophet Jesus (as) and who will be kept above the disbelievers until the Day of Judgment. Who are these adherents, then? Are they the disciples who lived in the time of the Prophet Jesus (as) or are they the Christians of today?
Before he was raised up to Allah, the followers of the Prophet Jesus (as) were few. After his ascension, the essence of Christianity degenerated rapidly. Furthermore, the disciples faced serious pressure throughout their lives. During the succeeding two centuries, having no political power, those Christians having faith in the Prophet Jesus (as) were also oppressed. In this case, it is not possible to say that early Christians or their successors during these periods were physically superior to the unbelievers in the world. We might logically think that this verse does not refer to them.
When we look at the Christians of today, on the other hand, we notice that the essence of Christianity has changed significantly and it is markedly different from what the Prophet Jesus (as) originally brought to mankind. Christians embraced the perverted belief that suggests that the Prophet Jesus (as) is the son of God and similarly held the doctrine of the Trinity (the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). (Surely Allah is beyond that.) In this case, it is flawed to accept the Christians of today as the adherents of the true religion revealed to the Prophet Jesus (as). In many verses of the Qur'an Allah states that the belief of the Trinity is a perverted one:
Those who say that the Messiah, son of Mary, is the third of three are unbelievers. There is no god but One God. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 73)
In this case, the commentary of the statement, "And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection" is as follows: first, it is said that these people are the Muslims who are the only true followers of the authentic teachings of the Prophet Jesus (as); second, it is said that these people are the Christians, whether or not they hold idolatrous beliefs, and that could be seen to be confirmed by the dominant position that nominal Christians hold on the earth today. However, both positions will be unified by the arrival of the Prophet Jesus (as), since he will abolish the jizyah (the defense tax payable by non-Muslims living under Muslim rule), meaning that he will not accept that Christians and Jews live with any other religion than Islam, and so will unite all the believers as Muslims.
The Prophet and last Messenger of Allah (saas), has also given the glad tidings of the return of the Prophet Jesus (as). The scholars of hadith say that the hadiths on this subject, in which Allah's Messenger (saas) said that the Prophet Jesus (as) will descend amongst people as a leader before the Day of Judgment have reached the status of mutawattir. That means that they have been narrated by so many people from each generation from such a large group of the Companions that there can be no possible doubt of their authenticity. For example:
Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah's Messenger (saas) said, "By the One in Whose hand is my self, definitely the son of Mary will soon descend among you as a just judge, and he will break the cross [annul the worship of the cross], kill the pig [inform that eating pork is forbidden] and abolish the jizyah, and wealth will be so abundant that no one will accept it, until a single prostration will be better than the world and everything in it. (Sahih Bukhari)
Jabir ibn 'Abdullah said, "I heard the Prophet (saas) saying, 'A party of my ummah will never stop fighting for the truth victoriously until the Day of Resurrection.' He said, 'Then Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon him, will descend and their amir will say, "Come and lead us in prayer," but he will say, "No! some of you are amirs over others," as Allah's showing honor to this ummah.'" (Sahih Muslim)
Abu Hurairah narrated, "The Prophet (saas) said: 'There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus, peace be upon him. He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognize him: a man of medium height, reddish hair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross [annul the worship of the cross], kill the pig [inform that eating pork is forbidden], and abolish the jizyah. Allah will cause to perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the antichrist [make him ineffective] and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.'" (Abu Dawud)
Earlier in this section, we analyzed verses 157-158 of Surat an-Nisa'. Just after these verses Allah states the following in Surat an-Nisa' 159:
There is not one of the People of the Book who will not believe in him before he dies; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them. (Surat an-Nisa', 159)
The statement above "who will not believe in him before he dies" is important. The Arabic text of this sentence reads: Wa-in min ahli'l-kitabi illa la yuminanna bihi qabla mawtihi.
Some scholars stated that the "him/it" in this verse is used for the Qur'an and thus made the following interpretation: There will be no one from the People of the Book who will not have faith in the Qur'an before he (a person from the People of the Book) dies.
Nevertheless, in verses 157 and 158, which are the two verses preceding this verse, the same "him" is undoubtedly used for the Prophet Jesus (as).
The verses state:
And (on account of) their saying, "We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Messenger of Allah." They did not kill him and they did not crucify him but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. (Surat an-Nisa', 157)
Allah raised him up to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa', 158)
Just after these verses in Surat an-Nisa' 159, there is no evidence indicating that "him" is used to imply someone or something other than the Prophet Jesus (as).
There is not one of the People of the Book who will not believe in him before he dies; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them. (Surat an-Nisa', 159)
In the Qur'an, Allah informs us that on the Day of Judgment, the "tongues and hands and feet will testify against them about what they were doing" (Surat an-Nur, 24 and Surah Yasin, 65). From Surah Fussilat 20-23, we learn that "hearing, sight and skin will testify against us." In none of the verses however, is there reference to the Qur'an as a witness. If we accept that the "him" or "it" in the first sentence refers to the Qur'an – though grammatically or logically we have no evidence whatsoever – then we should also accept that the "he" in the second statement also refers to the Qur'an. To accept this however, there should be an explicit verse confirming this view.
In addition, the words "… Allah raised him up to Himself" in the preceding verse once again shows that it is not the Qur'an that is being indicated in this verse. The Qur'an has been a guidance for the faithful for the last 1400 years, and has not been raised up to Allah. It is the Prophet Jesus (as) who has been raised up to Him. This is yet another proof that the witnessing referred to in the verse is that of the Prophet Jesus (as) for the People of the Book, and that the pronoun "he" in the verse does not refer to the Qur'an. (Allah knows the truth.)
In other verses, we see that when the same personal pronoun is used for the Qur'an, there is generally mention of the Qur'an before or after that specific verse as in the cases of Surat an-Naml 77 and Surat ash-Shu'ara 192-196. The verse straightforwardly defines that People of the Book will have faith in the Prophet Jesus (as) and that he (the Prophet Jesus [as]) will be a witness against them.
The second point is about the interpretation of the expression "before he dies". Some think this is having faith in the Prophet Jesus (as) before their own death. According to this interpretation everyone from the People of the Book will definitely believe in the Prophet Jesus (as) before they face their own death. Arabic linguistics, however, shows that this claim is not correct. The plural suffix hum is used in all those verses of the Qur'an that refer to the People of the Book (as in Surat al-Bayyina 1 and 6, Surat al-Hadid 29, and Surat al-Hashr 2). Yet the singular suffix hu is employed in this verse. This means that the verse reports that the People of the Book will believe in the Prophet Jesus (as) before his death – in other words, before his biological death at his second coming. (Allah knows the truth.) Besides, in the Prophet Jesus' (as) time Jews who are defined as the People of the Book not only did not have faith in the Prophet Jesus (as) but also attempted to kill him. On the other hand, it is not possible to say that Jews and Christians who lived and died after the time of the Prophet Jesus (as) had faith – the type of faith described in the Qur'an – in him.
To conclude, when we make a careful evaluation of the verse, we arrive at the following conclusion: Before the Prophet Jesus' (as) death, all the People of the Book will have faith in him. (Omer Nasuhi Bilmen, Kuran-i Kerim'in Turkce Meali Alisi ve Tefsiri (The Turkish Translation of the Noble Qur'an and Its Commentary), Timas Publishing, Istanbul, 8th edition, Volume 7, p. 3292) In other words, in the second coming of the Prophet Jesus (as), all the People of the Book will become Muslims as his followers and Islamic morals will prevail on the earth.
Besides, the verse refers to the future because there is mention of the death of the Prophet Jesus (as). Yet, the Prophet Jesus (as) did not die but was raised up to the Presence of Allah. The Prophet Jesus (as) will come to earth again, he will live for a specified time and then die. Moreover, all the People of the Book will have faith in him. This is an event which has yet not occurred, but which will happen in the future.
Consequently, by the expression "before he dies", there is a reference to the Prophet Jesus (as). The People of the Book will see him, know him and obey him while he is alive. Meanwhile, the Prophet Jesus (as) will bear witness against them on the Last Day and Allah knows the truth.
That the Prophet Jesus (as) will come back to earth towards the end of time is related in another verse of the Qur'an.
When an example is made of the son of Mary (Jesus) your people laugh uproariously. They retort, "Who is better then, our deities or him?" They only say this to you for argument's sake. They are indeed a disputatious people. He is only a servant on whom We bestowed Our blessing and whom We made an example for the tribe of Israel. If We wished, We could appoint angels in exchange for you to succeed you on the earth. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 57-60)
Just after these verses, Allah declares that the Prophet Jesus (as) is a sign of the Day of Judgment.
He is a Sign of the Hour. Have no doubt about it. But follow me. This is a straight path. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 61)
This verse informs us that the Prophet Jesus (as) will come back to earth at the end times. That is because the Prophet Jesus (as) lived approximately six centuries before the revelation of the Qur'an. Consequently, we cannot interpret his first coming as a sign of the Day of Judgment. What this verse actually indicates is that the Prophet Jesus (as) will come back to earth towards the end of time and this will be a sign for the Day of Judgment.
The Arabic of the verse "He is a Sign of the Hour" is Innahu la 'ilmun li's-sa'ati… Some people interpret the pronoun hu in this verse as the Qur'an. However, the preceding verses explicitly indicate that the Prophet Jesus (as) is mentioned in the verse: "He is only a servant on whom We bestowed Our blessing and whom We made an example for the tribe of Israel." (Prof. Suleyman Ates, Yuce Kur'an'in Cagdas Tefsiri (The Contemporary Tafsir of the Holy Qur'an), Istanbul, 1988-1992, vol. 6, p. 4281)
Those who cite this pronoun as referring to the Qur'an go on to quote the next part of the verse "Have no doubt about it. But follow me" as so-called evidence. However, the verses preceding this one refer completely to the Prophet Jesus (as). For this reason, it appears that the pronoun hu is linked to those preceding verses and also refers to the Prophet Jesus (as). In fact, great Islamic scholars declare that to be the case, based on the use of the pronoun both in the Qur'an and in the hadith.
Among contemporary Islamic scholars, Sayyid Qutb drew attention to the important evidence concerning the Prophet Jesus' (as) second coming, in his commentary:
Many hadith regard the Prophet Jesus' (as) descent to earth prior to the Day of Judgment. Indeed, the verse, "He is a Sign of the Hour" also indicates this. In other words, the Prophet Jesus (as) will descend to earth at a time close to the Day of Judgment. In a second style of reading, the verse reads "wa innahu la 'ilmun li al-saa'ati." In other words, his descent is a sign, a sign of the Day of Judgment. Both styles of reading express the same meaning. His descent from the skies is a news of the Unseen World, spoken of by the right-speaking and trustworthy Prophet (saas) and indicated in the glorious Qur'an. Apart from the information from these two sources, which will remain unchanged until the Day of Judgment, nobody can say anything else about the subject. (Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Qur'an),www.sevde.de/Kuran-Tevsiri/Kuran_Tefsiri.html)
Al-Kawthari stated that even in the oldest doctrinal texts, this verse was used as evidence of the Prophet Jesus' (as) return. (Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira fi Maza'im Man Yankur Nuzul 'Isa 'alyhi al-Salam aabla al-Akhira (A Cursory Look at the Claims of Those Who Deny Jesus' Descent before the Next Life), Egypt, 1980, p. 105) Omer Nasuhi Bilmen explained the verse in these terms:
It gives news, in an indubitable manner, that the Prophet Jesus (as) is a sign of the approach of the Day of Judgment and that the Day of Judgment will certainly come … His appearance on earth is regarded as a law of the Last Day… (Omer Nasuhi Bilmen, Kuran-i Kerim'in Türkce Meali Alisi ve Tefsiri (The Turkish Translation of the Noble Qur'an and Its Commentary), Timas Publishing, Istanbul, 8th edition, Volume 7, p. 3292)
In fact, this title is unique to the Prophet Jesus (as), for although Allah describes in the Qur'an the lives of the Prophet Muhammad (saas), Abraham (as), Noah (as), Moses (as), Solomon (as), Joseph (as), David (as), Jacob (as), and a great many other prophets, this title is applied to none of them. This fact is yet another indication that the Prophet Jesus (as) possesses a special feature that the other prophets do not: He will return to earth after having been raised to Allah's Presence and Allah knows the truth.
Other verses indicating the second coming of the Prophet Jesus (as) are as follows:
When the angels said, "Mary, your Lord gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary of high esteem in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near. He will speak to people in the cradle, and also when fully grown, and will be one of the righteous," she said, "My Lord! How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?" He said, "It will be so. Allah creates whatever He wills. When He decides on something He just says to it, 'Be!' and it is. He will teach him the Book and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel…" (Surah Al 'Imran, 45-48)
In this verse, it is heralded that Allah will instruct the Prophet Jesus (as) about the Gospel, the Torah and the "Book." We come across the same expression in the Surat al-Ma'ida:
Remember when Allah said: "Jesus, son of Mary, remember My blessing to you and to your mother when I reinforced you with the Purest Spirit so that you could speak to people in the cradle and when you were fully grown; and when I taught you the Book and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you created a bird-shape out of clay by My permission…" (Surat al-Ma'ida, 110)
When we analyse the "Book" in both of the verses, we see that it may indicate the Qur'an. In the verses, it is stated that the Qur'an is the last divine book sent apart from the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel. Besides, in another verse in the Qur'an, next to the Torah and the Gospel, the word "Book" is used to indicate the Qur'an.
Allah, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining. He has sent down the Book to you with truth, confirming what has there before it. And He sent down the Tawrah and the Injil, previously... (Surah Al 'Imran, 2-3)
Some other verses in which "Book" refers to the Qur'an state:
When a Book does come to them from Allah, confirming what is with them – even though before that they were praying for victory over the unbelievers – yet when what they recognize does come to them, they reject it. Allah's curse is on the unbelievers. (Surat al-Baqara, 89)
For this We sent a Messenger to you from among you to recite Our Signs to you and purify you and teach you the Book and Wisdom and teach you things you did not know before. (Surat al-Baqara, 151)
In this case, it is clear that the third book that will be taught to the Prophet Jesus (as) will be the Qur'an and that this will be possible only if he comes to earth at the end of time. The Prophet Jesus (as) lived approximately six hundred years before the revelation of the Qur'an. Besides, it is another piece of evidence that the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) inform that when the Prophet Jesus (as) comes for the second time, he will command with the Qur'an, not the Injil:
He will lead you according to the Book of your Lord and the Sunnah of your Apostle. (Sahih Muslim)
As this expression clearly shows, when the Prophet Jesus (as) returns to earth, he will rule with the commandments of the Qur'an and will maintain the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed (saas), a hadith which is in agreement with the Qur'anic verses. (Surely Allah knows the truth.)
Another important piece of information is that the term revealed for the Prophet Jesus (as) was not revealed for any other prophet. For example, the Qur'an reveals that the Tawrah was given to Musa (Moses) (as), that Suhuf (Pages) were given to Ibrahim (Abraham) (as), and that the Book of Psalms was given to Dawud (David) (as). If there were books revealed before the prophets' own time, the Qur'an states that they knew them. However, only in the case of the Prophet Jesus (as) does the Qur'an state that a prophet will be taught a book that was revealed after his own time. This is one of the indications that he will return to earth and that when he does so, he will rule with the book revealed after his lifetime: the Qur'an. (Allah knows the truth.)
In addition to all the above, the verse "The likeness of Jesus in Allah's Sight is the same as Adam." (Surah Al 'Imran: 59) could also indicate the Prophet Jesus' (as) return. Muslim scholars who have written Qur'anic commentaries point out that this verse indicates the fact that both prophets did not have a father, for Allah created both of them with the command "Be!" However, the verse could also have another meaning: Just as the Prophet Adam (as) was sent down to Earth from Allah's Presence, the Prophet Jesus (as) could be sent down to Earth from Allah's Presence during the End Times. (Allah knows the truth.) As we have seen, the verses of the Qur'an concerning the return to Earth of the Prophet Jesus (as) are quite explicit.
Allah tells about the ascension of the Prophet Jesus (as) in Surah Maryam as follows:
(Jesus said,) Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die and the day I am raised up again alive. (Surah Maryam, 33)
When we consider this verse together with Surah Al 'Imran 55, it indicates a very important truth. In the verse in Surah Al 'Imran it is stated that the Prophet Jesus (as) was raised up to the Presence of Allah. No information is given in this verse about death or killing. Yet in Surah Maryam: 33 information is given about the day when the Prophet Jesus (as) will die. That second death can only be possible if the Prophet Jesus (as) dies after returning to and living on earth for a while. (Allah knows the truth.)
Another piece of evidence about the Prophet Jesus (as) returning to earth appears in Surat al-Ma'ida and in Surah Al 'Imran in the form of the word kahlan. The verses say:
Remember when Allah said, "Jesus, son of Mary, remember My blessing to you and to your mother when I reinforced you with the Purest Spirit so that you could speak to people in the cradle and when you were fully grown (kahlan)... (Surat al-Ma'ida, 110)
He will speak to people in the cradle, and also when fully grown (kahlan), and will be one of the righteous. (Surah Al 'Imran, 46)
This word appears only in the above two verses in the Qur'an, and only in reference to the Prophet Jesus (as). The meaning of the word kahlan, used to refer to the Prophet Jesus' (as) adult state, is along the lines of between thirty and fifty years old, someone who is no longer young, someone who has reached the perfect age. Islamic scholars agree on translating this word as indicating the period after thirty-five years of age.
Based on a hadith reported by Ibn 'Abbas to the effect that the Prophet Jesus (as) ascended to heaven in his early thirties, at a young age, and will stay another forty years when he returns, Islamic scholars say that the Prophet Jesus' (as) old age will be after he returns to earth. (Muhammed Khalil Herras, Fasl al-maqal fi raf'i 'Isa hayyan wa nuzulihi wa qatlihi'd-Dajjal (The Ascend of Jesus, His Revival, Resurrection, and His Killing the Dajjal), Makatabat as-Sunnah, Cairo, 1990, p. 20)
In looking at the verses of the Qur'an, we see that this statement is only used for the Prophet Jesus (as). All the prophets spoke to people and called them to the true path. They all communicated their message in maturity. Yet there is no such statement in the Qur'an about any other prophet. The statement is only used to refer to the Prophet Jesus (as) and indicates his miraculous situation. That is because the words "in the cradle" and "when fully grown" that follow each other in the verses are stressing two miraculous periods.
In fact, in his work The Commentary of at-Tabari, Imam at-Tabari gives the following explanation of these verses:
These statements (Surat al-Ma'ida, 110) indicate that in order to complete his lifespan and speak to people when fully grown the Prophet Jesus (as) will come down from heaven. That is because he was raised to heaven when still young. In this verse (Surah Al 'Imran, 46) there is evidence that the Prophet Jesus (as) is living, and Ahl al-Sunnah share that view. That is because in this verse it is stated that he will speak to people when fully grown. He will only be able to grow fully when he returns to earth from heaven. (Imam at-Tabari, The Commentary of at-Tabari, Vol. 1, p. 247 )
Some people however, interpret the word "when fully grown" in a manner far removed from its true meaning and do not analyse it in the context of the general logic of the Qur'an. These people maintain that prophets have always been mature adults, for which reason the expression refers to all the lives of the prophets. Of course the prophets were mature adults whom Allah raised. Yet in Surat al-Ahqaf Allah reveals that the age of full maturity is forty. It is revealed in this verse that:
We have instructed man to be good to his parents. His mother bore him with difficulty and with difficulty gave birth to him; and his bearing and weaning take thirty months. Then when he achieves his full strength and reaches forty, he says, "My Lord, keep me thankful for the blessing You bestowed on me and on my parents, and keep me acting rightly, pleasing You. And make my descendants righteous. I have repented to You and I am truly one of the Muslims." (Surat al-Ahqaf, 15)
The word kahlan, therefore, also points to the Prophet Jesus' (as) return to earth just like all the other information given in the Qur'an. (Allah knows the truth.)
There are other examples of people in the Qur'an who left the world and then returned after hundreds of years.
A man who was resurrected after a century
In the Qur'an, Allah gives the example of a man who remained dead for a century. This is related in Surat al-Baqara:
Or the one who passed by a town which had fallen into ruin? He asked, "How can Allah restore this to life when it has died?" Allah caused him to die a hundred years then brought him back to life. Then He asked, "How long have you been here?" He replied, "I have been here a day or part of a day." He said, "Not so! You have been here a hundred years. Look at your food and drink – it has not gone bad – and look at your donkey so We can make you a Sign for all mankind. Look at the bones – how We raise them up and clothe them in flesh." When it had become clear to him, he said, "Now I know that Allah has power over all things." (Surat al-Baqara, 259)
In the verses given in the previous pages, there is mention of the fact that the Prophet Jesus (as) did not die but was "taken back." In the verse above, the man, however, definitely died. Consequently, even a dead person can rise again by the will of Allah and the above verse states this explicitly.
The Companions of the Cave awoke after years
The story of the "Companions of the Cave" is related in Surat al-Kahf. These were young men who were compelled to take refuge from the cruel tyranny of the ruler of the time in a cave. It is related that they fell asleep and were woken up after years of sleep:
When the young men took refuge in the cave and said, "Our Lord, give us mercy directly from You and open the way for us to right guidance in our situation." So We sealed their ears with sleep in the cave for a number of years. (Surat al-Kahf, 10-11)
You would have supposed them to be awake whereas in fact they were asleep. We moved them to the right and to the left, and at the entrance, their dog stretched out its paws. If you had looked down and seen them, you would have turned from them and run and have been filled with terror at the sight of them. That was the situation when we woke them up so they could question one another. One of them asked, "How long have you been here?" They replied "We have been here for a day or part of a day." They said, "Your Lord knows best how long have you been here. Send one of your number into the city with this silver you have, so he can see which food is purest and bring you some of it to eat. But he should go about with caution so that no one is aware of you." (Surat al-Kahf, 18-19)
Allah does not explain in the Qur'an exactly how much time the young men spent in the cave. Instead, the duration of this period is implied by the words "for a number of years". People's guess at this period however was rather high: three hundred and nine years. Allah says:
They stayed in their Cave for three hundred years and added nine. Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed. The Unseen of the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. How perfectly He sees, how well He hears! They have no protector apart from Him. Nor does He share His rule with anyone." (Surat al-Kahf, 25-26)
Under normal conditions, people obviously cannot sleep for such a long period. This sleep, therefore, may not be the type of sleep with which we are familiar. Perhaps they were taken into another dimension, one in which time and space do not apply, and were later sent back to earth.
Just like people waking up from sleep, these people also returned to life. In a similar way, the Prophet Jesus (as) will return to life when he comes back to earth and, after fulfilling the honorable responsibility imposed on him by Allah, and, as a requirement of the verse; He said: "On it [earth] you will live and on it die, and from it you will be brought forth," (Surat al-A'raf: 25) he will die on earth, like every other human being and Allah knows the truth.
The Return of the Prophet Jesus (as) to Earth in the Hadith
The fact that the Prophet Jesus (as) is alive in Allah's Presence and that he will return to earth in the End Times appears in some detail in the hadith collections, among them al-Shaybani's Taysir al-Usul ila Jami' al-Usul; Imam Maliki's Al-Muwatta'; the Sahihs of Ibn Khuzayma and Ibn Hibban; and the Musnads of Ibn Hanbal and al-Tayalisi, regarded as the greatest sources of the most reliable hadith. Furthermore, many Islamic scholars have carried out research and studies on these facts and have written books and treatises on them. These are also invaluable sources.
Heading the list of these great Islamic scholars is Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanafi school. In the final chapter of his book Al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Abu Hanifa states:
The emergence of the antichrist and of Gog and Magog is a reality; the rising of the Sun in the west is a reality; the descent of the Prophet Jesus (as) from the heavens is a reality; and all of the other signs of the Day of Resurrection, as contained in the authentic traditions, are established realities. (Imam Abu Hanifa, Al-Fiqh al-Akbar, http://muslim-canada.org/fiqh.html)
The hadith relating the Prophet Jesus' (as) second coming are tawatur, a specialized term defined as "a tradition that has been handed down by a number of different channels of transmitters or authorities, hence supposedly ruling out the possibility of its having been forged." Generally reliable hadith are those which are reported by so many hadith experts that there is no room left for error. The Islamic scholar Sayyid al-Jurjani expounded on this concept as follows:
Generally reliable reports are those that attain such a level [of agreement] among the majority of narrators that, according to custom, it is [considered] impossible for so many reporters to agree on a falsehood. In that event, if the report's words and meaning are consistent, then this is known as the "reliability of the word." If there is agreement among all of them in both sense and meaning, but a conflict in words, then this is known as "conceptual reliability." (Al-Sayyid al-Sharif, Zafar al-Amani fi Sharh Mukhtasar al-Sayyid al-Sharif al-Jurjani fi Mustalah al-Hadith, p. 46)
We present a selection of these hadiths:
The Prophet Jesus (as), son of Mary, will definitely descend as a just judge and a just ruler. (Imam Nawawi, Commentary on Sahih Muslim)
The Judgment Day will not take place until the Prophet Jesus (as), son of Mary, comes as a fair ruler and a just imam. (Sunan Ibn Majah)
By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the son of Mary (the Prophet Jesus [as]) will shortly descend among you people as a just ruler. (Sahih Bukhari)
There is no prophet between him (the Prophet Jesus [as]) and me. He will certainly descend. Recognize him when you see him. He is of medium height, of a reddish white color. He will wear two sets of yellow dyed clothing. Water will fall from his hair even if it does not rain. He will fight with people for Islam. He will slay the antichrist [make him ineffective] and then remain for exactly forty years on earth. Then he will die, and Muslims will perform the prayers for him. (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
What will you do when the son of Mary (as) descends among you and leads as one amongst you? (Sahih Muslim)
The Prophet Jesus (as), son of Mary, will then descend and their [the Muslims'] commander will invite him to come and lead them in prayer. But he will say: "No, some among you are commanders over some [among you.]" (Sahih Muslim)