Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"

Jesus in Islam VI : Ascension and Return of Jesus


In this segment, Dr. Badawi attempts to deny the crucifixion of Jesus. He gives a number of passages from the Qur’an which, when they are considered together, do not provide a consistent account of what happened to Jesus. Once again, I have infinitely greater faith in the accounts of those who followed Jesus than I have in a man who recounted apocryphal tales many centuries later.

Arshad Jinesh : How does the interpretation of that term [to take up Sura 5] affect the interpretation of the Qur'an in this particular issue?

Jamal Badawi: It affects it quit significantly because the word, like I said before, the Qur'an used the term that Jesus "maata" which could only mean died, but of course in the context of the Qur'an it does not say that he died on the cross because the Qur'an negated that. The term "mutawaffeeka" if you take the lexicon, it means to recall from a mission, the term means to finish something and in that sense it could mean that Allah is addressing Jesus, once again using "mutawaffeeka", that I am going to finish your mission on earth, your mission among the Israelites. It does not necessarily imply that he died on the cross in the Qur'an, nor does it even imply that he died shortly afterwards. If you take the metaphoric meaning of the term it means to finish your life or to take away your soul causing you to die. Obviously it does not mean to die on the cross because it explicitly negates that in the Qur'an in Sura 4 in the Qur'an. But it may be that Allah said that you are completing your terms and I am letting you die but not let your enemies kill you. It could also mean causing you to die latter, it could imply a possible latter death on the cross but it cannot be on the cross according to other verses of the Qur'an.

There is some controversy concerning the term "mutawaffeeka". Some commentators believe that the word "mutawaffeeka" is better translated as "to put you to sleep". However, in the context of this Sura, this does not make sense - was Jesus put to sleep before He was raised? According to Ibn Abbas and Mohammad Ibn Ishaq, the term "mutawaffeeka" means death.

Wahb believed that Jesus was dead for three hours, and then was raised. In contrast, Mohammad Ibn Ishaq believed that Jesus was dead seven hours and then God raised him. Al-Rabee Ibn Ans believed that God caused him to die at the moment when he raised him to heaven. Imam Al-Baidhawi believed that Christ was dead for three hours.

If we look at the meaning and context of the word "mutawaffeeka", it means death, according to Ibn Abbas and Mohammad Ibn Ishaq. It is interesting to note that the word 'mutawaffeeka' and the derivatives of the verb tawaffa (to die) occurs 23 times in the Qur'an. In all but two cases it means physical death. In the two exceptions, these terms refer to the figurative death during sleep:

"It is He who recalls you by night, and He knows what you work by day" (Sura 6: 60)


"God takes the souls at the time of their death, and that which has not died, in its sleep."Sura 39:42

For more on this issue, please read Themes for the Diligent.

In any event why does the Qur'an use such ambiguous language in such a critical passage as this?

Host: Now what is meant by latter? Is there any indication ...?

Jamal Badawi: OK that has two meanings and one has to be honest again distinguish between what the Qur'an is specifically saying and what people try to understand from the Qur'an. As far as the Qur'an is concerned, there is no indication as far as interpretations, some said that Jesus was saved from the crucifixion Allah took him to some safe place and like every other human being, he died. So that means maybe in a few months or years. However, I cannot find any conclusive evidence of that interpretation in the Qur'an, I am not saying that it has no validity at all but I am simply saying that is an interpretation, but not something that you can base on conclusive evidence.

Perhaps, Sura 5:110:

"When Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! Remember My favor on you and on your mother, when I strengthened you I with the holy Spirit, you spoke to the people in the cradle and I when of old age, and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injeel; and when you determined out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then you breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the leprous by My permission; and when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I withheld the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear arguments, but those who disbelieved among them said: This is nothing but clear enchantment."

My problem with the Qur'an is that it does not provide a clear account of what happened to Jesus. It is as if Muhammad, and those who followed him, made up the story as they went along.

But it could also mean, latter could mean, it is the opinion of the great majority of Muslims, you know those writers on the exigeses of the Qur'an, Jesus will die after the second coming where he declares his exclusive and unique humanity for his creator Allah. In fact, it could mean that Allah extended the life of Jesus, so that he will not die until he comes back at the second coming. There is, interestingly enough, a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad in which says that the Prophet said to the Jews Jesus did not die and is coming back to you before the day of judgement. I am not saying that this is among the sayings that are rated the highest in authenticity, it is less than the highest degree of the Hadith, but it is interesting as we compare it when the program unfolds, that there is reference in the sayings of the Prophet to the second coming of Jesus.

But the question remains: was Jesus physically raised to heaven, or did he die on earth? For example, Sura 5:75 tells us :

"Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!"

But Sura 3:144 says:

Muhammad is but a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him. Will it be that, when he dieth or is slain, ye will turn back on your heels? He who turneth back on his heels doth no hurt to Allah, and Allah will reward the thankful.

Therefore, Sura 5:75 tells us that Jesus was only a messenger and Sura 3:144 says that all messengers have died. Therefore, since Jesus was only a messenger and all messengers have died, Jesus could not have been "raised up" as Sura 4:158 claims, he must be dead and in a grave! Sura 5:110, which was mentioned earlier, also confuses the issue of Jesus being "raised up" since the verse says that Jesus taught "when of old age". So, what happened to Jesus?

Host: I am sure that our viewers will be interested to find out, as I certainly am, is there any explanation in the Qur'an as to what happened to Jesus after Allah saved him from crucifixion?

Jamal Badawi: The answer to that question can be found more particularly in two passages in the Qur'an. The first one is in Sura 3:55 and Sura 5:158. Indeed one is a promise of saving him from the cross and the other is how that promise was fulfilled. Now let's take the first reference :

Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.

Now, the question here of raising, what does it mean to say raising you? Now, the interpretation, or understanding of the word raise in the context of the Qur'an and the Qur'an's usage. In the Qur'an, we find that the same term raise is used to raising the good deeds, for example in Sura 35 it talks about how Allah raises the good deeds, it doesn't mean physical lifting.

This definition would not apply in the case of Jesus.

In Sura 24:36 it talks about how Allah raises the mosques, or the places of worship, and raises in status. In Sura 58:11, the Qur'an talks about raising the status of knowledgible people, raising in status. Raising is also used in the Qur'an to refer not to the physical body because after death, the physical body doesn't have much significance, of course, it is the soul. We find references for example in both the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet where it talks of good people who ascend into heaven. When you say that a person ascended into heaven, it doesn't mean physically, it means his soul. That again could mean that the soul of Jesus was raised up to heaven.

Once again, these explanations do not fit the context of event of the crucifixion.

A third meaning or course is the very literal meaning that he was raised in whole - in body and in soul. I hasten to say that one of these explanations is going too far is the common usage in the Qur'an and even by body and soul, although it is not very clearly stated, it is something that cannot be excluded we don't know how it happened but nothing is impossible for the creator. I know that sometimes people may say or write that God raised Jesus in both body and soul, what was the importance of the body to remain alive in heaven and up for hundreds of years?

Sura 4:158 is translated as saying:

Yusuf Ali: "Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-"

Pickthall: "But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise."

Shakir: "Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise."

Sarwar: "God raised him up to Himself. God is Majestic and All-wise."

Irving: "Rather God lifted him up towards Himself God is Powerful, Wise!"

Al-Hilali & Khan : "But Allâh raised him ['Iesa (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allâh is Ever All­Powerful, All­Wise."

Khalifa : "Instead, GOD raised him to Him; GOD is Almighty, Most Wise."

I must say again, that without any miracle one person we all know mentioned in the Qur'an and the Bible lived for nearly 1,000 years, 950 years, and there is no miracle involved, it is called possible and not unlikely at all that God would extend the life of the Prophet Jesus, 2,000 years, 3,000 years, or more. This is a miracle unlike the normal life of Noah on this earth. I think that the Muslims and their Christian brethren are familiar with the story of the seven sleepers, the people went into the cave and stayed there for 300 years, or 309 according to the Islamic calendar, living there without any food or drink and they were in a state of sleep alive, and this was right here on the earth. It is not strange that Allah would extend the life of anyone even thousands of years and the Qur'an testifies to this fact that Satan, after he was dismissed from paradise, asked Allah to delay his life and keep him alive to the end of time, so Satan was even living all that time. A holy Prophet who is honored by Allah, Prophet Jesus. What I am saying here is we try to over-rationalize, whether we are a Muslim or not to say that there is no sense of the physical body of Jesus up in heaven. It is possible that the realm of Allah is so wide that we do not know where he took him, people today are still arguing if there is life on other planets so this is a matter that is beyond the physical sciences but we cannot dismiss this as a possible explanation of what happened.

This does not answer the question of what happened to Jesus! Also, the seven sleepers is in interesting story in the Qur'an.

Host: Did any other person ascent to heaven other than Jesus?

Jamal Badawi: I will answer your question according to the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and also from my limited knowledge of the Bible. But as far as other persons going up to heaven, there is reference to that in the Qur'an and in many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that the Prophet Muhammad did ascend to heaven and this is known as the incident of the Night Journey, or Miraj. There is lots of evidence that it was both spiritual and physical. Of course, we all know that after the ascension to heaven, the Prophet Muhammad came back, which is more important than instead of staying there because to coming back we can establish our own ascension as human beings with Allah, and to teach us how to aspire and to reach the creator which is most significant as far as humanity and its needs are concerned. But in addition to this, we find that there is one passage that speaks specifically about raising a person, but again like the is a verse about the Prophet Jesus but we cannot say that this means only this. It appears in Sura 19:56-57:

Also mention in the Book the case of Idris [some say this is Enoch and some say it is Ezekiel] : He was a man of truth (and sincerity), (and) a prophet: And We raised him to a lofty station.

So, are you now saying that Jesus was taken to heaven in both body and soul as Sura 4:158 implies? If this is the case, then how do you explain Sura 5:75 and Sura 3:144 which imply that Jesus died like any other Prophet? Also, Sura 5:110 implies that he taught when he was old! The Qur'an simply does not agree with itself!

The same term as used for Jesus, we raised him to a lofty place. The wording of that passage in the Qur'an, gives different meanings and interpretations in the same way that the passage about Jesus gives different meanings. For example Mu Hasemin or one of the interpreters of the Qur'an and also in Banjaralin, who was a scholar also they both speak about raising Enoch physically one of them traces his interpretation to one the very earliest scholars by the name of Muhajid who said that Enoch was raised and he does not die in the same way that Jesus was raised. Of course, again, we are not certain if it means that or it could also mean, as we said in the case of Jesus, raising him in status. As far as the Biblical references to that , it is interesting and maybe we might come back to this quotation In II Kings 2:11-12

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.

The wording here is very decisive because it is a physical raising not a wording that can be interpreted as the raising of the soul or status. It is interesting to note that in the Gospel of John 3: 13 he speaks as if he is not aware of that quotation because he says that nobody else was raised to heaven even though the Old Testament is quit clear on that.

If God wished to "raise the status" of Jesus, why did He [according to the Qur'an] trick Christ's enemies, as well as His followers, and "make it appear" that Jesus died on the cross? What prevented God from clearly showing the enemies of Jesus that they could not kill Him and then exalt Him on the spot? If we believe the Qur'an [which I do not], God actually tricked the followers of Jesus into deifying Him!

But, in any case, whether the raising was in the body or soul, there is definitely an element of merit in there saving the Prophet at the last minute and there is an indication that Allah is the best of planners that people can conspire against his Prophets but Allah wins because he can do this. And just by the way of a kind of remark the very similar miraculous rescue for Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet was pursued at night when he was supposed to be assassinated, the would be assassins were lined up outside of his house, miraculously they could not see him, he went to the cave stayed for three days there and at one point they were just at the end of the cave but again they could not see him and something pushed them aside from that particular place. So this is again another type of miracle if Allah wants to save him or if he wants him to be martyred, fine. But in the case of Jesus it is clear that he was not the one who was killed.

Once again, why did God [according to the Qur'an] perform an illusion which convinced both the enemies and followers of Jesus that Jesus was crucified?

Host: We want to examine another important issue here. I am referring to the second coming of Jesus. How does Muslim beliefs about the second coming relate to the belief that Muhammad.

Jamal Badawi: On the surface there may be some inconsistency. In earlier programs we said he was the last Prophet but here is another Prophet. The fact of Muhammad being the seal or the last of all Prophets means no human being will come after him in the capacity of being a new Prophet as a new messenger with a new message receiving a new revelation a new holy book to replace the previous revelation. According to Muslim belief, the second coming of Jesus is not in the capacity of a new Prophet really, nor superceding the Qur'an, the last revelation which has been preserved fully and perfectly nor as a substituted for Islam as he is superceded the Torah for example in his time, but as a follower of Islam in its complete form. As we mentioned before, Islam means the religion and divine revelations of all of the Prophets from Adam to Muhammad taught, and that he will be coming under the leadership of the greatest of all of these messengers, the Prophet Muhammad, that he will become a Muslim as other Prophets were Muslims before him. I think that the problem will become more clear when we talk about the nature of the second coming and what will take place, but as far as his coming, it will not supercede the last revelation, it is part of it.

We will also wait to discuss this topic in a later segment.

Host: I would like to ask what I think is an interesting question would you consider the second coming of Jesus as a possible point of agreement between Islam and Christianity?

Jamal Badawi: I do not wish to approach this question neither with undue optimism or pessimism, I think being used to doing this program and I hope that the viewers appreciate this that one would like to discuss things with a more open heart and open mind, with even handidness and honesty. On one hand I would like to say that there is one possible area of agreement between Muslims and their Christian brethren, and that is at least the acceptance that Jesus is coming again. Secondly, his coming will be close to the coming of the end of the days on this earth. Three, that his coming will be very significant and very useful it will bring a great deal of peace to the conflicts of humanity and the human race. However, there are differences some of which are quit essential. The basic point relates to his capacity, in what capacity is he coming back what is the nature of his second coming? In my humble understanding of the Christian theology is that Jesus second coming is in the capacity of God or as a divine being and judge and this will be the final judgement, he will judge those who are dead and alive and that is the end of it. That understanding is based on some other common aspects of the Christian theology, that is the issue of Trinity, or the divinity of Jesus as God in human form it has been explained. As far as Muslim understanding, there is a major difference there because Muslims believe that Jesus in his second coming is not coming as God because he is not God and never claimed to be God but he is coming as one of the greatest Prophets of Allah it has nothing to do with the notion of God incarnate. Of course, that in turn is very much consistent with the understanding about the nature of Jesus about the attributes of the deity of Allah the creator of all and the fact there is no such consequence, some of God in the word has been used to attribute divinity to Jesus.

The key point here is the different views, among Christians and Muslims, of who Jesus really is. If we believe the Word of God which was spoken through the many predictions of the Old Testament Prophets; and, we believe in the life and words of Jesus; He [Jesus] will return to judge the living and the dead. However, when we attempt to interpret and explain the words of Muhammad, we find only confusion and contradiction.

Host: We have another topic and I don't know if this is the proper time to go into another topic..Let's examine the second coming of Jesus from the Islamic point of view, first of all is there any direct mention of that in the Qur'an?

Jamal Badawi: Well in terms of the second coming again we have to make a distinction between the exact wording in the Qur'an and the interpretation given to it. There is, and I mentioned before, that there is a Muslim belief about the second coming, this represents the majority understanding of Muslims throughout history. Again, to be very accurate about it I must say that there is no conclusive passage or verse that says that Jesus is coming again. However, there are two verses in the Qur'an that are interpreted to refer to the second coming of Jesus, maybe I can refer to one of them and introduce it and pursue it later. The first one appears in Sura 43:61:

And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.

In other words take the translation now, and can perhaps leave it at that, he [Jesus] poured it [and we talked about what it could mean] is a knowledge or sign of what is possible sign for the hour, therefore have no doubt about it and follow me [that is the Prophet Muhammad] this is a straight path. That needs some explanation and in what context was this verse revealed to perhaps we can catch up on that later.

We will also discuss this later.

Andrew Vargo

Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"
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