Question 599: I was confronted with a question about what Islamic beliefs are about crucifixion of Jesus (asked by a female student in school). I told her that Jesus did not actually die on the stake but God transformed Judas into the appearance of Jesus, with the fake Jesus being killed on the stake, and that the real Jesus did not tell anyone about the truth of who actually died. The girl then asked me “But doesn’t that give God a deceptive character for he is tricking the people of the time by making them think that Jesus died on the cross, thereby resulting in the rise of Christianity?” I did not have a complete answer to this question regarding Allah’s character so I told her to wait. Thank you.

Answer 599: According to the following verses of the holy Quran, their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Mary, the messenger of Allah, but Allah (SWT) says: they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (looks like Isa).

In this verse of the holy Quran Allah, the Almighty says: “And most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it. They have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture And they killed him not for sure”.[1]

وَ قَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسيحَ عيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَ ما قَتَلُوهُ وَ ما صَلَبُوهُ وَ لكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَ إِنَّ الَّذينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فيهِ لَفي‏ شَكٍّ مِنْهُ ما لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّباعَ الظَّنِّ وَ ما قَتَلُوهُ يَقينا

Note: the word “Rasool Allah” is not their saying. Because, if they believed in his Risalat (prophethood) they would never kill Jesus. It is the saying of Allah, the Almighty.

Q: How it appeared to them so (looks like Isa)?

A: Ibn Abbas narrated: Allah (SWT) has metamorphosed those who cursed prophet Isa and his Mother. When Judah, the head of Jews realized, he afraid that Isa would make dua for him (Judah) too. Thus, Judah gathered all the Jews together and they came to an agreement to kill Isa. As the holy Quran says, Allah has sent Gabriel to help the Prophet: “We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, manifest proofs, and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit.”[2]

When the Jews surrounded and asked the Prophet Jesus, He said: Allah antagonizes you, the Jews. So, they made attack on the Prophet with the intention to kill him, but the Gabriel gave him a shelter where there was a whole in the roof and then raised him to the heaven.

Judah assigned one of his collaborator to enter the house where Jesus was, with a treacherous intention, but couldn’t find him, so that the man became confused for a short period of time. Those who were outside of the house thought that the collaborator is fighting with Isa. At that moment, Allah changed the man into a form similar to Jesus, and when the man came outside people thought he was Isa and then seized and crucified him.

Some say the man was facially look like Isa, but not physically. Some say his face was look like Isa and body was like Titanus’s body. Other say if he was Titanus, so where is Jesus? And if he was Jesus where was Titanus?[3]  That’s why it appeared to them so (looks like Isa).

Vahab bin Munabbah said: Jesus along with seven apostles were in a house where they had been surrounded. When they (the Jews) entered the house Allah changed the apostles into a form similar to Jesus. They said: we are bewitched! Show us Jesus or we would kill you all. Jesus said: which one of you give his life to Paradise? A man named Sirjis said: Me! He then came outside and introduced himself ‘Jesus’ and then they seized and crucified him and Allah raised Jesus to heaven on that time. Mujahid and Qatadah said: All of the apostles had not changed into a form look like Jesus, but one of them.

According to Tabari, what Vahab has been said is strongly considered as Sahih than the other narration related in this issue. Because, considering that Jesus told them, if one of you become look like me you will go to the Heaven, so that Allah changed all of them into the form similar to Jesus and then when the Jews killed one of the apostles it appeared to them (the Jews) so look like Isa.[4]

In Tafsir al-Mizan it is said that those who wanted to kill Jesus were Roman armies who didn’t know him exactly. So, they may killed a person other than the prophet Jesus. It is also said that there were two persons named Messiah, but five hundred years apart from each other. The first Messiah was the real and didn’t crucify, but the second who was false crucified instead. As a result, the Jews are in doubt which of the Christian Calendar is correct.[5]

Now, we should answer the question why Allah changed the man into a form similar to Jesus that since they intended to kill him Allah, the Almighty has devised a plot (Makr) in order to save the Prophet’s life from the plotting of the Jews. In this regards, there is a verse of the holy Quran in which mentioned: “Then they plotted [against Jesus], and Allah also devised, and Allah is the best of devisers.”[6]

The Arabic version of this verse:

وَ مَكَرُوا وَ مَكَرَ اللَّهُ وَ اللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْماكِرين‏

The meaning of “Makr”: The literal meaning of “Makr” is devising and planning.  It can be good or evil[7] as well as it being capable for being for good or for evil.  However, some believe “Makr” to mean tricking and when attributed to Allah, to refer to the punishment of tricking and deception.[8]

The “Makr of Allah”: When examining the verses in which the word “Makr” has been used,[9] we realize that the meaning of “Makr” is simply devising and planning and that it could be good or evil.  For example in the verse “وَ يمكرون و يكمر اللَّه واللَّه خَير الماكِرين”,[10] the word “يَمكُرُون” refers to the plotting of the Mushrikin (Pagans) that intended to kill the prophet or imprison him and the phrase “يَمكُرُ اللَّهُ” refers to Allah’s devising and commanding the prophet to immigrate.  The very fact that the word “مكر” is used along with the adjective “السَّيِئّى” (evil) in the Quran[11] proves that “Makr” can be good or evil.

Therefore, the many verses that attribute Makr to Allah refer to his supreme regulation and management of matters, because He is the true owner of all devising and there is no devising separate from his. As a result, Allah has supremacy over all planners[12], and the verse from Surah Ra’d[13] clearly states that Allah is the supreme deviser and that the plotting of others is nothing compared to His[14]. [15]

Another question which now arises is why does the holy Quran use the term “mutawaffik” –for the prophet Jesus- which means “I will cause you to die”?

The verse of the Holy Quran in which Allah, the Almighty use the term is as follows:

“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…”

What has given rise to this question is that a few translators of the Quran have translated the term “mutawaffika” in the verse as “causing to die”, yet there are some other translations of the Quran which are not in conflict with Prophet Jesus being alive: “(And remember) when Allah said: “O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee (from amongst people) and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve.”[16] It is necessary to know that the word “tawaffa” is derived from the root word “wafa” which has been used in different meanings including death, taking, completing, etc.[17] In this connection, fulfilling a promise or a vow is also considered “wafa” which is in fact completing and accomplishing it. Hence, if a person takes back completely what he has lent to someone, it is said in Arabic, “tawaffa daynahu”.

Majma’ul Bahrain being one of the lexical works explains the foregoing verses as such:

“أي مستوف أجلك، و معناه إني عاصمك من أن تصلبك الكفار و مؤخرك إلى أجل أكتبه لك و مميتك حتف أنفك لا قتلا بأيديهم و رافعك إلى سمائي”.

That is to say, “O Jesus, I terminate your period of stay” and that means I am going to protect you against the infidels so that they are unable to crucify you and I delay your death until a natural death is prescribed for you.[18]

Thus, although the term “tawaffa” also means death as also used in the same meaning in some other verses[19], it does not necessarily mean ‘death’. In fact, there are verses in which the same term has been used in other meanings. One of those verses is the following:

“وَ هُوَ الَّذي يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وَ يَعْلَمُ ما جَرَحْتُمْ بِالنَّهارِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُكُمْ فيهِ لِيُقْضى‏ أَجَلٌ مُسَمًّى ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِما كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُون”[20]

“And He it is Who takes your souls at night (in sleep), and He knows what you acquire in the day, then He raises you up therein that an appointed term may be fulfilled; then to Him is your return, then He will inform you of what you were doing.”

Certainly, the word “yatawaffakum” in this verse does not mean “death”; rather it means nightly sleep which is repeated every twenty four hours.  This is another form of taking the soul which is not death. Therefore, the verse in question should not be interpreted as a definite sign of Jesus’ death. When it comes to the fate of Prophet of Jesus, peace be upon him, here are a few points to mention:

  1. Christians are of the view that he was crucified to death but the Quran explicitly denies this saying:

“وَ ما قَتَلُوهُ وَ ما صَلَبُوهُ وَ لكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ….وَ ما قَتَلُوهُ يَقينا”[21]

“That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.”

  1. Although the Quran denies Jesus’ killing or crucifixion, there is not any verse to indicate clearly that he has not died in any other form or that he is alive.
  2. Verses such as verse 55 of Surah Aal-e Imran (the verse in question) and verse 117 of Surah al-Maedah do not clearly indicate the death of this great prophet but they do indicate clearly that the Prophet’s existing relationship with the material world is different from when he lived among his followers.
  3. There are many narrations in Shias’ and Sunnis’ authentic books which denote that Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, is alive. With reliance on these narrations, we can come to know that he is alive, even if we do not find a straight verse in this regard. We shall draw your attention to two instances of these narrations:

1-4. The Messenger of Allah said to Jews:

“أن عيسى لم يمت و أنه راجع إليكم قبل يوم القيامة”

“Jesus has not died and he will return to you before the Day of Judgment.”[22]

2 – 4. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

“و من ذريتي المهدي إذا خرج نزل عيسى ابن مريم لنصرته فقدمه و صلى خلفه”

“And of my descendant is Mahdi; when he reappears, Jesus son of Mary will descend to help him. Mahdi will lead the prayer and he will pray behind him.”[23]

  1. Even if, unlike the existing narrations, we ignore the other meanings of “tawaffa” and believe on the basis of the above-mentioned verses that he is dead, yet still this meaning is not in conflict with his being alive in the present time. That is because, according to some verses in the Quran, there was a person who was revived one hundred years after his death.[24] Therefore, it is possible that the same incident may have occurred with Prophet Jesus (AS).[25]

[1] . Surah Nisa, verse 157.

[2] . Surah Baqarah, verse 87.

[3] . Majma al-Bayan fee Tafsir al-Quran, Vol. 6, Pg. 133.

[4] . Translation of the book Majma’ al-Bayan fee Tafsit al-Quran, Vol. 6, Pgs. 133-137.

[5] . Tafsir al-Mizan, Vol. 5, Pg. 216.

[6] . Surah Ale Emran, verse 54; Majma’ al-Bayan fee Tafsir al-Quran, Vol. 4, Pgs. 89-90; Tafsir al-Mizan, Vol. 3, Pg. 323.

[7] Qurashi, Seyyed Ali Akbar, Qamuse Quran, vol. 6, pg. 265.

[8] Al-Munjid, translation, Muhammad Bandar Riki, vol. 2, pg. 1820.

[9] A’raf:99 and 123; Fater:10 and 43; Ra’d:33 and 42; Saba’:33; Yunus:21; Ale Imran:54; Nahl:26 and 45; Naml:50 and 51; Nuh:22; Ibrahim:46; Yusuf:13; Ghafir:45.

[10] Anfal:30.

[11] Fater:43.

[12] Ale Imran:54.

[13] Ra’d:42.

[14] Tabatabai, Seyyed Muhammad Husein, Al-Mizan, Farsi translation, Musavi Hamedani, vol. 12, pg. 355, 20 volume version, Entesharate Eslami Publications.

[15] . Adopted from answer 062 IQ.

[16] Aal-e Imran, 54: (Pickthal translation).

[17] Ibn Manzur, Lesan al-Arab, vol.15, p. 398 and 399, first edition, Adab Publications, Qom Seminary, 1405.

[18] Majma’ul Bayan, vol.1, p. 444, term “Wafa”, Murtazawi Library, Tehran, 1375 (Persian calendar).

[19] Nisa, 97; Muhammad, 27; Yunus, 46; Sajda, 11.

[20] An’am, 60.

[21] Nisa, 157.

[22] Ibn Abi Hatam, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim, vol.4, p. 1110, hadith 6232, Maktabat Nazar al-Mustafa al-Baz, Saudi Arabia, 1419 A.H.

[23] Sheikh Saduq, al-Amali, vol.1, p. 218, Islamic Library Publications, Tehran, 1362 (Persian calendar).

[24] Baqarah, 259 ” فَأَماتَهُ اللَّهُ مِائَةَ عامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَه‏”.

[25] . Adopted from answer 6595 IQ.

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