The Return of Jesus
The Holy Qur’an reveals that the unbelievers devised a plot to take the life of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam). But the unbelievers failed:
“And they (infidels) devised their plot. And Allah also devises his own plan. And surely Allah is the best of planners.” [Surah 3, Verse 54]
Tafseer Noorul Irfaan states that this verse means that God made one of the murderers look like Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) whom they then crucified, thinking that it was Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) that they crucified.
The Qur’an also states:
“Remember when Allah said, “O Isa I shall let you reach full age and raise you towards Myself and I shall purify you from the infidels and I shall make your followers superior to those who reject until the Day of Resurrection.”” [Surah 3, Verse 55]
From this verse the physical departure of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) to heaven is proven; he is physically alive there and just before Qiyaamah he will return to the earth and propagate the religion of Islam, then he will enter into marriage, die a physical death and will be buried in the Roza-e-Mubarak of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and he will live for forty years after coming to earth. The words “I shall purify you from the infidels” in the above verse mean that God will protect Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) from the crowd of disbelievers so that they will not be able to crucify him. [Tafseer Noorul Irfaan]
Furthermore, God mentions in the above verse, “I shall make your followers superior to those who reject until the Day of Resurrection”, i.e. a group of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam)’s true followers will dominate the unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection. Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) did not have many followers during his tenure on earth and with his ascension the religion that he had brought degenerated rapidly. Over the next two centuries, those who believed in Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) were oppressed because they had no political power. Therefore, we cannot say that the early Christians dominated the unbelievers in the sense indicated by the verse given above. At present, Christianity is so far removed from its original state that it no longer resembles the religion taught by Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam). Therefore the above words show a clear message: There has to be a group of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam)’s followers who will exist until the Last Day. Such a group will emerge after his second coming, and those who follow him at that time will dominate the unbelievers until the Last Day.
In another Verse God says:
“And for their saying: “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Mariam, Messenger of Allah.” Whereas they slew him not and neither crucified him, but another was made to resemble him for them. And indeed those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have not the least knowledge about it, but are merely following conjecture. And undoubtedly, they slew him not. But Allah raised him towards Himself and Allah is Exalted in Might, the Wise.” [Surah 4, Verses 157-158].
Yet another verse says:
“And certainly, he (Isa) is a sign of the Hour. So do not have doubts about it and follow Me. This is the straight path. And let not Shaitaan misdirect you. Undoubtedly, he is your open enemy. [Surah 43, Verses 61-62]
Firstly, these verses tell us that the descent of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) on the earth prior to Qiyaamah is a certainty, because it is one of the signs of Qiyaamah. We also learn that Satan is our open enemy and will try to prevent us from having the correct beliefs regarding the second coming of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam). [Tafseer Noorul Irfaan]
Secondly, the above verse can only refer to the second coming of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) close to Qiyaamah, because he lived six centuries before the revelation of the Holy Qur’an and we cannot consider his first life on earth as a sign of the Day of Judgment. The verse therefore refers to his second coming on earth before the Day of Judgment and in that context his return is a sign of the Hour’s imminent arrival.
The Prophet (sws) has revealed many important matters in the Hadith about Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam)’s return, as well as the things that will happen before and after this event. Numerous Ahadith have been recorded, a few of which are mentioned below:
“By Him in Whose Hand is my life, the son of Mariam (Hazrat Isa Alaihis Salaam) will certainly invoke the name of Allah for Hajj or for Umrah, or for both, in the valley of Rawha. [Sahih Muslim]
“It [the Day of Judgment] will not come until you see ten signs.” …In this connection the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) mentioned the smoke, Dajjaal, the rising of the Sun from the west, the descent of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam)… [Sahih Muslim]
“By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the son of Mariam (Hazrat Isa Alaihis Salaam) will shortly descend amongst you people as a just ruler. [Sahih Bukhari]
“How will you be when the son of Mariam descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Qur’an?” [Sahih Bukhari]
“Doomsday will not take place until Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) comes as a fair ruler and a just Imam.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa (Radiallahu Ta’ala Anh) is the greatest collector of Ahadith on the second coming of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam). He states, “The emergence of the Dajjaal and of Yajuj and Majuj is a reality; the rising of the sun in the West is a reality; the descent of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) from the heavens is a reality; and all the other signs of the Day of Resurrection, as contained in authentic Ahadith are also established realities.” [Al-Fiqh al-Akbar]
Many Islamic scholars have also dealt with this subject in great detail. When all the scholarly views are considered together, it becomes apparent that there is a consensus that Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) will return to earth.
The great Islamic scholar Hazrat Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (Rahmatullah Alaih) gives examples from the views of other Islamic scholars and explains that the Islamic community has reached a consensus regarding the second coming of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam), and that it is essential to believe in the return of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) to earth. [Tafseer Roohul Ma’ani]
Another Hadith used by Islamic scholars is one which was narrated by Hazrat Jabir Ibn Abdullah (Radiallahu Ta’ala Anh) which says, “Anyone who denies Imam Mahdi’s coming has denied what was revealed to Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). Anyone who rejects the second coming of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) has become a disbeliever.
There is reference to this hadith in very important Islamic resources such as Arful Wardi fi Akhbar Mahdi by Hazrat Imam Jalaluddin Suyuti (Rahmatullah Alaih), as well as other authentic literature such as Faslal Khitaab and Maani al Akhbar.
Imam Rabbani (Radiallahu Ta’ala Anh) states that in another Hadith, our beloved Prophet (sws) said, “The Companions of the Cave will be the helpmates of Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam). He will descend to earth at the time of Imam Mahdi, who will join with Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) to destroy Dajjaal (Antichrist). During the time of his rule, the Sun will be eclipsed on the fourteenth day of Ramadaan, and during the first part of that day, the Moon will grow dark. These occurrences will be contrary to custom and the astrologers’ calculations.” [Maktubaat, Vol. 2]
Everyone with faith and fairness must believe that Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) will return to earth before the Day of Qiyaamah. Only those who oppose Allah Ta’ala’s Divine Book and His Beloved Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) will deny his second coming.
What are your views?
When a matter is to be decided in the light of Islamic teachings, it has to be first seen in the light of the Qur'an. If any hadith mentions it, that too has to be explained within the context of the Qur'an to clarify and understand it. Consensus of the scholars is a concept which according to scholars such as Imam Shafi'i, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Imam Razi, Imam Ibn Hazam, and Imam Ibn Taimiyah is not possible to be established except on matters related to the Qur'an or Salat-like Sunnahs.
The Qur'an talks about Isa alaihissalam's birth, death, or related matters in several passages. We need to reflect upon each one of them first to find if his return is mentioned for us to look for its further explanation elsewhere. The Qur'an claims that it is the final verdict of God which is absolutely clear (43:2, 44:2); it has come to clarify the differences that exist between humans on religious matters (25:1; 2:213). Before looking at any other source we should therefore look at what the guidance from God is saying on the matter under discussion.
To my limited understanding, there are five passages which are directly or remotely relevant to the subject of the return of Jesus: 3:55; 4:157; 5:116-7; 19: 15,33; and 43: 61
1) The first of these mentions in the order of the sequence of the Qur'an is in verse 3:55. The Almighty says: "(Imagine the time) when your Lord said: 'Jesus, I am causing you to die (alternative translation: to let you reach full age), raise you towards me, purify you from the designs of the disbelievers, and causing those who followed you to prevail over those who rejected (you) until the Judgment Day."
The two significant parts of the verse where there is often disagreement in translations are inni mutawaffika and ja'ilullazina ittaba'uka fauqallazina kafaru ila yaumil qiyamah.
Let's take the first one first. inni mutawaffika has been translated as "I am causing you to die" or "I'll let you reach full age". There are other translations of it as well. However, the fact is that the word tawaffa from the root letters wa fa ya belongs to Bab Tafa'ul category of verbs and nouns. Its several variants have been used as verbs in the Qur'an. In each case they have been used to mean "to cause to die". See any translation to understand meanings of the following verses: 4:97; 6:61; 5:117; 16:28; 16:32; 10:46; 13: 40; 40:77; 8:50; 39:42; 6:60; 10:104; 16:70; 32:11; 4:15; 7:37; 3: 193; 7:126; 12:101. I have omitted examples of passive verbs. There is another category of seemingly similar verbs from the same root. That category is Babe Taf'il. The Qur'an has also used verbs from the same root in that category too on several occasions. On each of these occasions the meaning is "to give in full" or something similar. See any Qur'anic translation for a few examples 53: 27; 24:39; 11:15; 11:111; 3;57; 4:173; 24:25; 35:30; 46:19.
The noun mutawwafi used in verse 3:55 belongs to the first category of nouns and verbs (Babe Tafa'ul). Had it belonged to the second category (Bab Taf'il) the noun should have been muwaffi (without an intervening ta). If the Qur'an is a clear book in Arabic therefore it is impossible to take any other meanings of the expression inni mutawwafika except "I am causing you die." It is impossible to use "I'll let you reach full age", "I am taking you in full", or any other translation.
The other aspect of the verse that needs consideration is this: "(I am) causing those who followed you to prevail over those who rejected (you) until the Judgment Day."
This part of the verse cannot mean anything but the fact that the followers of Jesus would dominate over those who rejected him until the Judgment Day. If the history recorded by humans says anything different, it should be adjusted in the light of Qur'anic mention. The verse is not saying that Jesus's followers would dominate over those who rejected him close to Judgment Day. It is simply saying that they will dominate over them until the Judgment Day which means that the beginning of that domination will appear immediately after his demise.
It is noteworthy that even though the verse is giving an account of the events from the death (or alleged ascension) of Jesus until the Judgement Day, it is not mentioning anything of his alleged return. It was the most appropriate occasion for the book of guidance to announce his return.
2) The second passage that mentions a relevant message says this about the claim of Jews regarding Jesus's death: "... they neither killed him nor crucified him but it was made to appear so to them; they do not have any (reliable) knowledge of it except following their own hunch; and they certainly did not kill him; (4:157) instead, God raised him to Himself. (4:158)
This passage too does not mention anything that would give an indication that Jesus was going tor return at the end of times. Verse 4:158 could have been another occasion to mention the reality of his return if it was to happen. The only thing clarified is that Jesus wasn't killed by the Jews, they were made to be confused about what happened, and Jesus was raised by God to the heavens. This description can be understood in two ways: He died a natural death and his body was respectfully raised to the heavens to not allow the Jews to desecrate it or he was raised to the heavens alive. The latter translation has become more popular not because the first one isn't correct. They prefer it because o the fact that people understand from outside the Qur'an that Jesus was raised to the heavens alive and will return later. The fact is that the passage could also be read to mean that he died naturally and his body was raised to the heavens.
3) The third passage relevant to Jesus's possible return to this world goes like this: "And imagine the day when God will say: O Jesus son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother deities besides God?' He will say, 'Exalted are You! ... I said nothing to them except what you commanded me ... And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them. But when you caused me to die (alternatively, you took me up), You were the Observer over them, and You are a witness over everything." (5:116-117).
The above passage is very significant in the context of the possibility of the return of Jesus. God is informing us about a dialogue He will have with Jesus on the Judgment Day about the mission he was entrusted with and the events following his mission. Presenting his position on why people were describing him and his mother as gods, Jesus will refer to his efforts during his first arrival in this world. Despite the fact that he will be speaking on Judgment Day with a clear hindsight of his second visit to the world, (if he will have made it, that is), the Qur'an doesn't talk about it at all. Most certainly, this passage should have mentioned his return visit to this world if it was a reality. Most translations have unfortunately mentioned "when you took me up" instead of "when you caused me to die" to translate falamma tawaffaitani even though the verb used is from Bab Tafa'ul which as mentioned above makes it impossible for a translator to translate it in any other way except the one that means "to cause to die."
4) Two brief mentions in Surah Maryam (19th) also indirectly indicate what the Qur'anic view on the birth and death of Jesus is. The Qur'an has mentioned in its third and nineteenth chapters that if the miraculous birth of Jesus makes him a son of God, how would we respond to the fact that John the Baptist (Yahya) was also born miraculously when his parents were past the natural age to give birth to a child. Should that reality of his extraordinary birth not qualify him to be another son of God then? Mentioning in that vein, the Qur'an goes on to say this to describe the birth, death, and resurrection of John and Jesus respectively in the 19th chapter: "And peace be upon him the day he was born, the day he will die, and the day he will be raised alive." (19:15) ... "And peace is on me the day I was born, the day I will die, and the day I will be raised alive." (19:33) The two passages indicate that there would be no substantial difference between the way John and Jesus were born, the way they died, and the way they will be raised back to life.
5) Another passage which is often referred to to show that the Qur'an is indicating clearly that the return of Jesus is a reality is found in Surah Zukhrukh (43rd). The relevant verse translates like this: "And indeed he (Jesus) is (alternative translation: will be) the knowledge (sign) of the hour, so be in no doubt of it, and follow Me." (43:61)
Those who believe in the return of Jesus often present this verse as another proof of their belief. They say that since the verse is saying Jesus will be the knowledge (sign) of the hour, therefore his return has been prophesied in the Qur'an. I concede that it is grammatically justifiable to translate the verse in the future tense as well, but the context prevents us from doing so. The verse is addressing, first and foremost, the people of Makkah who were doubting the possibility of the next life. How could their doubt be removed by an event that was to take place many centuries later? It would have caused them to ridicule the idea even further for the book was not able to present them with an evidence of the past or the present. The truth is that the Qur'an is alluding to the fact that the miraculous birth of Jesus which didn't involve a father and the mind-boggling miracles which included the phenomenon of the dead being brought back to life apparently by his signalling at the dead bodies are a conclusive proof that God can also cause the dead to be raised to life again when He will decide to cause it to happen. Since these signs were shown by God to mankind through Jesus, He described Jesus as the knowledge or the sign of the hour.
Having described all the five passages of the Qur'an that have to do with the alleged return of Jesus, let me also share the concern that the very first book of hadith that became extant was Mauta Imam Malik. It appeared more than one hundred and fifty years after the demise of the prophet, alaihissalam. The book was the most reliable account of the prophet's time when it was compiled. Even though it mentions the evil of Dajjal, it doesn't give even a trace of the return of Jesus. What it means is that a large component of the first three generations of Muslims didn't even know about the return of Jesus. Did they have an incomplete faith then?
Having said that, the reality is that there are many ahadith in the authentic books like Bukhari and Muslim which inform us about the arrival of Jesus close to the Judgment Day. What is the reality of this information? We don't know. We would neither reject them nor accept them until such time that their compatibility with the Qur'an becomes manifest. In no way shall we compromise the clear understanding of the Qur'an because of these ahadith which despite the sincerity and hard work of a number of scholars are, after all, a human effort at compiling history. No matter how authentic they might be, they cannot match the Qur'an, which for us is the criterion through which all other religious knowledge is to be approved or rejected.