Ruling on those who claim that Jesus was not raised to the heavens and will not return at the end of time
What is the opinion of the respected scholars regarding `Isa’s (Jesus’) life, bodily ascent to the heavens and descent to the earth near the Day of Resurrection and the view that his descent is one of the signs of the Last Hour? What is the ruling on those who deny Isa’s return near the Day of Resurrection, claiming that he was crucified, but did not die and immigrated to Kashmir in India where he lived for a long time and died naturally? They also claim that he will not return at the approach of the Last Hour, but one who bears spiritual similarity to him will appear. Please answer us, may Allah reward you!”
We seek help from Allah and in Him we put our trust. There is neither might nor power except with Allah. Proofs from the Qur’an and the Sunnah affirm that ‘Isa, son of Maryam (Mary, peace be upon them) and the slave and Messenger of Allah, was raised, body and soul, to the heavens. He was neither murdered nor crucified. He will, at the end of time, descend to kill Al-Masih-ul-Dajjal (the Antichrist), break the cross, kill the pig and abolish the Jizyah (poll tax required from non-Muslims living in an Islamic state). He will accept no religion except Islam. It is established that `Isa’s coming will be one of the portents of the Last Hour. Reliable Muslim scholars unanimously agreed on what we mentioned, but they held different opinions concerning the interpretation of the verb “توفي” (tawaffa) in the following Ayah: إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ [And (remember) when Allâh said: “O ‘Isâ (Jesus)! I will take you and raise you to Myself.”] [Aal Imran: 55]
One of the opinions said that the verb “tawaffa” in this context means death, which is the apparent connotation for those who did not examine the rest of evidence.
They depended on the repetition of this verb with this meaning in other Ayahs, such as: قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ [Say: “The angel of death, who is set over you, will take your souls.”] [al-Sajdah: 11] And: وَلَوْ تَرَى إِذْ يَتَوَفَّى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الْمَلاَئِكَةُ [And if you could see when the angels take away the souls of those who disbelieve (at death).] [al-Anfal: 50]
There are also other Ayahs in which “توفي” (tawaffa) means death. According to this meaning, the order of verbs has been shifted in this Ayah.
The second view states that the verb in this context means “taking up.” In his Tafsir (exegesis of the meanings of the Qur’an), Ibn Jarir reported this view from a group of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) and favored it. He regarded it as the preponderant opinion. Accordingly, the Ayah can be interpreted as Allah taking and raising `Isa (peace be upon him), alive, from this earth to the world of the heavens.
The third view states that the verb in this context means “death of sleep” because sleep is itself a form of death. Based on the evidence that `Isa (peace be upon him) did not die, we must interpret death in this Ayah as sleep in order to reconcile the evidence, such as Allah’s Statement: وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ [It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep)]. [al-An’am: 60] And: اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنْفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَى عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَى إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى [It is Allâh Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and sends the rest for a term appointed]. [al-Zumar: 42]
Scholars favored the last two views over the first one. In any case, strong proofs show the truth that `Isa (peace be upon him) was raised alive to the heavens and that he did not die. He is still alive in the heavens until he descends at the end of time to do, according to the authentic Hadiths, the tasks assigned to him. Afterwards, he will die as Allah predestined for him. Consequently, the view that the verb ‘tawaffa’ means “to cause to die” is week. If we suppose that it is valid, it means that he will die after his descent at the end of time. Thus, mentioning it in this Ayah before raising is by way of inversion and does not denote a sequence of events because the article ‘wa’, i.e. and, does not require order, as stressed by scholars. May Allah grant us success.
Those who claim that ‘Isa (peace be upon him) was murdered or crucified are refuted by the explicit Ayahs in this regard. The claims that he was not raised to the heavens, immigrated to Kashmir where he lived long, died naturally, and that he will not descend at the approach of the Last Hour, rather, a person who bears spiritual similarity to him will appear, are sheer lies against Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him).
It is true that ‘Isa (peace be upon him) has not descended until now, but he will descend in the future, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) foretold. Accordingly, the questioner and any other readers should know that uttering the above-mentioned claims is lying against Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). These claims include that ‘Isa (peace be upon him) was murdered or crucified, or that he immigrated to Kashmir where he died naturally, or that he was not raised to the heavens, or that he has already descended or someone similar to him will appear, or that there is no Masih who will descend from the heavens. Whoever lies against Allah is considered a Kafir (disbeliever) and must be asked to offer Tawbah (repentance to Allah) after clarifying the proofs from the Qur’an and Sunnah. If they perform Tawbah and return to the truth, it is good; otherwise, they are to be sentenced to capital punishment.
There are numerous well-known proofs that refute these claims. The following are some examples. Concerning `Isa (peace be upon him), Allah (Glorified be He) states in Surah Al-Nisa’: “…but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them [the resemblance of ‘Isâ (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man)], and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. ‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary) عليهما السلام]: But Allâh raised him [‘Isâ (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he عليه السلام is in the heavens). And Allâh is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” [al-nisa: 157-158]
It was reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that ‘Isa (peace be upon him) will descend at the end of time as a just ruler and will kill Al-Masih-ul-Dajjal (the Antichrist), break the cross, kill the pig, abolish the Jizyah and accept no religion but Islam. This is one of the authentic Hadiths, which is ranked as Mutawatir (a Hadith reported by a significant number of narrators throughout the chain of narration, whose agreement upon a lie is impossible).
It is unanimously approved and cited by Muslim scholars in books of ‘Aqidah (creed). Whoever denies them on the pretext of considering them as Hadith-ul-Ahad (Hadiths which at some point in the chain have only a single narrator), which are not reliable, or interprets them as conveying the importance of adhering to the ethics by which ‘Isa (peace be upon him) was known, such as mercy and kindness and applying the essence and objectives of Shari’ah, and does not interpret them according to their apparent meanings, is guilty of gross error, commits a serious offence against Shari’ah, and contradicts the Quran, the Sunnah, and the views of scholars.
Moreover, he openly refutes the authentic Mutawatir Hadiths and shows defiance toward Islam and the Hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Such a person who behaves according to his doubts and whims and deviates from the truth and guidance has little knowledge of Shari’ah, possesses no sincere belief in the one who brought it, and does not glorify its rulings and texts. Categorizing the Hadiths speaking about Al-Massih as Hadith-ul-Ahad, which may not be authentic, is a clearly invalid opinion. These Hadiths are related in the Sahih (authentic books) and Sunan (Hadith compilations classified by jurisprudential themes) books of Hadith through various Isnads (chains of narrators) that meet the conditions of Tawatur.
How can anyone who has the least knowledge of Shari’ah dare to say that these Hadiths should be disregarded? If we accept that they are Akhbar-ul-Ahad (narrated by a single narrator), it is known that not all of them are unauthentic. The people of knowledge who are specialized in verification affirm that Akhbar-ul-Ahad are authentic as long as they are related through multiple and upright Isnads and free from contradictions. The Hadiths at hand, both Mutawatir or Ahad, are authentic and have no contradictions.
The questioner should know that this doubt is null and void and that whoever claims these doubts is deviant. Even worse, such a person may misinterpret this Hadith showing tremendous boldness in lying. His sinful behavior combines both denial and nullification of texts, including ‘Isa’s descent, being a just ruler among people, the killing of Al-Masih-ul-Dajjal and other details.
Such a slander implies that the Prophet (peace be upon him), who is the most versed in Shari`ah, twisted his words, and told lies and deceived the Muslims. This is not acceptable and the Prophet’s status is high and impeccable. In so doing, they imitate the atheists who accused the Prophets (peace be upon them) of fabricating stories and that their aim was not to convey the truth. The people of knowledge possessed strong faith, refuted them, and revoked their statements by solid proofs. We seek refuge in Allah against our hearts going astray and from trials and the insinuations of Satan. We ask Him (Glorified and Exalted be He) to protect all Muslims and us from following vain desires and Satan, for He is the Omnipotent. There is neither might nor power except with Allah, the Exalted and Most Great. We hope that what we have mentioned will satisfy the questioner and present the truth.
All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the universe. May His peace and blessings be upon His servant and Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family and Companions.
Date: Muharram 21, 1442 AH
Source: Majmu' Fatawa Shaykh ibn Baz 1
Shaykh Abdul-Aziz ibn Baz