Posted 16 February 2003 - 03:03 PM
Jesus died a natural death
The first and the most crucial objection raised against us by our enemies is that we believe that Jesus of Nazareth died a natural death. To believe that Jesus died a natural death is said to be an insult to Jesus, an offense to the Holy Quran and dissent from the teaching of the Holy Prophet. Now, it is true that we believe Jesus to have died a natural death. But it is not true that to believe him to have died is to insult him or to offend the Holy Quran or to dissent from the teaching of the Holy Prophet. For the more one ponders over the subject, the more one becomes convinced that the offenses we are charged with do not follow from our belief in the death of Jesus. They follow rather from the belief that Jesus did not die but is alive in Heaven. We are Muslims, and as Muslims our first concern is to uphold the Greatness of God and the honor of His Prophet. True, we believe in all the Prophets of God. But our love and our regard for the Holy Prophet are the highest, for he sacrificed himself for our sake; he carried our burdens; he invited his own physical death to save us from spiritual death; he grieved so much for us. He gave up even the slightest comforts for our sake. He abased himself so that we should stand high. He planned for our lasting good and prayed for our eternal welfare. He would let his feet swell through standing long in prayer. Sinless, he prayed to cure us of our sins, to save us from Hellfire; he would pray till his prayer mat became wet with tears. He wept till his breast heaved like a boiling pot. He drew unto us the Mercy of God; he toiled for His pleasure, again for us. He caused us to be wrapped in the mantle of His Grace, the cloak of His Compassion. He strove to find for us ways by which we may also please God; means by which we may also achieve union with Him. What he did for us to make light our journey to God had not been done before by any prophet for his people. Fatwas of Kufr only please us. We would rather have the Fatwas than hold Jesus an equal of God, our Creator, Nourisher, Sustainer, and Guardian, One Who gives us our daily bread and the knowledge and guidance on which we depend for our spiritual welfare. Fatwas of Kufr are more welcome to us than that we should have to believe that Jesus is alive in Heaven without food or drink, even as God lives for ever without food or drink. We hold Jesus in honour. But why? Because he is a prophet of God, because God loved him and he loved God. Our regard for him is due to our regard for God. Can we hold him above God and dishonor God for his sake? Must we please the Ulema, but strengthen the hands of Christian missionaries, whose daily occupation is to find fault with Islam and the Quran? Must we let them think Jesus was God? For if he was not God, how can he be alive in Heaven? If he was man, why did he not die like other men? How can we, with our own mouths, say a thing derogatory to the Unity and Oneness of God? How can we harm the interests of true faith? The Ulema are free to do what they like; they may incite people against us, put us to death or stone us. We cannot give up God for Jesus. We would rather die than say that Jesus is alive in heaven as God's equal - Jesus who Christians think is the son of God and for whose sake they detract from the Oneness and Independence of God. If we had remained ignorant, it might have been different. But having had our eyes opened by a Divine Messenger, who has shown us the implications of God's Oneness, Majesty, Power, Greatness, Goodness, we cannot do so. Whatever the consequences, we cannot abandon God for the sake of a human being. If we did so, we cannot say where we should be. Honor belongs to God and comes from Him. When we perceive clearly that to believe Jesus to be alive is to insult God, we cannot regard this belief as true. We do not understand why belief in the death of Jesus entails an insult to Jesus. Prophets greater than Jesus have died and their death brought no humiliation to them. So the death of Jesus cannot be humiliating to him. But if, to suppose the impossible, we are confronted with the alternatives - God or Jesus - and if we must make a choice, certainly we will choose God. We feel certain that Jesus himself, who loved God with his mind, heart and soul, would never have been reconciled to a position which entails honor to Jesus but dishonour to God and His Oneness. The Holy Quran teaches us the same:
'Surely, the Messiah will never disdain to be a servant of Allah, nor will the angels near [ unto God]'.9
Death of Jesus taught by the Holy Quran and Hadith
We are bound by the Word of God. We have in the Quran;:
'And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them and Thou art Witness over all things.' God in the name of Jesus declares that Christians became corrupt after the death of Jesus. While he lived, they and their beliefs remained uncorrupt. Reading this in the Quran, how can we think Jesus is not dead but alive in Heaven?
And we also read in the Holy Quran:
'O Jesus! indeed I will cause thee to die and exalt thee to Myself, and will clear thee of[the charges of those who disbelieve, and will place those who follow thee above those who deny thee, until the Day of Resurrection.''10
Jesus was exalted (or raised) ~o God after his death. The words 'exalt thee' or 'raise thee' come after the words 'cause thee to die'. We must observe the ordinary rules of language. What is mentioned first, must take place first. But maybe the Ulema know these rules better than God. Maybe they think that although 'raising to God' occurs later in the verse, it should have been earlier. But God is Wise beyond conception. He knows best how ideas should be expressed. In His speech, there can be no error, no deviation from the correct word order. He is our Creator and we are His creatures. We dare not find errors in His speech. We are ignorant and He is All-Knowing. How can we point to faults in His speech? But the Ulema seem to think there could be errors in the speech of God but not in their understanding of it. We cannot say this; for we see only perdition in such a thought. While we have eyes, we cannot fall into a pit. While we know, we must turn away the cup of poison held to our lips. After God, we love only the Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). He is the greatest of all prophets, the greatest of all benefactors. No other human being, prophet or not, has done even a fraction of what the Holy Prophet has done for us. We can hold no one in greater honour. It is impossible for us to think that Jesus, the Messiah, is alive in Heaven while Muhammad, our Holy Prophet, lies buried in the earth. We cannot think so. We believe that in spiritual rank the Holy Prophet stands much higher than Jesus. How can it be that God raised Jesus to Heaven on the slightest sign of danger to his life, but did not raise the Holy Prophet even as high as the stars when the Holy Prophet was pursued by his enemies from place to place? If it is true that Jesus is alive in Heaven, we cannot feel more dead. We cannot tolerate the thought that our master is dead and buried, while Jesus is alive and in Heaven. We feel humiliated before Christians. But thank God, this is not so. God cannot have treated and has not, in fact, treated our Prophet in this way. God is the Lord of all lords. He himself called the Holy Prophet the Chief of mankind. Having called the Holy Prophet the Chief of mankind, he could not have taken more care of Jesus. For the sake of the Holy Prophet, God shook the world. Whoever thought of humiliating him, himself met with humiliation. Could God Himself have disgraced the Prophet and given his enemies the chance to gloat over the disgrace? The thought that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is buried in the earth and Jesus of Nazareth is alive in Heaven makes my hair stand on end. I find it both astonishing and depressing, therefore I find myself declaring, 'No, God cannot do such a thing.' He loves the Holy Prophet Muhammad more than He loves anyone else. He could not have let him die and be buried and have let Jesus ascend to Heaven. If any man deserved to remain alive and to ascend to Heaven it was our Holy Prophet. If he died in the usual way, other prophets have died in the same way. Knowing the high rank which the Holy Prophet Muhammad holds in the Sight of God, we cannot think for a moment that he could have received at the hands of God treatment inferior to that which Jesus had had at His hands. We cannot think that at the time of Hijra when the Holy Prophet sought refuge in the cave Thor, to reach which he had to mount the shoulders of Abu Bakr, God sent no angels for his rescue; but when the Jews set out to grapple with Jesus, God raised him to the Fourth Heaven to save him from the murderous designs of the Jews. In the battle of Ohud, the Holy Prophet had only a few friends left around him when the enemy attacked him. God did not send any angel, nor did he create a phantom, so that the enemy could attack this phantom instead of the Prophet, and break the phantom's teeth instead of the Prophet's. God let the enemy attack the Prophet himself and when the Prophet fell down as if dead, the enemy raised cries of joy and declared they had (God forbid) killed Muhammad, the Prophet. But in the case of Jesus, God did not let the slightest pain or discomfort trouble him. As soon as the Jews resolved to lay hold of him, God raised Jesus to Heaven, and in his place caught hold of one of his enemies and, making him the same in appearance as Jesus, had this enemy of Jesus put on the cross instead of Jesus! We are amazed at what can happen to some people. On the one hand they claim such great love for the Holy Prophet; on the other, they themselves tend to dishonour and disgrace him. And they do not stop at this. They go further and award Fatwas of Kufr against those who refuse to subscribe to beliefs which amount to ranking another one superior to the Holy Prophet. We wonder what they mean by Kufr. To esteem the Holy Prophet higher in rank than others, to attribute to him the spiritual eminence which belongs to him - is it Kufr? Those who hold the Holy Prophet the highest in love and esteem, are they Kafirs (unbelievers)? If this is Kufr, then, God be our witness, we value this Kufr many times more than the Iman (belief) of those who attribute Kufr (unbelief) to us. Very appropriately did Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, express this thought when he said:
'Intoxicated am I after God with the love of Muhammad. If this be Kufr, then, by God, I am the most hardened Kafir.'
Some day we must all die, present ourselves before God, and answer for ourselves. Why should we fear any humans? What harm can come to us from them? We fear only God and we love only Him. After Him, we love and honour the Holy Prophet the most. If for the sake of the Holy Prophet we have to sacrifice the honour, interests and the good things of this world, we will find it easy enough. But dishonour and disrespect to the Holy Prophet we cannot bear. Knowing how very holy he was, what spiritual knowledge and insight he had and how close was his contact with God, we cannot think for a moment that God loved some other man or prophet more than He loved our Holy Prophet. If we entertained such a thought we would be more deserving of punishment than others. We know too well that those who denied the Holy Prophet challenged him and asked him if he could perform the miracle of ascent to Heaven. They said:
We will not believe except if- you ascend to Heaven. And we will not believe in your ascent unless you bring to us from Heaven a Book which we may then read."11
In reply to this challenge, God did not empower the Holy Prophet to show the miracle which those who denied the Prophet asked him to show. Instead, God made the Prophet say:
'Only my God is free from all weaknesses. As for me, I am a mere man.' 12
And yet, as the Maulvis teach, when the enemies of Jesus confronted him with a similar challenge, God raised him to Heaven. When the Holy Prophet is challenged and asked to ascend to Heaven, ascent to Heaven is declared by God to be inconsistent with humanity. But when Jesus is similarly challenged, he is raised to Heaven without the least hesitation. If this be true, will it not follow that Jesus was not man but God? We seek refuge with God from this wild thought. Will it not imply that Jesus was spiritually superior to our Holy Prophet and more dearly loved by God? But we know, and it is as evident as the sun, that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the best, the highest, in the hierarchy of prophets. Knowing this, how can we think that the Holy Prophet should not rise to Heaven but instead die in the normal way and be buried here on this earth, while Jesus should go to Heaven and remain alive for these two thousand years? Now, it is not merely that our feeling for the Holy Prophet is strong. It is a question also of his truth, the truth of his claims. Did not the Holy Prophet say:
'If Moses and Jesus had been alive, they would have had to believe in me and follow me.'l3
If Jesus is alive, the claim of the Holy Prophet that in that case Jesus would have had to follow him has to be set down as false. The Holy Prophet's words are significant and clear. If, says he, Moses and Jesus were alive. This 'if' means that the two are not alive. Moses is not alive, nor is Jesus. This is an important declaration by the Holy Prophet bearing on the subject. After hearing this declaration, no true follower of the Prophet can think that Jesus is alive in Heaven, because, if Jesus is alive, this declaration of the Holy Prophet turns out to be false, as also his knowledge of the subject. For is not Jesus dead according to him? There is another important statement by the Holy Prophet. During his last illness, the Holy Prophet said to his daughter Fatima:
'Once in every year, Gabriel recited the Quran to me. This year he recited twice. He also told me that every succeeding prophet has lived to half the age of his predecessor. He told me that Jesus. son of Mary, lived to a hundred and twenty years. Therefore, I think, I may live to about sixty years.'14
The statement is an inspired one. The Holy Prophet does not say anything on his Own, but reports what he received from Gabriel the angel of revelation. The important part of the statement is that Jesus lived to a hundred and twenty years. According to the New Testament records, Jesus was about thirty-two or thirty-three years old when the event of the Cross took place and Jesus 'ascended' to Heaven. If Jesus really did 'ascend', his age up to the time of the Holy Prophet comes to about six hundred years, not a hundred and twenty. If what the Holy Prophet received from Gabriel is true, the Holy Prophet should have lived for at least three hundred years. But he lived only for sixty-three years. Yet, according to Gabriel Jesus lived for a hundred and twenty years. This important statement by the Holy Prophet proves that to think Jesus alive is against the teaching of the Holy Prophet, against what was revealed to him by God. In view of all this, how can we be persuaded to believe that Jesus is alive? How can we deny anything which the Holy Prophet has taught so clearly?
Companions of the Holy Prophet agreed on the death of Jesus
It is said sarcastically that for thirteen hundred years nobody but ourselves could spot the truth about the death of Jesus. All the doctors and teachers of Islam remained ignorant of it. The suggestion is that the consensus of early Muslims does not favour the view which we teach on the subject. But those who indulge in this sarcasm forget that the first exponents of Islam were the Companions of the Holy Prophet. The Companions first expounded the beliefs and practices of Islam to others. Then these others became the teachers of Islam, spreading to other parts of the world. Now as far as the Companions are concerned, they were united in teaching what we think today about Jesus. And could they have taught anything else? Could they have taught a belief derogatory to the Holy Prophet? Not only are the Companions one with us, but the first formal affirmation which the Companions of the Holy Prophet collectively resolved on was the truth of the death of Jesus. The first Ijma of the Companions set its seal on his death. For in the recorded Traditions we find that when the Holy Prophet died, the Companions were prostrated with grief They could not move, nor utter a word. Some were so deeply affected that they died a few days later, unable to bear the pangs of separation. Omar, indeed, was so afflicted by grief that he made up his mind not to believe that the Prophet had died. He unsheathed his sword and declared that whoever said the Prophet was dead would lose his head. He began to say that the Holy Prophet had disappeared from their midst temporarily, even as Moses had disappeared on a Call from God. Moses returned to his people after forty days, and so would the Holy Prophet. On his return, the Holy Prophet would call to account all those who had said unworthy things about him and had behaved hypocritically towards him. He would even put them to death or order their crucifixion. Omar was solemn and determined. None of the Companions dared to resist and deny what he said. Some were even persuaded by Omar's declaration. They began to think the Prophet had not died. Because of this, their dejection changed to delight. The signs of it were on their faces. Those who had their heads bowed with grief raised their heads. Others, who were not so overcome by grief and who could also see far into the future, sent out one of their number to fetch Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr was not in Medina when the Holy Prophet died. The Holy Prophet had permitted him to go, because his condition seemed to have improved. This Companion had hardly left the town when he saw Abu Bakr coming. On seeing Abu Bakr, the Companion could not contain himself Tears rolled down his cheeks. No words were necessary. Abu Bakr understood what had happened. He asked the Companion, 'Has the Prophet died?' In reply, the Companion not only confirmed the sad news but also told Abu Bakr what Omar had been saying, that 'whoever should say the Prophet had died would lose his head!' Abu Bakr heard this and at once made for the place where the Holy Prophet's dead body lay. He lifted the mantle which covered him and knew at once that he had died. The pain of separation from his beloved friend and leader made his eyes wet. He bent low and kissed the Prophet's forehead and said:
'By God, you will not suffer more than one death. The loss mankind have suffered by your death is greater than the loss they suffered by the death of any other prophet. You need no praises, and mourning cannot reduce the pangs of separation. If we could but avert your end, we would have done so, with our lives.'
Abu Bakr said this, and covered the Prophet's face; then he went to the spot where Omar was speaking to the Companions. Omar, of course, was telling them that the Prophet had not died, but had only disappeared temporarily. Abu Bakr asked Omar to stop for a time and let him speak to the assembly. Omar did not stop but went on. Abu Bakr turned to some of the Companions and started telling them that the Holy Prophet had really died. Other Companions turned to Abu Bakr and began to listen to him. Omar also was compelled to listen. Abu Bakr recited from the Holy Quran:
'The Holy Prophet is but a prophet. There have been prophets before him and they had all died. If he also should die or be put to death, would they turn back upon him?'15
'Thou (O Muhammad) art surely going to die and they surely are going to die.'l6
Having recited these verses, he went on to say:
'O ye men, whoever amongst you worshipped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead, and whoever amongst you worshipped Allah, let him know that Allah is Living, there is no death for Him '17
When Abu Bakr recited the verses of the Holy Quran and pointed to their meaning, the Companions realized what had happened. The Prophet had died. They began to cry. Omar is reported to have said that when Abu Bakr recited the verses out of the Holy Quran, and their meaning suddenly dawned upon him, it seemed as though the verses had been revealed on that day, at that moment. His legs could no longer support him. He staggered and fell down in a paroxysm of grief. This account of what passed between the Companions at the Holy Prophet's death proves three important things: Firstly, it proves that the first formal and collective expression of opinion upon which the Companions resolved after the death of the Holy Prophet was that all prophets before the Holy Prophet had died. There was no exception. If the Companions present on this solemn occasion thought that some earlier prophets had not died, they would have stood up and pointed to the exceptions. They could have said that at least Jesus had been alive in Heaven for six hundred years. It was wrong to say that all the earlier prophets had died. If some could remain alive, why not the Holy Prophet? Secondly, it proves that the Companions' belief that the earlier prophets had died was not a mere matter of opinion: it was a truth recorded in the Holy Quran and taught clearly by the Holy Book. When Abu Bakr recited the verses, the Companions received them without demur. If the truth of the death of the earlier prophets was not contained in these verses, they could have said that, although the earlier prophets had really died, the verses recited by Abu Bakr were not relevant. The fact, therefore, that Abu Bakr recited the verse 'and there had been [other] prophets before him' to prove the death of earlier prophets, and the fact that the Companions, who heard this verse and heard Abu Bakr's argument based upon the verse, not only remained silent but began to rejoice over it and went about the town reciting it, proved beyond doubt that the Companions agreed entirely with Abu Bakr's interpretation of the verse. Thirdly, it proves that whether or not the Companions believed in the death of other prophets, they certainly did not think that Jesus was alive in Heaven. All accounts of this important incident and the important speeches made on this occasion show that even Omar, in the height of his excitement, threatening to kill those who should say the Prophet had died, could cite the analogy only of Moses who disappeared for forty days from amongst his people. Even Omar did not cite the analogy of Jesus. If the Companions had believed That Jesus was alive in Heaven, could not Omar, or the Companions who thought like him, have cited the analogy of Jesus? The fact that they cited only the analogy of Moses proves that they did not believe That Jesus had not died, or that he had even had an experience similar to that of Moses.
Family of the Holy Prophet agreed on the death of Jesus
Besides this unanimity of opinion among the Companions, opinion held in the family of the Holy Prophet also supports the belief that Jesus died in the normal way. Imam Hasan, recounting the events relating to the death of Hazrat Ali, is reported to have said:
'The man who has died today is without an equal in many respects. He had none like him either amongst his predecessors or among his successors. When the Holy Prophet sent him to battle, he had Gabriel on his right and Michael on his left to assist him. He never returned from a battle except as victor. He left seven hundred Derhams as a bequest. He had saved this to purchase a slave's freedom. He died during the twenty-seventh night of the month of Ramadhan, the same night that the spirit of Jesus was raised to Heaven.'18
from this remark of Imam Hasan it appears that even according to the family of the Holy Prophet Jesus died in the ordinary way. Unless they believed this, Imam Hasan could not have said that Hazrat Ali died the same night that Jesus's spirit ascended to Heaven. Besides the Companions of the Holy Prophet and his family, later doctors of religion have also testified to the death of Jesus. They were devotees of the Holy Quran, of the utterances of the Holy Prophet, of opinions held by the Companions and by the family of the Holy Prophet. It seems that whether or not Jesus had died did not strike them as a very important question. Therefore they did not pronounce on the question as such. Nor have their views on the subject been preserved. But as far as the recorded opinions of the later doctors of Islam go, these leave no doubt that even they believed Jesus had died. It is recorded in Majma-al-Bahar that, according to Imam Malik, Jesus died in the natural way. In short, the Holy Quran, the Traditions, the consensus of opinion among the Companions and the family of the Holy Prophet, and the opinions of the doctors of Islam all support belief in the death of Jesus. All of them teach that Jesus died like all mortals. It is wrong, therefore, to say that by attributing death to Jesus we dishonour Jesus, and that therefore by implication we deny the Holy Quran and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet. We do not dishonour Jesus. Instead of dishonouring Jesus, we have a genuine conception of the Oneness of God and point to the high spiritual rank to which our Holy Prophet belongs. We honour Jesus, because Jesus himself would not have subscribed to a belief which is derogatory to the conception of the Oneness of God; which helps shirk (associating others with God), and detracts from the spiritual status of the Holy Prophet.
Now, dear reader, you can see for yourself who is in the right: we or our opponents. Is it for them to be offended by us, or for us to be offended by them? They set up a man as the equal of God. They propose a belief which entails indignity to the Holy Prophet; it is they who lend support to the enemies of Islam, they who weaken Islam.
Second coming of the Messiah means coming of follower of the Holy Prophet
The second objection levelled against us is that, contrary to the accepted Muslim belief, we hold that a follower of the Holy Prophet has appeared amongst us as the Promised Messiah. To hold this belief, we are told, is contrary to the Traditions of the Holy Prophet, as, according to these Traditions, the Messiah is Jesus, son of Mary, due to return from Heaven when the time comes. Now, it is quite true that we regard the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (Gurdaspur, Punjab, India), as the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. And why not? The Holy Quran, the Traditions, and ordinary common sense declare that the first Messiah died in the normal way; so our belief that the Promised Messiah was to come from among the followers of the Holy Prophet cannot be against the Holy Quran and the Traditions. The Holy Quran declares that Jesus is dead. The Traditions say the same thing. If, therefore, the Traditions promise the advent of a Messenger described as the son of Mary, this promised one can only be a follower of the Holy Prophet, not the Messiah of Nazareth who died in the normal way. It is said that even if the Quran and the Traditions declare the death of Jesus, son of Mary, we should continue to expect the second coming of the self-same son of Mary. For is not God All-Powerful? Can He not resuscitate the dead Messiah and send him back to the world? If we did not cherish such a hope and such a thought, we should be denying the Power of God. But our position is very different. We do not deny the Power of God. We believe that God is All-Powerful. Because God is All-Powerful, He has no need to resuscitate the Messiah of Nazareth. He can raise a teacher from among the followers of the Holy Prophet, install him as the Promised Messiah and charge him with the duty of reforming the world. We fail to see how anyone who deliberates over this subject n a proper manner can insist that the Power of God requires God to bring the first Messiah back to life. Such a thing is against all ordinary canons. It is everyday experience that a person who can afford to have a new one hates to have an old coat turned for longer use If he needs a new coat, he throws away the old one and gets a new one. It is the man who cannot afford one who wants the old coat turned or altered to be used again. It is the poor man who takes excessive care of his things. God is not poor. He is Powerful. If He finds-- that His servants need someone to guide them, He does not have to put life into a dead prophet. He is able to raise one from amongst His living servants to reform and lead the rest From Adam down to the Holy Prophet, not once did God have to restore a dead prophet to life for the purpose of guiding His men. Such a course is quite unnecessary;. It might have been necessary if the purification and reformation of a given people at a given time had been beyond the Power of God; if the dominion of God did not extend to all men at all times. God is All-Powerful and His dominion extends to all men at all times. It is senseless to think that for the guidance of a given people at a given time He should have to restore one of the dead prophets to life. God's Power is boundless. He was able to raise a prophet like the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) from among the Arabs. It is not beyond His Power to raise one in our time similar to Jesus or greater than him from among Muslims. The fact is, therefore, that we deny the physical second coming of the first Messiah because God, according to us, is All-Powerful and can raise anyone to the status of a guide and prophet, at any time, and from among any people. They are in error who think that God cannot do this, that instead of raising one from amongst us He has to bring back to life a dead prophet. They have not esteemed the Power of Allah as Allah deserves. The second coming of the first Messiah, therefore, is derogatory to the Power and Wisdom of God. It is also disparaging to the spiritual power of the Holy Prophet. To say that the second coming of the first Messiah is inevitable is to say something very strange. At all times in the past, whenever a people went astray and needed divine guidance, it was one from amongst themselves whom God raised for the purpose. Was this time-honoured divine practice to be dropped when followers of the Holy Prophet went astray and needed divine guidance? Was the Umma to be reformed by one of the earlier prophets, the Prophet's own followers failing to provide a reformer from among themselves? This means that Muslims would have to follow Jews and Christians who ever cavil at the spiritual competence of our Holy Prophet. It is strange that Muslims should distrust the regenerative power of the Holy Prophet. If we think that a follower of the Holy Prophet cannot guide his other followers - the Umma - in time of need, we support those who underrate the spiritual influence of the Holy Prophet. One lighted torch can light many other torches. It is a dead torch which will not do this. If followers of the Holy Prophet were to become so very corrupt that no one from amongst them would then be able to reform the rest, it must be admitted that at that time the spiritual grace and productiveness of the Holy Prophet's teaching and example would have come to an end. This consequence cannot be accepted by any true Muslim. Every true Muslim knows that the followers of Moses needed to be rejuvenated from time to time, and the rejuvenation was brought about by teachers raised from amongst themselves. It was a follower of Moses who reformed the followers of Moses. The dispensation of Moses lasted for as long as God wanted. At last when the time came for the dispensation to end, God turned away from Moses' followers and turned to the progeny of Ishmael to raise a prophet for the guidance of mankind. If now a prophet belonging to the dispensation of Moses should come to guide the followers of the Holy Prophet, it would mean that God has decided (God forbid) to terminate the dispensation of the Holy Prophet as He terminated the dispensation of Moses, and that in place of this He is going to initiate a new dispensation. It would mean that (God forbid again) the spiritual power of the Holy Prophet is no longer effective, that it fails to inspire even a single follower to receive from the Holy Prophet s teaching and example the illumination necessary for the reformation and guidance of his followers. Alas! People show intolerance of the slightest offence to conceptions of their own greatness; they cannot accept the imputation of any defect or shortcoming to themselves. Yet they do not hesitate to attribute defects and weaknesses to the Holy Prophet while claiming to love the Holy Prophet. What use is the love which is loud in professions but finds no echo in the heart? What use are professions unsupported by proper performance? If Muslims really did love the Holy Prophet, they would not tolerate the second coming of an Israelite prophet for the rejuvenation of the followers of the Holy Prophet. Who would turn to a neighbour for needs which he can fulfil in his own house? Who would turn to another for help when he can help himself ? Mullas, who think and teach that the Holy Prophet's followers would need the second coming of the Messiah of Nazareth at the time of sorest need, have such an excessive idea of their own dignity that in religious debates they would rather lose the argument than accept help from any other If there is an offer of help they do not feel grateful: they are hurt and say, 'Are we so lacking in learning that others dare offer us help? But when it comes to the Holy Prophet, how casual they are!
They are quick to believe and teach that when the Prophet's followers need to reform, the reformation will come not from amongst the followers, not from the Prophet's own spiritual influence, but from the good offices of a prophet from an earlier dispensation, owing nothing to the Holy Prophet or his teachings. Have men become so utterly dead and dull? Have they lost all capacity to think or feel? Do they value dignity and self-respect for themselves, but not for God and the Prophet? May anger and annoyance be shown to personal enemies but not to those who offend God and His Prophet? We are asked why we deny the second coming of an Israelite prophet. But what can we do? We cannot change our hearts. We cannot show our love for the Holy Prophet except in ways which are normal and natural. The honour of the Holy Prophet is dearest to us. We cannot accept that, for the reformation of his followers, the Holy Prophet should need the help of another and become indebted to him. We cannot believe for a minute that when on the Day of Judgment mankind, from the first-born to the last, will assemble before God, and the deeds and achievements of all will be cited, the Holy Prophet would stand burdened by the debt he owed to the Israelite Messiah, the angels making the citation would declare in the hearing and presence of all humankind that when the Holy Prophet's followers became corrupt the Prophet's own spiritual example failed to restore them to spiritual strength and the Israelite Messiah, out of compassion for the Holy Prophet, decided to return to the world to reform the Prophet's followers and rid them of spiritual stagnation! We cannot contemplate such a thought. We would rather have our tongues torn out than attribute such a humiliating proposition to the Holy Prophet. We would rather lose our hands than commit to writing such a thing about the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet is God's beloved. His spiritual power can never lapse. He is the Seal of the Prophets. His spiritual grace and munificence can never end. He has no need to be indebted to anyone else. It is other prophets who are indebted to him. There is not a prophet whose truth the Holy Prophet has not proclaimed to those who denied him. It is the Holy Prophet whose teaching has converted millions of human beings to a belief in prophets they had not heard of before. There are about eighty million Muslims in India. A few among them have come from outside. The others belonged to this very land and they had not heard of any prophet. But since they came to believe in the Holy Prophet Muhammad they began to believe in Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others (on all of whom be peace). If they had not become Muslims, they would have continued to disown these prophets, even to remain hostile to them. They would have continued to regard them as pretenders, as indeed Hindus ill India continue to do to this day. The same is true of Afghanistan, China, and Iran. The inhabitants of these countries did not know, so they did not acknowledge, Moses or Jesus as prophets. The Holy Prophet's message and teaching spread to these countries, and the people of these countries came to believe in the Holy Prophet and whatever he taught. They began to acknowledge other prophets and revere them as true prophets. The Holy Prophet, therefore, has put all earlier prophets in his debt. Their truth was unknown. The Holy Prophet revealed it. The Holy Prophet is in nobody's debt. The grace and beneficence of his teachings must continue for ever. For the reform and resuscitation of his own followers he does not need the assistance of another prophet. Whenever such a need arises, God will raise one of his own followers to lead and guide his other followers. Such a one will owe everything to the Holy Prophet. He will have learnt everything from him. Whatever he is able to do by way of reform and reconstruction will be credited to the Holy Prophet. What one owes to any one teacher, one really owes to the teacher's teacher. A follower cannot be separated from his leader, even as a pupil cannot be separated from his teacher. The follower who leads other followers will owe a debt to the Holy Prophet. In short, the coming of a former prophet for the purpose of reforming the followers of the Holy Prophet is an insult to the Holy Prophet. Such an event would injure the greatness of the Holy Prophet. It would also contradict the teaching of the Holy Quran, which says:
'God never withdraws the reward from a people except when the people themselves become undeserving of it.'19
In view of this teaching of the Quran, we have to admit either that the Holy Prophet (God forbid) has become undeserving of God's promise, or that God Himself has gone back on that promise. With all others, God's practice has been not to withdraw a reward once made; but with the Holy Prophet, His way is different! To entertain such a thought amounts to unbelief. It amounts to the denial of God. It amounts either to a denial of God or a denial of His Prophet. Because of this grave consequence we shun such beliefs. We believe that the Messiah whose coming was foretold by the Holy Prophet is to arise from amongst the Holy Prophet's followers It is for God to award this status to whomsoever He likes.
The Messiah and the Mahdi, one and the same Person
From the Traditions of the Holy Prophet it is evident also that the Promised Messiah was to be a follower of the Holy Prophet. One Tradition tells us that 'the Mahdi is none other than the Messiah':
Another Tradition says:
'How would it be with you when the son of Mary will descend among you and you will have a leader raised from among you?20
These two Traditions leave no doubt that the Messiah himself would be the Mahdi. He would lead followers of the Holy Prophet and would be one of them, not an outsider. To think that the Messiah and the Mahdi are two different persons is wrong. It is against the clear indication in the Tradition 'The Mahdi is none other than the Messiah.' It behoves good believers to ponder carefully over the utterances of the Holy Prophet. If the utterances seem contradictory, it is for us to try and resolve the contradictions. If the Holy Prophet said, on the one hand, that the Mahdi would appear before the Messiah and the Messiah would then join the Mahdi and his followers in worship, and, on the other, that the preliminaries Messiah himself was the Mahdi, what are we to do - accept one utterance and reject the other? Is it not rather our duty to consider the two utterances carefully and try to reconcile one with the other? The two utterances can be reconciled at once if we use one of them to interpret the other. It seems that the promise of the advent of the Messiah was couched in words which suggested that the Messiah and the Mahdi were two different persons. This suggestion is corrected by the Tradition which says, 'No Mahdi but the Messiah. This Tradition makes it plain that the other Tradition is metaphorical. It means that a follower of the Holy Prophet will arise for the purpose of revivifying the world, but will not have the rank of a prophet. Then the promise relating to the second coming of Jesus will be fulfilled in his person and he will announce himself as the Promised Messiah. The Tradition, therefore, tells us that the Promised One will start his career as a Muslim reformer who will become invested with the office of Messiah. Divine prophecies have to employ metaphors. They would convey very little otherwise. If our interpretation of these Traditions is not correct, then there are only two alternatives left for a seeker after truth, both of them absurd and dangerous. Either we admit that the Tradition which describes the Messiah and the Mahdi as one and the same person is not a true Tradition, or we admit that the Messiah and the Mahdi are two different persons and that the intention of the Tradition is to point to a difference of spiritual significance in the two. It may mean that the true Mahdi would be the Messiah. The other Mahdi would be insignificant compared with the Messiah. It would be like saying, 'Nobody knows but so and so.' When we say such a thing, we do not mean literally that nobody else knows. What we mean is that the given person knows very much more. However, both interpretations are dangerous. One requires us, without good reasons, to treat as spurious a Tradition which is a well authenticated one, true according to all sound criteria The other implies that the Mahdi, in comparison with the Messiah, will be as nothing. Such a thought would be contrary to the Traditions which teach that the Mahdi will be the Imam, and the Messiah a follower who stands behind the Imam in a congregation. Both alternatives therefore, are absurd. The only worthwhile interpretation we can put upon the Traditions is that they foretell the coming of a Messenger from among the followers of the Holy Prophet. This Messenger will first present himself as a reformer and later announce himself as the Messiah of the prophecy. The same person will be the Mahdi as well as the Messiah. Except for this interpretation, there can be no plausible interpretation of the Traditions on the subject.
Meaning of nuzul
The fact of the matter is that nearly everybody has been misled by the word nuzul in the Tradition. Literally it means 'descent'. Therefore, most people have been misled into thinking that as the Messiah was to have a descent, it can only be the first Messiah. Now, it is quite wrong to think that the word nuzul always means 'descent from an eminence'. The word 'descent' only points to how important, significant and far-reaching the thing is which is to descend. It tells us that the thing to descend is to be the instrument of the Majesty and Power of God. Such things are said to descend from God to a people. This meaning of'descent' (sending down) is in conformity with usage sanctioned by the Holy Quran in several passages. Thus:
'Then Allah sent down His peace upon His messenger.'21
'Then after the sorrow, He sent down peace on you, a slumber that overcame a party of you 22
'And He has sent down eight head of cattle in pairs.'23
'We have indeed sent down raiment to you to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress; but the raiment of righteousness, that is the best. That is one of the Signs of Allah that they may remember. 24
'And sent down on you Manna and Salva.'25
'And We sent down iron, wherein is material for violent warfare and many benefits for mankind and that Allah may distinguish those who help Him and His Messengers without having seen Him. Surely, Allah is Powerful, Mighty.'26
'And if Allah should enlarge the provision for His servants, they would rebel in the earth; but He sends down according to a proper measure as He pleases. Indeed, He is All-Aware and All-Seeing with regard to His servants.'27
Everybody knows that peace is a quality of the human mind and sleep a function of the human brain. Animals, garments, green fields, quails (salwa), iron, and other things grow on the soil or come from under it. They do not descend or drop down from Heaven. Nor is their descent from Heaven a description sanctioned by the Holy Quran. The description of the Holy Quran is quite clear. It says:
'And He put therein firm mountains on the surface, and He put blessings therein and measured its foods therein into four periods, alike for all seekers.'28
In this verse, God points out that the whole subject of the creation of nature and the creation of different kinds of wealth needs for its comprehension a knowledge of the different sciences. This knowledge God reveals in pieces. Some of it has been revealed already, some will be revealed in days to come. Ever new questions will be raised and they will receive their answers. But, says God, We have described the creation of nature and the creation of the wealth of nature in such a way that all men at all times (according to their capacity) will find in them a description which will be both satisfying and true. From the Holy Quran, therefore, it appears that all things in nature descend from God - are gifts of God - and yet they do not drop from Heaven. Their creation takes place in and on and through this very earth. They grow on it or show themselves from under its surface. Therefore, the word nuzul (descent), when used for the coming of the Messiah, can have no other meaning. It can only point to the importance, the blessedness and the spiritual significance of the Promised Messiah. It is not in the least intended to suggest that he would physically drop from Heaven to earth. Most people forget that the word 'descent' has been used in the Holy Quran for the Holy Prophet also. All commentators of the Holy Book take this expression to point to the greatness of the Holy Prophet and to the importance of his advent. And they are right; for, as all the world knows, the Holy Prophet was born in the house of honourable Quraish parents. The name of his father was Abdullah and the name of his mother Amina. The verse which describes the advent of the Holy Prophet as descent is this:
'Allah has indeed down to you a Reminder, a Messenger, who recites unto you the clear Signs of Allah, that he may bring those who believe and do good deeds out of every kind of darkness into light'29
Now it is amazing that the same word nuzul is used about the Holy Prophet and the Messiah. Yet that same word is interpreted one way for the Holy Prophet and quite another way for the Messiah. The Holy Prophet was born like any other human being on this earth and grew up to be a prophet. The event was described as nuzul (literally, descent). Why not mean the same thing when the same word is used for the Messiah? Why not let even the Messiah descend in the ordinary way, that is, be born on this earth and grow up to be a prophet?
Why the Promised Messiah is called Isa Ibn Maryam Jesus, son of Mary
A third difficulty is raised about the prophecy with regard to the second coming of the Messiah. In the Traditions the Promised One is called Isa Ibn Maryam Jesus, son of Mary). The prophecy, therefore, relates literally to the first Messiah, the Jesus of history. If it is to be fulfilled, it must be through the advent of Jesus in the flesh. The fact that metaphors abound in all languages is forgotten. The name Jesus is freely applied to persons other than Jesus. No difficulty is raised then. But if in the speech of God a person is given the name of Jesus, they begin to wonder about its meaning. Do they forget that a person who excels in the virtue of charity is metaphorically called Hatam of Tai, a person with a philosophical bent of mind is called Tusi, a person who displays a capacity for dialectical reasoning is called Razi? Why then make any difficulty about the name Ibn Maryam? If the name Ibn Maryam is the name of a known individual, are not Hatam, Tusi, and Razi names of known individuals? If by giving these names to other persons nobody is misled into thinking that these persons are the original Hatam, Tusi, or Razi, need anybody think that, when the Promised One is named Isa Ibn Maryam, Or Jesus, son of Mary, it must mean the self-same Jesus, son of Mary, who appeared in the world nineteen hundred years ago? And yet there is a difference between the names Hatam, Tusi, and Razi and the name 'Son of Mary'. The former have each come to have one definite meaning, but the name Maryam has been used to describe a spiritual condition by the Holy Quran itself:
'And Allah sets forth for those who believe the example of the wife of Pharaoh when she said, "My Lord! build for me a house with Thee in the Garden and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work and deliver me from the wrong-doing people." 'And the example of Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; so We breathed into her of Our Spirit and she fulfilled in her person the Words of her Lord and His Books, for she was one of the obedient.'30
In this passage believers are likened to the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh who persecuted Moses. She sought her end in Heaven, in the nearness of God, and she asked for release from Pharaoh and his machinations and from participating in his cruel deeds. Believers are also likened to Mary, the daughter of Imran. She guarded her chastity and she received the revelation of God and affirmed the truth of God's teaching and His Books. She proved to be one of the most loyal servants of God. Here, believers are described as being of two types: the type which is like the wife of Pharaoh, and the type which is like Mary. It is obvious that at least one type of believer is Mary-like. If, therefore, the Promised One is called son of Mary, it might mean that this Promised One will have his origin in a Mary-like condition, and that growing out of this, he will attain a Jesus-like condition. It might mean that the earlier life of the Promised One will be holy and spotless even as Mary was holy and spotless, his later life being akin to that of Jesus. Jesus received sustenance and support from the Holy Spirit; so will the Promised One. Jesus devoted his life to the service of truth and goodness; so will the Promised One. It is a pity that the Ulema of our time do not ponder over the words of the Holy Quran. They have forbidden themselves to go deeply into its meaning. Small wonder that they miss the beauty and the significance which lie beneath the surface of the Holy Text. But if our Ulema had read the writings of the early doctors of Islam (writings based on the Holy Quran and on the lives and experiences of early prophets), they would have found the truth. Shaikh Shahab al-Din Suhrawardy, to cite one example of a Muslim saint who has written relevantly on this subject, says in his book Awarifa'l-Maarf that birth is of two kinds: ordinary physical birth and metaphorical birth. In support of this statement, the great saint goes on to quote no other person than Jesus himself The Shaikh writes:
'The Murid [disciple] is part of the Shaikh [preceptor], even as in physical birth the son is part of the father. The Murid comes to birth in a metaphorical manner in the sense which Jesus described when he said that no man will enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born twice over.'
The first birth, according to the saint, links the person with the physical world, the second links him with the spiritual world. This theme is also in the Quran:
'And thus did We show Abraham the Kingdom of the Heavens and the earth that he might be rightly guided, that he might be of those who have certainty of faith.'31
According to Shaikh Shahab al-Din Suhrawardy, therefore, every human being experiences a spiritual birth. In support of this view he cites a verse of the Holy Quran and a saying of Jesus according to whom the experience of spiritual birth is necessary for the spiritual development of an individual. Why should such a spiritual birth be impossible or difficult in the case of the Promised Messiah? Briefly, then, the thought that the first Messiah should come to life again and appear today for the guidance of mankind impugns the Greatness of God and His teaching, and the high spiritual status of our Holy Prophet. It also contradicts the recorded Saying of the Holy Prophet. The thought is ill-conceived, a result of parochial thinking. The truth is that the second coming of the Messiah was to take place in and through a follower of the Holy Prophet. This follower was to rise in the spirit and character of the first Messiah. According to us the second Messiah has already come. His teaching has provided guidance for many. Many who had strayed away from God have found Him again.