posted a question regarding your views on the second coming of Jesus (sws)
as mentioned in the Aug 2002 issue of your journal (http://www.monthly-renaissance.com/augresp2y2.html)
to the website, ‘Islamweb’, and I got the response that your views on the
issue are unfounded1. I would
like your response on their critique.
Comment: I appreciate your concern
on religious matters and your endeavor to get to the truth by pursuing
the matter with interest. We should accept everything about Islam only
after careful analysis and thorough intellectual investigation. In what
follows is our response to the Fatwa issued by Islamweb.
The author of the Fatwa writes:
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and
may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his
Family and Companions. Allah, the Most High, informed us in the Qur’an
the son of Mary (rta) will descend from the heavens to earth in the last
Many Ahadith of the Prophet (sws), for
whose narrators it is impossible to lie, confirmed this as well, so there
is no room for doubt about his descent.
Allah says: ‘And there is none of the people
of the Scripture [Jews and Christians], but must believe in him [‘Isa
son of Maryam [Mary], as only a Messenger of Allah and a human being],
before his [‘Isa (Jesus) or a Jew’s or a Christian’s] death [at
the time of the appearance of the angel of death]. And on the Day of Resurrection,
he [‘Isa (Jesus)] will be a witness against them’ (4:159)
The author of the Fatwa has failed
to substantiate his first statement. He has not presented any Qur’anic
that can form a definitive argument about his claim that Jesus (sws) will
descend before the Hour. I seek refuge in the Almighty from putting my
words in His mouth. All that the author has been able to present are traditions
– which only speak conspicuously about the second coming whereas the Holy
says nothing – ascribed to later authorities mentioned in the commentaries
on the Qur’an.
Before I comment on the verse quoted
by the author, I would like to draw your attention to the words used by
the author for the narrators of the traditions regarding the second coming
of Jesus (sws). He has repeatedly used the words ‘narrators for whom it
is impossible to lie.’ This assertion about humans, I humbly submit, cannot
be true except in case of the Messengers of God. If however the author
means that so large a number of narrators have transmitted the related
sayings that they cannot be deemed to have agreed on a false statement,
then he has to establish his claim. Any historical report does not reach
the status of Tawatur (generation to generation channel of transmission)
unless it is transmitted by the entire generation. If one studies the bulk
of the traditions in this regards, one comes to know that there are only
about twenty reports of which only a small number speak unequivocally regarding
the second coming. It is only in the later centuries that the narratives
got currency among the Muslim scholarship. Therefore the claim that the
narratives regarding the second coming of Jesus (sws) reach Tawatur needs
to be substantiated.
As for verse 159 of Surah al-Nisa,
which the author presents as a clear proof from the Qur’an, I have
the following to say. In fact, the verse is no definitive proof and has
been interpreted to mean something else by other scholars. From a cursory
look at the translation of 4:159 done by the author of the Fatwa,
it is evident that he himself is not clear about the following questions.
Do the People of the Book in the verse refer to the Jews and Christians
all times? Is the reference only towards the People of the Book
the time of Jesus (sws) or the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sws)?
Do all the People of the Book throughout history believe in Jesus (sws)?
For we see that the scholars differ a lot on the issue. Ibn Jarir Tabari
has mentioned three possible interpretations of the verse; firstly, all
the People of the Book will believe in Jesus (sws) before his death; secondly,
all the People of the Book will believe in Jesus (sws) before their death
and thirdly, all the People of the Book will believe in Muhammad (sws)
before their death2. There
is also another possible interpretation according to which everyone from
among the People of the Book, before the Prophet Muhammad’s death, will
believe in the Qur’an3.
‘Abdu’l Barr in his book Al-Tamhid has said that Imam Tabari
that the verse is specific for the People of the Book of the times of Jesus
(sws) and not for the People of the Book of all times4.
Therefore, this verse cannot be presented as definitive proof of the fact
that Jesus will descend on earth before the Last Day.
The author has further presented some
opinions of the scholars which we do not believe can be taken as a proof
from the Qur’an itself; rather they are only some of the possible
implications of the Qur’anic text.
The author writes:
Allah says in Surah Al-Zukhruf after mentioning
son of Mary, ‘And he [‘Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam
shall be a known sign for [the coming of] the Hour [Day of Resurrection]
[i.e. ‘Isa’s (Jesus) descent on the earth]. Therefore have no doubt concerning
it [i.e. the Day of Resurrection]. And follow Me [Allah] [i.e. be obedient
to Allah and do what He orders you to do, O mankind]! This is the Straight
Path [of Islamic Monotheism, leading to Allah and to His Paradise]. (43:61)
Al-Tabari said: ‘This means that the coming
back of ‘Isa is a sign of the coming of the Hour [Day of resurrection].’
‘Abbas said: ‘ “and he” means the descent of ‘Isa. Mujahid
‘and he will be a known sign for the closeness of the Hour; that is to
say that one of the signs of the hour is the descent of ‘Isa before
the Day of Judgment.’ This is also the opinion of Al-Hasan, Qatadah,
What we understand of the verse is that
Jesus (sws) is a sign of the Hour and there is nothing in the verse, which
specifies that his status of being a ‘sign’ is to be manifested in future.
We believe that Jesus (sws) is a sign of the Hour not for those who are
supposed to witness his second coming – because it is never going to be
– but for all those who know his supernatural birth. The Qur’an has
made a subtle reference to this reality at other places. In 3:59, the Qur’an
the creation of Jesus (sws) with that of Adam (sws). The purpose is to
make it clear that the Almighty is all-powerful and can execute his plans
without material means or resorting to natural laws. He can raise people
to life after they are dead. We believe that all these interpretations
though they are not decisive have been influenced by the narratives about
the second coming. The verse, if studied in the light of the Qur’an,
makes much better sense but sadly has been misconstrued to accommodate
The author of the Fatwa remarks:
So both the verse of Allah and the sayings of
the interpreters of the Holy Qur’an; the Companions (rta) and the
pious predecessors indicate that ‘Isa (Jesus) will descend again
before the Day of Judgment. Therefore, it becomes evident that the statements
of the said website that the Qur’an did not mention this is not
I have not yet seen any clear Qur’anic
which mentions that Jesus (sws) will return before the Day of Judgment.
I could not find it except for the opinions of the scholars which in turn
need to be substantiated by clear Qur’anic verses.
The author has also referred to some
narratives and views of the scholars of the past on the issue which we
do not think are relevant here. This is because the discussion is about
the beliefs and viewpoints of the early Muslim scholarship and not about
the validity of the traditions ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws). The
traditions, he has brought in, are actually the ones which need to be substantiated.
While dealing with the Mu’atta
Malik he observes:
The statement of the website that you have mentioned
that Imam Malik did not mention anything about the descent of ‘Isa
not correct. Indeed Imam Malik reported in the Mu’atta
in which the description of ‘Isa and Al-Masih Al-Dajjal
mentioned; this proves that he believes in their descent.
Imam Malik reported in Mu’atta that
Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet (sws) said: ‘In my dream, I was
asleep circumambulating the Ka‘bah; suddenly I saw a man of brown
complexion and lank hair walking between two men, and water was dripping
from his head. I asked, ‘Who is this?’ The people said: ‘He is the son
of Mary’. Then I looked behind and I saw a red-complexioned, fat, curly-haired
man, blind in the right eye which looked like a bulging out grape. I asked,
‘Who is this?’ They replied, ‘He is Ad-Dajjal’. The one who resembled
to him among the people, was Ibn Qattan.’ (Al-Zuhri said:
‘He [Ibn Qattan] was a man from the tribe
Khuza‘ah who died
in the pre-Islamic period.’
The fact that Imam Malik reported the
above Hadith is evidence enough that he believed in the descent
of ‘Isa, and the appearance of Dajjal. That’s why Ibn
‘Abdu’l-Barr, a Malikite scholar, said in Al-Tamhid, which is
a book about the interpretation of the Mu’atta when interpreting
the above Hadith: ‘In this Hadith, - Allah knows best - there
is evidence that ‘Isa will descend on shrines and will make Tawaf
(circumambulation) around the Ka‘bah.’ He also said in his book
believe in the descent of ‘Isa’.
We conclude from the above that the descent of
is mentioned in the book of Allah, in the Sunnah
of the Prophet
(sws), and mentioned in the Mu’atta which is before
Muslim, and this is also the opinion of Ahl-i-Sunnah
of the Malikite
school of thought and others.
This is indeed the strangest kind of argument
presented thus far. Please read the translation of the narrative by the
author himself. I do not see anything in this report from the Mu’atta,
which implicitly or explicitly refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ
(sws). In the very same report and some other reports, the Prophet (sws)
is reported to have told that he saw Moses (sws), Abraham (sws) and many
other prophets. Does this also mean that they all are to come in future?
Those who believe in the second coming of Jesus (sws) may interpret the
narrative as the author does but I do not find it referring to the future
event for the Holy Prophet (sws) is also reported to have observed other
prophets as well which, of course, are not believed to be alive and are
to return to earth again.
I am afraid the writer of the Fatwa
too eager to prove his point and in doing so has disregarded objective
analysis of the matter. He has not referred to the difference in opinions
of the scholars on the death and resurrection of Jesus (sws). Ibn ‘Abdu’l
Barr in his book al-Tamhid has quoted some authorities who have
differed on the issue of death and resurrection of Jesus (sws). He writes:
وروى علي بن أبي طلحة عن ابن عباس متوفيك أي مميتك
‘Ali Bin Abi Talhah has reported that
Ibn Abbas said:
Mutawaffika connotes Mumayyituka (I am going to give you death)5.
As for the statement of Ibn ‘Abdu’l
Barr, we can only say that he formed this opinion because of the other
narratives in this regard which, of course, got spread afterwards. There
is a great gap of time between the author of the Mu’atta and its
commentator. You can see that the narrative in question does not mention
resurrection. It only says that the Prophet (sws) saw both Jesus (sws)
and the Dajjal in his dream. The author of Al-Tamhid has
submitted other narratives from various books of Hadith and has
postulated that the scholars of Ahl-i-Sunnah believe in his second
coming as reported by reliable narrators from the Prophet (sws). He has
also very honestly discussed the differences of opinion of the scholars
of the same Ahl-i-Sunnah faction on the issue. Please see his words
from his other book Al-Istidhkar:
وقد ذكرنا الآثار التي أشرنا إليها ها هنا في التمهيد بإسانيدها
ومتونها وذكرنا من أخبار عيسى بن مريم - عليه السلام - هناك في رفعه وكيف كان
الأمر في ذلك ومعنى توفيه واختلاف العلماء فيه
We have mentioned the evidence towards which we have
made reference here in our book Al-Tamhid along with their text
and the chain of narrators. We dealt with the traditions regarding the
resurrection of Jesus and how did it happen and the meaning of his being
taken up and the difference of opinion among the scholars on that issue6.
Is it not interesting that the author
of the Fatwa lost this line of objective study and mentioned only what
favored his own views?
As for the source of the notion of second coming, Ibn
‘Abdu’l Barr clearly states that it is the individual reports:
وأهل السنة مصدقون بنزول عيسى في الآثار الثابتة بذلك عن النبي
صلى الله عليه وسلم من نقل الآحاد العدول
The Ahl-i-Sunnah testify to the decent of Jesus
mentioned in the authentic sayings from the Prophet (sws) transmitted through
the individual reports by narrators who are of sound characters7.
It should be noted that it is an acknowledged
fact with the scholars of the Hadith and is known to all notable
scholars of Muslim history that individual reports (ie. Hadith literature)
do not form a source of certain knowledge. I cannot understand why the
author of this Fatwa repeatedly makes statements such as ‘who cannot
lie’ regarding the transmitters of Ahadith. We do believe that the
works of the greater scholars of the past on the narrators of the Hadith
have enabled us to distinguish the reliable Ahadith from the fake
ones but none ever claimed that their works and research were definitive.
By taking this position, the author is actually negating the Muslim stance
in this regard. Imam Malik has rejected many sound traditions after
mentioning them in his book for he found that they ran contrary to the
consensus of the people of Madinah, for example, his views on transfer
of reward and about a dog that licks a pot.
The revered scholar concludes:
As regards the website which is mentioned in
the question, after visiting it, we discovered that this site is stating
that Islamic creed (belief) is not taken from the Sunnah but from
the Qur’an only. This is a misguidance and a complete ignorance.
None of the Muslim Imams said this. Indeed the
the Qur’an and clarifies it, and the Prophet (sws) did not speak
of his own desires. We are bound to believe in what the Prophet (sws) informed
us about the ‘Aqidah (creed).
The Prophet (sws) said: ‘Indeed I was given the
book and something similar to it.’ As reported by Abu Da‘ud and
Therefore, the Islamic creed is taken from the
from the Sunnah.
Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: ‘The
clarifies and explains the Qur’an. And the authentic
of the Prophet (sws) in which he describes his Lord, and which the
people of knowledge acknowledged, received, and believed in, and passed
on to us we have also to believe in them.’ Allah knows best.
This of course does not represent the
complete picture of our view. I’d suggest that you go through the material
published under the banner of ‘Renaissance’ and see what we believe in
and what we do not. I think that we must do enough research before we accept
something as truthful and before forming opinions about the views of other
people. The word, Sunnah, has never been used in the Arabic language
to connote ‘sayings’ or ‘beliefs’ or ‘concepts.’ It was only Imam Shafi‘i
held this view; he had to write volumes to prove his point. If you may,
I will ask you to translate the following sayings of the Prophet (sws)
replacing the word ‘Sunnah’ with the word ‘Hadith’; the absurdity
of such rendering will manifest itself in no time.
النكاح من سنتي
Nikah is from among my Hadith. (Ibn
Majah, No: 1846)
Yet another example:
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله خلفت فيكم ما لن
تضلوا بعدهما ما أخذتم بهما أو عملتم بهما كتاب الله وسنتي
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of God said:
‘I have left among you two things after receiving which or practicing which
you will not lose way as long as you hold on to them: the Book of God and
my Hadith. (Bayhaqi, No: 20124)
The word ‘Sunnah’ has been replaced
by ‘Hadith.’ It is obvious that the Prophet (sws) did not institute
the transmission of Hadith. Hence, the inappropriateness of
using Hadith in place of Sunnah is apparent.
Early Muslims never took ‘Sunnah’
to mean Ahadith and it was only applied to established practices.
All the sayings quoted above refer to the Sunnah which is, of course,
part of religion and we practice all the Sunan that have been handed
down to us through an infallible mode of transfer (i.e. generation to generation
mode of transmission). As regards the matter of Hadith, we see that
even the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws), right after his death,
would not accept anything which they found in contradiction to the Qur’an
the Sunnah. ‘Umar (rta), Abu Bakr (rta), ‘A’ishah
and many other senior Companions (rta) would never believe in individual
reports if these were against the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Just study the Hadith literature, you will find ample evidence to
prove the fact that Muslim scholars used to analyze whatever is reported
from the Prophet (sws) very carefully. ‘A’ishah (rta) even rejected
reports by ‘Umar (rta) who himself took extreme care in this regard.
They did not think that the reporters among them were liars; rather, they
knew the defects inherent in individual reports. An individual reporter
is prone to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and being divested of the
true context. This is the reason we find that the Caliph ‘Umar (rta)
would not accept individual reports unless corroborating evidence was produced.
would make the narrator swear in order to establish his claim. The risk
involved increases manifold when many links are involved in the chain of
reporters. That is why the scholars of the science of Hadith
were conscious of the fact that the Hadith is a Zanni
(i.e. of probable truths). On the contrary, the Sunnah
of the Prophet
(sws) is the living practice perpetuated by all the Muslims without a break.
What do you think people used to do before the
If the belief in the second coming
of Jesus (sws) is part of our faith then a majority of the Muslims has
been lacking in faith. It was only many years later after the demise of
the Prophet (sws) that the Ahadith were compiled and only then it became
known to the scholars. Why did it find no mention in the Holy Qur’an
explicit terms? On the contrary, we see that the Holy Qur’an
negates that Jesus (sws) was raised to heavens alive (3:55) – the very
foundation on which the belief of second coming is based. The fact is that
the notion of second coming itself is unfounded and utterly fallacious.