Muhammad's attempt of damage control

How Sura 3:7 suddenly makes sense

Sam Shamoun

For the sake of convenience and to facilitate easier reading we have broken down this paper into the following sections:

  1. Introduction: Explaining the Purpose for and Meaning of Sura 3:7
  2. Contradictory teachings about Jesus in the Quran:
    1. The Quran on Jesus’ Prehuman Existence
    2. Jesus as Creator in the Quran
    3. The Quran on Jesus’ Last Days
  3. Concluding Remarks

1. Introduction: Explaining the Purpose for and Meaning of Sura 3:7

The Quran claims that it contains two sets of passages, one set in which there are verses that are clear and that form the basis of the book. The other set are verses which are allegorical and whose meanings only God knows. The Quran says that those who are perverted at heart, those who seek to bring discord and mischief, focus on these allegorical, unclear passages:

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. S. 3:7 Y. Ali

It is He who sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses clear that are the Essence of the Book, and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God. And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; all is from our Lord'; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds. Arberry

In several passages in the Quran we find the statement that it was given in Arabic so that it be CLEAR and understood by its audience:

And certainly We know that they say: Only a mortal teaches him. The tongue of him whom they reproach is barbarous, and this is clear Arabic tongue. S. 16:103 Shakir

It (the Qur'an) is indeed a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds, with it came down the spirit of truth Upon your heart so that you may be one of the warners in clear Arabic speech and indeed IT (the Qur'an) is in the writings of the earlier (prophets). S. 26:192-196

The Quran further claims that its purpose is to make things clear and to solve differences:

By Allah, most certainly We sent (apostles) to nations before you, but the Shaitan made their deeds fair-seeming to them, so he is their guardian today, and they shall have a painful punishment. And We have not revealed to you the Book except that you may make clear to them that about which they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe. S. 16:63-64 Shakir

And the day We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst them, and We shall bring thee as a witness against those. And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy, and as good tidings to those who surrender. S. 16:89 Arberry

Yet Sura 3:7 says there are some or even plenty of verses that nobody knows what they really mean except God. The question arises: What then is the point of including those verses into the Quran? Why would God not leave them out altogether and spare his community the strife and discord caused by them?

Many may simply shrug this verse off as a bit strange, or maybe conclude that this passage itself falls under the category of the unclear verses. However, the significance and meaning of this text will suddenly become clear when one learns something about the circumstances or occasion of its alleged "revelation." According to Muslim expositors, the first eighty-three verses of Sura Al-Imran (Chapter 3) are addressing a group of Christians who had come to debate and challenge Muhammad. For example, Muslim scholar Mahmoud M. Ayoub writes regarding this chapter:

This sura is composed of 200 verses. It was revealed in Madina after sura 8, al-Anfal (The Booty). Commentators are generally agreed that the first eighty-odd verses were revealed concerning the Christian delegation of Najran, an ancient town in South Arabia.

Wahidi reports:

"Commentators have said that a delegation from Najran consisting of sixty horsemen came to the Messenger of God. Among them were fourteen of their notables. Three of these fourteen held special authority among their people. They were al-‘Aqib, ‘Abd al-Masih by name, who was the leader of the people and guardian of their affairs, and whose opinion was never opposed. The other was called al-Ayham who was the sayyid (chief) of the people and their leader. The third was Abu Harithah b. ‘Alqamah who was their bishop and religious leader (imam), and the head of their religious school (midras). He attained high honor among his people because he studied all their (sacred) books, so that he acquired great learning. Even Byzantine kings honored him, bestowing on him great wealth and building churches for him because of his great wisdom. These men came to the Messenger of God in his mosque at the time of the midafternoon prayers. They were clad in Yamani attire, garments and mantles. They were equal in elegance and beauty to the men of the tribe of Banu al-Harith b. Ka‘b. Those of the companions of the Messenger of God who saw them exclaimed, ‘We have never seen a delegation like them!’ When the time for their prayers had come, they arose and prayed in the mosque of the Messenger of God, and the Prophet said, ‘Let them pray.’ They thus prayed facing east. Then al-Sayyid and al-‘Aqib spoke with the Messenger of God and he said to them, ‘Accept islam!’ They answered, ‘We have been muslims long before you!’ He replied, ‘You do not tell the truth! Your claim that God has a son, your worship of the cross and your eating of the swine prevent you from being muslims.’ They retorted, ‘If Jesus were not the son of God, then who is his father?’ They thus debated with the Prophet concerning Jesus. He argued, ‘Do you not know that there is no child but that he must resemble his father?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. He continued, ‘Do you not know that our Lord is living and will never die, while Jesus is subject to extinction?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet argued further, ‘Do you not know that our Lord has control over all things which He alone preserves and sustains?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. He said, ‘Does Jesus possess the power to do any of these things?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He then continued, ‘It is our Lord who formed Jesus in the womb as he willed [cf. verse 6, below]. Our Lord, moreover, neither eats, drinks, nor does he void. Do you not know,’ he went on, ‘that the mother of Jesus bore him in the same manner as women bear children, and delivered him as they do, and that he was then nurtured as would any child. Then he ate, drank, and voided.’ They consented saying, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet concluded, ‘How could it then be as you say!’ But they were silent. Thus God sent down concerning them the first eighty-odd verses of this sura" (Wahidi, pp. 90-91).

Tabari begins his commentary on this sura with the following general statement:

"It is related that God begins in revealing the opening of this sura as He does with the negation of divinity of any being other than He, and describes Himself as He does at its beginning [i.e., verse I] as an argument against a group of Christians who came to the Messenger of God from Najran. They debated with him concerning Jesus and manifested unbelief in God. God, therefore, sent down the first eighty-odd verses of this sura concerning them and Jesus, and as an argument for His Prophet against them and any others who may have held similar views. Yet these men persisted in their rejection of faith and grave error. The Prophet called them to the mubahalah [i.e., praying to God and invoking His curse on those who are in the wrong; see verse 59, below], but they refused. They asked instead that he accept from them the jizyah poll tax. This he did, and they returned to their country. However, even if it may be true that they were primarily intended by God in this argument, nevertheless, any other people who share their rejection of faith in God by taking other beings beside Him as lords and gods worthy of worship, are likewise included in this divine reproof. They are also subject to the proof of the criterion (furqan) by which God judged between them and His Messenger (Tabari, VI pp. 150-151). "

Tabari then relates the tradition already cited from Wahidi, but on the authority of Ibn Ishaq, who reported in turn on the authority of Muhammad b. Ja‘far b. al-Zubayr. He adds that the men of Najran who spoke to the prophet were adherents of the "king’s religion," perhaps meaning that they were Melkites.

Tabari asserts further that "Christians were nonetheless in disagreement among themselves, some saying that Jesus is God, others that he is the son of God, and, still others, that he is ‘the third of three’ [see Q. 5:73]. These are the claims of the Christians. They have argued in support of the claim that Jesus is God from the fact that he used to raise the dead, cure diseases and foretell unknown things. He also used to fashion out of clay the shape of a bird, then breathe into it, and it became a bird (Q. 3:49 and 5:110). All this, however," Tabari continues, "was by God’s permission, to make Jesus a sign for humankind. Christians have likewise argued that Jesus is the son of God in that they say that he had no known father. He also spoke in the cradle (Q. 3:46, 5:110 and 19:29), a thing which none of the children of Adam had done before him. They have contended that Jesus is ‘the third of three’ on the basis of God’s saying ‘We did,’ ‘We commanded,’ ‘We created’ and ‘We have decreed.’ They thus argue that had God been only one, He would have said, ‘I did,’ ‘I commanded,’ ‘I decreed’ and ‘I have created.’ This refers, therefore, to God, Jesus and Mary. It is concerning all these claims that Qur’anic verses were sent down. Thus, God informed His Prophet of their claims" (Tabari, VI, pp. 152-153). (Ayoub, The Qur’an and Its Interpreters: The House of ‘Imran [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany 1992], Volume II, pp. 1-4)

One of Sunni Islam’s renowned commentators Ibn Kathir concurs with all the above and also had this to say about the sixth verse:

(Chapter 3)

Surah Al `Imran was revealed in Al-Madinah, as evident by the fact that the first eighty-three Ayat in it relate to the delegation from Najran that arrived in Al-Madinah on the ninth year of Hijrah (632 CE). We will elaborate on this subject when we explain the Ayah about the Mubahalah [3:61] in this Surah, Allah willing. We should also state that we mentioned the virtues of Surah Al `Imran along with the virtues of Surat Al-Baqarah in the beginning of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah…

<He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He wills.>

meaning, He creates you in the wombs as He wills, whether male or female, handsome or otherwise, happy or miserable.

<La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Almighty, the All-Wise.>

meaning, He is the Creator and thus is the only deity worthy of worship, without partners, and His is the perfect might, wisdom and decision. This Ayah refers to the fact that `Isa, son of Mary, is a created servant, just as Allah created the rest of mankind. Allah created `Isa in the womb (of his mother) and shaped him as He willed. Therefore, how could `Isa be divine, as the Christians, may Allah's curses descend on them, claim `Isa was created in the womb and his creation changed from stage to stage, … (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And about Sura 3:61, Ibn Kathir stated:

The reason for the call to Mubahalah and the revelation of the Ayat from the beginning of this Surah until here, is that a delegation from the Christians of Najran (in Yemen) came to Al-Madinah to argue about `Isa, claiming that he was divine and the son of Allah. Allah sent down the beginning of this Surah until here, to refute their claims, as Imam Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar and other scholars stated. (Source)

Furthermore, Ibn Kathir applied Sura 3:7 to Christians who attempted to utilize the Quran to prove that Jesus is divine:

The Mutashabihat and Muhkamat Ayat

Allah states that in the Qur'an, there are Ayat that are Muhkamat, entirely clear and plain, and these are the foundations of the Book which are plain for everyone. And there are Ayat in the Qur'an that are Mutashabihat not entirely clear for many, or some people. So those who refer to the Muhkam Ayat to understand the Mutashabih Ayat, will have acquired the correct guidance, and vice versa. This is why Allah said,

<They are the foundations of the Book>,

meaning, they are the basis of the Qur'an, and should be referred to for clarification, when warranted, …

<And others not entirely clear>

as they have several meanings, some that agree with the Muhkam and some that carry other literal indications, although these meaning might not be desired.

The Muhkamat are the Ayat that explain the abrogating rulings, the allowed, prohibited, laws, limits, obligations and rulings that should be believed in and implemented. As for the Mutashabihat Ayat, they include the abrogated Ayat, parables, oaths, and what should be believed in, but not implemented.

Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar commented on, …

<In it are verses that are entirely clear> as "Containing proof of the Lord, immunity for the servants and a refutation of opponents and of falsehood. They cannot be changed or altered from what they were meant for." He also said, "As for the unclear Ayat, they can (but must not) be altered and changed, and this is a test from Allah to the servants, just as He tested them with the allowed and prohibited things. So these Ayat must not be altered to imply a false meaning or be distorted from the truth."

Therefore, Allah said, …

<So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation>

meaning, those who are misguided and deviate from truth to falsehood, …

<they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof>

meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said, …

<seeking Al-Fitnah>

meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur'an -- the Mutashabih of it -- but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that [`Isa is divine because] the Qur'an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah's statements, …

<He [`Isa] was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.> [43:59],

and, …

<Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: "Be!" and he was.> [3:59].

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah's creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

With the foregoing in mind, we would like to examine some of the references which Christians have commonly used to support their view that Jesus is divine. We will also examine certain other texts to show how there are contradictory statements within the Quran. Our purpose in bringing forth these points is to show that Sura 3:7 was primarily given to do some damage control. The author of the Quran said certain things with the obvious intention of trying to appease Jews, Christians and others, hoping to win them over to his religion, without realizing how these statements would backfire against him. After seeing how his own statements were being used to refute his claims he then needed to devise a way to escape the problems he had caused for himself. The author came up with the convenient explanation that those verses are allegorical, and their real meanings are known only to God.

Therefore, the following sections will discuss a number of contradictory and confusing passages in the Quran in regard to the nature, power and current state of Jesus. Our desire is that after we finish discussing these specific citations the readers will hopefully see the obvious; namely that the Quran’s author made some grave mistakes and then tried covering it up by setting forth the response given in Sura 3:7.

2. Contradictory teachings about Jesus in the Quran

A. The Quran on Jesus’ Prehuman Existence

The Quran in several places calls Jesus God’s Word and a Word from God. In one other place Jesus is also expressly said to be a Spirit from God:

While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: "God doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from God, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet, - of the (goodly) company of the righteous." … Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God; S. 3:39, 45 Y. Ali

People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him (ruhun minhu). So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, 'Three.' Refrain; better is it for you. God is only One God. Glory be to Him -- That He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth; God suffices for a guardian. S. 4:171 Arberry

These passages support Jesus’ prehuman existence, that prior to becoming man from the blessed virgin Mary, Christ already existed with God. After all, God’s Word is uncreated and originates from within himself implying that Jesus, since he is God’s Word, must also have originated from God himself and is therefore eternal.

Furthermore, the expression a Spirit from Him is used only one other time in the Quran:

Thou shalt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who opposes. God and His Messenger, not though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan. Those -- He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has confirmed them with a Spirit from Himself; and He shall admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, God being well-pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. Those are God's party; why, surely God's party -- they are the prosperers. S. 58:22

It is obvious from this text that the Spirit shares in the divine qualities and attributes of God. After all, the Spirit is able to empower, strengthen all believers, indicating that he is all-present (omnipresent) and all-powerful (omnipotent). But only God is omnipresent and omnipotent!

What this means is that Jesus must also be omnipresent and omnipotent since he is that Spirit from God. It further supports Jesus’ prehuman existence since Sura 4:171 doesn’t say that Jesus was a Spirit created in Mary’s womb. Rather, it expressly says that he is a Spirit from God and his Word which was given to Mary. The Islamic narrations provide additional support for this position:

Narrated Ubayy ibn Ka'b

In regard to the words of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, "Your Lord brought forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam." (7:172) Ubayy said: He gathered them and paired them then fashioned them and endowed them with the power of speech and they began to speak. He then made an agreement and covenant with them. He made them bear witness about themselves (saying) Am I not your Lord. They said: Yes. He said: I call to witness seven heavens and seven earths regarding you and I call witness your father Adam regarding you lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: We do not know this. Bear this in mind that there is no god besides Me and there is no Lord besides Me and do not associate anything with Me. It is I Who should be sending to you My messengers in order to remind you My agreement and My covenant and it is I who would send you My Books. They said: We bear witness to the fact that Thou art our Lord, Thou art our Object of worship. There is no Lord besides Thee and there is no object of worship besides Thee. They confirmed this (pledge). Adam was raised above them so that he would see them and he saw the rich and the poor, those having handsome faces and even those inferior to them and he said: My Lord, why is it that Thou hast not made Thy servants alike? He said: I wish that I should be thanked. And he also saw the Prophets, some amongst them like lamps with light in them, distinguished by another covenant regarding messengership and prophethood, viz. the words of the Blessed and the High: And when We made covenant with the prophets - up to His words: Jesus son of Mary (33:7). He was among those spirits and He sent him to Mary (peace be upon both of them). And it is narrated by Ubayy that he entered by her mouth.

Transmitted by Ahmad. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 41– ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Notice carefully that Jesus is said to be one of those spirits that was sent to Mary, a clear affirmation of Christ’s prehuman existence. Now a Muslim will obviously say that the above narration doesn’t just support Jesus’ prehuman existence, but the prehuman existence of all human beings. The problem with that explanation is that the Quran does not support the prehuman existence of anyone besides Jesus. Sura 7:172 doesn’t support it since this text only shows that humanity was created in Adam, that when Adam was created all his seed was created alongside him since he is the progenitor of the human race. That is why the Sura itself expressly says that mankind was drawn from Adam’s loins. Jesus is different since he is the Word and Spirit of God that sprung forth from him and entered Mary, something said of no one else, whereas all the rest of mankind sprung forth from the very loins of Adam.

B. Jesus as Creator in the Quran

The Quran chides the unbelievers for worshiping or calling on objects which cannot create:

Say: 'Who is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth?' Say: 'God.' Say: 'Then have you taken unto you others beside Him to be your protectors, even such as have no power to profit or hurt themselves?' Say: 'Are the blind and the seeing man equal, or are the shadows and the light equal? Or have they ascribed to God associates who created as He created, so that creation is all alike to them?' Say: 'God is the Creator of everything, and He is the One, the Omnipotent.' S. 13:16

Is He who creates as he who does not create? Will you not remember? … And those they call upon, apart from God, created nothing, and themselves are created, S. 16:17

And those they call upon, apart from God, created nothing, and themselves are created, dead, not alive; and are not aware when they shall be raised. S. 16:20-21

The implication of the above texts is that those things or persons that are worshiped besides Allah are not worthy of such honor since they cannot create as he does. We can infer from this that if there were a person who could create in a similar fashion to the way Allah creates, then that individual would be worthy of the same praise and worship.

Astonishingly, the Quran says that Jesus is such a person!

to be a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God. I will inform you too of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. S. 3:49

When God said, 'Jesus Son of Mary, remember My blessing upon thee and upon thy mother, when I confirmed thee with the Holy Spirit, to speak to men in the cradle, and of age; and when I taught thee the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel; and when thou createst out of clay, by My leave, as the likeness of a bird, and thou breathest into it, and it is a bird, by My leave; and thou healest the blind and the leper by My leave, and thou bringest the dead forth by My leave; and when restrained from thee the Children of Israel when thou camest unto them with the clear signs, and the unbelievers among them said, "This is nothing but sorcery manifest." S. 5:110

Jesus created birds and breathed into them life in the same way that Allah created Adam and breathed into him:

And when thy Lord said to the angels, 'See, I am creating a mortal of a clay of mud moulded. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!' S. 15:28-29

Thus Jesus, unlike the other objects of worship, creates exactly the same way that Allah does! Christ also has the very same breath of life, the same ability to grant life, that Allah has making them equal in creative power and talent. Not only that, but according to both the Quran and Islamic tradition Jesus is actually still alive as we shall see in the next section! Since Christ is alive right now in heaven, this means that it is legitimate for a person to call upon him. After all, doesn’t the Quran complain that those whom others call upon are dead, implying that the mistake is to call upon non-living or unconscious entities? This seems to imply that if they are not dead then calling upon them is not wrong. And since Jesus is alive and could create in the same way that Allah can to therefore worship him cannot be viewed as sin or idolatry.

A more detailed discussion on this issue can be found in the article Is Jesus God or Not?

C. The Quran on Jesus’ Last Days

We turn our attention to Jesus’ last hours, specifically his ascension into heaven. The Quran, in two places, specifically says that Allah took Jesus to himself:

When God said, 'Jesus, I will take thee to Me and will raise thee to Me and I will purify thee of those who believe not. I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day. Then unto Me shall you return, and I will decide between you, as to what you were at variance on. S. 3:55 Arberry

"Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, 'worship God, my Lord and your Lord'; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things." S. 5:117 Y. Ali

Ibn Kathir commented on Sura 3:55:

Meaning of ‘Take You’

Allah said, …

<I will take you and raise you to Myself>

while you are asleep. Allah said in a similar Ayat,…

<It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep).> [6:60], and,…

<It is Allah Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep.> [39:42].

The Messenger of Allah used to recite the following words when he would awaken;…

<All the thanks are due to Allah Who brought us back to life after He had caused us to die (sleep), and the Return is to Him>.

Allah said, …

<And because of their disbelief and allegations against Maryam and because of their saying "We killed Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah," but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared that way to them> until, …

<For surely; they killed him not But Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise. And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection, he [`Isa] will be a witness against them.> [4:156-159]

`His death' refers to `Isa, and the Ayah means that the People of the Book will believe in `Isa, before `Isa dies. This will occur when `Isa comes back to this world before the Day of Resurrection, as we will explain. By that time, all the People of the Book will believe in `Isa, for he will annul the Jizyah and he will only accept Islam from people. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Al-Hasan said that Allah's statement,…

<I will take you>

is in reference to sleep, for Allah raised `Isa while he was asleep. (Source; underline emphasis ours)

Just when it seems that the Quran couldn’t be any more clear… there are other Muslims who actually believe that these same verses should be translated to mean that Jesus did die before Allah took him into heaven!

Remember the time when ALLAH said' `O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death (innee mutawaffeeka) and will raise thee TO MYSELF, … Sher Ali

… And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die (tawaffaytanee), Thou, hast been the Watcher over them, and Thou art Witness over all things; Sher Ali

The reason for the confusion hinges on how one translates mutawaffeeka and tawaffaytanee. Both these words stem from the verb waffa, which has various meanings depending on the way it is used in a given context. It can mean completing a term and can refer to a person completing his/her earthly period by dying. In other words, the verb is used in relation to a person's earthly life being completed upon dying, that death terminates one's earthly sojourn.

Because the verb can mean completing a term or terminating a specific period, Muslims have generally understood from this that Jesus' life was terminated, or his earthly stay came to a conclusion, but not necessarily by death. To put it another way, even though the verb does imply that Jesus completed his period on earth, the termination of his earthly life didn't come as a result of death. It came as a result of God taking him physically out of the earth while still being alive.

As one Muslim debater and lecturer puts it:

c) "Mutawaffika" in (3:55) and "Tawaffaytani" in (5:120) refer to "completing" your term or mission on earth. "Tawaffi" is used also in the Qur'an for other than death (6:60, 39:42). (Dr. Jamal Badawi, Jesus in the Quran and the Bible)

But this interpretation poses other problems. If the use of the verb in these specific contexts implies that Jesus' earthly life was completed, or terminated, then this means that Christ will not return. After all, the verb indicates that Jesus completed the period designated for him to remain on earth showing that there is no need for him to return now that his mission has come to an end.

And if Jesus’ earthly stay is completed without him having to die then this stands in stark contradiction with the following passage which says every soul must die:

Every soul shall taste of death; and We try you with evil and good for a testing, then unto Us you shall be returned. S. 21:35

There is obviously a considerable amount of confusion in the Quran regarding this matter.

For more on the issue of the translation of the above citations and the implication they have on Jesus’ final moments on earth, please read this article.

Still, there is at least one citation which emphatically denies that Jesus was killed and suggests that he will die at same later point in time:

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them - S. 4:157-159 Pickthall

Here is what Ibn Kathir said about 4:157-159:

The Evil Accusation the Jews Uttered Against Maryam and Their Claim that They Killed `Isa

Allah said,…

<And because of their (Jews) disbelief and uttering against Maryam a grave false charge.>

`Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas stated that the Jews accused Maryam of fornication. This is also the saying of As-Suddi, Juwaybir, Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others. This meaning is also apparent in the Ayah, as the Jews accused Maryam and her son of grave accusations: They accused her of fornication and claimed that `Isa was an illegitimate son. Some of them even claimed that she was menstruating while fornicating. May Allah's continued curse be upon them until the Day of Resurrection. The Jews also said,…

<"We killed Al-Masih, `Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah,">

meaning, we killed the person who claimed to be the Messenger of Allah. The Jews only uttered these words in jest and mockery, just as the polytheists said,…

<O you to whom the Dhikr (the Qur'an) has been sent down! Verily, you are a mad man!>

When Allah sent `Isa with proofs and guidance, the Jews, may Allah's curses, anger, torment and punishment be upon them, envied him because of his prophethood and obvious miracles; curing the blind and leprous and bringing the dead back to life, by Allah's leave. He also used to make the shape of a bird from clay and blow in it, and it became a bird by Allah's leave and flew. `Isa performed other miracles that Allah honored him with, yet the Jews defied and belied him and tried their best to harm him. Allah's Prophet `Isa could not live in any one city for long and he had to travel often with his mother, peace be upon them. Even so, the Jews were not satisfied, and they went to the king of Damascus at that time, a Greek polytheist who worshipped the stars. They told him that there was a man in Bayt Al-Maqdis misguiding and dividing the people in Jerusalem and stirring unrest among the king's subjects. The king became angry and wrote to his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest the rebel leader, stop him from causing unrest, crucify him and make him wear a crown of thorns. When the king's deputy in Jerusalem received these orders, he went with some Jews to the house that `Isa was residing in, and he was then with twelve, thirteen or seventeen of his companions. That day was a Friday, in the evening. They surrounded `Isa in the house, and when he felt that they would soon enter the house or that he would sooner or later have to leave it, he said to his companions, "Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise" A young man volunteered, but `Isa thought that he was too young. He asked the question a second and third time, each time the young man volunteering, prompting `Isa to say, "Well then, you will be that man." Allah made the young man look exactly like `Isa, while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and `Isa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep. Allah said,…

<And (remember) when Allah said: "O `Isa! I will take you and raise you to Myself.">

When `Isa ascended, those who were in the house came out. When those surrounding the house saw the man who looked like `Isa, they thought that he was `Isa. So they took him at night, crucified him and placed a crown of thorns on his head. The Jews then boasted that they killed `Isa and some Christians accepted their false claim, due to their ignorance and lack of reason. As for those who were in the house with `Isa, they witnessed his ascension to heaven, while the rest thought that the Jews killed `Isa by crucifixion. They even said that Maryam sat under the corpse of the crucified man and cried, and they say that the dead man spoke to her. All this was a test from Allah for His servants out of His wisdom. Allah explained this matter in the Glorious Qur'an which He sent to His honorable Messenger, whom He supported with miracles and clear, unequivocal evidence. Allah is the Most Truthful, and He is the Lord of the worlds Who knows the secrets, what the hearts conceal, the hidden matters in heaven and earth, what has occurred, what will occur, and what would occur if it was decreed. He said,…

<but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared as that to them,>

referring to the person whom the Jews thought was `Isa. This is why Allah said afterwards,…

<and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture.>

referring to the Jews who claimed to kill `Isa and the ignorant Christians who believed them. Indeed they are all in confusion, misguidance and bewilderment. This is why Allah said,…

<For surely; they killed him not.>

meaning they are not sure that `Isa was the one whom they killed. Rather, they are in doubt and confusion over this matter…

<But Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful,>

meaning, He is the Almighty, and He is never weak, nor will those who seek refuge in Him ever be subjected to disgrace,…

<All-Wise.> in all that He decides and ordains for His creatures. Indeed, Allah's is the clearest wisdom, unequivocal proof and the most glorious authority. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Just before Allah raised `Isa to the heavens, `Isa went to his companions, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping water and he said, `There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after he had believed in me.' He then asked, `Who volunteers that his image appear as mine, and be killed in my place. He will be with me (in Paradise)' One of the youngest ones among them volunteered and `Isa asked him to sit down. `Isa again asked for a volunteer, and the young man kept volunteering and `Isa asking him to sit down. Then the young man volunteered again and `Isa said, `You will be that man,' and the resemblance of `Isa was cast over that man while `Isa ascended to heaven from a hole in the house. When the Jews came looking for `Isa, they found that young man and crucified him. Some of `Isa's followers disbelieved in him twelve times after they had believed in him. They then divided into three groups. One group, Al-Ya`qubiyyah (Jacobites), said, `Allah remained with us as long as He willed and then ascended to heaven.' Another group, An-Nasturiyyah (Nestorians), said, `The son of Allah was with us as long as he willed and Allah took him to heaven.' Another group, Muslims, said, `The servant and Messenger of Allah remained with us as long as Allah willed, and Allah then took him to Him.' The two disbelieving groups cooperated against the Muslim group and they killed them. Ever since that happened, Islam was then veiled until Allah sent Muhammad." This statement has AN AUTHENTIC CHAIN OF NARRATION leading to Ibn `Abbas, and An-Nasa'i narrated it through Abu Kurayb who reported it from Abu Mu`awiyah. MANY AMONG THE SALAF stated that `Isa asked if someone would volunteer for his appearance to be cast over him, and that he will be killed instead of `Isa, for which he would be his companion in Paradise. (Source; capital and underline emphasis ours)


All Christians Will Believe in `Isa Before He Dies

Allah said,…

<And there is none of the People of the Scripture, but must believe in him, before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection, he will be a witness against them.>

Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn `Abbas commented,…

<And there is none of the People of the Scripture, but must believe in him, before his death.>

before the death of `Isa, son of Maryam, peace be upon him. Al-`Awfi reported similar from Ibn `Abbas. Abu Malik commented;…

<but must believe in him, before his death.>

"This occurs after `Isa returns and before he dies, as then, all of the People of the Scriptures will believe in him." (Source; underline emphasis ours)

But wait, there is more! The Quran refers to a prophet named Idris, which some Muslims believe is the prophet Enoch, or perhaps even Elijah:

And make mention in the Scripture of Idris. Lo! he was a saint, a prophet; And We raised him to high station. S. 19:56-57 Pickthall

Ibn Kathir wrote:

Mentioning Idris

Allah complimented Idris for being a truthful Prophet and He mentioned that he raised him to a high station. It has previously been mentioned that in the Sahih it is recorded that the Messenger of Allah passed by Idris on the night of the Isra (Night Journey) and he (Idris) was in the fourth heaven. Sufyan reported from Mansur that Mujahid said, …

<And We raised him to a high station.> "This means the fourth heaven." Al-Hasan and others said concerning Allah's statement, …

<And We raised him to a high station.> "This means Paradise." (Source)

Being raised to a high station may imply that Idris was taken into heaven without dying, especially if Idris is supposed to be Enoch. The late Muhammad Asad noted:

41 The majority of the classical commentators identify the Prophet Idris-who is mentioned in the Qur'an once again, namely in 21:85-with the Biblical Enoch (Genesis v. 18-19 and 21-24), without, however, being able to adduce any authority for this purely conjectural identification. Some modern Qur'an-commentators suggest that the name Idris may be the Arabicized form of Osiris (which, in its turn, was the ancient Greek version of the Egyptian name As-ar or Us-ar), said to have been a wise king and/or prophet whom the Egyptians subsequently deified (cf. Maraghi XVI, 64, and Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zildl al -Qur'an, Cairo, n.d., vol. XVI, 44); but this assumption is too far-fetched to deserve any serious consideration. Finally, some of the earliest Qur'an-commentators (`Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, Qatadah, `Ikrimah and Ad-Dahhak) assert-with, to my mind, great plausibility-that "Idris" is but another name for Ilyas, the Biblical Elijah (regarding whom see note 48 on 37: 123). (Source; underline and italic emphasis ours)

One Muslim author claims:

As for Bahgat's statement that he does not know any other information about Idris, then this is true as far as his knowledge. The long hadith of Abu Thar (narrated by Tabari, Ibn Hiban, Ibn Al-Jawzi and Abu Naim) whereby the Prophet -pbuh- numbers the prophets and groups some according to their languages explicitly mentions that Idris is Enoch. (The Legend of Idris = Osiris?: Source; underline emphasis ours)

Another Muslim site has no doubt that Idris is Enoch:

Prophet Enoch (Idris)

Allah has praised Enoch, describing him as being a prophet and truthful: Mention in the Book (Qur'an) Idris (Enoch). Verily! He was a man of truth (and) a prophet. We raised him to a high station. (Ch 19:56-57 Qur'an). (The Holy Quran: Stories of the Prophets: Source)

Hence, if Idris is indeed Enoch (or Elijah if the alternative identification mentioned by Asad is true) then this makes it quite certain that the above Quranic text is saying that he didn’t taste death since according to the Holy Bible Enoch and Elijah didn’t die. They were both taken into heaven to be with God in glory:

"When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." Genesis 5:21-24

"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God." Hebrews 11:5

"When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.’ And he said, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.’ And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw him no more." 2 Kings 2:9-12a

The foregoing data presents Muslims with some major problems. The claim that Jesus and Idris/Enoch/Elijah didn’t die (this assumes, of course, that Idris is either Enoch or Elijah and that the statement in the Quran that he was taken up refers to either of these prophets’ ascension) contradicts several Quranic passages which say that Allah has granted no man immortality:

And We sent none before thee, but men to whom We made revelation -- question the People of the Remembrance, if you do not know -- nor did We fashion them as bodies that ate not food, neither were they immortal; S. 21:7-8 Arberry

We appointed immortality for no mortal BEFORE THEE. What! if thou diest, can they be immortal! Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned. S. 21:34-35 Pickthall

We have not assigned to any mortal BEFORE THEE to live forever; therefore, if thou diest, will they live forever? Every soul shall taste of death; and We try you with evil and good for a testing, then unto Us you shall be returned. Arberry

These passages clearly say that those living before Muhammad all died since none of them was given immortality. The texts are obviously saying that everyone must die until the Day of Resurrection when God will then raise the dead to life. Notice the words of the late, renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir:

No One has been granted Immortality in this World

<And We granted not to any human being immortality before you;>

means, O Muhammad.


means, in this world. On the contrary, …

<Whatsoever is on it (the earth) will perish. And the Face of your Lord full of majesty and honor will remain forever.> [55:26-27] …

<then if you die>

means, O Muhammad, …

<would they live forever>

means, they hope that they will live forever after you, but that will not happen; everything will pass away. So Allah says: …

<Everyone is going to taste death,> … (Source)

The texts are obviously referring to a person’s physical existence, that there has been no human being that continues living in an embodied state since all must physically die. To help clarify this point note what the following verses say:

And say not of those slain in God's way, 'They are dead'; rather they are living, but you are not aware. S. 2:154

Count not those who were slain in God's way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him provided, rejoicing in the bounty that God has given them, and joyful in those who remain behind and have not joined them, because no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow, S. 3:169-170

Now these martyrs had obviously experienced physical death, after all that is why they’re martyrs and said to have been slain! If we were to interpret these passages with those that deny that anyone has experienced immortality then the meaning must be that no one has continued experiencing an embodied existence, that no person’s physical life has been extended beyond their time on earth.

Further substantiation that Allah hasn’t extended the physical life of any person beyond their earthly sojourn can be found in the following texts:

The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; Messengers before him passed away; his mother was a just woman; they both ate food. Behold, how We make clear the signs to them; then behold, how they perverted are! S. 5:75

Muhammad is naught but a Messenger; Messengers have passed away before him. Why, if he should die or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? If any man should turn about on his heels, he will not harm God in any way; and God will recompense the thankful. S. 3:144

The preceding citations support the view that all the messengers before Muhammad died, which would also include Jesus.

Interestingly, the late Maulana Muhammad Ali of the Ahmadiyyah sect actually used the last text to support his case that Jesus died:

"While this verse lays stress on the essential truth of Islam, it served another important purpose at the death of the Prophet. Some of the companions thought that the Prophet was not dead. Abu Bakr went in, and seeing that life had departed, ascended the pulpit and read this verse, which had a magical effect upon his hearers, all of them being convinced that the Prophet had passed away, as all prophets had passed away before him. The prophets were but mortals, and their span of mortal life must no doubt terminate like that of other mortals. This verse affords a conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was also dead; otherwise Abu Bakr's argument could not have silenced the doubters of the Prophet's death." (Ali, Holy Quran [USA; Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha'at Islam Lahore Inc., 1995], pp. 168-169, f. 496: Source; bold emphasis ours)

Another citation strongly implying that Jesus died is this one:

And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live; S. 19:31

Jesus, while still in the cradle, supposedly said that Allah required him to pay the poor tax as long as he lived. If Jesus didn’t die then this means that he is still required to pay alms while in heaven!

To summarize, this results in several contradictions. It contradicts the conviction of the majority of Muslims who believe that Jesus was taken to heaven alive, without having first died. These statements definitely contradict the testimony of the Holy Bible which reports that Enoch and Elijah were taken into heaven alive, and they possibly contradict also the reference to Idris in the Quran, depending on which person exactly did the author of the Quran have in mind, and what "raised to a high station" was intended to mean.

The problems are far from over. When we introduce the so-called sahih ahadith, the allegedly undisputed sound narrations of Islam, we run into additional problems. In the above texts, the author of the Quran says that Allah took Jesus to himself, which obviously means that Jesus entered the very presence of Allah. But specific narrations attributed to Muhammad say something different:

... Then we ascended to the second heaven. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel said, 'Gabriel.' It was said, 'Who is with you?' He said, 'Muhammad' It was asked, 'Has he been sent for?' He said, 'Yes.' It was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!" Then I met Jesus and Yahya (John) who said, 'You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet.' Then we ascended to the third haven. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel said, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is with you? Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been sent for?' 'Yes,' said Gabriel. 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!' - (The Prophet added:). - There I met Joseph and greeted him, and he replied, 'You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet!' Then we ascended to the 4th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met Idris and greeted him. He said, 'You are welcomed O brother and Prophet.' Then we ascended to the 5th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in previous heavens. There I met and greeted Aaron who said, 'You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet". Then we ascended to the 6th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Moses who said, 'You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet.' When I proceeded on, he started weeping and on being asked why he was weeping, he said, 'O Lord! Followers of this youth who was sent after me will enter Paradise in greater number than my followers.' Then we ascended to the seventh heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Abraham who said, 'You are welcomed O son and a Prophet.' Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma'mur (i.e. Allah's House). I asked Gabriel about it and he said, This is Al Bait-ul-Ma'mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).' Then I was shown Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. a tree in the seventh heaven) and I saw its Nabk fruits which resembled the clay jugs of Hajr (i.e. a town in Arabia), and its leaves were like the ears of elephants, and four rivers originated at its root, two of them were apparent and two were hidden. I asked Gabriel about those rivers and he said, 'The two hidden rivers are in Paradise, and the apparent ones are the Nile and the Euphrates.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 429)

If the above hadith is sound then Jesus wasn’t taken to Allah. Yet the Quran says that Allah did take Jesus to be with him, meaning that this narration must be in error. But if this narration is in error then this calls into question the veracity of these so-called sound, undisputed traditions.

We now come to the final part of our discussion. We saw above that the Quran implies that Jesus didn’t die when he was taken into heaven, but will die at some later time. There is another passage which has been understood to mean that Christ will return to the earth:

And when the son of Mary is mentioned as an example, lo! thy people raise a clamour thereat; And they say, `Are our gods better, or he?' They mention not this to thee but for the sake of disputation. Nay, but they are a contentious people. He was only Our servant, on whom WE bestowed Our favour, and WE made him an Example for the children of Israel. And if WE so willed, WE could make from among you angels to be your successors in the earth. But, verily, he was a sign of the Hour. So entertain no doubt about it, but follow me. This is the right path. And let not Satan hinder you, he is to you an open enemy. And when Jesus came with clear proofs, he said, `Truly, I have come to you with wisdom, and to make clear to you some of that about which you differ. So fear ALLAH and obey me. Verily, ALLAH - HE is my Lord and your Lord. So worship HIM. This is the right path.' But the parties differed among themselves. So woe to the wrongdoers because of the punishment of a painful day! S. 43:57-65 Sher Ali

Many Muslims believe that this passage establishes Jesus’ return from heaven as a sign that the last hour is near:

And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way. Y. Ali

Others translate this in a way so that there is no connection with Christ:

And lo! verily there is knowledge of the Hour. So doubt ye not concerning it, but follow Me. This is the right path. S. 43:61 Pickthall

Traditionally, most Sunni Muslims have understood this to be a reference to Jesus’ second coming. If this is correct then this means that Jesus will die as stated in Sura 4:159 after descending to the earth from heaven. Ibn Kathir writes:

<And he (`Isa) shall be a known sign for (the coming of) the Hour.>

The CORRECT VIEW concerning this phrase is that it refers to his descent before the Day of Resurrection, as Allah says: …

<And there is none of the People of the Scripture but must believe in him before his death> (4:159). -- meaning before the death of `Isa, peace be upon him -- …

<And on the Day of Resurrection, he will be a witness against them> 4:159

This meaning has the support from an alternate recitation of the Ayat

<And he shall be a known sign for (the coming of) the Hour.>

means, evidence that the Hour will surely come. Mujahid said: …

<And he shall be a sign for (the coming of) the Hour.>

means, sign and "One of the signs of the Hour will be the appearance of `Isa son of Maryam before the Day of Resurrection." Something similar was also narrated from Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas, `Abu Al-`Aliyah, Abu Malik, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and others. Many Mutawatir Hadiths report that the Messenger of Allah said that `Isa will descend before the Day of Resurrection as a just ruler and fair judge. (Source; capital emphasis ours)

The Sunni ahadith provide additional support for this view:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya (i.e. taxation taken from non Muslims). Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah (in prayer) will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it." Abu Huraira added "If you wish, you can recite (this verse of the Holy Book): -- 'And there is none Of the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) But must believe in him (i.e. Jesus as an Apostle of Allah and a human being) Before his death. And on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness Against them." (4.159) (See Fateh Al Bari, Page 302 Vol 7) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 657)

The foregoing implies that either Jesus didn’t die before ascending into heaven, but will do so when he returns; or he did die before he was taken up only to return again to die a second time!

3. Concluding Remarks

Our examination of the Quranic teaching on Christ hopefully accomplished the purpose of demonstrating the gross confusion and contradictions surrounding the Islamic view of Jesus. To summarize all the points raised in this article, here is what we learned so far from the foregoing discussion:

  1. The Quran denies that Jesus is God or the Son of God.
  2. At the same time the Quran applies specific titles and functions to Jesus which clearly show that he is more than human, strongly supporting his Divinity and prehuman existence.
  3. The Quran says that those objects that are wrongly worshiped by others are unable to create, therefore disqualifying them from being worthy of such adoration and devotion.
  4. Jesus, on the other hand, creates in the same way that Allah creates which shows that he is worthy of the very worship and praise due to Allah.
  5. The Quran denies that Allah has granted immortality to anyone.
  6. Yet the Quran says that Jesus ascended into heaven without dying, and was neither killed nor crucified, meaning that for over 2,000 years he has remained alive!
  7. The Quran suggests, with the Islamic narrations making this point explicit, that Jesus will return to the earth as a sign that the last hour is at hand.
  8. It also teaches that all the Jews and Christians will believe in Jesus before he dies, which will presumably take place after his second coming.
  9. But at the same time the Quran says that Jesus died already, which must have obviously happened prior to his ascension into heaven.
  10. Still others believe that specific verses, namely Suras 3:55 and 5:117, teach that Jesus' earthly sojourn was terminated, was completed without dying when Allah took Jesus alive to be with himself, to be in the very presence of Allah.
  11. This means that Jesus will not return since the period of his stay on earth has come to an end, thereby implying that there is no need for him to come back again.
  12. But if Jesus was taken physically alive into heaven because his earthly mission was completed, which implies that he will not return, then this contradicts the Quran's teaching that every person must taste death.
  13. Not only is the Quran confused and contradictory with itself, even the so-called sound narrations are contradicting it, especially in relation to Jesus being taken alive to be with Allah himself. The hadiths deny that Jesus was taken to be with Allah since they claim that he was taken into the second heaven instead.
  14. Furthermore, as we already mentioned, the narrations also speak of Christ returning which means that Jesus' earthly period wasn't complete but had to be extended to a future date.

Is it any wonder that the author of the Quran came up with the explanation found in Sura 3:7? Here it is again:

He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose hearts there is perversity they follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation but none knows its interpretation except Allah, and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding. Shakir

From our detailed examination we can safely conclude that this response was obviously given as a desperate attempt of evading the charge of blatant contradiction and confusion. After seeing that his statements regarding Jesus were being used against him, and that he was obviously contradicting himself, the author came up with the excuse that some of these statements were allegorical and therefore not to be taken literally. He accused the Christians who were using these so-called allegorical or unclear passages against him of being perverse at heart, trying to sow discord and confusion amongst the Muslims. But as we saw, the fault lay not with the Christians but with the author who failed to remain consistent regarding his view of Jesus, often teaching contradictory things about him.

Finally, Sura 3:7 introduces an additional major problem for the Muslims. According to this text Allah is the only one who knows the exact, precise meaning of these so-called allegorical or unclear verses. Since this verse refers to Christological texts that Christians were using to prove their case against Muhammad, this means that Muslims cannot really tell us what those citations actually mean. In other words, Muslims cannot tell us what passages such as Sura 3:45 or 4:171 literally mean, citations which call Jesus God’s Word and his Spirit, since only Allah knows their exact meanings. Hence, anytime a Muslim says that these passages do not prove that Jesus is Divine and then proceed from there to provide an alternate explanation, they are falsifying their own scripture which says none know their precise meanings except Allah.

Besides, to discount the citations used by Christians to prove their beliefs about Jesus is to ignore one important, crucial fact; Muhammad’s own followers used some of these very passages to give the misleading and deceptive impression that they were in agreement with Christian beliefs. Muslim emigrants to Ethiopia tried to appease the Christian ruler by making it appear as if their beliefs were virtually identical to his own by quoting only specific parts of Sura 19. In the words of Muslim Martin Lings:

"The royal interpreters translated all that he (i.e. Ja'far) had said. The Negus then asked if they had with them any Revelation that their Prophet had brought them from God and, when Ja'far answered that they had, he said: 'Then recite it to me,' whereupon Ja'far recited a passage from the Surah of Mary, which had been revealed shortly before their departure:

And make mention of Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her people unto a place towards the east, and secluded herself from them; and We sent unto her Our Spirit, and it appeared unto her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: I take refuge from thee in the Infinitely Good, if any piety thou hast. He said: I am none other than a messenger from thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a son most pure. She said: How can there be for me a son, when no man hath touched me, nor am I unchaste? He said: Even so shall it be; thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. That We may make a sign for mankind and a mercy from Us; and it is a thing ordained.

The Negus wept, and his bishops wept also, when they heard him recite, and when it was translated they wept again, and the Negus said: 'This hath truly come from the same source as that which Jesus brought.' Then he turned to the two envoys of Quraysh and said: 'Ye may go, for by God I will not deliver them unto you; they shall not be betrayed.'" (Lings, Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources [Inner Traditions International, Ltd. Rochester, Vermont 1983], p. 83)

Muslim Neal Robinson, in his comments on Nöldeke's chronology of the Quran, solidifies our charge that the Muslims were being deceptive:

In their present state, all the suras which contain extensive references to Jesus also include a denial that God has offspring. It is possible that this is because these suras WERE REVISED DURING THE MEDINAN PERIOD. For example Nöldeke maintains that sura nineteen ORIGINALLY consisted of 19:1-33, 41-47 since these ayas all rhyme in -iyyan whereas ayas 34-40 end in the much more common -una frequently found in the Medinan period. This accords with the Muslim tradition that the emigrants recited part of this sura to the Negus of Abyssinia. What they recited was presumably the original nucleus WHICH LACKED THE STRIDENT DENIALS THAT GOD HAD OFFSPRING. (Robinson, Christ In Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press, Albany 1991], pp. 32-33; bold and capital emphasis ours)


According to Nöldeke's chronological scheme the earliest statement is 19:33, the infant Jesus' reference to the day of his death and the day of his being raised. In the original version of the revelation - the version recited to the Abyssinians by the Muslim refugees from Mecca - this was probably the culmination of the story. The Abysinnians may well have understood it as referring to the crucifixion and the resurrection on the third day. The statement itself is, however, much less precise. It does not specify how and when Jesus was to die nor how and when he was to be raised. In view of 19:15, where similar things are said about John, it is perhaps the general resurrection on the day of judgement which is envisaged. In any case the very fact that similar things are said about John detracts from the uniqueness of Jesus. In short the statement sounds more Christian than it is. This is in character with the general tenor of 19:1-33 where the aim seems to be THAT OF APPEALING TO CHRISTIAN SENTIMENT without making too many concessions to Christian belief. (Ibid., p. 112; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In other words, Muhammad inserted those christological verses in order to give Christians the appearance as if he is indeed bringing a compatible message. But when Christians take those verses which were given specifically FOR THEM, and take them in their obvious meaning, then they are accused of twisting and perverting the texts and are suppose to NOT focus on them! Yet were not these verses specifically given for the reason of attracting Christians? Putting it bluntly, after classifying these verses as unclear or allegorical, doesn’t it become obvious that this was part of Muhammad’s game of fooling people regarding his precise views on Christ and other issues?

We can’t help but agree with assessment of the late Christian writer and Scholar, 'Abdallah 'Abd al-Fadi:

The Qur'an itself claims to contain clear, intelligible verses that require no further explanation; these also do not allow several possible interpretations. But it states also that it has ambiguous ones whose meanings are not clear, either because they are too brief or because their literal meaning is not compatible with the context. Supposedly, only God knows the interpretation of these, and the faithful have to merely accept them.

We ask: Is not the occurrence of such ambiguous verses a defect in the Qur'an's supposed eloquence and clarity? How can we be sure of the verses whose interpretation God alone knows? The Bible says: "Test all things; hold fast what is good?" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Is the Qur'an capable of being put to the test? (Al-Fadi, Is the Qur'an Infallible? [Light of Life, PO Box 13, A-9503 Villach Austria], pp. 334-335; underline emphasis ours)

Recommended Reading

Our intention in this paper wasn’t to interact with the common Muslim responses and allegations that are often presented to refute the Christian use of the Quran to prove their case regarding the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ. For more on the Quranic view of Jesus, specifically the titles given to him and the implication they have on Christ’s person, as well as reading our interaction with the Muslim responses regarding these issues, we recommend the following articles:

Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page