This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 22nd December 2019.
It is a continuation of verses covered in the previous week’s session regarding Prophet Isa AS (Jesus).
Continuation of the Story of Sayidatina Maryam and Prophet Isa AS
On the “death” of Prophet Isa AS
وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَيَّ يَوْمَ وُلِدتُّ وَيَوْمَ أَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ أُبْعَثُ حَيًّا
“And peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am made to rise again alive.” [19:33]
In the previous session, we briefly discussed this verse. Historically, it is known that the Jews of Prophet Isa’s time did not accept his message. They accused him of being a sorcerer, spreading falsehood. It is claimed that his people plotted against him, causing his capture, torture and crucifixion. The Jews view his crucifixion as a sign of disgrace. The Christians, conversely, believe that this was an act of honour; Jesus Christ was willing to sacrifice his life on the cross in order to atone for the sins of the children of Adam. In Islam, we firmly believe that Prophet Isa AS had not been crucified. This is confirmed in a verse in Surah An-Nisaa’, which says:
وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ
And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them… [4:157]
In a separate verse in Surah Ali ‘Imran, it was also revealed:
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَىٰ إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ
[Mention] when Allah said, “O ‘Isa, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself… [3:55]
What is clear is that Prophet Isa AS had been raised to another world by Allah’s will. The scholars differ in opinion regarding whether he was raised alive or dead. Most scholars in the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah hold the opinion that Prophet Isa AS never died (i.e. he was raised alive). Only on the day of Judgement will Isa AS die, along with all of creation.
In one opinion, it is said that there was a man who was also involved in the plot to kill Prophet Isa AS. By Allah’s will, he was made to resemble Prophet Isa AS and was captured instead. Prophet Isa AS was saved and raised to the heavens alive by Allah.
Following the same thread, Imam Ibn Kathir holds the opinion that “al-Maut” mentioned in the Qur’an refers to a “small death” (i.e. sleep) rather than an actual death. When the plot was crafted and a man was made to resemble him, Prophet Isa AS was put into a deep slumber. During this period, he was raised by Allah SWT—asleep, but alive.
A third opinion also states that Prophet Isa AS had not been killed on the cross. Yet, when he was captured by the people, Allah did take his life. He died an actual death (i.e. his soul was separated from his body). After his death, he was raised to the skies. He will in the future be revived to return to Earth.
There are many other opinions on this issue; In this lecture, I only state three. It does not matter which opinion you hold. What matters is that we, as Muslims, agree that Prophet Isa AS had neither been crucified nor killed by his people. We believe that he had been raised to another world, awaiting his return to Earth as the Day of Judgement approaches. When the appointed day arrives, Prophet Isa AS will come to fight against disbelief and oppression.
On “contradictions” in the Qur’an
As believers, we need to understand and acknowledge this issue. Some non-Muslims may question us, saying, “How can you believe in the Qur’an when there are so many contradictions? In one part of the Qur’an it states that Jesus died. But in another part, it states that he was not killed. How can you reconcile this?”. Firstly, we need to stay firm in defending the Qur’an. Be clear that the scholars have already discussed this. The verses do not contradict one another. Rather, there are logical explanations behind each verse.
There was a book written to present over 20 occurrences of what they claim are grammatical errors in the Qur’an. We as Muslims should not be hasty to start doubting the Qur’an. Know that these seeming “contradictions” have already been discussed by scholars of the past (such as Imam al-Zamakhshari and Imam al-Qurtubi).
An example is given, in verse 63 of Surah Taha, where there is a supposed grammatical error in how the phrase “Inna Hazhaani” is recited by certain Qira’at. In Arabic grammar, we learn that the word “Hazhani”, if written after an “Inna”, should be written as “Hazhaini”. Anyone with basic grasp of Arabic knowledge might then claim that there was a typographical mistake. Questions then start to appear of the validity and authenticity of the Qur’an as we know it. If such a mistake could have occurred in one part of the Qur’an, how could we then trust that the rest of the Qur’an is free from error? How can we remain doubt-free?
The mistake here is to assume that we have complete knowledge of all things. We need to take initiative to learn from the experts. Even as the Mufti of Singapore, knowing Arabic knowledge for many years, only this month have I learnt that there was another meaning to the word “Inna” that I hadn’t been aware of. In some dialects, even during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, “Inna” is not used to mean “verily”. Instead, it is used to mean “yes”. In such a situation, the usage of “Hazhani” is grammatically sound. Only through reading and learning, did I discover this fact.
The knowledge of Allah is limitless. I urge all of you, whether as religious education teachers or as seekers of religious knowledge, to continuously learn. Do not ever assume that what you know is enough. Do not ever stop learning. No matter how much you already know, you can never completely understand the whole of the Qur’an. At times, the discussion behind the meaning and interpretation of what is written goes deeper than we realise.
On Prophet Isa AS being “the son of God”
ذَٰلِكَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۚ قَوْلَ الْحَقِّ الَّذِي فِيهِ يَمْتَرُونَ
Such was Isa AS, son of Mary. [This is] a statement of the Truth about which they are in doubt: [19:34]
What is written in the Qur’an is meant to dispel whatever uncertainty that exists about the true story of Prophet Isa AS. Anyone who refuses to accept this message will therefore remain doubtful.
مَا كَانَ لِلَّهِ أَن يَتَّخِذَ مِن وَلَدٍ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُون
It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son! Glory be to Him. When He decrees a matter, He simply tells it, “Be!” And it is! [19:35]
This verse was revealed as a response to the claims of the Christians that Prophet Isa AS was the son of God. Allah says that this is impossible. Allah is exalted far above such a claim!
The question then remains how it could be possible for Prophet Isa AS to be born without a father. All human beings are born out of an ovum from a mother being fertilised by the sperm of a father. It is difficult to comprehend how someone could be born without either of the two. The Christians claim that because Maryam AS had never been touched by a man, Isa AS could not have been born if he had not been the son of God.
Allah SWT responds to this by saying that nothing is impossible with Allah. If Allah wills for someone to be born without a father, then He SWT says, “Be!” and he is created. Likewise, Allah can create someone without a mother, just as Sayidatina Hawa was created from Prophet Adam AS’s rib. Even creating a human being without a mother or a father is possible. Prophet Adam AS was created without a predecessor. Yet, we do not claim that He is God, or that He is the son of God.
This is faith, we need to believe that whatever Allah wills to happen will happen. Regardless of how impossible it might be to understand, remember that Allah’s abilities are far beyond our limited capacity of comprehension.
وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ هَٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسْتَقِيم
(Isa AS also declared,) “Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (alone). This is the Straight Path.” [19:36]
This verse further addresses the Christians by reminding them that Prophet Isa AS too, called for Allah’s worship alone. He never claimed himself as God. Rather, he called to the worship of his God.
فَاخْتَلَفَ الْأَحْزَابُ مِن بَيْنِهِمْ ۖ فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن مَّشْهَدِ يَوْمٍ عَظِيم
Yet their (various) groups have differed among themselves (about him), so woe to the disbelievers when they face a tremendous Day! [19:37]
There is a difference of opinion between the different factions of Christianity regarding Prophet Isa AS. Some believe that he was God, others believe that he was the son of God, others say that He was one of many manifestations of God. We discuss these different opinions not with the intention of mocking or criticising them. Instead, we hope to understand their beliefs so that we might be clear of our own faith (Aqidah) and not get influenced by other belief systems. We believe that God is one and He does not have children. We believe that Isa AS was a human being just like us, sent to mankind as a messenger of God. We believe that he AS was born without a father.
Believing these facts whole-heartedly earns us a spot in Paradise. This was guaranteed in a hadith in which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“He who bears witness that there is no true god except Allah, alone having no partner with Him, that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger, that ‘Isa (Isa AS) is His slave and Messenger and he (Isa AS) is His Word which He communicated to Maryam (Mary) and His spirit which He sent to her, that Jannah is true and Hell is true; Allah will make him enter Jannah accepting whatever deeds he accomplished”.
The phrase “Word of Allah” has two connotations: (1) that Isa AS was able to speak by Allah’s will at childbirth and (2) that he was created by Allah’s Word rather than through the natural process of fertilisation. The phrase “Spirit from Allah” refers to the honour of blessings from Allah SWT that the spirit (ruh) of Prophet Isa AS was blown into Sayidatina Maryam’s womb during her pregnancy.
The conditions for entrance into paradise are (1) guarding one’s faith (aqidah), as mentioned in the hadith above, and (2) guarding one’s actions. Unlike the belief of other faiths, in Islam, sheer faith in God will not earn our spot in paradise. Our faith needs to be coupled with action for it to be accepted by Allah.
أَسْمِعْ بِهِمْ وَأَبْصِرْ يَوْمَ يَأْتُونَنَا ۖ لَٰكِنِ الظَّالِمُونَ الْيَوْمَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِين
How clearly will they hear and see on the Day they will come to Us! But today the wrongdoers are clearly astray. [19:38]
وَأَنذِرْهُمْ يَوْمَ الْحَسْرَةِ إِذْ قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ وَهُمْ فِي غَفْلَةٍ وَهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُون
And warn them (O Prophet) of the Day of Regret and Disappointment, when all matters will be settled, while they are (engrossed) in heedlessness and disbelief. [19:39]
“Yaumul Hasrah”, the Day of Regret, is another name for the Day of Judgement. This verse refers to two groups of people. The first are the disbelievers, who will be in hellfire, looking back on their life and regretting not having listened to the message and choosing to stay in disbelief. The second are believers who, although they’ve seen the joys of paradise, have regrets about how little worship they’ve done and how little goodness they have earned. However, there is good news for the latter group; Upon their entry into Jannah, Allah will remove the discontentment from their hearts, and they will feel pleased and satisfied with whatever they get.
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَرِثُ الْأَرْضَ وَمَنْ عَلَيْهَا وَإِلَيْنَا يُرْجَعُون
It is We who will inherit the earth and all who are on it: they will all be returned to Us. [19:40]
When we hear the word “inherit”, we define it as receiving something that used to belong to someone else (e.g. inheriting a parent’s wealth after his death). What we inherit is temporary as it will someday belong someone else when we ourselves die. Allah SWT is the only entity that exists forever. Nobody inherits from Allah. This verse reminds us that everything that exists on Earth will be returned to Allah SWT and He will never expire.
As a side note, I would like to mention a hadith narrated by Ibn Mas’ud RA:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺasked, “Who of you loves the wealth of his heir more than his own wealth?”.
The Companions said: “O Messenger of Allah! There is none of us but loves his own wealth more.”
Heﷺ said, “His wealth is that which he has sent forward, but that which he retains belongs to his heir.”
We learn from this hadith that wealth that is owned but not spent is not yours; It belongs to your inheritors. Whatever wealth that you own should be spent in the cause of Allah, not kept to yourselves. True richness lies not in hoarding your temporary wealth, but in using it to benefit others and earn Allah’s pleasure. At the end of the day, we need to remember that all that exists will eventually be returned to Allah. Do not be stingy in spending for Allah while you can, because the only person who loses out is you. Ultimately, when that wealth leaves you, you can no longer benefit from it.
On this topic, I would like to mention that in Islam, sins are not inherited. Christians believe that humankind is paying for the sins of Adam which have been inherited by the Children of Adam. Hence all children are born sinners and only through Christ’s death is there redemption and salvation. Only people who believe in Christ are saved and cleared of their sinful nature. On the Contrary, as Muslims, we believe that every child is born pure in a state of Fitrah, having no sins. The outcome of every person is chosen by his own freewill and not dictated by his parents. Sins cannot be inherited just as faith is not inherited. A parent’s sins do not make his child sinful and a pious parent does not guarantee a pious child. No person can bear the sins caused by another.
And with that, we have reached the end of the verses in Surah Maryam concerning the life of Sayidatina Maryam and Prophet Isa AS. May Allah grant us knowledge that is clear and true, knowledge that brings us closer to Allah SWT, dispels doubt and convinced us of His Oneness. Ameen.
Summary by: Arina Adom
Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables me to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.
Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS and is currently a Research Assistant at Evolutionary Biology Lab ( NUS ). She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.
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