The end of the story of Isa AS is shrouded in controversy between the Muslims and the Christians. Apart from the concept of the trinity (which is strongly refuted in Muslim scriptures), Christian doctrines claim that Isa AS was crucified: to the extent that the cross or the crucifix is accepted as the symbol of Christianity. According to the Muslim teachings, Isa AS was neither killed nor crucified, but was raised to heaven.
There are several accounts of how the attempt on Isa’s AS life took place. In one version, the king of the time commanded that Isa AS be killed, and one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Isa AS and revealed his whereabouts to the king’s men. As a punishment, Allah transformed his features so that he resembled Isa AS, and he was the one who was arrested and crucified instead. In another version, when the king’s men entered the house where Isa AS was in, Isa AS asked his disciples which of them would like to bear his likeness and be killed in his place, upon which one of his disciples volunteered and was crucified in his place. There are other versions of the story, but there is no single authenticated version under Hadith or Qur’an.
What is certain is that Isa AS was neither killed nor crucified, but someone else was made to bear his likeness. This is clearly stated in the Qur’an:
“And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Isa, the son of Maryam, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.” (Al Qur’an 4:157)
Instead of crucifixion, the Qur’an confirms that Isa AS was raised to Allah:
“Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Al Qur’an 4:158)
“[Mention] when Allah said, “O Isa, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.” (Al Qur’an 3:55)
Given that Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, we consider the subject closed and not worthy of any further debate. In particular, there is no advantage in relying and refuting contrary beliefs based on Christian scriptures, as the Qur’an has the overriding and final say on this subject, and as Muslims, we are not to accept any other information that contradicts with the word of the Almighty.
What Happened to the Message?
Over the centuries, the message of Isa AS steadily distorted, and when combined with the existing corruption already done by the scholars of Bani Israel to the Taurat and Zabur, the message of Islam became corrupted. Fundamental notions of the Almighty’s Oneness were openly contradicted through the concept of Isa AS being the son of God, and also the concept of the trinity: these deviations challenge the very root of Allah’s Oneness and His attributes and are an abomination of the original message of Islam.
The teachings of Isa AS were subsequently consolidated with the previous scriptures, but these were intermingled with the existing lies and falsehood propagated by Bani Israel to the divine message. The origins of the Bible in its present form cannot be authoritatively traced back to the time of Isa AS, although some Christian historians assert that the form of the Bible available today was compiled 100 to 600 years after the supposed crucifixion of Isa AS.
This phenomenon is already described in the Qur’an:
There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it! (Al Qur’an 3:78)
They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam, while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)) to worship none but One Ilah (God – Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).” (Al Qur’an 9:31)
This is nothing new, which is why Allah has repeatedly sent Prophets and Messengers to different communities in order to correct them every time they deviated from the message.
In the case of Isa AS, only one subsequent Prophet was sent to correct these deviations, this time to the entire mankind instead of the community of Bani Israel specifically. The guidance is through the Qur’an, which completed the message of the previous holy scriptures, and the messenger is Muhammad SAW:
And this Quran is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah (Lord of the heavens and the earth), but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.], and a full explanation of the Book (i.e. laws and orders, etc, decreed for mankind) – wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns ,and all that exists). (Al Qur’an 10:37)
In the case of the Qur’an, there is only one single version in existence. There is no deviation at all, no matter which part of the world the Qur’an is located and which century it was published. The only differences are in the translation and the interpretation, but it is unanimously agreed that there is only one version of the Qur’an, which has not changed by a single letter since the time it was revealed over 1400 years ago.
The Qur’an warns:
Indeed, We sent down the Taurat (Torah), in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers. (Al Qur’an 5:44)
That aside, the deviation of the priests and rabbis from the original message of Allah is already mentioned in the Qur’an, together with a warning on their fates:
O you who have believed, indeed many of the scholars and the monks devour the wealth of people unjustly and avert [them] from the way of Allah. And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – give them tidings of a painful punishment. (Al Qur’an 9:34)
We can see live examples of these, and the abuse and corruption of the teachings of Christianity and its message. However, like many of the religions, it is not the original doctrine that is the issue, but the corruption of man that has tainted the original message.
The Second Coming
The story of Isa AS is unique in one final sense: it is not over yet. All other Prophets and Messengers (including Rasulullah SAW) have passed away after the completion of their missions, and their time on earth is over. In the case of Isa AS, he will, close to the end of the world, descend back to the earth to complete his mission, which is to defeat the Dajjal (the Antichrist) and to lead the Muslims in waging a final battle against the disbelievers and restoring peace on earth. He will then, like the rest of his prophets in brotherhood, die a natural death.
All this lies in the realms of the unknown, but have been prophesised in various ahadeeth. In part of one long hadith on the end of time, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Dajjal (the Antichrist) will appear in my Ummah and he will stay in the world for forty. I do not know whether this will be forty days or forty months or forty years. Allah will then send Isa, son of Maryam. Isa will pursue him and slaughter him. Then people will survive for seven years (i.e., after the demise of Isa) in the state that there will be no rancour between two persons.” (Bukhari)
In another account, after explaining the coming of the Dajjal and the horrifying events that follow, the following Hadith describes in detail:
“… and it will be at this very time that Allah will send Isa, son of Maryam who will descend at the white minaret in the eastern side of Damascus, wearing two garments lightly dyed and placing his hands on the wings of two angels. When he will lower his head, there would fall drops of water from his head, and when he will raise it up, drops like pearls would scatter from it. Every disbeliever who will find his (i.e., Isa’s) smell will die and his smell will reach as far as he will be able to see. He will then search for Dajjal until he will catch hold of him at the gate of Ludd (village near Jerusalem), and will kill him. Then the people, whom Allah will have protected, will come to Isa son of Maryam, and he will wipe their faces and will inform them of their ranks in Jannah, and it will be under such conditions that Allah will reveal to Isa these words: `I have brought forth from amongst my slaves such people against whom none will be able to fight, so take these people safely to the mountain.’ And then Allah will send Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog people) and they will sworn down from every slope. The first of them will pass the Lake Tabariyah (near the Dead Sea in Palestine) and drink all its water. And when the last of them will pass, he will say: `There was once water there.’ Prophet Isa (AS) and his companions will then be so much hard-pressed that the head of an ox will be dearer to them than one hundred dinar, and Isa along with his companions, will make supplication to Allah, Who will send insects which will attack their (Ya’juj and Ma’juj people) neck until they all will perish like a single person. Prophet Isa and his companions will then come down and they will not find in the earth as much space as a single span which would not be filled with their corpses and their stench. Prophet Isa and his companions will then again beseech Allah, Who will send birds whose necks will be like those of Bactrian camels, and they will carry them and throw them where Allah will desire. Then Allah will send down rain which will spare no house in the city or in the countryside. It would wash away the earth until it appears like a mirror. Then the earth will be told to bring forth its fruit and restore its blessings …‘” [Muslim] (part of a longer hadith)
Throughout the history of mankind, every time the Almighty sent messengers and prophets to convey His message to mankind, the disbelievers always asked for proof. The Creator, according to His own wisdom, chose different miracles for different times. Even then, we can see human being’s stubbornness, arrogance and argumentative nature, and even denying his own faculty and basic common sense when the Creator shows him the miracles.
In the story of Isa AS, the people went into two deep trials. First, in the presence of Isa AS, the disbelievers denied him even after witnessing all the miracles they asked him to produce. In fact, their disbelief increased in spite of the miracles they saw.
The second group was so impressed by all the miracles that later on in history, they went the other extreme and claimed that Isa AS could not have been a human being. They generated Christianity with the basis of, depending on the denomination of Christianity, Isa AS being either God or the son of God or a part of the divine trinity.
Isa AS never got married or owned property, and like all previous Messenger and Prophets, had a beard. He greeted his disciples with greetings of “Peace be upon you.” He prostrated to the ground in worship. As with the people during his time, some have chosen to imitate his life to the extreme, while others chose the status quo to remain in dunia. This is no different from all the earlier cycles of humanity when a prophet and messenger was sent amongst them.
The main message of Isa AS warns us against the material life and how it pollutes the heart and soul of humanity. When the religious message becomes tainted through corrupt dissemination by the leader or follower, it leads to people becoming completely astray. We, Muslims and non Muslims alike, are in this condition because of corruption, ignorance and even neglecting or fighting the truth. In every era, a very small number seek the truth and the majority seek corruption. However, the truth, by the will of God, will always be apparent for those who sincerely seek it. All the miracles, and all the incidents were only to help the people to believe.
If you are a Muslim, thank Allah for His guidance, learn your faith thoroughly and try to help others to understand by understanding your own faith. As Muslims, we have a lot of work to do to save our soul and help others.
As a final word, this is not intended to be a discourse of Islam v Christianity. If you are interested in this topic, there is plenty of material, online and in printed materials, that we will be happy to refer you to and which you can research independently.
A Short Note about the Bible
According to Muslim scholars, even the Arabic terminology of “Injeel” is misunderstood. The Injeel as mentioned in the Qur’an refers to the sacred scriptures given by God to Isa AS, while the Bible originally means the Holy Book. Hence the Bible as described above, is not to be confused with the Injeel or gospel described in the Qur’an.
Unlike authentic Hadith, where the chain of transmission is carefully recorded to protect authenticity (the criteria for an accepted chain of transmission includes the moral integrity of the transmitter as well as his ability to listen and record accurately), no equivalent record is maintained in the chain of transmission regarding the additional texts to the modern day Bible.
Added to the fact that much of the original message was lost in translation (the transition from Aramaic to Greek or Latin, when historically Isa AS lived amongst the Hebrew speaking Bani Israel who had no association with these languages), it is doubtful as to which of the passages of the Bible are from the pure scriptures. From the already unauthenticated versions in Aramaic, Latin and Greek, the Bible was then re-translated into English, German and other European languages, adding to the misinterpretations of the translators and scholars.
There is not a single version of the modern day Bible which is unanimously agreed to by Christian scholars as being the unadulterated and definitive version of the Bible, due to its many versions and revisions. It is not just variances caused by translation, but also the substantive contents, which differ from one version to another, and the constant reinterpretations and new editions over the passage of time. These various versions of the current Bible are not in conformity with each other. The current version of the Bible contains some of the words of God, some of the words of Isa AS, and the remainder cite the texts and opinions of others such as John, Luke, Paul and Matthew.
There is also a “red letter” editions of the Bible, where instead of quotation marks, texts claimed to be from the original word of God and Isa AS are marked in red. We do not intend to provide a commentary on this, save that on a high level reading of it, such passages make up a fraction of the contents. Hence we leave it to the reader to analyze and draw his own conclusions on whether the current form of the Bible, if seen in totality, can be stated authoritatively to be the sole word of God.