The Da’wah of Isa AS
When Isa AS was around twelve, certain incidents happened, initiated by the king at the time, which necessitated he and his mother Maryam AS to flee Jerusalem and seek refuge in Egypt (and according to some less popular accounts, Damascus).
Isa AS grew up in a life of frugality, having with him the minimum of possessions and worldly attachments. As with all Prophets and Messengers, he displayed the utmost of good manner and morals. He was compassionate, humble and generous. He remained chaste and unmarried, devoting his life calling people towards Allah.
At the age of 30, Isa AS returned to his home village. During this time, Allah started giving Isa AS the prophetic revelations. Usually, Prophets and Messengers are granted revelations (and the commencement of their prophethood) at the age of 40, but exceptionally in the case of Isa AS and Yahya AS, the revelations started at an earlier age.
The messages of the previous Messengers and Prophets of Bani Israel, had by this time, become extremely corrupted. Further, the rabbis in the community of Bani Israel used to encourage people to donate money to the religious establishments as a means of personal enrichment, rather than for legitimate charitable purposes. They did not fulfil their obligations to spread the message of the Almighty, and thus the general community remained ignorant about the message of Allah. The rabbis did not guide or correct the mistakes of their people, and did not educate them of the scriptures. Religion at this time was a means of obtaining financial gain, with the gap between the rich and the poor becoming greater.
The cycle of mankind’s previous mistakes repeated. As with the former communities, the original scriptures were not only abandoned, but entirely manipulated and distorted. Those wielding religious power used the scriptures for their own personal gains, living luxurious lives obtained from the donations of rich and poor devotees, which are in glaring contradiction to the teachings of simplicity and disassociating from the material life.
Against this corrupted backdrop, Isa AS invited his community to the message of Allah. While the rest of the people were drowning in materialism, Isa AS led an austere life, wore clothing of coarse wool and never even married. His diet was simple and he did not indulge in the excessive lifestyle enjoyed by the majority of society. He did not possess any wealth or property. Not surprisingly, like with most previous Prophets and Messengers, very few of the community were willing to follow his guidance.
Isa’s AS teachings were consistent with the message of the previous Prophets and Messengers. He invited people towards the Oneness of Allah, to shun the love of dunia and to remember Allah in abundance and with humility.
“Isa ibn Maryam used to say, ‘Do not speak much without the mention of Allah for you will harden your hearts. A hard heart is far from Allah, but you do not know. Do not look at the wrong actions of people as if you were lords. Look at your wrong actions as if you were slaves. Some people are afflicted by wrong action and some people are protected from it. Be merciful to the people of affliction and praise Allah for His protection.’” (Malik’s Muwatta)
He also mentioned to his disciples: “As the kings and rulers have left the wisdom for you, you leave the dunia for them.”
He further advised his disciples: “Eat of barley breads, and drink of pure water, and go out to the world in peace. The sweetness of this world is the bitterness of the Hereafter, and the bitterness of this world is the sweetness of the Hereafter. Allah’s true slaves do not live in luxuries. I am saying truly that the scholar who gives preference to his desires and lust over his knowledge, likes that everyone should become like him.”
The consistent message of taqwa or fear of God was also spread by him. He reminded his people: “O weak son of Adam! Fear Allah wherever you may be, live in this world like a guest, and take the mosque as your home, and teach your eyes to cry, and your body to endure, and your heart to reflect. And do not worry about tomorrow’s provision, for it is a sin.”
Isa AS was also given the Injeel from Allah. This is not to be confused with the modern version of the Bible found in the market today, which is a corrupted amalgamation of holy scriptures together with numerous insertions by men, but is the pure version of the holy scriptures which confirm the teachings of the Almighty (and in some cases, repeal the earlier injunctions and prohibitions placed upon Bani Israel on certain rulings).
And He (Allah) will teach him [Isa] the Book and Al-Hikmah (i.e. the Sunnah, the faultless speech of the Prophets, wisdom, etc.), (and) the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel). (Al Qur’an 3:48)
And We sent, following in their footsteps, Isa, the son of Maryam, confirming that which came before him in the Taurat (Torah); and We gave him the Injeel (Gospel), in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. (Al Qur’an 96:13)
Isa AS also prophesized the coming of the final prophet and messenger to mankind (as opposed to previously where the Prophets and Messengers were only sent to specific communities), being Muhammad SAW. To note is that in the Arabic language, the name Ahmad is a derivative of the name Muhammad. This prophecy is mentioned in the Qur’an, and also the denial of Muhammad SAW’s prophethood:
And [mention] when Isa, the son of Maryam, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.” (Al Qur’an 61:6)
Yet, despite all his efforts, only a handful of people followed his calling. Even then, their faith was weak even though they claimed otherwise, and their love of dunia remained firmly entrenched in their hearts.