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