Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
1. The last verse in yesterday’s reading (HQ3:52) was a question posited by Jesus, peace upon him, after he sensed Denial in those whom he had hoped would benefit from his guidance: “Who would be my Helpers in God’s cause?” The Disciples/the white-garbed ones (Y. Ali, Muhammad Asad respectively) responded, saying that they, indeed, will be Helpers in God’s cause for they have indeed believed in God, and that he (Jesus) should bear witness to their being ‘Muslimoon’ (those who are devoted purely to God/those who surrender unto God).
In Verse 53 they continue bearing witness to having faith in God and following His Messenger, Jesus, peace upon him. Read their ‘shahada’.
2. But not all of them were sincere, so while some were planning kill Jesus, God had His plan, and He imparted it to His Messenger (verse 55). He told Jesus that He will cleanse Him of the Unbelievers and their Denial, by taking him/causing him to die (Y. Ali/M. Asad respectively), and raising him, exalting him, unto Himself. The Deniers would suffer the consequences of their actions in this life and in the Hereafter (verse 56), while those who have faith and do good deeds will be recompensed.
It is important to read HQ4:157 to better understand how the Qur’an reports Jesus’ departure from this earth:
“And so, [We punished them] for the breaking of their pledge, and their refusal to acknowledge God's messages, and their slaying of prophets against all right, and their boast, "Our hearts are already full of knowledge"- nay, but God has sealed their hearts in result of their denial of the truth, and [now] they believe in but few things -; (155) and for their refusal to acknowledge the truth, and the awesome calumny which they utter against Mary, (156) and their boast, "Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, Messenger of God!" However, they did not slay him, and neither did they crucify him, but it only seemed so to them; and, verily, those who hold conflicting views thereon are indeed confused, having no [real] knowledge thereof, and following mere conjecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay him: (157) nay, God exalted him unto Himself - and God is indeed almighty, wise.
3. Conjecture is certainly all we can do right now, and trying to understand the issue of crucifixion wouldn’t change our faith in God or His Messengers one way or the other. Nevertheless, for the sake of general knowledge (not for argument, as this is all 'unseen' (gheyb) and can never be proven beyond doubt) it might be worthwhile to offer the most prominent explanations of this verse.
Some have put forward the argument that Jesus was ‘almost’ crucified but not really, because although he was put on the cross, he did not die on it, but was brought down before that. Others have posited that the person who was crucified was not Jesus at all, but the traitor Judas who was mistaken for Jesus. And then there are others, such as Kamal Salibi* who, although a committed Christian, resorts to Qur’anic evidence saying:
“A Christian might balk at the idea of resorting to the Koran for evidence concerning the origins of Christianity. But the holy book of Islam speaks profusely of Jesus and it would be unreasonable to reject its evidence before examining it” (p.46, Conspiracy in Jerusalem, I.B. Tauris, 1988).
He contends that, what certain parts of the Bible hold are in reality three stories, fused into one (two from history and one from legends of a deity); the crucifixion narrative being a fusion of two historical figures who lived centuries apart, with somewhat similar names, and with a mother called ‘Mary.’ We understand that, while the first was Jesus, Messenger of God, the other was someone who sought to revive the Kingdom of David, and was crucified by the very persons whose seats he sought to overthrow. Salibi recounts the joy of the Nazarene Christians when Muhammad appeared, bringing back to them the pureness of faith in God and the true history of the rightful Jesus who had been lost because of Paul’s ‘conspiracy’ (hence the title of the book). Many people from different faiths disagree with him.
Again, Conjecture is ALL we can do right now, so we leave it at that.
4. Verses 58-63 speak to Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, telling him (telling us, actually!) that is what God conveys to him. Then comes the explanation that Jesus and Adam are similar in that they were both of this earth, created by a word from God, ‘Be!’ which IS a Reality no one should doubt.
It seems that some did doubt, and history indicates that these were Christians from Najran who continued to believe in Jesus’ divinity, to the result of which the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, was told to invite them to a session of prayer in which both would bring their entire families and ask God to curse whomever among them were liars. He did invite them… they declined, and the debate ended peacefully, with a signed treaty (read notes 400-401 Y. Ali /47-48 M. Asad.)
5. Verses 64-68 are very important in showing us the common terms we could have with those who follow earlier Compilations- according to a BASIS we begin from; a common Word:
· We worship none but God.
· We associate none with God.
· We appoint none amongst ourselves as Lord or patron instead of God.
These are the three basic (Terms/Tenets) that WE can never compromise on, in ourselves, as Believers.
However, if OTHERS do not agree to these three tenets, we should simply let them be- to each his own- (as we saw with the delegation from Najran) it is ultimately God’s knowledge which indeed encompasses any who corrupt their own faith.
6. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian (verse 67). Rather, he was Consistently Inclined towards Righteousness (Haneefan), Pure in Faith and Deference to God (Musliman). Readers who are ‘consistent’ will remember those definitions! (See Posts of January 12th and Jan 29th )
Closest to Abraham (verse 68) are those who follow him, as well as THIS Prophet (Muhammad). We notice here that God did not say as well as this ‘Messenger’ Muhammad. What’s the significance?
As we read on, we will notice the great significance, for indeed, these two words are not interchangeable (although we might use one or the other without any distinction).
His title ‘Prophet’ is general, and always relates to his role amongst people, while his title ‘Messenger’ is specific, and ALWAYS relates purely to the Message, the Qur’an. That is why God would not refer to him as Messenger here, for the Message he bears is distinct from all previous Messages. In his capacity as Messenger -bearing God’s Final Message- he is distinctive. We’ll have more on that next time.
7. Verse 69 addresses the Believers, while verse 70 addresses Followers of earlier Revelation, warning, questioning:
“Why do you deny the truth of God’s Message, to which you, yourselves, do bear witness?”
Tomorrow’s reading is from HQ 3:71-83.
*Kamal Salibi is a Lebanese historian and a committed Christian. The driving force behind this book was his belief in the historical Jesus as well as his desire to reconcile certain Biblical contradictions.