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Qur’an 3:55: Did Jesus die?

In Islam it has been discussed whether Jesus was dead and he went to Allah after his death, or he travelled to heaven alive. One of the discussion points is about the explanation of Qur´an 3:55:

(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ. (Pickthall)

Interpretation of Qur’an 3:55

The key how to explain this verse is in the Arabic word متوفيك (mutawaffika). Within the verse is the Arabic word, “mutawaffika”, which has as root “tawaffa”. This word can have many meanings:

In the Qur’an “tawaffa” has a frequency of 26 times with 24 times translated with “to die” or “to cause to die”. Only two times with “to sleep” and a translation with “to take” doesn’t occur. An example is Qur’an 19:33 – Pickthall: “Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!”. Al Qur’an translators agree that "wafat" means death and they used this translation 20 times or more. Almost all occurrences of “tawaffa” have a relation with death. In all case without exception it is about gathering of a person to God. It is the common way that we die before we go to God.

Wider context

Qur’an 3:55-57: “(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ. As for those who disbelieve I shall chastise them with a heavy chastisement in the world and the Hereafter; and they will have no helpers. And as for those who believe and do good works, He will pay them their wages in full. Allah loveth not wrong-doers.” “I am gathering thee” means that Jesus died. Jesus is Messiah. However, the Jews threw rubbish on him, but God said this was kufr (unbelief). They said he must die and he must die by hanging, because the Torah says who is hanged is cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). So they demanded of the Roman government to crucify him. God sent to the Jews the prophet John the Baptist and Jesus, the Messiah. They carried with them an overwhelming proof by God that no ground was left for anyone to not to believe in them. However, almost all made the decision to be hostile to God’s will. With the result that the Israelites missed this last chance. They rejected the message of God and committed brutal and horrific crimes. One of their chiefs had John beheaded on a party with a dancing girl, and their priests and scribes made the request to the local Roman government to have Jesus put to death. When they finally saw Jesus on the cross, it was now confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that he is not the Messiah. The Jews were disappointed to Jesus that he never established the Khalifa State, which had to be restored. He did not bring back the golden age. But the Messiah did not bring back a Khalifa State of the world, but the Holy State of Israel. God’s Messiah will rule the world. Not as an imperial power, not as oppressing others. We will rule the world one more time, because it is divinely and ordained. [1]. “Am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection” means that God will place those who follow Jesus above those who disbelieve power till the Day of Judgment.

Refutation from many Muslims that Jesus died

Some Muslims tried to refute that “tawaffa” does not mean death, and therfore that Jesus did not die. However, this is not according to early Islam tradition. The hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari commenting on Ibn Abbas in Sahih Al-Bukhari mentions [2]: “I am dead, that is, your death”. There is more evidence about the death of Jesus in Al-Bukhari [3]. There is rising support for the death of Jesus under Muslims, such as Mahmoud Ayoub [4].

Conclusion

There is a movement to go back to the explanation of Qur’an 3:55 to early Islam that Jesus died. Today, the support for the fact that Jesus died is rising in Islam.

Notes

  1. Sheikh Imran Hosein, The Return of Jesus The Messiah, Dawah Digital, London, 2018.
  2. Ibn Hajar, Commentary, The Book of Tafseer, Interpretation of Surat Al-Maidah 1410/26.
  3. Sahih al-Bukhari, The translation of the Meanings of Sahih al-Bukhari, 5th revised edition, Translation Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, 1984, Volume 3, Number 3263 and Volume 4, Number 4349, 4463.
  4. Mahmoud Ayoub, Towards an Islamic Christology, II: The Death of Jesus, Reality or Delusion, The Muslim World, XXX, no 2, 94.

Does the Qur’an say that Jesus died?

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