The Prophet 'Isa ibn Maryam
Peace be upon him
The Prophet 'Isa ibn Maryam
The story of a miracle
The Prophet 'Isa was the last of the Messengers before the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. His is a story which reveals the conquering Will of Allah, His absolute Power and His fine Wisdom. Everything about 'Isa is a miracle. His birth was such a miracle that it is hard to believe in. People who reject Allah believe only in what they can see for themselves. They are ignorant of the Power of Allah which controls all things, and of the Will of Allah which cannot be resisted. His command when He wills something is that He says, 'Be!' and it is. (Quran 36: 82)
However, the birth of Isa is accepted easily by those who believe in Allah as a powerful, transforming God, a Creator and a Maker. He is Allah , the Creator, the Maker , the Fashioner. He has the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Quran 59: 24)
Such people believe that Adam was created from water and clay without a mother or father. To believe in a birth by a mother without a father is easier than to believe in a birth without a mother or a father. That is why Allah said: The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam. He created him from earth and then said to him, 'Be!' and he was. (Quran 3: 59)
Everything about 'Isa was extraordinary
Everything related to the Prophet 'Isa was extraordinary. He was born at a time when Greece had made its greatest advances in rational sciences, mathematics and medicine.
The Jews followed a worldly point of view
The Jews, though a community who had given many Prophets, at this time rejected the Spirit of God and anything connected to it. They found a worldly explanation for everything. The miracles which Allah bestowed on the Prophet Isa were designed to cure that narrow, worldly point of view, It was what was needed in that age.
As a community, the Jews depended only on what they themselves witnessed. They had a great veneration for race and blood, and a love of money and property. They were completely engrossed in this life. Their hearts became hard, and their natures became course. They were not kind to the weak nor gentle towards the poor. They treated people who had no Israelite blood in their veins as worthless. They were humble towards the strong and rich, and tyrannical towards the poor and weak. They were harsh when they had power and yielding when they were without power. Hypocrisy and servility, trickery and cunning, and resorting to conspiracy and secretiveness were engendered in them by a life of abasement and servitude which they had long endured in Syria and Palestine under Roman rule.
Scorn and disobedience
Over the ages, the Jews' scorn tor the Prophets had increased. So too, in their community, had murder, dealings with usury, joking about religious teachings, and lack of compassion. The hearts of many of them were stripped of sincere love of Allah. They forgot about charity, equality, piety and generosity. They had once believed in Prophethood and the Message, and there had been many Prophets among them and their books were filled with reports about them But, in the end, they only believed in what suited their purpose. They opposed those who criticized them, called them to account and called them to true religion, and even made war on them.
Allah's blessing to the Israelites
At one time the Jews had been a nation apart from other nations by their belief in the Divine Unity. That is why they were preferred over other people at that time. Allah the Exalted says: 'O Children of Israel, remember My blessing to you which l bestowed on you and that I preferred you over all the worlds.' (Quran 2: 47)
Because they mixed with idol-worshipping people, gradually the Jews failed to honour the teachings of the Prophets, They began to adopt spurious beliefs and ignorant customs. They had worshipped the Calf after their escape from Egypt, and they developed a great veneration for 'Uzayr, even claiming that he was more than human. Their insolence led them to ascribe idol- worship, magic and unbelief and ugly deeds to certain Prophets. They did not fear Allah any more.
Pride and conceit
Jn spite of all these faults, the Jews took great pride in their lineage and gave great weight to their hopes and dreams. They said: 'We are the sons and beloved of Allah.' (Quran 5: 18) And they said: 'The Fire will only touch us for a certain number of days.' (Quran 2: 80)
The birth of the Messiah challenges the ordinary senses
The birth, life, and message of the Messiah challenged the Jews' perception, custom and law. It also challenged the highest ideals in which they believed and the ends for which they competed and fought. The Messiah was born in a most unusual way. He spoke to people while he was still in the cradle and grew up in the care of a poor, chaste mother. He lived in a climate of slander and hostility, far from the trappings of prestige and wealth. He sat with poor people, ate with them and was kind to them. He comforted the weak and the stranger. He treated equally the rich and the poor, the judge and the judged, and the high-born and the lowly.
The miracles of the Messiah
Allah granted the Messiah Prophethood and revelation. He gave him the Gospel and supported him with the Holy Spirit and wonderful miracles. Allah gave him healing for the sick whom the doctors had failed to cure. He healed people who had been blind from birth, and the lepers, and brought the dead to life by the permission of Allah. He shaped clay into something like the form of a bird, and then breathed into it and it became a bird by the permission of Allah. He told people what they had eaten and what they had stored up in their houses.
All of this restored trust and belief in the miracles of the Messengers and the reports of divine power contained in the Torah. But those who rejected the reality of Divine Power and the force of the Will of the Lord rose up. They declared that there could be nothing new and nothing beyond the worldly knowledge they already possessed.
'Isa's call to true religion and the Jews' rejection of him
'Isa uncovered the lies of the Jews in many of the matters that they had dreamed up and practiced. They made unlawful what Allah had made lawful and lawful what Allah had made unlawful. 'Isa began to call them to the spirit and heart of true religion, to its basis and inward reality, to the love of Allah which comes before every other love, to mercy and respect for mankind, and to charity towards the poor. He called them to pure belief in God and dismissed all the ignorant customs and false beliefs which had crept into the religion of the Prophets.
The Jews oppose 'Isa
Isa's teaching proved unbearable to the Jews. They became hostile to him. They poured blame on him, and taunted him with suspicions and slander. They used curses and foul words against him. They slandered his mother, Maryam the Virgin. They attacked him, aroused the rabble against him and ridiculed his teachings.
The story of 'Isa in the Qur'an
Then the Jews sought to kill 'Isa and be rid of him, but Allah protected him and turned their plots back against them. He raised him to Himself and honoured him. Read the story in the Qur'an:
When the angels said: 'Maryam! Allah gives you the good news of a word from Him . His name is Messiah, 'Isa the son of Maryam noteworthy in this world and in the Hereafter , one of those brought near. He will speak to people in the cradle and when he is an adult. He is one of the righteous.'
She said: 'My Lord! How can l have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: 'Just like that . Allah creates whatever He wills. When He decrees something. He only says to it, "Be!" and it is. He will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel, and he will be a Messenger to the Children of Israel.'
'I have brought you a sign from your Lord. I will form for you out of clay something similar to the form of a bird and f will breathe into it and it will become a bird by Allah's permission. I will heal the blind from birth and the leper and I will bring the dead back to life by the permission of Allah and tell you what you eat and what you store up in your houses . There is a sign for you in that if you are believers. I confirm what is before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was unlawful for you . I have brought you a sign from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me. Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path.'
When 'Isa sensed rejection in them, he said: ' Who are my helpers to Allah?' The disciples said: 'We are the helpers of Allah. We believe in Allah. We testify that we are those who submit (to Him). Our Lord ' we believe in what You have sent down . We follow the Messenger, so write us down among the witnesses!' (Those who rejected) plotted and Allah plotted. Allah is the best of plotters.
When Allah said: "Isa, l will take you and raise you up to Me and purify you from those who have rejected. I will place those who follow you above those who have rejected until the Day of judgement Then you (all) will return to Me and l will judge between you regarding that about which you used to differ. Those who reject, l will punish them with a terrible punishment in this world and the Next World . They will have no helpers.'
Those who believe and do good deeds will be given their wages in full. Allah does not love the wrong-doers. That is what We recite to you of the signs and Wise Reminder.
The example of 'Isa in the sight of Allah is as the example of Adam. He created him from earth and then He said to him , 'Be!' and he was. The truth is from your Lord. Do not be one of the doubters.' (Quran 3: 45-60)
Isa's life and call in the Qur'an
Read Allah's description of 'Isa's life and call:
'I am the slave of Allah. Allah has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined me to pray and to pay the zakat as long as l am alive and to be dutiful to my mother. He did not make me arrogant and wretched. Peace be upon me the day l was born, the day I die and the day I will be raised up alive.' (Quran 19: 30—3)
An eternal conflict
What had happened to other Prophets before him happened to Isa. The rulers and leaders kept away from him. The rich and powerful ignored him. They thought it a sin to believe in him and his followers. They would not give up the leadership, position, privilege and distinction they enjoyed. The words of Allah are true:
We sent no warner into any city except that its wealthy said; 'We disbelieve in the Message you have been sent with.' They also said: 'We are more abundant in wealth and children, and we will not be punished,' (Quran 34: 34-5)
The belief of the common and poor people
'Isa despaired of the obstinacy and disbelief of the wealthy people. They rejected the clear signs and wonderful miracles he had brought even though they knew they were true, they belittled him because he did not have power and might. So 'Isa devoted himself to the common and poor people whose hearts yielded, whose souls were pure because they lived by the toil of their hands and the sweat of their brows. They did not boast of lineage nor become insolent because of rank and position. A group of them, including fishermen, craftsmen and workers believed.
We are the helpers of Allah
These people believed in the Messiah and gathered around him and placed their hands in his hand and said:
'We are the helpers of Allah.' Allah says:
When 'Isa sensed rejection in them, he said: 'Who are my helpers to Allah?' The disciples said; 'We are the helpers of Allah.' We believe in Allah. We testify that we are those who submit (to Him). Our Lord, we believe in what You have sent down. We follow the Messenger, so write us down among the witnesses!' (Quran 3: 52-3)
Travel and call
'Isa spent most of his time travelling from place to place teaching about the One God. He called the Israelites to Allah and guided those among them who were astray to their Lord and Master. In his travels he met with both ease and hardship. He endured all this with patience and accepted it in gratitude. He endured hunger and was content with just enough food to keep body and soul together.
The disciples ask for a table from heaven
The disciples did not have the same degree of patience that Isa had, not his steadfastness, discipline and self-control. They were afflicted by the continual hardship and wanted 'Isa to ask Allah to send down a table from heaven for them, from which they could eat and be filled after their hunger, and have comfort after their difficulties.
But the disciples did not behave correctly when making their request. They said : 'Is it possible for your Lord to send down on us a Table from out of heaven?' (Quran 5: 112) 'Isa did not like their request or the manner in which they presented it to him. The Prophets ask their communities to believe in the Unseen, and make it obligatory for them to do so. Miracles are not games to amuse children and divert the gullible. They are signs from Allah which He manifests at the hands of His Prophets whenever He likes. Through them the proof of Allah is established against His slaves. They are not given any reprieve after these miracles appear and are rejected.
Warning his people about a bad punishment
Isa was afraid for the disciples because of their request for a table from heaven. He warned them about incurring an evil punishment. He forbade them to put Allah to the test. He is too High and Majestic for that.
Insistence and earnest request
But the disciples repeated their request. They explained that they did not intend to test Allah, rather they wanted to put their hearts at ease. They intended it to be a reminder to future generations and a story to be told and reported for years to come. It would be a proof of the truth of the religion and of the situation of the first believers and truthful disciples.
The Qur'an relates the story
The Qur'an recounts this story thus:
When the disciples said: 'O 'Isa son of Maryam, is it possible for your Lord to send down on us a Table from out of heaven?' He said: Tear Allah , if you are believers.' They said: 'We want to eat from it and for our hearts to be at rest, and that we may know that you have spoken the truth to us, and that we may be among the witnesses to that.' 'Isa the son of Maryam said: O Allah, our Lord, send down on us a Table from out of heaven to be a festival for us, for the first of us and the last of us, and a sign from You. Provide for us. You are the best of providers.'
Allah said: 'I will send it down on you. Whoever of you disbelieves afterwards, l will punish him with such a punishment that I will not punish any other being.' (Quran 5: 1 1 2 — 15)
The Jews try to get rid of the Prophet 'Isa
The patience of the Jews ran out as their enmity and obstinacy increased. They wanted to be rid of 'Isa. They took his case to the Roman governor, saying: 'He is an anarchist, a revolutionary who has renounced our religion. He seduces our young men so they are led astray by him. He divides us, calls our dreams foolish and worries us.'
The style of avengers and politicians
The Jews said of 'Isa: 'He is a danger to the state. He does not submit to the government or obey the law. He does not respect the great nor revere the ancient. He is a revolutionary. If his evil is not contained, things will reach a crisis. Do not ignore a spark, no matter how trifling.'
Deceit and cunning
The Jews' words were full of deceit and cunning. They knew that mention of Isa's activities would not influence the governors nor provoke them, as their policy was not to meddle in the religious affairs of the Jews. That is why the Jews accused 'Isa of being involved in politics.
It was difficult for the Roman, idol-worshipping governors to decide on the truth of the matter and to recognize the motives of the Jews, and the reason for their enmity towards the Messiah. They were distracted from this question by administrative matters. But the Jews were very insistent and kept coming back to them. The Roman governors wanted to be finished with this case which had become the talk of the town.
The Prophet 'Isa in court
It was a Friday afternoon, before the night of the Sabbath. The Jews did not do anything on the Sabbath. It was a day of rest. They were very eager for the governors' judgement against Isa to be given before the sun set on Friday. Then they could go to sleep with peace of mind. They would be able to relax in the morning, with nothing to annoy them.
The judge was bored with the case. He had no interest in It nor did it contain any benefit for the Romans. The Jews gathered to hear the sentence. Time was short, the sun was nearly setting. The judge gave judgement against 'Isa, that he should be put to death by crucifixion.
The law at that time
The law at that time demanded that the condemned man be made to carry the cross on which he was to be crucified. The place of execution was a long way off. A crowd gathered, pushing against each other. The soldiers had no interest in the case. The Israelites all looked alike to them, they could not distinguish one from the other. It was evening and the shadows had lengthened. Some of the Jews and zealous fools among the young men were making fun of the Messiah. They were pushing him, cursing him, insulting him, keen to injure and humiliate him.
'Isa endures the injury
The Messiah was weary, exhausted by the effort and the length of time he had to stand in the court and the injuries he had to endure. The cross he carried was heavy. He could only go slowly.
Then the soldier in charge of the procession commanded a young Israelite, who was the most zealous, the most foolish, the one most eager to injure and attack the Messiah, to carry the cross. The soldier wanted the whole business speedily resolved, to be free of the burdensome responsibility.
But it was a likeness of him
When the procession reached the place of execution, the gallows guard came forward to take charge of the condemned man from the city guard. They saw the young man carrying the cross. In the confusion, with the young men pushing and shouting, they seized hold of the man carrying the cross, thinking that he was the one condemned to be crucified. He was yelling and shouting, declaring that he was innocent and had nothing to do with the sentence. He had been made to carry the cross by force. The Roman soldiers paid no attention to him. They did not understand his dialect.
Carrying out the sentence
Every criminal claims that he is innocent of his crime. Every criminal shouts and cries out. The guards seized the young Israelite and carried out the sentence. The Jews were standing at a distance. Night was falling and everything was in darkness. They all thought that the crucified man was the Messiah.
'Isa was raised to heaven
As for the Prophet 'Isa, the son of Maryann, Allah the Exalted saved him from the plots of the Jews and raised him up to Himself, honoured him and purified him of those who had rejected.
The Qur'an recounts the story
These are Allah's words about the Jews:
'For their disbelief and uttering great slander against Maryam and their saying, "We killed the Messiah 'Isa son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah." But they did not kill him nor crucify him, but only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who disagreed about him are in doubt about him. They have no knowledge about him , only following conjectures. They did not truly kill him . Allah raised him to Himself. Allah Is Mighty, the Wise.' (Quran 4: 156)
He is in the heavens as Allah the Exalted, Who has the power to do anything He wills, willed him to be. His birth was a marvel, as were his life and everything about him. From first to last, he was a marvel, a miracle to confirm absolute Divine Power.
The descent of 'Isa before the Day of Resurrection
'Isa will descend from heaven when Allah wills. He will establish the proof against those of the Jews and 1Christians who abandoned him or went to excess about him. He will assist the truth and vanquish the people of falsehood, as our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has informed us. There are many sound reports and ahadith about this matter. The Muslims of every age believe in it. Allah the Sublime spoke this truth:
'There is not one of the People of the Book who will not believe in him before his death and on the Day of Rising he will be a witness against them.' (Quran 4: 159)
His good news about the sending of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace
'Isa did not complete his prophetic task due to the intense hostility and plotting of the Jews against him, and his own weakness and lack of helpers. He took leave of the people and obeyed his Lord's command. He gave them the good news of a Messenger to come after him whose job was to complete what he had begun. That message would spread throughout the world. Through him the blessing of Allah to His slaves would be completed and the proof against His creation established.
When 'Isa the son of Maryam said: 'O Children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah to you, confirming what is before me of the Torah and giving good news of a Messenger who will come after me whose name is Ahmad.' (Quran 61 : 6)
From pure Tawhid to an obscure belief
One of the oddities in the history of religions makes one weep and one's heart bleed. It is that the Messiah's declaration of Allah's unity and his call to a dear religion, to worship Allah alone, seeking refuge in Him and having pure love for Him, was changed to an obscure creed and complicated philosophy.
Instead, his followers said: The Messiah is the son of Allah.' They said: 'Allah has taken a son.' They said: 'Allah is the Messiah, the son of Maryam.' They tried to make of the One Eternal God, who does not beget and was not begotten, a family composed of three persons, all of them divine. They said: The father, the son and the Holy Ghost.'
They believe in Maryam, the mother of the Messiah, and elevate her to the level of sanctification and worship. They say: The Mother of God,' and statues and images of her are common in churches. The Christians bow to these images, seek refuge in them, and make supplication, vows and acts of devotion to them. Allah the Exalted has rejected such belief and worship:
The Messiah son of Maryam was only a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him. His mother was a truthful woman. They both ate food. See how We make the signs dear to them. Then see how they have turned aside from the truth. Say: 'Do you worship, apart from Allah, what can neither hurt nor benefit you? Allah is the Hearing , the Knowing.' (Quran 5: 75-6)
'Isa calls to the worship of the One God
Like other Prophets, Isa called to the worship of the One God. His words have come in the Gospel: 'It is written that you prostrate to the Lord your God and worship Him alone/ (Matthew 4: 10); and: It is written that you prostrate to the Lord your God and worship Him alone/ (Luke 4: 8)
Allah the Exalted said: 'It is not fitting for any mortal to be given the Book, Judgement and Prophethood by Allah, and then for him to say to the people: "Be my slaves rather than Allah's." Rather: "Be faithful servants of God on account of what you know of the Book and what you study." He would not command you to take the angels and Prophets as Lords. Would he command you to unbelieve after you have surrendered?' (Quran 3: 79-80)
The Qur'an clearly declares 'Isa's call
The Qur'an comprehends and confirms what was before it, and relates the clear statement of Isa about pure tawhid and his calling to it in clear, plain language:
They certainty disbelieve who say, 'God is the Messiah, the son of Maryam.' The Messiah said: 'O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever associates anything with Allah, Allah will forbid him entrance to the Garden. His refuge is the Fire. The wrongdoers will have no helpers.' (Quran 5: 172)
The position of Tawhid in his call
'Isa said with a beautiful eloquence, relished by all who recognize the necessity of tawhid and the life of the Prophets and Messengers:
'The Messiah will not disdain to be a slave to Allah, neither the angels who are near to Him. Whoever disdains to worship Him and is arrogant, He will gather them to Him, all of them. As for those who believe and do righteous actions, He will pay them their wages in full and give them more from His bounty. As for those who disdain and are proud, He will punish them with a painful punishment. They will find no friend or helper apart from Allah.' (Quran 4:1 72-3)
An awesome encounter in the gathering on the Day of Resurrection
The Qur'an, with its inimitable eloquence, depicts an awesome meeting on the Day of Resurrection. The Prophet 'Isa will declare himself innocent of what the people said about him and of how they treated him. He will clarify his call with strength and truth, and pronounce the guilt of those of his community who went beyond the limits. hey alone are responsible for this sin. Read the Qur'an and perceive how grand and majestic the situation would be, how splendid the scene: When Allah said: "Isa the son of Maryam! Did you say to people ; "Take me and my mother as gods apart from Allah"?' He said: "Glory be to Allah! It is not for me to say what I have no right to say. If I said if You know it You know what is in my soul and l do not know what is in Your soul. You know the unseen things. I only told them what You commanded me, 'Serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord.' I was a witness over them as long as I was among them. When You took me to You, You were the Watcher over them, and You are a witness of everything, if You punish them , they are Your slaves. If You forgive them, You are the Mighty , the Wise."'
Allah said: 'This is the day when the truthful will profit by their truthfulness. They will have Gardens with rivers flowing under them, forever in them. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is the great victory.'
To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is in them. He has power over everything. (Quran 5 : 116—20)
From an obscure creed to unveiled idolatry
It was on their own initiative that Christian missionaries moved to Europe: the Messiah never commanded that; he clearly stated that his mission was for the stray sheep, who were the erring men and women of the Israelites. In Europe at that time idol-worship was wide spread. The Creeks were idol-worshippers. They made images of Allah in various forms, carved statues of those images, and built for them temples and shrines. There was a god for livelihood, a god for mercy and a god for power, and so on.
The Romans were deep-rooted in idol-worship and clung to superstition. Idolatry flowed through them like blood. When Christianity reached them and Constantine the Great became a Christian, embracing and adopting the new faith in 306 C.E., he made it the official state religion. Then Christianity began gradually to adopt many of the idolatrous beliefs found in Roman customs and Greek philosophy and to lose its prophetic purity, Eastern simplicity and Unitarian zeal. Hypocrites entered it and grafted on to it their ancient beliefs and idolatrous ways. A new religion grew up in which Christianity and idol-worship mingled together.
So the early advance of Christianity was on a path other than the path followed by the Messiah and the one to which he called. It was like a traveller following a path deviating from the right one, intentionally or unintentionally, in the darkness of the night. He continues his journey on a path which is completely different from the original path.
The precise story is only known by those who study the history of this religion. Allah described the Christians as misguided, whereas He described the Jews as deserving of His wrath. He says on the tongue of the Muslims:
Guide us on the Straight Path, the path of those You have blessed, not those against whom You are angry nor those who are astray, (Quran 1:7)
Allah's is the command first and last. (Quran 30: 4)