The Review of Religions [English], January, February & March 1923
Maulvi Rahim Bakhsh Sahib MA [also known as Hazrat Maulana Abdur Rahim Dardra] (1894-1955)
[Translation of Mr Wadud]
Now, without twisting the words of the Holy Quran into any far-fetched meanings, we give below the translation of the verse most emphasised by Mr Wadud and show that it does not in any way refer to the corporeal ascension of Jesusas to heaven.
“And for their unbelief and for their having said against Mary a grievous calumny; and their saying: ‘Verily we have slain Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of God’; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him but the matter was made obscure for them and surely those who differ therein are in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge thereof but to follow a conjecture and they did not kill him at all. But Allah exalted him and Allah is Mighty and Wise, and there is no Jew or Christian who will not most surely keep on believing in this (the crucifixion of Jesus) before his death; and on the day of Resurrection, Jesus shall be a witness against them.” [Surah an-Nisa, Ch. 4, V. 157-159]
Five points are to be noted in this passage:
1. The Jews call Jesusas the apostle of God, while they do not as a matter of fact believe him to be so. The reason is simple. They call him so only sarcastically, because Deuteronomy 21:23 lays down, “He that is hanged is accursed of God”; and the one accursed cannot, in any case, be a Prophet of God.
وَلٰکِنۡ شُبِّہَ لَہُمۡ .2: The meaning we have put upon this phrase is given by Ruh al-Ma‘ani, the well-known commentary of the Holy Quran, in the words [الْتبَسَ عَلَيْھِم الْاَمْر], i.e., the matter was made obscure for them. The story that Jesusas was represented by one in his likeness is not borne out by the words of the Holy Quran; because no mention is made here or elsewhere of any person who could be made to resemble Jesusas. On the other hand, the words may mean that Jesusas was made to resemble one crucified, i.e., he appeared like a person who is crucified though as a matter of fact he was not so. This meaning is quite true and in accordance with the idiom and grammar of the Arabic language. History too leads us to the same conclusion.
بَلۡ رَّفَعَہُ اللّٰہُ اِلَيۡہِ .3: The word بَلۡ shows that it has been used for the refutation of some false charges stated against him in the previous lines – the charges were about his birth and death. To refute these charges Allah says that he exalted him and made him honourable in His presence. There are no words here to show that Jesusas was taken up to heaven, and [that too] in body and soul. Every Muslim prays while sitting in his salat but no sane person would ever believe that it means the bodily uplifting of the devotee. Allah is not confined to the blue sky. He is Omnipresent. If Jesusas is gone to Him, he should also be wherever He exists. Mr Wadud should know that it is an idiom expressive of one’s spiritual dignity and honour. There is a tradition in the Kanz al-Ummal, the well-known authority in Hadith, which throws a flood of light on this point and clearly shows that even if the word سَمَاء (sky) had been used here instead of Allah, even then the verse could not have meant anything else but spiritual honour and exaltation.
It runs as follows:
إذَا تَوًاضَعَ الْعَبْدُ رَفَعَہُ اللّٰہ إلٰى السَّمَاءِ السَّابِعَة
“When a person shows humility, Allah lifts him up to the seventh heaven.” [Kanz al-Ummal, Vol. 3, Dar Al-Kotob Al-‘Ilmiyah, 2015, p. 50] Will our friend draw the same conclusion here also? Will he believe in this that every act of humility lifts a person up to heaven both in body and spirit? Certainly, there can be no bigger folly than such an inference. Why then draw such a conclusion in the case of Jesusas? Is he not human? Has he anything divine and supernatural in him? Why should he be then sent up to heaven alive? Was not this earth sufficient for him?
اَلَمۡ نَجۡعَلِ الۡاَرۡضَ کِفَاتًا۔ اَحۡيَآءً وَّاَمۡوَاتًا
“Have We not made earth sufficient or the living and the dead?” [Surah Al-Mursalat, Ch.77: V.26]
لَيُؤۡمِنَنَّ بِہٖ قَبۡلَ مَوۡتِہٖ .4: The nun at-tawkid [letter ن for emphasis in Arabic] is used here to denote that every Jew and Christian must necessarily continue believing in the death of Jesusas on the cross. The Jew, because he wants to show that the curse of God fell on him in accordance with the word of God revealed to Moses (Deuteronomy 21:23); and the Christian because by his vicarious sacrifice, he desires to establish his doctrine of atonement.
وَيَوۡمَ الۡقِيٰمَةِ يَکُوۡنُ عَلَيۡہِمۡ شَہِيۡدًا .5: “And on the day of judgment shall he be a witness against them.” It shows that Jesusas is not to come into this world a second time. He shall be a witness only on the day of resurrection and not before that.
The second verse, which our friend quotes in support of his contention, is:
وَمَکَرُوۡا وَمَکَرَ اللّٰہُ ؕ وَاللّٰہُ خَيۡرُ الۡمٰکِرِيۡنَ
[“And they planned, and Allah also planned; and Allah is the Best of planners.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.55)]
The word makr, says he, conveys the notion of something unusual, and therefore, God unusually took Jesusas up to heaven in order to frustrate the subtle designs of the Jews.
The meaning put upon the word makr is quite unusual and peculiar only to our friend. As a matter of fact, the word simply means a design. It may be used in a good or in a bad sense. In itself, the word does not always imply one or the other. There is a well-known prayer of the Holy Prophetsa related by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Mishkat, which runs as follows:
رَبِّ أَعِنِّي وَلَا تُعِنْ عَلَيَّ۔۔۔ وَامْکُرْ لِي وَلَا تَمْکُرْ عَلَيَّ
“O my Lord! Help me and do not help against me […] and design for me and not against me.” [Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab tafri‘ ’abwabi l-witr, Bab ma yaqulu r-rajul iza sallam]
Now if the word makr means that a person be unusually taken up to heaven alive in order to frustrate the designs of his enemy, most of the faithful believers must have reached heaven by this time, because when persecuted by their enemies they must have prayed to Allah in the above-mentioned words. But is it a fact? Does anyone hold such a belief? Why then hold such a view in the case of Jesusas?
Besides this, the lifting up of a man to heaven is not a plan or a stratagem; it is clearly a manifestation of superior power and sheer force.
We may, by the way, add here that Mr Wadud is either totally ignorant of our literature and his knowledge is wholly based upon mere hearsay or he intentionally twists our reasoning; because wherever he gives our line of argument, he tries to put it in a ridiculous form. For instance, he writes that the Ahmadis believe that Jesusas himself appeared like a dead person and that we thus attribute a greater power to Jesusas than the power of God. While, as a matter of fact, the reasoning attributed to us is perfectly unknown to us and we strongly challenge the writer to produce any kind of proof to show that we argue like that. A perusal of our book, Jesusas in India or any other book on the subject will at once show that the point attributed to us is a mere fabrication of the writer’s own brain.
Mr Wadud’s authorities
In support of his argument, he further gives a quotation from a commentary of the Holy Quran in which is given the opinion of some four different persons, which according to the writer are four authentic traditions, the first two from two great companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa and the other two from two tabi‘un [those people who met with companionsra]. We deal below with each of them one by one:
1. The first is a saying attributed to Ibn Abbasra. The words quoted are reported by [Yahya ibn Abi Hayyah Abu Janab] al-Kalbi, (see the original [Tafsir] Ma‘alim al-Tanzil), who is severely condemned by all the most learned Muhammadan critics and authorities.
For instance, it is written in Majma Bihar al-Anwar (Vol. 3, p. 509), that the weakest way of reporting the commentary of Ibn Abbasra is the way of al-Kalbi reporting from Abu Saleh from Ibn Abbasra.
Imam Ahmad, peace be on him, says:
تفسير الكلبي: من أوله إلى آخره كذب
I.e., “The Commentary of al-Kalbi from beginning to end is a lie.” [Al-Jami‘ Al-‘Ulum, p. 441] Laith ibn Abi Salim says, “There were two liars in Kufa; one of them was al-Kalbi and the other Suddi. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, Vol. 1, p. 572] Yahya ibn Ma‘in says, “He (al-Kalbi) is worth nothing.” [Ibn Habban, Al-Majruhin, Vol. 2, p. 463] Muawiya bin Salih says, “Al-Kalbi is not reliable.” [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, Vol. 3, p. 569] Al-Bukhari says, “Ibn al-Mahdi and other authorities have rejected him.” [Al-Hafidh al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-Kamal fi Asma al-Rijal, Vol. 25, p. 248] Abu Jaza says, “I bear witness to the fact that al-Kalbi is an infidel.” [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, Vol. 3, p. 569] Yazid says that he saw al-Kalbi beating his breast and saying that he was a Sabi. [Ibid.] Al-Kalbi himself is reported to have said that whatever he has reported from Ibn Abbasra on the authority of Abi Salih is a lie and that it should not be reported. [Ibid.] Nasa’i says, “He (al-Kalbi) is not truthful.” [Ibid.] al-Jawz Jani says, “Al-Kalbi is a wretched liar.” [Ibid.] Al-Kalbi reports the Commentary of Ibn Abbasra through Abi Salih who did not at all hear it from Ibn Abbasra. [Ibn Abi Hatim, Al-Jarh Wa Ta‘dil, Vol. 7, p. 270] Again, a critic [Al-Saji] says, “The authorities of tradition agree in despising al-Kalbi and in not taking anything from him in matters of principle and detail.” [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, Vol. 3, p. 569]
Let us, however, in spite of all this, admit for the sake of argument that al-Kalbi is not a liar and that therefore the tradition is a true one; but we have a reason to doubt the truth of such a statement on the part of Ibn Abbasra himself; because it is known that he consulted the Jews and the Christians in his interpretations of the Holy Quran and sometimes adopted the construction put upon it by them. (Ibn Jarir, Vol. 7, Egypt, p. 176)
Moreover, the so-called sayings of Ibn Abbasra differ so much in themselves on this point that one is led to consider all of them as incredible. Accordingly, Imam al-Suyuti says in the Al-Itqan: “All these long stories attributed to Ibn Abbasra are of no good; their reporters are unknown.” Apart from the saying quoted by Mr Wadud, we give here two more sayings of Ibn Abbasra which are utterly at variance with the one quoted by Mr Wadud.
Nasa’i quotes the following saying of Ibn Abbasra:
“When Allah willed to take up Jesusas to heavens, he came to his disciples and in the house there were twelve persons. Jesusas came to them from a fountain and drops of water were falling from his head. He said, ‘There is one among you who will deny me, after he has believed in me.’ He repeated these words twelve times. Then he said, ‘Which of you is he upon whom my likeness will be cast, and he will be killed in my place and he will have the same rank with me.’ Thereupon, one of the youngest of them stood up, but he asked him to sit down; then he repeated the same words and again the same young man stood up and he again asked him to sit down. For the third time, he repeated the same words and then again the same man stood up. Then Jesusas said to him, ‘You are him.’ Then the likeness of Jesusas was cast upon him and Jesusas was lifted up to heaven through an opening in the house.” [Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa n-Nihayah, Maktabah al-Falah, 1963, Vol. 2, p. 110]
Another saying of Ibn Abbasra is thus reported by Abi Masud:
“When the king of the Israelites resolved to kill Jesusas, Gabrielas bade the latter to enter a house in which there was an opening. Then Gabrielas lifted him up to heaven through that opening. Then the king said to a ruffian to enter the house and kill Jesusas. The man went in and the likeness of Jesusas was cast on him. He came out with the news that Jesusas was not inside; and they killed him and hung him on the cross.” [Tafsir Ruh al-Ma‘ani, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, Vol. 3, p. 177]
2. The second is a saying attributed to Wahb.
We wonder how Mr Wadud calls Wahb ibn Munabbih a great companion of the Holy Prophetra. He seems to be absolutely ignorant, even of the names of the great companionsra of the Holy Prophet[sa]. He cannot distinguish between a companion and a tabi‘i, i.e., one who has not even seen the Holy Prophet[sa]. Wahb ibn Munabbih, Mr Wadud should know was born during the Caliphate of Hazrat Umar[ra], and died about 114 AH. He is not at all a companion of the Holy Prophet[sa]. Concerning him, Umar ibn Ali says, “His reports are weak and not authentic.”
3. The third person mentioned is Al-Suddi (spelt wrongly as Saddi by Mr Wadud). He also is a liar. He reports from al-Kalbi, but the author of Fath al-Bayan says: “If Al-Suddi joins with al-Kalbi, the whole is a series of lies.” [Fath al-Bayan fi Maqasid al-Quran, Dar al-Kotob al-‘Imiyyah, 1999, Vol. 1, p. 12] Abdus Salam ibn Abu Hazim reports from Jarir ibn Abdul Hamid that, “Al-Suddi is a great liar.” Al-Husayn Ibn Numair says, “Al-Suddi is worth nothing.” Yaqub ibn Sufyan says that, “He is not reliable and true.” Salih ibn Muhammad says that, “He is not reliable and was wont to fabricate.” Al-Bukhari says, “He is not worth mentioning.” Abu Ja‘far al-Tabari says, “His reports are not reliable and authentic.”
4. Next comes Abu Qatada, about whose commentary, the author of the well-known book the Fath al-Bayan says, “It contains one thousand spurious traditions fabricated by the man himself.”
He is a tabi‘i who died in 117AH. He used to relate traditions from persons whom he had never met himself, and that is why Ismail Qazi says in the Ahkam al-Quran:
“I have heard Ali ibn al-Madini declare the reports of Qatada from Said ibn al-Musayyib as extremely weak.”
(Transcribed and edited by Al Hakam from the original in The Review of Religions [English], January, February and March 1923)