The Review of Religions [English], January, February & March 1923
Maulvi Rahim Bakhsh Sahib MA [also known as Hazrat Maulana Abdur Rahim Dardra] (1894-1955)
Likeness of Jesus
Let us now throw some light upon the casting of Jesus’as likeness upon another person mentioned so emphatically, [by Mr Wadud], in all the four so-called traditions. Without criticising this myth on any rational or historical grounds, we shall, however, for the sake of brevity, confine ourselves to the remarks made about it by some of the most learned authorities. Tafsir Al-Bahr Al-Muhit, one of the best commentaries of the Holy Quran, says:
“It has been said that the likeness of Jesusas was not cast on any person […]. This story has not been corroborated by the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, and so it cannot be relied upon.” [Abu Hayyan al-Gharnati, Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit, Dar El-Fikr, Vol. 4, p. 94]
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi says:
“Many writers have said that when the Jews resolved to kill Jesusas, Allah raised him to heavens. The leaders of the Jews feared lest the common people should go astray. So, they took a man and killed him and deceitfully told the people that he was Jesusas. The people did not know Jesusas but by name; for he mixed with men very rarely.” [Tafsir al-Razi, Surah an-Nisa’, V. 158 (159)]
Ebussuud Efendi writes: “Nobody was killed, but it was given out that he was killed and the news spread among men.” [Tafsir Abi al-Su‘ud, Dar Ihya EL Ouloum, Vol.2, p. 251]
The great commentator, the author of the al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, remarks on the point: “To say that the likeness of Jesusas was cast upon some person is a clear sophistry. If it were true, we could not believe in our senses. It renders useless all the scriptures and prophets. It makes incredible the most authentic of facts.” [Tafsir al-Razi, Surah an-Nisa’, V. 158 (159)]
To show the extreme absurdity of all such traditions, we give below the contradictions involved in them on this point:
1. The likeness of Jesusas was cast upon only one of his disciples.
The likeness was cast upon all of his disciples.
2. Jesusas invited his disciples to have his likeness cast upon them.
God cast his likeness upon an enemy.
3. There were at that time 12, 17, 18, or 19 disciples with him.
There was with him only one person on whom the likeness was cast.
4. The man on whom his likeness was cast said, “I am Jesus.”
The man on whom his likeness was cast said, “I am not Jesus.”
5. Jesusas was very restless that night.
He had no restlessness.
6. The man on whom his likeness was cast was a Jew.
The man on whom his likeness was cast was a disciple.
7. The likeness was cast.
It was not cast.
8. Another person was killed.
No one was killed.
9. A few persons arrested Jesusas.
4,000 Jews came to arrest him.
These contradictions have led a number of learned Muslims to conclude that the casting of likeness is an absurd myth. Abu Hayyan writes a very true and significant sentence upon this point. He says: “The narrators differ from one another as to the manner of killing and crucifixion; and nothing is proved on this point on the authority of the Holy Prophetsa, except what the Quran denotes.” [Abu Hayyan al-Gharnati, Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit, Dar El-Fikr, Vol. 4, p. 94]
Again, Mr Wadud remarks that, though some of the traditions differ with regard to the name and nature of the man crucified in place of Jesusas, yet all without exception tally with one another on the main point of his ascension to heaven. But we draw the attention of the readers to the fact that there exist traditions and sayings, on the contrary, equally authentic to the effect that Jesusas died a natural death and that he is not now living in heaven as supposed by the writer.
Hazrat Ayeshara narrates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, said to Fatima during his last illness that “Gabriel used to read the Holy Quran with him once during every Ramadan, but that during the last Ramadan, he did so twice and that every prophet lived twice as many years as the one coming after him and that Jesusas lived 120 years and I think I am going after completing 60 years of my life.” [Hujjaj al-Kiramah, p. 428]
Again, there is a saying of the Holy Prophetsa which says: “If Jesus and Moses had been alive, they could not have helped following me.” [Al-Yawaqit wal Jawahir, Vol. II, p. 342]
Ibn Omar (son of Caliph Omarra) says that Jesusas lived 120 years.
“This is the tomb of Jesusas, son of Mary, a prophet of God sent to this country.” (Ibn Jarir and Tabri, Vol. II, p. 269)
The author of the well-known work, the Sharh al-‘Aqa’id al-Nasafiyya says: “It has been reported that Jesusas was alive when he was suspended on the cross and that he lived for a long time after the event of the cross and before his death.”
Meaning of the word “tawaffi”
The next verse, which the Bengali writer quotes in support of his contention is:
اِذۡ قَالَ اللّٰہُ يٰعِيۡسٰۤي اِنِّيۡ مُتَوَفِّيۡکَ وَرَافِعُکَ اِلَيَّ
[“When Allah said, ‘O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death and will exalt thee to Myself.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.56)]
By the way, there is here a striking point that should not be allowed to escape our notice. Throughout his book, Mr Wadud quotes Mr Sale as a great authority, seemingly with a view to forcing his interpretation upon us, while as a matter of fact, he has done so to conceal his own ignorance. However, we have to draw the attention of the reader to another point. Mr Wadud translates this verse in the words: “When God said, O Jesus, I shall lay hold of thee completely (i.e., with flesh and soul).”
But Mr Sale, a man of vast erudition, translates it as follows:
“When God said, O Jesus, verily I will cause thee to die.” [Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.56]
May we now ask why Mr Wadud has not followed Mr Sale here? Is he not a learned man? Or is it because his translation does not serve Mr Wadud’s purpose?
We regret to add (and but for the presumptuous and contemptuous remarks made by him about us we would have refrained from referring to this fact) that Mr Wadud, while posing as a great authority in Arabic literature and while advising all Ahmadis to learn the language first and then study the Quran, has only betrayed his own ignorance, and proved himself a perfect ignoramus. His book is full of glaring blunders. Each and every reason produced by him is argumentum ad ignorantiam. The author of “An Arabic Course for Schools and Colleges” is surely himself untaught in Arabic. He is absolutely unacquainted even with the rudiments of Arabic grammar. He does not understand the meaning of even plain and simple words. Let us give an example. Ab uno disce omnes.
Under the verse quoted above, he writes:
“The word tawaffi according to general use, means taking the dues completely. I have quoted below some examples of this meaning of tawaffi from the Quran, in which God is its subject (understood) and animate being its object, which have escaped the notice of Mirza Sahib and his followers in their vain challenge.”
ثُمَّ تُوَفّٰي کُلُّ نَفۡسٍ مَّا کَسَبَتۡ وَھُمۡ لَا يُظۡلَمُوۡنَ
[“Then shall every soul be paid in full what it has earned; and they shall not be wronged.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.282)]
وَتُوَفّٰي کُلُّ نَفۡسٍ مَّا عَمِلَتۡ وَھُمۡ لَا يُظۡلَمُوۡنَ
[“And every soul will be fully recompensed for what it did, and they will not be wronged.” (Surah al-Nahl, Ch.16: V.112)]
وَاِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوۡنَ اُجُوۡرَکُمۡ يَوۡمَ الۡقِيٰمَةِ
[“And you shall be paid in full your rewards only on the Day of Resurrection.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.186)]
Surely the ignorance with which the above remark has been made by the author requires a little elucidation.
The word used in the above examples is from بَاب تَفْعِيْلْ while the word tawaffi is quite a different word from بَاب تَفَعُّلْ. Tuwaffa is passive aorist, the past tense being waffa while the word tawaffa challenged for is not an aorist. It is in the past tense, its aorist being yatawaffa in the active voice and yutawaffa in the passive voice. Our Bengali graduate, on account of his utter ignorance of the Arabic language and its grammar, has mistaken the word tuwaffa for tutawaffa and he could not distinguish one from the other.
If anyone can show that the word tawaffi with Allah as its subject and a human being as its object, is anywhere used in the Arabic literature in any other sense except “the taking of the soul”, we shall at once give him 6,000 rupees as a prize, according to the condition of the original challenge of the Promised Messiah, may the mercy of God be upon him. We do not, however, say that this word has no other meaning, it may have a thousand meanings; but under the condition laid down in the challenge, it does not mean anything else.
Everywhere in the Holy Quran, it means the same thing. Mr Sale, “a man of vast learning and erudition”, has translated this word in the sense of death more than a dozen times (see pages 25, 26, 38, 52, 65, 94, 108, 117, 154, 180, 185, 197, 200, etc.). In the verse quoted above, the word tawaffi has been interpreted to mean “death” by a great number of commentators, as admitted by Mr Wadud himself. To convince him further, we give below some quotations from the standard Arabic lexicons:
توفي: ميرانيدن: يقال توفي اللّٰہ تعاليٰ اي قبض روحہ
(Muntaha al-Arab, Vol. 4, p. 435)
توفي اللّٰہ زيدًا: قبض روحہ
(Aqrab al-Mawarid, Vol. 2, p. 1472)
توفاہ اللّٰہ قبض روحہ
(Al Qamoos, Vol. 4, p. 401)
توفي فلان: اذا مات
(Taj al-‘Arus Vol. 40, p. 220)
توفي فلان و توفاہ اللّٰہ اذا قبض نفسہ
(Lisan al-‘Arab, Vol. 15, p. 400)
توفاہ اللّٰہ اي قبض روحہ
(Al-Surah min al-Sihah, p. 382)
Then the author remarks, “On the whole, none of the doctors of Islam, from the time of the Prophetsa up till now […].”
What is meant by the words “doctors of Islam”? Is not the Holy Quran itself sufficient? When it is laid out in clear and unequivocal words that there is no reason for the physical uplift of anyone to heaven and that it is against the established law of God, what weight can we rightfully attach to the empty boast mentioned above? Is not the Holy Prophetsa himself the greatest doctor of Islam? Are not his words sufficient? Was not Abu Bakrra, the first successor of the Holy Founder of Islam, a doctor of Islam? Were not the companions of the Holy Prophetsa doctors of Islam? When no trace of such a belief is found in the Holy Quran and authentic traditions, what should we do with the opinion and conjectures of the so-called doctors of Islam belonging to the period of Faij-e-A‘waj [Age of Darkness]. They came centuries after the Holy Prophetsa; they never saw him or heard from him. Have we not an equal right with them in interpreting the Holy Quran? The Holy Quran contains many verses which clearly refer to the death of Jesusas. The Master Prophetsa himself is reported to have said:
لَوْ کَانَ مُوْسيٰ وَ عِيْسيٰ حَيَّيْنِ لَمَا وَسِعَھُمَا اِلَّا اِتَّبَاعِيْ
“If Jesus and Moses had been living, they could not have helped following me.” [Al-Yawaqit wal Jawahir, Vol. II, p. 342]
Is it then an empty boast of so great a personage? If Jesusas were living, how could he use such words? How can we then believe in the so-called doctors of Islam? Does he mean to throw dust in the eyes of the people? Is not Abu Bakrra a doctor of Islam? Did he not immediately after the death of the Holy Prophetsa stand amidst the Holy Companionsra and declare that all prophets before the Holy Prophetsa had died and that the Holy Prophetsa being also a Prophet, there was no reason that he should not have died? Was not Hazrat Omarra again convinced of the fact? Did not the whole body of the Holy Companionsra unanimously agree at the time that the previous prophets had all died?
Jesusas living high up in the heavens and sitting in glory by the side of God, and the best and the chosen of prophets, the dearest and the most beloved one of God, lying buried under a mound of dust in a dark and gloomy grave dug by human hands! Surely, the lovers of the Blessed Prophet, may my father and mother be sacrificed for him, could not even conceive of such a spectacle and tolerate it even for a moment. Indeed, how could they imagine such an odious spectacle with their hearts burning with the love of the Holy Prophetsa for whose sake they had renounced everything once and for all, with whom they had fought so many glorious battles and for whom they had the deepest admiration in the very core of their hearts?
How could they tolerate such an absurd idea? Surely, they were the best of doctors. They knew their Prophet, their life-long master, the chosen one of God whom they had so faithfully served the whole of their lives, may the choicest blessings of God be upon him and his blessed followers. They knew Jesusas also, the son of Mary, whose honour their master had so truly defended against the Jews.
Was not Imam Malikrh a doctor of Islam? Is Ibn Arabirh less than a doctor of Islam? Does Ibn Hazm believe in the corporeal ascension of Jesusas? How can a true doctor of Islam go against facts?
The fact is only this that the Prophet Jesusas was a human being, and man being mortal, he died a natural death in Kashmir where he lies buried in the Khanyar Street in Srinagar. The story of his ascension to heaven is purely of Christian origin. These facts have been proved and established by the Promised Messiah, peace be on him, who came in the name and power of Christ to reform and guide the whole world.
(Transcribed and edited by Al Hakam from the original, published in The Review of Religions [English], January, February and March 1923)