Prophets of Allah – Prophet Elijah: A believing servant of God

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam

Prophet Eliasas (إلياس), also referred to as Elijahas, was a noble prophet and “he was [one] of Our believing servants.” (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.133). It is said that Elijahas was a descendent of Aaronas (Ibn Kathir, Qasas al-Anbiya [Urdu], under Prophet Eliasas, p. 543); however, some assert that he was sent to the residents of Baalbek and its surrounding areas. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Vol. 3, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 167)

Elijahas lived during 900 BC. He lived in Gilead, east of Jordan. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 891; 1 Kings, 17:1)

Elijahas has been mentioned in the Holy Quran, by name, in a few places. Allah the Almighty, with regards to Elijahas, states:

وَ اِنَّ اِلۡيَاسَ لَمِنَ الۡمُرۡسَلِيۡن

“And assuredly Elias [also] was [one] of the Messengers” (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.124)

He is especially mentioned in the Holy Quran to have warned his people against idol worshipping.

“And [We guided] Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias; each [one of them] was of the virtuous.” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.86)

This verse mentions various prophets and includes them in the list of the virtuous. None of the prophets mentioned in the verse possessed any temporal power or grand material wealth. They led simple and noble lives, so much so that there are accounts suggesting that Elijahas, for example, lived in seclusion in the woods and was rarely seen. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 891)

Warning his people against idol worshipping

It has been a common practice of mankind to forget the guidance provided to their forefathers, except for those whom God guides. All prophets who walked the earth taught Tawhid, which is the oneness of God. As time passes, the message of the prophets is slowly forgotten, and people tend to revert to useless practices and idol worship.

While studying history, we observe a repetitive theme. Whenever a prophet of Allah is sent to a nation, he finds that some parts of that nation are absorbed in idolatry. Even the people to whom Elijahas was sent worshipped idols, specifically the sun.

Addressing his people, Elijahas asked:

“When he said to his people, ‘Will you not fear God? Do you call on Ba‘l, and forsake the Best of creators, Allah, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers of old?’” (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.125-128)

“Ba‘l was the name of an idol belonging to the people of the Prophet Elijah. These people worshipped the sun. Ba‘l may also stand for the sun-god which belonged to the people of a town in Syria now called Baalbek.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2702)

Like all prophets, Elijahas introduced God to them as the “Best of creators” and the “Lord of your forefathers”. He reminded them that what they worshipped could not avail them in any way and that it went against the practices of the rightly guided ones before them.

Though his people treated him as a liar, as idol worshipers do, generations that followed went on to revere Elijahas. (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.130)

“Peace be on Elias [and his people]!” (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.131)

The matter of Elijah’sas ascension, descent and Jesus’as explanation

The Bible states that Prophet Elijahas was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, a chariot of fire. Following his departure, Elisha took over Elijah’s role. (2 Kings 2:11)

Then, in Malachi, we are told:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi, 4:5)

At that time, the Jews interpreted the above-mentioned prophecy in its literal sense, and, thus, as a result, their understanding of the prophecy prevented them from accepting Prophet Jesusas as the Messiah.

Prophet Jesusas, explaining this, is reported to have said the prophecy was fulfilled with the coming of John the Baptist. (Mathew, 11:14)

Shedding light on this, Hazrat Ahmadas stated:

“The Jews awaited the appearance of Elijahas before the advent of the Messiah son of Mary; and in view of the promise given in the book of Malachi, they were perfectly entitled to hold this belief. However, since the Jews were literalists, heavily influenced by the apparent, they could not grasp the deeper reality of this concept. They continued to await the coming of Elijahas. for it was written in the Torah and in the books of the Prophets that the promised one is he who appears in accordance with the promise. The Jews were misled to believe that Elijahas himself would appear before the coming of the awaited Messiah. Since they held a superficial outlook on things, they continued to wait first for the coming of Elijahas himself. On one occasion, they came to the Messiahas and even posed this question. Jesusas responded by saying that Elijahas had come; and he is none other than Johnas. So the Jews went to Johnas and asked him, to which he responded: ‘I am not Elijah.’ Since their hearts were not pure, to them this formed the basis for contradiction and so they concluded that this Messiah was not the true Messiah. However, the fact of the matter is that the Messiahas was absolutely true in whatever he had said and there was no contradiction whatsoever. The Messiahas meant that Johnas, who is known as Yahya amongst the Muslims, had appeared with the nature, disposition, and power of Elijahas. However, the Jews held that this could only mean that the very same Elijahas who appeared in the past had actually come again in person, although this was against the established law of God Almighty.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 3, p.173)

Did Prophet Elijahas raise the dead?

We find accounts in the Bible that allude to Prophet Elijahas raising people from the dead. One account is found in 1 Kings where Elijah brought back to life the son of a widow. (1 Kings 17:17-24)

In light of this, the Promised Messiahas states:

“The Holy Quran also mentions the raising of the dead at the hands of the Holy Prophetsa. But we believe that the raising of the dead by the Holy Prophetsa was in a spiritual sense and not in a physical sense. Similarly, we believe that the raising of the dead by Jesusas was also in a spiritual sense and not in a physical manner. Moreover, this phenomenon is not peculiar to Jesusas alone. It is written in the Bible that Prophet Elijah also raised some of the dead. In fact, he far excelled Jesusas in the matter. Even if we concede it as a remote possibility that the Bible refers to the raising of actually dead people, then we are forced to accept Prophet Elijah as a God too. So what distinction of Jesus is there in this? And how is it the differentiating feature? In fact, it is written about the Prophet Isaiah that the dead would come to life just by coming in contact with his body” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 10, p. 270)

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