Tafsir al-Qurtubi proves Prophet Isa’s death

Raziullah Noman, Canada
Old Quran

One of the main differences between Ahmadi Muslims and other Muslims is that we believe Hazrat Isaas (Jesus) of Bani Israel has already passed away and will never return.

The prophecies of the latter-day Messiah were fulfilled in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi.

On 12 February 2010, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa delivered a faith-inspiring Friday sermon on incidents of the companions of the Promised Messiahas. One incident mentioned was that of Hazrat Maulvi Syed Sarwar Shahra. The summary is as follows:

Hazrat Maulvi Syed Sarwar Shahra had knowledge of excellent standards and had also served as the mufti. Once in Haripur, he learned that a Muslim cleric who deemed himself to be a great debater wanted to debate Ahmadiyyat with him. However, on the fixed day the cleric did not turn up. Out in town, Hazrat Syed Sarwar Shahra saw the cleric coming from the other side with some associates. Upon seeing him they turned and started to run. Hazrat Syed Sarwar Shahra Sahib ran after them. He thought they may have gone to the mosque and went there but they were not to be seen. He went in the other direction and saw that the cleric was crossing a muddy ditch to go to the other side. He was told that the cleric had gone to the next town to get some books to prepare for the debate. He had spent the entire night reading the books and was frustrated that whichever Quranic commentary he referred to it mentioned the death of Jesusas. He therefore could not find any argument for the debate. His associate cleric told him that the debate with Syed Sarwar Shahra Sahib would result in embarrassment. 

Hazrat Khalifatul MasihVaa said the current-day situation was the same; these people came on TV channels and made claims. When we offered to discuss their claims, there was no response. 

From this incident, we see that every commentary of the Quran, classical or modern, refers to the death of Hazrat Isaas. Sadly, the majority of the Muslim scholars misinterpreted the ahadith regarding nuzul al-Masih” (the descension of the Messiah) which is why they started to reinterpret the verses of the Quran that explicitly mentioned the death of Hazrat Isaas when they should have reinterpreted the ahadith of the latter-day Messiah. 

In this article, we will focus on the famous tafsir (commentary of the Quran) known as Tafsir al-Qurtubi. It was written by Imam Abu Abdullah al-Qurtubi or Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Abu Bakr al-Ansari al-Qurtubi who was born in Spain and was an eminent scholar of Islam and a well-known and widely read mufassir (commentator of the Quran).

We will provide five important points from his commentary which help prove the death of Hazrat Isaas

The first point is that Imam al-Qurtubi gives his commentary on chapter 3 verse 55 of the Holy Quran and only presents one meaning of “mutawaffika”from a companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. The view he gives is that of Hazrat Ibn Abbasra:

ورَوى‭ ‬ابْنُ‭ ‬طَلْحَةَ‭ ‬عَنِ‭ ‬ابن‭ ‬عباس‭ ‬معنى‭ ‬متوفيك‭ ‬مميتك

“Ibn Abi Talhah narrates from Ibn Abbas, that the meaning of ‘mutawaffika’ is ‘I will cause thee to die’.” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 5, p. 153)

Interestingly enough, no other meaning of “mutawaffika” is given by any of the companions, proving that all of the companions of Prophet Muhammadsa had a consensus on this meaning and no one dared to question this statement of Hazrat Ibn Abbasra, explicitly proving the death of Hazrat Isaas.

The second point is that Imam al-Qurtubi presents the famous narration of the Holy Prophetsa in which he himself uses the Arabic “tawaffaitani” for his own death. This narration can be found in almost every commentary and nearly every book of hadith. Hazrat Imam al-Qurtubi quotes it from Sahih Muslim. He writes:

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ قَامَ فِينَا رَسُولُ اللّٰهِ صلى اللّٰه عليه وسلم خَطِيبًا بِمَوْعِظَةٍ فَقَالَ “‏يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّكُمْ تُحْشَرُونَ إِلَى اللّٰهِ حُفَاةً عُرَاةً غُرْلاً ‏(‏ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُعِيدُهُ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ)‏ أَلاَ وَإِنَّ أَوَّلَ الْخَلاَئِقِ يُكْسَى يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِبْرَاهِيمُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ أَلاَ وَإِنَّهُ سَيُجَاءُ بِرِجَالٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي فَيُؤْخَذُ بِهِمْ ذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ فَأَقُولُ يَا رَبِّ أَصْحَابِي فَيُقَالُ إِنَّكَ لاَ تَدْرِي مَا أَحْدَثُوا بَعْدَكَ ‏ فَأَقُولُ كَمَا قَالَ الْعَبْدُ الصَّالِحُ ‏(وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنْتَ أَنْتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنْتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ شَهِيدٌ إِنْ تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ وَإِنْ تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ‏) قَالَ فَيُقَالُ لِي إِنَّهُمْ لَمْ يَزَالُوا مُرْتَدِّينَ عَلَى أَعْقَابِهِمْ مُنْذُ فَارَقْتَهُمْ ‏”‏ ‏

“While Allah’s Messengersa stood up to deliver a sermon, he said: ‘O people, Allah will assemble you in a state that you will be barefooted, naked and uncircumcised [and then he recited the words of the Quran]: ‘As We began the first creation, so shall We repeat it – a promise (binding)upon Us; We shall certainly perform it’, and the first person who would be clothed on the Day of Resurrection would be Ibrahim [peace be upon him] and, behold! some persons of my Ummah would be brought and taken to the left and I would say: ‘My Lord, they are my companions’, and it would be said: ‘You do not know what they did after you, and I would say just as the pious servant [Hazrat Isaas] said: ‘And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things’. And it would be said to me: ‘They constantly turned to their heels since you left them.’’” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith no. 2860b), (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol.8, p. 304) 

Now despite Imam al-Qurtubi saying that ‘tawaffaitani’ means “You raised me up to the heavens”, he is unable to provide any hadith to support such meaning and the only hadith he quotes at the end of his commentary on this verse is where the Holy Prophetsa translates “tawaffaitani” as when “You caused me to die”.

The third point from Tafsir al-Qurtubi is that he presented a narration which proves that all messengers before Prophet Muhammadsa have passed away and that only their souls were taken, not their bodies. It is narrated:

ورُوِيَ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللّٰهِ  أنه قالَ أكْرَمَ اللّٰهُ تَعالى الشُّهَداءَ بِخَمْسِ كَراماتٍ لَمْ يُكْرِمْ بِها أحَدًا مِنَ الأنْبِياءِ ولا أنا أحَدُها أنَّ جَمِيعَ الأنْبِياءِ قَبَضَ أرْواحَهُمْ مَلَكُ المَوْتِ وهُوَ الَّذِي سَيَقْبِضُ رُوحِي وأمّا الشُّهَداءُ فاللّٰهُ هُوَ الَّذِي يَقْبِضُ أرْواحَهُمْ بِقُدْرَتِهِ كَيْفَ يَشاءُ ولا يُسَلِّطُ عَلى أرْواحِهِمْ مَلَكَ المَوْتِ، والثّانِي أنَّ جَمِيعَ الأنْبِياءِ قَدْ غُسِّلُوا بَعْدَ المَوْتِ وأنا أُغَسَّلُ بَعْدَ المَوْتِ والشُّهَداءُ لا يُغَسَّلُونَ ولا حاجَةَ لَهُمْ إلى ماءِ الدُّنْيا، والثّالِثُ أنَّ جَمِيعَ الأنْبِياءِ قَدْ كُفِّنُوا وأنا أُكَفَّنُ والشُّهَداءُ لا يُكَفَّنُونَ بَلْ يُدْفَنُونَ فِي ثِيابِهِمْ، والرّابِعُ أنَّ الأنْبِياءَ لَمّا ماتُوا سُمُّوا أمْواتًا وإذا مُتُّ يُقالُ قَدْ ماتَ والشُّهَداءُ لا يُسَمَّوْنَ مَوْتى

“Prophet Muhammadsa narrated: ‘Allah has honoured the martyrs with five miracles which He has not even honoured the prophets with, including me. With all of the prophets, the Angel of Death took their souls and he is the one who will also take my soul. As for the martyrs, Allah takes their souls by His power in whichever way He pleases and the Angel of Death cannot have power over their souls. 

“‘The second miracle is that all of the prophets were given full ablution after their death and I will be given full ablution after death and the martyrs are not given full ablution nor are they in need of the earthly water. 

“‘The third miracle is that all of the prophets were shrouded and I too will be shrouded but the martyrs are not shrouded, rather they are buried in their clothes.

“‘And the fourth miracle is that all of the prophets when they died, were named as those who are dead, and when I die, it will be said he has died but the martyrs are not called dead.” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 5, p. 418)

When discussing with non-Ahmadi Muslims, they always say we reject these commentaries as if they accept every word. If this is the case, then they are forced to accept the death of Hazrat Isaas as Imam al-Qurutbi brings forth a narration which uses the word “all” when speaking of the death of the prophets.

The fourth point is Imam al-Qurtubi beautifully explains not only the true meaning of “raf‘a” (raised) but also the true meaning of “being raised to the heavens”. He writes:

قَوْلُهُ تَعالى (ولَوْ شِئْنا لَرَفَعْناهُ) يُرِيدُ بَلْعامَ أيْ لَوْ شِئْنا لَأمَتْناهُ قَبْلَ أنْ يَعْصِيَ فَرَفَعْناهُ إلى الجَنَّةِ

“The statement of Allah, ‘And if We had pleased, We could have exalted him thereby’, refers to Balaam. Meaning, if We had pleased, we would have caused him to die before he disobeyed us and then we would have raised him [rafa‘nahu] to the heavens.” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 9, p. 386)

From this commentary, we see that according to Imam al-Qurtubi, the word “raf‘a” refers to spiritual exaltation after death and not before death. He also accepts that the raising of one to the heavens is the soul and not the body as no Muslim has ever believed that Balaam had the potential of being raised to paradise with his physical earthly body. 

The fifth point is that Imam al-Qurtubi presents an interesting meaning of “nuzul” (descension) from the famous Tabi, Hazrat Saeed bin Jubairra. It is written:

وقالَ سَعِيدُ بْنُ جُبَيْرٍ أنْزَلْنا عَلَيْكُمْ (أيْ) خَلَقْنا لَكُمْ

“Saeed Bin Jubair said: ‘I sent down for you, means I created for you.’” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 9, p. 185)

From this, we see that the word “nuzul” does not mean return. This word is used for a new creation of Allah, meaning someone who is born on earth. The prophecies of the latter-day Messiah also use the word “nuzul” and not “ruju‘” (return). This makes it clear that the Messiah to come would be someone born on earth and not the same Messiah of Bani Israel from 2000 years ago.

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