The belief that the last prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), has already come and gone and the assertions that Jesus (as) would descend to earth as a prophet after him are so inconsistent that they cannot be owned simultaneously. In fact this cocktail of two unrelated issues was made by some Ulema of the late medieval times. At the time of the revelation of the Holy Quran any connection between the two was unthinkable.
For the sake of the unfamiliar non-Muslim reader we need to explain the historical background of this issue lest they should fail to understand what the row is all about. The verse “Khatamun-Nabiyyeen” is one of the most fundamental verses of the Quran which is profoundly rich in meaning and contains many possible connotations. But none of its connotations can even remotely be related to the so-called ascent of Jesus Christ (as). Hence the Ulema’s plea that Jesus (as) was lifted to the fourth heaven because this verse of finality was to be revealed by God is melodramatic. This so-called bodily ascent of Jesus has nothing to do with this verse nor with any verse in the Quran. The idea of raising Jesus Christ (as) to heaven had never occurred to God. The entire Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) absolve God of this absurdity by a total absence of any such reference to the ascent of Jesus (as). For the Ulema to maintain that God had lifted him to forestall the problem created by this verse is unfounded allegation against the Quran. Thus it is the Ulema who is creating the problem himself and resolving it in the name of God. To bind this unfounded conjecture to one of the most fundamental verses of the Quran is an act of abomination. The reasons which motivate the medievalist clergy to do this and the deceptive manner in which they attempt to fuse these absolutely unrelated issues is the main subject of discussion here.
Despite that fact that the imagined ascent or descent of Jesus (as) has nothing to do with the independent declaration of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) finality, the clergy still assert that there is a definite link between the two. Prophet Jesus (as), son of Mary, they insist, will be personally brought back from the heavens because no new prophet can be raised after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This ingenious device of bringing an old prophet back to earth instead of raising one from the Ummah to meet the new need may seem highly laudable to the Muslim orthodoxy but their enthusiasm cannot be shared by ordinary humans. No one with an iota of common sense can attribute this cheap act of trickstering to God the Almighty, the All-Wise. Only the Muslim Ulemas can and this exactly is what they attempt to do. By connecting the return of Jesus (as) with the finality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), they think that they have rescued God from the consequences of a premature declaration of finality. Thus, the clergy believes that they have saved God from a grave dilemma of contradiction. This has to be the brainchild of a half-wit Mullah to whom it rightly belongs. The promise of finality to any prophet by God, despite His knowledge that it could not be kept, is inconceivable of Him. To make a show of keeping the promise by bringing an old prophet after the demise of the last one is sheer mockery. Thus, judging God by his own standards, the Mullah first attributes a shameful act of contradiction to Him, then comes forward to help Him save His face from it. This blatant attempt is not made without a purpose. To the Mullah it is a great idea having multiple advantages.
It saves the life of Jesus from an ignoble death upon the cross and frustrates his enemies’ attempts to prove him false. Imagine their exasperation at finding Jesus escape their clutches by vanishing into thin air (if there is any air at all in the fourth heaven where he is assumed to have ascended). But this measure must also have created another small problem for God. When and why he should be brought back to earth must have been the question. After all he could not be left abandoned in his heavenly confine till Doomsday. As far as God is concerned the problem does not exist. As far as the Mullah is concerned the problem is created by him to hide his own contradiction of believing in the finality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), as well as believing in the re-advent of Jesus (as) a prophet after him. That is the only reason why he connects the verse of Khatamun-Nabiyyeen with the imaginary ascent of Jesus (as). He does it with a cunning deceitfulness which cannot be detected by the ordinary Muslim masses. The following is the case he builds:
Jesus was lifted to heaven with a purpose and will be brought back finally to earth.
The coming of an old prophet after the last one had appeared would not break the seal of his finality.
The need for a new prophet in the latter days will be fulfilled without creating any dilemma of contradiction in God’s Decree.
There are some who kill two birds with one stone but the orthodoxy seems to know how to kill three with one! In reality however, by shifting the twist of their own mind to that of God, they commit an unpardonable act of blasphemy.
We, as Ahmadies, believe that by concocting this mindless exercise and spinning such a bizarre tale the most prominent advantage the Mullah gains, among others, is to escape the possibility of any Divine authority to be ever imposed upon him. Good riddance once and for all from the institution of prophethood and the danger of ever losing his absolute command over the ignorant Muslim masses. The belief that a two thousand year old prophet would come again has the inherent guarantee that no prophet would ever come again. Thus the Mullah’s grip on Islam will be perpetuated and he will forever retain his despotic authority over the unsuspecting Muslim masses.
The dead never return from their otherworldly abode. Once departed, none has ever paid a second visit to begin mixing with the living. Never has God brought back any dwellers of the past. Those who literally await the return of Jesus may continue to do so till eternity. He will never come, nor will the Mullah ever quit his demagogic command over the Muslim world. Left forever at the mercy of the Mullah, who knows no mercy, the masses are duped to wait in vain for the return of Jesus (as) bearing a cup of elixir in his hand. Islam will continue to suffer year after year, century after century under the despotic rule of the Muslim clergy.
Looking yet again at the same question of Jesus versus finality, the solution proposed by the Mullah is untenable anyway. To borrow an old prophet from the bygone Ummah of Moses (as) for the completely different requirements of the Muslim Ummah of the latter days can in no way resolve their problems. A borrowed prophet, they fail to understand, will be the one who will violate the sanctity of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) finality and not the one who is born and raised within his Ummah as his spiritual son.
Over and above what has been discussed, it must be noted that in the context of the present discussion mere chronology cannot determine whether a prophet is old or new. If a prophet comes again with exactly the same attributes which he had during his first advent then of course his visit could be treated as a repeat visit. But, if before his second advent, he has been radically changed in his physical characteristics and aptitudes and his attitude to his enemies has fundamentally changed, he can in no way be described as an old prophet come again. In addition, the spiritual status he holds, the message he delivers, the miracles he works and the authority he exercises over the whole of mankind has no similarity with the Jesus (as) of the New Testament. It is also worthy of note that the Jesus (as) whose advent was promised by the Holy Prophet (sa) has a completely different identity from that of the previous Jesus (as). The promised Jesus (as) would not be a prophet of Israel any more. He will no longer be subordinate to the Torah, or to the Gospels he himself taught. Nor will he be confined to the domain of the House of Israel. If, despite all this, the Mullah must insist that the Promised Jesus (as) is the same Jesus (as) of Israel then they must admit that before being brought back to earth he would be completely reconditioned and recommissioned in all the essential features of his prophethood. If that is not the advent of a new prophet, what else is? No Mullah would concede that such a Jesus as the one described could ever be assimilated into Islam without compromising the principle of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) finality. What remains for them is only to believe that Jesus (as) would return to earth without any change wrought in him. Once here, he would be budded onto the tree of Islam and re-grow as a reformer fit to be called a universal Muslim prophet. We should be permitted to draw the attention of the Muslim Ulema that even then, he will remain foreign to Islam, unable to shed his non-Muslim personality of an Israelite. His case would be like that of a bud from a tree of a different species grafted onto the stem of another. If a lotus can be grafted onto a cherry tree, or a blueberry to a pineapple bush, only then can one visualize a pre-Islamic prophet grafted onto Islam. But to what avail. The grafted stem can never lose its identity. What would grow out of Jesus as even when bonded to Islam, would still be a Jesus as of Israelitic identity.
Therefore, even if physically transferred to the world of Islam, can never change his true identity. The Quran will continue to describe him merely as a prophet to the children of Israel. Any infuriated Muslim divine could stand up to defy his claim on the basis of this Quranic injunction alone, if he ever returns. He will be roundly denounced as an impostor. By what authority, he will be questioned, did he abrogate the proclamation of the Quran that he was merely a prophet to the House of Israel? As long as the Quran defines him as such, his identity will never be changed; he was and will always remain a prophet to the House of Israel.
Ours is an age when the fundamentalists have overexcited the sensibility of the Muslim masses to the issue of blasphemy. Evidently, the life of Jesus will not be safer in the hands of Muslim fanatics than it was in the hands of the Jewish people. Moreover, he will have to face other multifarious dangers which he did not encounter during his first advent. The world of Islam is split into schisms far more sharply and intolerantly than the world of Judaism was at the time of Jesus Christ (as).
The threat to his life will be grave no matter where he lands in a Muslim state—if he ever lands! If his landing strip happens to be in Iran, evidently he will be subjected to a gruelling examination regarding his doctrinal position. Does he believe in the twelve Imams or does he reject them? Does he believe in the Khilafat of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman or does he not? Does he believe in the unbroken continuity of succession of Hazrat ‘Ali to the Holy Founder (PBUH) of Islam? If he conforms to the Shi’ite beliefs in answer to these questions, the threat to his life will still not be averted because of the additional problem of the disappearance of the twelfth Imam. It will be demanded of him as to how he dared return to earth alone while their Holy twelfth Imam (Al-Mahdi) is still in hiding somewhere in space. Without the personal testimony of that Imam to the truth of Jesus (as), he will most certainly be stigmatized and penalized for being false.
If he is found guilty of endorsing the right to Khilafat of the first three Caliphs, Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat ‘Umar and Hazrat ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them), he will be denounced even more vehemently as an impostor. After this, his being condemned to death would be but a routine procedure of Shi’ite jurisprudence.
However, if he descends in a Sunni territory while holding Shi’ite views, no sooner will he land than be despatched back to heaven. If on the other hand he holds Sunni views, his life will still not be out of danger because each of the Sunni sects dwelling in that country would require him to testify to the truth of their beliefs, or be rejected as a liar. It is hard to conceive Jesus Christ (as) converting to the Barelvi faith or becoming a Wahhabi fundamentalist the moment he touches down in their respective countries. Whichever of the two will he claim as his own? Either way it will be tantamount to bargaining for a death warrant issued by the clergy of the other.
The reason for this condemnation would not just be his belonging to a different sect; the reason for his condemnation to death would be his imposture as a true prophet of God. No true prophet of God can hold wrong religious views they will argue. Each sect would judge Jesus (as) by the testimony of their own beliefs; none will judge their beliefs by the testimony of Jesus (as).
There will also arise the question as to which school of jurisprudence he belongs. Will he belong to the school of Hazrat Imam Malik or that of Imam Abu Hanifa or Imam Shafe’i or Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal? Having had no experience of such juristic wrangles, he will find himself helplessly trapped in the middle of this rigmarole. How he would wish that he had never ever returned to earth! Even if he is accepted by the sect whose garb he finally decides to wear, he will be strongly rejected by the remaining seventy-one sects. Over and above this will he not continue to confront the danger of rejection by all on the basis of the Quranic verse mentioned above, which declares him to be merely a prophet to the House of Israel?
The shout of ‘Go back to where you really belong’ may be heard from the mouth of any fanatic in the assembled crowd. ‘Take off and re-route your flight to the State of Israel,’ may well be curtly demanded of him. ‘If you are man enough to face a retrial at their hands, go to the Jewish people and prove your true identity.’
What shall God do at this new turn of events one wonders. Will He command the angels to hasten to Jesus’as rescue once again, lifting him to the same remote celestial abode? Or will he be abandoned by God to shift for himself at the mercy of the Muslim or the Jewish clergy? Whether he will be re-crucified by Israelite soldiers in the state of Israel or whether he will be hung till death by a Muslim hangman, is a question which only the future will tell—if he ever visits this miserable world of ours again. Far more than his previous advent, he will find the new one to be a mission impossible.
When religion is interpreted without rationality, when faith is divorced of reason, all that they give birth to are myths without legitimacy and legends without substance. Mindless trustees of faith succeed only in making a mockery of Divine wisdom.
The great scholars of medieval ages who failed to understand the true import of such prophecies can genuinely be excused. Theirs was a different age. Their understanding of the world and the cosmos around it was as yet merely conjectural. But the contemporary medievalists who are born and raised in this age of enlightenment have no justification for their gross misreading of Divine prophecies. The soul of holy Jesus (as), the true servant of God, has undoubtedly returned to Him to occupy the lofty station he is assigned. The Jesus they await is a mere fantasy of their own minds. What does one care therefore, if that phantom figure is crucified or stabbed to death or hung a thousand times! The whole episode of Jesus’ bodily ascent and preservation somewhere in space, merely to fulfil the future need for a prophet, is so provocative to the human sense of propriety! Add to this the impunity of their attributing this nonsense to God and wonder what stuff their minds are made of !
Let the world of Islam get rid of this fantasy once and for all and let the clerics who nurture it get lost. The death of their age will usher in the age of the revival of Islam.
Last, but not least, there is yet another strong objection against the suggestion that a prophet of Israel could be somehow trimmed to fit into the robe of a Muslim prophet. How can the orthodox clergy forget that during his absence from earth the Holy Quran could not have been revealed to Jesus simultaneously with the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This angle of observation raises many difficult questions for the clergy to answer. The foremost among them is the issue of his conversion. When and from whom did he learn that the greatest of all the prophets had appeared down below on earth? Did he testify to his truth forthwith becoming a believer? If he did become one—the first ever in space—how did he learn to practice Islam without knowing anything of the Quran?
As such, whether the Quran was revealed to him directly by God through the Archangel Gabriel, is the highly crucial question which must be addressed and answered.
If the Quran was revealed to him while he was still in space, he would certainly have become a partner prophet to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), like Aaron (as) was to Moses (as), both enjoying an almost similar status. If the Quran was not revealed directly to him through the archangel, what would be the nature of his faith before his return to earth? Had he remained a Judeo-Christian while Islam had been declared by God as the last universal religion of mankind? Was he treated as an exceptional case and allowed to remain a non-Muslim after the advent of the Holy Founder (PBUH) of Islam? If not, then one cannot escape the logical conclusion that the Quran must have been revealed to him somehow.
Will the Mullahs suggest that instead of the archangel, the Holy Prophet (sa) should himself have delivered the message to him? But the problem is that when the Holy Prophet (sa) delivered the message of the Quran to his companions no intermediary agent was required. Whatever was revealed to him through the archangel, he directly passed it on to his companions. But Jesus, according to the medieval Mullahs, was sitting high above somewhere in the heavens with no possible direct link with the Holy Prophet (sa). So there are only two options left. Either he should be considered as totally unaware of the revelation of the Quran till his eventual return to earth, or the Quran should only be revealed to Jesus as a message from the Holy Prophet (sa). But how can this message be lifted to him while in space unless the archangel is again involved in this exercise? The scenario which develops is so insulting and so abhorrent that a true believer cannot entertain it even for a moment. Imagine the archangel delivering the Holy Quran to the Holy Prophet (sa) and then begging him to recite it back to him so that he could deliver it to Jesus as a message from the Holy Prophet (sa) and not from God.
Returning to the issue of Jesus’ conversion to Islam, if the Quran was not revealed to Jesus at all, but he believed in the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in a vague nondescript manner, then at best he could be described as a non-practising Muslim with no knowledge of Quranic teachings. The common herd of Muslims anywhere on earth could claim a better status in Islam despite their ignorance. How would a Jesus such as this be welcomed back to earth by the great Muslim theologians and clerics of the time? To redress his ignorance will he be rushed to the presence of the Imam Al-Mahdi the instant he lands so that he could be initiated without further loss of time? No sooner than he accepts Islam, will he be offered the chair of judgement over all the conflicting Muslim sects? When and by whom will he be taught Islam fast enough to discharge such grave responsibilities with absolute precision and perfection?
If the clergy insist that he must have been recommissioned as a Muslim prophet, while still in space before his descent to earth, then how could he be treated as an old prophet of the pre-Islamic era?
To conclude, the borrowing of a prophet from a pre-Islamic era requires that either he is recommissioned in space as a new prophet in Islam after the advent of the last Prophet, or he is to be converted after his descent to earth and then recommissioned as a Muslim prophet. However much this bizarre idea of inherent contradictions may appear devoid of all common sense to the rest of the world, the orthodox clergy is not perturbed in the least. Reason and rationality have no role to play in their understanding of Divine prophecies. They take them literally without ever realizing what damage this may do to the cause of Islam. It is this madness which is largely responsible for all the chaos we observe today prevailing in their perceptions, hopes and aspirations.
All said and done, the borrowing of a non-Muslim prophet from a pre-Islamic age does not transpire to be as profitable as it appeared to the clergy. It is a tribute to their relentless obstinacy that they would much rather have a convert prophet from space than a prophet born here on earth, within Islam. They do so because there are many more advantages from this fairy tale visit of Jesus to be gained. He, as a visitor from space, would not be the same ordinary human prophet as he was but would have amassed prodigal superhuman powers unheard of in the history of prophethood before his return to earth.
This mythical image of Jesus is evidently created by their same tendency to over-literalize prophecies. Evidently they do not care what price they have to pay for the folly of rejecting reason and rationality. To Jesus Christ they assign the task of salvaging whatever remains of the dignity and honour of Islam in the latter days. It will be he, they believe, who will launch a single-handed powerful offensive against the anti-Christ on a global scale. Having roundly defeated and destroyed the anti-Christ—the one-eyed monster, Jesus will hand over the keys of his world dominion to the people of Islam, and will also distribute the immense treasure and riches which he will have amassed. Thus all the spoils of his war against the anti-Christ will he lay at the feet of the Muslim Ummah.
The ORTHODOXY’S VISION OF Jesus’ re-advent when he will literally smash all the crosses in the world to smithereens. Having resolved their political and economic problems, he will turn his full attention to such prophecies as relate to religion. He will start by launching his campaign against Christianity. His strategy will be to break every cross in the world, whatever material it is made of. He will visit every cathedral, every monastery, every church, every temple, every Christian hermitage. He will walk every street of every township and stare at every passer-by in search of any cross. Ladies perhaps will become the prime object of his scrutiny because he will be aware of their despicable habit of having crosses engraved upon their jewellery and ornaments. He will take care of the fact that they also wear crosses hanging around their necks. Thus he will snatch away every bangle, every bracelet, every pendant and earring with the sign of the cross upon it. Woe to the ladies who dare to cross the path of that Jesus, but where can they escape and hide, the poor defenceless wretches? He will enter every house and search every cabinet and jewellery box. Every wall and every corner will be scanned. Crosses must be literally broken and wiped out from the face of earth. Until he has accomplished this task to the full he will not rest in peace. This is the vision of the Muslim orthodoxy of the mission of Jesus Christ if ever he returns to earth, but that is not all.
Having completely disposed of the symbol of Trinity, he would then turn to another task which prophecies assign to him, if they are taken literally. He will lose no time in beginning to kill every non-Muslim inhabiting the world. Either they must convert to Islam or they must die—these will be their only options. He will go about this slaughtering business in a rather unusual way. He will breathe fire like a mythical dragon, while no myth has ever presented such a dragon before, even in the wildest tales of fantasy. His blazing breath will scorch to death innumerable infidels even when they are miles away from him. Those within the reach of his sword, will have their heads stricken off and made to roll. He will identify them unmistakably because on the forehead of each non-believer would appear the imprint in bold: Al-Kafir, the non-believer. Thus he will leave none alive except the Muslims, and the de-Christianized Christians of course, who will be left without a single cross to worship. Hence the curtain will fall upon this unique carnage by the imaginary Jesus, filling the entire earth with fetid odour, an obnoxious stench of rotting bodies, some slaughtered, some scorched to death. Hatred will generate more hatred, bloodshed will lead to more bloodshed.