The late Sheikh Jadul-Haq `Ali Jadul-Haq, former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, states the following: Allah Almighty has told us of the end of Jesus (peace be upon him) in three surahs in the Qur’an that came as follows:
1) In Surat Al `Imran, we read: (When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: ‘Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?’ Said the disciples: ‘We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord! We believe in what Thou hast revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness.’ And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee (mutawaffika) and raise thee to Myself (warafi`ukailayya) and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.’)(Al `Imran 3:52-55)
2) Also in Surat An-Nisa’, Allah says: (That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself (bal Rafa`ahuAllahuilayhi); and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.)(An-Nisa’ 4:157-158)
3) Again in surat Al-Ma’idah, we read: (And behold! Allah will say: ‘O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’ He will say: ‘Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up (tawaffaytani) Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things’.)(Al-Ma’idah 5:116-117)
The Arabic word “mutawaffika” is derived from the root “tawaffa” and is referred always in the Qur’an as meaning “to cause someone to die”. However, the word originally means “taking”. One says: “tawaffaytu min fulanin ma liya `alayhi”. Meaning: “I have taken back my debt from so and so”. It also means “To make someone fall asleep”. This meaning is mentioned in the Qur’anic verse that reads: (It is He who doth take your souls (yatawaffakum) by night, and hath knowledge of all that ye have done by day: by day doth He raise you up (yab`athukum) again; that a term appointed be
fulfilled; In the end unto Him will be your return; then will He show you the truth of all that ye did.)(Al-An`am 6:60)
In this verse the word “yatawaffakum” means “make you fall asleep during the night”. In the same context, the word “yab`athukum” (revive or quicken you) is used to refer to the meaning that He awakens you during the day. Based on the above, we can say that the words “mutawaffika”and“tawaffaytani” may mean “made you fall asleep” and “when you made me fall asleep”. (See: FatawaIbnTaymiyyah,vol. 4, pp. 322-323 and Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah by IbnKathir, vol. 2 p. 91)
The Explanation of the phrases “bal Rafa`ahu Allahu ilayhi” and “wa rafi`uka ilayya”:
The majority of the exegetes of the Qur’an are of the view that the two phrases refer to Jesus’ ascension to the heavens and the first phrase “bal Rafa`ahu Allahu ilayhi” is an assertion of the fulfillment of Allah’s promise to him that He would make him ascend to the heavens.
The ascension referred to in the Qur’an includes both material and non-material aspects. Non-material here means ascension in place and honor (giving a high place and lofty status). Since we are to accept the idea of ascension as a way of saving Jesus from his archenemies, we are to say there must have been real death or sleeping that preceded the process of ascension. Modern scientific research has shown that the higher man ascends the more constricted his chest becomes and the more difficult it is for him to breathe. Allah says, (Those whom Allah (in His plan) willeth to guide, He openeth their breast to Islam; those whom He willeth to leave straying, He maketh their breast close and constricted, as if they had to climb up to the skies: thus doth Allah (heap) the penalty on those who refuse to believe.)(Al-An`am 6:125) By the same token, taking Jesus up while still awake would have inflicted hardship on him.
All in all, Allah Almighty has taken Jesus up and saved him from killing and crucifixion. In other words, he either made him die (tawaffah) or made him fall asleep (tawaffah). All this was meant to save him from the pains he might have been subjected to in case he was taken up while still awake. Also, the meaning may be that he was taken up while still alive.
After this quick review of these Qur’anic verses, we come to know that scholars hold different views on this very issue.
The Preponderant View:
The view I find myself inclined to is that Allah Almighty has taken Jesus up from among his enemies, rescuing him from them. Hence, they neither killed nor crucified him as Christians claim. His enemies were in fact confused with regards to him. At any rate, he was saved, but how? We do not know.
The Qur’anic verses do not point out the way he was saved and, with a case like this, we are to remain silent and pose no more questions about the matter since this will get us nowhere. What is really established is that Allah Almighty did not allow the Jews to arrest Jesus nor to crucify him. It is also well clarified by the verses that Jesus found an escape and was taken up to heavens. Allah says: (For of a surety they killed him not: Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself ( balRafa`ahuAllahuilayhi); and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.)(An-Nisa’ 4:157-158)
What Muslims should believe in:
A sound belief of every Muslim should be that Jesus was taken up and saved from killing and crucifixion. Anyone who believes in the idea that Jesus was killed and crucified can no longer be called a Muslim.
As for Jesus’ being taken up, whether dead or alive and the nature of the life he is now leading, scholars hold different views in this regard, as this is not decisively established in the Qur’an. The majority of scholars adopt the view that Jesus is still alive in the heavens and leading a life the nature of which we do not really know.
The general implication of the narrations in the books of Sunnah is that Jesus will come back in the end calling for Islam and application of the Shari`ah. In FathAl-Bari, (vol. 6, pp. 490-494), we read that Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said: By the One in Whose hand is my soul! The Son of Mary is about to come back as a just ruler who will break the cross, kill the swine and cancel the tribute, and money will be so great in amount that no one will be in need of it and one act of prostration will be more lovable to a person than the whole world and every thing in it.”Then, Abu Hurayrah recited: (And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them.)(An-Nisa’ 4:159) In his Sahih, Imam Muslim reported this hadith with the addition:“…and kill the Dajjal (Anti-Christ).”
Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, adds: Allah Almighty has mentioned to us that Jesus was taken up to the heavens and said: (Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself (bal Rafa`ahuAllahuilayhi); and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.)(An-Nisa’ 4:158) He mentioned not that he has come back to the earth. Those who claim that he has come back to earth are asked to offer evidence for their claims. If they are not able to bring about any evidence, they are to know that their claims are groundless.
Allah also says: (Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee (mutawaffika) and raise thee to Myself (warafi`ukailayya) and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.’)(Al `Imran 3:52-55)
IbnJarir states: “(mutawaffika) here refers to his ascension”. Other scholars, however, say that it refers to sleeping as is the case with the verse that reads: (It is He who doth take your souls (yatawaffakum) by night, and hath knowledge of all that ye have done by day: by day doth He raise you up again; that a term appointed be fulfilled; In the end unto Him will be your return; then will He show you the truth of all that ye did.)(Al-An`am 6:60)
On getting up, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to say: “Praise be to Allah Who brought us life after he caused us to die and unto Him will be our turning back.”
Therefore, Jesus did not die; rather, he was taken up when the Jews tried to arrest and kill him and he will come back at the end of the time and rule the land with Islam. He will live till Allah causes him to die and will be offered funeral prayer by Muslims.