The very essence of an Islamic mindset is ‘submission in peace,’ as it exemplifies a life of compliance and obedience to the will of Almighty Allah. To elucidate the tenets of the religion and to represent the ideal way of living, Allah has sent many prophets through the ages to guide human understanding and behavior.
Whenever mankind has been plunged into the dark ages of despondency, immorality and abject corruptness, prophets chosen by Almighty Allah have come to reiterate the pure and primordial message of Islamic, Tawhid, to lift up the masses from the morass of the evil, depraved and degenerated state into which they have sunk. Yet mankind has proved to be stubborn and willful.
Hundreds of years after a prophet may have taught what we now recognize as Islam, there were people in the minority who were truly following it. There would always be some who would return to the light from the darkness into which they had descended and at the same time there would be others who refused to be enlightened and persisted in following their debauched and unscrupulous ways.
Hence, time and time again Allah has sent prophets to re-teach His message to new generations for mankind’s guidance. Allah has stated in the Quran that the Prophets were men of true faith, who had exemplary character and were endowed with patience, sincerity and steadfastness. With the mercy and might of Allah, they have oftentimes been granted the ability to perform miraculous signs, in order to help convince mankind with the power of their message. One such prophet was Prophet Isa (A.S), who, from the beginning to the ‘end’ of his life, exhibited wondrous signs in the presence of his followers to strengthen in their hearts and minds the message he was conveying.
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By the time Prophet Isa (A.S) had come to the leadership of his contemporary Bani Israel, they had proved to be abjectly ungrateful for the multitude of favors granted to them by Allah. They violated Allah’s orders, ridiculed the message conveyed by the previous prophets and were in open and wanton disobedience. They no longer followed the commands of religion, indulged in debauchery and in rituals that bore little resemblance to what their prophets had taught. They ended up making a mockery of Allah’s message. Allah deemed it necessary to send Prophet Isa (A.S) to mankind so as to once again reiterate the message of Abraham, Moses and the others. Prophet Isa (A.S), son of Maryam, was commanded to confirm what was in the Tawrah, and Allah bestowed on him the Injîl.
The birth of Prophet Isa (A.S) itself, was more than unusual. Before Prophet Isa’s conception when Maryam was worshipping Allah, Angel Jibrîl appeared to her to convey Allah’s announcement of a son to be born to her.
‘I am only a messenger from thy Lord, to announce to thee the gift of a holy son.’ [Surah Maryam, 19:19]
Upon hearing this, Maryam was anxious and asked how she could bear a son when she had led a sheltered life of chastity, and no man had touched her.
Angel Jibrîl said, ‘So it will be: Thy Lord said ‘That is easy for me: and We wish to appoint him as a sign unto men and a Mercy from us.’ [Surah Maryam, 19:21]
Later pregnant, alone in her predicament and suffering with the pangs of childbirth, Maryam was deeply consoled to hear a voice,
‘Grieve not! For thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee. And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. So eat and drink and cool thine eye. And if thou dost see any man say, ‘I have vowed a fast to God Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.’ [Surah Maryam, 19: 24-26]
This unexplained provision was strong vindication of her pure and chaste devotion to her Lord, and the instructions were meant as a protection for her honor. Not only had Allah chosen her especially for her utmost integrity, but he had made unusual provision for her food and drink. And mindful of future unwarranted accusations, He had instructed her to abstain from any human interaction.
Despite these precautions however, she was greeted by a deluge of her people’s accusations when she returned from seclusion to her hometown with baby Isa (A.S).
‘O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor was thy mother a woman unchaste.’ [Surah Maryam, 19: 27-28]
Upon hearing this, Maryam was perturbed but she was also confident in Allah’s commandments and divine protection. Thus, she pointed to her baby, indicating to the people that he would answer their accusations. They mocked and ridiculed her, yet were taken aback at how her child in the cradle could speak to the assembled people, let alone vouch for her chastity and purity. Even so, baby Isa (A.S) spoke to the assembled people, strengthening and confirming the Almighty power of Allah.
‘He shall speak to people while still in the cradle, and in manhood, and he shall be from the righteous.’ [Surah Âl Imran, 3:46]
He said, ‘I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; and He hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live…’ [Surah Maryam, 19: 30-33]
Like other prophets, Prophet Isa’s life was spent in promoting the mission of the pure and true religion of Allah. When he was thirty years old, Angel Jibrîl appeared to him. This event commenced the beginning of his active prophethood and his reconfirmation of the Holy Torah. Prophet Isa (A.S) embarked upon calling his people to his message of pure religion. He endeavored in the best way to bring his fellow Jewish people back to the straight path, and to the original and authentic religion of Prophet Moses, which was no longer being properly followed.
The people at the time expected him to validate his call for them to return to the teachings of Moses by means of signs and wonders as indicators of his authority as a prophet. Allah fortified him in this and granted him the power of divine endorsement through his association with unusual events conveyed during his lifetime.
Some of the miraculous signs brought to his prophetic career are memorialized for us in the Quran:
- In the fifth chapter of the Quran, “The Table Laden with Food” —named after one widely commemorated prophetic act of Prophet Isa (A.S)— Allah narrates how Prophet Isa’s followers requested him to ask Allah to send down a “table laden with food,” and to petition that this recurring enactment would be made a special day of commemoration for them in the future.
‘When the disciples said: ‘O Isa, son of Maryam! Can your Lord send down to us a table spread with food from heaven? Isa said: ‘Fear Allah, if you are indeed believers. They said: ‘We wish to eat thereof and to satisfy our hearts (so as to be stronger in faith) and to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we ourselves be its witness. Isa, son of Maryam said: ‘O Allah, our Lord! Send us from the heaven a table spread (with food) that there may be for us – for the first and last of us – a festival and a sign from You; and provide us with sustenance, for You are the Best of sustainers.’ [Surah Maidah: 112-114]
- Another powerful sign given to Prophet Isa (A.S) is mentioned in the Quran. Allah granted him the astounding ability of breathing life into a lifeless piece of clay.
‘And I will make him a Messenger to the children of Israel saying: ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you out of clay, a figure like that of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave…’ [Surah Âl Imran, 3: 49]
- To further satisfy the sceptics, Allah granted Prophet Isa (A.S) incredible powers of healing the afflicted and the infirm. In the same verse it is stated,
‘and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper…’ [Surah Âl Imran, 3: 49]
Granting sight to the sightless and the cleansing of the leper must have indeed been an awesome sight for the people of the time to behold, and a return to faith for many of the hardhearted!
- But perhaps the most awe inspiring ability conferred on Prophet Isa (A.S) was the immense power to bring the dead back to life…
‘…and I bring the dead to life by Allah’s leave.’ [Surah Âl Imran, 3: 49]
This was probably the greatest potential endowed to any Prophet so far and which enabled him to shake the disbelief of many of the cynics and scoffers of religion at his time.
- ‘And I inform you of what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely therein is a sign for you if you believe.’ [Surah Al Imran, 3: 49]
This was another accomplishment Allah granted to Prophet Isa (A.S) – to be able to reveal what food the people stored in their houses and which kinds of food they partook of.
Although Prophet Isa (A.S) had increasing numbers of followers and supporters, they belonged largely to the lower classes and numbered in the minority. The majority of the people belonging to the wealthy sects, tried to undermine his message and disprove his call as they were apprehensive about him detracting from their power and attracting their followers away from them. Their ignorance of the true intent of religion, their insecurity and their remoteness from the pure religion promulgated by Prophet Isa (A.S), prompted them to develop rejection and fear towards him. They plotted to kill him, and to further their end, they employed spies to fulfill this objective, so as to be informed of his whereabouts and activities.
Prophet Isa (A.S) continued on his mission of preaching and spreading the true religion of Allah in spite of the trials and tribulations he faced from his adversaries. He moved from place to place, not fearing for his life, but determined to spread the word of Allah. However, his antagonists and spies reported him to the then serving leadership, who gave the order for him to be entrapped and sentenced to death. Eventually a man appearing to have a likeness to Prophet Isa (A.S) was apprehended and subjected to the ultimate Roman capital punishment of crucifixion.
The Quran categorically states that Prophet Isa (A.S) was not a man killed on a cross. This is where Christians differ in an important principle of faith from Muslims, as they believe that Prophet Isa (A.S) died in atonement for their sins on the cross that day. This idea is rejected in Islam as Allah created an illusion in the minds of the people, to further dissuade his enemies. The Quran indicates that, instead, Prophet Isa (A.S) was actually raised alive by Allah up to his heavenly abode. This is the final sign manifest at the ‘end’ of his lifetime.
‘And remember when Allah said: ‘O Isa! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you of the forged statement that Isa is Allah’s son of those who disbelieve… Then you will return to Me and I will judge between you and in the matters in which you used to dispute.’ [Surah Âl Imran, 3: 55]
A hadith states that before Al Qiyammah or the end of the world, Prophet Isa (A.S)will descend from heaven and appear on earth.
Narrated Abu Hurairah that Allah’s Messenger said,
’By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, surely Isa, the son of Maryam, will shortly descend amongst you (Muslims) and will judge mankind justly by the law of the Quran; he will break the cross and kill the pigs and [then] there will be no Jizyah (tax taken from non- Muslims)… And there is none of the people of the Scriptures [Jews and Christians] but must believe in him [Isa] as a messenger of Allah….’ (Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 4, Hadith No. 657)
Belief in all the prophets and in Prophet Muhammad, the last prophet, is a basic corollary of Islamic belief. The Quran as revealed to Prophet Muhammad corrects faulty beliefs which are said —wrongly— to have been passed down from previous prophets. It confirms truths about Prophet Isa (A.S), such as his prophet hood, the miracles which he performed with divine permission and steadfast belief, and it insists upon the alternative fact that Allah raised Prophet Isa (A.S) to heaven —not raised him back to life from the dead—all verified tenets of a Muslim’s belief system.
As always, we turn to the sublime words of the Holy Quran to encapsulate the true meaning of Prophet Isa’s mission, his life, and his ‘end.’
‘Remember when the angels said: ‘O Maryam! Verily Allah gives you the glad tidings of a word (Be! And he was! i.e., Isa , the son of Maryam) from Him, his name will be the Messiah, Isa the son of Maryam, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, and he will be one of those who are near to Allah.’ [Sura Al Imran, 3:45]
‘Verily in the sight of Allah, the nature of Isa is as the nature of Adam whom He created out of clay and then said unto him: ‘Be’ and he is. This is the truth from your Lord and Sustainer… be not then among the doubters.’ [Surah Âl Imran, 3: 45]
This is indeed a befitting tribute granted to a prophet of Allah by none other than Allah Almighty, which prompts us to believe with assurance in the message originally conveyed by him and to have implicit faith in the signs performed by him concurrent with and by the sacred permission of Allah.