Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Swoon Theory and the Alleged Crucifixion of Jesus (2/2)

In Part 1, we have shown that for all the commotion between the Muslims and the Christians regarding Jesus Christ (upon him be peace), they have more in common between them as opposed to differences.

The manner Jesus was conceived is the same.  Their view about his mother is similar.  His life and works are more or less similar in both accounts.  Without extrapolations, Jesus teachings in the Bible are not much different than in the Quran.  What are attributed to Jesus in the Bible and in the Quran are largely comparable.

But they differ with regard to Jesus’ death or his disappearance.   Yet, both believe that Jesus was ascended to Heaven.

Their major difference is that, to the Muslims, Jesus was ascended without being crucified, while to the Christians, Jesus ascended only after he was nailed to the Cross. 

That Jesus was crucified, but was taken down alive in a swooning state, is neither a Christian’s, nor a Muslim’s view.  This so-called Swoon Theory was first promoted by one Karl Friedrich Bahrdt, who is not regarded as a Christian even by the Christians.  The Christians reject this theory wholesale, as the Muslims also should.

In 1899, however, after more than one hundred years the first Swoon Theory was proposed, a Muslim heretic by the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed himself ImamMahdi, has written and published a book Jesus In India.* 

He proposed that Jesus was crucified, but did not die.  He only fainted, brought back to life and went to find the ten lost tribes of Israel in India.  These Israelite lost tribes accepted his teaching, and made him their leaders.  He died there.  Since these lost tribes of Israel received the truth from Jesus himself, they eventually became Muslims, and nowadays known as the Afghans and Kashmiris.

Now, the book is really not worth reading, unless if you want to know what the fuss is all about.  Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who has some followers, especially in India and Pakistan—known either as Ahmadiyah Movement or Qadiani Movement, first by his last name, Ahmad, and the second by the place he hailed from, Qadian—seems to have problems with Jesus’ second coming. 

In the Introduction, he writes:

The difference in their views, i.e. the view of the followers of Islam and that of the Christians, is only this, that the Christians believe that Jesus died on the Cross, was resurrected, and went to the heavens in his earthly body, seated himself on the right hand of his Father, and will come to the earth in the latter days for judgment; they also say that the Creator and the Master of the world is this Jesus the Messiah and no one else; he it is who, in the latter days of the world, will descend to the earth with a glorious descent to award punishment and reward; then, all who will not believe in him or his mother as God, will be hauled up and thrown into hell, where weeping and wailing will be their lot.

Having talked about the view of the Christians, he continues with the view of the Muslims:

Muslims say that Jesus was not crucified, nor did he die on the Cross; on the other hand, when the Jews arrested him in order to crucify him an angel of God took him away to the heavens in his earthly body, and he is still alive in the heavens... Muslims, moreover, also say that Jesus is an eminent prophet of God, but not God, nor the son of God, and, they believe that he will in the latter days descend to the earth, near the Minaret of Damascus or near some other place, supported on the shoulders of two angels, and that he and Imam Muhammad, the Mahdi…will kill all the non-Muslims, not leaving anyone alive except those who will forthwith and without any delay become Muslims.

Having given both views, he puts forward his point:

In short, the real object of the descent of Jesus to the earth…is that, like the Mahadev of the Hindus, he should destroy the whole world…[and] that when Jesus comes down from the heavens he will break all the Crosses in the world, do many a cruel deed with the sword, and inundate the world with blood.

This, he believes, contravenes to Jesus’ core teachings, namely:

'Not to resist evil,' and, being struck on one cheek, 'to turn the other cheek also.'

His impression about Jesus’ second coming appears to be that Jesus is bent on destroying the world, while the Hadith simply says that:

The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts). (Sahih al Bukhari) 

The impression one gets from the above authentic Hadith, however, appears to be just the opposite.   Jesus second coming is to usher in an era of justice, abundance and prosperity. 

After his long diatribes in the Introduction, which is not worth quoting here, Mirza Ghulan Ahmad proceeds with his arguments about his Swoon Theory, and about Jesus going to India and died there.  He extrapolates his conjecture in the first chapter through Biblical narrations, the second chapter through Quran and Islamic Traditions, the third chapter through books of medicine, and the final chapter through books of history.  None of his conjectural arguments or his sophistry is worth quoting here.

If one reads his book, or speed read as I did, it makes one wonder why he has to go through all the trouble of making needless and senseless arguments.  He could have made his point simpler.  After all, like all prophets, he receives Revelation from Allah, you see.  He is even greater than all those prophets, because unlike the prophets, he can converse with the dead with relative ease.

As he writes:

I have seen Jesus many a time in Kashf (vision in the waking state), and I have met some of the prophets, while fully awake; I have also seen our Chief, Master and Leader, the Prophet Muhammad many a time in the waking state, and I have talked to him -- in such a clear state of waking that sleep or drowsiness had nothing to do with it. I have also met some of the dead at their graves or other places, while awake; and have talked to them.

What a marvellous man he is.  Even Prophet Muhammad does not have such privilege.  The Prophet never claims that he spoke with the dead or the earlier prophets in the waking state, and with relative ease to boot.  The Prophet has that privilege only during the Night Journey and Ascension (Isra’ and Mi’raj).  But Mirza Ghulam Ahmad seems to supersede the rest of the prophets, because, as he writes:

I very well know that such meeting with the dead in the waking state is possible; not only can we meet, we can also talk, and even have a handshake... This experience is a gift from heaven; it is for those who are endowed with new senses. This is a fact -- actual and true.

One may ask: Since he has seen Jesus in the waking state, and even talked to him, wouldn’t it be easier to just ask Jesus what had really happened, so that he can save all the trouble of making lengthy chapters of arguments? 

I know I would, if only I have such a gift. 

In the end, he appears to have an axe to grind:

And I have been declared a Kafir [infidel], not only because of my denial of the appearance of this supposed Mahdi and this supposed Messiah in whom they believe, but also because I have publicly announced, having been informed of it by God through revelation, that the real and true Promised Messiah who is also the real Mahdi…is myself; who is, however, not provided with any sword or gun.

Now we know what the fuss is all about.  He is both Imam Mahdi and Jesus in one.  It makes one wonders how he managed to get followers at all.  But then again, life is strange.  If people can believe that the stones and woods that they carve are gods, then it is not at all strange that some people can buy his nonsense.

Admittedly, to be a Muslim, some measure of faith is required.  One has to believe that God exists in the first place, that He is the Creator of everything, and that He selects a few people to be His prophets and messengers to convey the knowledge about Him, and to live and worship in accordance with what He has decided.  In the same manner, one also needs to have faith in order to believe in other religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.  The key is to discern among these faiths which one is more palatable to the mind, more correct to the history, more congenial to human nature.

If one chooses not to believe in any religion at all, such as the free thinkers, some measure of “faith” is also required of him.  He has to believe that he is nothing more than an upgraded version of cow, pig, dog, cat, monkey, etc., who live only to eat, copulate, have fun, make something and then die for nothing and without consequence.  After all, mankind evolved from monkey you see.  We are just an upgraded version of the ape.  If that is what he wants to believe, then it is his business.

But once we become Muslims, having believed in the Prophethood of Muhammad, we have to go with the way he taught us, without having to conjecture too much, or to extrapolate everything.   Our Christian friends, who have more similarities than differences with us, fall into error because they have conjectured too much.  Likewise with the Qadianis.

Now, if Wikipedia is correct, it seems that the Swoon Theory of Jesus in India has become rather popular among the Muslims.  Yet in my life, I have met only one Muslim friend who has told me about this Indian Swoon Theory.  Fortunately he was not a Qadiani, and realized the mistake when I pointed out where it comes from.

I know for certain that the Christians reject it outright.  They have to, because Death Through Crucifixion is central to their tenet, as we have seen in the Good Friday and Crucifixion of Jesus.  No death on the Cross, Christianity would crumble.

We the Muslims should not entertain this nonsense, even for fun.  The prolific debater against the Christians, the late Ahmad Deedat, used to play with the Swoon Theory.  He didn’t actually believe in it, but he simply wanted to make the point that Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross.  His intent was to refute the central tenet of Christianity.  Personally I am not sure how wise it is to play around this conjecture.

From the Seerah, we know that the Prophet used to debate with the Christians from Najran.  These Christians regarded him an impostor, as they still do nowadays.  Else, the Christians would have to accept Muhammad as a Prophet, and would therefore become Muslims.

Having failed to convince the Christian delegates from Najran of his Prophethood—for they still considered him lying, both as regard to the message he brought, as well as his version about Jesus—the Prophet challenged them to resolve the matter by invoking Allah’s curse.  This challenge is captured in the Quran, in Surah Ali Imran Verse 61:

“Then whoever argues with you about it after [this] knowledge has come to you - say, "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then supplicate earnestly (together) and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars (among us)."

Of course the Christians of Najran chickened out.  The Prophet was already taking his family members to the open space, and invited these Christian delegations to do the same.   Let the liars among us be struck by the bolt of lightning, or some other forms of curses. 

The Christian deputations from Najran, however, felt that such is not a gentleman’s way of resolving the dispute.

I find this event somewhat curious.  The Prophet is noted for being very patient when dealing with his opponents.  For instance, he was severely abused physically, mentally and emotionally by the Quraysh during the thirteen years of his mission in Makkah, but he always kept his cool.  He was badly mistreated when he went to Taif, looking for new abode to establish his mission, after he was convinced that the leaders in Makkah would never embrace the new religion.  The leaders of Taif even asked their kids to throw stones at him, chasing him away, bleeding.  He simply prayed to God to forgive them.

With the Christians of Najran, however, he appeared to be impatient.  Gaining no ground with them after some debate, he chose to cut the crap.  He made the challenge he never made in his life, namely, to decide the matter with the wrath of God. 

One may ask: Why did he not make such kind of challenge with the Quraysh and the Thaqif (people of Taif)?  The Quraysh especially had been very nasty with him.  They used to ask him the impossible, including invoking the wrath of God upon them if indeed Muhammad was telling the truth.  The Christians of Najran did not go to that extent.  Could it be that his change of tactic is due to the fact that he was weak while facing the Quraysh, but when the Christian delegates of Najran came to him, he was already a powerful leader?

If we ponder about this matter, we know that such is not the case.  The Qurasyh were people of Ignorance.  They truly did not know the truth.  Their ancestors had been living in Ignorance for centuries so much so that Ignorance had become part and parcel of their life.  Ignorance was in their blood. 

The Christians of Najran, however, were people of enlightenment.  They knew about the prophecy of the forthcoming Prophet.  Muhammad matched the description of the prophecy.  Yet they called him an impostor.  It was, therefore, God Himself who inspired the Prophet to call for the challenge, so that the matter could be resolved quickly. 

If they truly believed that Muhammad was an impostor, they should have no fear in taking that challenge.  Yet they refused.  Since they were afraid to take the challenge, it was clear that whatever it was that they believed, they didn’t believe in it with certain knowledge or absolute conviction. 

To recap, the Swoon Theory is just a useless conjecture.  The theory that Jesus went to India is just a piece of crap, and should be regarded as such by the Muslims.  If some of our scholars want to use the Swoon Theory to disprove the theory of Crucifixion, I guess it is their business. 

As for me, I would rather go with the Prophet’s method.  It may not be a gentleman’s way, but it will show who has real ball.  One would not be afraid if he believes he is on the side of the Truth.

*In case one is curious, the book Jesus in India may be accessed here:

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Swoon Theory and the Alleged Crucifixion of Jesus (1/2)

No man has perhaps attracted the attention of the world since the time immemorial as does Jesus the Christ (upon him be peace).  Very little about his life, however, is known. 

His story appears only in the Islamic and Christian traditions.  The Jewish or Judaic tradition largely ignores him, although he was a Jew.  History completely ignores him, except for a brief mention by a classical Jewish writer, Flavius Josephus.

Titus Flavius Josephus, whose Jewish name is Joseph ben Mattathias, was born in 37 C.E., a few years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus.  He wrote five books.  Except for the Antiquity of the Jews, his other books are considered contemporaneous history.  Strangely, he made no mention about Jesus, except for a short line in the last part (called Book 20, Chapter 9.1) of his Antiquity of the Jews, which is not exactly about contemporary history, but the history of the Jews from the dawn of mankind to his time.  The line reads:

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.*

Even in that line, Josephus did not exactly write about Jesus, but rather about a man said to be Jesus’ brother, whose name was James, who was leading the rebellion against the Roman at that time. 

Elsewhere, passages about Jesus were said to be inserted into Josephus’ writings, but they are not considered to be authentic (i.e., not penned by him).  Even the line, “who was called Christ,” in the above quotation was alleged to be a later insertion by some.

In short, Jesus was not a historical figure. His life and work were largely ignored by his contemporaries. 

Yet, he has captured the imagination of the world, especially among the Muslims and the Christians, and his life and his work have been the subjects of countless scrutiny.

The story about Jesus came to the scene shortly before he was conceived.  According to the Islamic Tradition, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to his mother, bringing the good news that she was about to conceive a pure (i.e., holy) baby boy.  His mother, Mary, wondered how she could conceive a baby, for no man has ever touched her.  The Angel simply replied it is all too easy for God to do so.  It is a thing decreed, Gabriel added, and God just need to say Be, and it is.

The Christian Tradition has additional story to it, saying that Mary was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph the Carpenter, who wanted to break the betrothal upon hearing the news that Mary was pregnant, but was visited in his dream by an “Angel” who asked him not to break his engagement with Mary.

According to Islamic Tradition, Mary was said to be giving birth to Jesus alone, while the Christian Tradition says that Joseph was with Mary when she delivered Jesus to the world.

The Christian Tradition further says that King Herod, the Jewish king who was a Roman satrap at that time, was given the premonition that a baby boy will be born.  This baby boy would challenge his kingdom, pretty much like the baby boy among the Hebrews would challenge Pharaoh during Moses’ time (upon him be peace).  So Mary and her fiancĂ©e brought the baby boy to Egypt, looking for the safe refuge.  Jesus only appeared when he was ten years old.  He went to the Temple of Jerusalem, reading the Torah and challenging the priests there.

The Islamic Tradition, however, says that Mary’s pregnancy and the subsequent birth of Jesus had caused the commotion among his people, the Jews.  They accused her of adultery.  She responded to the accusation by simply pointing to the baby Jesus, signifying that they should ask the baby boy themselves.  They wondered how a newly born baby could speak, but the baby Jesus spoke in the cradle, defending the chastity of his mother.

Then his story disappeared from the scene in both Traditions, until he finally appeared at the age around thirty.  He rebuked the Jews, especially their leaders, whom he accused of leaving the true spirit of Torah, clinging only to its letters, focusing only on dead rituals, and teaching people to do what they themselves did not do.  He performed many miracles, including curing the lepers and reviving the dead.

Barely three years later, Jesus “disappeared.” 

Hitherto, there are not many differences between the Muslims and the Christians regarding Jesus.  Both agree that he was conceived without the help of a man, that a virgin mother gave birth to him.  It is the Jews who questioned the chastity of his mother, accusing her of adultery.   Islam places her among the few most virtuous women, even dedicating a chapter in the Quran to her name.  Christianity meanwhile places her above the rest of women from the dawn of mankind to the end of the world.  Both have nothing but respect for her.

The Quran talks about Jesus defended his mother’s chastity while in the cradle, while the Bible says that he went to read the Torah at the age of ten.  These are not exactly contradictions, but rather complementary stories.  The Christians shouldn’t have any problem about Jesus speaking in the cradle, as the Muslims shouldn’t with regard to Jesus reading the Torah at the age of ten.

When he re-entered into the scene as an adult, both Quran and Bible agree that he challenged the Jewish authority of his time, and that he had performed many miracles. 

Bearing in mind that the four canonical Gospels in the Bible were not written by Jesus himself, but rather by other people who wrote the account of his life and his mission, a Muslim would feel at home reading passages attributed to his teachings.  Barring a few passages that clearly say Jesus is merely human and not one of the three single God (Trinity), a Christian would likewise feel at home reading the accounts and the teachings of Jesus in the Quran.

These many similarities, however, are overshadowed by one fatal difference, namely the manner of Jesus leaving the world.

Now, historically the Christians have been having major disagreement as regard to Jesus leaving the world.  Many versions have been put forward, but finally one version has been accepted as official, namely that Jesus was arrested, put on trial, beaten to a pulp, nailed to the Cross, died a few hours thereafter, buried in a tomb, resurrected from death three days later, met his disciples and ascended to Heaven, sitting with God the Father. 

Islamic version is slightly different.  As we have narrated earlier, the majority of the Muslims scholars say that someone else was arrested and crucified.  Jesus was ascended to Heaven before all that commotion took place.  This is because Quran has made it clear already that he was not killed, nor crucified, but only made to appear so (an Nisa 157).  Quran is also equally clear in stating that Jesus was ascended to Heaven (an Nisa 158).

But then in Surah Ali Imran verse 55, Quran states: "O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve.”  The phrase “take you,” mutawaffika in Arabic, could also mean “cause you to die” or “cause you to sleep.”  For that reason, scholars differ as to whether Jesus was raised alive or was made to die before he was raised to Heaven. 

That he was raised to Heaven and will be brought back to the earth was never a matter of dispute, because the authentic Hadith says: "The Hour [Day of Judgement] will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts).  (Sahih Al Bukhari)

Somehow, however, slightly more than two hundred years ago, around 1780 as Wikipedia says, someone by the name of Karl Friedrich Bahrdt, suggested that Jesus deliberately feigned his death.  From thereon, various other theories were proposed along the same line, that Jesus was crucified but did not die on the Cross.  He was only fainting and thought to have been dead.  He was resuscitated, lived somewhere and died a natural death.  This is known as Swoon Theory. 

Various hypotheses and conjectures were put forward to defend this theory, such as the fact that death through crucifixion is a slow process, generally takes two or more days, while Jesus was crucified for only a few hours before he was taken down from the Cross, believing that he was dead already.

Islam should have no place for such conjectures and extrapolations, but somehow it does.

We shall talk about it in the second part of this instalment, inshaAllah.

End of Part 1

*In case one is interested in Josephus’ work, here is the link:
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jesus Was Neither Killed, Nor Crucified, But Did He Die Or Not?

A good friend of mine texted me, inquiring why is it that the Quran appears to contradict itself in  Surah an Nisa verses 158 and 159.

Verse 158 says that Allah raised Jesus (upon him be peace) to Himself, while the following verse (An Nisa 159) indicates that the People of the Scripture will surely believe in Jesus before his death.

These are among difficult passages in the Quran. 

As we know, Quranic verses are of two types.  The first type is where the meaning is clear and straightforward, which constitutes the majority of the verses.  The second type is where the meaning is ambiguous, which is in the minority.  An Nisa 158-159 may be said to belong to the second category.

Of the second category, it is further divided into two types: those that can still be interpreted, and those whose meanings are known only to Allah.  An Nisa 158-159 belong to those verses that can still be interpreted.

The verses impossible to be interpreted are very few.  One good example is the first verse of al Baqarah.  It reads: “Alif,” “Lam,” “Mim.”

As we can see, this is not even a verse, but rather three Arabic letters, equivalent to English “A,” “L,” “M.”  While these three letters still constitute part of the Quran, for all intents and purposes, they are not meant to be understood.  Only Allah knows why they are there in the Quran.

Years ago, someone told me that these letters, respectively, refer to Allah, Malaikah (Angel), and Muhammad.  Thus, he said, it means that the Quran is from Allah, through Malaikah (Angel Gabriel), to Muhammad.

It sounded logical enough, except that he has to extrapolate a great deal to make his point (for instance, malaikah begins with “M,” not “L”) and in the end, it remains a conjecture.  It is best to leave the matter to Allah and not try to make something that we have no way of knowing.

Surah an Nisa verses 158-159, however, do not belong to this type.  They can be interpreted, and they have been interpreted by Quranic commentators. 

The first thing to know is that Quranic verse should not be interpreted in isolation.  It has to be understood within the context.  Although the Quran “was there” in the Preserved Tablet (Lawh Mahfuz) before Muhammad was even born, it was revealed to the Prophet only gradually, piece by piece, to address the situation the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was in. 

This is the beauty of Quranic revelation.  Had all of it was revealed at one go, it would have been more like an intellectual treaty rather than a practical guide to the Prophet and his companions.  The Prophet would have found it very difficult to sift through pages (or memories) looking for suitable passages to address the concern of the moment.  But such was not the case.  The Quran was revealed little by little to address the situation the Prophet was in.

Precisely for this reason, when we attempt to understand Quranic passages, we should look at the context.  As a rule of thumb, we should go through a few verses before, and a few verses after.  This would give us context.

Earlier in verse 157, Quran talks about the Jews who had boastfully claimed that they had killed Jesus, but Allah says that Jesus was neither killed, nor crucified, but was only made to appear so.  In verse 158, Allah says Jesus was raised up high to Himself.  Yet, the following verse 159, Quran says that the there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death.

This is what baffles my friend. God says that Jesus was neither killed, nor crucified, but was ascended to Him, yet within same breath He says that every people of the Book would believe in him before his death.

It would baffle everyone, unless if we go to the commentary, or look for the context.

A few passages before, more precisely in verse 153, the Quran says that the People of the Scripture (in this case, the Jews) had asked the Prophet to bring them a “book” from Heaven.  In the same verse, Quran says that they have likewise asked Moses to show them God Himself.

The story goes like this.  The Jews had come to the Prophet, saying that they would not believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad unless Muhammad would bring a “book from Heaven” saying that he is a Prophet.  This is of course nonsense.  They had no intention to believe in him.  They only made fun of him with such impossible request.  Even if suddenly a Tablet fell from the sky saying that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, they would still not believe in him.  They would have said that someone had thrown it to them.  After all, Quran is already a “book from Heaven,” and it clearly stated that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

As a means to expose what the Jews are like, and perhaps to console the Prophet as well, Allah says that the Jews had made a far impossible request to their leader, Prophet Moses (upon him be peace).  They had asked Moses to show Allah Himself to them.  Subsequent verses narrate their behaviors which receive Allah’s curses, including their slander against Mary, the mother of Jesus (verse 156).

Looking at those verses, the context we are currently discussing (157-159) becomes clear.  These verses were directed to the Jews who not only refused to believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad, but also made fun of him by making impossible request, showing their arrogance in the process.  This, in spite of the fact that their scripture had told them of the Prophet’s forthcoming, and that they had been waiting for him.

Let’s reproduce verses 157-159 in full.

And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain (157).  Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise (158).  And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness (159).

Verse 157 makes the matter clear enough.  Jesus was not killed, neither was he crucified, but someone else was made to resemble him.  It was this person that they crucified, leading to his death.  Verse 158 clearly states that Jesus was raised to God Himself.  Putting the two verses together, we are given the impression that Jesus did not die.  Subsequent verse (159), however, suddenly makes a roundabout statement, that every people of the Book would believe in Jesus before his death.

If Jesus was not killed, nor crucified, then whose death is the Quran talking about?  Could it be that Jesus had died a natural death, and before this death, people believed in him?  After all, the Quran makes no mention that Jesus did not die.  It only says that he was not killed, nor crucified, but does not say that he did not die.  It says that he was raised up high, but this could be in spirit rather than in bodily form.

The lack of explicit or unequivocal statement about his “death” has led to many speculations among the Muslims.  One version says that Jesus was made to “sleep” and raised to Heaven.  Someone else was made to look like him and it was this person who was crucified.  Another version says that Jesus had escaped, went on to live for sometime somewhere, and died a natural death.  Yet another version says that he was crucified, but did not die.  He only fainted.  He got healed, went to live for sometime and died a natural death.  This version is known as Swoon Theory.

We shall reserve the above speculations, especially the Swoon Theory, in the subsequent installment.  Suffice to say for the moment that the orthodox view considers Jesus to be raised bodily and that he did not die a natural death.  This is the position of the early scholars, including Ibnu Abbas.

If such is the case, then whose death is the Quran talking about in verse 159?

There are two views about this.  The first says that it was referred to Jesus’ own death.  This is the view of some Companions, such as Ibnu Abbas.  But Ibnu Abbas also said that Jesus was made to sleep and bodily raised to Heaven (Tafsir Ibnu Kathir). 

Was Ibnu Abbas contradicting himself?  The answer is no.  Jesus’ death here is referred to his Second Coming.  The matter of Jesus’ Second Coming is clearly stated by the Prophet in the hadith considered authentic.  Based on Ibnu Abbas interpretation, therefore, it gives the impression that every People of the Book would believe in Jesus before his eventual death when he comes to the World for the second time.

The second interpretation says that the phrase “his death” is not referred to Jesus, but rather to every People of the Book.  According to this interpretation, every People of the Book would be shown real truth about Jesus before his own death, although by then the realization would be too late to be of any use.

Both interpretations are considered valid, although the real meaning is known only to Allah. 

An inquisitive mind would perhaps wonder whether such are the cases.  Could it be that in his Second Coming, all People of the Book would believe in Jesus before he finally died?  Alternatively, could it be that all People of the Book, meaning all Christians and Jews, would be shown the truth about Jesus before they die?

As Muslims, we do not need to wonder that far.  Certain things are best to leave to Allah.  Enough proofs are available in the Quran, in the collections of Traditions, and in the lives of Muhammad and his Companions to satisfy our curiosity as to the Truth of Islam.

We should not be like the Jews as addressed by those verses, lest we fall into falsehood and receive Allah’s wrath.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Prophet Muhammad Is Not An Israelite

An anonymous reader has copied and pasted a long diatribe in my article, The Jewish and Malay Connection: The Lost Tribes of Israel.  He asked me to read with an open heart.  “If you don’t like, don't read,” he wrote.

Well, I read and appreciate all comments in my blog, including the long tirade from an author who appears to have an issue with the Government of Malaysia.  Since I don’t write political blog, however, I choose not to respond to his long political ranting cloaked under the garment of history.

But when he said something odd about the Prophet, I felt obliged to respond.  He wrote:

…having looked at the history of Prophet Muhammad (BTW, real name Ahmad) we couldn’t figure out which descendant line The Sultan of Perlis was. Perhaps it was by the name Syed, which transcended. Then we would ask which of the 13 official wives named in the Holy Koran? or was he a descendant from the other 23 names of the non-wives? Of the 13 were (at least known) 3 Israeli women. Then you would also ask yourself, isn’t Prophet Muhammad an Israeli himself? The answer is clear. All descendants of Moses are Israeli. In fact, the Holy Koran teaches that Moses was the First Muslim. Thus confirming all descendants to be Israeli, including Jesus and Prophet Muhammad...[emphasis mine]

First, as if he knows better than the rest, he said that the real name of Prophet Muhammad is Ahmad. 

By his own admission, he was not writing about religion.  Thus, he did not substantiate his claim.  I was tickled, however, by the phrase BTW, meaning, by the way

Now, we use BTW only when we want to point out to the truth which eludes others.  In effect, he was saying that the rest of the people, including the most knowledgeable among Muslims, have been ignorant of the fact that Muhammad is not actually Muhammad, but Ahmad, because his real name is Ahmad. 

Let’s consider a few facts here. 

In the Quran, the name Muhammad is mentioned at least four times, but Ahmad is mentioned only once.  A whole surah or chapter is named after Muhammad, none after Ahmad. 

When the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, was born, he was named Muhammad.  When he grew up, people called him Muhammad.  When he became adult, people called him Muhammad, adding the title al Amin, the truthful, or the one who never lies, to him.  When he became the Prophet, his followers called him Muhammad the Messenger of God, and his enemies called him Muhammad the Troublemaker.  From the time he died until this very day, everybody calls him Muhammad.  Hardly anyone calls him Ahmad.

Furthermore, when we do salawat (salutation) to our Prophet, it is always Muhammad, never Ahmad.  When we say Shahadah, either in prayer (salat) or in supplication (dua), it is the name Muhammad which is invoked, not Ahmad. 

When the non Muslims want to convert to Islam, they have to take the Shahadah (Testimony).  In the Shahadah, having testified that God is but one, they have to testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.  None uses the name Ahmad in Shahadah.

In spite of all that, apparently his real name is not Muhammad, but Ahmad. 

If it is always Muhammad, and never Ahmad, why the Quran bothers to use this particular name to refer to the Prophet at all?

Because that name is used only in relation to the prophecy made by Jesus, who said that a prophet will come after him, who will speak the whole truth with clear evidences, but people would call him a sorcerer (Quran 61:6).  Jesus called that Prophet Ahmad.  He was none other than Muhammad.

Now, Muhammad means praiseworthy and Ahmad means most praiseworthy.  We have no problem if one were to call the Prophet as Ahmad.  But to say “BTW his real name is Ahmad” is to suggest that everyone else is ignorant of this simple fact, including the most knowledgeable among them. 

The truth is that there is nothing unreal about the name Muhammad.  In fact, this is the name he is known in all literatures (no doubt with variant spellings if not Arabic literatures), the name used in salutations, prayers, invocations, and the name used when one is taking the Testimony to become Muslim.  One who claims otherwise only shows his ignorance of the highest degree.

Second, the unnamed author was likewise shooting in the dark when he said that the Prophet has 13 official wives and 23 non wives.  By non wives, he probably meant bondmaids, concubines, or slave girls.  But the Prophet only has twelve wives, or according to some, thirteen.  These thirteen would include one Jewish slave girl, Rayhanah, whom he divorced. 

Of these twelve, ten are Arabs, one is Egyptian (Mariya the Coptic) and the remaining one is Jewish (Safiya Huyayy).  At most, if Rayhanah is included and thereby the total would be thirteen, there would only be two Jewesses, not three. 

Three of his wives, or four if Rayhanah is included, are married in less conventional way.  Mariya the Egyptian was a gift by Muqawqis or Viceroy of Egypt.  Juwariya al Harith, an Arab, was a prisoner of war.  So was Safiya Huyayy, a prisoner of war after the Battle of Khaybar.  

Still, by most authentic accounts, the Prophet is said to marry them properly, except for Rayhanah Zayd, a Jewess prisoner of Bani Qurayzah.  There is a dispute whether she was properly married by the Prophet, or remained as a slave girl. 

Only these are known to be the Prophet’s spouses.  There is no such thing as 23 non wives, as alleged.  He could have 230 non wives if he wanted to, except that he didn’t.  After all, Prophet Solomon is known to have 700 wives and 300 concubines, making them 1,000 in total.

Finally, the unnamed author was also dead wrong when he said that Muhammad is an Israelite.  The Prophet never identifies himself as such. The Israelites are descended from Prophet Jacob, whose nickname is Israel.  Jacob was the grandson of Prophet Abraham.  He was the son of Prophet Isaac, and the twin brother of Esau.

It is true that Moses is an Israelite, but he belongs to only one of its twelve tribes.  He is a Levite, having descended from Levi (Lawi), one of the 12 sons of Israel.  Moses is not the progenitor of the Israelite.  Their progenitor or their ancestor is Prophet Jacob, who is also known as Israel.

Moses is a Muslim, no doubt about it.  But that is only because all prophets are by definition Muslims.  Adam is a Muslim, so are Noah and Abraham, and Jesus too. 

Jesus is also an Israelite, but the Bible says that he descends through the line of Judah (Yahuda or Yahuza, hence Yahudi in Malay and Arabic), whose name giving rise to the nomenclature, the Jew.  He is not from the line of Moses, but from the line of King David.  King David is a descendant of Judah.  Whether the Bible is correct or not, that is a matter of dispute.

As for Muhammad, he specifically mentions that he is an Ishmaelite Arab, having descended from Prophet Ishmael, the oldest son of Prophet Abraham.  He is not Israelite.   He is not a descendant of Moses, as the unnamed author suggested.  He is only related to them because the Israelites are descended from Jacob.  Jacob is Prophet Ismail’s nephew, or more correctly half nephew, since Prophet Isaac, the father of Jacob, is Prophet Ismail’s half-brother.

Now, I am not interested in the unnamed author’s arguments on Malay history, as posted by anonymous reader in the comment section of my blog.  He seems to have an issue to score with the Malaysian Government’s policy.  But when he writes rubbish about Seerah, I am obliged to put the facts straight.

Relevant articles on the topic:


Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Jewish and Malay Question: The Promised Land

Life is strange. 

For instance, the Jews would be the last people the Malays would believe.  The Malays do not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel.  They call it the illegitimate State of Israel.  They don’t call their authority the Government of Israel, but the Zionist Regime. They consider the Jews the cursed nation.   Their leader accuses the American Government being the proxy to the Jews, wreaking havoc to the world.

Yet, when some strange idea to their liking is mooted, some Malays are quick to point out that the Jews have said it.

Thus, one anonymous reader comments:

Don’t belittle our own race [meaning Malay].  The outsiders especially the Jews have come up with many theories about our race.  Search google "malay land of promise theory."  Why do they include Malay Peninsula in that theory?  Because the prophecy in their scripture talks about the great race that will come from the promise land towards the end of the world…

I have briefly responded to that comment, and I’m not going to repeat it here.  The comment with my response appears in The Jewish and Malay Connection: The Lost Tribe of Israel.

The only thing worth mentioning here is that the alleged “Malay Hypothesis” theorist is not a Jew, but a Mormon, whose name is Ralph Olsen.  He doesn’t talk about the Jewish Promised Land, but the tales in the Book of Mormon, in order to prove the veracity and authenticity of that book.  This I have covered in Ralph Olsen on Mormon Events: Malay Hypothesis and the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Now, if the Jews are supposed to be the cursed nation, the last to be believed, the Malays should have taken what they say with a large dose of salt.  Stranger still is that the Malays are supposed to be the very nation to crush the Jews.  Which Jew in his right frame of mind would say such a thing?

The truth is that the Malays and the Jews are poles apart.  We don’t need them to point out to our “alleged greatness” to feel good about ourselves. 

In many ways, we are better than they are.  We are Muslims, they are not.  We are polite, they are haughty.  We care about others’ feelings, they don’t seem to care about the plight of their Arab neighbors.  We are very accommodative by nature, they never stop demanding.  We revere our Prophet, even their prophets whom we consider our prophets as well, but they killed many of their prophets.

In other ways, they are better.  Their lives are ruled by clockwork.  They are disciplined, diligent, resourceful, punctual.  During the meeting, they would stick to the subject matter and will not tolerate if people digress too much.  Consequently, they become very efficient nation. 

We tend to regard time philosophically.   It flies, and we fly with it.  We approach time as if it does not exist.  As if it is just a machine with a “ticking finger” known as clock, something to “watch.”  That is why we always come late for meetings, and we often spend seventy percent of our time in meeting discussing something out of topic.  Consequently, we become mediocre nation.

In spite of being poles apart in most aspects, however, we share two things in common with them.  One is the God-given right, and two is the association of religion with race.

Other than the Jews and the Malays, I know not of any other race so obsessed with the special privilege given by God, or by Providence.  This is very much a Malay as it is a Jewish question.

The Malays had come and populated the Malay Peninsula as early as 3,000 years ago.  Some even came as early as 6,000 years ago.  Being the first civilized inhabitants of the Peninsula, the Malays believe that they have special rights to the land, as if given by God or Providence.     

The later immigrants, namely Chinese and Indians, who were brought here by the British to work in the rubber estates and tin mines, circa 100 years ago, are deemed to be unqualified to enjoy such privileges.  These special privileges are enshrined in the Constitution.   The Chinese and Indians accepted these special privileges outwardly, but inwardly, they always have grudges.

The Jews too have always been obsessed with the Promised Land.  They believe the land they now occupy was promised to their forefather, Prophet Abraham, about 4,000 years ago.  This was their land before they migrated and lived in Egypt during the time of Prophet Joseph.  When they were held bondage by the Egyptian Pharaoh, they longed to come back to their Promised Land.  Moses delivered them from Egypt, heading to their Promised Land, but due to their haughty and disbelieving behaviors, they were made to wander in the desert of Sinai Peninsula.  It was King David who effectively made them the master of that land, about 3,000 years ago.

Their fortune in the Promised Land was up and down for about 1,000 years later, until the Romans drove them out in 135 AD.  They remained a nation without a country for about 2,000 years, until they finally established the State of Israel in 1948, the land they believed promised to them.

Like the Jews, the Malays associate themselves with religion.  Historically, being a Jew also means that one is adhering to Judaism.   To covert to Judaism means that one has also to become a Jew.  Religion and race for the Jews are inseparable.  It is for this reason that, although they were eagerly waiting for the new prophet, when he finally showed up, they disbelieved in him.  They refused to believe in the Prophet Muhammad because Muhammad, upon him be peace, was an Arab.

The Malays too associate themselves with religion, namely Islam.  Constitutionally, a Malay is defined as someone who speaks the language of Malay, lives a Malay culture, and professes an Islamic faith.  Technically, even an Arab can be of any faith, but not the Malay.  If a Malay apostates, constitutionally he is no longer a Malay.  Conversely, if a Chinese or an Indian reverts to Islam, then he is said to have “become Malay.” 

This has been their cultural norm.  For that reason, the current Malaysian tycoon, Syed Mokhtar al Bukhary, is considered a Malay, although it appears that there is no single “Malay blood” in him.  This is because he is a Muslim who speaks the Malay language and lives in a Malay culture, although both his parent are “practically Arabs.”

For this reason, the debate on who the Malay really is has been raging on for as long as one can remember.  With the advent of the Internet, this debate heightens.  One anonymous reader has cut and pasted an article from an unnamed person on this matter in my The Jewish and Malay Connection: The Lost Tribe of Israel.  The cut and paste article is longer than my original entry.

It is not my intent to fall into this debate, for it is beyond the scope of my blog.  At most, I would only touch on it in passing.  But the point to make is that because of these two similarities that are shared between the Jews and the Malays, namely, (1) the special right given by God or Providence (the special privileges in the case of the Malays and the Promised Land in the case of the Jews), and (2) the association of religion with nation or race, these have become issues of contentions that are vigorously debated and challenged.

In these respects, it seems to me that the Malays have fared better than their Jewish counterpart.  Perhaps because of their accommodative nature, these issues have become only national issues in the case of the Malays, but international issues in the case of the Jews.  The whole world is condemning the Israeli Jews for what they have done to the Arab Palestinians, but what has been happening to the Malaysian Chinese and Indian hardly receive any murmur from the world community.  In fact, the world community largely praises the Malaysian Government for being able to delicately handle the issues.

Whether the Jews are better than Malays or otherwise is a matter of contention.   Obviously both have good and bad points.  What is certain is that we the Malays do not need to look to the Jews, or any people for that matter, to tell us that we were descended from great ancestors. 

Right or wrong, the Malays are already associated with Islam constitutionally.  Our current and future greatness would depend on how far we live by it, not by how great our alleged ancestors had been.

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