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Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 3:55)

disease of hypocrites

Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 3:55)

By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Ascension of Isa (AS)

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَىٰ إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ ‎﴿٥٥﴾

3:55 (Mention) when Allah (SWT) said, “O’ Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you (in submission to Allah (SWT) alone) superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.”

Commentary: Verses 3:52-53 (Aal-e-Imran) state that Prophet Isa (AS) felt disbelievers had plotted an evil plan against him. Allah (SWT) comforted him at this crucial moment and assured him that God would save and protect him from their vicious plan, as expressed in Verse 3:55.

The Bible narrates that Isa (AS) was crucified, buried, and then resurrected before ascending to heaven [1],[2]. However, Verse 4:157-158 (An-Nisa) unequivocally states that Prophet Isa (AS) did not die on the cross but was rescued and ascended to Allah (SWT), presenting a stark contrast to the Biblical account. (بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ).

Ascension of Isa (AS): It is essential to understand that Allah (SWT) does not have a physical location where Prophet Isa (AS) could be brought. Therefore, “ascension to Allah (SWT)” may refer to a person achieving a noble status rather than completing a physical journey. [3] This is similar to what is mentioned in Verse 3:169 (Aal-e-Imran) about martyrs who receive their sustenance in the presence of their Lord, or verse 19:57 (Maryam) about Prophet Idris (AS), who was elevated to a distinguished position among the prophets and held a special place in the sight of Allah (SWT) [4].

However, the Qur’an teachings of the Prophet and Ahlul-Bayt (AS) affirm that Prophet Isa’s (AS) ascension was not merely a status elevation. It was a profound journey to heaven, as elucidated in the following paragraph:

Verse 43:61 (Az-Zukhruf) states that the return of Isa (AS) is one of the signs of the approaching doomsday (لَعِلْمٌ لِّلسَّاعَةِ). Additionally, the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned [5] that Prophet Isa (AS) would descend at the time of the arrival of Imam Mahdi (AJ) [6]. Please refer to the Appendix for the text of the Hadith.

If the ascension of Isa (AS) meant an elevation of status, then his descension could be seen as a reduction in status, which contradicts the essence of the Hadith. Therefore,  Prophet Isa’s (AS) ascension was a physical form of ascension to heaven.

“Mutawaffik” (مُتَوَفِّيكَ): The Verse begins with the phrase, “When Allah (SWT) said: O’ Jesus, indeed I will take you.” (إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَىٰ إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ) The term “Mutawaffik” (مُتَوَفِّيكَ) means “take you [7].

The term “Mutawaffi” (مُتَوَفِّي) originates from the word “Tawaffi” (تَوَفِّي), which means to take something completely [8]. In the Qur’an, it is used to describe the parting of the soul from the body. For example, in Verse 6:60 (Al-An’am), Allah (SWT) states that God takes our souls at night during sleep (يَتَوَفَّاكُم بِاللَّيْلِ), or Verse 6:61 (Al-An’am) states that angels take souls at the time of death (إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ تَوَفَّتْهُ رُسُلُنَا).

The term “Al-Tawaffi” (التَوَفِّي) emphasizes the human soul is the essence of a human being. This essence does not perish with death. Instead, it only departs the body temporarily and reunites with the body on the Day of Judgment.

When the Qur’an does not intend to express the departure of the soul from the body, it uses the term “Mawt” (مَوْتِ) for death. For instance, Verse 29:57 (An-Ankabut) states, “Every soul will taste death” (كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ).

“Rafieuk” (رَافِعُكَ):  The Verse goes on to say: “And raise you to Myself” (وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ). The word “Rafieuk” (رَافِعُكَ) means to raise (and cause to ascend), and “Ilayya” (إِلَيَّ) means “unto Me”. This phrase refers to the ascension of Prophet Isa (AS).

As discussed earlier, there are two possible interpretations of Prophet Isa’s (AS) ascension: the elevation of status or a physical ascension to heaven. Although the Verses of the Qur’an do not explicitly state whether Prophet Isa’s (AS) rise was the elevation of his status or a physical ascension to heaven, the Hadith from the Prophet (PBUH) and Ahlul-Bayt (AS) indicate that Prophet Isa (AS) ascended to heaven.

Mutahhiruk (مُطَهِّرُكَ): The Verse continues with the statement, “And purify you from those who disbelieve” (وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا). The purification in this phrase implies protecting Prophet Isa (AS) from the persecution, harassment, and evil plan of the disbelievers [9], as stated in Verse 3:54:

وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ ‎﴿٥٤﴾‏

3:50 And the disbelievers planned, but Allah (SWT) also planned. And Allah (SWT) is the best of planners.

It could also mean that Allah (SWT) protected him from false accusations and cowardly plots, just as God saved the Prophet (PBUH) from such harm, which is explained in the following paragraph:

The disbelievers unjustly accused the Prophet (PBUH) sinned by spreading false claims, including those mentioned in Verses 25:4-8 (Al-Furqan) of the Qur’an. They alleged that he had invented the Qur’an and that others had assisted him in doing so. However, after the conquest of Mecca, all these accusations and slanders were proven false. Verses 1-2 (Al-Fat’h) reads:

إِنَّا فَتَحْنَا لَكَ فَتْحًا مُّبِينًا ‎﴿١﴾‏ لِّيَغْفِرَ لَكَ اللَّهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِن ذَنبِكَ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ وَيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكَ وَيَهْدِيَكَ صِرَاطًا مُّسْتَقِيمًا ‎﴿٢﴾‏

48:1-2 We have granted to you, (Mohammad), a manifest victory, so that God will redeem the sins (which the pagans think you have committed) in the past or in the future. God will complete Divine Favors to you, guide you to the Right Path.

Divine Tidings to Prophet Isa (AS): Allah (SWT) gave glad tidings to Prophet Isa (AS) that his followers would be superior to those who disbelieve him:

… وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ … ‎﴿٥٥﴾

3:55 …and make those who follow you (in submission to Allah (SWT) alone) superior to those who disbelieve up to the Day of Resurrection…

Those who follow you” (الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ) refers to Christians, while “disbelievers” (كَفَرُوا) refers to those Jews who disbelieve in him. The verse suggests that Christians would dominate the Jews until the Day of Judgment [10].

This interpretation suggests that Judaism and Christianity would continue to have followers even after Imam Mahdi’s (AJ) appearance. This perception may conflict with the widespread belief that Islam will be the only official religion on earth with the coming of Imam Mahdi (AJ) and that only the laws of Islam will rule the world. This understanding is correct. However, this does not stop some Jews and Christians from living under the protection of Imam Mahdi’s (AJ) government.

According to Islamic beliefs, Imam Mahdi (AJ) would not use force to convert people to Islam. Instead, he would rely on logical reasoning. His call for power and military force is limited to promoting justice, overthrowing oppressive regimes, and establishing a just world order [11].

Some commentators suggest that “up to the Day of Resurrection” is not meant to be taken literally but rather as a reference to the continuity of this superiority [12].

Alternative Interpretation for “those who follow you”: Prophet Isa (AS) prophesied the advent of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as mentioned in Verse 61:6 (As-Saff). Therefore, it is possible that the phrase “those who follow you” (الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ) refers to Muslims who follow the good news of Prophet Isa (AS) in addition to Christians. Within this context, the verse foretells that those who denied Isa (AS) would be disgraced until the Day of Judgment [13].

In the end, Allah (SWT) addresses Prophet Isa (AS), his followers, and those disbelieving in him. God says that God will summon them on the Day of Judgment and judge between them regarding the disputed matters:

… ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ ‎﴿٥٥﴾

3:55 …Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.

This Verse concludes the story of Prophet Isa (AS). It began with the wife of Imran vowing to dedicate her unborn child to the temple (verse 3:35) and ended with Prophet Isa (AS) ascending to heaven (Verse 3:55).

Appendix:

The text of Hadith is [14]:

یَنْزِلُ عِیسَى بْنُ مَرْیَمَ فَیَقُولُ اَمِیْرُهُمْ تَعالِ صَلِّ بِنا، فَیَقُولُ: لا، اِنَّ بَعْضَکُمْ عَلى بَعْض اُمَراءُ تَکْرِمَةً مِنَ اللّهِ لِهذِهِ الْاُمَّةِ:

Isa (AS) would descend, and the leader of the Muslims (this refers to Imam Mahdi (AJ)) would say to him: lead the prayer; Isa (AS) would reply: No, some of you are the Imams of others, and this is the respect that God has given to this nation (then the Isa (AS) flow Imam Mahdi (AJ) in prayer.

In another Hadith (حدیث) from the Prophet (PBUH) we read:

کَیْفَ اَنْتُمْ اِذا نَزَلَ فِیْکُمُ ابْنُ مَرْیَمَ وَ اِمامُکُمْ مِنْکُمْ

How will you act when Isa (AS) descends among you while your Imam is with you?

[1] https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/27

[2] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol.2, P. # 568

[3] Al-Mizan, Vol. 3, P.326

[4] 19:57 (Maryam) (وَرَفَعْنَاهُ مَكَانًا عَلِيًّا).

[5] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 21, P. 100

[6] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 21, P. 100

[7] Al-Mizan, Vol. 3, P.323

[8] (التوفى: اخذ الشيء على التمام)

[9] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vo.2, P. 570

[10] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 2, P. 571

[11] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 2, P. 571

[12] https://wiki.ahlolbait.com/آیه_55_سوره_آل_عمران#اطیب%20البیان

[13] Al-Mizan, Vol. 3, P. 330

[14] Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 21, P. 100

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