Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
And we gave Moses the Scripture and We sent messengers after him in succession. We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. So how is it that, whenever a messenger brings you something you do not like, you become arrogant, calling some impostors and killing others? (Chapter 2: Verse 87)
In previous verses, God illustrated how the children of Israel treated Prophet Moses. In this verse, He describes what they did after his death.
After Moses, a number of Prophets were sent to guide the Israelites and save them from their own repeated transgressions. Here, Allah specifically mentions prophets Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them), because Judaism and Christianity were the two main religions before Islam. Keep in mind that a number of prophets were sent to guide the Israelites before Jesus. Each time the Jewish people transgressed, strayed from God's path, and chased after worldly gains, God would bless them with a new Prophet to remind them of their faith and bring them back to the truth. Sadly, these gains were short lived, and more often than not, they turned back to defiance and disobedience. God says ' And we gave Moses the Scripture and We sent messengers after him in succession' explaining that He did not leave the Israelites without help, rather He supported them with the Torah and with several messengers.
The list of the Israelite prophets is long, some we know about such as David, Solomon, Jethro, Ezekiel, Elisha, Jonah, Zachariah, John, and many we don't know about (peace be upon them all). God says:
There are the Prophets that I have told you about and there are the Prophets that I have not told you about. As to Moses, God directly spoke to him.(4:164)
The Jewish people often take pride in the large number of Messengers sent to them, boasting about being God's chosen people; however, needing many messengers is a reflection not of piety, rather it is a testament to the constant transgression and indulgence in sin. Allah, after all, sends prophets when corruption is rife, and sin is common place.
Let's examine the phrase: ' We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.' God supported Prophet Jesus with great miracles which proved, beyond any doubt, the truthfulness of his message. Prophet Jesus was sent to a people who were immersed in materialism and tangible gains. Their hearts were far from spirituality and they did not believe in the unseen. Recall that in previous verses, they asked prophet Moses to physically see God; and when manna and quail were sent to them daily from the heavens, they feared that it would stop one day, and requested to grow their own vegetables. Such people needed a Messenger whose entire life revolved around the unseen in order to turn their hearts and minds to the Lord. Thus, Prophet Jesus' birth, death and miracles were all matters of the unseen.
Allah wants to show all of us that His abilities are not ruled by the physical and the material, rather it is He who rules the means and sets the laws. Whatever He commands ‘be,’ it becomes. He demonstrates this ability through all matters of creation. God says:
The kingdom of the heavens and earth belongs to Allah. He creates whatever He wills. He gives daughters to whoever He wishes; and He gives sons to whoever He wishes; or He gives them both sons and daughters; and He makes whoever He wishes barren. Truly He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (42:49-50)
The mating of a male and a female is the means for reproduction. But God’s will and ability is above all means and causes. How many perfectly healthy couples marry, try to have children but are unable to despite the existence of all means? Wasn't the creation of Prophet Jesus from a female only a clear display of God's ability?
The verse continues: 'and supported him with the Holy Spirit.’ The Holy spirit refers to the Archangel Gabriel. Here you may ask: Weren't all Messengers and Prophets supported by the Angel Gabriel? Why did God specify Jesus? We answer that prophet Jesus was specifically mentioned because he was accompanied by the Angel Gabriel continually from the moment of conception till the time of death. He, unlike any other human being, was conceived through the breath of the Archangel and he was born without a father. Thus, he faced constant hostilities and accusations from many people. God Almighty kept the Holy Spirit in his company at all times for protection, support, and to aid him in all his miracles. It was also through the archangel Gabriel that Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised to the heavens.
This matter is where many scholars differ in opinion. Did Jesus (peace be upon him) ascend to heaven alive or dead? Whatever the case may have been, it should make no difference to our faith. Some people argue that it is unlikely for a human to be raised alive to the heavens. We answer with a question: Was Jesus' birth like any other human? Of course not. He was born to a virgin mother. So, it should be no surprise to us if his death is also unusual. Keep in mind that prophet Jesus is not disassociated from death. He is to die like every other human.
Our beloved prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens during the night journey (Me'raj), and spent a good part of the night there before descending back to earth. Similarly, prophet Jesus ascended to the heavens to return at the end of times and spend the rest of his life on earth. The only difference between the two events is the duration of stay in the heavens. Prophet Muhammad returned after one night, while prophet Jesus will return before the day of resurrection.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "By He, in whose hands my soul rests, Jesus the Son of Mary is to descend amongst you as a just ruler. He will shatter the cross, slaughter the pig, and abolish Jizya. Wealth will be so abundant that no one will need it."