Friday, February 16, 2007

2: Jesus has died

Ibne-Abbas narrates that the Holy Prophet said: “On the Day of Judgement I will see some people from among my companions being taken to the Left. Upon seeing them I will say, ‘my companions! my companions!’. I will be told that when I parted from them they turned back on their heels. At that point I will say the same thing what (Jesus son of Mary) the righteous had said: that while I was among them I watched over them but once You caused me to die (Tawaffi) it was You alone who watched over them.” (Bukhari Kitab-ul-Anbiya and Kitab-ul-Tafseer Surah Al-Maidah)

This hadith is qouted in Sahih-Bukhari, Sahih-Muslim, Tirmazi and Nisa'ee thus making it among the most authentic of traditions.

Imam Bukhari places it in his Kitab-ul-Tafseer since it sheds light on the meaning of Tawafaitani as used in 5:118. That particular verse describes a dialogue between Allah and Jesus on the Day of Judgement. Allah enquires of Jesus about the Christian faith and asks if he gave Christians the belief of his own and his mother’s divinity? Jesus responds that he gave no such teaching. As long as he was alive and was among his people this doctrine did not exist. He watched over them while he was with them, but once Allah had caused him to die, it was Allah who watched over them and indeed He is the Witness.

5:118 speaks of two different and distinct phases of Jesus’ existence. One in which he was among his people. And the other in which he was not among his people. The boundary between these two phases is defined by the word Tawafaitani. His absence from among his people is preceded by the state of Tawaffi. The question then boils to whether Jesus is present among his people or is he absent from his people? If he is absent from among his people then the state of Tawaffi has surely preceded this state of absence.

Tawaffi is a common Arabic term for death but some people take it to mean "capture of the body" when applied to Jesus. This hadith does not permit that translation. Holy Prophetsaw has used it such that it is impossible to give it any meaning other than death. The nature of Tawaffi of Jesus is the same as the nature of Tawaffi of the Holy Prophet. If that was not the case, Holy Prophet would not have said ‘I will say what Jesus had said …’. It is noteworthy that the Holy Prophet uses the same word and in the same context. Do words change meaning when applied to different people?

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