Saturday, March 17, 2007

7: Jesus and Messiah: Different descriptions, Different men

Physical Description of Jesus:

Narrated by Ibn Umarra: The Prophetsaw said, "I saw Moses, Jesus and Abraham (on the night of my Ascension to the heavens). Jesus was of ruddy complexion, had curly hair and a broad chest.[1]

Physical Description of the Messiah of the Latter Days:

Narrated Abdullah bin Umarra: Allah's Apostlesaw said, "Today I saw myself in a dream near the Ka'ba. I saw a wheatish brown man, the handsomest of all brown men you might ever see. He had the most beautiful Limma (hair hanging down to the earlobes) you might ever see. He had combed it and it was dripping water; and he was performing the Tawaf around the Kaaba leaning on two men or on the shoulders of two men. l asked, "Who is this?" It was said. "Messiah, the son of Mary." Suddenly I saw a curly-haired man, blind in the right eye which looked like a protruding out grape. I asked, "Who is this?" It was said, "He is Masiah Ad-Dajjal."[2]

Both of these traditions are taken from Sahih Bukhari. The latter is also qouted in Sahih Muslim.

The first describes Jesus, the prophet who came to the Children of Israel in the ummah of Moses. In a vision the Holy Prophet sees him together with Abraham and Moses. The second tradition also describes a vision in which the Messiah who is to appear in the Latter Days in the ummah of the Holy Prophetsaw is seen circuiting the Kaaba. The first tradition describes Jesus, and the second describes the Messiah who would confront someone called the Dajjal. Even on cursory examination, the descriptions of the two messiahs are divergent to the point of being irreconcilable. Jesus is described as having a ruddy complexion, whereas the Messiah is wheatish brown; Jesus has curly hair, Messiah has straight hair. Evidently two separate individuals are being described.

This pair of narrations precludes the possibility that Jesus will ever return. If the same Jesus were to return, his appearance after his return would match his appearance as seen by the Holy Prophet in mairaj, yet these descriptions are altogether different. It is to be noted that the Holy Prophetsaw sees Jesus together with Moses and Abraham. Jesus' fate therefore could be no different to theirs, implying that he has also met his death. So who is the Messiah who would confront the Dajjal? Evidently it would be a different person born within the ummah of the Holy Prophet who has been metaphorically given the name of Jesus to indicate his similarity to the earlier messiah.

In the second tradition, Holy Prophetsaw describes seeing the Messiah and the Dajjal circumambulating the Kaaba. There are other traditions, however, which make it quite clear that Dajjal would not be able to enter Makkah or Medina.[3] Earlier scholars have resolved this seeming inconsistency by interpreting this particular vision of the Holy Prophet to mean that Dajjal would attempt to sneak into the Kaaba like a thief, meaning that it would be his mission to destroy Islam which he would do through deception, whereas the Messiah would rise in the defense of Islam.[4] His leaning over two men means he would be assisted on his left and his right by helpers and companions. There are other traditions which describe not the Messiah but the Mahdi confronting Dajjal. With little reflection it becomes clear that Messiah and Mahdi are in fact two titles given to one and the same person. The name Dajjal aptly describes the Christian missionaries and the powers backing them who unfairly malign Islam and its holy founder through falsehood, slander and innuendo. The Messiah/Mahdi will respond and defend Islam through reason and argument. In fact he will turn the tables on Christianity by exposing the weakness of its doctrines; its folly when it elevated a humble man to the status of god. It will be a spiritual battle, a battle of ideas and intellects, in which a superior ideology will defeat an inferior one without the need nor the occasion to resort to violence. Contrary to the expectations of many, swords, bombs or any other implements of war will play no role in this contest whatsoever.

Incidentally, the physical description of the Imam Mahdi as found in various traditions of the Holy Prophetsaw matches that of the Promised Messiah. His complexion is also described as wheatish brown.[5]

In Shia tradition, Imam Mahdi is described of moderate height, handsome, with long black hair reaching the shoulders, a black beard and a resplendent countenance.[6]

Other traditions describe a broad forehead and straight nose.[7]

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani matched these features to the highest degree. Mir Mohammad Ismail, who knew Hazrat Mirza Sahib closely and was a member of the household describes him as follows:

He had a wheatish brown complexion of the most beautiful hue, meaning that his face was resplendent with a touch of red... his hair were straight, oily, shiny and silky... they reached his neck ... nose ... was beautiful, high, straight, narrow and becoming. He had a broad, high and a wide forehead.[8]

In metaphorical terms, Hazrat Mirza Sahib understood bright, high and wide forehead to mean that Allah would put the light of truth in his forehead, which would attract people to him and would also intimidate the hearts of his opponents. Both these characteristics would be strongly evident in the Mahdi.[9]

Ghulam Rasool Rafiq, who was a companion of the Promised Messiah, relates that the Promised Messiah used to say that Allah bless Mohammad bin Ismail Bukhari, had he not recorded the separate physical descriptions of Jesus and the Messiah the followers of hadith would forever have a problem accepting him.[10]

[1] Sahih Bukhari Kitab ul Anbiya (Prophets).
[2] Sahih Bukhari Kitab ul Libas (Dress).
[3] Sahih Bukhari Kitab Fazailul Madinah.
[4] Mazahirul Haq sharah Mishkat al-Masabih vol. 4, pg. 359, pub. Alamgir Press, Lahore.
[5] Al Fatawa Al Hadith vol. 2, pg. 147 by Allama Ibn Hajr Hethmi pub. Mustafa Al Babi Al Halbi
[6] Aqad Ad Dar Rafi Akhbar Al Muntazar pg. 41 by Allama Yusuf Bin Yahya Al-Maqdasi Al Shafi (7th centure) Edition 1, 1979
[7] Abu Daood Kitab Al Mahdi, hadith 7
[8] Seerat Al Mahdi by Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, vol. 2, pg. 122
[9] Summary: Kitab al Bariyya, footnote pg 268, Roohani Khazain vol.13, pg. 307
[10] Ashabe Ahmad by Malik Salahudding M.A., vol. 10, pg. 172