There is no doubt that Jesus is one of the greatest figures in Islamic doctrine.
The Quran refers to Jesus as the Messenger of Allah, the word of God and a spirit from God.
The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him.”
He is considered one of the five elite Prophets of Islam and is even regarded as the brother of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Whereby the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ stated “I am the nearest of the people to Jesus the son of Mary in this life and in the Hereafter.”
Yet despite the reverence for Jesus in Islam, Islam does not consider Jesus to be divine nor does it uphold the belief that he died for the sins of humanity (vicarious atonement).
According to the Quran, Jesus was never killed nor crucified, rather the entire event was “made to appear” to the people.
And for their saying, ‘Verily, we killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.’ They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but rather it was made to appear to them. Verily, those who disagree over it are in doubt regarding it. They have no knowledge of it but are only following assumptions. They did not kill him, with certainty.
The words “made to appear” have been the subject of scholarly contention for centuries. This is primarily due to the absence of any authentic narration of the Prophet ﷺ explaining the verse.
Many scholars have thus had to resort to Christian sources to determine what exactly took place on the day of the presumed crucifixion.
The usage of Christian sources to support Quranic exegesis is something which is not new, in fact it is a practice which is permitted by the Prophet ﷺ himself.
“Narrate from the Children of Israel, there is no harm”.
This is of course with the precondition that the sources in question do not conflict with Islamic beliefs.
So what exactly took place on the day of the crucifixion?
Well, most Quranic commentators hold the view that Jesus was substituted with someone else. Whereby this substitute individual was captured, killed and crucified by the enemies of Jesus unknowingly.
Who exactly this person was, is also a subject of dispute.
Some scholars have held it was Judas, the man who gave up Jesus to his enemies. In this interpretation, Allah made Judas into the likeness of Jesus so that he would suffer in his place.
Other scholars have held it was a disciple of Jesus who offered to sacrifice his life for him willingly out of love.
And finally other scholars have held that the entire crucifixion did not take place, rather it was the ensuing reports that were fabricated.
Nevertheless, despite the differing opinions, all Muslims agree that Jesus was raised to the Heavens, is still alive and awaiting his return to the world near the end of time.
As Allah states in the Quran:
As Allah said, ‘O Jesus, I will take you and raise you unto Myself, purify you from those who disbelieve, and make those who follow you greater than those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me will you return, and I will judge between you over your differences.’
Jesus will return at a time when the world is riddled with corruption and injustice brought on primarily by the antichrist and his allies. He will successfully restore peace and justice and bring the oppressive reign of the antichrist to an end.
The Prophet describes the return of Jesus as such:
“By Allah, the son of Mary will descend as a just ruler. He will abolish the cross, kill the swine, and annul the tribute, but he will leave the she-camel such that no one collects from it. He will cause rancor, hatred, and envy to disappear, and he will call people to give their wealth in charity but no one will need it.”
It is said that Jesus will break the Cross as he has the primary right to correct the beliefs of the people concerning him. This doesn’t however mean that Muslims have the right to break the Cross.
It is important to note that Jesus will not return as a new Prophet but rather as a Muslim and a follower of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. He will pray amongst the Muslim ranks and this is alluded to in the statement of the Prophet:
“Jesus the son of Mary, upon him be peace, will descend and the leader will invite him to lead the prayer but he will say, ‘No, some of you are leaders over others and this is an honor for this nation.”
In regards to when is the exact date of his return, this is something which is solely in the knowledge of Allah.
It is not befitting for us to query when this event will exactly take place, but rather it is more befitting that we prepare ourselves for such an occurrence.
“They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, “Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him.”