Mirza Ghulam Ahmad stole many arguments from Sir Syed about the death of Jesus. Sir Syed seems to have been the first Muslim ever in history to change the translation of 4:159 in 1880 in his famous Tafsir. Sir Syed totally changed the translation of this verse, since he was looking to disprove that idea that Esa (as) hadn’t died yet. Sir Syed knew that 4:159 proved that Esa (as) hadn’t died yet, thus, he purposely mistranslated it to sound preposterous. MGA followed his lead, and in 1890, in Izala Auham, MGA used the exact same translation that Sir Syed used. In 1902, (See Ijaz-i-Ahmadi) it came to MGA’s attention that Abu Hurairah has supported the idea that Esa (as) hadn’t died yet, via Tafsir Thana’i. MGA thus, discredited the scholarship of Abu Hurairah and called him stupid (GHABI in Arabic) or lacking understanding. MGA then commented on 4:159 in 1906/1907 via Haqiqatul Wahy, wherein he presented the same belief as Sir Syed again. He also called Abu Hurairah as stupid again.
1880, Sir Syed on 4:159
(Tafsir Ahmadi by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, vol. ii, p.48)
ii. Referring to the expression ‘in this’ (Arabic: bi-hi) in the verse: ‘And there is none of the People of the Book but will believe in this before his death’ (4:159), which is generally taken to mean in him (i.e. in Jesus) Sir Syed writes:
“This points to the words ‘And their saying: we have killed the Messiah’ [4:157], and to their saying, and not to the Messiah. So this means: ‘All the People of the Book, before their death, will believe that Jesus was killed’. After this it is said: ‘And on the day of Judgment he, i.e. Jesus, will be a witness against them’. The word ‘ala [‘against’] is used to indicate loss or harm. So the meaning is that on the day of Judgment Jesus will be a witness against their belief.”
MGA on 4:159 from 1870 to 1890
MGA published lots of data in this era, specifically, BA 1–4 were published in this era. MGA never even commented on 4:159.
MGA on 4:159 in 1890 in Izala Auham
The Lahori-Ahmadi have translated portions of Izala Auham, specifically, wherein MGA claims that there were 30 verses of the Quran that prove that Esa (As) had died. Per MGA and his team of writers, one of those verses is 4:159. They wrote:
“And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it (the crucifixion of Jesus) before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection, he (Jesus) shall be a witness among them.”
1891, MGA’s debate with Maulvi Muhammad Bashir in Delhi
4:159 seems to have been brought up in one of MGA’s first debate as a Messiah (See Life of Ahmad).
MGA on 4:159 in 1906/1907 via Haqiqatul Wahy (in the online english edition)
MGA calls Abu Hurairah as wrong and possessing weak intellect on pages 44-45 of Haqiqatul Wahy, since Abu Hurarya claimed that Esa (as) would physically return based on 4:159. MGA wrote disparaging comments about Abu Hurairah in BA vol. 5 and Ijaz i Ahmadi.
On page 700 of Haqiqatul Wahy, MGA says about 4:159:
“””Meaning that, there is no one out of the People of the Book who, before his death, fails to believe in the Holy Prophet sa or Hadrat ‘Isa [Jesus]. It is recorded in the books of exegesis that the People of the Book receive this revelation when they are going through the agonies of death or are at death’s door. Evidently, they happen to believe only when God reveals to them that a particular Prophet is true. But this revelation does not make them the Elect of God. However, this indeed is the divine practice that when death is imminent, most people tend to see a dream or receive a revelation. It is not exclusive to any particular religion nor is there the requirement that one be righteous and a doer of good.””””
Historically, Al-Tabari tells us
It is narrated from Sa’id bin Jubair from Ibn Abbas [about]; “No one will remain from among the People of the Book but will certainly believe in him before he dies.” He said; “Before the death of Eisa ibn Maryam.” (Tafsir Al-Tabari 9/380 Narration 10794-5 under Qur’an 4:159. Classified as Sahih by Hafiz Ibn Hajr in Fath Al-Bari 10/250, Kitab Ahadith Al-Anbiya, Chapter on the Descent of Eisa ibn Maryam).
Pickthall on 4:159
“””There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them “””
Muhammad Ibn Al-Hanafiyyah (15 – 81 AH)
Muhammad ibn ‘Ali Abi Talib (also known as Ibn Hanafiyya, the son of Hazrat Ali (RA)), explained Qur’an 4:159 in these terms: “He will descend before the Day of Judgment. All Jews and Christians will believe in him.” (Al-Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur, 2 :241.)
Abd Allah Ibn Abbas (618 CE – 687 CE)
About the verse Qur’an 4:159: “This verse is proof that Jesus (AS), son of Mary, will appear… All of the People of the Book will believe in him before his death.” (Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, 2:309.) He also said referring to the Holy Qur’an 43:61, “God indicates that Jesus (AS) will appear before the Day of Judgment.” (Khasmiri, al-Tasrih, 289-90).
Ibn Abbas (RA) said, “When Allah intended to raise Jesus (AS) to the heavens, he went to his companions… and Jesus (AS) ascended to the heavens through an opening in the top of the house”. (Ibn Abi Hatim 4/431 Hadith 6266, Ibn Kathir 2/449. Ibn Kathir called it Sahih).
Al-Hasan Al-Basri (642 CE – 729/110 CE/AH)
“I swear to God that Jesus (AS) is at this moment alive in God’s presence, and that everyone will believe in him when he returns.” With regard to the Holy Qur’an 4:159, he said: “God raised Jesus (AS) to His presence. He will send him before the Day of Judgment as a holder of rank. Good and bad, all will believe in him.” (Al-Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur, 2:284) He also made a similar comment regarding the Holy Qur’an 43:61, saying that the meaning of the verse was that Jesus (AS) would return to earth. (Al-Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur, 2:220).
Some Additional Commentary that I found from here–https://www.meetup.com/islam-215/messages/boards/thread/3174688/30
Yusuf Ali’s english translation is as follows:
“””And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them”””
Yusuf Ali gives this interpretation in his commentary note 665:
Before his death: Interpreters are not agreed as to the exact meaning. Those who hold that Jesus did not die refer the pronoun “his” to Jesus. They say that Jesus is still living in the body and that he will appear just before the Final Day, after the coming of the Mahdi, when the world will be purified of sin and unbelief. There will be a final death before the final Resurrection, but all will have believed before that final death. Others think that “his” is better referred to “none of the People of the Book”, and that the emphatic form “must believe” (la-yu` minanna) denotes more a question of duty than of fact.
Note 664 on Surah 4:158 is maybe a helpful background to the above note, since in 665 he only talks on the basis of what he just stated is the generally accepted Muslim view:
There is difference of opinion as to the exact interpretation of this verse. The words are: The Jews did not kill Jesus, but Allah raised him up (rafa`u) to Himself. One school holds that Jesus did not die the usual human death, but still lives in the body in heaven, which is the generally accepted Muslim view.
In a mailing list discussion, one Muslim claimed this clearly states that all People of the Book will believe in Jesus before his (future) death. This seems to be grammatically possible. Several translators seem to follow this understanding and their translations say something to the effect that “everyone from the People of the Book will (certainly) believe in him …”. However, why would Jesus be a “witness against them” when they believe in him? Should he not be a witness against those who do NOT believe in him?
Rashad Khalifa is the odd one out who transfers this into the past tense (was required to believe), while all others see this either present or future. Khalifa circumvents the problem by inserting the word “required” which is not in the Arabic.
The main question so far seems to be whether the emphatic form means “certainty of fact in the future” (will believe) or “duty for everyone” (required, must believe). But there are more opinions on the meaning of this verse…
In response to Yusuf Ali’s translation of this verse, an Ahmadiyya gave me the following explanation regarding their interpretation of this verse:
Everybody will believe in whom? The verse you quoted does not give a name anyway. Why not? And whose death is being referred to? I mean, many *People of the Book* die everyday without believing in Jesus a.s. anyway. i.e. the Jews, whilst the Christians already believe in him as the Messiah anyway. And if you mean to say that they will all believe in him as a Prophet of God after his hypothetical return to earth and subsequent death, then there would be no need for Jesus a.s. to be a witness against them on the Day of Judgement anyway. So, your proposed construction of the verse becomes untenable.
Besides the Arabic pronoun used does not here mean *him* but *it*, because the incident being referred to in the preceeding verse is to Jesus’s a.s. alleged death on the cross, so the correct translation (with my explanation in brackets) will be:
“And there is none among the People of the Book but will (continue to) believe in IT (i.e. the death of Jesus a.s. on the cross) before his (own) death (i.e. the death of the Jew or Christian himself); and on the Day of Judgement he (Jesus a.s.) will be a witness against them … [4:159].
This Ahmadiyya interpretation gets rid of some problems but substitutes it for others.
The way this is now translated and interpreted by the Ahmadiyya, it says that ALL the people of the Book, Jews and Christians, will continue to believe the death of Jesus on the Cross. But Muslims tell us that there have been thousands (or even millions) of Jews and Christians who converted to Islam, and consequently they do no longer believe in this death on the Cross. Does that not mean the Qur’an is wrong, according to the interpretation given above? Isn’t the Ahmadiyya translation only removing one problem by substituting it with another interpretation, equally wrong on the factual level?
Is there any interpretation of this verse that is consistent with the rest of Islamic theology (whether the Sunni or the Ahmadiyya version) and the facts of life that some Christians and Christians do convert to orthodox Islam, some to Ahmadiyya Islam and believe exactly as these movments tell, and most of them continue to believe in the revelation given by God in the Bible?
Whatever this verse means, the facts will contradict any theory which understands it in a way such that all of them will continue not to believe, or all of them will believe. This is certainly a challenge to the “none … but” construction in the aya which makes a statement that supposedly holds without exception.
At the following link you will find a number of further articles examining the Qur’anic passage and Muslim traditions on the Crucifixion which we would like to recommend reading as well. Based on the above and those further articles…
Conclusion: The one and only passage in the Qur’an dealing with the issue of the Crucifixion is extremely vague and riddled with problems of its own. How then can it be the bases for rejection of the very clear meaning of the passion narratives in the Gospels?
However, the above are not yet all the different versions of Sura 4:159.
Links and Related Essays
#ahmadiyya #ahmadiyyatrueislam #ahmadiapartheid #Ahmadiyyat #rabwah #qadian #meetthekhalifa #muslimsforpeace #ahmadiyyafactcheckblog #nolifewithoutkhalifa #AhmadiMosqueattack #AhmadiyyaPersecution #Mosqueattack #trueislam #atifmian