A lot has been said and written about the return of Eesa b. Maryam, Jesus the son of Mary, hence this write-up will focus on a specific angle of the discussion.
Islam wasn’t revealed in the 20th or 21st of the Gregorian calendar(14th/15th century of the Hijrah calendar), the creedal and devotional principles had been in operation for centuries.
While strictly jurisprudencial issues may have lingering differences of opinion , especially on secondary issues, till the present days; the creedal component , which has been the defining factor of orthodoxy, remains constant. Backed with authoritative consensus of Scholars throughout Islamic history.
The determinant of heresy has been the divergence of creedal views from the mainstream position of scholars of orthodoxy. Such is the case of the descent of Eesa at the end of time.
While some may go into the linguistic gymnastics of interpreting or reinterpretation of verses of the Qur’an that indicate the Ascent of Eesa , the reality is which early authority , amongst those cited , denied the return of Eesa?
Someone quoted Ibn Hazm :
“Ibn Hazm said in his Mahalla Volume 1 pg 43 that “the statement فلما توفيتني does not mean وفاة النوم Sleep. It actually means death وفاة الموت.”
1. I didn’t find this in the quoted volume and page of my copy of Muhalla ( the tahqeeq of Ahmad Muhammad Shakir).
2. Let us agree that Ibn Hazm said this. But his statement here that وفاة means death doesn’t negate the reality of Eesa coming back. This is basic commonsense.
3. In addition you actually find Ibn Hazm , in this first volume of Muhalla which contained a short work on creed, establishing the return of Eesa:
١٢( مسألة: الا أن عيسى ابن مريم سينزل و قد كان قبله أنبياء كثيرة ممن سمى الله تعالى و منهم لم يسم؛ و الإيمان بجميعهم فرض
” the twelfth issue: Except that Eesa the son of Maryam will return even though there had been Prophets before him, some Allah had mentioned and some He didnt mention, however believing in all of them is compulsory ”
So Ibn Hazm held Eesa will return.
As to my claim that this constituted a unanimous position amongst scholars of orthodoxy , here are a few citations :
1. The famous Maliki jurist in his book Kitabul -Jaami has a short introductory creedal work where he states :
و الإيمان…و نزول عيسى بن مريم عليه السلام و قتله إياه…
“…And to have faith in the descent of Eesa the son of Maryam and that he will kill the Dajjal”
He adds at the end :
وكل ما قدمنا ذكره فهو قول أهل السنة وأئمة الناس في الفقه والحديث على ما بيناه وكله قول مالك فمنه منصوص من قوله ومنه معلوم من مذهبه
” all the aforementioned are the (creedal) position of the people of sunnah and the imams of the people whether in fiqh or hadith just as we have explained. And all these is the position of Malik some of which are categorically his statements while some are known of his madhhab ”
2.Imam Ahmad in his Usul Sunnah, the foundational creed of muslims:
قال الإمام أحمد بن حنبل رحمه الله:
أصول السنة عندنا التمسك بما كان عليه أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم والاقتداء بهم ….. والإيمان أن المسيح الدجال خارج , مكتوب بين عينيه : كافر والأحاديث التي جاءت فيه , والإيمان بأن ذلك كائن , وأن عيسى ابن مريم عليه السلام ينزل فيقتله بباب لد اهـ (أصول السنة:11
“… and that Eesa will descend to kill the Dajjal at the Ludd gate…” p. 11
3. The Shaafi’i jurist Al Munaawi says :
قال المناوي في شرح الجامع الصغير : أجمعوا على نزول عيسى عليه الصلاة والسلام نبيا لكنه بشريعة نبينا – صلى الله عليه وسلم
” they are agreed on the descent of Eesa ”
4. At -Tahawi says in his Tahawiyyah, his creedal work which he attributed to Abu Hanifah and his students:
و نؤمن بأشراط الساعة : من خروج الدجال و نزول عيسى عليه السلام من السماء…”
And we believe in the signs of the last day , (amongst which) is : the appearance of the Dajjal, and the descent of Eesa from the heavens …)
These are creedal works from the four madhhabs. Explicitly saying this is the creed of the early Muslim community.
Apart from the citation of this consensus, to claim that the hadith narrated about the descent of Eesa are not mass narrated is either deliberate distortion or clear ignorance.
Hadith authorities state that these ahadith are mutawatir that is mass and recurrently transmitted across Islamic history.
This has been categorically stated by Albani, Al kawtharee, Ibn Hajar, Shawkanee, Ibn Katheer ,Ibn Jareer and so on.
The Ijma , consensus of scholars earlier mentioned , doesn’t depend solely on these mass related ahadith, rather the very basis are the verses of the Qur’an:
وَإِنَّهُۥ لَعِلۡمࣱ لِّلسَّاعَةِ
And he ( Eesa ) is a sign/symbol of the last day.
وَإِن مِّنۡ أَهۡلِ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ إِلَّا لَیُؤۡمِنَنَّ بِهِۦ قَبۡلَ مَوۡتِهِ
And none but all of the people of the book will believe in him before his death.
When someone mentions the difference of opinion of exegetes on the first verse referring to the Quran or that some exegetes held that the Ahlul kitab believing in Eesa was before their own deaths,the question to ask is : did these authorities disbelieve in the descent of Eesa ?!
A resounding NO.
Those given to their desires are wont to create false dichotomies where there are none.
The extant differences on tafsir of these verses or others does not in anyway or form contradict the consensus on the descent of Eesa.
As to those afflicted with rationalist thought from the Mutazilah of old or the precursors of modern mutazilism like some of the Mashayikh of Azhar , then we say they have been preceded by prior Ijma.
Such disagreements after the consensus of the early muslim community is blatant heresy.
Fortunately some of them repented from this before their death.
Those who want to preach otherwise, that Eesa will not return have a very simple task to do :
Give us an early authority from the first generation of muslims with an authentic chain who says verbatim Eesa is not coming back.
©️ Imām Kabir Al-Asfar