51. The expression used is mutawaffika. The original meaning of tawaffa is
to take and receive. To 'seize a person's sou!' constitutes the figurative rather
than the literal meaning of the word. Here the word is used in the sense of
'recall', for example, the recall of an official from his work. The Israelites
had persisted in their disobedience, and despite repeated warnings and admonitions
their collective behaviour had become increasingly corrupt. They had killed
a succession of Prophets and were out to shed the blood of all those who invited
them to righteousness and moral rectitude. In order to complete His argument
against them, and to give them a last chance to reform themselves, God sent
to them two great Prophets, Jesus and John the Baptist. These Prophets carried
with them such overwhelming proof of their designation by God that no ground
was left for anyone to disbelieve in them, except those who were obstinately
hostile to the Truth and who had become exceedingly bold in their opposition
Yet the Israelites let this last opportunity slip away. They not only spurned the message of the Prophets but also brazenly indulged in many other atrocious crimes. One of their chiefs had John beheaded at the behest of a dancing girl, and their priests and scribes conspired to have Jesus put to death by the Roman authorities. Further admonition would have been a sheer waste of time. God, therefore, decided to recall His Prophet and condemned the Israelites to perpetual disgrace.
It should be noted that this whole discourse (verses 3: 33 ff.) is devoted to repudiating the Christian belief in the godhead of Jesus, and to reforming their beliefs. The main reasons for the spread of these false beliefs were: (i) the miraculous birth of Jesus; (ii) the miracles which he performed; and (iii) his ascension into heaven (which is mentioned categorically in the Christian scriptures). The Qur'an confirms the miraculous birth of Jesus and asserts that this fatherless birth is a manifestation of God's omnipotence. God creates whomsoever He wills and in the manner He chooses. This extraordinary birth neither proves that Jesus was God nor that he had any share in God's godhead. The miracles of Jesus are also verified by the Qur'an; in fact it enumerates them one by one. The Qur'an, however, makes it clear that Jesus performed these miracles in accordance with God's will, and not of his own innate power.
Had the traditions cherished by the Christians regarding Jesus' ascension into heaven been without foundation, they would have been told that he whom they regarded as either God or the son of God had died long ago and become part of the earth, and that if they wanted to satisfy themselves on that score they could go and witness for themselves his grave at a certain place. But not only does the Qur'an not make any categorical statement that Jesus died, it employs an expression which, to say the least, contains the possibility of being interpreted as meaning that he had been raised into heaven alive. Further, the Qur'an tells the Christians that Jesus, contrary to their belief, was not crucified. This means that the man who cried out at the end of his life: 'Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?', that is, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Matthew 27: 46), and the one whose image was seen on the cross was not Christ; God had already raised Christ into heaven.
As for those who try to interpret these Qur'anic verses as indicating the death of Jesus, they actually prove only that God is incapable of expressing His ideas in clear, lucid terms.
52. The words 'those who disbelieve' here refer to the Jews whom Jesus had invited to believe, and who had refused that invitation. The expression: 'your followers', if it denotes the true followers of Jesus, can only mean Muslims. Should 'followers' signify all those who profess allegiance to Jesus, it would include both Christians and Muslims.
53. This means that if Jesus' miraculous birth is sufficient proof that he should be regarded either as God or as the son of God then there are even stronger grounds to apply this to Adam. For, while Jesus was born without a father, Adam was born with neither father nor mother.
54. The main points set before the Christians so far are the following: First,
it was impressed upon them that none of the various arguments which gave rise
to the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus provided valid grounds to support that
doctrine. Jesus was merely a human being whom God had created in an extraordinary
manner for reasons best known to Him. God had also invested Jesus with the power
to perform certain miracles by means of which he could categorically establish
his claim to prophethood. It seems perfectly reasonable that God should not
have allowed such an extraordinary person to be crucified by unbelievers and
should have raised him up to Himself. As the Sovereign, God has the power to
treat any of His subjects as He wishes. How can this extraordinary treatment
of Jesus justify the conclusion that the subject was himself either the Sovereign,
the son of the Sovereign or an associate with Him in His Sovereignty?
Second, the message of Muhammad (peace be on him) is the same as that of Jesus. The missions of the two are identical.
Third, even after [the ascension of] Jesus the religion of his disciples remained the same, namely, Islam, which is now expounded by the Qur'an. What has happened is that, in the course of time, the Christians have abandoned the teachings of Christ, and have deviated from the religion followed by the early disciples of Jesus.
55. The real aim in suggesting this procedure for deciding the dispute was to prove that the attitude of those amongst the delegation of Najran was one of deliberate stubbornness and intransigence. They had no sound arguments to contradict any of the points mentioned above, and they could not find any shred of evidence in their own scriptures upon which they could claim, with firm conviction, that their beliefs were true. Moreover, all that the members of the deputation had come to know of the character, teachings and achievements of the Prophet had made them more or less convinced of his prophethood, and at least caused their disbelief to waver. When they were told that if they had full confidence in the truth of their beliefs they should come forward and pray to God that His curse should fall on the deniers of the truth, none of them came forward. It thus became clear all over Arabia that the priests and leaders of Christianity in Najran, whose holiness was celebrated far and wide, followed beliefs, the truth of which, they themselves were not fully confident in.