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Question : #781 Category: Interfaith Dialogue
Subject: Jesus death
Question: Assalaamu alaikum Brother Ammar!

Would you please explain me in detail the verse of QURAN 4: 159 where it states " There is not one of the people of the Book who will not believe in him(jesus) before he dies; and on the Day of Rising he will be a witness against them".
Answer: Some people have said: The pronoun refers to 'one' in "one of the People of the Book", meaning: each and every one among the People of the Book will believe in 'Isa (a.s.) before that one dies. It will become clear to him just before his death that 'Isa was the Messenger of Allah and His servant; even though that faith at that time will not benefit him at all, and 'Isa will be a witness over them all on the Day of Judgment. It makes no difference whether they believed in him in a way that was beneficial to them or at a time when it was of no avail like believing at the time of death.

If we say that the pronoun "before his death" refers to 'Isa (a.s.), it would support what has been narrated in some traditions that 'Isa is alive, has not died and that he will come down before the Day of Resurrection and then the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, will believe in him. But this interpretation particularizes, without any reason, the generality of the phrase, "and there is not one of the People of the Book". But according to this explanation, the verse would mean that only those People of the Book would believe in 'Isa who would be present when he would come down from the heavens, while all others who came and went after his being raised and before his coming down would not believe in him. This restricts without any reason the general meaning of the verse.

However, some have opted for this explanation and said that the pronoun refers to 'Isa (a.s.) and points to their belief in him at the time of his coming down from heaven in the last days. This view relies on a tradition as we have mentioned above.

But the verse with its two parts clearly shows that 'Isa (a.s.) will be a witness on all of them on the Day of Resurrection as will all of them believe in him before death. And Allah has quoted the speech of 'Isa regarding this evidence in a particular way: And I was a witness over them so long as I was among them; when You did take me up You were the watcher over them and You are witness over all things (5:117). In this verse,'Isa limits his evidence for the period when he was alive among them before his being taken away, and the verse under discussion says that he would be a witness over all those who could believe in him; now if all would believe in him it means that he would not die but after all of them. This brings us to the second interpretation, that is, he is alive until now and he will return to them again so that they could believe in him. Utmost that can be said is that the one who will not be present when he will return to them second time will believe in him at the time of his death and the one who will be present at that time will have to believe in him whether willingly or under compulsion.

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