Many Muslim theologians consider Jesus Christ the most important aspect of Islamic eschatology.¹ In fact, Jesus is connected with eight of the fifty signs mentioned in the previous article. In fact, the Qur’an declares Mary and Jesus as a “sign for all people” (19:21; 21:91; 23:50).² When he returns, he will slay the false Messiah (Anti-Christ, or dajjal) and establish peace and righteousness on earth.
Some commentators feel that the Qur’an is referring to this occasion when it says, “And on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them” (4:159). Al-Bukhari, the most respected of all the traditions (hadith), describes the event in this way:
“Narrated Abu Huraira, Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in whose hands my soul is, son of Mary, Jesus will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection of the Muslim government).” (Vol. 3:425)
Other hadith such as Al-Muslim adds something to the role of Jesus:
“Certainly, the time of prayer shall come and then Jesus (peace be upon him) son of Mary would descend and would lead them in prayer. When the enemy of Allah would see him, it would (disappear) just as the salt dissolves itself in water and if he (Jesus) were not to confront them at all, even then it would dissolve completely, but Allah would kill them by his hand and he would show them their blood in his lance (the lance of Jesus Christ)…And (in this connection) he made mention of the smoke, the Dajjal; the beast; the rising of the sun from the west, the descent of Jesus son of Mary (Allah be pleased with him).” (Vol. 4:6925, 6931)
From Jan Goodwin, we learn something more as to other sentiments Muslims may hold regarding what Jesus will do on that day when he comes back. In 1994 she visited a Qur’anic class for women in Kuwait, and the 33-year-old female teacher who had studied at the University of Southern California, had this to say:
“There is a hadith that says Islam will rule the world just before the world ends. At that time, there will be a war between Muslims and Jews, a lot of killing. Jesus Christ will guide the Muslim troops as a Muslim. We believe he will come again and break the cross. He will show he was a prophet, not the son of God. The world will benefit when it is Muslim. Everyone will feel at ease.”³
Of course, the difficulty for Islam is how to reconcile the return of Jesus with the widely-held Muslim view that he never died. The Qur’an says: “… They killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them …” (4:157-159). It would seem that Muhammad never knew that the crucifixion of Jesus was relative to Christian beliefs. It is denied as the unfounded calumny of the Jews. Apparently, the Arabian Prophet knew nothing of the atonement. This too is problematic because it means that all—including Mary—was ultimately deceived.
Obviously this has also been a problem for many Muslims because they cannot explain the resurrection, ascension, and appearances of Christ. The alternative is to suggest that he was taken up to heaven without dying and that he will somehow die at a later date. Some speculate that he may have died a natural death, sometime after the crucifixion and remained dead for several hours, after which he was raised to life. Ahmadiyya Muslims, considered a heretical sect, claim that God rescued Jesus from the cross and that he later went up to Kashmir where he is buried. Frankly, there is no historical evidence for any of these spurious claims, and it takes far less faith to believe the New Testament account that he died and rose again the third day.
In light of how desperately peace is now needed in the Middle East the last book of the Old Testament prophecies how the Messiah will return: “Then suddenly the Lord will come to his temple … he will be like a refiner’s fire … for judgment …” (Malachi 3:1-5). The passage goes on to say that the Messiah will judge the specific sins of adultery and oppression of the fatherless and aliens—in Israel. Although the practice of suicide bombing by Palestinians cannot be justified or condoned, Israel is a nation that has certainly oppressed the Palestinian people. Moreover, Zechariah adds that the inhabitants of Jerusalem will finally recognize the Messiah and that they will “mourn for him as one mourns for an only child …” (Zech. 12:10).
One must remember that in and around Jerusalem are many Muslims, and it is not unreasonable to believe that like the Jews, many Muslims will finally recognize him for how he is, and believe in him as the only Savior, the only way to God. This seems to be the thrust of Matthew 24:30 as well: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn …” One recalls how that after his resurrection Jesus proved his identity to doubting disciples by showing them his wounds (Luke 24:39, 40). Upon his dramatic return to the troubled city of Jerusalem, he will do so again with irrefutable evidence.
It is apparent from the discussion above that both Muslims and Christians have numerous common eschatological themes. Similar to Christians, Muslims consider the doctrine of Last Things to be of paramount importance and identify various signs as the hour draws near. Among the many signs that signal doomsday, a few were selected as particularly significant: natural disasters, cataclysmic disturbances in the cosmos and deepening moral degradation in society.
Nevertheless, these articles point out that though Muslims and Christians have similar terms, often they have significantly different meanings. It was noted that a major distinction is how both traditions view the role of Jesus.
Since Christ conquered death, Christians do not face death and the grave with craven fear, but rather with peace and confidence. It is here that Christians can, and must, witness with the assurance that faith in Jesus as the crucified, risen and coming Messiah makes all the difference in this world—and the world to come.
- There are some differences in the majority Sunni and the minority Shi’ite position as to the role of Jesus. Both undoubtedly revere him but it seems that Shi’ites reduce his significance. Like Sunnis, the Shi’ites say that he will return but his role will be subordinate to the al-Mahdi, the 12th Imam (successor and descendant of Muhammad). Shi’ites feel that Jesus will come, and at the time of prayer, will stand behind the Mahdi. See Neal Robinson, Christ in Islam and Christianity. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991, pp. 167-177.
- Also, Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, p. 324, No. 506 says that Satan touches every child except Mary and her Son.
- Jan Goodwin, Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World, New York: Little Brown and Company, 1994, p. 188.