The Miraculous Ascent of Jesus to the Skies.

The Quran mentions the ascent of Jesus to the skies, in the following verse :

"Remember when Allah said, "O Jesus! I shall take you and raise you to Myself and clear you of the falsehood of those who rejected faith and I shall make those who followed you superior to those who rejected faith, until the day of resurrection. Then you shall all return to Me and I will judge between you of the matters upon which you disputed." 3/55.

Imam Qurtubi has explained this verse saying that the waw, meaning and, does not require tartib (the order of occurrence), thus the import of the verse will be, "I shall raise you to Me and clear you from those who rejected faith and I shall take you to myself after your descent from the skies."

Another three exegesis (tafsirs) to this verse given by the Mufassirs, are as follows:

The first is that the word ‘Mutawaffiyka’ means "I shall take you, not in the form of death, but I shall take you away from those people towards Myself, by raising you to Me," as the word tawaffi is used for taking and collecting, it is said in the context of Tawaffaytu Mali i.e. "I took back my belongings."

The second view is that the word ‘Mutawaffiyka’ means, "I shall give you death," and that death did occur as Jesus’ soul was taken out of his body temporarily. Thus death overtook him for a short period of time, before he was raised to the skies.

The third view is that ‘Mutawaffiyka’ means "I shall send you to sleep," as sleep is the ‘twin sister of death’ and the word ‘wafa`t’ i.e. death, has been used for sleep in the following verse also:

"He is the One who takes your soul by night and hath knowledge of all that you do in the day." Quran, 6/60.

Imam Qurtubi concludes by taking the correct view as that Allah raised Jesus without death or sleep. Imam Tabari has also chosen this view.

Imam Qurtubi has made this point evident from the portrayal of Jesus’ ascent, which he narrated at this stage in his tafsir as follows:

"The animosity of the enemies increased as Jesus’ popularity abounded and so they made a firm intention to kill him. Once Jesus entered upon his disciples, who had gathered in a house, and Satan informed the enemies of Jesus’ gathering. Immediately, the enemies, arrived and stood outside the house, waiting for Jesus to step outside so that they could carry out their intention to kill him.

Jesus was informed by his Lord as to the situation, so he asked of his disciples, "Who is willing to go out of this house and be killed in place of myself and then be with me in paradise?" One of the disciples replied, "I am prepared to do so, O prophet of Allah." Thus Jesus gave the disciple his garment, turban and staff. The disciple donned Jesus’ garments and Allah replaced his features with those resembling Jesus in appearance. As he walked out of the house, the enemy captured him, thinking he was Jesus and proceeded to crucify him. Angels were sent by Allah to protect Jesus and to raise him up into the heavens."

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