Sunday, August 12, 2012

Did Jesus raise the dead?

Raising the dead in literature generally symbolizes a rejection of fate or God's power, yet ironically, this feat is commonly attributed to Jesus as one of his many miracles. Christian attribution of such power to Jesus is understandable, after all they consider him wholly Divine and bringing a few corpses back to life would be relatively simple. However Muslims believe Jesus to be just a man, yet, perplexingly, many among them attribute super-human powers to him including the ability to raise the dead. Whether the dead can come back to life (now or ever) is not a difficult question to answer, it is a matter of shared human experience. The finality that is Death is not lost on anyone except perhaps the insane or deeply bereaved. Yet when it comes to religion, sane people have no problem adopting resurrection myths as part of their belief system despite the fact that there is no single verifiable instance in all of recorded history of a dead coming back to life. That, in itself, should be sufficient to show such things just do not happen. There should really be no need to quote holy scriptures to establish an elementary reality as this. However, Muslims who believe in the resurrection phenomenon mistakenly attribute it to the Quran, therefore it is best rebutted with the aid of Quran itself.

On the finality of death the Holy Quran is quite clear :

Allah takes charge of souls at the time of death, and of those not yet dead during their sleep. Then he retains those in respect of which He has decreed death, and sends back the others for an appointed term. In that are surely Signs for a people who reflect. (39:43)

While the soul of one who is merely sleeping is returned for an appointed term, the soul of one who dies is retained with God. In clear and unequivocal terms the Quran describes death as an irreversible phenomenon. Any verse of the Holy Quran that purports to say otherwise would need to be understood in metaphorical terms, otherwise Quran would be contradicting itself. As it happens, "revival" or some variant thereof is one of the most heavily used metaphors in any language, Arabic being no exception. It is never understood literally. In English we have a dying man being brought back to life, a sinful soul is saved when it is born again, or someone imminently threatened is a dead man walking, who, if he survives, gets a second lease on life.   Quran which is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Arabic erudition uses various rhetorical devices, including metaphorical expressions in abundance. So when it says that Jesus revived the dead, it can only mean that he revived the spiritually dead, which, after all, was why he came.  There is no room for literal reading of that verse in the presence of 39:43 above.  

About Jesus the Quran says:

and you (Jesus) did raise the dead by my command (5:111)

Interestingly, we find similar terminology used for Muhammad. Here people are called to respond to Allah and His Messenger when they are called to life.  

O ye who believe, respond to Allah and His Messenger when he calls you that he may bring you to life ... (8:25)

Clearly the ones being raised to life are the spiritually dead. Possibly the most spectacular example of raising of the dead is the transformation of the Arabs from a violent, barbaric people into a learned and spiritual empire.

Applying the phrase literally to Jesus while not applying it in the same way to Muhammad is  problematic as it elevates Jesus to a station above that of Muhammad. That should be of concern to Muslims as they claim superiority of Muhammad over all other prophets. Furthermore as the Seal of the Prophets (Khatam-an-Nabiyeen), which is his most important title, Muhammad should be able to demonstrate all feats attributed with the position of prophethood, yet he never resurrected the physically dead. That would be akin to a seal which only carries a partial impression, hence defective.  However both Jesus and Muhammad did create a spiritual revival in their respective times, the latter arguably did so with far greater success.

There is another grave problem that the literal interpretation of resurrection stumbles right into.  Neither the Quran nor the Bible, let alone laws made by man, mention what is to be done with the resurrected people. Anyone familiar with lawmaking knows that obscure possibilities also need to be accounted for if a law is to claim completeness. When laws made by man have holes it is usually because the lawmakers did not account for something, we cannot accuse God of the same fault. Omission of how to handle such situation by any religious scripture is noteworthy.

Playing out a hypothetical scenario of resurrection can quickly turn complicated. When people die certain things begin to happen pretty much automatically. The body is disposed off, buried or cremated, financial affairs of the deceased are settled, and inheritance is distributed.  The spouse goes through a period of bereavement and once over the initial shock eventually moves on with life. At some point they start courting new prospects and in many cases get remarried. Basically life goes on. Before too long, the hole that was created by the departed gets filled so completely that even if the dead were to return there would be no space left for them to be accommodated in the society. If, however, that were to happen, without doubt it would be a catastrophe. Its unlikely that many would be pleased (except maybe the mother!) to see the deceased rise from the grave, dust off the dirt and amble back home looking for a smooth return to status quo ante. The prophet may have shown a spectacular miracle but it would be one with the potential to ruin the peace of an entire town. With the dead man's property sold off, his wife with a new husband, his livelihood taken, he is unlikely to return to a situation very welcoming. Chances are that he does not even know he was dead, all he knows is that suddenly the world has gone topsy turvy. It would be a frightful mess to resolve. One would expect that with every resurrection there would be a flurry of litigation sufficient to keep an army of lawyers busy for a long time. On what basis would any court settle such disputes? Not finding any help in their law books, perhaps, the court will turn to the holy scriptures. The whole mess, after all, was created by a holy man out to impress his deniers. May be his revealed book would come to aid with some guidance. So they would turn to the book and start perusing it diligently page by page hoping to find a way out. And exactly what guidance would they find there? Nothing! Not even a hint of a solution. Then they would wonder if what they saw was miracle or a very cruel joke.

Its not without good reason that the phenomenon of death is final and definitive. It is fundamental in the grand order of things and one of the inviolable decrees of God. Verse 39:43 (above) after describing the finality of death fittingly concludes: in that are surely signs for people who reflect.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Proof #16: Inescapable death

Then We fashioned the sperm into a clot; then We fashioned the clot into a shapeless lump; then We fashioned bones out of this shapeless lump; then We clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed it into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators. (23:15)

Then after that you must surely die. (23:16)

Here, the process of creation is described as it goes through its various stages in the womb. Once a complete human specimen is delivered, it begins its inevitable journey to its death. Jesus would have gone through the very same process and would have met his eventual and timely death in due course.

While Quran presents an overwhelming evidence of Jesus' natural death, yet there are many Muslims who remain insistent on his continued life. It is a difficult position to defend, which goes against nature as well as the Word of God. But the defenders of the indefensible are usually of the unyielding kind. When beaten on all fronts, at some point they take refuge in the last of all fall-back shelters—their very last line of defense: Fine, he is dead! but is it not in the power of God to bring him back to life? They just have to have him back! That question, mercifully, is also answered right here in the next verse:

Then on the Day of Resurrection will you be raised up. (23:17)

Yes he will be raised, but not here. It will be in the Hereafter, along with everyone else. There he will not be asked to save the politics of the Muslim ummah, fight wars for them or grant them global domination, while they idle about and watch the wholesale slaughter of the infidels. Such macabre and cruel expectations are products of sick minds and will never be fulfilled.  When Jesus is raised, like everyone else, he will only be asked to give an account of himself, a glimpse of which is given in the Holy Quran and is discussed here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Proof #15: Aging—a fact of life

It is Allah Who created you in a state of weakness, and after weakness gave strength; then after strength, caused weakness and old age. He creates what He pleases. He is the All-knowing, the All-Powerful. (30:55)

It is hard to believe that any one would wish for Jesus to still be alive and cursed with over 2000 years of aging. A normal lifespan becomes painful after only 90 or so years, 2000 years of age would be an impossible existence. The Holy Quran terms aging an incontrovertible principle applicable on all life forms, including Jesus. Age eventually brings with it a loss of physical and mental powers. It is unstoppable and irreversible. If something is alive, it ages. Born in a state of weakness, man begins to gains strength until reaching a physical and mental peak, then decline sets in progressively diminishing one's faculties, until in advanced old age existence becomes a sort of living death with ones dignity entirely compromised. Mercifully, most people die before reaching this terminal stage.

Jesus is a man, he may be a prophet but that does not make him exempt from this fact of life. Quran supports the contention that if he were still alive, his existence would be degraded to a state of mental death. Aging for 2000 years is perhaps the worst fate imaginable, and would not be suffered by a revered prophet of God. There is no precedent for what existence at that kind of age would be like, though we can imagine that such a person would be incapable of rational, coherent thought. His brain would be physically destroyed and muscles atrophied to complete uselessness. Rather than pin the hopes of the entire ummah's rescue on such a person, would it not be better to let him just die!

Also see:
Proof #6: Indignities of old age
Proof #11: Unstoppable Ageing

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Proof #14: The fallacy

And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it before his death; and on the Day of Ressurection, he (Jesus) shall be a witness against them (4:160)

This verse contains three implied references, two of which are hanging and depending on where they are turned give it a different meaning.  The discussion which follows examines implications of turning these references one way or another.

Understanding #1

And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in him (Jesus) before his (Jesus) death; …

Many scholars who believe in Jesus to be still alive base their claim on this understanding. By pointing both references bihi and mauti-him to Jesus, they contend that each and every one of the People of the Book will believe in Jesus at some indeterminate time in future, and this will happen before Jesus’ own death. The logic goes that since not all Jews have yet believed in Jesus therefore this verse mandates Jesus to be still alive. They say this event (all Jews believing in Jesus) will occur after he descends from the heavens.

As to how will this come about? It is said that upon his return Jesus will wage a war of extermination against the Jews. But before going on this all-out offensive, he will issue an ultimatum: they can accept him and live or they can reject him and die. And forthwith he will begin the killing process that will spare not a single rejecting Jew. This is a key point. This understanding does not allow even a single rejecting Jew to survive. The usage of the all inclusive in-min-ahlil-kitabi at the beginning of the verse requires that 100% of the Jews must participate in of what follows—here, ‘belief in Jesus’. What better way to ensure 100% participation than to kill 100% of those who do not! When Jesus is done with the holy massacre the only type of Jew left alive will be one who believes in him. And having accomplished this, Jesus will have successfully removed the primary obstacle to his own death and in due course will also die. But until then, he remains very much alive, they say.

Of course the first (and glaring) problem here is the genocide of the Jews, but that apparently is a non-issue with the proponents of this translation. They are resigned, if not quite comfortable, to the complete extermination of the Jews as a race. Trying to shame them into changing their minds is probably not going to work, so let us focus on dialectical analysis and see if that leads somewhere. The expression in-min when applied to a group of people or things means each and everyone of them with no exclusions permitted. In this verse it is applied to the People of the Book, i.e. the Jews. While it simply means all Jews, past and present, the proponents of #1, have placed a number of exclusions on it. All Jews who have existed and died before Jesus’ reappearance are excluded. All those who reject him after his reappearance are also excluded (they will be killed by him, of course). It is also said that after the extermination of the world Jewry and subsequent death of Jesus, qiyamah, the calamity that will bring the world to an end would soon follow; yet at other places it is also said that the world will be choke-full of disbelievers when it happens. The question is, if everyone ends up believing in Jesus and by extension in God and Muhammad, who, on earth, would be these non-believers? It turns out these wretched people will be those Jews and others who will go “astray” after Jesus’ death. One would imagine that the Jews converted under duress would be particularly eager to revert the moment Jesus dies and the threat to their lives is lifted.  Who could blame them for that! Anyways, that is the third exclusion. So the term which connotes universal inclusion, gets progressively sliced such that only a very thin sliver of its intended targets remain its purview. This, in my opinion, is mutilating a uniquely all-inclusive clause. Let the reader be the judge.

Understanding #2

And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in him (Jesus) before his (person of the Book) death; …

Proponents of this translation say that in their death-throes Jews are forced by angles to believe in Jesus. This, obviously, is impossible to verify. However, it does not help the argument of Jesus' life or death either way.

What it “really” means:

Clearly, the first translation is logically absurd and also in violation of Arabic usage, notwithstanding it requires extreme cruelty on the Jews; a type of cruelty that would make Nazi era atrocities look quite tame by comparison. The second translation is acceptable only in that it is neither provable nor disprovable.

Here is an alternate reading of the verse which clarifies its meaning.

And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it (conjecture expressed in 4:158) before his (own) death; …

The previous verses (4:158-159) state that though they claim to have killed Jesus, yet it is merely a conjecture about which certainty eludes them and they are in a state of doubt about it. They neither managed to kill him nor did they successfully crucify him; they tried to humiliate him, whereas Allah exalted him. It is this conjecture to which the implied reference bihi turns in 4:160. It means the state of doubt of Jews/Christians on this matter will remain as long as they live, only in the afterlife will this matter be resolved for them, and not in the way they expect.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Do Mortals travel to the Heavens?

Or thou have a house of gold or thou ascend into heaven; and we will not believe in thy ascension until thou send down to us a book that we can read. Say, Holy is my Lord! I am not but a man sent as a messenger. (17:94)

This verse discounts the possibility that mortals ascend to the heavens and bring guidance from there. When the disbelievers made various demands of the Holy Prophetsaw, one being that he should ascend to the heavens and bring a book therefrom, he is told to respond that since his claim is no more than that of a mortal and a prophet, hence the demand is absurd. ‘Holy is my Lord,’ meaning, Allah is far above such absurdities.

Those Muslims who believe in Jesus to have physically ascended to the heavens, in fact, help the case of Christians. If Jesus has indeed ascended to the heavens and will return some day, then this verse is sufficient to prove his supra-mortal status, which is exactly the Christian claim.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Would Jesus descend on the shoulders of angels?

Those who expect Jesus to physically descend from the heavens while resting on shoulders of angels need to ponder on this verse. Such facetious expectations are the hallmark of opponents of prophets, who demand to see angles descending—in this case Noah's:

And the chiefs of his people, who disbelieved, said, 'He (Noah) is only a man like yourselves; he seeks to make himself superior to you. And if Allah so willed, He could have surely sent down angels. We have never heard of such a thing among our forefathers. (23:25)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Proof #13: The conjecture

And their saying, 'We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;' whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no definite knowledge thereof, but only follow a conjecture; and they did not convert this conjecture into a certainty; On the contrary, Allah exalted him to Himself. And Allah is Mighty, Wise. (4:158-159)

The emphasis is upon their failure to murder Jesus by any means. The reader is reminded that the very beginning of the verse refers to the Jewish boast that they had succeeded in murdering Jesus.

This Jewish claim is firmly rejected by the Holy Quran. That is why by the end of verse, the conclusive declaration is that whatever may have happened they certainly failed to kill him. This implies that it is not the act of crucifixion which is denied. What is denied is death by crucifixion.

Read rest here:  see note 158

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Proof #12: The inevitable decline

The example of life on earth is like that of water that We cause to descend from heaven. Then with it mingles the vegetation of the earth of which both the people and the cattle partake. It continues to be so until the earth blossoms forth in full bloom and ripens into loveliness—then while those who possess it deem themselves supreme over it, there suddenly descends Our decree at night or during the day. Then We render it a field that is mown down as if it had not existed the day before. Thus do we expound our Signs for a people who reflect. (10:25)

Another expression of the same universal law that covers all life. Like vegetation, life blossoms to a full bloom and then withers away and dies. Is Jesus exempt from the certainty of this universal law?

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Proof #11: Unstoppable Ageing

And him whom We grant long life—We revert him to a weak state in creation. Will they not then understand? (36:69) more translations

This verse describes the process of ageing as an unstoppable natural phenomenon from which no man is exempt. Jesus would be subject to its sanction just like anyone else. Having once reached physical maturity and prime, he would have steadily aged and grown weaker over the years before becoming an old man. Not long after that he would have met his death. There is nothing remarkable in that. His fate could be no different to any other human being. However, if we are to believe that he is still alive as he incredibly steps into the third millennium of his life, then according to the verdict of this verse, his physical and mental faculties would be in a state of such advanced decrepitude that his existence would be utterly meaningless. That is the only form of life which this verse would allow him: a life that is indistinguishable from death itself.

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Proof #10: Life limited to the terrestrial

But Satan caused them both to slip by means of it and drove them out of the state in which they were. And We said: ‘Go forth; some of you are enemies of others, and for you there is an abode in the earth and a provision for a time.’ (2:37) more translations

This verse clearly fixes earth as the place of life-long abode for man. As long as he lives, man's corporeal existence is to remain confined to the terrestrial world. Once a person dies, his astral body or the soul departs and joins the dead in the celestial world, leaving behind the physical body to decay, disintegrate and become fodder for the lesser creatures—‘dust to dust’, in other words. Man is born in the mundane, lives in the mundane and is going to die in the mundane. It is like a prison with death being the only possible avenue of escape. This verse rejects the idea of Jesus or, for that matter, anybody else going up to the heavens alive. Holy Prophetsaw in his special vision known as the Mairaj, saw him in the Second Heavens accompanied by Prophet Yahya. This reference is from Sahih Bukhari:

Narrated by Malik bin Sasaa that the Holy Prophetsaw said: “while I was lying in the Kaaba ... and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven ... I saw Adam there. Gabriel said to me, ‘This is your father, Adam; pay him your greetings.’ So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, O' pious son and pious Prophetsaw.’ Then Gabriel ascended with me till we reached the second heaven... there I saw John and Jesus who were cousins to each other. Gabriel said to me, ‘These are John and Jesus; pay them your greetings.’ So I greeted them and both of them returned my greetings and said, ‘You are welcomed, O' pious brother and pious Prophetsaw...”

This evidence is also problematic for a living Jesus. What is he doing among the dead? Such absurd intermixing of the living and the dead is intellectually indefensible and exposes religion to ridicule. Muslims would be well-advised to reject the idea of a living Jesus, an idea which grants him a supra-human status and elevates him above the creation and encroaching upon divinity. It is a deeply damaging belief, which is contrary to Tauheed and is helpful to Christians in their claimed divinity and sonship of Jesus.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Proof #9: Synopsis of Jesus' life

‘And peace was on me the day I was born, and peace there will be on me the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again.’’ (19:34) more translations

Here Jesus refers to three principal events of his existence: the day of his birth, the day of his death and his resurrection on the Day of Judgement. One would expect that in addition to these three events his purported ascent and the subsequent descent in the Latter days would be important enough to merit a mention, yet we find them conspicously absent. If real, these momentous and unprecedented events with enormous consequences for himself and the rest of the humanity would be quite at par with his birth, death and ressurrection, yet Allah makes no mention of it here or anywhere else in the Holy Quran. On the contrary, numerous verses assert his death as having already occurred, some directly and others indirectly, while not a single verse speaks of his corporeal ascent to the heavens, his future descent nor his continued survival. One can only conclude that it is a figment of some people's imagination that is unequivocally rejected by the Holy Quran.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Proof #8: It's curtains for earlier prophets

Those are a people that have passed away; for them is what they earned, and for you shall be what you earn; and you shall not be questioned as to what they did. (2:135) more translations

The preceding verses mention a number of prophets. This verse declares the prophets of the bygone days all dead. For them is what they earned, meaning their accounts are closed and their actions have come to an end. There is a finality and closure as far as their actions are concerned, so also there is a separation between us and them. This verse is in fact a corollary of Holy Prophet Muhammadsaw being the Khataman Nabiyeen, the Seal of the Prophets. Earlier prophets have no unfinished business left and hence there is no need to keep any of them unnaturally alive in the recesses of the heavens. In other words, it is not their problem anymore. The task of spreading the message of God is in the safe and capable hands of the Holy Prophet of Islam, may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him. All spiritual blessings and ranks now flow through his person. Holy Prophetsaw is in no need of help from a prophet sent to another people. Through his power of spiritual purification he is capable of raising such souls from among his own people as would help him in his mission, some of whom may even reach the status of a prophet while staying subservient to him. That is entirely consistent with his status of Khataman Nabiyeen, whereas the return of an earlier prophet to rescue his mission, a prophet who received nothing by way of spiritual food from him, is a rank insult and is tantamount to breaking that seal.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Proof #7: On unnatural lifespans

We granted not everlasting life to any human being before thee. If then thou shouldst die, shall they live here for ever? Every soul shall taste of death; (21:35-36) more translations

In simple idiomatic terms this verse declares that no one before the Holy Prophetsaw was granted a life span longer than common human experience such that he or she still lives. Those who were born before the Holy Prophet and can reasonably be expected to have died, have all died. The word everlasting does not mean eternal, since eternity cannot be squeezed “before” any event in time. Once a limit is put on the arrow of time, in this case, the birth of the Holy Prophet, eternity stands breached since it cannot exist in bounded space. No one could have existed, or not existed for that matter, in eternity, before the Holy Prophet. What follows lays bare the intent of the verse. It builds a conclusion on the opening statement and puts the question: “If then you should die”. Here if then can only mean that the Holy Prophet will experience death because those before him all experienced death in the normal course.

There is another fundamental problem with the contention that everlasting means eternal. In that case a question is being posed to the Holy Prophet which he is not capable of answering. From his perspective, eternity has not yet expired, nor it ever can expire for him or anyone else. So it is impossible for him to be a judge of someone “before him” being still alive when eternity ‘happens’. Projecting this scenario to the future does not help either for two reasons: one, eternity is unreachable and, two, he is mortal, which is also the conclusion of this verse. Holy Prophet can only be a witness to unusual life spans, and that is exactly what is being denied here.

Jesusas who preceded the Holy Prophetsaw by about 600 years is firmly in the crosshairs of this verse and cannot possibly survive its clear verdict.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Proof #6: Indignities of old age

And there are some of you who are caused to die prematurely, and there are others who are driven to the worst part of life with the result that they knew nothing after having had knowledge (22:6) more translations

In this verse Allah divides people into two groups in relation to how long they live:

  • The first group covers the majority of mankind: those who die before they reach old age. They die prematurely in the sense that by design they could have lived longer had they not suffered some illness, accident or harm.
  • In the second group, people reach the natural limits of their life and progressively lose command over their faculties as they waste from a state of life towards a state of death. In this verse Allah calls it the “worst” part of life, where it is reduced to a loathsome, wretched existence. Mentally they start regressing and become more and more like a child. Further deterioration causes them to forget their life experience. Higher order mental activity in the cerebrum slows and brain function becomes limited to performing its primordial duty of regulating breathing and heart beat. For those who still do not perish, their mind becomes a blank slate. There remains no residual memory, emotion or feeling. Finally and mercifully, death encroaches and claims its victim who was long gone anyway.
In view of this it is clear that as far as the course of life is concerned, Allah the Creator Who knows the design of man, divides mankind into these two groups. Jesusas, a human, has no choice but to fall into one or the other group. Either he has already met his death at its appointed and appropriate hour some two thousand years ago, or, he is still alive and therefore subject to the inescapable ravages of time such that his constitution would have deteriorated to a degree where it would be immaterial whether he lives or does not live. In that state, his continued existence cannot possibly be of any benefit to himself or to the mankind.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Proof #5: Prophets need to eat to live

And We did not give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they to live for ever. (21:9) more translations

This verse makes the following statements about prophets:

  • They cannot survive without food.
  • They do not live for ever.
It is mentioned in 5:76 that Jesus used to eat food. Since he does not eat anymore, so according to this verse, his corporeal existence must have terminated, i.e. he has died.

It further states that Prophets do not live for ever. “Live for ever” should not be taken too literally as the concept of eternity is abstract and unfathomable. An argument of this nature that limits itself only to negation of eternity carries very little meaning. Come eternity, no one will be around to check if anyone still survives. One way to understand this is to ask the question if a million year lifespan would run afoul of this verse? Or would a thousand? Clearly both would. The fact is that any lifespan that could be classed as unnatural or aberrational in its extent is disallowed here. If Jesus is still alive, it would make him some 2000 years old! Needless to say, that is unnatural for an ordinary person as well as a prophet.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Did Jesus create birds?

Not according to this verse:

Surely those on whom you call upon instead of Allah cannot create even a fly, though they should all combine together for the purpose. And if the fly should snatch away anything from them, they cannot recover it therefrom. Weak, indeed, are both the seeker and the sought. (22:74)

It says that it is not in the power of false gods to create a creature as insignificant as a fly. If the ability to create a fly confers godhead, creation of a bird would undoubtedly do the same, even more so, since a bird is a higher order creature than a fly. Some Muslims, misunderstanding the metaphorical expression used in 3:50, believe that Jesusas created birds. This verse strikes at the heart of that notion and completely discounts the possibility. Among all those who are “called upon instead of Allah”, Jesus occupies a position of distinction. He has without doubt the highest number of followers. If it is accepted that he could create, with or without God's permission, living birds of flesh and blood, then the argument of 22:74 is defeated in its first and most important test case.

In defense of literal interpretation of 3:50, it is argued that Jesus could create birds and could also bring dead people back to life only with the permission of Allah. And since to permit remains Allah's prerogative, hence there is no problem and Unity of Godhead remains intact. This line of reasoning, unfortunately, weakens the argument in the verse above. On the one hand we are told that only Allah creates life. It distinguishes Him from His creation and is a power He is loathe to share with anyone else. But on the other, we are told of certain people, admittedly pious, who have been granted this ability. Whether such people were pious or wicked, prophet or non-prophet, it makes no difference. If true, such delegation of ability to create life by God to any of His creation would entirely compromise the Unity of Godhead. What conclusion is a neutral observer to draw from this? There can be only one: that there are more than one entities which create life. By delegating His ability to create life, God would stand accused of thoroughly confusing the issue and making the matter of finding the One True God impossibly difficult for the seeker of truth. How is to be ascertained which of the ancients created life with Allah's leave and which created without it? In this circumstance there would be no justification in condemning those who associate partners with Allah.

Then again, whatever happened to the birds created by Jesus? Such birds must have reproduced and spread. Which would lead us to believe there are two types of birds in the world: ones created by Allah and others created by Jesus. More likely these two types have intermixed such that it is impossible to say with certainty if a particular bird is wholly created by Allah, by Jesus or by both together.

If this is not shirk, what is?

Meaning of Birds in the Quran

There is no contradiction in the Holy Quran. The term 'birds' is a metaphor for people who attain great spiritual heights. See the following:

Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises, all who are in the heavens and the earth celebrate, and so do the birds with their wings outspread? (24:42)

Regular birds along with the rest of God's creation, animate and inanimate are accounted for in all who are in the heavens and the earth. The birds with their wings outspread has to be the most noble of all creation that praise Allah, which can be none other than the spiritual man, worthy of a special and honored mention.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jesus' Destination of Refuge

And We made the son of Mary and his mother a Sign, and gave them shelter on an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water. (23:51)

After surviving the crucifixion Jesus left the land of his persecutors and traveled East in search of the lost tribes of Israel. He eventually reached Kashmir, where he lived a long and fruitful life preaching to the dispersed Jewish tribes which had settled there earlier. He is buried in the Khanyar quarter of Srinagar. His tomb can be visited even today and is known as the resting place of Prophet Yuz Asaf, (Jesus the Gatherer). This Quranic verse describes Kashmir as “elevated land of valleys and springs of running water.”

Mary, his mother, is said to be buried in the Pakistani town of Murree, where her tomb is at a location known as Pindi Point. Locals call the tomb Mai Mari da Asthan i.e. Resting Place of Mother Mary. This area of Pakistan is in the foothills of the Himalayas at the threshold of the Kashmir Valley.

Here are some useful links on this subject. The first of these is the book “Jesus in India” by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835-1908). It is the seminal work on this subject. It traces Jesus' journey through Nasibus, Persia, Afghanistan and finally Kashmir, where he preached among the Jews who had settled there after their deliverance from the bondage of Nebuchadnezzar.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's book: Jesus in India (complete text)
BBC Documentary: Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
Tomb of Jesus Website
Mary's Tomb

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Proof #4: Prophets before Muhammad have all died

And Muhammad is but a messenger. Verily all Messengers have passed away before him. If then he dies or is slain, will you turn back on your heels? (3:145) more translations

Two points are being made here with reference to the Holy Prophetsaw:

  • Since prophets before him have all died, so also will this prophet die, and his death would not be indicative of a defect in his prophethood.
  • If it were necessary for prophets to live forever then show us a single instance from among earlier prophets who is still alive.
If Jesusas, who came some six hundred years before the Holy Prophetsaw, was still alive then neither of these arguments would hold.

The construct used here is similar to that used in 5:76 (discussed earlier). It opens with the statement that prophets before Muhammadsaw have all died. For ‘death’ the Arabic expression khalat has been used, which means to pass away. Some argue that in addition to death, khalat could also mean just about any manner of departing including bodily ascending to the heaven, or some other atypical departure, while still alive. Arabic usage of khalat would resist this interpretation but anyhow presently we will not get into lexical discussion. This verse spares us that trouble as it internally provides a complete translation of this word. It says: If then he dies or is slain, will you turn back on your heels? Hence the two ways in which a prophet can pass away are either he dies a natural death or he is slain. There is no third possibility mentioned, which can only mean it does not exist. If it is assumed there were a third, fourth or fifth manner in which prophets had passed away in the past, then those should also have been listed here, otherwise this verse would be incomplete and factually incorrect, something not expected of the word of God. To help understand why, consider the following similarly constructed statement. This analogy is drawn from cricket:

If Javed is neither bold nor caught, would you doubt he is still playing?

To be complete, this statement needs to enumerate, without omission, all ways of completion of innings. Otherwise it is defective and is of no help in telling us anything about Javed and his innings. Anyone with basic knowledge of the laws of cricket knows that Javed's innings could have been completed in a number of other ways. For example he could have been out hit-wicket, run out, or he could been out handling the ball, or he could have simply exceeded the allotted time for the match. But the statement defaults on mentioning any of these and arbitrarily limits itself to only two. So we are left with the following choices: we could insist there are only two ways of completing innings—notwithstanding laws of cricket and accounts of countless matches. Or we could declare this statement to be incomplete and defective. Anyone with basic knowledge of cricket has no choice but to opt for the latter. This statement fails to inform us whether Javed is out, or is playing, or even whether he will ever complete his innings. In fact it tells us nothing. To attribute a defective statement like this to the Holy Quran is problematic to say the least.

Therefore omission asserts impossibility. If any prophet had passed away by ascending to heaven then it could not have been excluded from mention here. Clearly Jesus is very much in mind when reading this verse because, after all, among the prophets he is nearest in time to Muhammad and therefore his fate needs to be accounted for before anyone else's. In 4:158 it is stated he was not slain. Therefore, he could only have died a natural death.

In the translation of the verse above, universal quantifier “all” has been inserted before “Messengers”. It is important to explain this inclusion lest someone thinks of it as a dishonest addition to strengthen own argument. It is true that “all” does not appear in the Arabic text however its inclusion is implied in view of the conclusion being drawn, which is the prediction of Muhammad’s death and certainty of its occurrence. That conclusion can only be reasonably reached if the opening premise applied to all prophets. If all is replaced with the alternate some, this verse would be saying that Holy Prophet is sure to die because some prophets before him also died. Clearly the conclusion does not follow the premise. If only some died then why on that basis should Muhammad die? Replacing all with some will only make sense if the argument being made were that Muhammad may or may not die, which is not the case.

Consensus of the Companions
Is there any hadith which speaks of the companions discussing and asserting Jesus' death one way or another? The problem in finding such a hadith is that arguments over death of people long gone is hardly engaged upon by sane people. Absence of any hadith to this effect in fact points to Jesus's death and not his life. No one, for example, in the year 2006 holds discussion forums on George Washington, the first president of the United States, being alive or dead, which tells us that his disposition is not a subject of interest or argument and all agree that he has died. It would be a poor reflection on someone's intelligence to needlessly belabour the point that George Washington has died. Similarly the companions of the Holy Prophetsaw did not hold discussions on the death of Moses, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, Adam and neither did they discuss the disposition of Jesus simply because they believed him to have died and there was no reason to question it such that it became a topic of interest. There is however one remarkable incident which leaves little doubt as to where they stood on the matter of death of all prophets including Jesus. That incident occurred after the death of the Holy Prophetsaw. He was not yet buried and the companions were in a highly emotional state, many refusing to believe his death even though they could see his body lying in front of them. The following narrative is taken from Sahih Bukhari:

Abdullah bin Abbas narrates that when Abu Bakr arrived Umar was addressing the people. He said, “O‘ Umar sit down.” Umar did not sit but people left him and turned thier attention towards Abu Bakr, who then said, “Those amongst you who worshipped Muhammad should know that Muhammad has died. Those who worshipped Allah should be satisfied that Allah is alive and is impervious to suffering death. Allah has said that Muhammadsaw is but a messenger. Verily all Messengers have passed away before him. If then he dies or is slain, will you turn back on your heels? Those among you who turn back on their heels will not harm Allah a whit and Allah will reward those who are thankful.”

In another narration it said that Umar was in such an agitated state that with his sword drawn he promised to strike down anyone who said that the Muhammad had died. Abu Bakr on learning of these disturbing developments removed the covering from Muhammad's face, kissed his forehead, and said that surely Allah would not subject him to two deaths. He understood that he was not going to return. He then gathered everyone in the Masjid-al-Nabwi and recited 3:145 (the verse under discussion). Those who were in doubt realized what had come to pass. Umar went weak in the knees and is said to have collapsed. Those present felt like this verse was being revealed for the first time. With great wisdom Abu Bakr had brought the delicate situation under control. This verse was sufficient to prove to all present that Muhammad had passed away like the earlier prophets. If it was the general belief that even one among the earlier prophets was still alive surely Abu Bakr's reasoning would have failed. If khalat did not mean death, Umar could not have been convinced and would have protested and brought up the case of Jesus. On the contrary no one uttered a word of protest and all concluded on the authority of this verse that Muhammad had died like prophets before him.

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Proof #3: Jesus fate no different to earlier prophets

The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; surely, Messengers like unto him had indeed passed away before him. And his mother was a truthful woman. They both used to eat food. (5:76) more translations

This verse makes the following assertions:
  • Jesus was a messenger; messengers before him have passed away.
  • Jesus and his mother used to eat food.
In this verse taken from the chapter Al-Maidah both statements independently assert Jesus’ death.

Argument 1

The first part of this verse is a classic syllogistic construct—a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn from two or more propositions, with a common term providing the linkage. For example: propositions All humans are mortal, and All Greeks are humans together imply All Greeks are mortal. This is very much a reasoning primitive, like A, B, C of logic.

In this verse that middle term is messenger connecting the two propositions Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger and messengers before him have passed away. The conclusion self-evident that Jesus has passed away as well.

It may be argued that it is possible with syllogism to reach an invalid conclusion despite individual propositions being independently true, for example: all trains are long; some buses are long; therefore some buses are trains. But the question is why would God choose to use a strong reasoning device as this if the conclusion was to be invalid? Is it to mislead the reader, one may ask. So obviously it must be accepted that the conclusion is valid and Jesus is indeed dead like all prophets before him.

Argument 2

The above conclusion is further supported by what follows in the same verse: that Jesus and his mother used to eat food. The reason why his mother stopped eating is, indisputably, her encounter with death. Since both mother and the son have been joined together in a single statement it can only be deduced that Jesus stopped eating for the very same reason—his own encounter with death.

There is not much wiggle room in interpreting this verse another way, yet it may be argued that it is possible for Jesus to have stopped eating but be still alive by some special decree of God. That avenue of escape is also blocked by the Quran. Once Quran decides that Jesus dies there is no way for him to survive. The following lays to rest the notion that Jesus is sitting hungry in the fourth heaven yet is somehow surviving:

And we did not give them (Messengers) bodies that ate no food, nor were they to live for ever. (21:9)

Let us assume that Jesus is still alive and is one day going to descend from the heavens. Picture the day of his return. Having not tasted anything for over two thousand years naturally he would be looking forward to eating and would perhaps request his hosts, the ulema, for something to break his extraordinary long fast. How surprised he will be when instead of laying a feast in his honour, the ulema will present him with verse 76 from Al-Maidah. Jesus will be told that according to the Holy Quran he used to eat food, and in the absence of any mention of his eating in the future they find themselves duty-bound to deny him much deserved hospitality. Al-Maidah:76 stands in the way of Jesus eating anything. The moment Jesus consumes so much as a morsel, Al-Maidah:76 would stand factually incorrect.  No amount of protestations from Jesus would be allowed to prevail. On one hand the Ummah would stand to lose the integrity of the Quran and on the other a starving man in need of food! Of course the Ummah cannot lose the Quran, so Jesus would have to save the world on an empty stomach!

With little reflection it can become amply clear that belief in a living Jesus in fact is a grave insult to the person of our Holy Master, Muhammadsaw.   If there was someone who deserved to live and to return it had to be the Master Prophet himself.  It is troubling for one who truly loves Muhammad to countenance someone who received nothing by way of spiritual training from him bringing about spiritual revival of his people in the latter days.  Remember that Jesus having preceded Muhammad in time is obviously not his spiritual pupil. As far as Jesus is concerned he does not owe anything to Muhammad, yet the same cannot be said of Muhammad if the scenario of Jesus’s return is true.  He would find himself monumentally obliged to the returning Israeli prophet as his ummah is rescued at the time of its greatest need.   Is it that Muhammad was simply not up to the task of producing a saviour from among his own people and was left with no choice but to requisition one from the distant past?  If so, it's a stunning admission of Islam's inability to produce quality followers.    When Jews needed a messiah they were not told to get one from the cold storage of earlier peoples, their saviour was from among their own, showing there was still life in Moses's spiritual lineage. However in the time of their greatest peril Muslims are supposed to go begging to the Jews and borrow their messiah—a cringe inducing scenario for any self respecting Muslim with troubling implications on the honor of the Holy Prophet.  Where does that leave the Quranic claim of Muslims being the best of all peoples and their prophet the highest in rank?  Instead Christian claim that Jesus is the "Alpha and the Omega—the first and the last" would be proven. It would be Jesus alone who would save the world, and the fact that there was Muhammad somewhere between his first and second appearance would only be a footnote in religious history. Jesus would indisputably emerge as the Savior and the Christian boast would stand vindicated. There is no escaping this conclusion for those Muslims who await the literal return of Jesus as part of their belief system. But thankfully and mercifully this notion is nipped in the bud by the Holy Quran with its straightforward declaration that Jesus has died. May his soul rest in peace!

“Your Imam from amongst you”

Holy Prophetsaw said that Issa (Jesus) to come will be from within the Ummah. He used the words imamokum minkum: that he will be “your imam from amongst you”. This hadith is sourced from Bukhari and Muslim and is therefore of very high reliability:

Abu Huraira narrates that the Holy Prophetsaw said that (O Muslims!) how would you feel when son of Mary will descend amongst you and he will be your imam from amongst you.

This narration rules out the possibility that the ‘son of Mary’ who is to come is the old Jesus. The one to come and lead the Muslims will be from amongst them, the people of Muhammadsaw, whereas Jesus was a Bani-Israeli from the people of Moses. The Quran describes his charter as limited to a particular people, the Children of Israel (see 3:50, 61:7). A prophet sent to the Children of Israel would be an outsider to the Muslims. Muslims being the followers of the Universal Prophet Muhammadsaw come from all races of the world, not just the Children of Israel. Jesus is simply not qualified to address the Muslims or a global audience. If he were to return in person Muslims on the authority of the Quran would be justified in refusing to follow him.

Also the word nazala, which means ‘to descend’ needs to be clarified. It happens to be one of the principal stumbling blocks for those who approach this issue with certain preconceived notions expecting Jesus to float down from the skies—like a skydiver with his parachute deployed, perhaps—but without the aid of a parachute. In Arabic the term nazala is also used to signify high importance, usefulness or glory. Quran uses this term in relation to the clothing, iron and cattle (see 7:27, 57:26 and 39:7), each of which is described as having descended and each has, without doubt, played a critical role in the progress of human civilization. The same word is used in relation to Muhammad himself (see 65:11-12)! Of course no one understands it to mean that Muhammad descended from the heavens. Therefore descending of the messiah only signifies his high status and the critical role he would play in bringing about the revival of Islam. His coming would be a source of great blessing for the Muslims; he would be born within the Ummah and is metaphorically given the name Jesus son of Mary to indicate his remarkable similarity with that prophet, even though he would be an entirely different person.

The question arises as to why has he been called Jesus and why not by some other name? To understand this one needs to be attuned to the language of scriptures and prophets, which is always high in metaphors and analogies especially when it comes to prophecies. Since the Holy Muhammad was a prophet like Moses therefore the messiah who was to appear among his people is given the same name as the messiah who came to the people of Moses. That beautifully completes the analogy between Muhammad and Moses. Furthermore, in naming him Jesus a whole gamut of valuable clues are provided to help with his identification when he comes. His time of coming; his circumstances; the state of the Muslims of his time; and a host of other indicators are all succinctly wrapped in naming him Jesus.

In conclusion, that Messiah, the saviour of the people of Muhammad, would be from among them.  He would entirely owe his spiritual excellence to the Holy Prophet and all his victories and achievements would in fact be victories of Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

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Proof #2: God's promise to Jesus

O Jesus Indeed I will cause thee to die and exalt thee to Myself, and will clear thee of the charges of those who disbelieve, and will place those who follow thee above those who deny thee, until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me shall be your return, and I will judge between you concerning that wherein you differ (3:56) more translations

This is an important verse in this debate, quoted by both sides of the debate. Tawaffi has already been discussed in Proof 1. It clearly means death. The other word of significance here is rafa, which literally means ‘to raise’. Rafioka illayya, means ‘raise thee to Myself’. The beginning of this verse mention two acts of God, one in which He shall cause Jesus to die (mutawaffika), and the other where he shall raise Jesus to Himself (rafioka illayya). Whatever may be the meaning of rafioka illayya, one thing is certain that it comes after mutawaffika. Jesus will die before he is raised.

Could this mean that Jesus has been physically raised to the heaven? Remember that this verse only talks of Jesus being raised towards God, which is quite contrary to being raised to the heaven. Let us explore a little bit as to what could ‘raising towards God’ may mean. For one, it cannot mean a physical ascension, such that the body of Jesus actually makes a movement in a certain direction. For Jesus to physically move in the direction of God, from point A to point B, requires a physical existence of God. Not only that, for point B to be distinct from point A, it requires that God be not present at point A, because only then does a move towards point B makes any sense. If God is present at all points in the Universe then it is impossible for Jesus to physically move in His direction. At best Jesus can be allowed to remain physically stationary.

The alternative and more meaningful reading is that rafioka means elevation of spiritual rank. Moreover, since Jesus is alleged to have died on the cross, which according to the Old Testament is an accursed death (Deut 18:20; 21:22-23), Allah absolves him of that ignominy and adjudges his fate to have been exactly the opposite, a noble death and elevation of spiritual rank.

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Proof #1: Jesus' own testimony on the Judgement Day

This short dialogue takes place between God and Jesus on the Judgment Day when he is asked if he gave his followers the belief of his own and his mother's divinity. He responds in the negative and begs complete ignorance on what happened after his death.

“And I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things. (5:118) more translations

Argument 1:
This verse talks of two different and distinct phases of Jesus’ existence in relation to his people: one in which he was among them and the other when he was no longer among them. The boundary between these two phases is defined by the Arabic word "tawaffi". His absence from among his people is preceded by the state of tawaffi. The question is whether Jesus is present among his people or is he absent from his people? If he is not among his people then the state of tawaffi has surely preceded this state of absence.

Argument 2:
According to this verse, Jesus is keen to point out that the Christian belief in his divinity was not in existence as long as he was among his people, it only took root after Allah had caused tawaffi to him. The doctrine of Jesus' “Sonship” as a part of the Holy Trinity is a well established fact among Christians, so in light of the above verse it must be concluded that Jesus has already met his tawaffi.

The only reasonable conclusion that may be drawn from this verse is that Jesus has already gone through the state of tawaffi, and if tawaffi means death then this verse is directly asserting that he has already died.

Meaning of Tawaffi
This word has been used twenty four times in the Holy Quran, in all cases it means one of two things: death or sleep. Where the act is committed by God or the angels, and the object upon which this act is committed is a human, Tawaffi simply means death, except when it is used in conjunction with the qualifier 'night', in which case it means sleep. In all cases it applies to a person's soul and not to the body, and there is no exception to this in the entire compendium of Arabic literature, past or present.

Here is a complete list of verses using this word: 2:235, 2:241; 3:194; 4:16, 4:98; 6:61, 6:62; 7:38, 7:127; 13:41; 10:47, 10:105; 12:102; 16:33, 16:71; 22:6; 32:12; 39:43; 40:68, 40:78; 47:28; (this reference scheme counts Bismillah as the first verse of every chapter)

Usage of Tawaffi in Hadith
Holy Prophetsaw has used Tawaffi in exactly same context in relation to himself. This Hadith is taken from Buhkari Kitab-ul-Anbiya and Commentary on chapter Al-Maida:

Ibne-Abbas narrates that the Holy Prophet said: “On the Day of Judgement I will see some people from among my companions being taken to the Left. Upon seeing them I will say, ‘my companions! my companions!’. I will be told that when I parted from them they turned back on their heels. At that point I will say the same thing what (Jesus son of Mary) the righteous had said: that while I was among them I watched over them but once You caused me to die (Tawaffi) it was You alone who watched over them.”

This hadith shows that the nature of tawaffi of Jesus is the same as the nature of tawaffi of the Holy Prophet. If that was not the case, Holy Prophet would not have said I will say what Jesus had said …. It is noteworthy that the Holy Prophet uses the same word and uses it in the exact same context.

Furthermore, Imam Bukhari quotes Ibn-e-Abbas saying tawaffi means death. (Bukhari Kitab-ut-Tafseer under Maidah verse 118). Note this statement from Ibn-e-Abbas is in relation to this particular verse and is taken from one of the most trusted sources of Islam.

The commonly understood meaning of the word tawaffi is death. The same word is used in funeral prayers (namaaz-e-janaza), where it is said: Cause us to die (tawaffi) in the state of submission.

Lexical Meaning of Tawaffi
Assas-ul-Balagha, Qamoos, Taj-ul-Uroos, Lisaan-ul-Arab, Sihah-e-Johri, Farhang-e-Asaphia all agree that tawaffi means death.

Corollary: He is never going to return
When God asks Jesus about certain Christian beliefs, he pleads ignorance and says that he has absolutely no idea what happened after his death. Remember this conversation takes place on the Day of Judgment. Now, would this be a truthful testimony if he had only a few years ago (40, as is claimed) made his second in-person appearance on earth, taken a good stock of the situation, done what he could to put matters straight and even waged a holy war against the Christians on account of their false beliefs? Surely in that circumstance his testimony would have been entirely different. He would have defended himself saying that while it is quite true that after being supernaturally raised to the heavens, and staying, supernaturally, alive for thousands of years without food or drink, and his poor followers on observing all this unique supernatural phenomena about him getting misled into concluding that he was a divine being, HOWEVER, once he landed on Earth he had strenuously refuted the claims of his divinity and worked on removing any confusion about his status as a normal, yet immensely talented, human being, and had forcefully made the Christians realize the error of their false beliefs. He says none of this, all he has to say is I just don't know! Conclusion: he never really returns.

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