“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
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.
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:
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.