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.
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.
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:
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.