The Jews were Deluded in the Matter of Eesa aalyhi salaam
In Surah Ale Imran ayah 55, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes five promises in connection with foiling the Jewish plans against Prophet Eesa aalyhi salaam and protecting him from their hostile intentions. One of the promises made was that the Jews will not be allowed to kill Eesa aalyhi salaam. Instead of that, Allah will lift him towards Him.
In the present ayaat, it has been made explicit that they did not kill nor crucify Eesa aalyhi sallam, rather, what actually happened was that they were deluded by resemblance.
وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ
“And because of their saying: ‘We killed Al-Maseeh Eesa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah,’”
When Allah sent Eesa with proofs and guidance, the Jews envied him because of his Prophethood and obvious miracles; curing the blind and leprous and bringing the dead back to life, by Allah’s leave. He also used to make the shape of a bird from clay and blow in it, and it became a bird by Allah’s leave and flew. Eesa performed other miracles that Allah honored him with, yet the Jews defied and bellied him and tried their best to harm him. Allah’s Prophet Eesa could not live in any one city for long and he had to travel often with his mother, peace be upon them. Even so, the Jews were not satisfied, and they went to the king of Damascus at that time, a Greek polytheist who worshiped the stars. They told him that there was a man in Bayt Al-Maqdis misguiding and dividing the people in Jerusalem and stirring unrest among the king’s subjects. The king became angry and wrote to his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest the rebel leader, stop him from causing unrest, crucify him and make him wear a crown of thorns. When the king’s deputy in Jerusalem received these orders, he went with some Jews to the house that Eesa was residing in, and he was then with twelve, thirteen or seventeen of his companions. That day was a Friday, in the evening. They surrounded Eesa in the house, and when he felt that they would soon enter the house or that he would sooner or later have to leave it, he said to his companions, “Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise?” A young man volunteered, but Eesa thought that he was too young. He asked the question a second and third time, each time the young man volunteering, prompting Eesa to say, “Well then, you will be that man.” Allah made the young man look exactly like Eesa, while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and Eesa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep.
When Eesa ascended, those who were in the house came out. When those surrounding the house saw the man who looked like Eesa, they thought that he was Eesa. So they took him at night, crucified him and placed a crown of thorns on his head. The Jews then boasted that they killed Eesa and some Christians accepted their false claim, due to their ignorance and lack of reason. As for those who were in the house with Eesa, they witnessed his ascension to heaven, while the rest thought that the Jews killed Eesa by crucifixion. They even said that Maryam sat under the corpse of the crucified man and cried, and they say that the dead man spoke to her. All this was a test from Allah for His servants out of His wisdom. Allah explained this matter in the Glorious Qur’an which He sent to His honorable Messenger, whom He supported with miracles and clear, unequivocal evidence. Allah is the Most Truthful, and He is the Lord of the worlds Who knows the secrets, what the hearts conceal, the hidden matters in heaven and earth, what has occurred, what will occur, and what would occur if it was decreed.
According to some reports, the Jews had sent a person known to Arabs as Teetlanoos to kill Eesa aalyhi salaam. He did not find Eesa aalyhi salaam in the house for he was already lifted by Allah towards Himself. So, when this person came out of the house, he had been made to resemble the looks of Eesa aalyhi salaam. The Jews took him to be Eesa. Thus, they took away their own man and killed him. [Mazhari]
There is room for whichever of the situations came to pass – the Qur’an has not determined any particular situation. Therefore, Allah alone knows what really happened. However, this sentence of the Qur’an seen with other exegetical reports does yield the common factor that the Jews and Christians were subjected to compelling delusion. The event as it took shape remained hidden from them, though they did advance all sorts of claims based on their conjectures which only landed them into mutual differences.
وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَـكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُواْ فِيهِ لَفِى شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ
“….but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared as that to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts.”
The whole situation was made confusing for them. The Jews said they have killed him. The Christians said only his humanity has ended while his divinity has returned to the heavens. The ones who saw him being ascended said he has been lifted. So the entire matter was made confusing. Everyone had their own version of the story.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is clearing up that they neither killed nor crucified him. The Jews and Christians are in doubt concerning Eesa aalyhi salaam whereas the Muslims having belief in each word of the Qur’an know that he was neither killed nor crucified, he was lifted alive by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
مَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِيناً
“They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not.”
They had no evidence to support their claims; they were only following their assumptions. Indeed they are all in confusion, misguidance and bewilderment. They are not sure that Eesa was the one whom they killed. Rather, they are in doubt and confusion over this matter.
In Ayah 158, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:
بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزاً حَكِيماً
“But Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends the topic by talking about His attributes to jolt the Jews why do they think it’s impossible for Him to do a miracle like He did in Prophet Eesa’s case. He is the Almighty, and He is never weak, nor will those who seek refuge in Him ever be subjected to disgrace, in all that He decides and ordains for His creatures. Indeed, Allah’s is the clearest wisdom, unequivocal proof and the most glorious authority.
– There are different versions about the incident of Prophet Eesa aalyhi salaam. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is clearing those doubts by telling us that they neither kill nor crucify them. He was ascended to the heavens “alive”.
– The Jews intended to kill Prophet Eesa and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala lifted him up and placed him in the heavens meaning He elevated his status. Subhan’Allah!