Understanding the Word Rafa
In the same verse 3:55 use of two words “wafat” and “rafa” may have led you to a double jeopardy. On top of that you are under constant influence of Christian doctrine. As a result you simply believe that Jesus did not die and instead was raised alive in heaven. In doing so, you are actually believing the Christian faith and failing to see the true teaching of the Quran. Not only that, now you are making one verse of the Quran contradict another.
The meaning of the word is ‘to raise’, ‘to exalt’. In order to validate the Christian faith, first, you refuse to see ‘wafat’ as death, and then interpret ‘rafa’ as physical ascension. When these two incorrect interpretations are combined, you find that Jesus was raised to the heaven.
Let us examine the use of the word ‘rafa’ in the Quran
The word ‘rafa’ occurred many times in the Quran conveying a meaning of spiritual honor and exaltation. Please note carefully what God says in the verse. He is saying that Jesus will be raised towards Him and not towards Heaven. So the question of Jesus being alive in the Heaven can not arise, because he was not raised in the Heaven.
In the literal context even if we think that he was raised bodily near God, question comes, where is God?
Is He ensconced somewhere in the sky, in Heaven or in a throne like a king?
Didn’t God say that He is omnipresent – in other words, He is present everywhere?
Would you say that God is confined in a physical body towards which He raised Jesus?
Please answer, how can Jesus be raised to sky or Heaven when God said he will be raised towards Him. And that God is present everywhere (2:115); God is nearer to man than his heart (8:24); God is nearer to man than his jugular vein (50:16).
If that be true, then Jesus could not have been raised physically and bodily in to the sky. If really he was needed to be raised bodily towards God, then he could very well stay in Jerusalem, yet be near God – because God is present everywhere and in Jerusalem too.
This drives home the true meaning of the word ‘rafa’ – exalt in honor and/or exalt in spiritual dignity. This verse tells us that while the Jews were planning to kill him, (he will not be killed, rather) God will cause him to die a natural death and sanctify him against the charges of the enemies.
Once again, please notice the sentence: Ya Isa, inni mutawaffika WA rafi’uka ilaiya… that is ‘rafa’ will take place only after the ‘wafat’. ‘Rafa’ after death can not mean physical ascension, but only exaltation in rank. This is more implied when the words ‘I shall clear you of those who reject Faith’ are present with it. This shows that while Jews plotted heinous crime against him, and brought him utter disgrace and condemned him as a cheat and planned to put him to a shameful death on the cross etc. God will instead save him and exalt him in honor and dignity.
Since the use of the word ‘rafa’ raised Jesus alive, the use of the same word in case of other prophets must do the same thing! Ask yourself, if you know of any other prophet who was raised alive in the Heaven? None? What about Prophet Idris ?
Regarding Idris God says in Surah Maryam 19:57 as: And We raised him to an elevated state. (WA rafa’naa hu…). The use of ‘rafa’ here should prompt you to declare that God raised Idris in alive condition in the Heaven or at least to a place hanging high above.
If we apply the same logic, in case of Jesus, use of the word ‘rafa’ kept him alive for 2000 years; therefore the same use of the word ‘rafa’ in case of Idris must keep him alive for 2000 years or so. The problem now is about these two alive people in the Heaven – Jesus and Idris .
The Muslims already made stories and speculations that Jesus will descend from the Heaven in the later days, but what about Idris ? Has Idris come down already or when is he going to descend or is he going to stay there perpetually?
The word ‘rafa’ was used in different places in the Quran to mean spiritual honor and exaltation. Let us see some of the examples:
Great Prophets like Muhammad are exalted.
43:32 …And We have raised some of them above others in rank. (WA rafa’ na)
94:4 And We have exalted for you your mention (WA rafa’ NA)
Prophet Ibrahim has been exalted by God.
6:83 ….We exalt in degrees whom We please (narfa’u darazaa)
Prophet Idris has been exalted by God.
19:57 And We raised him to an elevated state. (WA rafa’naa hu)
Righteous servants of God are raised in degrees.
6:165 …and He raises some of you above the others in degrees…. (WA rafa’ aa ba’dakum)
7:176 And had We wished We would invariably exalted him; …. (rafa’naa hu)
56:3 It will abase it will exalt (rafi’aah)
All good deeds are raised towards God.
35:10 …all pure speech and all good deed, –He exalts it…. (yarfa’uhu)
House of pious Muslims are raised high by God.
24:36 in (certain) houses which God has permitted to be raised up… (…an turfa’a WA yuzkara…) From this discussion we see that no where the use of ‘rafa’ meant physical ascension. However, in 3:55 verse, you would interpret physical ascension just to validate the Christian faith. Whereas, if we honestly translate the word ‘wafat’ as death, then ‘rafa’ after death cannot mean physical ascension, rather exaltation in honor.
The tendency of Muslims is to destroy the teaching of the Quran only to validate the Christian dogma. Believe it or not, many Muslims approach the Quran like hypocrites – believe part of it and reject part of it. Muslims don’t want to believe in the total Quran. When this is pointed out to you, your defensive answers are:
All Muslims believe Jesus was raised alive, so I also believe it (I don’t care what the Quran says); if I believe Jesus was not raised alive, then I become Qadiani, and I don’t want to be a Qadiani; my forefathers believed Jesus was raised alive, were they wrong? I would rather follow my forefathers (instead of following the teaching of Quran).
I faced similar dilemma when I was approaching the truth. Eventually I was able to reconcile the verses of the Quran and not make one verse contradict another. I was able to come out of the influence of Christian faith in Islam and find out the true meanings. At this time I don’t care what Qadianis say. My identity is Muslim, my religion is Islam and I believe what God and Rasul say.
My aim is not to blame you for believing in certain way. My aim is to show you that you have been kept in darkness, away from the truth. Unlike others, I am not jumping into conclusions by force, rather I am trying to show you the true picture, and leaving the decision to yourself. With this let us revisit two verses from Surah Ale Imran, 3:53-54.
3:54 And they made plotted and planned and God made His plans. And God is the most Excellent of the plan-makers.
3:55 when God said, “O Isa, indeed I will Cause you to die (mutawaffeeka) and raise/exalt you (rafiAAuka) to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to God alone] above to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.
In case of each prophet, God made plans against plots made by oppressors. This is the practice of God to protect His messengers at the time of aggression of enemies. God protected Musa, Ibrahim, Yusuf, Lut, Muhammad to name a few. In case of Jesus snatching him away from the enemies and lifting him alive in the Heaven can not be called a subtle and better plan of God when neither was it in the power of Jews nor in the power of anybody to counter it. In fact a better and subtle plan can be designed against another plan when it is contrived in a parallel manner. Analysis of the verses 4:157-158 from Surah An-Nisa’
Verse 4:157-158 from Surah An-Nisa’ are the other two verses often analyzed to prove that Jesus did not die. Let us examine to see if the contention is valid one or a corrupt analysis. In the verse 4:157-158,
4:157 And (because of) their saying: “Surely we have killed the Christ – Jesus, son of Mary” the Mesenger of God, and they could not murder him, nor could they kill him by crucifixion, but he was made to resemble to them. And verily those who differ regarding him are certainly in a doubt about him. They have no knowledge about it but are merely following a guess; and they could not kill him for certain; 4:158 Rather, God exalted him towards Himself. And God is Exalted in Power, most Wise.
…WA ma qataluhu yaqinan (157). Bal rafa’ahu-llahu ilaihi …..(158)
The Jews always claimed that they killed the Masih, the son of Maryam. God is telling Muhammad that although they claimed that they killed the Masih, in reality they could not murder him nor could they kill him by crucifixion. Then again, in the very same verse, God is telling that they could not kill him for certain.
Two types of death are being discussed here
(a) a general murder
(b) killing by crucifixion.
The Jews wanted to cause either of the two types of death to Jesus . God assures us that they failed to cause either type of death to him. The traditional Muslim faith is that since Jesus was not murdered or killed by crucifixion, only possibility is that he is alive somewhere!!!
Muslims totally ignore the fact that Jesus could have died a natural death later on! If Jesus died a natural death, it is still valid that the Jews could not (a) murder him or (b) kill him by crucifixion.