Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, also known as Jesus, was the second last in the long chain of Prophets who were sent to the Children of Israel (Bani Isreal). He is one of the most prominent Prophets in many ways. Additionally, he holds a uniqueness in the way he was sent to this world and then ascended back to the heavens by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.
As we know, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى sent around 124,000 prophets to this world. However, only 25 are mentioned in the Quran, Prophet Isa being one of them. Prophet Isa’s name appears 25 times in the Quran in different surahs. Most of the time, he is referred to in the Quran as Isa, son of Maryam. That reflects the importance of his mother, Maryam (Mary).
Historical Background of Maryam (Mary)
Maryam was born to the wife of Imran, as narrated in the Quran. The wife of Imran promised to dedicate her child in the way of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى when she was expecting. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى accepted her dedication and she gave birth to Maryam. It was shocking news for her, as it was against the traditions of that era to dedicate a female in this manner. This event is narrated in verses 33 to 36 of Surah Al Imran.
Indeed, Allah chose Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of ’Imrân above all people ˹of their time
They are descendants of one another. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing
˹Remember˺ when the wife of ’Imrân said, “My Lord! I dedicate what is in my womb entirely to Your service, so accept it from me. You ˹alone˺ are truly the All-Hearing, All-Knowing
When she delivered, she said, “My Lord! I have given birth to a girl,”—and Allah fully knew what she had delivered—“and the male is not like the female. I have named her Mary, and I seek Your protection for her and her offspring from Satan, the accursed.”
However, with the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, Maryam was handed over to the religious elders of that time. After a brief discussion among them, Zakariya took responsibility for Maryam’s caretaking. He was, in fact, the husband of the sister of Maryam’s mother. It is believed that she grew up in the Haikal-e-Sulemani. Zakariya often visited her place to take care of her needs, but each time, he saw fresh foods and fruits with her. When he asked about it, Maryam replied it was sent by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, as narrated in the 37th verse of Surah Al-Imran.
So her Lord accepted her graciously and blessed her with a pleasant upbringing—entrusting her to the care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah visited her in the sanctuary, he found her supplied with provisions. He exclaimed, “O Mary! Where did this come from?” She replied, “It is from Allah. Surely Allah provides for whoever He wills without limit.”
I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying (as below)
Narrated `Ali The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The best of the world’s women is Mary (at her lifetime), and the best of the world’s women is Khadija (at her lifetime).
Birth of Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
So, Maryam grew up under the caretaking of Zakariya, with the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. One day, when she was praying per her routine at her place, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى sent an angel to her. The angel suddenly appeared before her in the shape of a man. She was frightened to see a man in her temple. She prayed to Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to save her from any mishap. The angel told her that with the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, she is being blessed with the birth of a child. She asked how it was possible when she had never encountered a man. Angel said it will happen with the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.
Verses 18 to 21 of surah Maryam, narrate this conversation in Quran.
She appealed, “I truly seek refuge in the Most Compassionate from you! ˹So leave me alone˺ if you are God-fearing.”
He responded, “I am only a messenger from your Lord, ˹sent˺ to bless you with a pure son.”
She wondered, “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me, nor am I unchaste?”
He replied, “So will it be! Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me. And so will We make him a sign for humanity and a mercy from Us.’ It is a matter ˹already˺ decreed.”
Eventually, Maryam left her place and went to what is believed to be the present-day city of Baitul Laham. There she gave birth to a baby boy and was quite worried about how she would face her people. But she was encouraged by a heavenly voice, as explained in verses 23 to 26 of Surah Maryam.
Newborn Isa Speaks to the People
Maryam returned to her people with the newborn. People were shocked to see this and raised questions. Instead of replying herself, she pointed towards the newborn. So, the newborn Isa said I am the Prophet of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, as narrated in the Quran in Surah Maryam in verses 27 to 33.
Then she returned to her people, carrying him. They said ˹in shock˺, “O Mary! You have certainly done a horrible thing!
O sister of Aaron! Your father was not an indecent man, nor was your mother unchaste.”
So she pointed to the baby. They exclaimed, “How can we talk to someone who is an infant in the cradle?”
Jesus declared, “I am truly a servant of Allah. He has destined me to be given the Scripture and to be a prophet.
He has made me a blessing wherever I go, and bid me to establish prayer and give alms-tax as long as I live,
and to be kind to my mother. He has not made me arrogant or defiant.
Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I will be raised back to life!”
The Conspiracy of Jews Against Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
In this way, the signs of the Prophethood of Isa were declared right after his birth. The speech of a newborn in itself is one of the many miracles of Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. But the Jews’ elders thought that if this miraculous speech of a newborn got the attention of the people, they would turn to worship Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, so they decided to conceal this fact.
However, they could not stop the signs of the Prophethood of Isa. When he was around 12, he went to Jerusalem with her mother Maryam. Here he went to a gathering of Jews listening to a priest. Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, though very young at that time, raised questions and argued with the Jewish Rabbi. He was so fluent and confident in his argument, which proved shocking for the Jewish elders.
Formal Revelation of Prophethood on Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
On the day of Sabbath (a Jewish tradition of complete rest), he went to the temple and did not observe the rituals of the day, as he was of the view that this tradition had been molded wrongfully by the Jews to their interests.
While on his way to the temple, he willfully violated the traditions by helping a hungry child with fruits and lighting a fire to save an old woman from the cold air. With all these violations of the Sabbath, he reached the temple, where he found hundreds of priests but very few visitors. He noticed that the priests used to earn their livelihood from the temple.
On this day, Prophet Zakariya passed away. This was the day when Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, sent His angels to reveal Prophethood on Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. He was formally made Prophet to the Bani Israel.
The teachings of Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ were based on condemnation of materialism and hypocrisy. He preached to his people to forgive each other and show mercy for everyone. He also called upon the people to worship only Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. The Jewish Priests got against him, as they thought it to be a threat to their status. Though they pretended to be followers of Mosaic Law, they had molded the true Mosaic Law to their financial benefit. In this scenario, Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was a real threat to their hold on the society. So, they planned to eliminate Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.
Jews Attempt to Humiliate Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
Jews were looking for a suitable time to humiliate Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. So, they asked Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ about the punishment of an adulteress by way of stoning her. He replied, yes, it has to be. The priests pointed towards a woman and said she was an adulteress. Do you agree that she should be stoned? They hoped that Isa would have to refrain from preaching forgiveness and mercy in this case.
But Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was alert of their ill intentions. He knew that the priests were far more sinful than the women. So, he said only sinless persons can stone her. The Jews were stunned by this ruling. In this way, he not only faltered the conspiracy of the Jews but also made the base of the new law that only the sinless can judge the sins.
Miracles Granted to Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was granted quite a number of miracles by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. It includes:
- Talking in the cradle
- Healing the people from leprosy
- Restoring the eyesight of the born blinds
- Bringing the dead back to life
- Breathing the bird made up of mud
All these were made possible with the will, permission and command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى as narrated in the 110th and 111th verse of Surah Al-Maeda.
And ˹on Judgment Day˺ Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour upon you and your mother: how I supported you with the holy spirit so you spoke to people in ˹your˺ infancy and adulthood. How I taught you writing, wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. How you moulded a bird from clay—by My Will—and breathed into it and it became a ˹real˺ bird—by My Will. How you healed the blind and the lepers—by My Will. How you brought the dead to life—by My Will. How I prevented the Children of Israel from harming you when you came to them with clear proofs and the disbelievers among them said, “This is nothing but pure magic.”
And how I inspired the disciples, “Believe in Me and My messenger!” They declared, “We believe and bear witness that we fully submit ˹to Allah˺.
Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and Disciples
The Prophet Isa continued preaching the people of Bani Israel to worship Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. several people followed him. But soon, he sensed that some of them were not his true followers. So, he asked his disciples who would help me in Allah’s cause. They replied positively, as narrated in verses 48 to 54 of Surah Al Imran.
And Allah will teach him writing and wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel,
and ˹make him˺ a messenger to the Children of Israel ˹to proclaim,˺ ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I will make for you a bird from clay, breathe into it, and it will become a ˹real˺ bird—by Allah’s Will. I will heal the blind and the leper and raise the dead to life—by Allah’s Will. And I will prophesize what you eat and store in your houses. Surely in this is a sign for you if you ˹truly˺ believe.
And I will confirm the Torah revealed before me and legalize some of what had been forbidden to you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so be mindful of Allah and obey me.
Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him ˹alone˺. This is the Straight Path.’”
When Jesus sensed disbelief from his people, he asked, “Who will stand up with me for Allah?” The disciples replied, “We will stand up for Allah. We believe in Allah, so bear witness that we have submitted.”
˹They prayed to Allah,˺ “Our Lord! We believe in Your revelations and follow the messenger, so count us among those who bear witness.”
And the disbelievers made a plan ˹against Jesus˺, but Allah also planned—and Allah is the best of planners.
Allah Sends Table Spread for Isa’s Disciples
The Islamic Scholars believe that Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ asked his disciples to fast for thirty days. On the conclusion of their 30 days’ fasting, they asked Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to ask Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to send food from heavens so that we may break our fast. Allah sent them the Holy Table from the heavens, as narrated in verses 112 to 116 of Surah Al-Maeda.
˹Remember˺ when the disciples asked, “O Jesus, son of Mary! Would your Lord be willing to send down to us a table spread with food from heaven?” Jesus answered, “Fear Allah if you are ˹truly˺ believers.”
They said, “We ˹only˺ wish to eat from it to reassure our hearts, to verify you are indeed truthful to us, and to become its witnesses.”
Jesus, son of Mary, prayed, “O Allah, our Lord! Send us from heaven a table spread with food as a feast for us—the first and last of us—and as a sign from You. Provide for us! You are indeed the Best Provider.”
Allah answered, “I am sending it down to you. But whoever among you denies afterwards will be subjected to a torment I have never inflicted on anyone of My creation.”
And ˹on Judgment Day˺ Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you ever ask the people to worship you and your mother as gods besides Allah?” He will answer, “Glory be to You! How could I ever say what I had no right to say? If I had said such a thing, you would have certainly known it. You know what is ˹hidden˺ within me, but I do not know what is within You. Indeed, You ˹alone˺ are the Knower of all unseen.
The Scholars further narrate that thousands (20 thousand per a tradition) of people ate that heavenly food sent by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.
Jews Plan to Kill Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
Despite all the ill intentions and conspiracies of Jews, Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ fearlessly continued to spread his teachings amongst the Bani Israel. But the Jews never gave up. They collaborated with the Roman rulers to finally eliminate Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.
So, they charged him with various allegations, such as breach of Mosaic Law, magic, and loyalty to devil. Per the traditions of the People of Book, they succeeded in arresting Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and eventually crucified him. But the Quran disregards all these traditions and asserts that he was neither crucified nor killed, as narrated in the 157th to 159th verse of Surah Al Nisa.
and for boasting, “We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” But they neither killed nor crucified him—it was only made to appear so. Even those who argue for this ˹crucifixion˺ are in doubt. They have no knowledge whatsoever—only making assumptions. They certainly did not kill him.
Rather, Allah raised him up to Himself. And Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.
Every one of the People of the Book will definitely believe in him before his death. And on the Day of Judgment Jesus will be a witness against them.
So, the Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was ascended to the heavens and he was never crucified. It is believed that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى raised him up and one of the traitors was killed by them instead of the Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.
Distinctiveness of Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was very distinguished amongst the Prophets and Messengers, right from his birth to his ascend to the heavens.
He was born without a father by the will and Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. He held so many miracles that were never given to a Prophet or Messenger before him, such as bringing the dead back to life and healing the lepers and born blinds. He is one of those Prophets to whom Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى has given the Divine Book.
He was the second last Prophet, before the Prophet-hood of Muhammad ﷺ
He also disclosed the good news that the last Prophet will come after him, as narrated in verse 6 of Surah Al Saf.
And ˹remember˺ when Jesus, son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel! I am truly Allah’s messenger to you, confirming the Torah which came before me, and giving good news of a messenger after me whose name will be Aḥmad.”1 Yet when the Prophet came to them with clear proofs, they said, “This is pure magic.”
And finally, the end of his stay on this planet was also unique. He happens to be the only Prophet who was ascended alive to the heavens for sending back to earth before the end of this world, the Day of Judgment.
The summary of his teachings is forgiveness, mercy, helping the poor, and firm belief in Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.