The Grave and The Second Advent of Jesus Christ

The following is an excerpt from Allama Ibn Yusuf Khaleel Al-Corentini's Master of Arts thesis in Religion. The chapters below are the Introduction, The Grave, and The Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Other chapters in the thesis include Al-Masih Al-Dajjal, The Time of Turmoil and War, Resurrection and Heaven, and Summary and Conclusion.

Only the hadith of Sahih Muslim (denoted throughout as SM) were evaluated for this research paper. This thesis was submitted in 1997, and since then, the author has, on the basis of research, been working on a revised version. The updated thesis will be published in its entirety by one of the academic publishers.

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Chapter 1 – Introduction

The Qur'an, like the Bible which it claims to confirm, has a well-developed eschatology. But if it never tires of hammering away at the inevitability of the Resurrection and the recompense to follow in the afterlife, it says nothing or little indeed of the interim between death and resurrection, intercession, and conditions that will presage the last things. This lacuna has instead been filled by Islam's most important source after the Qur'an – the tradition literature known as Hadith.  

The development and recognition of such a literature is not something unique to Islam. Any religion, as it extends beyond its initial area of formation and becomes more of a Gemeinde-Religiosität (communal religion), is influenced and enhanced by political developments, customs and traditions of the new peoples that enter its fold. Typical examples are the development of the Persian and Greek elements in Judaism and the distinctive Greco-Roman flavoring in Christianity. This "bureaucratization" – to use the term coined by Weber for  the transformation of tradition into canonical recognition under the aegis of the ruling party (Weber 1995:224-226) – occurred  in Islam within its first three  centuries, when its seats of learning were at Damascus and Baghdad.

Even though there were several other precedent religious traditions upon which to structure these new developments, much of the hadith came from Jewish and Christian material. This can be seen as a natural result of the Qur'anic advice, for on two occasions that document  exhorts the Muslims to ask the "People of Remembrance" (ahl al-dhikr) about the affairs that went on in the past (16:43, 21:7). This is an obvious reference to the Jews and Christians, albeit more indicative of the former, since the term is apparently derived from the Hebrew zakhor (remember), used in an imperative form in Deut. 25:17, 32:7, Isa. 44:21, Micah 6:5, etc.

Early hadith literature also encouraged the Muslims to "report from the Children of Israel, and there is nothing objectionable in that" (Kister, 1980:215-239).  After Muhammad's death, when the Muslims of the first three centuries were confronted with matters upon which the Qur'an was silent, they quite often relied on the perceptions of their socially constructed universe, having access to Judeo-Christian material from within Islam through converts, and from without through the centers of Christian and Jewish learning in Syria and Babylonia, the successive seats of the caliphate.

In this thesis, I intend to examine some of the eschatological narrations in the collection of hadith known as Al-Jami’ al-Sahih (The Authentic Compendium) or Sahih Muslim, for such Jewish and Christian source material. My selection of Al-Jami’ al-Sahih is not based on any uniqueness of the work except that it  is seen by the vast majority of Muslims as being one of the only two absolutely authentic collections of hadith. All of the narrations which I propose to examine are to be found in many of the other collections of hadith in both the Sunni and Shia schools of thought. Considering the stipulated length and time of this research, and that the Religionwissenschaft world is generally acquainted with Sahih Muslim, I do not see the need for any exhaustive discourse on the work meriting a separate chapter. I will therefore provide certain details in the remainder of this introduction which will be structured under the following sub-headings:

-Significance of the Study

-Jewish and Christian Material in Islamic Traditions

-Muslim and his compendium

-Methodology of Investigation

Significance of the Study

Traditional Muslim research on Jewish and Christian influences on hadith does not meet the standards of Western scholarship since none of the numerous works I have examined provide any supporting provenance. Western scholarship on the same subject, pioneered by Geiger's 1834 thesis (Was hat Mohammed as dem Judenthume auf-genommen?)  is generally rejected by the Muslim 'ulama since it is assumed that Westerners who criticize the hadith have not had the benefit of classical training and are not aware of the finer points of certain hadith sciences. This thesis will be unique in that, to the best of my knowledge, it will be the first time that a major hadith collection is being examined for Jewish and Christian influences by someone with training in both traditional Islamic and Western sciences.

The scope of this research will be restricted to investigating the use of Jewish and Christian material in the formation of tradition and doctrine. In focusing on a primarily historical analysis however, I examine the claim made by some Islamicists that the Qur'anic world view is different in many respects from the worldviews of later Islamic thought (McDonough, 1955:3). By thus attempting to disentangle the earlier Qur'anic teachings from the later hadith, I hope to partially fulfill what Fazlur Rahman designated as "a desideratum of the first order" (1979:67).

Jewish and Christian Material in Islamic Tradition

I have already pointed out that the Muslims in the early centuries found legitimization from within the Qur'an and the hadith for relating Judeo-Christian lore. This genre of narrations was known as "Isra'iliyat", and there is considerable evidence of the use of such material on the formation of early Islamic thought. Nabia Abbot places the major influence from the Jewish area of beliefs, and states that because of this, the Islamic traditions came to resemble the Mishna more than any other sacred literature of the People of the Book (1957: 2.8).

Initially Isra'iliyat, as the term suggests, was given to any story or event transmitted from an Israelite source – Israelite here derived from the other name of Jacob, and the implication being that the material came from his descendants – the children of Israel (el-Dhahabi, 1970: 586). As with any other narrations, they were classified into one of three main classifications:  "true", "false"  or "weak" – the first two terms being clear in their indication, and the last showing that a narration could, if supported by other proofs, be deemed acceptable (Yunus:1970:574).

It seems apparent that the Muslims began to imbibe the Judeo-Christian lore on such a large scale that a counter-hadith was made to negate the license given by "Relate from the Children of Israel and there is no objection in that." Instead of the former permission given by him, the Prophet is now made to reject the Jewish narrations as shown in the following hadith:

Umar said to the Prophet: We hear several tales from the Jews which we like; may we write them some of them down? Whereupon the Prophet replied: Do you wish to rush to perdition as did the Jews and Christians? I have brought you white and clean hadiths." (Goldziher, 1971:2.131).

If there had been an early period of symbiosis between the Muslims and the other People of the Book, this relationship deteriorated, and soon the term Isra'iliyat evolved to indicate any material that was regarded as folkloric from a non-Muslim source, and then to anything that was considered seditious to Islamic belief (Kubaisi, 1994:48). Since Isra'iliyat has acquired a pejorative connotation, and since such terminology has no place in objective research, I prefer to use the neutral "Jewish and Christian influences"; this too is because my examination for probable sources will not only be in the folklore, but in the canonical scriptures as well.

Muslim and His Compendium

The scholars report that Muslim b. al-Hajjaj b. Muslim al-Qushayri died in 261/875. They are not sure of his date of birth, however, and tentatively put it at 206/821 (SSM 1.31). He travelled to all the major centers of learning and studied under the most renowned scholars of his day, including Ahmad b. Hanbal, Ishaq b. Rahawaih, and al-Bukhari (ibid. 1.27ff.). He is one of the few scholars to be considered an authority on ilm al-‘ilal and wrote a book on the subject. His most famous work, however, is al-Jami’ al-Sahih, also known as Sahih Muslim.

The work, along with that of al-Bukhari, is considered as one of the two truly authentic sets of hadith (pl. ahadith), and it is said the Muslim scholars are in total agreement that whatever is in the two is absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt (Malakhatir, 1994:85).

This claim, despite its wide acceptance, does not stand up to investigation. As shown by Hassan ‘Abd al-Manan (1997:169ff.) several of the most prominent scholars found faults in the work, among them al-Daraqutni, Abu'l Fadl b. Shuhaid, al-Hakim, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and ibn Hazm.

There is very little difference between Sahih Muslim and Sahih al-Bukhari.  Muslim we are told, accepted a hadith chain as complete if it could be established that the narrators could have met each other, whereas al-Bukhari insisted on proof of their actually having met (SSM 1:47). In terms of arrangement, Muslim preferred to put each hadith and its different chains under a specific heading, while al-Bukhari could relate the same hadith in several different parts of his collection (ibid.).

The majority of opinion seems to favor al-Bukhari as the better of the two, but Ibn Khaldun reports that the Maghribi scholars preferred Muslim (1958:2.459). This is because his work is free from admixtures of material that is not sound, and because throughout he adheres to his established criteria of authenticity, whereas al-Bukhari occasionally lapsed in this regard (ibid.).

Imam Muslim claimed to have analyzed 300000 ahadith before selecting, according to strict criteria for authenticity, 7571 of them. This count represents the different chains of transmission, and so if the same text is transmitted by two different chains, it counts as two ahadith. Counting the texts alone there are 3033 ahadith (al-Salah, 1987:101n), and in some of the later editions, the numbering follows this pattern. This is the system that will be used in my thesis. The reference text will be the five volume edition published in 1987 by ‘Izz al-Din Publishers in Beirut, with notes and corrigenda by Musa Shahin al-Ashin and Ahmad ‘Umar Hashim.

The eschatological hadith are not all in one chapter, but are scattered throughout the collection. Since many of them are lengthy and contain material to which we will have to refer on several occasions, we identify them by number in the course of our research, and then narrate them in full in an appendix. Each number shall be preceded by 'SM' to avoid confusion between the ahadith of our source text and any other hadith or quotation that we may make. Qur'anic verses shall generally be prefixed by a 'Q' unless there is some other indication that the quote is from the Qur'an.


Several considerations need be taken into account when formulating a methodology. It may be argued that there were other sources for Islamic traditions (Rahman, 1979:85-99), or that Jewish and Christian elements themselves reflect the development of foreign ideas within Judaism and Christianity, and that the ultimate origin of a tradition may therefore be from outside the fold of those two religions. In view of the Qur'anic verses and hadith mentioned earlier, I contend that this research is concerned only with immediate influences, and if they represent filtration of earlier beliefs, they nonetheless came into Islam under the mantle of Judeo-Christian tradition. This research too will seek distinctive aspects of Judeo-Christian tradition, thereby avoiding the aspect of doubtful provenance.

Establishing whether a hadith is of Qur'anic or Judeo-Christian origin is not always an easy task. Islam's moral and spiritual outlook is similar if not the same, and to ascribe a Jewish and/or Christian source to a hadith simply on the premise that the former antedates the latter is open to challenge. For this reason, I shall not examine material that may present this difficulty. Rather, on each of the topics to be covered, I have selected hadith which I will compare against the Qur'an to establish either a contrast between the two or the Qur'an not dealing with the subject. Since the Qur'an declares that it has not  left out anything needed for religious guidance (6:38, 16:89), this maximalistic claim provides an argumentum e silentio against certain hadith, and I shall refer to the argument by this name during the course of this research.

Once a hadith, by the above methods is proven to be disharmonious with the Qur'an, the next step will be to examine the Jewish and Christian sources for a possible provenance. Among the sources I will consider are The Bible, Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, the Babylonian Talmud and the Midrashim. There is no need to provide proof of the first three antedating the Qur'an. The Babylonian Talmud was redacted in the first half of the sixth century (Lightstone, 1988:10), and therefore also predates the Qur'an and hadith. Other Midrashim will be dated as they are referenced.

Since most Qur'an translations are influenced by the dogmatic positions of the various translators, I shall use my own translations throughout unless where specified. Having thus elucidated the area of research and methodology, I have structured the thesis as outlined at the beginning of this document. 

Chapter 2 – The Grave

The overwhelming amount – if not all – of the hadith data on death, the grave and the interim between death and resurrection is remarkably similar to the Hibbut ha-Kever and Intermediate State of Jewish and Christian lore. In this chapter, we will examine the subject that S.G.F. Brandon notes was "probably the strangest and the most notable development of Muslim faith and practice"(1967:147). The lack of harmony between the Qur'an and Hadith on the subject led him to opine that the latter "certainly presupposes a view of the condition of death which differs from that which Muhammad appears to have held…” (ibid.). Several names have been given to this genre of Muslim writings – among them ahwal al-Qabr (the conditions in the grave) and adhab al-Qabr (punishment of the grave).

The Qur'anic View of Death

Every soul, we are told in Q3:185, must taste of death. The death is seen by the Qur'an as a barrier that does not allow any possibility of return to the world of the living until the day when all the souls will be resurrected: "… behind them is a barrier (barzakh) until the day when they are resurrected."(Q23:100) The later muhadithun gradually added to the concept of the word barzakh until it came to be understood as simultaneously the time and place wherein every individual must wait between death and resurrection (Smith & Haddad, 1981:8). This development is evidenced by there being no references to barzakh in the canonical traditions (Eklund, 1941:22), even though, as noted earlier, they contain a vast amount of material on the intermediate state.

The probable authenticity of the hadith about barzakh can only be established if it can be proven that death (Mawt) – according to the Qur'an – is a condition wherein there is some form of consciousness and perception. Therefore, we will examine the usage of this word, which with its derivative forms, occurs 165 times throughout the Qur'an ('Abd al-Baqi, 1982: 678-80). The following verses are examples from which we can attempt to form our answer:

How can you reject Allah seeing that you were dead, and He gave you life, then He will cause you to die, and will bring you again to life, and to Him will you return. (2:28)

Thou bringeth the living out of the dead, and the dead out of the living… (3:27)

The human says: What! When I am dead, shall I be raised up alive? (19:66)

They say: When we die and become dust and bones, shall we be resurrected? (23:82; 37:16; 56:47)

Truly you cannot make the dead hear… (27:80, 30:52)

Nor are the living equal with the dead. Allah can make those whom He wishes listen. But you cannot make those who are in the graves hear. (35:22)

Even if We did send unto them angels, and the dead did speak unto them… they are not the ones to believe. (6:111)

Those who listen to be sure will accept; As to the dead, Allah will resurrect them; then will they be returned to Him. (6:36)

Do they not see that Allah who created the heavens and the earth and never tired from their creation is able to give life to the dead? Indeed, He has power over all things. (46:33)

These are things dead, lifeless. They have no perception of when they will be raised up. (16:21)

Can the person who was dead, to whom We gave life and a light whereby s/he can walk among human beings be like the person who is in the depths of darkness, from which s/he can never come out? (6:122)

Say: It is Allah who gives you life and gives you death, then He will gather you together for the Day of Judgment about which there is no doubt. (45:26)

Then on the Day of Judgment will you be resurrected. (23:16)

From the above verses, a singular unequivocal image manifests itself: death is the opposite of life; the dead, devoid of perception, cannot speak, nor can they hear. They have no understanding of what is happening around them since they are in the depths of darkness. Only with the resurrection on the Day of Judgment will they be returned to consciousness and life to receive their recompense.

This view of the Qur'an then is not unlike the predominant conception of death in some of the earlier books of the Tanakh, as is shown from:

The dead in Sheol are remembered no more, they are cut off from God's hand. (Ps. 88:5)

They lie in dark places, in the deep, their thoughts perish. The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee, they that go down into the pit, cannot hope for thy truth. (Isa. 38:18)

As far as the punishment to come, the Qur'an is also quite specific that any postmortem chastisement will only occur after resurrection and reckoning. This is evidenced by the following verses:

And let me not be in disgrace on the day when they will be resurrected, the day when neither wealth nor progeny will prevail, but only the person who has come to Allah with a sound heart. To the righteous the Gardens will be brought, and to the evildoers, the fire will be made to appear. (26:87-91)

When the sun is folded up, and the stars fall, and the mountains vanish… when the scrolls are laid open, when the world on high is unveiled, when the blazing fire is kindled to its fullest, and when the garden is brought near, then each soul shall know what it has brought forward. (81:1-14)

The dead then have no awareness whatsoever, nor is any questioning directed towards them while they are in the graves, for everything is in abeyance until the final collective resurrection when dreadful cosmological imbalances will occur, and judgment and sentencing will take effect. Martyrs, however, enjoy a special status with their Lord, and because of their consciousness – albeit on a different dimension – are not regarded as dead. This is clearly shown from the following verses:

Do not say of those who are slain in the path of Allah that they are dead; nay, they are alive but you cannot perceive this. (2:154)

Think not of those who are slain in the path of Allah as dead; Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord. (3:169)

Two verses of the Qur'an describe the state of the persons at death, when the angels take the lives of the righteous and the evildoers. Of the former, the Qur'an describes the situation as one of tranquility, wherein the dying persons are told: "Peace be on you! Enter the garden because of the good that you did in the world"(16:32). Since the emphasis throughout the Qur'an is that the entry to Paradise does not occur until after the resurrection, the meaning of verse 16:32 is simply to express that the believer greets death, or is greeted by the angels in a manner truly indicative of the Lord's pleasure, and that the experience of death is not a fearful one.

For the rejecters of faith, however, the situation is quite the opposite:

If Thou couldst see when the angels take the souls of the unbelievers; they smite their faces and their backs saying: Taste the penalty of the blazing fire. (Q8:50)

Since the casting into the fire will not occur until after the final judgment, the meaning of the verse is to indicate that the unbeliever dies in a state of terror, knowing that s/he did not do good deeds to warrant entry into Heaven, and that now there is no opportunity to return and change things. The immediate feeling is tantamount to a hellish torment, and from the verse it would appear that at the actual experience of leaving the world of the living, there is some sort of punishment inflicted – pain that can only be felt by the living, for since the dead cannot hear, speak, or otherwise perceive, there would be no point in the angels administering any immediate postmortem castigation.

Several of the traditionists, in an effort to find scriptural vouchsafement for their narrations, cited Qur'anic verses that apparently contradict what we have just proven. Smith and Haddad identify these verses as: 6:93, 71:25, 40:46, 8:52, 9:102, 14:32, 25:21, 32:21, 40:11, 47:29, and 52:47 (1981: 32, 208). We shall limit our examination to the first three, since only by the most forced and transparent eisegesis can the others be construed as substantiating the traditionist argument.

Verse 6:93:

Who is more wicked that the one who invents a lie against Allah, or says that "I have received inspiration" when he has received none, or one who says: "I can reveal the like of what Allah has revealed." If you could see how the wicked do fare at the flood of confusion at death! The angels stretch forth their hands saying: "Get yourselves out of this (predicament). This day you shall receive your reward a penalty of shame, for you used to tell lies against Allah, and scornfully to reject His signs."

In translating the above verse, Yusuf Ali (YA:319f.), basing his translation on the dogmatic refraction of the traditional exegeses, has opted for the translation of "Akhriju anfusakum" as "Yield up your souls" instead of my rendering of "Get yourselves out of this (predicament)." The angels, however, take the souls of the humans (Q8:50); the latter have no choice in the matter. Ordering the humans to give up their souls therefore, is meaningless if taken in concord with the theme and language of the Qur'an.

The penalty of shame indicated in the verse is quite different to the punishment of the fire they are supposed to undergo in Hell. The earlier part of the verse tells us that these people claimed divine properties by stating that they could produce the like of what Allah has revealed. For such people, the Qur'an clearly states that their punishment will be on a particular day:

And if you are in doubt about that which we have revealed to our servant, then produce a sura like it… And if you cannot do it, and ye surely cannot, then fear the Fire whose fuel is humans and stones, which is prepared for those who reject faith. (Q2:23-24)

Verse 6:93 then is not an indication of any form of punishment in the grave, but rather warns of a pain that is inflicted in the last stages of life immediately prior to the taking of the soul, i.e., in the state of dying. The malefactors claimed to be divine; now they have to die like all other mortals, and then be forgotten, suffering the ignominy of being relegated to becoming bones and dust. From their positions of pride and false claims, they now face the harsh reality so succinctly versified by 'Adi b. Hatim:

After all their prosperity, their royal estate and their dominion, they vanished into graves yonder: Then they became like dry leaves, which are swept away by the east wind and by the west. (Bevan, 1904:21)

Verse 71:25:

Because of their sins, they were drowned, and were made to enter the fire. And they found none to help them in place of Allah.

If the above verse is treated atomistically, it could give the impression that the entry into the fire was immediate upon their drowning. The Qur'an, however, states on several occasions that the consignment to the fire will only be after sentencing on the Day of Judgment – as in 52:13, 29:25 and 26:87-91. The most explicit reference is probably 26:87-91, which read thus:

And let me not be in disgrace on the Day when they will be resurrected

The Day wherein neither wealth nor progeny will prevail

But only the one who comes to Allah with a sound heart

To the righteous the garden will be brought

And to those of evil, the fire will appear.

Understood in light of the foregoing then, verse 71:25 therefore indicates that since at the time of their death, the people of Noah were still rejecting God, they died as those who on the Day of Judgment would have to enter the fire.

Verse 40:46:

They will be exposed to the Fire morning and evening,

And on the day of the Hour, (it will be said): "Cast the people of Pharoah into the severe penalty."

This is perhaps the strongest argument for the proponents of Qur'anic sanction for punishment in the grave (Shawkani, 1993: 4:702). The verse gives the impression that there is a chronological order of events and that before the Day of Judgment, the people of Pharoah will be exposed to torment in the morning and evening. The exegetes, however, explained the verse in several ways, but in following the traditional method, did not employ a fully thematic approach to understanding the verse. Some ventured the explanation that, as is quite frequent in Arabic literature, the sequence of the actions of exposure and casting does not require the order implied in the literal reading of the verses. The meaning, if taken vis a vis other verses, would be:

And on the Day of the Hour, (it will be said): "Cast the people of Pharoah into the severe penalty; they will be exposed to the Fire morning and evening (ibid.)

That this position is correct is evident if we consider the subsequent verses, which read:

Behold, they will dispute with each other in the Fire. The weak ones (who followed) will say to those who had been arrogant: "We but followed you: Can you then take (on yourselves) from us some share of the fire?" Those who had been arrogant will say: "We are all in this (Fire)! Truly Allah has judged between his servants!" (Q40:47-47; Trans. YA)

The last sentence indicates that the Fire to which they are exposed is one that has come about after Allah's judgment – which as the Qur'an never fails to remind us, is after the Final Hour, the Day of Reckoning. To further underline the matter, the Qur'an states:

He will go before his people on the Day of Judgment and lead them into the fire. And base indeed is the place to which they are led! (11:98)

We find, therefore, that from a thematic approach, the Qur'an is insistent that the punishment and placement in the fire will occur only after the Judgment. It is impossible then, for Pharoah and his people to be exposed to it before the final resurrection and reckoning. It is quite significant that in the section on Qur'anic exegesis, Sahih Muslim does not contain any hadith to explain the verses which the traditionists use to bolster their position. This seems to be telling evidence that the use of Qur'anic verses to support the theory was developed over a period of time, and that Imam Muslim either did not accrue any weight to the claims of proof from the Qur'an, or that contemporaneous traditions did not meet his criteria of acceptability.

The Judeo-Christian Views on Life in the Intermediate State

If some verses from the Bible point to death being a state of oblivion, as do Ps. 6:5, 88:5, 115:17, Isa. 38:18, Eccl. 9:5, others indicate a different vision. The dead were buried with their kin as is evident from several different instances, such as Genesis 25:8, 1 Kings 2:10, 2 Kings 11:43 etc. The normative practice was to inter the dead in the family tomb, and only Rachel (Genesis 35:19-20) was not buried in this manner. The family tomb, as Simcha Raphael notes, is the central symbol for understanding the early Biblical understanding of the hereafter (1994:45). The motivation of this emphasis on burial with the family members is not solely out of sentimental respect for the physical remains, but rather "an assumed connection between proper sepulture and the condition of happiness of the deceased in the afterlife" (Brichto, 1994:26). The works of Enoch 1(22:9), 4 Ezra (7:75), and Psalms (44:14,15) are concerned in part with souls which are in some form of purification for their way to heavenly Jerusalem.

Simcha Raphael's "Jewish Views of the Afterlife" (1994) is a thorough dealing with Jewish lore on the Hibbut ha-Kever, and he proves that it was a well-developed area dating back to the days of the redaction of the Talmud. Even though some of the Midrashic material may come from sources that post-date the founding of Islam, they are based on earlier reports supposedly coming from the pre-Islamic rabbis as outlined in Chapter 1.

Since the early Christian ideas have their foundation in Jewish antecedents, the idea of a conscious intermediate state appears quite early in the Patristic writings. Evidence has been cited from various texts, among them 2 Macc. 12:39-45, Matt. 12:31, 1 Cor. 3:11-15, Isa. 66:15-16, Mal. 3:2-3 etc. Tertullian (c. 200 C.E.), Lactantius (c. 306 C.E.), and Augustine (c. 398 C.E.) all spoke about the matter (Chambers, 1902:27ff), showing that the good are in a place of rest, whereas the evil are in a place of torment, all awaiting a final judgment.

The Hades of the Gospels corresponds exactly to the Barzakh of the Hadith, for as Chambers points out, the translation of Hades into Hell is a mistake (1902, 44). From Luke 16:19-27, we can see that Hades is divided into two parts: Abraham's Bosom for the righteous (Luke 16:22) and another part for the damned, such as the rich man who was there in anguish. Lazarus and the rich man were then to be seen as not in the ultimate Heaven or Hell, but in the after-death state prior to the final judgment.

The Hadith

The 33 narrations that we have selected for investigation are as follows: SM584, 590, 903, 904, 905, 920, 927, 928, 929, 931, 932, 933, 956, 963, 1887, 1913, 2372, 2663, 2723, 2866, 2867, 2868, 2869, 2870, 2871, 2872, 2873, 2874. The main points that can be extrapolated are:

-Moses fought with the angel of death.

-There is a postmortem life review and questioning in the grave.

-The dead are punished in their graves.

-The martyrs live in heaven in the bodies of green birds.

These points will be discussed as subheadings wherein the possible sources will be explored.

Moses Fights with the Angel of Death

As Schwarzbaum observed, this legend has been extremely problematic for the Muslim theologians and traditionists over the centuries – because it diametrically opposes the very essence of obedience and submission to Allah's will, which is best exemplified by the Prophets (1982:32). The angels we have shown earlier (summa 13; Q16:32) greet the believers making the death experience one of tranquility. The antecedents of the story then could not have come from the Qur'an. Legends of Moses defying the angel of death are detailed only in Jewish folklore, as reported by Ginzberg (1938: 3:471), Rappoport (1966: 354ff.) and Bialik (1992:101-104). The gist of the story is that Samael, the angel of death, was ordered to take the soul of Moses who apparently did not as yet want to meet his Creator. When the horrible looking angel appeared before him then, he became very angry and struck him with his staff, blinding him. Subsequently, God Himself promised to take Moses' soul, and the latter then committed himself to this unique honor.

There is a functional consensus of opinion among the scholars that the Muslim version is an adaptation of the Jewish antecedents. Bialik and Ginzberg have identified the sources as being, among others, early Petirat Moshe, Deuteronomy Rabbah 7:10, 11:5, 10, Tanhuma Va'et hannan 6, and Yalkut, Va'et hannan 821. Of these, Petirat Moshe and Deuteronomy Rabbah antedate the Islamic tradition literature, while the others, although later, are based on older sources that precede Islam.

The Postmortem Life Review and the Questioning in the Grave

Hadith SM2866 notes that when someone dies, the angels give that person a review of her/his life and the recompense s/he has merited. Muslim also reports that two angels perform this task. This idea of questioning developed in stages, as shown by John MacDonald (1965:27). Initially there was one angel, then this angel was identified as Ruman, then there were two angels who were unnamed, but by the time of Tirmidhi, they were given the names of Munkar and Nakir (ibid.). If according to the Qur'an, however, the dead cannot hear or speak, and are totally without consciousness, then any concept of their interrogation must come from sources other than that Book. In Taanit 11a, we find that "When a man departs to his eternal home, all his deeds are shown before him and he is told: Such and such a thing you have done, in such and such a place on that day." Macdonald also traces the idea to the 4th Century Apocalypse of Paul which states: "I looked and saw a man about to die, and before he departed the world, there stood by him holy angels and evil ones."

Hadith SM2870 and 2872 put the number of the questioning angels at two: these angels are identified in Jewish tradition as the angel of death and Dumah (Shabbat 152b, Hagigah 5a and Berakhot 18b). Muslim does not identify them, and since the idea of disguised or unidentified angels visiting the tomb is to be found in Pesikta Rabbati 2:3 (dated at 6th/7th century: EJ: 13:335) and Ketubbot 104a, John Macdonald suggests that the later names of Munkar and Nakir given to them in tradition may be taken to mean "unknown or disguised." (1965:8). Whatever Arabic appellations and finishing touches may have been given to the angels to totally Islamize the legend, it seems evident that the sources are from the Apocalyptic, Talmudic, and Midrashic imagery.

The Dead are Punished in Their Graves

In most of the hadith on the subject, the questions and/or information are put in the mouth of a Jewish person. We see therefore that 'A'isha supposedly claims that a Jewish woman alleges that the dead are punished in the graves. Muhammad denies it (in some traditions), while in others he says that only the Jews will be punished. That Muhammad could deny that there is punishment in the grave in one hadith, while in another claim that he could hear the dead being punished, clearly points to the development of a concept which initially did not find acceptance among those who are more attentive to the Qur'anic view.

In Berakoth 62a, it states that "just as the dead are punished, so too the funeral orators are punished and those who answer after them." The hadith took this tradition and made it seem that because of the weeping of the mourners, the dead are punished. Such a position, however, was clearly at odds with the Qur'anic statement that none shall bear the punishment of another, and so we see 'A'isha being made to explain the hadith in several different narrations, some concordant with Berakoth 62a (cf. SM931), and others with the obviously polemic stance that this ruling only applies to the Jews (SM933, 927). Yet although only the Jews are supposed to be punished, we find Muhammad supposedly praying and exhorting his followers to pray to God to protect them (the Muslims) against the torment of the grave.

The Martyrs Live in Heaven in the Bodies of Green Birds

As we explained earlier, the Qur'an does not regard the martyrs as dead, and states that they are with their Lord in a state that the living cannot perceive (summa, p.12). The Qur'anic view of those who are killed in the path of the Lord is remarkably similar to that of Revelation 6:9, 10:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice saying: How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

If the Qur'an agrees, however, with the view of the Book of Revelations that the martyrs are with their Lord, it leaves the matter there. The hadith (SM1887), however, claims that the souls of the martyrs are in the bodies of green birds in Paradise. This narration is remarkably similar to Greek Apocalyptic Baruch, which states:

And I saw a mountainous pillar, and in the middle of it a pool of water. And there were in it multitudes of birds of all birds, but not like those here on earth. But I saw a crane as great as great oxen; all the birds were great beyond those in the world. And I asked the angel: "What is the plain, and what the pool, and what the multitudes of birds around it?" And the angel said: "Listen Baruch! The plain which contains in it the pool and other wonders is the place where the souls of the righteous come when they hold converse, being together in choirs." (3 Baruch 10, [APOT)

The hadith makes some changes in the scenario, coloring the birds green and putting chandeliers and trees instead of a plain as in Baruch. This, however, can be seen as the inevitable metamorphosis that is deliberately made to occur in adaptation to obscure the actual origin of the story.


As we have shown, the finer details of resurrection would have been something new to many of the early Muslims. The concept of some sort of temporary existence after death seems to have, however, been present among some of them (Guillaume 1986:9; Henninger, 1981:10). Such people, in encountering the Jewish and Christian material, would have found a fertile ground for maintaining their pre-Islamic belief. These ahadith indicate that the Arabs were well aware of the Rabbinic notion that punishment in Gehenna was only for a limited period of time (Shabbat 33b), and this is also noted by the Qur'an in 2:80. Adapting the antecedent traditions, therefore, served a two-fold purpose: they provided details to fill the Qur'anic lacunae, and they also furnished material for polemic against the People of the Book. 

Chapter 3 – The Second Advent of Jesus Christ

Muslim narrated several lengthy ahadith that clearly show the return of Jesus. Most of these ahadith have as a shared theme the description of the Antichrist and accounts of the war that is to take place between the two. Since the Antichrist and the war are dealt in sufficient detail as to warrant specific examination in subsequent chapters, we have only selected for our present analysis information from seven ahadith. The profile may be summarized as follows:

● His appearance near the end of time will be one of ten signs (SM2901).

● Jesus will come as a just judge, break the cross, kill the pig and abolish the jizya, and wealth will be so plentiful, none will want to accept it (SM155).     

● He will descend on the wings of two angels in Damascus (SM2937).

● He will not lead the prayer (SM156).

● He will descend among the Muslims and will lead them in prayer (SM 2897).     

● He will make the Hajj and ‘Umra, declaring his ritual intention from the valley of Rawha' (SM1253).

● He will kill with his breath (SM2940).

● He will live for seven years after defeating the Antichrist, and during this time there will be no rancor between two persons (SM2940).

Comparing the Jesus of the Qur'an and the Jesus of Hadith

Jesus' coming again must be based on the a priori belief that he did not die on the cross and still lives, since, as Tabari pointed out, were Jesus to come again after having died once before, it would mean that he died two deaths (JB: 6.458). This is clearly against Q30:40 which states: "Allah will cause you to die, then again will give you life… "

Muslim, however, throughout his entire collection, does not relate a single hadith pertaining to the crucifixion, nor any to show that Jesus did not die but was taken up to heaven. He also  does not  give any hint that he may have, like some scholars, shared the view that certain verses of the Qur'an could be used to show that Jesus did not die but was taken up to Heaven where he awaits until his return. Many commentators, using Tabari's tafsir as a matrix rely on two verses in support of this theory. The verses are as follows:

(1)   Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will cause thee to die and raise thee to Myself and purify thee of those who disbelieve; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject Faith to the Day of Resurrection; then shall ye all return unto Me and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute. (3:55)


(2)   Nay. Allah raised him up unto himself and Allah is exalted in Power, Wise. (4:158)      

Read without the refraction of the ahadith, however, the verses do not support any concept of Jesus being taken up alive. In verse 3:55, the statement "I will cause thee to die" (mutawaffika) cannot be used to mean anything other than death being the cessation of life as normally understood. The word, in its various forms, is used throughout the Qur'an to mean death (8:50, 10:104, 16:70, 32:11, and 39:42), and there is no factor in 3:55 that necessitates it being understood in other than its literal meaning.

"Raise" (rafa‘a) is used in both the physical and abstract sense in both the Qur'an and classical Arabic, with no one usage being considered as literal and the other figurative. As such it falls into the category of "Lafz mushtarak" – a term having shared meanings, such meaning(s) to be deduced from context (Shalabi, 1986: 434-441). On several occasions in the Qur'an, rafa‘a – or its derivative forms – is used to mean exalt and extol as in 2:253, 6:165, 7:176, 19:57, and 24:36. This usage is not specific to the Qur'an; of the pre-Islamic poet, Imru'l Qais, it was said:

If he praised, he raised (rafa'a).

If he condemned, he debased. (al-Manawi, 1938:2.186).

Read in the context of the entire subject matter, the "raising" meant in the verse is without a doubt, one of status. If one considers that the crucifixion was a punishment administered by the Romans to the lowest class of criminals (Kearney & Regan, 1908:3.312), and that the penalty was imposed on Jesus to insult and debase him, then God's foiling of their plans can only be seen as doing the opposite: causing Jesus to be extolled and honored till the end of time.

In view of the foregoing, we do not see any discussion of the weaker arguments for a second advent as being germane to a research of this scope. Professor Mahmoud Ayoub, with his own admirable scholarship, has discussed these in “Towards an Islamic Christology” (1980:91-121), and “The Qur'an and its Interpreters” (1992:2.169ff).

Muslim, as we have shown earlier, did not relate a single hadith on the subject of the crucifixion. Certainly it could not have been because there were none available, since his contemporary Tabari relates several in connection with the verses just analyzed (JB: 6.458). We posit, however, that Muslim chose not to report hadith on the matter in following his conditions of reporting which in his own words is, "I have not placed everything that I consider to be authentic herein, rather I have placed that on which there is consensus" (SSM: 1.68). The ahadith on the matter, then, were not agreed upon. This position is supported by Tabari's own views on the ahadith, since he, despite relating them, does not rely on them fully to explain the verses.

The first hadith (SM 2901) reported shows which verse was used to allow for a second appearance of Jesus Christ. It also shows that the verses discussed earlier and used by the exegetes were not understood in any other meaning that the clear Arabic and according to the interpretation we provided earlier. Instead, Abu Hurairah, we are told, refers to verse 4:159. This verse is problematic, however, as there are several differences of opinion as to whom the italicized pronouns in the verse refer to: "And certainly among the People of the Book are those who must believe in him before his death." Shawkani shows that some commentators felt that the pronouns refer to the person from among the People of the Book; others felt they refer to Jesus (Shawkani: 1.805). Whatever the different views, however, the general opinion is that the verse refers to Jesus' second coming, at which time no one from among the People of the Book will die until after believing in Jesus, or that Jesus will not die until after everyone from the People of the Book believes in him.

This interpretation is clearly discordant with the latter part of the verse, for it continues, "… and on the Day of Judgment, he will be a witness against them." If the matter pertains to Jesus' second coming, and at that time all the People of the Book will believe in him, why then would Jesus testify against them? The only explanation for Jesus' adversarial stance is that, according to the Qur'anic account, all who heard his ministry knew even before Jesus died that he was indeed a man of God and a prophet. This is conceivably one of the reasons why Jesus will be against them. Another reason is explained in Q5:117 where God will ask him if he ordered the people to worship him, to which he will respond:

I was a witness over them as long as I was among them, but when you caused me to die, You were the Watcher over them, and You are a witness over all things. (5:116)

There are therefore two parties against whom Jesus will stand: those who plotted his destruction, and those who in their overzealousness after his death, made him into a figure of worship. In light of this, the alleged extrapolation of Abu Hurairah must be seen as erroneous.

Muslim does not offer the verse Q43:61 "Indeed he is a sign of the hour" to support his hadith of Jesus' return. He could not have used the verse, as some exegetes have done, since the Qur'an acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah who spoke of Muhammad's coming. The correct interpretation of the verse is, as shown in McDonough's thesis, that Jesus was a sign of the hour in that he delivered a warning that the Hour would surely come (1955: 28).

The Qur'anic image of Christ then puts him at the stage of an "Inaugurated eschatology." This term, used mainly by the Christian theologians, indicates that Jesus fulfilled some of the aspects of the end in his time, but that there were other elements yet to come (Nelson, 1993:193). Among these elements would be the coming of the Prophet to the Arabs.

From the foregoing therefore, it can be seen that the Qur'an does not provide any basis for the belief in a second coming of Christ. Not only is there an argumentum e silentio, but there are verses that actually totally negate any possibility of such an occurrence. If Muhammad is indeed the seal of prophets (33.40), then Jesus returning after him would negate such a seal. The general response to this is that Jesus will not be coming as a prophet, but rather as a just judge (SSM: 18.288). Such a view, however, means that the honor of prophecy is something that can be given and removed – a concept that is not advocated anywhere in the Qur'an. Even if for argument's sake we were to allow the possibility of it happening in the case of other individuals, this cannot happen in the case of Jesus. The following verses are proof of this:

(1)   (And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near [unto Allah]. (3:45)

(2)   He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet. (19:30)

There is no need for elucidation as both verses are absolutely clear that the office of Messiahship and prophecy remain unchanged. To take away the office of prophecy would be to reduce his degree of excellence – something clearly discordant with 3:45. Clearly then, the claim that Jesus will return as a non-prophet is an unfounded one.

Verse 61:6 shows that Jesus prophesied Muhammad's messengership by stating: "After me will come a messenger whose name is Ahmad." The prepositional phrase "after me" literally means what it says i.e., "after my departure." The term would not be proper if Jesus were planning a return appearance, for this would then force Muhammad's coming again – giving room to the chaotic situation of ad infinitum reappearances of both prophets.

The final argument we wish to show for the specific lack of Qur'anic support for a return is that the document throughout maintains the mortality of all its prophets. To dissuade and repel any claim for divinity of any of its prophets, the Qur'an claims:

Jesus the Messiah is nothing but a messenger; the messengers before him have passed away. (5:75)

Muhammad is not but a messenger; the messengers before him have passed away. If he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels?  (3:144)

Since Jesus preceded Muhammad, he must therefore be of the messengers who have passed away, and the use of the definite article makes this clear.

Hadith SM155 shows that Jesus will come to the Muslims and act according to the Islamic Shari‘ah. But Jesus, by the words attributed to him in the Qur'an, came only to the Children of Israel as is evident from:

And He will teach him (Jesus) the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel.

And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel, (saying): Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord…. (3:48, 49)

Jesus therefore had no other mandate except to be a Messiah to the children of Israel, and the ahadith therefore contradict the Qur'an. To return and break the cross, even if we interpret the concept figuratively, would mean that the Qur'anic verse: "This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed my favor upon you" (5.3) has no function.

Hadith SM156 and SM2897 are contradictory since the first has Jesus declining to lead the prayer, and the other showing him actually being the leader. Such clear contradiction leaves no room for the harmonization solution so favored by the traditionists. In view of what we have pointed out earlier that Jesus was only sent to the children of Israel, the aspect of him being taxed with the Hajj, as in SM1253, is clearly against the Qur'an. Strangely, the hadith pinpoints the place where Jesus will supposedly make his ritual declaration for entering the Hajj, but does not indicate what type of pilgrimage he will perform. SM2901, 2937, and 2940 are all, by the arguments adduced above, to be seen as clearly against the Qur'anic weltanschauung.

Since Jesus is not seen in Judaism as the Messiah, the idea of his return could not have sprung from a Jewish source. The Qur'an, as we have also shown, while recognizing him as the Messiah, does not entertain any concept of a second advent. Christianity is the only religion then that preaches his reappearance, all the ahadith on the subject must be seen to stem from Christian material, with some alterations to make them acceptable to the Muslim outlook. Our next task will be to identify the possible specific sources of these ahadith.

Identifying the Possible Sources

From hadith SM155, we learn not only that Jesus will be a judge, but that he will abolish the jizya. This is according to the image presented in Matt. 25.31-36,  1 Cor. 4.5, Acts 10.42, and John  5.27  where Jesus will come to judge the entire human race, punishing those who rejected him (2 Thess. 1.7-10), and rewarding those who followed him (Mark 13.27). The jizya is a sign of domination and since every kind of domination, authority, and power will be abolished according to 1 Cor. 15.24-25, the breaking of the cross and the killing of the pig seem to be Muslim interpretations of 2 Cor. 5.10.

Hadith SM2937 places Jesus' descent in Damascus. Several reasons could be adduced for this location. Damascus was the center of Eastern Christianity and even before Islam provided the source of most of the Arab information on Christianity. The early Muslim-Christian dialogue was apparently limited to the Damascene Church, as shown by N. A. Newman's work on the subject (1993). Since the Antichrist is Syrian, as stated by Lactantius in the 4th century (Pohle, p.113), it seems evident that Jesus should defeat him at his place of surfacing. It is also possible that the hadith was used as part of the Abbaside political machinery since Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad caliphate.

The hadith mentions that Jesus will descend on the wings of two angels – a seemingly strange detail. According to Acts 1.10, when Jesus was ascending, there were two men in white apparel who informed the people that Jesus would return the same way he went. These men, from a hadith viewpoint, were certainly angels. The verse in Acts certainly appeals to the traditionist perception of angelic succor, as is shown in a hadith reported by Sa‘d b. Abi Waqqas:

On the day of the battle of Uhud, on the right and on the left of the Prophet were two men wearing white clothes, and I had neither seen them before, nor did I see them afterwards. (SBE. 5:384, 7:716).

We do not see that these two angels are a reinterpretation of the two witnesses that are supposed to spread the news of Jesus' coming and fighting alongside him as in Revelation 11:3, 4. This is because those witnesses will die, and the angels are exempt from that, at least in the terrestrial theatre.

The last part of SM2937 states that Jesus’ breath will reach as far as the eye can see, and that the odor of such breath will kill the disbelievers. This is the very image presented in 2 Thess. 2.8 wherein we are told that Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, and annihilate by the radiance of his coming.

The last hadith SM2940 is perhaps the clearest indication of familiarity with the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. The narrator is ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr b. al-As who was supposed to have in his possession the literature which he studied. In typical apocalyptic presentation, he takes an oath to remain silent, and then mentions the burning of the Ka‘aba. Since the earliest records we have of the hadith are all after the event of the burning, we can refer to the prophecy as a case of vaticinia ex eventu. Tabari tells us that the Sanctuary was burned on 5 Rabi al-Awwal, 64 (October 31, 683), at which time Zubair was being besieged by the forces of Yazid, son of Mu‘awiya (Tarikh: 5.498). To see the sign of the burning as something to precipitate the unfolding of the eschatological events is very much in concert with  2 Thess. 1.7, which shows  Jesus coming down from heaven with angels blazing fire to start the events to the final countdown.

The final part of the hadith that shows the absence of rancor and reign of righteousness after Jesus' victory is the Gospel adaptation of the prophecies in Isa. 11. 6-10, 32.1, Jer. 33.14-26, Ezek. 37.24-28 as shown in 2 Pet. 3.13 and Rev. 21.3-4. Muslim does not detail the matter further – but  the narrations of his contemporary,  Ibn Majah (d.273/886) show that the scholars of the period were relying on the prophecies of Revelation and Isaiah, as proven by Richard Bell (1968:202ff.).

The period of seven years as shown in the hadith, however, is a clear departure from the millennium prophesied in Rev. 20.1-7. This can be explained by the Revelation accounts, as do all the other Gospel accounts, showing Jesus as being equal with God in exercising this judgment. The strict monotheism of Islam would not have tolerated importation of this belief even in popular aspects of that religion. The different periods of reign as reported by the hadith can be seen as being drawn from the Jewish messianic traditions which, as in Sanhedrin 99a, show varying periods.


Newman shows that the Gospels were all translated into Arabic by 639 C.E. (1953:17), and this therefore gave the Muslims access to actual written sources in addition to the oral reports they already knew. His argument is extremely strong since these translations were specifically done at the request of the Muslim rulers, and for obvious use in what may be considered the then study of comparative religion. However, though the possibility of such importation from these sources does exist, it must be pointed out that many of the early Muslims came from Christian backgrounds. They too could be seen as the source for the historical and messianic views about Jesus and the Islamic hadith adaptation in a quasi-soteriological role.

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Posted November 19, 2011. This material is copyrighted, all rights reserved. No publication or reproduction is permitted except with the author’s consent.