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17. Understanding Islam

6.5. Christ Raised to heaven

The Islamic teaching about the end of Christ’s life on earth is rather confusing. The Qur’an says:

“When God said, ‘Isa, I will take thee to Me and will raise thee to Me and I will purify thee of those who believe not. I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day.’ ” (Qur’an 3:55)

Muslim scholars are unclear and uncertain about what the Qur’an means by the word here translated “take thee to me;” the Arabic word used, mutawaffeeka, denotes death. As the crucifixion is one of the most historically attested to facts, Muslim scholars have tried to reconcile Qur’anic teaching on His death with the historical crucifixion. As the form of the verb mutawaffeeka is ambiguous as is its exact meaning, this has given rise to several interpretations of the verse. A minority of scholars say that the verse means Christ died and rose from the dead (as we Christians believe), but most do not. Some say that this has not happened, but will happen in the future: he will die and will rise from the dead. Others say it means that Allah will reward Christ, some say he will be raised higher than anyone else, and still others say that he has been physically raised to heaven and he will come back again.

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