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Tracing the Post-Crucifixion Footsteps of Jesus Christ(as)
Arif Khan - UK, March 2012
If Jesus Christ(as) survived the Crucifixion as a mortal human being, then he was not resurrected and he did not ascend to heaven. Then what ultimately became of him? One of the key missions of the Jewish Messiah was to gather all the tribes of Israel and to help unite them once more in the land of Israel. Jesus(as) had declared in his vision:
‘And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.’
If Jesus(as) was to truly fulfil his mission he would have to find and preach to these tribes. Whilst the identity of these tribes and their current whereabouts is unclear, a number of researchers have concluded that a section of the modern day Afghans descended from these tribes. The evidence comes from facial similarities, linguistics, names of people, places and oral traditions. As we piece together the fragments of information we have about Jesus’(as) life after the Crucifixion, the compelling research suggests that having survived the Crucifixion, Jesus Christ(as) journeyed towards the East in search of the Lost Tribes of Israel, who, as is proven from historical sources, had become scattered and dispersed towards the East many hundreds of years previous to his advent. The conclusion we arrive at is that Jesus Christ(as) delivered his message to these dispersed Israelite communities, ultimately reaching Kashmir, where his tomb exists to this day. A growing group of esteemed researchers and writers of different religious beliefs, have all argued that the final resting place of Jesus Christ(as) is in Srinagar, Kashmir. The tomb is known locally as ‘Rozabal’, meaning ‘The Honoured Tomb’, and local traditions state the inhabitant of the tomb was a Prophet from a foreign land.
The idea that Jesus(as) travelled to India and is buried in the Rozabal, challenges the commonly held belief among Christians and Muslims that Jesus(as) rose to heaven. Yet, we find the Rozabal tomb the subject of books by Christian authors such as American journalist and author Suzanne Olsson, and some Muslim authors, such as Dr Fida Hassnain, a prominent Sufi archaeologist and Professor of History. Olsson and Dr Hassnain have each written several books on the topic, the most recent of which, Roza Bal – The Tomb of Jesus, is a collaboration between the two experts. Authors belonging to faith traditions that initially appear to have no direct link with Jesus Christ(as), have also written in favour of this theory. Over the last 20 years there have been books written by Mantoshe Devji – a Sikh author, Ashwin Sangi – an Indian Hindu novelist, Holger Kersten – a German Buddhist, as well as Anand Krishna – an interfaith spiritualist. These authors approach the topic of Jesus’(as) post-Crucifixion travels in the East from different perspectives, yet all agree on the Rozabal tomb as the final resting place of Jesus Christ(as). Documentaries on this subject have been also been featured on the BBC, the Discovery Channel and the Sundance Channel.
Post-Crucifixion Jesus(as) – Clues in the Holy Bible
If Jesus(as) had survived the Crucifixion we can suppose that his first priority would have been to escape the danger of being captured once more. The Biblical texts clearly talk of Jesus(as) meeting his disciples in secret, and also being on the move. The Gospel of Matthew records the disciples being specifically instructed by Jesus(as) to leave Jerusalem and meet him in Galilee. In the post-Crucifixion sightings of Jesus Christ(as) in the Gospels, it often takes time for those he meets with to recognise him. Could Jesus(as) have been in some form of disguise? In the famous narrative talking of the ‘risen’ Jesus(as) appearing to Mary Magdalene, it is interesting to note that Mary initially mistakes him for the gardener. Later on the road to Emmaus, he is not recognised until he breaks bread. The behaviour of Jesus(as) in these accounts is consistent with someone who is a travelling incognito, trying to avoid drawing attention to himself. This would only make sense if the case was that Jesus(as) remained alive and had survived the Crucifixion, and needed to avoid further persecution. The last mention of Jesus(as) appearing to someone in the New Testament, is Paul’s recollection of Jesus(as) talking to him on the road to Damascus.
‘And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’
Was this a vision or a physical appearance? A physical appearance in Damascus would be consistent with Jesus(as)’ recorded travels, those moving from Jerusalem northwards.
Jesus(as) in Nasibain
Nasibain, previously known as Nasibus, and now Urfa in southeast Turkey, is the next location along Jesus(as)’ route for which we have a recorded source. The reference comes from a well-known Persian historical work, the Rauzat-us-Safa written by Mir Muhammad Bin Khawand in 1417AD. Khawand explains that Jesus(as) was known for being a great traveller, something mentioned in other Islamic traditions, yet rarely talked about amongst Muslims. The author goes on to relate Jesus(as) travelling from the Holy Land to Nasibain:
‘Journeying from his country, he arrived at Nasibain. With him were a few of his disciples whom he sent into the city to preach. In the city, however, there were current wrong and unfounded rumours about Jesus [on whom be peace] and his mother. The governor of the city, therefore, arrested the disciples and then summoned Jesus [on whom be peace]. Jesus [on whom be peace], miraculously healed some persons and exhibited other miracles. The king of the territory of Nasibain, therefore, with all his armies and his people, became a follower of his…’
Looking at a map, the location of Nasibain, at a distance of 450 miles from Jerusalem, suggests that a route was being travelled upon leading from Jerusalem across ancient Persia, modern day Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) in his treatise Masih Hindustan Mein (Jesus in India) explains:
‘If the report in the Rauzat-us-Safa is correct it appears that, by travelling to Nasibain, Jesus(as) intended to come to Afghanistan through Persia, and to invite to the Truth the lost Jews who had come to be known as Afghans.’
Jesus(as) in Afghanistan
There is evidence to suggest that modern day Afghanistan is home to some of the lost tribes of Israel that Jesus(as) searched for throughout his life. O.M. Burke, an explorer of Sufism, presents a fascinating insight into a group of people in Afghanistan that describe themselves as ‘Christian Muslims’, and recount traditions of Jesus(as)’ visit to their tribe almost 2000 years ago.
‘The Followers of Issa, son of Mariam [Jesus(as), son of Mary], generally call themselves Muslims, and inhabit a number of villages scattered throughout the western area of Afghanistan whose centre is Herat….There must be about a thousand of these Christians. Their chief is Abba Yahiyya [Father John], who can recite the succession of teachers, through nearly sixty generations, to Issa, son of Mariam of Nasara [Nazareth], the Kashmiri.’
During Burke’s dialogue with Abba Yahiyya, on Christian theology and the Bible, Abba Yahiyya made the following, remarkable statement:
“My son,” he said, in his softly accented Persian, ‘these people are reading and repeating a part of the story. They have completely misunderstood the message. We have the story told to us by the Master [Jesus(as)], and through him we will be saved and made whole. Some of the events in that document which you call the Bible are true, but a great deal is made up or imagined or put in for less than worthy reasons. Isa lived for over thirty years after the materials you have were completed, and he told us what was true.”
This narration provides strong testimony about a community possessing both a written and oral tradition of Jesus(as) travelling to Afghanistan after the Crucifixion. While there is no indication that the story was fabricated, there exists no other known account mentioning this same community, along with their remarkable story. Burke explicitly vouches for the authenticity of his book, stating it ‘contains as high a proportion as possible of entirely fresh and first-hand material.’ Reviews of his book seem to support him as a credible source also, with The Sunday Telegraph describing Burke as ‘an accomplished travel-writer.’ Despite this, critics demand more information on who he was, and what his motivations for writing the book were, while questioning why the existence of this community Burke mentions, cannot be validated by any other source. There are many stories and traditions relating to the post-Crucifixion story of Jesus Christ(as) that require more research, and this account of Abba Yahiyya, is certainly one of these. A modern day expedition in search of this community would be a worthy anthropological exercise.
Jesus(as) in Pakistan – Taxilla
In Christian traditions there exists the story of the Apostle Thomas travelling to India and preaching there:
‘According to the lot, therefore, India fell unto Judas Thomas, which is also the twin: but he would not go, saying that by reason of the weakness of the flesh he could not travel, and ‘I am an Hebrew man; how can I go amongst the Indians and preach the truth?’ And as he thus reasoned and spake, the Saviour appeared unto him by night and saith to him: Fear not, Thomas, go thou unto India and preach the word there, for my grace is with thee.’
St Thomas’ alleged burial place exists in India today, and was visited by the last Pope, Pope John Paul II, in February 1986. With this in mind, it is fascinating to note that the Acts of Thomas, an apocryphal Gospel, contains an account of Thomas and Jesus Christ(as) together in Taxilla, in what is modern day Pakistan today, around the year 49AD. The account relates a wedding ceremony where the groom thinks he sees Thomas, but it turns out to in fact be Jesus(as) himself:
‘The bridegroom (Abdagases) lifted the curtain which separated him from his bride. He saw Thomas, as he supposed, conversing with her. Then he asked in surprise ‘How Canst though be found here? Did I not see thee go out before all?’ And the Lord answered: ‘I am not Thomas, but his brother’.’
Again, this reference is tantalising. Is it a literal appearance of Jesus(as) or is it some form of vision? Why does the author not make any mention of why Jesus(as) was present at this point? Is Thomas being referred to as Jesus(as)’ ‘brother’ another indication that the language is somewhat figurative? At face value, however, the narrative does place Jesus Christ(as) along with Thomas in the East, long after the Crucifixion. Alone, the testimony raises questions, but when considered in conjunction with the other references, it starts to form a coherent and consistent picture.
Jesus(as) in Kashmir
Finally, we come to Kashmir. Nearly all modern day researchers who have traced Jesus(as)’ footsteps across the East have concluded their research with the Rozabal tomb in Kashmir, and believe it to be Jesus(as)’ final resting place. In contrast to the scant concrete references to Jesus(as) in Afghanistan or Taxilla, there are numerous references to Jesus(as) in Kashmir, ranging from Hindu textual sources, to archaeological artefacts.
Bhavishya Mahapurana – Hindu Source
The Bhavishya Mahapurana, one of the eighteen major Hindu texts, is believed to originate from 115AD. If this date is accurate, it dates to a similar time as the Gospels that make up the New Testament. The text begins with the King Shalivahan, also known as Gautamiputra Satakarni, coming across an auspicious man in Laddakh in Kashmir, dressed in white with fair skin. King Shalivahan’s reign was from 78 to 102AD. When asked by the King who he was the man replies:
‘I am called a son of God, born of a virgin, minister of the non-believers, relentless in search of the truth.’
This quote immediately brings to mind the person of Jesus Christ(as). If the account is accurate, it is a testimony to Jesus(as) having lived to an old age and being present in Kashmir. The King asks further of his religion and the reply given once again strongly links this figure with the person of Jesus Christ(as):
‘O great king, I come from a foreign country, where there is no longer truth and where evil knows no bounds. In the land of the non-believers, I appeared as the Messiah…and I was called ‘Isa-Masih.’’
The phrase ‘Isa Masih’ is significant here, as Isa is one of the names attributed to Jesus(as) in the Eastern traditions that mention him. This name appears in the Sanskrit text of the Bhavishya Mahapurana and is not a translation. ‘Isa’ is also the name by which Jesus Christ(as) is referred to in the Islamic tradition, and throughout the Holy Qur’an. The Bhavishya Mahapurana is the most significant text placing Jesus Christ(as) in Kashmir, long after the Crucifixion.
The documented history of Kashmir is difficult to obtain and verify. One of the earliest known, reliable, compiled histories is a text called Tahrik-i-Kashmir, written in 1420AD by Mullah Nadri. In this text, a figure known as ‘Yus Asaf’ is mentioned. Evidence from additional sources suggest that ‘Yus Asaf’ and Jesus Christ(as) are one and the same person. Another text, Ikmal-ud-Din, for instance, records ‘Yus Asaf’ teaching via a parable. This parable is almost identical to the parable of the sower, as recorded in the Gospels, strengthening the link between ‘Yus Asaf’ and Jesus Christ(as). Yus Asaf is described in this text as a Prophet who had come from ‘the Holy Land’ to this ‘Holy Valley’ (the valley of Kashmir), and ‘devoted himself day and night in prayers to God.’ The text goes on to explain that during this time, the Temple of Solomon which can be seen today in Kashmir, had its roof repaired. The text also mentions an inscription, which had been visible on the Temple of Solomon until recent decades, which stated; ‘In these times Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophethood.’ On another stone, another inscription mentioned in Mullah Nadri’s work, states that: ‘Yus Asaf was Yusu, Prophet of the Children of Israel.’ Mullah Nadri adds an additional note concerning the identity of Yus Asaf, although he draws no conclusion himself, saying ‘and the true knowledge is with God.’
‘I have seen in a book of Hindus that this prophet was really Hadhrat Isa [Jesus(as)], the Spirit of God, on whom be peace [and salutations] and had also assumed the name of Yuz Asaf.’
The text goes on to state that Yus Asaf eventually died in Kashmir and is buried there.
The Holy Qur’an
The Holy Qur’an talks extensively about Jesus Christ(as). The focus of the Qur’an is clarifying the status of Jesus Christ(as) and emphasising his humanity as well as his piety. The Qur’an does not give many details about the life of Jesus Christ(as) after the Crucifixion, apart from the below key verse:
And We made the son of Mary and his mother a Sign, and gave them refuge on an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water.
The above verse of the Qur’an appears to support and not contradict the treatise that Jesus Christ(as) was saved from the Crucifixion, and was given refuge in Kashmir. The reference to Jesus’(as) mother Mary(ra) also fits this viewpoint. There is no grave, or final resting place of Mary(ra) in the Holy Land. However, in a town called ‘Murree’ in modern eastern Pakistan, a grave does exist for her called ‘Mai Mari da Asthan,’ which means ‘the final resting place of Mother Mary.’ Her tomb faces east-west, as in Jewish custom, rather than north-south, as in Islamic custom. ‘Murree’, is a reference to Mary(ra). The Qur’anic verse appears to support the view that both Jesus(as) and his mother travelled out of Jerusalem and towards the East.
The final, and most dramatic piece of evidence supporting Jesus Christ(as)’s travel to Kashmir is the Rozabal Tomb in the Kan Yaar district of Srinagar, Kashmir. Local traditions and documents record this as the tomb of Yus Asaf. We have already mentioned sources that connect the person of Yus Asaf directly with Jesus Christ(as). This tomb offers physical evidence to support the oral and written traditions that all point to this being Jesus Christ(as)’s final resting place. This topic has been explored in detail in previous articles in the The Review of Religions. The tomb is known as the tomb of Yus Asaf, and there is evidence to support that Yus Asaf was the name Jesus(as) was known by in the East. In addition to the similar teachings, in parables we also learn that Yus Asaf was a ‘Prince Prophet’ who travelled from the Holy Land to flee persecution. The most significant piece of physical evidence linking the inhabitant of the Rozabal to Jesus Christ(as) are the carved footprints next to the tomb. These footprints show marks or scars on the feet. The scars are at different places on each foot, consistent with the scars of one who has been crucified with a single nail driven through both feet.
The evidence hence points to Jesus Christ(as) having journeyed to the East after surviving the Crucifixion and ultimately being buried in the Rozabal tomb in Srinagar. If this is correct, what are the implications? The summary of the thesis and implications are summarised in the final minutes of the BBC documentary ‘Did Jesus(as) Die?’:
“There are many who believe this to be the tomb of Jesus(as). If this is the tomb of Jesus(as), then he spent most of his life in the mountain kingdom of Kashmir. He did not die on the cross, there was no resurrection. He did not ascend into heaven, and he does not sit at the right hand of God. For many Christians this would be the end of Christianity as we know it.”
Progressive Christian author, Mark Mason, however is of the opinion that if Rozabal was found to be the final resting place of Jesus Christ(as) it would not have a large impact on Christianity, stating that whether Jesus(as) died on the cross or not is a ‘minor point.’ He stresses that it is the suffering upon the cross that is significant and this would have taken place even if Jesus Christ(as) survived. A more liberal approach to the Bible may leave room for this interpretation, yet the inescapable fact is, Christian theology would be heavily undermined if the Rozabal is proved authentic. One aspect of Jesus(as)’ story that would definitely require re-evaluation would be the Christian and Islamic prophecies about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ(as).
If Jesus Christ(as) is buried in Rozabal, then the prophecies about his second coming cannot be taken to be literally true, as understood by many Muslims and Christians today. The only remaining option for the fulfilment of the prophecies about a Second Coming would be for another separate individual to appear in ‘the spirit and power’ of Jesus Christ(as). A precedence exists for this, in that John the Bapitst(as) was declared by Jesus Christ(as) himself, as the Second Coming of the Prophet Elijah(as). It is in this way that Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, claimed under Divine command to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ(as). In his famous lecture delivered on November 4th 1905 at Ludhiana, a town in Punjab, India, he openly and emphatically declared:
“O Muslims, Listen! God has communicated this tiding to you through me and I have duly conveyed the message. Now it is for you to heed or not to heed. The plain truth is that Jesus, on whom be peace, is dead, and I swear by God that I am the Promised one who was to appear.”
Arif Khan, a special contributor to The Review of Religions, is Editor of the Tomb of Jesus website (www.tombofjesus.com).
He has written several articles for The Review of Religions, including ‘The Shroud of Turin’, ‘The Changing Views of the Crucifixion’ and ‘Rozabal – the Tomb of Jesus Christ(as)?
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