The Majlis-e-Irfan or Question and Answer Sessions formed an integral part on the Khilafat of Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru). It was at these sessions that members of the community and guests from all over the world, were able to ask Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) questions on all matters spiritual as well as issues concerning contemporary matters.
The Question and Answer sessions intially started in the Urdu language but in 1984, soon after Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV’s arrival in the UK, were held and recorded. These were later broadcast on MTA in English, Arabic, French, German and Bengali, amongst others.
As in so many instances where people were fortunate to meet and talk to Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru), he displayed a stupendous breadth of knowledge on every subject.
Questions ranging from the world of science to spirituality, from philosophy to politics, from art through to agriculture, were all dealt with, with great understanding and thoroughness. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) was also well aware of the latest theoretical and technical achievements in the fields of physics and medicine. His expertise in the knowledge and understanding of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith, together with the writings of the Promised Messiah(as) was incomparable. From these sessions, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) was always keen to point towards new areas and directions of research, many of which he himself actively pursued.
The Question and Answer Sessions could be held with a group of highly-learned intellec-tuals or a group of young school-children. Whatever the case, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) displayed his brilliance in the art of communication and would address his answers in a manner befitting the sitting.
Each person who attended or viewed any of the sessions could not help being touched by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV’s kindness and graciousness. Even when explaining the death of Jesus(as) to devout Christians he would do so in such a considerate and amicable way, and with such genuine love, so as to leave no possibility of offending anyone’s sensibilities. Yet Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) was always most straightforward and uncompromising when it came to the establishment of truth. Whenever the occasion called for it, he would defend the doctrine of the Unity of God and the honour of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) in the most valiant and forceful manner. He was an embodiment of the verse of the Holy Qur’an which instructs all Muslims to invite people towards Islam in the best and most beautiful way.
Today, millions benefit from his historic Question and Answer sessions, as on a very regular basis, these sessions are broadcast in various languages on the community’s satellite television station, MTA International and are also available in text and audio format on the internet at: www.alislam.org
Below is the answer to just one of the many hundreds of question Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru) was asked during Question & Answer Sessions.
How did the idea of the bodily ascent of Jesus(as) enter Muslim ideology?
It infiltrated the Muslim world very gradually. It was about 300 years after the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) that it penetrated Muslim thinking. Why it infiltrated Muslim thinking is a very important question that needs to be carefully addressed. The Holy Prophet(saw) had prophesied by name that Jesus Christ(as) would ‘descend’ although he did not mention from where he would descend. He never stated that it would be from As-Samaa, i.e. from the heavens, but he did state that he would descend. Regarding the Holy Prophet(saw) himself, the Holy Qur’an states that he was made to ‘descend’. The only Prophet who is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an as having ‘descended’ is the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw). Hence, the Holy Prophet(saw) was fully authorised by the Qur’anic usage to refer to someone as having ‘descended’ or to refer to someone as the one who would ‘descend’. So, he stated that there would be no prophet between him and the descent of ‘Jesus Christ’. It was because the word ‘Jesus Christ’ was a personal name, indicating Jesus(as) himself, that gradually the Muslim scholars thought that if Jesus Christ(as)s mentioned by name, it had to be the one who appeared among the followers of Moses(as) – it had to be the person of Jesus Christ(as). This idea, therefore, gradually took hold of their doctrine and they also began to claim that Jesus Christ(as) must have ascended or he could not descend – this was the argument. They accepted his ascension to heaven but forgot the fact that the Holy Qur’an nowhere mentions that Jesus Christ(as) was raised bodily to heaven. The only reference that can be found in the Holy Qur’an that is similar to this is the statement of God that He made Jesus(as) rise to Him.
On the contrary, Allah exalted him to Himself. (Ch.4: v.159)
That is, God did the rafa’a of Jesus Christ(as) to Himself. We, the Ahmadis, point out that the misinterpretation of this verse does not in any way help the cause of the Muslim scholars who believe in his bodily ascent because the question then arises as to where was God when He raised Jesus(as) to Himself? Was not God present where Jesus(as) was? Does God not occupy the entire universe? Was God not above Jesus(as), below Jesus(as), to the right of him and to the left of him? It is a fact that nobody can move to God as God is not a body. Bodies can only move in the direction of bodies. This is an inviolable law. It is as good today as it ever was. You can try to experiment yourself! Anything that is a body cannot move towards a spirit. A body must move in the direction of a body. Hence, the understanding of the Muslim scholars of this verse in the form that God lifted Jesus(as) to heaven, would indicate that God was not where Jesus(as) was, that He was somewhere in the heaven in mid-universe. This would have to be so because if God had lifted Jesus(as) to Himself, God should have continued lifting him to the boundaries of heaven. However, according to the Muslim clerics, Jesus(as) was dropped midway, in the middle of heaven as if God occupies only that space in time! They do not understand because they are prejudiced. They want to prove a point in which they already have an entrenched belief.
According to the Holy Qur’an, the word Nuzool does not indicate physical descent and the word rafa’a does not indicate physical ascent. These are the only two words that are causing confusion in this argument. These are Arabic words and, therefore, should be understood according to the Arabic lexicon. Rafa’a in the direction of God is never mentioned in the Holy Qur’an as physical ascent towards God. It has never been mentioned by the Holy Prophet(saw) as carrying the connotation of physical ascent. The greatest rafa’a was the ascent of the Holy Prophet(saw) – it was not a physical ascent but a spiritual one. These are all aspects that would need to be considered further and in detail but, unfortunately, the shortage of time in today’s venue does not permit this.
I hope the questioner will, however, understand this issue from our point of view that these ideas infiltrated Muslim thought not in the first few centuries of Islam but later on and it was helped by the Christians who became Muslims. It was also wilfully introduced into Islam, we believe, by those hypocrites who claimed to be Muslims but wanted to destroy Islamic values. They put the Muslim scholars onto a path which could never reach a resolution. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we find even today.
Jesus Christ(as) never ascended bodily so he would never descend bodily. To whose advantage? To the advantage of the clerics who rule the world of Islam as despots, as demagogues. Unless Jesus(as) returns their authority cannot be snatched away from them and because such a Jesus(as) would never descend, so they will continue to enjoy their despotic rule of the world of Islam as they are doing today.
Although these are side issues to this question, I must point them out to you. Consider for yourself – the ascent of Jesus(as) has no meaning. Bodily ascent is not how God has been keeping the spiritual community prior to Jesus(as). Never before him was a person raised, ascending bodily, and then descending according to the wishes of the people of that time. How can it happen now when it never happened before?
We can quote the example of Elijah(as). The earlier scriptures stated that Elijah(as) would descend bodily one day. The scriptures are very clear about this. Elijah(as) is assumed to have ascended bodily to heaven and it is clearly prophesied that Elijah(as) would descend on the same fiery chariot upon which he ascended. All the Christians would support this prophecy and that it is clearly stated in the scriptures. However, when Jesus(as) claimed to be from God, the people around him asked him about Elijah(as). How could they believe in the so-called Christ until Elijah(as) returned? Was their demand right or wrong? It was absolutely right. Elijah(as) must descend before the advent of Christ. So they asked where he was. Jesus(as) pointed to John the Baptist(as). He said John the Baptist(as) is the Elijah – believe it or not. So, the issue has been resolved once and for all!
If Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian is right in his claim that he is the spiritual manifestation of Jesus(as), then Jesus(as) is right. If Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian is wrong, then Jesus(as) is wrong. Both are bracketed in the same situation! I do not know why the Muslim clerics cannot understand this. How can they reject Hadhrat Mirza(as) and accept Jesus Christ(as) who had issued the verdict that people for whom there is a prophecy that they would ‘descend’ again, never descend bodily? The claim of such a prophecy is fulfilled in the form of another person who is born among the people of the time. The names of the parents of such a person are different from the name of the person whom he represents. His own name is different yet such a person fulfils the prophecy. So, if it is in fact the case that a prophecy was made which claimed that Jesus(as) son of Mary would ‘descend’, it is no different from the earlier claim regarding the ‘descent’ of Elijah(as). Hence, this similarity between the two prophecies and their claims prove the point that the Ahmadiyya interpretation is correct.
Readers can avail themselves of some of the thousands of questions asked during these sessions by visiting: www.askislam.org