Ahmadis claim that the word Raf’a used in Qur’an with respect to Sayyidina Eisa (A.S.) means ‘rise in ranks’. This is what was said by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani himself and it is so translated by their leading ‘scholars’.
Following is the translation of the two verses in this regard i.e. Qur'an 3:55 and 4:158 by an Ahmadi, Sher Ali;
“When Allah said O’ Jesus I will cause thee to die (a natural death) and will exalt thee to myself …” (3:55)
“.. on the contrary Allah exalted him to Himself.” (4:158)
But this is most certainly erroneous as we shall see shortly.
In the following lines we understand the meaning of Raf’a in the light of the monumental works on lexicology and the context of the verses in question.
Meaning according to leading scholars:
1- Raghib Isfahani writes;
الرفع يقال تارة في الاجسام الموضوعة إذا أعليتها عن مقرها
“Raf’a is sometimes used for corporeal things to mean raising or elevating it from its resting place.” (Mufradat Al-Qur'an 1/200)
2- Al-Feyumi writes;
فَالرَّفْعُ فِي الْأَجْسَامِ حَقِيقَةٌ فِي الْحَرَكَةِ وَالِانْتِقَالِ وَفِي الْمَعَانِي مَحْمُولٌ عَلَى مَا يَقْتَضِيهِ الْمَقَامُ
“So Raf’a in relation to corporeal things is used properly to denote motion and removal and in relation to ideal things it is accorded in meaning to what the case requires.” (Al-Misbah Al-Munir 3/443)
3- Edward William Lane says the same; infact he quotes the above two statements in his Arabic-English Lexicon part.3 p.287
Raf’a in relation to Eisa (A.S.) refers to both his body and soul and not just soul:
1- A careful but honest look into the wording of the Qur'an shows that Raf’a is used for the body of Eisa (A.S.) as well and not just his soul;
We see that in Qur'an 3:55;
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ
“When Allah said: .O Eisa , I am to take you in full and to raise you towards Myself, and to cleanse you of those who disbelieve, and to place those who follow you above those who disbelieve up to the Day of Doom. Then to Me is your return, whereupon I shall judge between you in that over which you have differed.”
Just as مُطَهِّرُكَ (cleanse you) and اتَّبَعُوكَ (follow you) refer to the whole person, body as well as soul, رَافِعُكَ (raise you) also refers to both body and soul. There is no basis to maintain the difference between reference of pronouns of مُطَهِّرُكَ ,اتَّبَعُوكَ and رَافِعُكَ. And as body is a corporeal thing so in the light of actual meaning of the word it most certainly denotes its displacement. This also leads us to the True Islamic belief that even مُتَوَفِّيكَ (take you) refers to the whole person, body as well as soul and not merely the soul.
Meaning of ‘Cleanse you’:
2-‘Cleanse you’ refers to Eisa’ (A.S.) departure from the evil company of the Jews. The very fact the verse reads ‘cleanse you of those who disbelieve’ shows it was physical separation and not spiritual for disbelievers could have never been close to the Mighty Prophet (A.S.) in spiritual sense. This cannot be a reference to his being relieved from the false accusations of Jews and Christians because context has nothing to do with it. It refers to the evil plot of the Jews (verse 54) and Allah’s plan to save him from their dirty trick. Same is evident in light of the scholarly opinions see e.g. Tafsir Kabir of Al-Raazi and Tafsir Kashshaf of Zamakhshari. Al-Raazi has been recognized as Mujaddids by Ahmadis and Al-Zamakhshari accepted as an authority by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself.
3- Similarly in Qur'an 4:157-158;
وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ مَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا () بَلْ رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمً
“And for their saying, .We have certainly killed the Masih Eisa the son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah., while in fact they did neither kill him, nor crucify him, but they were deluded by resemblance. Those who disputed in this matter are certainly in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it, but they follow whims. It is absolutely certain that they did not kill him. But Allah lifted him towards Himself. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.”
Here again just as وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ (and they killed him not), وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ (nor crucify him) and وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا (and for a surety they killed him not) refers to the body of Eisa (A.S.); رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ (Allah lifted him) also refers to the body of Eisa (A.S.) and not just his soul. Again there is no reason to drop body from رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ (Allah lifted him).
A possible objection killed:
4- Ahmadis may refer to Qur'an 80:21
“He made him die, and put him into grave,”
And say that in أَمَاتَهُ (He made him to die) the personal pronoun refers to both body and soul while in فَأَقْبَرَهُ (put him into grave) it refers to either of them; hence it is not necessary that personal pronouns in a single sentence always refer to one and the same being.
Without going into long discussion if أَمَاتَهُ (He made him to die) refers to merely body or both body and soul, we can prove this assertion to be wrong in light of the simple fact that that with أَمَاتَهُ (He made him to die) there comes a separation between body and soul so naturally the personal pronoun in the word to follow can refer to either of them and not both. This is because of the separation between the two. While in Qur'an 4:157-158 such a separation between body and soul is out of question for Allah in most explicit terms declares;
وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا (And for a surety the killed him not). Thus there is no separation between the body and soul and hence it baseless to drop body from the personal pronoun in رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ (Allah lifted him).
The context of the verse refutes the Ahmadi belief:
5- In Qur'an 4:157-158 first the Jewish belief of their having killed Eisa (A.S.) is repudiated by saying وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ (and they killed him not) and then the Christian belief is denounced by saying وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ (nor crucify him) and then the belief of his ascension has been testified by saying بَلْ رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ (But Allah lifted him towards Himself). Had the belief of his physical ascension been baseless Allah would have denounced it as well.
Scholars on Raf’a of Eisa (A.S.):
6- All the classical scholars have taken Raf’a about Eisa (A.S.) in the meaning of physical ascent. See Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Al-Kabir of Al-Raazi, Aalusi, Shaukani’s Fath Al-Qadir, Jalalain, Durr Manthur, Baidhawi, Khazin etc.
Al-Raazi, Shaukani and Jalaluddin Suyuti have all been recognized as Mujaddids by Ahmadis.
Even Al-Zamakhshari takes the word Raf’a to mean physical ascension of Eisa (A.S.). See his Tafsir Kashshaf 1/280 under 3:55)
And Al-Zamakhshari is the one whom Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani himself praised and said;
“Matchless scholar of the Arabic language who cannot be disputed with.” (Baraheen Ahmadiyyah Part V p.381included in RK- vol.21)
So had there been any possibility of taking Raf’a to mean other than physical ascension this ‘Matchless Scholar’ would have done for sure. Will some Ahmadi now dispute with an authority reckoned as undisputable by their own pseudo-prophet?
Was raf’a in response to the idea of ‘cursed crucifixion’?
7- Ahmadis also try to suggest that as Jews in light of Book of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 held that the one crucified is the one accursed so to refute their belief Allah exalted Eisa (A.S.) in rank.
This again is a twisted argument;
a- Firstly seeking evidence with Biblical reference is allowed only when it goes in line with Qur'an and Sunnah but there is no support for such an idea in the entire Islamic rubric.
b- Even according to Deut. 21:22-23 only one crucified for a sin punishable by death is accursed and surely this was never the case with Eisa (A.S.).
c- In Qur'an 4:157-158 Allah strongly rejects the notion of his death and then says that ‘But he was raised’ this bringing in contrast to his idea of being killed. Is ‘rise in ranks’ opposite to being killed? Were the prophets killed unjustly cursed or something? Is giving ones life in the way of Allah as good as being cursed?
d- Just two verses prior to it Qur'an mentions the killing of the Prophets by the Jews;
“And for their slaying of the prophets unjustly ...” (Qur'an 4:155)
If raf’a refers to ‘being exalted’ and ‘rise in ranks’ then why was the same not mentioned about other Prophets killed unjustly? Why the personal pronoun attached with raf’a is singular? Were they not even martyrs holding the high office of prophethood?
e- The sole reason raf’a was not mentioned along with earlier Prophets is that it refers to physical ascension which happened in the case of Eisa (A.S.) only!
Where is the mention of sky?
8- Ahmadis say these verses are about Eisa’ (A.S.) being exalted to Allah and ask as to where is the mention of the sky in these verses?
The fact is that as per the Qur’anic usage the verses mean ‘being raised to sky’. The following references help in this regard;
“Have you become fearless of Him who is in the sky if He makes you sink into the Earth.” (Qur'an 67:16)
“Or, have you become fearless of Him who is in the sky if He looses a violent wind with stones against you?” (Qur'an 67:17)
And whenever the Holy Prophet (SAAW) waited for the revelation from Allah he looked up towards the sky;
“We have been seeing you turning your face to the heavens.” (Qur'an 2:144)
9- Having proved that being raised to Allah means ascension to the Heavens, will some Ahmadi explain if Raf’a means a rise in rank what is the purpose of Allah saying ‘raise you towards Myself’ and the words ‘Allah lifted him towards Himself’?
All the above details, testimonies of celebrated scholars and study into Qur'an, plainly establish the fact that the word Raf’a with reference to Eisa (A.S.) means physical ascension.
May Allah guide us all to the Truth!
Next we shall look into the other instances in Qur'an where the word Raf’a is used.
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!