Typically, this is one of those questions I don’t entertain. Not simply because I don’t believe Jesus (Isa AS) will come back, but I fail to see how anticipating his return is relevant to my spiritual life. Although I am very conscious of the social implications for the anticipation of his return. For instance, in recent history we have seen how groups of people, sometimes representing a country, have justified deliberate oppression with the “bigger” aim of “realizing” a prophecy from their religions. An obvious example is ongoing oppression by the state of Israel.
From the Muslim perspective, when typically confronted with narrations of the Prophet (Hadiths/Ahadith) concerning the end of times, these accounts have almost no relevance to Islamic Jurisprudence (Legal System), and are mostly tolerated by scholars of Jurisprudence because they ultimately tend to promote good and discourage evil. But today I am interested in this issue of the return of Jesus or Isa (AS). This issue provides us with insight into ourselves as believers in the Abrahamic religions.
Four days ago, I saw a headline that there is a man claiming to be Jesus in Australia. The first thought to my come to my mind was; “who is this mad man this time”? I swayed pass the headline… I was even surprised that I remembered to mention it to a friend during a conversation. My friend, like me, dismissed it and we shared a little joke about it. Then I told two other friends who also happen to be Muslims, and they dismissed the event too.
Majority of Muslims believe Jesus will return. I think the same applies to Christians. Being a sensitive issue, I went online to see comments by Christians. It seemed the many Christian comments were no different from the small sample of Muslims I encountered. We have a problem here.
For someone to claim he is Jesus, must have a certain expectations of the world. He expects to be fulfilling a prophesy, or at least have a certain amount of followership. But who would follow him? Muslims and Christians of course! After all most followers of the two religions believe Jesus will return. If in fact they believe so, shouldn’t they take it more seriously that someone is claiming to be Jesus? The least I would expect from them is to read the article. That way, if they have more info from their religious texts on some of Jesus’ characteristics, then they can dismiss/follow this man. For example, if they can find that their text says Jesus will not advertise his identity publicly then they have a good reason to dismiss this man. If these Muslims and Christians believe in the return of Jesus, should they not try to understand this “Mad Man”?
It appears Judaism and Christianity both expect a Messiah in the future (after Moses and Jesus). There isn’t a consensus on the roles this Messiah would be playing; a king, a priest or a prophet? Some may even expect more than one Messiah to share the three roles. Shi’a Islam is almost unanimous of the coming a of Messiah, and there is a basis given the Shi’i framework. Sunni Islam on the other hand doesn’t have a strong basis for the coming of a Messiah even though there is a large followership of the idea; because relevant texts that were interpreted as proofs, have alternative interpretations (which I find more convincing). The Jews and Shi’i Muslims are not really expecting Jesus as the Messiah, whereas the Christians and Sunni Muslims are expecting Jesus; Christians expecting the son of God and Muslims expecting a follower of Prophet Muhammad. If in fact, there would be such a Messiah, he would have to fulfill a lot of roles if seeks followership. Unless the roles are contradictory, in which case it will be even more interesting.
Nonetheless the reality is that many Muslims and Christians believe in the return of Jesus. Then why so easily dismiss the headline that Jesus has returned? Even the way media reports the story has a mocking undertone to it: “Former IT Specialist Claims To Be Jesus Reborn” and “Australian claims to be Jesus“. If the return of Jesus is a major event in one’s religion, I would expect further research, not summary dismissals. Since I do not know much about the Christian signs for the return of Jesus, I shall explore the Muslim source, based on the most authentic reports of the Prophet (Bukhari AND Muslim).
Keep in mind the Qur’an verses that support Jesus’ return, are not clear and definite enough to warrant the conviction attributed to it. The aim here is to identify signs of Jesus, according to the most authentic narrations of the Prophet. The signs are; he will be a just ruler, break the cross, kill the pig and abolish the jizya. Without having to understand the meaning of “break”, “kill” or “jizya” in the last sentence, it can be concluded that the most authentic Muslim sources provide signs that could be used to identify Jesus after he has gained some reasonable authority/power.
So I would expect a Muslim believer of Jesus’ return, who hears about a claimed “Jesus” to keep an eye on this person, perhaps he will exhibit all the signs. Muslims don’t even bother to check if this claimant is a Muslim, they simply assume he must be a Christian since he is claiming to be Jesus, not Isa (AS). But did he, or did the reporting newspapers call him “Jesus”?
Similarly, majority of responses by Christians on the internet to this startling news of Jesus’ Return has been dismissive, with little or no investigation. I would not know what criteria those Christians used to dismiss this claimant, but I gathered they are simply being weary of “false prophets” and “cult leaders”. Well, if you believe in the return of Jesus, regardless of religion, and living in a world permeated by “false prophets” and “cult leaders”, then I think you have a big problem on your hands that needs a systematic approach to solving. If, in addition, you are like most “believers” I know who dismissed the claimant without investigating further, then you have a bigger problem.
Because if, and when, the real Jesus returns, you will likely dismiss him.