Ghamidi, Muwatta, and the Return of ‘Eisa


Waqar Akbar Cheema

1. Introduction

In recent times Mr. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi has come up as the champion of ‘fresh’ and unorthodox interpretation of Islam reaching out to Pakistani audience. It’s not the time to dwell and comment on the background and reasoning for the peculiar deliberate and characteristic non-conformist approach. However, we must see what ‘proofs’ such people bring up to make their case on different issues.

There is a video clip of Mr. Ghamidi in which answering a question he comes up with different arguments to assert that ‘Eisa –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- died a natural death and there is nothing authentic to prove his return near the End of the Times.

His arguments are:

1- The word Qur’an uses regarding ‘Eisa –peace be upon him- is “tawaffa” which simply refers to death.

2- Had ‘Eisa –peace be upon him- been physically raised up to the heavens alive and if he were to return Allah would have mentioned it ‘clearly’ in so and so verses of the Qur’an.

3- There is no hadith narration about the return of ‘Eisa –peace be upon him- in Imam Malik’s (d. 179 AH) Muwatta, “the first book of hadith”, even though Imam Malik mentioned a narration about ‘Eisa –peace be upon him- otherwise. It is only in the books of Hadith compiled after Muwatta that reports about the return of ‘Eisa –peace be upon him- “started appearing.”

While the first two arguments are standard Qadiani/Ahmadi arguments often refuted by the scholars of sunnah, in this paper we are interested in the third argument and will see how much water it holds.

2. Is Malik’s Muwatta the earliest Hadith compilation (now extant)?

Every student of Hadith knows Muwatta was not the first book of Hadith. There were numerous collections produced by the Companions and the Followers (tabi’un) well before Muwatta. In fact it is not even the earliest one compiled of those extant today. Ma’mar bin Rashid’s (d. 153 AH) book Al-Jami’ was compiled earlier than Muwatta and is now published.

Hadith scholar Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 386 AH) wrote:

 إن أوّل كتاب صنّف في الإسلام كتاب ابن جريج في الآثار وحروف من التفاسير عن مجاهد وعطاء وأصحاب ابن عباس بمكة ثم كتاب معمر بن راشد الصنعاني باليمن جمع فيه سنناً منثورة مبوّبة، ثم كتاب الموطأ بالمدينة لمالك بن أنس رضي الله عنه في الفقه

” … the first systematic Islamic work was the book of (‘Abd al-Malik) Ibn Jurayj (d. 150/767) concerning the traditions, and the exegetical texts of Mujahid and  ‘Ata’ (ibn Abi Rabah) and the companions of Ibn ‘Abbas in Mecca. Then there was the book of Ma’mar ibn Rashid as-San’ani (d. 152/769) in Yemen, in which he gathered widely dispersed sunnas according to thematic chapters. Then came Malik ibn Anas’ Book of the Level Path (Kitab al-Muwatta’) in Medina, concerning religious law …”[ref] Muhammad bin ‘Ali Abu Talib al-Makki, Qut al-Qulub fi Ma’amlah al-Mahbub, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 2005, vol.1 p.273, translated in
John Renard, Knowledge of God in Classical Sufism: Foundations of Islamic Mystical Theology, Paulist Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2004 pp.205-206 [/ref]

This is a clear testimony that the book of Ma’mar was compiled earlier than Muwatta of Imam Malik.

In his PhD dissertation completed in 1966, Shaykh Mustafa al-A’zami mentioned manuscripts of Al-Jami in the collections of Faid Allah Affendi and Isma’il Sa’ib.[ref]Studies in Early Hadith Literature, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2001 p.148 n.6 citing Hamidullah, Sahifa Hammam, footnote 43[/ref]

It was later published with the research of Shaykh Habibur Rahman Al-A’zami as an appendix to al-Musannaf of ‘Abdul Razzaq through whom it has reached us.[ref]See, Musannaf ‘Abdul Razzaq, (2nd ed.) Al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut, 1983 vol.10 p.379 onwards[/ref]

3. Hadiths about return of ‘Eisa in al-Jami’ of Ma’mar bin Rashid

In this work of Imam Ma’mar we find reports about the return of ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- in a dedicated chapter. The chapter about the descent of ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- has seven narrations.[ref]Al-Jami of Ma’mar included in Musannaf ‘Abdul Razzaq, vol.11 pp.399-402 Hadith 20840-20846[/ref]

Here for the sake of brevity we quote only the first narration of the chapter.

عن الزهري، عن سعيد بن المسيب، أنه سمع أبا هريرة يقول: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «والذي نفسي بيده ليوشكن أن ينزل فيكم ابن مريم حكما عدلا، وإماما مقسطا، يكسر الصليب، ويقتل الخنزير، ويضع الجزية، ويفيض المال حتى لا يقبله أحد»

(Ma’mar narrates) from Al-Zuhri – Sa’id bin Al-Musayyib that he heard Abu Huraira saying: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, (‘Eisa) the Son of Maryam will soon descend amongst you as a just ruler and leader and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish Jizya. There will be abundance of money and no-one will accept charity.”[ref]Ibid. Hadith 20840[/ref]

The fact that the same report narrated from Al-Zuhri by Al-Layth is recorded in Sahih Bukhari[ref]Sahih Bukhari, Book 34, hadith 425. (Hadith No. 2222 according to Fath al-Bari numbering system)[/ref] with the same wording kills the de facto attack by Mr. Ghamidi on the authenticity of the most canonical hadith collections. What he insinuates to have “started appearing” in “later works like Bukhari and Muslim” is found recorded verbatim in a collection compiled earlier than Muwatta which he calls the “first hadith book.”

4. One would not even expect Muwatta to have narrations about the descent of ‘Eisa

The truth is no serious student, let alone a true scholar of any degree, would even expect Muwatta to have narrations about the descent of ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him. The reason lies in the fact that Muwatta was compiled fundamentally as a compendium of reports of legal import. In the above quoted comment Abu Talib al-Makki said:

كتاب الموطأ بالمدينة لمالك بن أنس رضي الله عنه في الفقه

“Then came Malik ibn Anas’ Book of the Level Path (Kitab al-Muwatta’) in Medina, concerning religious law …”

Likewise Al-A’zami writes:

“In the second century … books covering almost all the legal problems began to appear. The book of Imam Malik called Al-Mu’tta belongs here. It was arranged according to chapters on law covering the whole range of human life, from worship, zakat, hajj, marriage, divorce, to agriculture and trade etc.”[ref]Studied in Hadith Methodology and Literature, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2002 p.84[/ref]

For this reason it is at times referred to as fiqh-Hadith literature.”[ref]M. Mustafa al-A’zami, On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2004 pp.31-32[/ref]

Moreover, we see there is no section about the Stories of the Prophet (al-ahadith al-anbiya) or even about the signs of the Doomsday. Therefore, it makes no sense to expect Muwatta to have narrations on the subject. Or should one say that whatever hadith narrations are not mentioned in Muwatta are all dubious?

5. The Prophet’s dream about physical description of ‘Eisa reported in Muwatta

The narration of Muwatta with the mention of Dajjal (Anti-Christ) and ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- that Mr. Ghamidi refers to is placed in “Book of the Description of the Prophet- peace and blessings of Allah be upon him” (kitab siffat al-nabi sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam). The first chapter of this Book is about the physical description of the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- and it has only one narration. Next chapter heading is “What is narrated about the description of ‘Eisa ibn Maryam” (ma jaa’ fi siffat ‘Eisa ibn Maryam) and it also has just one report.

Firstly, the chapter is just about the physical description of ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- placed in the section of the compilation which is also about “description” (siffat) of the Prophet. There was no reason for Imam Malik to quote all the narrations he knew in this chapter. The fact that preceding chapter about the Holy Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- also has only one narration supports this. Clearly, Imam Malik was quoting only what was relevant to the chapter. Also it appears he was trying to keep it brief otherwise certainly he as “the Imam of the City of the Prophet” could have quoted a lot about the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- at least.

It is true that Imam Malik has quoted narrations about few exceptional things other than jurisprudence but that does not mean he quoted reports about everything important.

Since Mr. Ghamidi is much interested in dwelling on “why” something is mentioned at certain instances in the Qur’an and hadith and why other things are not, it will be great to know what he thinks is the reason Imam Malik mentioned a report about the physical description of ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- to the exclusion of other Prophets (for we know narrations about the description of Musa –may Allah bless him- are well known) and that too in the section of his work dedicated to the Holy Prophet? May be it is because ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- is the only Prophet whom the Muslims are supposed to see according to the “conventional” belief.

Even if there were no earlier work having narrations about the return of ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him- the detail above is quite sufficient to dismantle Mr. Ghamidi’s weird and misleading argument.

6. Another categorical narration in some versions of Muwatta

In certain versions of Muwatta there is another categorical narration about ‘Eisa – may Allah bless him- relating to his pilgrimage to Makkah upon his return. Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr (d. 463/1071) writes in his work on narrations of Muwatta across its various versions.

 حديث مالك عن ابن شهاب عن حنظلة بن علي الأسلمي عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم والذي نفس محمد بيده، ليهلن ابن مريم بفج الروحاء، حاجا أو معتمرا، أو ليثنينهما. هو عند ابن وهب وسعيد بن داود وجويرية وعبدالرحمن بن القاسم ومعن بن عيسى ومحمد بن صدقة والوليد بن مسلم كلهم عن مالك وليس عند غيرهم

Malik’s report from Ibn Shihab from Hanzala bin ‘Ali Al-Aslami from Abu Huraira who reported the Messenger of Allah as saying: “By Him in Whose Hand is my life. Ibn Maryam (Jesus Christ) would certainly pronounce talbiya for Hajj or for ‘Umra or for both (simultaneously as qiran) In the valley of Rauha.” This is reported by Ibn Wahab, Sa’id bin Dawud, Juwairiya, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Al-Qasim, Ma’n bin ‘Eisa, Muhammad bin Sadaqa, and Al-Walid bin Muslim. All of them report it from Malik, and it is not reported by others. [ref]Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr, Tajid Al-Tamhid / Al-Taqassi li-hadith Al-Muwatta, Darl-Kotob Al-Ilmiya, Beirut, p. 265[/ref]

7. Summary and Conclusion

The argument of Mr. Ghamidi is absolutely baseless. It springs either from lack of understanding or an attempt to mislead common people. I hope and wish former is the case.

Also his information is wrong. The fact is al-Jami of Ma’mar bin Rashid was compiled earlier than Muwatta of Imam Malik and it has a whole chapter about the descent of Sayyidina ‘Eisa –may Allah bless him. Further, one of the narrations of al-Jami’ with exactly the same wording is found in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim etc. and thus kills Mr. Ghamidi’s minced attack on these canonical works when he says “narrations started appearing” in these works as if forged narrations have found way into these books.

Truth is that belief return of ‘Eisa –may the peace of blessings of Allah be upon him-  is based on mutawatir (continuously reported) narrations. It is only the hadith rejecters that deny his return.

We all must consider the advice of Imam Ibn Sirin (d. 110 AH):

إن هذا العلم دين، فانظروا عمن تأخذون دينكم

“This knowledge [of religion] constitutes faith, so be wary of whom you acquire your knowledge from.”[ref]Muslim, Sahih, Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut, 2005 vol.1 p.14[/ref]

About the author

Waqar Akbar Cheema


  • 1. To begin with, the author of this article erroneously assumes that Ghamidi sb denies that Esa(as) was physically raised up to heavens. In reality, Ghamidi sb does not deny that

    2. Seems like the author is mixing up these three things: The issue of Esa(as)’s natural death. Being physically raised up to heavens. And Return of Esa(as) before qayamat. These are three separate scenarios. And one does not necessarily lead to the other.

    3. The author attributed three arguments to Ghamidi sb but he missed his most important argument. Ghamidi sb’s main argument is that no where in the Holy Quran Allah (swt) clearly mentions the return of Esa(as). This I believe is Ghamidi sb’s main argument and whatever he says about Muwatta being the first collection of hadith etc are just supporting arguments.

    4. I dont know whether Muwatta was the first compilation or Al Jami of Ma’mar. So I can’t comment on that. But even if Al Jami of Ma’mar is the first complilation, that doesn’t refute Ghamidi sahab’s assertion that Quran is devoid of any clear statement regarding Esa(as)’s return. In fact Ghamidi sahab presents a verse from the Quran which gives a rather opposite view. See 5:116-117

    5. Then the author presents a hadith from Al Jami of Ma’mar. Point to note is that this hadith is narrated from Al Zuhri, whose personality is rather suspicious. Maulana Tamanna Imadi has done extensive research about Al Zuhri and why his reports should not be trusted. Read “Imam Zuhri aur Imam Tabari: Tasweer Ka Dusra Rukh” by Tamanna Imadi.

    • 1- Ghamidi sb, it appears from that video clip, believes ‘Eisa (as) was raised up to the heavens after his death i.e. his dead body was physically raised up to the heavens. He does deny that he was raised up to the heavens ALIVE.

      2- I never confused the three. Remember mere verbosity does not mean you are making a valid point. I know all these tricks.

      3. I clearly mentioned that refuting Qadianis/Ahmadis scholars have refuted the other arguments. Ghamidi sb is lucky that majority of his target audience does not understand Arabic. Otherwise reflecting on e.g. Qur’an 6:61 makes it very clear that in the original sense “tawaffa” is not same as “mawt.” And Qur’an 6:60 etc. make it clear that ‘tawaffa’ for humans is used to mean other than death as well. And yes no one including Ghamidi has the right to judge Allah as to what He should have said where and in what words. If you put to doubt one of the two primary sources it is natural to fall into these pits of pseudo-rationalism.

      4- Nice way to turn away from the actual point being discussed. Do you at least agree that he erred? Or is he innocent?

      5- Again no red-herrings please. Try to focus on the point at hand.

      6- Of central importance is point 4 in the article if you don’t mind me bringing your attention back to it.

      7- The fact that I responded to this argument should not lead you or anyone to assume that any further discussion on this subject should only be about Muwatta or any work compiled before it. Ghamidi makes absolutely no sense in rejecting rigorously authentic ahadith in Bukhari, Muslim and other known works of Hadith. And getting back to pt.5, can anyone claim it is only through al-Zuhri that reports about return of ‘Eisa (AS) have reached us. (This is not to say that whatever objections hadith rejecters of different hues have levied against Imam al-Zuhri in recent times are valid in any right)

      • Thanks for the reply. Using verbosity and tricks isn’t my style.. but since you felt I employed these tricks, I’ll try to be even more straight forward.

        1. Thats true, Ghamidi sb believes that Jesus(pbuh) died a natural death and his body was raised up to heavens. In your article, you alleged that Ghamidi sb denies that Jesus was PHYSICALLY raised up. But that’s not the case with Ghamidi sb, as you might have realized by now. So you did confuse between being raised up alive and raised up physically (but not alive), didn’t you?

        2. I woud like to point out that I am not interested in debating whether Jesus died or not. And I am not interested in whether he was raised up (alive or not alive). My point of interest is in his alleged 2nd coming only.

        3. I don’t know how refuting Qadiyanis leads to refutation of other arguments. That’s because so far as I know, Qadiyanis don’t deny the 2nd coming of Jesus. What they say is that Jesus descended the 2nd time in the form of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, as in, Jesus manifested himself in the form of Mirza sahib. So they don’t deny 2nd coming. They mis-interpret the ahadith regarding 2nd coming and relate it to Mirza. So if Qadiyanis don’t deny the 2nd coming of Jesus, how does refuting them amount to refutation of other arguments.

        4. I agree Ghamidi sb must have innocently erred and said that Muwatta is the first book of hadith. I have heard many Muslims scholars say the same. All of them might have erred. Or may be not. But if you are saying that Ghamidi sb KNOWINGLY erred… that’s something I can’t accept.

        5. Not trying to turn away from the actual point being discussed. Your actual point of discussion was that Muwatta is not the first compilation of hadith, and I already addressed it and expressed my lack of knowledge in this regards. Having said that clearly, I turned your attention towards the fact that Ghamidi sb’s approach is quite different than the one you are presenting.

        6. “can anyone claim it is only through al-Zuhri that reports about return of ‘Eisa (AS) have reached us”

        Can anyone claim to the contrary? I mean, have you checked up ALL the reports about return of Esa(as) and concluded that not all, but only some, have been reported by Al Zuhri?

        I haven’t check up all the ahadith either. But whatever hadith and reports I read about the 2nd coming of Esa(as), they have been transmitted by Al Zuhri. I failed to see any single “Sahih” hadith about 2nd coming of Esa(as) whose chain of trasmission doesn’t include Al Zuhri. That is not to say that I read all the reports.

        7. Coming back to the Holy Quran, which is the ultimate furqan and criteria, and in the light of which, we should interpret ahadith…. not the other way round. I personally couldn’t come across any verse in the Holy Quran which directly or indirectly says anything about the 2nd coming of Jesus(pbuh). If this is true that Quran has no room for such an interpretation, then the question arises that can ahadith independently be the basis of an aqeeda, or must it have its source in the Quran?

        If you are interested, we can further discuss point no.7

        If you only want to discuss whether Muwatta was the first compilation or not, then I’d have to excuse myself because of my lack of knowledge in this regard.

        • 1- I did clearly say that Ghamidi denies his physical ascension being alive. So confusion is not with me but rather you trying to make excuses for the guy.

          2- Qadianis explicitly deny the return of ‘Eisa ibn Maryam (AS). They twist ahadith and your dear one out-rightly rejects them. But they are at par in denying the return of ‘Eisa the son of Mary the one who came to guide the Israelites some 2000 years ago. I am averse to useless sophistication.

          3- Well Muwatta being the first book or not is secondary issue. Primary issue is how he built his argument about Muwatta. This is cunning to say the least. And I can see you not showing any interest in that either. And now when you read this comment do not jump from pt.2 straight to pt.4 please.

          4- To assert that there are narrations through isnad not involving al-Zuhri does not require going through “ALL” the hadith reports on the subject. Care to see in Sahih Muslim alone and you will get the answer. Sahih Muslim is a hadith book if you may not know.

          5- There are clear indications in the Qur’an. Subjective reasoning by mere ordinary mortals won’t lead us anywhere but authentic sayings of the Prophet -may Allah bless him- in commentary to verse(s) can. (e.g. see hadith reports traced back to the Holy Prophet (saaw) in commentary to Qur’an 43:61 in Mustadrak al-Hakim and Sahih Ibn Hibban).Further, hadith reports about his descent reach the degree of tawatur which is undoubtedly a categorical evidence useful for any purpose. IF you deny that it means you deny that hadith is also a primary source and in that case all discussion -if it takes places then- will be about the authority of hadith. Btw, to me anyone who rejects hadith’s status as the PRIMARY source or rejects what is proven from mutawatir hadiths is not a believer anymore.

          6- Real point is how much sense it makes to build an argument around Muwatta the way Ghamidi did.

          [Your next comment gets published only if you address the key points 3 and 6]

          • I am sorry to say. I didn’t like your way of expression. You can be nice and not be personal and stick to your arguments only, if the other person accepts it, its OK if not you just do your job.

    • I hope quran is not even mentioned death of isa pbuh clearly. How can you take meaning of thw arabic word “mutawafika” as “Death”.

      As its literally mean is ” take back fully” & not “death”

  • Alhamdollilah, may Allah make your efforts Qubool to defend the True ideology in this era of Fitnaas.

  • Very nice article. If you notice the video, he refers to Bukhari and Muslim as though they are some over-hyped hadith books. People get impressed by his soft and well mannered speech but as his audience are all laymen so they don’t realize the amount of information he eats up in between in the form of weak translations of Quranic verses and pick and choose of ahadith as suitable to his own point of view. Just to add, he also rejects the concept of Imam Mahdi on some what the same lines that its no where mentioned in the Quran. I remember watching on YouTube that as per his research even if this concept is true then this prophecy is already fulfilled in the form of Khalifa Haroon Rashid. Some work needs to be done on that too. I fail to understand how people believe his word in a ten minute video and are ready to disregard centuries of authentic scholarship where no major mufassir, muhadith or faqih has rejected this concept with similar or better arguments.

  • Mashallah nice article, Abu Yusuf got owned I am sorry to say, he was just going around the questions and not answering them directly, as all Qadianis and other deviant people do.

  • The issue is not whether or not a narration is reported in Muwatta, the issue is the NATURE of the event not being reported in Muwatta.

    Additionally, the description of a Prophet is not a legally specific issue, so the claim that Muwatta only quotes issues related to legal judgments is wrong.

    • The issue actually is that Muwatta is primarily a collection of reports and opinions on legal matters. Finding few odd things other than legal in nature is not an issue, expecting Muwatta to have everything is.

  • To add further to this point:

    Saying Muwatta is the first Hadith book is a generally accepted statement, simply because it is used in the context of the Al-Saheeh Sitta and precedes all of them. Because this term is used in common speech, it doesn’t necessitate that scholars accept only six authentic books of Hadith exist or that they only accept six only exist. In fact, Muwatta isn’t even included in the list generally, does that make it not considered by scholars among the authentic ones? Neither Ghamidi nor anybody from their school argue that Hadith didn’t exist in early Islam or they reject them. That is a straw man and the above argument about the Jami is what hair-splitting is. It’s utterly pointless other than proving that some early Muslins believed Jesus would return. Your argument is akin to saying Ghamidi believes that the idea of return of Jesus originated after Malik, which is in toto absurd and has no basis.

    Additionally, back to the original point. Even the two Saheeh are primarily legal in import. One simply just has to open Muwatta and look at the chapters, which aren’t just legal in import, but include things like Good Character, Jahannam, Names of the Prophet, Speech, the Evil Eye.

    The issue is, the point of Muwatta is simply an additional evidence to the point that there was no established consensus in the belief among early Muslims. And this type of reasoning was used by Hadith scholars throughout history. Many for example weakened narrations on the fact that neither Bukhari nor Muslim included it, despite the nature of the event being such that they should have.

    • 1. Muwatta as first hadith book and context of the “Al-Saheeh Sitta”: This is even bad.

      2. “Even the two Saheeh are primarily legal in import”. Check the definition of the “Jami'” genre of hadith works. Muwatta on the other hand is for reports and opinions of legal import. To find few odd things otherwise is not an issue, to expect to have everything important is indeed an issue. The fact anyway remains that in a work predating Muwatta we have authentic reports on the subject and assertion to this fact is found even in Imam Abu Hanifa’s Fiqh al-Akbar. And there is numerous reports of companions on the subject. And there is no proof whatsoever that at any time Muslims did not have the belief about return of ‘Eisa (AS).

      3. I never said Muwatta argument is his “main” argument. Ghamidi’s main arguments are all on the Qadiani lines and have been well refuted. This one required to be treated and Ghamidi’s gimmicks exposed.

  • Seems like the moderator of this site does his own idraj and wants only cheerleaders to feed his ego, comically relying on hair-splitting to do it.

    The act of fairness being displayed is even more amusing.

    • Ghamidi’s fruits (i.e. fans) mock his rant for speaking with evidence and gauging things accordingly. Instead of talking about evidence on the particular point at hand or accepting that the guy failed to get things right, all your ilk is doing what he accuses others of. Either you all disappoint him or you are all sham.

      • Tawaffa means death if there is no context, it is compulsory to use context according to the Arabic linguistics whenever it used otherwise simple logic, please let us know where else it is used apart from death without any context
        Jazak Allah

        • The context itself confirms that here tawaffa does not mean death. Check for Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi’s (the man Mr Ghamidi claims to be a student/intellectual heir of) tafsir for this.