Waqar Akbar Cheema
Many Christian missionaries use the Qur’anic verse 3:55 to argue that the Holy Qur’an confirms the beliefs of the Trinitarian followers of Christ and that if the original true followers of Christ were vanquished this would disprove the Qur’an. This essay explores the concomitant questions arising from this verse: who are the followers of Christ, what is meant by superiority, and how does the creation of Israel fit into this context? The essay demonstrates that the verse does not confer any merits on the detailed beliefs of all the followers of Christ(peace be upon him), nor does it imply that original followers of Christ would never be vanquished. It also shows that the creation of the State of Israel does not contradict the Qur’an rather it is covered by verse 3:112 of the Holy Qur’an.
In the Holy Qur’an, Almighty Allah says:
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ
[Mention] when Allah said, “O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.”
Christian missionaries use this to argue that, here, the Qur’an confirms the beliefs of Paul and other Trinitarians, which in turn means the Qur’an is not true. They further say that if the followers of Christ were actually vanquished then it makes the Qur’anic prophecy wrong. One missionary polemicist writes:
Either the true followers of Christ were vanquished, thus falsifying the Quran which says that they would dominate. Or, the Quran is false since it contradicts the true message of Christ’s followers.
Here, three questions are pertinent:
- Who are referred to as the followers of Jesus Christ?
- What does superiority mean?
- How does the creation of Israel fit into this context?
We shall dwell on these questions in the forthcoming sections.
2. Who are referred to as the followers of Jesus Christ?
Classical Muslim exegete al-Baidawi (d. 685/1292) writes:
جاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلى يَوْمِ الْقِيامَةِ يعاونهم بالحجة أو السيف في غالب الأمر، ومتبعوه من آمن بنبوته من المسلمين والنصارى وإلى الآن لم تسمع غلبة لليهود عليهم ولم يتفق لهم ملك ودولة
And set those who followed thee above those who disbelieved until the Day of the Resurrection; they shall prevail over them by argument or by the sword in the majority of cases. Those who followed him are the Muslims and Christians who believed in his mission, and to this day we have never heard of the Jews prevailing over them, neither have they ever obtained sovereignty or empire.
Here, he makes it clear that it refers to both Muslims and the Christians who, unlike Jews, believe in Jesus Christ.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (d. 1396/1976) further elaborates:
This promise was fulfilled in the sense that following here means the belief in and confession of the prophethood of Sayyidina ‘Isa (AS). The belief in and the practice of all injunctions ascribed to him is not a pre-condition. Thus the Christians and the Muslims both fall in this category as they believe in the prophethood and messengership of Sayyidina ‘Isa (AS). However, this is a different matter that holding this much belief is not enough to bring forth salvation in the Hereafter. Instead, the salvation in the Hereafter depends on believing in all injunctions brought by Sayyidina ‘Isa (AS). One of the instructions given by Sayyidina ‘Isa (AS) was that his follower should believe and have faith in the last of the Prophets (SAAW), who would come after Jesus departs. The Christians did not follow this instruction in matters of faith and belief, therefore, they deprived themselves of salvation in the Hereafter while Muslims acted in accordance with that too, therefore, they became deserving of salvation in the Hereafter. But, part of the promise which relates to having dominant authority over Jews was dependent on the prophethood of Sayyidina ‘Isa (AS) only. That dominance in the world has always been fate of Christians and Muslims vis-a-vis the Jews, and surely, so shall it be through the Day of Judgment.
2. What does superiority mean?
Having established that the followers of Jesus are those who believe in him as against those who reject him, their superiority in creedal authority and arguments is established a priori. Moreover, their political and material dominance is also a fact.
However, it does not mean that all of such people are superior in all their arguments and beliefs. In fact, it is merely an assertion that those who believe in Jesus shall remain superior to those who do not without stating, accrediting or approving the rest of the details of their beliefs as stated in the commentary of the Spanish Muslim scholar, Ibn ‘Atiyya (d. 542 / 1148):
لا فضيلة فيه للمتبعين الكفار منهم بل كونهم فوق اليهود عقوبة لليهود فقط
In it, there is no virtue for the disbelievers from amongst the followers of Jesus; rather their superiority over the Jews is only a punishment for the Jews.
3. How does the creation of Israel fit in this context?
The material and political dominance of those who believe in Jesus (i.e. Christians and Muslims) has remained an evident truth from the time of Jesus till date. The creation of the state of Israel some 67 years ago does not change the fact stated in the Qur’anic verse.
This is true because it is well known that Israel was created with the benediction of the Christian West and till date it remains practically a protectorate of the United States and the European powers.
Eitan Haber, the closest aide of the former Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin, in a 2013 interview with The Times of Israel, said:
For absolutely everything — in the realms of diplomacy, security, even economically — we are dependent on America.
Far from contradicting the Qur’an, this actually confirms the Qur’anic assertion about the Jews:
ضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الذِّلَّةُ أَيْنَ مَا ثُقِفُوا إِلَّا بِحَبْلٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَحَبْلٍ مِنَ النَّاسِ
Indignity is put over them wherever they are found, except when under a covenant (of protection) from Allah and from men.
Explaining the “covenant from men”, Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ writes:
Also possible is the situation that they may come under the protection of other non-Muslim powers through a peace treaty (or informal collaboration strategy), a situation that prevails in the form of the present-day state of Israel. To discerning people all over the world, it is no secret that the state of Israel is really a joint encampment of the West. Behind all the facade of power they appear to have is the power of others. If the U.S., U.K., Europe, and USSR too, were daring enough to withdraw their patronage of Israel, it would not survive for a day.
It is thus clear that the Qur’an says those who believe in Jesus will remain superior to those who rejected him, namely the Jews, and that they will suffer indignity except what Allah saves them from or when they have support from some people. Israel, despite all its propaganda and military preparations, is dependent on the predominantly Christian West’s active support and protection in exactly the same way as put in the Qur’an.
4. Summary and Conclusion
Qur’an 3:55 talks about the superiority of those who believe in Jesus Christ over those who do not; namely that of Christians and Muslims over the Jews. It included all those who believe in Jesus as such regardless of the merits of their beliefs on the details about him and about other issues. The verse does not entail that all those who believe in Jesus are monolithic nor does it judge between those who believe in Jesus as such but disagree on other details.
In fact, as clarified by Muslim scholars, the verse mentions no virtues of those who believe in Jesus, rather it just condemns those who do not.
The argumentative or religious superiority of believers of Allah’s messenger(s) is a priori; the verse talks about superiority in political terms and all that relates to it.
The Qur’an further says that the Jews will continue to suffer from indignity except when Allah gives them respite for a time or when they have support of the people. History stands witness to the fact that since the time of Jesus Christ the Jews have suffered from indignity and have been dependent on and at the mercy of other nations. The creation of the state of Israel in no way contradicts the Qur’anic assertion as Israel is practically a protectorate of the predominantly Christian West, and as such owes its existence to the support of other nations.
 Qur’an 3:55
 Shamoun, Sam, “The Quran Affirms: Paul Passed On The True Gospel of Christ”
 Al-Baidawi, Nasir al-Din, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil, Beirut: Dar al-Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1418 AH, Vol.2, 19 p.41
 Shafi’, Muhammad, Ma’arif al-Qur’an, Trans. Muhammad Shamim, Karachi: Maktaba-e-Darul Uloom, n.d., Vol.2, 82-83
 Al-Andalusi, Ibn Attiya, Al-Muharrar al-Wajiz fi Tafsir al-Kitab al-‘Aziz, Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-‘Ilmiyya, 1422 AH, Vol.1, 445
 Haber, Eitan, ‘When they become PM, they realize how utterly dependent Israel is on the US’, September 18, 2013
 Qur’an 3:112
 Shafi’, Muhammad, Ma’arif al-Qur’an, Vol.2, 161-162