By Harris Zafar
Published May 12, 2011 | HuffingtonPost.com
Various voices and opinions have emerged from the Muslim world since the death of Osama bin Laden. Some Muslims express relief that his reign of terror has come to an end, whereas others express condemnation for the manner of his death. Some Muslims feel this will help the Muslim world, whereas others argue it will cause more problems. People like Irshad Manji go as far as to say that we must reform Islam itself. With such disunity among Muslims, it is evident that Muslims need a spiritual leader who can unite them all under a single banner of peace and instill in them the correct interpretation of Islam.
But attempts at appointing this reformer will inevitably fail. No average person we choose can perform this duty. Ms. Manji is absolutely right that Muslims need reformation for spiritual advancement. But she forgets that mankind cannot spearhead this cause. True reformation must be divinely guided. After all, the Prophet of Islam warned about this time of disunity and chaos in the Muslim world, but he also explained its solution.
The Prophet once said, “There will come a time upon the people when nothing will remain of Islam except its name and nothing will remain of the Quran except its words. Their mosques will be splendidly furnished but destitute of guidance. Their divines will be the worst people under the Heaven; strife will issue from them and avert to them.” The Prophet of Islam, however, gave glad tidings that in this critical state, God would send the Messiah who will bring about a renaissance of Islam to reform Muslims and mankind, consistent with the pristine teachings of the Holy Quran.
But Jesus is the Messiah whose return Muslims are waiting for, right?
In a review of the history of religions, one finds scores of instances where founders of religions or other divines are reported to have bodily ascended to Heaven. These claims are so numerous and widespread that it seems to be a universal trend of man to conceive such stories in order to elevate their religious leaders. Even if we accept all such claims of religious leaders having ascended to Heaven, throughout human history there is not a single example of bodily return of any person to this world. Absent of literal fulfillment of such claims, one is left with two choices: either reject such claims as untrue or only metaphorically accept them, as Jesus did in the case of Elijah’s second coming.
Regarding the second coming of Christ, many Muslims believe he would come with such glory and clear signs — descending from Heaven in broad daylight with angels supporting him — that it would be impossible for even skeptics to refuse to accept him. But history tells us that all such divines and beings come with humility as opposed to grandeur. They are always treated with callousness, prejudice and fanatic hostility, not welcomed with open arms.
Generation after generation will pass and the wait will continue, but no Jesus will bodily descend from Heaven. They may build a wailing wall as did the others 3,000 years before, but they will not see the Messiah descend.
These are the times of the latter days. The recognition of the Messiah of the age is central to achieving peace in the world today. The Messiah is to have humble beginnings and not the glory and fanfare we associate with his coming. As John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of the second coming of Elijah, a person with his characteristics will also spiritually fulfill the second coming of Christ. Their missions are similar: revival of religion and reformation of its people.
Only such a divinely appointed Messiah can provide Muslims the reformation they need by reviving the true spirit of Islam and bringing Muslims out from the darkness and away from misguided, violent interpretations of the Quran. Only this reformer can impart Muslims the correct interpretation of Islamic scripture and teachings.
If we cannot understand the second coming of the Messiah, how will we recognize when it occurs? All Muslims must comprehend how this Messiah will appear. The acceptance of this Messiah is key for the unity of the Muslim world and vital for reforming those among us who have misinterpreted the Quran.