Appendix C: The Title: ‘Al-Masīh’

The Title: ‘Al-Masīh’

The Meaning of ‘Al-Masīh’

Al-Masīh[1]means ‘the Anointed One.’ Anointing was the action of pouring and rubbing olive oil onto a person or thing, often a person’s head. Among the ancient Isrā’īlites it symbolised that the person or thing being anointed was being set apart for special and holy service for Allah SWT, and also being given power from Allah to perform that service. At the beginning of their public service, imāms[2]were anointed. For example, in Taurāt, Leviticus 8:12 we read,

Mūsā poured some of the anointing oil on Hārūn’s head and anointed him to set him apart for holy service.

Kings were also anointed. For example,

Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed Dāwūd in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lordcame forcefully upon Dāwūd from that day on.(1stBook of Prophet Samuel 16:13)

And on at least one occasion, a prophet was anointed in 1stBook of Kings 19:16, where Allah SWT tells Prophet Ilyās (pbuh), ‘anoint Al-Yasa’ son of Shaphat... to succeed you as prophet.’

The Growing Expectation about al-Masīh

Allah SWT promised Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh)that his house or family line would reign forever[3]. In Allah’s promise to Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh), we find the beginnings of an expectation of an ultimate king who would come from King Dāwūd’s descendants; namely, al-Masīh, the Anointed One. This expectation developed through the messages of later prophets. The following passages from the earlier Scriptures are just four examples among many in a growing expectation of this Anointed King who would come.

The first two prophecies come from the Prophets, Isaiah and Micah [pbut], who lived and served in the 8thCentury BC.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given...
He will reign on Dāwūd’s throne
    and over his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and for ever.
(Book of the ProphetIsaiah 9:6, 7)

‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    
you who are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    
one who will be ruler among the Ban-i Isrā’īl.
His origins are from of old,
    
from ancient days.’

 Therefore, he will give up the Ban-i Isrā’īl
    
until the time when she who is in labour gives birth to a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
    
to the Ban-i Isrā’īl.

 He will stand and shepherd his people
    
in the strength of the LORD,
    
in the honour of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live in safety, for then his greatness
    
will be known to the ends of the earth,

and he will bring peace. (Book of the ProphetMicah 5:2-5)

Some time later, Prophet Jeremiah [pbuh], who lived and served in the 6thand 7thCenturies BC, prophesied:

 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD,
  ‘when I will raise up for Dāwūd a righteous Branch,
a king who will rule and act wisely
    and do what is just and right in the land.’
(Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 23:5)

And a little later, Allah SWT said through the Prophet Ezekiel (pbuh),

 ‘I will raise up one shepherd over them, my servant Dāwūd, and he will care for them. He will care for them and be their shepherd. 24 I the LORD will be their God, and my servant Dāwūd will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.’(Book of the ProphetEzekiel 34:23-24).

Prophet Ezekiel [pbuh]lived and served in the 6thCentury BC, around 500 years after Prophet Dāwūd [pbuh], so this is prophesying a future Dāwūd-like king.

Although there were some passages that focussed on al-Masīh’s work as an imām (or priest) and as a prophet, al-Masīh as king was most emphasised. Al-Masīh was the king who would deliver his people and bring in the reign or kingdom of Allah (see Appendix D, ‘The Kingdom of Allah’).

Al-Masīh in the Injīl

The Injīl claims that Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)is al-Masīh. He is the one who fulfils all the prophecies and expectation of the coming Prophet, Imām (or priest) and King.

At the time of ‘Īsā ibn Maryam’s birth, an angel announced to shepherds,

‘today a saviour has been born for you in the town of Dāwūd. He is al-Masīh, the Lord.’(Injīl, Luke 2:11)

When Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)began his work as a prophet, he claimed to fulfil what the prophets had foretold about the Anointed One or al-Masīh. On one occasion, in the synagogue in Nazareth, he read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah[4]:

            He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,

18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

            because he has anointedme

            to tell the good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom to prisoners,

            and recovery of sight to the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

                   19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 Then, rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him. 21He began by saying to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled as you are hearing it.’(Injīl, Luke 4:17-21)

On a later occasion, Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)asked his disciples,

            ‘Who do you say I am?’

            Peter replied, ‘You are Allah’s Masīh’(Injīl, Luke 9:20)

When Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)was on trial, the Jewish leaders’ accusation against him before the Roman Governor, Pilate was,

            We found this man... claiming to be al-Masīh, the king.’(Injīl, Luke 23:2)

Speaking to two disciples after his resurrection, Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)identified himself as al-Masīh, and made the astonishing claim that as al-Masīh, he was the one that all the previous Scriptures were preparing the way for.

Did not al-Masīh have to suffer these things and then come into his glory?’ 27 And starting with (the Taurāt revealed through) Mūsā, and with all the Prophets, he explained to them what was written in all the Scriptures about himself.(Injīl, Luke 24:26-27)

Al-Masīh in the Qur’an

The Qur’an attributes the title ‘al-Masīh’ to Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)eleven times[5]. ‘Īsā ibn Maryam (pbuh)is the only person in the Qur’an to be called al-Masīh.

 

[1]Usually translated into English as ‘Messiah’ (derived from the Hebrew, ‘Masiah’) or ‘Christ’ (derived from the Greek, ‘Christos’, which means ‘Anointed One’).

[2]The word translated ‘imām’ here is often translated, ‘priest’ – this type of imām was descended from Prophet Hārūn (pbuh)and served in al-Bayt ul-Muqaddas. Their role is summarised in 1stBook of Chronicles 23:13:

Hārūn was set apart, he and his descendants for ever, to dedicate the most holy things, to offer qurbānī in the presence of the Lord, to serve him and to give blessings in his name for ever.

[3]Zabūr, Psalms 132:11-12,

The Lordswore an oath to Dāwūd,
    a sure promise from which he will not turn back:
‘One of your own sons
    I will place on your throne.

 If your sons keep my covenant
    and the testimony that I teach them,
then their sons too shall sit
    on your throne for ever and ever.’

See also, 2ndBook of the Prophet Samuel 7:11-16.

[4]Book of the Prophet Isaiah 61:1-2.

[5]Āl-’Imrān3:45, an-Nisā’ 4:157, 171, 172, al-Mā’idah 5:17 [twice], 72 [twice], 75, at-Tawbah, al-Barā’ah 9:30, 31.