Appendix D: The Kingdom of Allah
The Kingdom of Allah
Anyone who reads through the teaching of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (his peace be upon us)recorded in the Injīl is likely to notice that he frequently spoke about the kingdom of Allah.At the beginning of his public career as a prophet, Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)told a crowd of people who had searched for and found him,
‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of Allah to other towns too. It’s for this purpose that I was sent.’(Injīl, Luke 4:43)
He also sent his disciples ‘to proclaim the kingdom of Allah and to heal the sick.’ (9:2) And later he sent out seventy-two disciples with the instruction,
‘Heal the sick in that town and tell them, “The kingdom of Allah has come near to you.”’(10:9)
Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)mentions the kingdom of Allah over sixty times in the teaching we have recorded in the Injīl.
What did he mean by ‘kingdom of Allah’?
Allah is the Eternal and Universal King
Allah is al-Malik,the King. He reigns eternally. He always has reigned and always will reign and his kingship extends over everything and everyone. Many of the Zabūr, Psalms celebrate this fact, for example;
TheLordis King for ever and ever(Zabūr, Psalm 10:16)
theLord,Allah Ta’ālā is awesome,
the great King over all the earth(Zabūr, Psalm 47:2)
All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people bless you.
11 They speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 and make known to all the human race your mighty acts
and the glorious majesty of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your rule endures through all generations.(Zabūr, Psalm 145:10-13)
The Qur’an also teaches that,
To Allah belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth(Āl-’Imrān 3:189).
However, the state of the world we live in today shows that Allah’s reign of justice and righteousness is not accepted by everyone. People are in rebellion; they reject his rule. And creation has gone badly wrong – there are diseases, disasters, decay and death.
Allah SWT did not create the universe like this. At the beginning of the Taurāt we find the account of Allah’s work of creation. After creating everything, Allah declared it all (including the first human beings), ‘very good.’
Allah made Prophet Adam (pbuh)the khalīfah or ruler over the rest of creation,under Allah himself. But Hazrat Adam and his wife Hawwa (pbut)disobeyed the command of Allah, and in so doing they rebelled against the reign and authority of Allah.
Prior to this, Iblīs had revolted against Allah, his Maker, and it was Iblīs who tempted Hazrat Adam and Hazrat Hawwa (pbut)to rebellion. As a result, Adam and Hawwa (pbut)were brought into a state of shame and guilt before Allah Ta’ālā. In addition, the whole creation over which Prophet Adam (pbuh)had been appointed khalīfah was affected. Adam and Hawwa’s descendants were also affected; they became inclined towards evil.This is the origin of the brokenness we experience in our world today.
So Allah SWT is King, but his reign is rejected by human beings, and the whole creation is affected by their rebellion. Imagine a country in which there is a rightful and legitimate government, but there are many rebels who refuse to accept that government and cause much disruption. That is like the situation of our world in relation to Allah’s rule.
Allah’s plan to restore his reign
Against this background, Allah, through his prophets (pbut), promised a time when his reign would come in completeness; when all obstacles to that reign and all enemies would be overthrown; when Allah SWT would restore everything to the original perfection he made in the Garden of Paradise.
Allah’s call and promise to Prophet Ibrāhīm(pbuh)
‘Go from your land, from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land I will show you.
2 I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you.
I will make your name great.
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and the one who curses you I will curse,
and through you all the families on earth will be blessed’(Taurāt, Genesis 12:1-3).
A key word in Allah’s promise to Prophet Ibrāhīm (pbuh)is bless/blessing/blessed. The original creation was characterised by Allah’s blessing.The result of human rebellion against Allah was a curse (the opposite of blessing) on the whole of creation.Now Allah SWT was promising to restore blessing to and through Prophet Ibrāhīm (pbuh)– a blessing that would ultimately include all the families on earth.
Allah’s Covenant with the Banī Isrā’īl
From Prophet Ibrāhīm’s descendants, through Prophets Ishāq and Ya’qūb (pbut), the Banī Isrā’īl emerged. Allah rescued the Banī Isrā’īl from slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh through the leadership of Prophet Mūsā(pbuh). Allah SWT led them through the wilderness to Sinai and there he made a covenant with them.
In ancient times in the Middle East, a powerful king would often make a treaty with a weaker king, usually promising protection in exchange for loyalty and tribute or tax. This treaty was called a covenant, and it was binding on both sides. The covenant-making ceremony involved invoking blessings for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it. This was the model for Allah’s relationship with the Banī Isrā’īl, as, indeed, it had been previously with Prophet Ibrāhīm (pbuh).Allah was the Great King who made a covenant with the Banī Isrā’īl. The Banī Isrā’īl promised to obey all Allah’s laws. Allah SWT promised that he would be their God and that he would bless and protect them and provide them with a land of their own, where they would experience Allah’s presence and blessing.
Over the ensuing centuries, the Banī Isrā’īl repeatedly broke the covenant by forsaking Allah’s laws and even worshipping the idols of the surrounding pagan nations. The Banī Isrā’īl, as Prophet Ibrāhīm’s offspring, were meant to bring blessing to all the families on earth, but the reality was that they failed abysmally in that task.
Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh)and the Kingdom
Many generations later Allah established a king over the Banī Isrā’īl in the person of Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh). Prophet Dāwūd’s (and his descendants’) kingship, in some way, represented Allah’s kingship. The Qur’an concurs with this, giving Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh)the title khalīfah.
Allah SWT promised Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh)that his house or family line would reign forever.In Allah’s promise to Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh), we find the beginnings of an expectation of an ultimate king who would come from Hazrat Dāwūd’s descendants; namely, al-Masīh.This expectation developed through the messages of later prophets.
However, just as the Banī Isrā’īl as a nation repeatedly failed to live as the people of Allah and broke the covenant, so King Dāwūd’s descendants failed in their task of ruling over Allah’s people and representing Allah’s rule. After the reign of King Sulaymān (pbuh), the kingdom was divided in two, with only the southern kingdom of Judah being under the reign of King Dāwūd’s descendants.
Eventually, the Banī Isrā’īl became so corrupt that the northern kingdom was assimilated into the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC. The southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon in 605 BC. Many Jews were taken into exile in Babylon and in 587 BC, Jerusalem and al-Bayt ul-Muqaddas were destroyed by the Babylonians.
This was a disaster for the Jews. It was the curse from Allah SWT that was the consequence of their covenant-breaking. Many prophets had warned them of this curse if they persisted in breaking the covenant. The rule of the house of King Dāwūd (pbuh)was ended, or so it seemed; the Jews were exiled from the land where Allah had promised to bless them; al-Bayt ul-Muqaddas, the house of Allah, which symbolised his dwelling among them, had been destroyed; and although faithful Jews believed that this state of affairs was still under the sovereign control of Allah SWT, to most people it seemed that the Babylonian Empire was very much in control (followed by the Medo-Persians, the Greeks and then the Romans).
Promise of Restoration
The prophets (pbut)around the time of the exile promised that Allah would restore the Banī Isrā’īl. He would bring them back to their land and al-Bayt ul-Muqaddas would be rebuilt. He would deliver them from the domination of pagan nations. Sometimes the focus of this promise was on a new king from the house and line of King Dāwūd(pbuh), who would be called the Anointed One, or al-Masīh. At other times, the emphasis was on Allah himself, in some way coming to them to reign, save his people, and put all wrongs to right.Their sins would be forgiven and there would be a time of spiritual renewal. Even the dead would rise to everlasting life and the whole creation would be renewed. This was the vision of the reign or kingdom of Allah coming in completeness.
After around seventy years of exile, the Jews were allowed to return to their land in the early days of the Persian Empire under King Cyrus. They were also permitted to rebuild al-Bayt ul-Muqaddas. But this was only a partial fulfilment of the prophets’ promise of restoration; it was nothing like a full realisation of what the prophets had foretold. The Banī Isrā’īl were still dominated by pagan foreigners, under one empire after another. This was still the situation at the time of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), when the Jews were under Roman domination.
The Time of Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)
When Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)began his work as a prophet, he claimed to fulfil what the prophets (pbut)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,
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,
18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to tell 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)
Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)also identified the coming of the kingdom of Allah with his own coming and presence.
... the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to all the towns and places where he himself was about to go. 2 He said to them, ‘...Heal the sick in that town and tell them, “The kingdom of Allah has come near to you”’(Injīl, Luke 10:1-2, 9).
The kingdom of Allah comes near where ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)is about to go. In other words, he is the King. Moreover, when the kingdom of Allah draws near, the sick are healed. The brokenness of this world that is due to human rebellion begins to be healed and put right.
Al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)also identifies his work of driving out jinn or evil spirits with the arrival of Allah’s kingdom;
Iblīs was the first to rebel against Allah, and he and his hordes of evil jinn or demons have created havoc in Allah’s world. But with the arrival of Allah’s kingdom in the person of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), Iblīs’ kingdom begins to be destroyed.
The Kingdom, but not how they expected it
The Injīl presents ‘Īsā ibn Maryam (hpbuu)as al-Masīh, as the King, as the son of Dāwūd (pbuh). But Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)was not the kind of Masīh or King that the Jews were expecting. They were expecting a Masīh who would conquer and be victorious over their enemies (the Roman Empire) and liberate the Banī Isrā’īl.
We see this in the words of the two disciples ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)met (without them realising it was him) on the day of his resurrection;
‘We had been hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem the Banī Isrā’īl’ (Injīl, Luke 24:21).
But now, in their minds, that hope was finished because Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)had been martyred on a cross.
In one way, the Jews of that time were right; al-Masīh would conquer his enemies and rescue his people. But this didn’t happen in the way they expected.
It was through suffering and martyrdom that al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)would win victory and rescue his people. Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)said to the two disciples,
‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have said! 26Did 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 24:25-27).
‘Īsā al-Masīh’s victory, the setting up of his kingship and the rescuing of his people came about through his suffering and death. As Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)explained; al-Masīh (the Anointed King) had to suffer rejection, crucifixion and martyrdom in order to come into his kingly glory.
Al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)did deliver his people, but not in the way these disciples had imagined. They thought of this liberation in terms of conquering and overthrowing the Romans. In fact, the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 66-70, as ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)had himself predicted.
‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)rescued his people from a much deeper and more fundamental problem than the Romans. He rescues his people from the ultimate enemy, the Shaytān, and from our deepest problem – our sins and their consequences. That is why he tells his disciples;
‘This is what is written: al-Masīh must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and in his name repentance andforgiveness of sins must be proclaimed to all nations’(Injīl, Luke 24:46-47).
Who Inherits the Kingdom of Allah?
This was a vital question for many Jews at the time of ‘Īsā al-Masīh(hpbuu)– and it is still a vital question for us today. Often the question was put in terms of ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’In Injīl, Luke 18:18-30, ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s conversation with a ruler, and then his disciples, shows that inheriting eternal life (v18, 30), entering the kingdom of Allah (v24-25) and being saved (v26) refer to the same reality.
The Jews understood the citizens of the kingdom to be themselves - the Jews. Many restricted entrance to the kingdom to those Jews who properly observed the Taurāt. But ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)redefined the people of Allah. The true Banī Isrā’īl, the true people of Allah are those who follow and believe in ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu).
And ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)teaches that the citizens of the kingdom will include non-Jews, in fact, people from all nations;
‘People will come from east and west and from north and south, and they will eat at the feast in the kingdom of Allah.’(Injīl, Luke 13:29)
The Kingdom of Allah is already here yet still to come
However, what we have written above raises a question: If the kingdom of Allah has arrived with the coming and martyrdom and resurrection of al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu), why is the world still in such a mess? Why is there still so much rebellion against the rule of Allah?
The answer is that the kingdom of Allah comes in stages.
As we have seen, in one sense Allah is, always has been, and always will be King. That is a fact that no amount of rebellion against his rule can alter. Allah rules the whole creation. But people reject Allah’s rule and the whole creation is in a disordered state because of that rejection. This is why there are illnesses and accidents, environmental disasters and, ultimately, death.
Then in another sense, Allah’s kingdom or reign came (or returned) in the person of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu). Through his suffering, martyrdom and resurrection from the dead, he established the kingdom of Allah, because through his martyrdom he decisively defeated the Shaytān and saved his people from their sins.
Let us go back to the image of a country in which there is a rightful and legitimate government, but where there are many rebels who refuse to accept that government. This is like the situation of our world in relation to Allah’s rule. But now with ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s coming and death and resurrection it is as if there has been a decisive victory against the rebels – one they will never recover from; and yet they are still active in causing disruption to the country.
But then imagine a day comes when those rebels will be absolutely crushed and will no longer hold the country back with their revolt and disruption. On that day, the rightful government’s rule will be complete and unchallenged.
In a similar way, there is a time coming, that is still in the future, when Allah’s kingdom will come in totality and completeness. This will take place on the day of resurrection and judgement. On that day, all wrongs will be righted, all injustices will be resolved; all that opposes the will of Allah SWT will be humiliated and destroyed; all that is diseased, decayed and broken in our world will be healed and restored; creation itself will be renewed and all of Allah’s people will be raised to full, joyful, harmonious and everlasting life in the presence of Allah Ta’ālā.
The Injīl has different ways of describing this reality of the kingdom of Allah in its completeness. It is ‘eternal life’, ‘the creation set free from its bondage to decay,’‘a new heaven and new earth,’‘the restoration of all things,’‘the renewal of all things.’This is the great and certain hope of the kingdom of Allah.
And Allah said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. Let them rule over the fish in the sea, over the birds in the sky, over the animals, and over all the earth.”... And Allah blessed them and Allah said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, over the birds in the sky, and over all the land animals.”
Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:30. ... thy Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a vicegerent (Khalīfah) upon the earth,”
Allah said to the Adam, “Because… you ate from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat...”
Qur’an, Ta-Ha 20:120-121,
Then Satan whispered to him. He said, “O Adam! Shall I show thee the Tree of Everlastingness and a kingdom that never decays?” 121So they both ate therefrom. Then their nakedness was exposed to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden. Adam disobeyed his Lord, and so he erred.
Qur’an, al-‘Alaq 96:6-7,Nay, but man does transgress all bounds, in that he looks upon himself as self-sufficient(AYA).
Allah said to the man, ‘Because you... ate from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat: cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat from it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and weeds for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19With sweat on your face you will eat food until you return to the ground, because you were taken from it, for dust you are and to dust you will return.’
Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:125, And We made a covenant with Abraham and Ishmael. See also, Taurāt, Genesis 17:1-27.
O David! Truly We have appointed thee as a vicegerent (khalīfah) upon the earth; so judge among the people with truth and follow not caprice, lest it lead thee astray from the way of God.
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.’
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.(from about 730 BC)
Book of ProphetJeremiah 23:5
‘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.’(from7thCentury BC).
Just before the conception of Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu), the Angel Jibrīl (pbuh)announced the fulfilment of these prophecies to Sayyidnā ‘Īsā’s mother, Maryam (pbuh),
‘The Lord Allah will give him the throne of his father Dāwūd. He will reign over the house of Ya’qūb forever; his kingship will never end.’(Injīl, Luke 1:32-33)
Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)is also sometimes given the title ‘Son of Dāwūd,’ eg, Injīl, Matthew 1:1, Luke 18:38-39.
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger
who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Jerusalem,
‘Your God has become king!’
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they are shouting for joy,
for they see clearly with their own eyes
the Lord’s return to Jerusalem.
9 Break out together into songs of joy,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for theLordhas comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 TheLordhas bared his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
Also, Zabūr, Psalm 96:11-13,
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it.
Let the land be jubilant, and everything that lives on it;
then all the trees of the forest will shout for joy
before the Lord, for he is coming,
he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
‘Īsā went on to tell a parable, because he was close to Jerusalem, and they were thinking that the kingdom of Allah was about to appear at once.
The Holy Books sometimes speak of Allah SWT having physical characteristics such as an arm (e.g. Taurāt, Exodus 6:6; 15:16), or hand (e.g. Qur’an, Āl-‘Imrān 3:73, al-Fatah 48:10), face (e.g. Taurāt, Numbers 6:25-26, Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:115) or finger, as here (e.g. Taurāt, Exodud 31:18). Some Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars view such descriptions as purely metaphorical. Others suggest they depict realities that at present are beyond our understanding. For example, in Islam, theAsh‘arī tradition affirms what is revealed even though we do not know how it can be true. We accept it, bi lā kayf– ‘without asking how.’