Appendix E: The Title: ‘the Son of Man’
The Title: ‘the Son of Man’
Another phrase that appears repeatedly in ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s teaching is ‘the Son of Man’ - a title that Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)used for himself. This title contains at least the following ideas.
The new Adam
In some contexts in the earlier Scriptures, ‘son of man’ simply means, ‘human being’.
In Zabūr, Psalm 8:3-8, ‘son of man’ conveys the meaning of a representative human being – a role fulfilled by Prophet Adam (pbuh):
When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you call him to mind,
the son of manthat you pay him attention?
You made him a little lower than the angels,
you crowned him with glory and honour.
You appointed him ruler over what your hands had made;
you put everything under his feet:
all sheep and cattle,
and even the wild animals,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that move along the paths of the seas.
This Zabūr celebrates Allah’s creation and, although Prophet Adam (pbuh)is not named, it refers to him. The language clearly echoes Taurāt, Genesis 1:26-28 which gives an account of the creation of Prophet Adam (pbuh)who is the forefather and representative of the human race:
Then Allah said, ‘Let us make mankindin 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.’ 27So Allah created mankind in his own image, in the image of Allah he created them, male and female he created them. 28Allah 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 and the birds in the sky, and over all the land animals.’
The King in Prophet Dāwūd’s line
In Zabūr, Psalm 80:17, ‘son of man’ refers to the king of the Ban-i Isrā’īl who is from the house of King Dāwūd (pbuh). It is part of a du’ā in which Allah is requested,
Let your hand be on the man at your right hand,
the son of manyou have made strong for yourself.
So here ‘son of man’ is connected to al-Masīh, the long-expected king in the line of Prophet Dāwūd (see Appendix C: ‘The Title “Al-Masīh”’).
Prophet Daniel’s vision
Finally, in the Book of the Prophet Daniel 7, the Prophet Daniel (pbuh)receives a vision from Allah. In the vision, Prophet Daniel (pbuh)sees four ferocious beasts which represent four different kingdoms or empires (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome). He then sees heaven and the throne of Allah who in the vision is given the title, ‘the Ancient of Days’.
‘In the visions of the night, I saw one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Daysand was presented before him. He was given dominion, honour and kingship; all peoples, nations and languages will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom will never be destroyed.’(Book of the Prophet Daniel 7:13-14).
On a number of occasions when ‘Īsā al-Masīh(hpbuu)uses ‘Son of Man’ to refer to himself, it is clear from the context that he is identifying himself with this exalted figure in Prophet Daniel’s vision.
One example of this is in ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s prophecy about the future inInjil, Luke 21,
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.(v27)
Another example is when he was interrogated before the Jewish Ruling Council.
They said, ‘If you are al-Masīh, then tell us.’
‘Īsā replied, ‘If I told you, you would not believe me, 68 and if I asked you a question, you wouldn’t answer me. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of Allah’s power.(Injil, Luke 22:67-69)
The word translated ‘mankind’ is actually adamin the original Hebrew text. This is the name of the first man – Adam (pbuh). In Hebrew, the word can also refer to an individual human being or to humanity as a race.
The words ‘image of Allah’ may be misunderstood as they may cause some people to think of idols and visual representations of Allah. In fact, these words are the very opposite of that. Here it is Allah who makes humans and places his image and likeness in them. In idol worship, it is the other way round – humans make images, and then claim they represent Allah. This practice is forbidden in the Taurāt in the second great commandment of the Sharī’ah given to Prophet Mūsā (pbuh):
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them…’(Taurāt, Exodus 20:4-5).