Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
((And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing) saving (thee of those who disbelieve) in you (and am setting those who follow you) follow your Religion (above those who disbelieve) with strong argument and triumph (until the Day of Resurrection) then I shall make you to die after descent; it is also said this means: I shall make your heart die to the love of the life of this world. (Then unto Me ye will (all) return) after death, (and I shall judge between you as to that wherein) in religion (ye used to differ) to argue.
And mention, when God said, ‘O Jesus, I am gathering you, seizing you, and raising you to Me, away from the world without death, and I am cleansing you of, removing you far away from, those who disbelieved, and I am setting those who follow you, those Christians and Muslims who believed in your prophethood, above those who disbelieved, in you, namely, the Jews, becoming above them through [definitive] argument and the sword, until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me shall be your return, and I will decide between you, as to what you were at variance about, as regards religion.
'I shall gather you, that is, I shall seize you unto Me from among them, and raise you to Me, that is, to the heaven of the spirit alongside Me, and I shall cleanse you of, the impurity of being alongside, those who disbelieved, from among the vile faculties and their scheming and [from] the vileness of their company; and I shall set those who follow you, of the spiritual ones, above those who disbelieved, of the ego-centric ones until the Day of the Greater Resurrection and the arrival at the station of the Unity. Then, on that Day, to Me shall be your return, and I will decide between you, in truth, as to what you were at variance about, before unity, in terms of the contention and conflict that resulted from [those] faculties. I shall then establish each one in its rightful abode there and shall grant it what is appropriate for it from that which is with Me, whereafter disagreement and conflict shall be removed.
(And because of their disbelief and allegations against Maryam and because of their saying "We killed Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah, ـ but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared that way to them) until,
(For surely; they killed him not But Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise. And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection, he `Isa will be a witness against them.) 4:156-159
`His death' refers to `Isa, and the Ayah means that the People of the Book will believe in `Isa, before `Isa dies. This will occur when `Isa comes back to this world before the Day of Resurrection, as we will explain. By that time, all the People of the Book will believe in `Isa, for he will annul the Jizyah and he will only accept Islam from people. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Al-Hasan said that Allah's statement,
(I will take you) is in reference to sleep, for Allah raised `Isa while he was asleep.
Altering the Religion of `Isa
وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ
(And purify save you from those who disbelieve) by raising you to heaven,
(And I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve, till the Day of Resurrection)
This is what happened. When Allah raised `Isa to heaven, his followers divided into sects and groups. Some of them believed in what Allah sent `Isa as, a servant of Allah, His Messenger, and the son of His female-servant.
However, some of them went to the extreme over `Isa, believing that he was the son of Allah. Some of them said that `Isa was Allah Himself, while others said that he was one of a Trinity. Allah mentioned these false creeds in the Qur'an and refuted them. The Christians remained like this until the third century CE, when a Greek king called, Constantine, became a Christian for the purpose of destroying Christianity. Constantine was either a philosopher, or he was just plain ignorant. Constantine changed the religion of `Isa by adding to it and deleting from it. He established the rituals of Christianity and the so-called Great Trust, which is in fact the Great Treachery. He also allowed them to eat the meat of swine, changed the direction of the prayer that `Isa established to the east, built churches for `Isa, and added ten days to the fast as compensation for a sin that he committed, as claimed. So the religion of `Isa became the religion of Constantine, who built more then twelve thousand churches, temples and monasteries for the Christians as well as the city that bears his name, Constantinople (Istanbul). Throughout this time, the Christians had the upper hand and dominated the Jews. Allah aided them against the Jews because they used to be closer to the truth than the Jews, even though both groups were and still are disbelievers, may Allah's curse descend on them.
When Allah sent Muhammad, those who believed in him also believed in Allah, His Angels, Books and Messengers in the correct manner. So they were the true followers of every Prophet who came to earth. They believed in the unlettered Prophet, the Final Messenger and the master of all mankind, who called them to believe in the truth in its entirety. This is why they had more right to every Prophet than his own nation, especially those who claim to follow their Prophet's way and religion, yet change and alter his religion. Furthermore, Allah abrogated all the laws that were sent down to the Prophets with the Law He sent Muhammad with, which consists of the true religion that shall never change or be altered until the commencement of the Last Hour. Muhammad's religion shall always be dominant and victorious over all other religions. This is why Allah allowed Muslims to conquer the eastern and western parts of the world and the kingdoms of the earth. Furthermore, all countries submitted to them; they demolished Kisra (king of Persia) and destroyed the Czar, ridding them of their treasures and spending these treasures for Allah's sake. All this occurred just as their Prophet told them it would, when he conveyed Allah's statement,
(Allah has promised those among you who believe and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession in the land, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practice their religion which He has chosen for them. And He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they worship Me and do not associate anything with Me.) 24:55.
Therefore, Muslims are the true believers in `Isa. The Muslims then acquired Ash-Sham from the Christians, causing them to evacuate to Asia Minor, to their fortified city in Constantinople. The Muslims will be above them until the Day of Resurrection. Indeed, he, Muhammad, who is truthful and who received the true news, has conveyed to Muslims that they will conquer Constantinople in the future, and seize its treasures.
Threatening the Disbelievers with Torment in This Life and the Hereafter
(And I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve till the Day of Resurrection. Then you will return to Me and I will judge between you in the matters in which you used to dispute. As to those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe torment in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers.)
This is what Allah did to the Jews who disbelieved in `Isa and the Christians who went to the extreme over him. Allah tormented them in this life; they were killed, captured, and lost their wealth and kingdoms. Their torment in the Hereafter is even worse and more severe,
وَمَا لَهُم مِّنَ اللَّهِ مِن وَاقٍ
(And they have no Waq (defender or protector) against Allah) 13:34.
(This is what We recite to you of the verses and the Wise Reminder.) meaning, "What We narrated to you, O Muhammd, regarding `Isa, his birth and his life, is what Allah conveyed and revealed to you, sent down from the Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuz (The Preserved Tablet). So there is no doubt in it. Similarly, Allah said in Surah Maryam;
(Such is `Isa, son of Maryam. (It is) a statement of truth, about which they doubt (or dispute). It befits not Allah that He should beget a son. Glorified be He. When He decrees a thing, He only says to it: "Be!'' and it is.)
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The word (mutawaffi) in the Arabic text is from (tawaffa) which literally means "to take and to receive" and "to seize the soul" is not its lexical but metaphorical meaning. Here it means "to recall from mission." Allah recalled Jesus because the Israelites had rejected him in spite of the clear Signs he had brought. They had been disobeying God for centuries and, in spite of many a warning and admonition served to them, their national character was rapidly deteriorating. They had killed several Prophets, one after the other, and had grown so audacious as to demand the blood of any good man who ventured to invite them to the Right Way. In order to give them the last chance for turning to the Truth, God appointed among them two great Prophets, Jesus and John (God's peace be upon them), at one and the same time. These Prophets came with such clear signs of their appointment from Allah that only such people dared reject them as were utterly perverted and prejudiced against the Truth and were averse to following the Right Way. Nevertheless the Israelites lost their last chance also as they not only rejected their invitation but also had the head of a great Prophet like John cut off openly at the request of a dancing girl. 'And their Pharisees and Jurists conspired and sought to get Jesus punished with the death sentence by the Roman Government. Thus they had proved themselves to be so obdurate that it was useless to give the Israelites any further chance. So Allah recalled His Prophet Jesus and inflicted on them a life of disgrace up to the Day of Resurrection.
It will be useful here to bear in mind the fact that this whole discourse is meant to refute and correct the Christian belief in the God-head of Jesus. Three main things were responsible for the prevalence of this belief among the Christians:
(1) The miraculous birth of Jesus.
(2) His concrete and tangible miracles.
(3) His ascension to heaven about which their Scriptures were explicit.
The Qur'an confirmed the first thing and made it plain that the birth of Jesus without a father was only a manifestation of the infinite powers of Allah. He can create anybody in whatever manner He wills. His miraculous birth, therefore, is no reason why he should be made a god or a partner in Godhead.
The Qur'an also confirms the second thing and even recounts the miracles performed by Jesus, but makes it clear that all those miracles were performed by him, as a servant of Allah, by His leave and not as an independent authority. It is, therefore, wrong to infer that Jesus was a partner in Godhead.
Now let us consider the third thing. If the Christian belief in "Ascension" had been wholly baseless, it could have been refuted by pointing out that the object of their worship, the so-called "Son of God", expired long ago and had become one with dust, and that they could see, for their full satisfaction, his grave at such and such a place. But the Qur'an does not declare this explicitly. On the other hand, it not only uses such words as give at least a vague suggestion of his "Ascension", but also denies that Jesus was crucified at all. According to it the one who gave a loud cry at his last hour, saying, "Eli" Eli, lama sabachthani?" and the one whose picture they carry on the cross, was not Messiah at all, because God had recalled to Himself the real Messiah before the crucifixion took place.
It is thus clear that those people who try to prove the death of Jesus from these verses, really try to show that God is not able to express Himself clearly and unambiguously. (May God protect us from such a blasphemy!)
"Those who rejected" him were the Jews who were invited by Jesus to accept the Truth.
"Those who follow" him are really the Muslims only but if it may be taken to imply all those who believe in him, then the sincere Christians may also be included.
When God said “O Jesus I am gathering you and raising you to Me and I am cleansing you of those who disbelieved The allusion in it: “I am gathering you from yourself seizing you from yourself raising you above the mortal human attributes and purifying you from your own desire irāda completely so that you will act as Our agent muṣarrif through Us and for Us. You will have no free choice ikhtiyār in anything. In its place divine governorship tawallī will descend upon you and stand in for you.” By this quality the dead were brought to life through the hands [of Jesus]. These were occurrences that could only happen by the divine deliberative power may it be exalted. It is said that He purified his heart from looking to others aghyār and from seeing simulacra and traces al-amthāl wa-l-āthār in all states and phases al-aḥwāl wa-l-aṬwār. and I am setting those who follow you above those who disbelieved until the Day of Resurrection In help nuṣra force qahr and proof ḥujja. His followers-those who have not changed his religion dīn and those who follow his creed ʿaqīda in the declaration of oneness tawḥīd-are believers muÌminūn. They are in the right until the Day of Resurrection and they will be helped [by God] until the Day of Resurrection. Then God سبحانه will judge between them and their enemies on that day. The disbelievers will be in hellfire ammā l-kuffār fa-fī l-jaḥīm and the believers will be in felicity wa-ammā l-muÌminūn fa-fī l-naʿīm. Then to Me shall be your return and I will decide between you as to what you were at variance about.