Abby, a friend of mine, is an atheist. She has always had a question about Christianity, which she shared with me. She said she wondered how Christians would recognize Jesus Christ (known as Prophet Isa to Muslims) if and when he returns for the Second Coming.
I told her that Muslims also believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, peace be upon him. I told her that traditions say that he will come to Jerusalem and he will break the cross. I explained that it is uncertain exactly what this means. It is possible that he will physically break a cross. But it is also possible that he will revolutionize religion, upsetting Christian doctrine, thereby figuratively breaking the cross.
But I wasn’t happy with my answer so I wanted to do some research to help answer this question that many people have. What signs can we use to recognize Jesus (Isa) when he returns?
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
The mainstream Islamic view of the second coming maintains Jesus did not die (see Islamic view of Jesus’ death) and was lifted up to Heaven by God, where he is waiting to descend during the “last days” when corruption and perversity are rife on Earth. Jesus will return to wage a battle against and defeat the false Messiah (Dajjal, or Anti-Christ) and call all humanity to Islam, as originally called upon by all the prophets including himself. Jesus shall be accompanied by an army of the righteous, and shall be fighting against darkness, uniting his army with the army of Mahdi in the last war of human history. The Dajjal will wage war with his army of corrupt followers and mischief-makers and those have fallen under his deception.
This gives some clues about what Jesus will look like. It lacks a description of his face or body. However, it does tell us what he will do. He will fight against corruption. He will battle the Anti-Christ. Leading an army of believers, he will call people to the truth of Islam.
What follows is a Hadith or Prophetic Tradition of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, describing Isa in detail and his Second Coming.
“Allah would send Christ, son of Mary, and he will descend at the white minaret in the eastern side of Damscus (sic) wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would scatter from it. Every non-believer who would smell the odour of his self would die and his breath would reach as far as he would be able to see. He would then search for him (Dajjal – the Anti Christ) until he would catch hold of him at the gate of Ludd and would kill him. Then a people whom Allah had protected would come to Jesus, son of Mary, and he would wipe their faces and would inform them of their ranks in Paradise and it would be under such conditions that Allah would reveal to Jesus these words: I have brought forth from amongst My servants such people against whom none would be able to fight; you take these people safely to The Mount, and then Allah would send Gog and Magog and they would swarm down from every slope”
— Sahih Muslim, Kitabul Fitan, Book of Trials
This is different from what I said to Abby. I said he would come to Jerusalem, but this Hadith from the authentic collection of Imam Muslim says he will come to Damascus. I think I was wrong and this Hadith is right. It may be that he will come to Damascus and then go to Jerusalem; Allah knows best. The description of Jesus is vivid and beautiful. His garments will be golden yellow, the color imparted by saffron when used as a dye. His sweat will shimmer like pearls.
The rest of the Hadith is rather violent, I admit, but one needs to place it in the right context. Isa will come to a world plagued with corruption, a world scarred by the terror of Dajjal, the Anti Christ, a world in desperate need of renewal. He will kill Dajjal and the disbelievers in his evil army. He will unite believers around the world and spread the message of Islam. The best of these will be told of their future places in Paradise. The strongest of the believers will battle Gog and Magog. Different people interpret Gog and Magog (Yajuj and Majuj in Arabic) differently. Some believe they are two tribes of people. Some view them as monsters or demons.
Only Allah knows for certain the specific details of the world’s end. We should not fight over the meaning of these traditions. Instead, we should believe in their truth and ask Allah to give us an understanding of them. Our life on Earth is short and fragile. We must remember that we have a limited time to obey Allah and to help our fellow people. My capacity is limited but the power of Allah is infinite.