The Crucifixion of Christ -

A Christian Critique of the Quran

Sam Shamoun

The crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Everything a Christian believes in and hopes for revolves around Jesus' death on the cross for unworthy sinners. The resurrection is the divine vindication of the fact that Jesus did not die for any crime he had committed, but died in place of sinners needing redemption and justification before an infinitely holy and just God. If it can be proven that Jesus did not die and rise from the dead, then Christianity is nothing more than a great lie which has deceived literally billions throughout the ages. The Christian is left without hope, having no assurance of justification, and remains in his sins. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Romans 4:25, 5:8-11)

Islam, on the other hand, denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Muslims believe that God rescued Jesus from the schemes of the unbelievers and raised Christ to heaven. The general Islamic view is that someone else was crucified in Jesus' place, with most Muslims believing that Judas Iscariot was the one whom the unbelievers killed.

According to this majority view of modern Islamic scholarship Judas was made to look like Jesus on the night when Christ was to be crucified. The unbelieving Jews thought that they had crucified Christ when in reality it was Judas that they had killed.

The idea that Jesus did not die on the cross stems from the Quran in S. 4:157-158:

"And because of their (the Jews) saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger- they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise." M. M. Pickthall

In spite of the Quranic affirmation that Jesus was not crucified or killed there is no substantiation within the Quran itself that someone else, namely Judas, died in the place of Christ. All the text says is that it was made to appear as if Christ had been crucified. How this was done remains unanswered.

To spark further controversy, there are other passages within the Quran which seem to indicate that Jesus did die. It is to such passages that we turn in order to precisely examine whether the Muslim claims that Jesus did not die finds substantiation within the Quran itself.

S. 3:144

"Muhammad is no more Than an Apostle: many Were the Apostles that passed away Before him..." A. Yusuf Ali

The term which Ali translates as "many were the Apostles," is the Arabic al-russul and is more precisely translated as "THE Apostles." The phrase is inclusive and affirms that all the Apostles before Muhammad have passed away.

The following Muslim translations reflect this point:

"... the apostles have already passed away before him..." Shakir

"... Verily all Messengers have passed away before him..." Sher Ali

"... messengers have already passed away before him..." M. Muhammad Ali

"... Messengers have passed away before him..." T. Irving

The late Maulana Muhammad Ali of the Ahmadiyya sect states in relation to this passage:

"While this verse lays stress on the essential truth of Islam, it served another important purpose at the death of the Prophet. Some of the companions thought that the Prophet was not dead. Abu Bakr went in, and seeing that life had departed, ascended the pulpit and read this verse, which had a magical effect upon his hearers, all of them being convinced that the Prophet had passed away, as all prophets had passed away before him. The prophets were but mortals, and their span of mortal life must no doubt terminate like that of other mortals. This verse affords a conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was also dead; otherwise Abu Bakr's argument could not have silenced the doubters of the Prophet's death." (Ali, Holy Quran [USA; Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha'at Islam Lahore Inc., 1995], pp. 168-169, f. 496 emphasis ours)

S. 19:33, Christ Speaking As An Infant:

"So peace is on me The day I was born, The day that I die, And that day I shall be raised up to life (again)." A. Yusuf Ali

The word "again" is not in the Arabic text but is Ali's insertion. Compare M. Ali's translation:

"And peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised to life."

The very same phrase is used of John the Baptist (Yahya) just a few verses earlier:

"So Peace is on him The day he was born, The day that he dies, And that day he Will be raised To life (again)!" S. 19:15 Y. Ali

According to Islamic belief John the Baptist lived and died and will be raised to dwell in paradise at the culmination of time. And yet certain Muslims have Jesus ascending to God before dying, destroying the chronological sequence of the passage.

That S. 19:33 is puzzling can be seen from Yusuf Ali's footnote:

"... Christ was not crucified (iv. 157). But those who believe that he never died should ponder over this verse." (Ali, The Holy Quran [The Holy Koran Publishing Company], p.774, f. 2485 emphasis ours)

One Muslim writer notes:

"No Muslim will shift the death of John (Yah Yah) to the future. All know that John died... since no one can now shift the death of John to the future, therefore no one can now shift the death of Jesus to the future. In fact there is not even one single passage throughout the Kuran showing that Jesus will return to die. The parallel statement with John who died, clearly shows that Jesus also died." (A.H. Obaray, Miraculous Conception, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus (Nabi-Isa) as Taught in the Kuran [Kimberley, South Africa; Pub. By Author, 1962], p. 45)

Even more troubling is this passage taken from S. 19:31:

"And He hath made me Blessed wheresoever I be, And hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long As I live." Y. Ali

According to this reference Jesus is commanded to pray and give alms (zakat) until he dies. But if Muslims are correct, Jesus has not died and must therefore continue to give charity even now while in heaven!

S. 3:55

"Behold! God said: `O Jesus! I will take thee (Arabic- inni mutawaffeeka) And raise thee to Myself And clear thee (of the falsehoods) Of those who blaspheme..." Y. Ali

S. 5:117

"Never said did I to them Aught except what Thou Didst command me To say, to wit, `Worship God, my Lord and your Lord'; And I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt Amongst them; when thou Didst take me up (Arabic- tawaffaytani) Thou wast the Watcher Over them, and Thou art a witness to all things." Y. Ali

The phrase "I will take thee" and "when Thou didst take me" are forms of the Arabic word tawaffa. The term is nearly always used in the Quran to imply one who is taken at death. Note the way other Quranic translators have translated these passages:

Rashad Khalifa

"... I am terminating your life, raising you to Me..."

"... When You terminated my life on earth..."


"... I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend to Me..."

"... but when Thou didst cause me to die..."

Sher Ali

"... I will cause thee to die a natural death and raise thee to Myself..."

"... but since Thou didst cause me to die..."

Muhammad Asad

"... Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shalt exult thee unto Me..."

"... but since Thou hast caused me to die..."

M. Muhammad Ali

"... I will cause thee to die and exalt thee in My presence..."

"... but when Thou didst cause me to die..."

M. Muhammad Ali gives this commentary:

"I'Ab says that the significance of mutawaffi-ka is mumitu-ka, i.e. I will cause thee to die (B. 65:12). According to LA, `You say tawaffa-hu-llahu when you mean Allah took his soul or caused to die.' And according to LL, it signifies "God took his soul (S, Q) (either at death or in sleep, see the Quran 6:60); or caused him to die (Msb)'. No other significance can be attached to the words when thus used. Some commentators say that Jesus remained dead for three hours; others say seven, and so on (Rz). But the word is used here to really show that the Jewish plans to cause Jesus' death on the cross would be frustrated and that he would afterwards die a natural death... Pickthall's translation is, O Jesus, I am gathering thee, and this is the Biblical idiom for causing to die. Yusuf Ali, in his first edition, translated the words as meaning I will cause thee to die, but in the second edition he changed it to I will take thee." (Ali, Holy Quran, p.147, f. 436 bold emphasis ours)

Ali's note that the idiom "I am gathering thee" is used in the Bible to mean death is correct:

"Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people." Genesis 25:7-8 NIV

"Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years..." Gen. 35:28-29 NIV

"When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people." Gen. 49:33 NIV

Ali's second point that God takes people's soul at death or while sleeping is substantiated by the Quran in 6:60:

"And He it is Who takes your souls at night, and He knows what you earn by day, then raises you up therein that at an appointed term may be fulfilled. Then to Him is your return, then He will inform you of what you did." M. M. Ali

According to some of the Islamic writings which we will be looking into shortly, the term tawaffa means to complete a task or term and doesn't not necessarily refer to death. The preceding verse is used to prove this point. In point of fact this passage demonstrates the exact opposite since if the verb tawaffa meant to complete one's term then there would have been no need for the verse to add the statement that Allah fulfills a person's term. It would have already been implied by the verb itself. That the passage adds the clause of a person(s) being brought back to complete his appointed period shows that tawaffa refers to a person being taken by death when God is the subject.

Noted Muslim scholar Mahmoud M. Ayoub in his book, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters vol. II- The House of `Imran, states:

"As has already been noted, both the Quran and Islamic traditions have contested the crucifixion and its theological implications. Commentators, however, have differed regarding the meaning of the word mutawaffik (I will receive you or cause you to die). They also differed concerning the identity of those who followed Jesus and those who have rejected faith." (Ayoub [New York; State University of New York, Albany, 1992], p.169)

Ayoub proceeds to quote extensively from some of Islam's greatest commentators. One such commentator is al-Tabari who "states that the word, as commonly used, means, `I will cause you to die.' It also means, `I will receive, reclaim, or fully appropriate you.' Tabari then presents a number of interpretations, with supporting prophetic hadith traditions, of the word mutawaffik. He reports that, according to some early tafsir masters, the phrase here means `I will cause you to sleep, and will take you in your sleep.' This view is related on the authority of al-Rabi' b. Anas." (Ibid. emphasis ours)

According to Tabari Muslims such as Hasan al-Basri and Matar al-Warraq argued that Jesus did not die. In fact, according to Basri Muhammad had told the Jews, "Jesus did not die, and he will return to you before the Day of Resurrection." (Ibid.) According to a tradition attributed to Ka'b al-Ahbar as reported by Mu'awiyah b. Salih, "God would not cause Jesus son of Mary to die." Instead God told Jesus that he would send him "against the one-eyed deceiver (al-Dajjal), and you will slay him. You will then live for twenty-four years, after which I will cause you to die the death of the living." (Ayoub, p. 170) Yet, according to Tabari, other Muslims asserted "that God received Jesus by causing him to die." (Ibid.)

Ayoub notes:

"This view (that God caused Jesus to die) is reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas and Wahb b. Munabbih who said, `God caused Jesus to die for three hours of the day, during which He raised him up to Him.' Ibn Ishaq mistakenly reports that `Christians claim that God caused Jesus to die for seven hours, after which He brought him back to life.'" (Ibid.)

And yet others hold to the view that Jesus was raised without dying and will be sent back a second time in which he will die and be raised to life again. There is even a tradition given by Qatadah going back to Muhammad stating this very point (Ibid., pp. 170-171)

Another Muslim expositor, ar-Razi, lists both the diverse meanings of the term mutawaffeeka and the conflicting Islamic views on Jesus' last hours on earth:

End your term: that is, "I end your term on earth, so I do not leave you to your enemies, the Jews, to kill you."

Cause you to die: this is a statement made on the authority of Ibn Abbas, the expositor of the Quran, and Muhammad b. Ishaq. They said that the purpose was not to let his enemies, the Jews, to kill him. Then after that (God) honored Him (Jesus) by raising Him up to heaven. From this point on, Muslim scholars differed in three ways: a) Wahb said: He died for three hours, then was raised up; b) Muhammad b. Ishaq said: He died seven hours then God quickened Him and raised him up; c) al Rabi b. Anas said: God caused Him to die when He raised Him up to heaven; for God said (in the Quran): "God takes the soul at the time of their death, and that which has not died, in its sleep." (Al-Zumar 39:44)

The waw ("and") regulates the word order: Since Jesus is alive, that means that God raised Him up to heaven first; then He will descend to kill the anti-Christ. After that God will cause Him to die.

The spiritual interpretation: this is the opinion of Abu Bakr al-Wasity: "(I cause you to die) of your lusts and the desires of your soul. Then He said: `I raise you up to Me' because unless He dies to what is not but God He would never reach the knowledge of God. Also, when Jesus was raised up to heaven, He became like the angels: free of lusts, anger and reprehensible dispositions."

The complete ascension: that is Jesus, son of Mary, was raised up whole in both body and spirit, not only in spirit as some may think. What supports this interpretation is God's saying: "They would not cause You any harm."

I make you as if you died: Raising Jesus up to heaven, the eradication of any physical trace of Him from this earth, and the obliteration of His reports would make Him as if He really died. "Applying the name of one thing to another if they share similar properties and qualities, is permissible."

Grasping: which means to repay or be repaid as when receiving in full a sum of money which you are owed. Either way, snatching Him out of the earth and ascending Him to heaven is a payment for Him.

Compensation for the work: that is, God "has announced to Him the glad tidings of accepting His obedience and His deed. He revealed to Him (Jesus) the troubles and the toils He would suffer from His enemies as He spread His (God's) religion and law. He (God) would not forfeit His compensation or waste His reward."

Ar-Razi states, "these are the total said views of those who interpreted the verse according to the literal meaning." (Razi's al-Tafsir al-Kabir, vol. 8, p. 74 as quoted in Faris al-Qayrawani's Was Christ Really Crucified? [Light of Life, P.O. Box 13 A-9503, Villach, Austria], pp. 59-62)

Even amongst the Muslims who believe that someone else was killed in Jesus' place, not all unanimously agree that it was Judas:

1) A Jew named Judas (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot) entered a house where Christ was, with the purpose of arresting Him, but did not find Him. God caused the likeness of Christ to be on him, and when he came out of the house people thought he was Jesus, and took him and crucified him.

2) The Jews, when they arrested Jesus, set over Him a watchman, but Jesus was taken up to God by a miracle and God caused Jesus' likeness to rest on the watchman, whom they took and crucified, while he cried out "I am not Jesus."

3) One of Jesus' friends was promised Paradise, and volunteered to die instead of Him. God caused him to resemble Jesus and he was taken and crucified but Jesus was taken up to heaven.

4) One of Jesus' followers betrayed Him, (that is, Judas), and came to the Jews to guide them to Him, and went with them to take Him. God caused him to appear like Jesus and he was taken and crucified. (Adapted from Iskander Jadeed's The Cross in the Gospel and the Koran [The Good Way, P.O. Box 66 CH-8486 Rikon, Switzerland], pp. 12-13; online edition)

5) Titawus, a Jew, entered the house where Jesus was, trying to arrest Him. He could not find Him. Instead, God changed his likeness and made him resemble Jesus. Upon coming out, the Jews had him arrested and crucified, thinking that he was Jesus. (Jadeed, Victory Of The Truth [Good Way], p. 113)

Al-Tabari in his commentary lists more conflicting views:

1) Some Muslims have stated that "When the Jews surrounded Jesus and His friends, all took on the likeness of Jesus. The Jews were confused and so killed one of the others." (On the authority of Salma)

2) "Jesus came with seventeen disciples. The Jews surrounded them. God made the disciples in the likeness of Jesus. The Jews said to the disciples, `You have bewitched us. You'd better tell us which one of you is Jesus, or we will kill you all.' Then Jesus said to the disciples, `Who is willing to give his life today for paradise? One of the disciples volunteered and went outside saying to the Jews, `I am Jesus.' They took him and crucified him."

3) "The Children of Israel surrounded Jesus and nineteen of His disciples in a house. Jesus said to the disciples, `Who is willing to take my image, die, and go to Paradise?' One disciple offered himself, and was taken outside and crucified, while Jesus ascended up to heaven."

4) Finally, "David the King of Israel sent a man to kill Jesus. That man took men with him. Jesus was with thirteen of His disciples. When He knew they had arrived He made one of the disciples to look exactly like Him. When the Jews saw that disciple, they took him outside and crucified him." (Adapted from Jadeed's Victory Of The Truth, pp. 114-115)

Another renowned commentator, Al-Baidawi, presents some similar views:

... It is related that a group of Jews insulted Jesus and his mother, whereupon he appealed to God against them. When God turned (those who insulted Jesus and his mother) into monkeys and swine, the Jews came to an agreement to kill Jesus. Then God informed Jesus that he would raise him up to heaven; so Jesus said to his disciples: 'Who among you will agree to take a form similar to mine and die (in my place) and be crucified and then go (straight) to paradise?' A man among them offered himself, so God changed him into a form to look like Jesus, and he was killed and crucified.

Others say that a man pretended (to be a believer) before Jesus and then went away denouncing him, whereupon God changed this man into a form similar to Jesus, and then he was seized and crucified. (Still) others say that the Jew Titanus entered a house where Jesus was (with a treacherous intention) but could not find him. Then God changed him into a form similar to that of Jesus, and when he came outside people thought he was Jesus and so they seized and crucified him.

Similar unusual things which one may not find improbable for the time of the prophets (have been reported on this subject). When God blames the Jews (here), (it is) only because their words showed that they acted impudently towards God, wishing to kill his prophet in spite of the confirmation (of the prophethood of Jesus) through overwhelming miracles (mu'jizat), and (furthermore they) rejoiced in doing so. (God blames them) not because their assertion (to have killed Jesus) was (merely) an opinion.

... (that is) concerning the state in which Jesus was. For as soon as this event (the crucifixion of another person in Jesus' place) occurred, the people disagreed (concerning it). Some Jews said: 'Jesus was a liar (when he said God would raise him up to heaven), for we certainly killed him!' Others hesitated, and some of these said: 'If this (crucified person) is Jesus, then where is our companion (who wanted to betray him)?' Others said: 'That is the face of Jesus, but the body is that of our companion.' Those, however, who had heard Jesus when he said: 'God will raise me up into heaven,' said: 'He was raised up into heaven.' Certain people believed (also) that his human nature was crucified, while his divine nature rose up to heaven. ... (Helmut Gätje, The Qur'an and its Exegesis [Oneworld Publications, 1996], pp. 128-129)

Finally, here also is Ibn Kathir's commentary on Sura 4:157:

The Evil Accusation the Jews Uttered Against Maryam and Their Claim that They Killed `Isa

Allah said, ...

(And because of their (Jews) disbelief and uttering against Maryam a grave false charge.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas stated that the Jews accused Maryam of fornication. This is also the saying of As-Suddi, Juwaybir, Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others. This meaning is also apparent in the Ayah, as the Jews accused Maryam and her son of grave accusations: They accused her of fornication and claimed that `Isa was an illegitimate son. Some of them even claimed that she was menstruating while fornicating. May Allah's continued curse be upon them until the Day of Resurrection. The Jews also said, ...

("We killed Al-Masih, `Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah,'') meaning, we killed the person who claimed to be the Messenger of Allah. The Jews only uttered these words in jest and mockery, just as the polytheists said, ...

(O you to whom the Dhikr (the Qur'an) has been sent down! Verily, you are a mad man!) When Allah sent `Isa with proofs and guidance, the Jews, may Allah's curses, anger, torment and punishment be upon them, envied him because of his prophethood and obvious miracles; curing the blind and leprous and bringing the dead back to life, by Allah's leave. He also used to make the shape of a bird from clay and blow in it, and it became a bird by Allah's leave and flew. `Isa performed other miracles that Allah honored him with, yet the Jews defied and belied him and tried their best to harm him. Allah's Prophet `Isa could not live in any one city for long and he had to travel often with his mother, peace be upon them. Even so, the Jews were not satisfied, and they went to the king of Damascus at that time, a Greek polytheist who worshipped the stars. They told him that there was a man in Bayt Al-Maqdis misguiding and dividing the people in Jerusalem and stirring unrest among the king's subjects. The king became angry and wrote to his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest the rebel leader, stop him from causing unrest, crucify him and make him wear a crown of thorns. When the king's deputy in Jerusalem received these orders, he went with some Jews to the house that `Isa was residing in, and he was then with twelve, thirteen or seventeen of his companions. That day was a Friday, in the evening. They surrounded `Isa in the house, and when he felt that they would soon enter the house or that he would sooner or later have to leave it, he said to his companions, "Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise." A young man volunteered, but `Isa thought that he was too young. He asked the question a second and third time, each time the young man volunteering, prompting `Isa to say, "Well then, you will be that man." Allah made the young man look exactly like `Isa, while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and `Isa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep. Allah said, ...

(And (remember) when Allah said: "O `Isa! I will take you and raise you to Myself.'') When `Isa ascended, those who were in the house came out. When those surrounding the house saw the man who looked like `Isa, they thought that he was `Isa. So they took him at night, crucified him and placed a crown of thorns on his head. The Jews then boasted that they killed `Isa and some Christians accepted their false claim, due to their ignorance and lack of reason. As for those who were in the house with `Isa, they witnessed his ascension to heaven, while the rest thought that the Jews killed `Isa by crucifixion. They even said that Maryam sat under the corpse of the crucified man and cried, and they say that the dead man spoke to her. All this was a test from Allah for His servants out of His wisdom. Allah explained this matter in the Glorious Qur'an which He sent to His honorable Messenger, whom He supported with miracles and clear, unequivocal evidence. Allah is the Most Truthful, and He is the Lord of the worlds Who knows the secrets, what the hearts conceal, the hidden matters in heaven and earth, what has occurred, what will occur, and what would occur if it was decreed. He said, ...

(but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared as that to them,) referring to the person whom the Jews thought was `Isa. This is why Allah said afterwards, ...

(and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture.) referring to the Jews who claimed to kill `Isa and the ignorant Christians who believed them. Indeed they are all in confusion, misguidance and bewilderment. This is why Allah said, ...

(For surely; they killed him not.) meaning they are not sure that `Isa was the one whom they killed. Rather, they are in doubt and confusion over this matter. ...

(But Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful,) meaning, He is the Almighty, and He is never weak, nor will those who seek refuge in Him ever be subjected to disgrace, ..

(All-Wise.) in all that He decides and ordains for His creatures. Indeed, Allah's is the clearest wisdom, unequivocal proof and the most glorious authority. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Just before Allah raised `Isa to the heavens, `Isa went to his companions, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping water and he said, `There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after he had believed in me.' He then asked, `Who volunteers that his image appear as mine, and be killed in my place. He will be with me (in Paradise)' One of the youngest ones among them volunteered and `Isa asked him to sit down. `Isa again asked for a volunteer, and the young man kept volunteering and `Isa asking him to sit down. Then the young man volunteered again and `Isa said, `You will be that man,' and the resemblance of `Isa was cast over that man while `Isa ascended to heaven from a hole in the house. When the Jews came looking for `Isa, they found that young man and crucified him. Some of `Isa's followers disbelieved in him twelve times after they had believed in him. They then divided into three groups. One group, Al-Ya`qubiyyah (Jacobites), said, `Allah remained with us as long as He willed and then ascended to heaven.' Another group, An-Nasturiyyah (Nestorians), said, `The son of Allah was with us as long as he willed and Allah took him to heaven.' Another group, Muslims, said, `The servant and Messenger of Allah remained with us as long as Allah willed, and Allah then took him to Him.' The two disbelieving groups cooperated against the Muslim group and they killed them. Ever since that happened, Islam was then veiled until Allah sent Muhammad." This statement has an authentic chain of narration leading to Ibn `Abbas, and An-Nasa'i narrated it through Abu Kurayb who reported it from Abu Mu`awiyah. Many among the Salaf stated that `Isa asked if someone would volunteer for his appearance to be cast over him, and that he will be killed instead of `Isa, for which he would be his companion in Paradise. (Source)

After sifting through all these conflicting reports we are still left to wonder if it was Titawus, Judas Iscariot, or the watchman who was made to resemble Jesus? And if it was one of the twelve, or thirteen, or seventeen, or nineteen (?!) disciples who died in Jesus' place, which one of them was it? Furthermore, if God would allow an innocent victim to die in Christ's place, why not just let Jesus die? Finally, what was the point of allowing someone else to die at all when God could have easily taken Jesus to heaven in full view of his enemies? This would have been the greatest act God could have performed in vindicating Jesus from all the lies of Christ's enemies.

Instead, we are asked to believe that God allowed someone else to die in Jesus' place. At the same time, we are to believe that for nearly six centuries God lead both the Jews and Christians into believing that Jesus was crucified and did indeed die. This grave error was allowed to go on while untold thousands died for this lie until the Quran finally came down to clarify this apparent deception.

In regards to the verb tawaffa as it relates to Christ's death and exaltation, there is proof from the Quran itself to suggest that the verb implies that Jesus did die before ascending to God. The verb and its derivatives are used throughout the Quran in various ways, some of which are highlighted in Neal Robinson's book, Christ In Islam and Christianity:

"The root form wafa (ed.- from which tawaffa is derived), with the three consonants w, f and y is not found in the Quran. We do, however, find two instances of the elative of the corresponding adjective (9:111 and 53:41), which suggest that the meaning of the root form is `to fulfill (a promise)' or `to be complete'.

Form II, waffa, occurs eighteen times as a finite verb and once as a participle:

  1. In one instance, where Abraham is the subject and the object is not expressed, the meaning seems to be close to that of the root form, `to fulfill [a promise]'(53:37).
  2. In every other instance the meaning is `to pay/repay in full' and the context is the last judgement when God will recompense people for their actions in this life (active: 3:57, 4:173, 11:15,111, 24:25,39, 35:30, 46:19, passive: 2:272,281, 3:25, 3:161,185, 8:60, 16:111, 39:10,70, active participle: 11:109).

Form IV, awfa, also occurs eighteen times as a finite verb and once as a participle:

  1. Frequently, it means `to fulfil (a covenant, vow, promise or obligation)' (with human subject: 2:40, 3:76, 5:1, 6:152, 13:20, 16:91, 17:34, 22:29, 48:10, 76:7, active participle 2:177. With God as subject 2:40).
  2. It can also mean `to give full (measure)' (with human subject: 6:152, 7:85, 11:85, 12:59,88, 17:35, 26:181).

Form X, istawaffa, occurs only once where it has the meaning `demand full payment', `exact in full' (83:2).

Form VI, tawaffa, occurs 25 times as a finite verb and once as an active participle:

  1. With angels or angelic messengers as the subject it means `receive' or `gather' [at death] (4:97, 6:61, 7:37, 8:50, 16:28,32, 32:11, 47:27). Cf. one instance where death itself is the subject (4:15).
  2. With God as the subject it seems to mean:
  3. (a) `to receive in death' or `cause to die' (10:104, 16:70, 39:42),

    (b) `to receive in death' or `cause to die' prematurely (Muhammad 10:46, 13:40, 40:77, the pious 3:193, 7:126, 12:101),

    (c) `to receive' souls in sleep, which is likened to death (6:60, 39:42),

    (d) `to receive' Jesus (5:117, participle 3:55).

  4. In the passive it is a euphemism for death, particularly a premature death (2:234, 240 22:5, 40:67)." (Ibid. [State University of New York Press, 1991], pp. 117-118 bold emphasis ours)

To support Robinson's view that tawaffa almost always means death when God or angels are the subject we quote the following Quranic verses:

"If any of you die And leave widows behind, They shall wait concerning themselves Four months and ten days..." S. 2:234 Y. Ali

"Whether We let thee (O Muhammad) behold something of that which We promise or (whether We) cause thee to die, still unto Us is their return, and Allah moreover, is Witness over what they do." S. 10:46 M. Pickthall

"Whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging themselves. Then will they make full submission (saying): We used not to do any wrong. Nay! Surely Allah is Knower of what ye used to do." S. 16:28 Pickthall

"Say: The angel of death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you, and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned." S. 32:11 Pickthall

In light of the preceding examples and the linguistic evidence, we are left with the conclusion that the Quran in S. 3:55 and 5:117 conclusively prove that Jesus died before ascending to heaven.

There is additional support for this in a hadith in Sahih Bukhari:

Narrated Ibn Masud

As if I saw the Prophet talking about one of the Prophets whose nation had beaten him and caused him to bleed, while he was cleaning the blood of his face and saying, "O Allah! Forgive my nation for they have no knowledge." Bukhari Vol. 4:683 (Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan's 9 volume translation)

The only prophet who was beaten and uttered such words was Jesus Christ as he lay crucified on the cross of Calvary:

"There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, `Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Luke 23:32-34 NKJV

This still does not resolve the issue since the Quran in S. 4:157 denies that Jesus was crucified. To make matters worse, Mahmoud Ayoub indicates that there is a tradition from Muhammad where the latter states that Jesus did not die but will come at the end to kill the false Messiah. Afterwards, Jesus will die, be buried, and be raised to life at the Day of Judgement. (Ayoub, The Quran and Its Interpreters, pp. 170-171)

There are several possible solutions in trying to reconcile what appears to be a contradiction, since on the one hand the Quran seems to imply that Jesus was crucified and actually did die. Yet, on the other hand the Quran explicitly denies that the Jews crucified or killed the Messiah:

S. 4:157 does not deny Jesus' crucifixion, but simply denies that it was the Jews who were responsible for the crucifixion. This interpretation is consistent with the Quran itself, as the following passage demonstrates:

"Ye (Muslims) slew them not, but Allah slew them. And thou (Muhammad) threwest not when thou didst throw, but Allah threw, that He might test the believers by a fair test from Him. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower." S. 8:17 Pickthall

Hence, it wasn't the Jews who crucified Christ but God's set purpose which allowed Christ to be crucified. This is precisely what the Bible teaches:

"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." Acts 2:23-24 RSV

"But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled." Acts 3:18 RSV

"for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28 RSV

"but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake." 1 Peter 1:19-20 RSV

"... whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8 NKJV

If this view is correct, then Muslims should have no objections to Jesus' death and resurrection. In fact, one Muslim writer wholeheartedly embraces it:

"The mere saving of Jesus from being killed would not make Allah the best of planners, for any person could save Jesus from being killed... In keeping with His being the best of planners, a resurrection is what Allah planned. Plainly then, the Jews accomplished their plan and killed Jesus, but Allah accomplished His best plan by raising Jesus to life again and unto Himself. (A.H. Obaray, Op. Cit., p. 39)

The only problem with this view is that it contradicts Muhammad's testimony to the fact that Jesus did not die. The only way to resolve this is to admit that the tradition is wrong and discard it completely. Some Muslims that do away with the Traditions include the followers of Rashad Khalifah, believing only in the Quran.

Jesus did not die but it was made to appear as if he did. He is coming a second time where he will then experience death after universally ushering in Islam.

The problem with this second view is that it discards the clear Quranic witness that Jesus did die before ascending.

Jesus was crucified and died. He was then raised by God and ascended to heaven. From there he will come a second time where he will kill the false Messiah, usher in Islam universally, and then die a second time. He will eventually be resurrected for the second time at the Day of Judgement.

Some may have a problem with this view since it would have Jesus dying twice, something that some Muslims will not accept. They may claim that the Quran indicates that every soul will die once, and then be resurrected to give an account before God:

"Every soul shall have A taste of death; And only on the Day Of Judgement shall you Be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved Far from the Fire And admitted to the Garden Will have attained The object (of Life): For the life of this world Is but goods and chattel Of deception." S. 3:185 Y. Ali

Yet, on the same token there are verses in the Quran that speak of two deaths:

Lo! (on that day) those who disbelieve are informed by proclamation: Verily Allah's abhorrence is more terrible than your abhorrence one of another, when ye were called unto the faith but did refuse. They say: Our Lord! Twice hast Thou made us die, and twice hast Thou made us live. Now we confess our sins. Is there any way to go out? S. 40:10-11 Pickthall

There are examples in the Quran where people died and came back to life only to die again:

And remember ye said: "O Moses! We shall never believe in thee until we see God manifestly," but ye were dazed with thunder and lighting even as ye looked on. Then We raised you up after your death: Ye had the chance to be grateful. S. 2:55-56 Y. Ali

And (remember) when ye slew a man and disagreed concerning it and Allah brought forth that which ye were hiding. And We said: Smite him with some of it. Thus Allah bringeth the dead to life and showeth you His portents so that ye may understand. S. 2:72-73

Bethink thee (O Muhammad) of those of old, who went forth from their habitations in their thousands, fearing death, and Allah said unto them: Die; and then He brought them back to life. Lo! Allah is a Lord of Kindness to mankind, but most of mankind give not thanks. S. 2:243 Pickthall

Or (bethink thee of) the like of him who, passing by a township which had fallen into utter ruin, exclaimed: How shall Allah give this township life after its death? And Allah made him die a hundred years, then brought him back to life. He said: How long hast thou tarried? (The man) said: I have tarried a day or part of a day. (He) said: Nay, but thou hast tarried for a hundred years. Just look at thy food and drink which have not rotted! Look at thine ass! And, that We may make thee a token unto mankind, look at the bones, how We adjust them and then cover them with flesh! And when (the matter) became clear unto him, he said: I know now that Allah is Able to do all things. S. 2:259 Pickthall

Or, do you think that the Fellows of the Cave and the Inscription were of Our wonderful signs? When the youths sought refuge in the cave, they said: Our Lord! grant us mercy from Thee, and provide for us a right course in our affair. So We prevented them from hearing in the cave for a number of years. Then We raised them up that We might know which of the two parties was best able to compute the time for which they remained... And you might see the sun when it rose, decline from their cave towards the right hand, and when it set, leave them behind on the left while they were in a wide space thereof. This is of the signs of Allah; whomsoever Allah guides, he is the rightly guided one, and whomsoever He causes to err, you shall not find for him any friend to lead (him) aright. And you might think them awake while they were asleep and We turned them about to the right and to the left, while their dog (lay) outstretching its paws at the entrance; if you looked at them you would certainly turn back from them in flight, and you would certainly be filled with awe because of them. And thus did We rouse them that they might question each other. A speaker among them said: How long have you tarried? They said: We have tarried for a day or a part of a day. (Others) said: Your Lord knows best how long you have tarried. Now send one of you with this silver (coin) of yours to the city, then let him see which of them has purest food, so let him bring you provision from it, and let him behave with gentleness, and by no means make your case known to any one... (Some) say: (They are) three, the fourth of them being their dog; and (others) say: Five, the sixth of them being their dog, making conjectures at what is unknown; and (others yet) say: Seven, and the eighth of them is their dog. Say: My Lord best knows their number, none knows them but a few; therefore contend not in the matter of them but with an outward contention, and do not question concerning them any of them. 18:9-12, 17-20, 22

In light of the foregoing the theory of Christ dying and rising a second time is quite plausible from an Islamic perspective.

The final view is that Jesus was crucified but did not die. He swooned and on the third day was resuscitated by some of his disciples, namely Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. From there he went to India and died at an old age.

Muslims who adhere to this view include the Ahmadiyyas and the Nation of Islam (N.O.I.). Orthodox Sunni Muslims consider these sects to be heretical.

Amazingly, the most famous swoon theory proponent is neither an Ahmadi or a member of the N.O.I. Rather it is South African Muslim Apologist Ahmad Deedat, considered to be Islam's greatest defender.

In his writings and debates, Deedat attempts to prove that Jesus did not die on the cross but simply swooned. He also attempts to prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Jesus simply recovered and appeared alive to his followers, proving that he had not died on the cross. (Deedat, Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction, I.P.C.I, 4th Floor, 124 Queen Street, Durban 4001, RSA, or P.O. BOX 2439 Durban 4000, RSA)

This theory will also not work since it contradicts the Quranic witness that Jesus was neither crucified nor killed. And it also contradicts Muhammad's statement that Jesus did not die.

Hence, no matter from what angle we look at it the Quran leaves us with difficulties. When this occurs we are to look to the Bible for the answer. This is precisely what the Quran teaches Muslims to do:

"If thou wert in doubt As to what We have revealed Unto thee, then ask those Who have been reading The Book from before thee: The Truth hath indeed come To thee from thy Lord: So be in no wise Of those who doubt." S. 10:94 Y. Ali

"And before thee (Muhammad), We sent no one, except men, to whom We granted revelation. Ask the people of the Scripture message, if you don't know." S. 21:7

Not only is the crucifixion one of the best established facts of history, it is clearly taught throughout Scripture, leaving no ambiguity as to its reality.

Both Jesus and his contemporaries who followed him affirm both the fact of his crucifixion and resurrection. Note the following citations:

"Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, `The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.' And they were exceedingly sorrowful." Matthew 17:22-23 NKJV

"Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." John 10:17-18 NKJV

Jesus also taught that his death was on behalf of sinners that they might be ransomed from eternal damnation:

"Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, `Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the remission of sins'." Mat. 26:27-28 NKJV

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 NKJV

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." John 6:51 NKJV

"As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." John 10:15 NKJV

That Jesus did not remain dead becomes apparent from the following passages:

"But he (the angel) said to them, `Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. HE IS RISEN! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples -and Peter- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you'." Mark 16:7-8 NKJV

"Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said, `Peace to you.' But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, `Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.'

"When He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, `Have you any food here?' So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence... The He said to them, `Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer AND TO RISE FROM THE DEAD THE THIRD DAY, and that repentance and remission for sin be preached IN HIS NAME TO ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusalem'." Luke 24:39-43, 46-48 NKJV

"The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them for forty days and speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Acts 1:1-3 NKJV

"he (David) foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, NOR DID HIS FLESH SEE CORRUPTION. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses." Acts 2:30-31 NKJV

"But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead of which we are witnesses." Acts 3:14-15 NKJV

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by OVER FIVE HUNDRED BRETHREN AT ONCE, OF WHOM THE GREATER PART REMAIN TO THE PRESENT, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NKJV

It is precisely the kind of evidence which Paul furnishes, appealing to nearly 500 hundred witnesses, which makes the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ one of the best attested historical facts. Such evidence has led millions throughout the ages to both embrace and die for the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead and continues to reign in eternal glory.

We would like to conclude by stating that there is one fact which both Christians and Muslims agree with; the fact that Jesus is coming again. Yet, Christians believe that Jesus is not coming back as a Muslim, but as the Judge and Savior of all men:

"so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation." Hebrews 9:28 NKJV

"I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." Revelation 1:18 NKJV



Further Reading

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