Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Hoax and its Paradoxes

The Cruci-fiction of the Qur’an

Masud Masihiyyen

It will not be an exaggeration if we say that Islam and its scripture dissent from the fundamental doctrines of Christianity from cradle to grave, for most of the Qur’an verses interpret both Jesus’ miraculous birth and His passion in a totally different and controversial way. In sharp contrast to what Christian scripture teaches about Jesus’ crucifixion, the Qur’an overtly rejects Jesus’ passion and death, implicitly endorsing a theory of illusion or a case of mistaken identity:

And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. (Surah 4:157-158)1

Being rather vague and open to interpretation, these Qur’an verses take the form of an unsolvable mystery in the hands of Muslim apologists who ironically contribute to their obscurity through their differing and puzzling comments. This kind of a disagreement concerning the true meaning of the verses quoted above condemns the Qur’an into a chain of paradoxes that subsequently undermine the validity and credibility of the Islamic hypothesis about Jesus’ crucifixion.

The first paradox is based on the allegation that “the ones bragging about crucifying and killing Jesus the Messiah” are followers of a conjecture as they do not know anything about this incident. These verses most likely address the Jews and designate them as ignorant people who did not know what had actually happened at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, the same verses somehow fail to explain to mankind all the supposed mysteries of the crucifixion as they do not allow even Muslims to comprehend how and why Jesus was saved from the cross. Thus, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are deprived of the divine knowledge, without which their opinions remain as conjecture awaiting authorization from above.

The second paradox, derived from the erroneous argument that disagreements prove doubt as well as inadequate knowledge, is embedded in the following statement that ascribes ignorance to people who are said to have differing views about Jesus’ crucifixion:

… most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it… (Surah 4:157)

Apparently, either there is a problem with the linguistic structure of this particular verse or it contains a logical fallacy. In the first place, Muslims cannot be exempt from the charges of doubt and ignorance since they absolutely dissent from Christians and Jews when they deny Jesus’ crucifixion. Second, the quoted verse does not narrow the content and form of disagreement, confirming the idea that Jewish or Christian groups do not know anything about Jesus’ crucifixion because they disagree among themselves. If we suppose that one group dissented from the other by denying Jesus’ death, even that certain group would be condemned to following speculations despite the fact that they concurred on the denial presented in the Qur’an. As a result, the Islamic scripture surprisingly teaches that whoever denies Jesus’ crucifixion as a matter of disagreement has nothing else than doubt!

The third paradox is related to the following Qur’an verse:

And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, so l will decide between you concerning that in which you differed. (Surah 3:55).

In this verse Allah supposedly speaks to Jesus and promises to cleanse Him from all His disbelieving adversaries. The striking feature of this alleged statement is that it refers to Jesus’ ascension, which occurs also in Surah 4:155-158, where the negation of Jesus’ crucifixion and death are strengthened through His relevant ascension to Allah. The meaning of the Arabic word “waffa” occurring in this verse is still disputed among Muslims apologists2 as to whether Jesus experienced a physical death prior to His ascension or not, but this does not change the fact that the Qur’an considered Jesus’ ascension the termination of His earthly life and prophetic mission. This conclusion begets the question why Jesus’ physical departure from this world had to coincide with the Jewish resistance and disbelief. A similar question is why Allah would ever let the Jewish disbelief result in the forced end of Jesus’ prophetic ministry.

When we analyze the aftermath of Jesus’ alleged ascension in the Qur’an, we can see that this incident has a disappointing result for Jesus, who is targeted by a disbelieving community. This is merely because the inevitable end of Jesus’ mission in the form of a bodily departure and isolation from this world signifies His foes’ salvation from Him more than His own rescue from their hands. More to the point, those who disbelieve and plan to take Jesus out of their lives are absolutely grateful to the god of Islam, who takes Jesus out of this world before they bother to punish Him and shed His blood. Thus, it surprisingly becomes impossible for the god of Islam to blame some Jews of Jesus’ time for crucifying and killing Him. As there is no victim, there is neither guilt nor accusation.

However, some Islamic groups deem it necessary to reinterpret Surah 3:55 as they are not pleased with the idea of Jesus’ physical death prior to His ascension. This they can achieve through the symbolic parallelism they draw between death and sleep, which finds support in another Qur’an verse likening sleep at night to the state of death3. Their relevant conclusion is that Jesus was taken up alive, and that He will die after His second coming4. This approach to the form of Jesus’ ascension – which is the result of an attempt to harmonize the tension between the verses of the Islamic scripture – aims to radically distinguish the Islamic tenet concerning Jesus’ glorification from the basic Christian tenet binding Jesus’ glorification to His passion and death. St. Paul the apostle stresses the relation between Jesus’ passion and exaltation when he writes that Jesus’ humility became manifest in His incarnation and culminated in His surrender to death on a cross5. Thus, in Christian theology of salvation, Jesus’ glorification is preceded by and cannot be separated from His physical death. The literal interpretation of the verb “cause to die/end one’s life” in Surah 3:55 is thus discarded by some Muslim apologists who want to evade any thematic or linguistic affinity between the means of Jesus’ exaltation in Christianity and in Islam.

Nevertheless, the symbolic interpretation of Jesus’ bodily departure from our world in Surah 3:55 paradoxically becomes more troublesome for its adherents. The assertion that Jesus did not experience a physical death prior to His ascension makes Him a figure that was granted eternal life before Mohammad, which contradicts a Qur’an verse:

And We did not ordain abiding for any mortal before you. What! Then if you die, will they abide? (Surah 21:34)

Besides, Jesus’ infancy narrative in the 19th Surah of the Qur’an contains some statements that make Jesus equal to a messenger named Yahya (John the Baptist) in terms of physical death and resurrection:

And peace on him on the day he was born, and on the day he dies, and on the day he is raised to life. (Surah 19:15)

And peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I am raised to life. (Surah 19:33)

Another Qur’an verse implies that ALL the messengers/prophets before Muhammad passed away:

And Muhammad is no more than an apostle; the apostles have already passed away before him; if then he dies or is killed will you turn back upon your heels? (Surah 3:144)

According to the Qur’an, every human must experience death:

Every soul must taste of death and We try you by evil and good by way of probation; and to Us you shall be brought back. (Surah 21:35)

At this point, Muslim scholars are torn between making Jesus exempt from death through their symbolic interpretation of Surah 3:55 and making Jesus subject to death because of the verses quoted above. In order to find a way out of this paradox, they make use of Jesus’ second coming at the end of times, which is a purely Christian concept compatible with the apocalyptic doctrines of Jesus’ universal Kingdom and divine authority as the Judge of the mankind6. Consequently, bringing Jesus down from the sky just before the Day of Judgment signifies for some Muslim scholars the only way of terminating Jesus’ long life so that He can be adapted to the former messengers and prophets of the Qur’an, all of whom are said to have passed away.

This sort of reasoning adds a new item to the list of contrasts between Islamic and Christian creed. Although both faith systems believe in the second coming of Jesus to our world, the chronology of the events in Jesus’ life has a sharp contrast. In Christianity Jesus experiences death during His first advent and conquers death on the third day. His resurrection proves that death has no more dominion over Him7, as a result of which He comes the second time not to die, but to judge the living and the dead and proclaim His eternal Kingdom. Islam reverses this order by claiming that Jesus will come the second time to die as death had no dominion over Him during His first advent until His ascension. More interestingly, Jesus in Christianity comes the first time so that He can save mankind through His death whereas in Islam Jesus comes the second time so that He can die and save some Muslim apologists from a theological problem.

In addition, the Qur’an verse used as a reference for the prediction of Jesus’ second coming is highly problematic:

And most surely it is a knowledge of the hour, therefore have no doubt about it and follow me: this is the right path. (Surah 43:61)

This specific verse talking of the knowledge of the hour is not a standardized version since Muslim scholars have not reached a consensus on the gender of the personal pronoun occurring in this verse yet. This is why in another Qur’an version (Yusuf Ali’s translation) we read Jesus’ name inserted into the translation in brackets:

And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way. (Surah 43:61)

Interestingly, another Qur’an version (Pickthall’s translation) omits the personal pronoun from this sentence:

And lo! verily there is knowledge of the Hour. So doubt ye not concerning it, but follow Me. This is the right path. (Surah 43:61)

It is not reasonable to claim that the personal pronoun in 43:61 refers to Jesus as the sign of the Hour because this chapter was written prior to Mohammad’s adoption of the Gnostic heresy denying Jesus’ crucifixion and death. The Islamic teaching that Jesus escaped death through divine intervention was an innovation unknown in the early (Meccan) period of the Qur’an. What Muslims today do is reinterpret an obscure verse of an earlier period of the Qur’an in the light of another obscure verse of a later period with the help of Hadiths reiterating the Christian tenets about Jesus’ second coming. Muslim commentators can claim only now (after the completion of the whole Qur’an) that the referent in Surah 43 points at Jesus. Nevertheless, such an interpretation would be unthinkable in the early days of the Qur’an when Muslims were not familiar with the Islamic doctrine that Jesus had been taken to Heaven. Nothing in the Meccan period of the Qur’an enabled Muslims to infer that Jesus was somehow in Heaven.

If we get back to the unstated and vague reasons underlying the necessity of Jesus’ salvation from the cross and the related denial of His crucifixion, we first encounter a group of Muslims who cannot endure the idea that almighty and righteous God would allow some evil unbelievers torture and murder one of His honorable prophets8. This kind of an objection to Jesus’ passion and death primarily became so dominant and popular in the Islamic world that even a Christian saint writing a critique of the basic Islamic tenets remarked that Muslims’ faith in God’s love towards Jesus was the main obstacle in the way to their endorsement of the passion and crucifixion9. The claim that God loved Jesus so much that He did not allow Him to suffer and die is a distorted version of the Christian doctrine that Jesus’ suffering and death expressed God’s love for sinful mankind10. Although the Islamic theory that the admittance of Jesus’ passion and death betrays God’s love for Him is not explicitly supported by the Qur’an, it manages to provide a nice theological reason for the denial of the crucifixion. However, it is not possible to say that this theological reason perfectly fits the case of many prophets and messengers of the Qur’an.

Unlike the New Testament, the Islamic scripture disregards the notion of consistency when the rescue of certain prophets is in question. The parable named the tenants of the vineyard11, which is found in the Synoptic Gospels with slight variations, does not only illustrate that God’s elected nation persecuted and murdered God’s messengers, but also that the Son of God in human flesh was not exempt from a murderous act. Nothing could it make clearer than this parable that Jesus’ passion and death was the culmination of Israel’s unfair reaction to and disbelief in God’s chosen servants. The Qur’an, on the other hand, contains inconsistent statements about the supposed rescue of all prophets or messengers since it both sanctifies the concept of martyrdom and promotes the supposition that certain messengers were miraculously saved from the hands of their unbelieving enemies. Jesus is unsurprisingly forced into the specific group of prophets that were saved from the harms of their adversaries.

First, there are certain Qur’an verses that extol the martyrdom of believers to the point of proclaiming them immortal in God’s sight. This partly proves that Islam does not object to the idea of associating suffering and sorrow with God’s holy and righteous servants:

And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead; nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive. (Surah 2:154)

And reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord. (Surah 3:169)

Jesus in Islam, however, is more than a righteous and pious servant of God. He is both a messenger and a prophet who is allegedly given a divine scripture named the Good News. According to some implicit verses of the Qur’an, what justifies Jesus’ divine rescue from His enemies is His prophetic ministry. At this point, the story of Abraham’s miraculous salvage from the hands of his idolatrous enemies12 may be introduced as an example to support the argument that Jesus’ alleged salvation from the cross was not an exceptional case.

The comparative analysis of Abraham and Jesus’ supposed rescues reveals how erroneous it is to assume that the denial of Jesus’ crucifixion is compatible with the stories of the former prophets. This sort of a comparison highlights that both the means and results of Abraham’s alleged rescue from his enemies are in sharp contrast to those of Jesus’ supposed salvation from disbelieving Jews. In the first place the narratives relating Abraham’s life in the Qur’an lay emphasis on the assertion that Abraham’s enemies became aware of their defeat because they could see and understand how God supposedly saved His prophet from the fire of his pagan adversaries13. The verse denying Jesus’ crucifixion and claiming His divine rescue in the Qur’an contrastively affiliate the miracle saving Jesus from the evil plots of his enemies with an optical illusion. This, in turn, entails the allegation that it was impossible for the Jews who tried to slay Jesus to be aware of their failure and defeat. In other words, the invisible miracle in Jesus’ life bafflingly prevented Jesus’ adversaries from both murdering Him and knowing that they did not actually murder Him! This was such a paradoxical operation of divine rescue that the true miracle turned out to be the concealment of the very miracle14.

Second, the repeated accounts of Abraham’s supposed salvation from the fire of his pagan folk through a miracle do not refer to the end of Abraham’s prophetic ministry unlike the verses that attach Jesus’ ascension to His alleged salvation from death. Thus, Jesus is claimed to have left this world despite His rescue from the hands of His adversaries whereas Abraham is claimed to have continued his life and prophetic mission through a miracle. In short, Jesus’ story in the Qur’an lacks the notion of survival. As it is impossible for the disbelieving Jews to know that Jesus had not been crucified, it is also impossible for Jesus to continue His prophetic ministry in Israel. Jesus’ survival in the sense of a continuation of his ministry is mysteriously made impossible by those who want to kill Him, which means that the Jews who wanted to shut him up have actually reached their goal.

It should be stressed that in the Qur’an Abraham is the only holy figure whose supposed rescue from danger through a miracle is recorded in details if the Israelites’ salvation from Pharaoh’s army in Moses’ leadership is distinguished as a miraculous incident aiming to save not only a messenger but also his entire nation. At this point, Abraham and Moses’ stories make a more plausible pair, for both figures are threatened by pagan folks that oppose the idea of monotheism. Nonetheless, Jesus’ case in the Qur’an is rather different in that He is an Israelite who is sent by God as a prophet to His own nation, and the Israelites at His time are followers of a monotheistic faith. Accordingly, Jesus’ prophetic ministry must be examined in the same category as the other Israelite messengers and prophets so that a sound comparison can be worked out.

Strikingly, the Qur’an recurrently denounces Jews for opposing God’s message and murdering His messengers. In various chapters of the Qur’an, even more than once in a single chapter, the Jews are marked as a rebellious community persecuting and murdering God’s chosen servants:

And abasement and humiliation were brought down upon them, and they became deserving of Allah's wrath; this was so because they disbelieved in the communications of Allah and killed the prophets unjustly; this was so because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits. (Surah 2:61)

What! whenever then an apostle came to you with that which your souls did not desire, you were insolent so you called some liars and some you slew. (Surah 2:87)

And when it is said to them, Believe in what Allah has revealed, they say: We believe in that which was revealed to us; and they deny what is besides that, while it is the truth verifying that which they have. Say: Why then did you kill Allah's Prophets before if you were indeed believers? (Surah 2:91)

Surely (as for) those who disbelieve in the communications of Allah and slay the prophets unjustly and slay those among men who enjoin justice, announce to them a painful chastisement. (Surah 3:21)

Abasement is made to cleave to them wherever they are found, except under a covenant with Allah and a covenant with men, and they have become deserving of wrath from Allah, and humiliation is made to cleave to them; this is because they disbelieved in the communications of Allah and slew the prophets unjustly; this is because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits. (Surah 3:112)

Allah has certainly heard the saying of those who said: Surely Allah is poor and we are rich. I will record what they say, and their killing the prophets unjustly, and I will say: Taste the chastisement of burning. (Surah 3:181)

(Those are they) who said: Surely Allah has enjoined us that we should not believe in any apostle until he brings us an offering which the fire consumes. Say: Indeed, there came to you apostles before me with clear arguments and with that which you demand; why then did you kill them if you are truthful? (Surah 3:183)

Therefore, for their breaking their covenant and their disbelief in the communications of Allah and their killing the prophets wrongfully and their saying: Our hearts are covered; nay! Allah set a seal upon them owing to their unbelief, so they shall not believe except a few. (Surah 4:155)

Certainly We made a covenant with the children of Israel and We sent to them apostles; whenever there came to them an apostle with what that their souls did not desire, some (of them) did they call liars and some they slew. (Surah 5:70)

It is by no means a coincidence that all these verses belong to the late period of the Qur’an’s composition and therefore reflect the religious and political conflicts between Muhammad and the Jews of Arabia after the migration to Medina. The context of these verses points out Muhammad’s scribes’ wish to speed up their anti-Jewish campaign and ascribe various negative characteristics to the followers of Judaism. One of the most effective weapons of this campaign is undoubtedly the presentation of the Jews as murderers of God’s messengers/prophets. The authors of the Qur’an refer to the sinful acts of the elected nation of God in the ecstasy of their anti-Jewish sentiments and fail to understand how their recurrent reference to the murder of God’s prophets makes Jesus’ alleged redemption from the plots of disbelieving Jews odd and unique. Muhammad’s scribes’ desire to accuse the Jews of murdering righteous and holy figures consequently overrides the theological expectation that God’s messengers and prophets be saved from the hands of their disbelieving enemies, and this makes Jesus’ divine rescue inconsistent and exceptional.

To play the devil’s advocate, it may be suggested that what necessitates Jesus’ rescue from His enemies is the type of death Jesus is said to have experienced. Most of the statements in the New Testament sound scandalous to Muslim believers because of the basic Christian tenet seeing in Jesus’ passion and death the atonement of the mankind’s sins. All of the four Gospels recount with much emphasis how Jesus was persecuted and murdered by His adversaries15. The accounts of Jesus’ passion highlight His mockery and torment even prior to His crucifixion, indicating the different methods of humiliation (mockery, insult, scourging) conducted by the opposing groups. This rather embarrassing image of a fully humiliated, dishonored, and abandoned prophet may be presented as a plausible reason for Jesus’ unique case of rescue from the hands of His enemies. God exceptionally intervenes in Jesus’ life because He does not want the disbelieving people to think that Jesus was a false prophet unsaved by the true God. This reasoning is related to the approval of Jesus’ prophetic ministry, expecting God to save Jesus from His enemies so that the Jewish allegations concerning the veracity of Jesus’ teachings can be rebutted16. In short, the prevention of Jesus’ humiliation is said to be crucial for the deletion of the image of a false prophet drawn by the Jews for Jesus.

No matter how reasonable and theologically valid this argument may seem, it too is condemned to a paradox if the Islamic theory of substitution17, the oldest and traditionally prevalent theory, is remembered. The adherents of this theory contend that the Qur’an verse implicitly refers to an optical illusion through the sentence “so it appeared to them”. The disbelieving Jews are asserted to have arrested, tortured, and murdered someone else in Jesus’ stead while the true Jesus is saved from harm and taken up into Heaven. The improved and detailed version of this theory gives us even the identity of the person who was mistakenly crucified instead of Jesus.

In the Gospel of Barnabas, which is a false medieval Gospel written by an author who knew more about the Bible than about the Qur’an, Judas Iscariot is miraculously transformed into Jesus’ image in return for his disbelief and betrayal. This supposed physical and vocal transformation is said to be so successful and convincing that even Jesus’ apostles are claimed to have mistaken Judas Iscariot for Jesus:

Truly I say that the voice, the face, and the person of Judas were so like to Jesus, that his disciples and believers entirely believed that he was Jesus; wherefore some departed from the doctrine of Jesus, believing that Jesus had been a false prophet, and that by art magic he had done the miracles which he did: for Jesus had said that he should not die till near the end of the world; for that at that time he should be taken away from the world. (Gospel of Barnabas 217:14)18

The author of the Gospel of Barnabas does not know that this so-called transformation God allegedly performs to punish Judas Iscariot and the other Jewish leaders (Jesus’ adversaries) fails to efface Jesus’ image of a humiliated and defeated false prophet. The author of the Gospel of Barnabas and some Muslim commentators who endorse the theory of illusion and substitution cannot understand that through the supposed miraculous transformation God Himself compels Jesus’ enemies to see and be convinced that Jesus is truly a humiliated and defeated prophet when He makes Jesus identical with a criminal and sinner (Judas Iscariot) in the eyes of the disbelieving Jews! This is why in the Gospel of Barnabas the Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders think that they mock and dishonor Jesus, for whatever Judas Iscariot does is automatically ascribed to true Jesus due to the success of the divine miracle:

The soldiers took Judas and bound him, not without derision. For he truthfully denied that he was Jesus; and the soldiers, mocking him, said: 'Sir, fear not, for we are come to make you king of Israel, and we have bound you because we know that you do refuse the kingdom.' Judas answered: 'Now have you lost your senses! You are come to take Jesus of Nazareth, with arms and lanterns as [against] a robber; and you have bound me that have guided you, to make me king!' (217:1)

If the only thing that matters about Jesus’ crucifixion is what Jews think about Jesus and how they see Him, then Jesus cannot be saved by God from persecution and death in the sight of His disbelieving adversaries, who are made to believe with the help of a miracle (!) that who is arrested and crucified is no one else than Jesus of Nazareth! Here we encounter a baffling image of a god who makes His holy prophet equal to a murdered traitor because He wants to save the same holy prophet from a humiliating death and the image of a killed sinner! This ridiculous argument enables us to comprehend that someone else’s supposed substitution for Jesus reflects God’s alleged desire to deceive the disbelieving Jews of Jesus’ time and punish a traitor rather than help His holy prophet maintain His honor and glory through the prevention of His crucifixion and death. Should we consider the theory of substitution true, we have to admit that the god of the Qur’an is not concerned with Jesus’ honor and glory because the way he chooses to punish the unbelievers and sinners is inevitably bound to Jesus’ humiliation and defamation. This also illustrates how the god of the Qur’an makes Jesus (through the abuse of His face and voice) a sacrifice to his aspiration to beguile the Jews.

The other Islamic supposition that one of Jesus’ apostles volunteered to assume His image and endure the crucifixion for the sake of a place in Heaven only adds a piece of heroism into Jesus’ story, but falls short of dissociating Jesus from the image of a defamed and murdered prophet of God since the unbelieving Jews still see and believe with no doubt that the person crucified as a criminal is Jesus. Further, the allegation that one of Jesus’ apostles was substituted for Him betrays the notion of justice since it teaches that a righteous believer had to die for Jesus although the supposed illusion made that innocent death meaningless and useless.

Since the tenets of the Ahmadiyya19 denies the crucifixion only partly and claims that what saved Jesus from death on the cross was His passing out rather than a miracle of replacement, it is not possible to say that this modern Islamic approach to Jesus’ crucifixion has anything to do with the notions of divine justice or the punishment of the disbelievers. Nonetheless, this innovated theory accepts from the start that Jesus actually suffered a in the hands of His adversaries, enduring torture and humiliation. The admittance of this fact entails that the god of the Qur’an failed to rescue Jesus from physical pain and the accusations of being a sinner/criminal. No matter how much aversion this Islamic sect has to the notion of a holy prophet’s experiencing a cursed death, its assertions lead one to the conclusion that the Jews were convinced of Jesus’ cursed death since they declared Him dead.

Finally, another Islamic theory that strives to explain the historical reality of Jesus’ crucifixion and death through the alleged invention of a story needs special examination, for it goes against the other Islamic theories that are essentially bound to the admittance of the crucifixion as a real tragic incident befalling someone else than Jesus. According to this theory of the invention of a legend, which is nothing more than a legend invented by Muhammad Asad, Jesus’ crucifixion is a fabricated story that Christians embraced long after Jesus’ prophetic ministry and even the Jews acknowledged to present Jesus as a murdered criminal20. Asad’s view is problematic not only because it ignores the fact that the Qur’an verse does not accuse Jesus’ adversaries of acknowledging a lie and contributing to its dissemination, but also because it denies that in the same verse only the disbelieving Jews are claimed to be the people giving credence to an appearance (so it appeared to THEM). Further, Asad’s theory, which owes its existence to the supposed invention of a legend concerning only Jesus’ crucifixion, serves to declare indulgence for the Jews through the mitigation of their guilt. This, however, is not compatible with the several verses of the Qur’an that identify the Jews as murderers of Allah’s prophets (Surah 2:61, Surah 5:70, etc) as well as with the specific verses that bind the Jews’ plot to kill Jesus to their disbelief:

But when Isa perceived unbelief on their part, he said Who will be my helpers in Allah's way? The disciples said: We are helpers (in the way) of Allah: We believe in Allah and bear witness that we are submitting ones. Our Lord! we believe in what Thou hast revealed and we follow the apostle, so write us down with those who bear witness. And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners. (Surah 3:52-54)

If Jesus’ passion is an illusion in the sense that it is a fabrication, it is not reasonable to talk of Jesus’ rescue from His enemies as it is not reasonable to claim that the Jews attempted to murder Jesus. Muhammad Asad’s argument encourages one to consider the possibility that even the Jewish attempt to kill Jesus was an indispensable part of the invented legend. Allah presumably denied the crucifixion not because the Jews really tried to crucify His Messiah, but because he mistook a legend for a true historical incident! It is high time Asad answered the questions why and how Jesus was rescued from His disbelieving enemies and how the disbelieving Jews tried to murder Him.

In addition, Asad’s theory would definitely not get the appraisal of the Jews no matter how it makes diligent efforts to save them from being the victims of an illusion. This is because the same theory, as a matter of paradox, would offend the Jews through the allegation that they became eager to comply with Christians in the authorization of this supposed legend despite the risk of authorizing the purely Christian tenet of salvation through Jesus’ sacrificial death.

Even the admittance of Asad’s theory cannot save Jesus from being a persecuted and murdered criminal in the sight of His adversaries because it proves that the allegedly invented story was successful to the point of fooling everyone until the appearance of this verse in the Islamic scripture. Apparently, the only benefit Asad’s view aims to grant Islam is the salvation of the god of the Qur’an from being a beguiling deity. Once more Jesus’ honor and glory are disregarded so that the god of the Qur’an can be indicted.


Since the Qur’an denies Jesus’ passion and death with no overt theological reason and fails to provide adequate information on this issue, Muslim commentators feel themselves obliged to derive new solutions to the problematic verse of the Qur’an, running the risk of having conflictive theories. They constantly try to work out new solutions to the remarkable problem of their scripture with regard to Jesus’ death only because they know the bitter truth that their scripture is both theologically and linguistically incompetent in terms of distorting the basic Christian tenet of salvation through the cross.

One wonders why the Qur’an cannot remove the cross out of Jesus’ life altogether and claim that Jesus was never associated with the cross during His prophetic ministry. The authors of the Qur’an astonishingly make the crucifixion an indispensable part of Jesus’ life and mission through their denial of the event by clinging to a theory of illusion. All the Islamic theories that try to negate Jesus’ crucifixion and death eventually converge in the assertion that Jesus had to APPEAR to have been suffered and murdered by people who opposed His teachings and hated Him. The god of the Qur’an surprisingly needs an illusion to deny Jesus’ death on the cross, being unable to wipe the cross off the historical and secular accounts concerning Jesus.

What actually drove the authors of the Qur’an to explain the image of a crucified Messiah with the help of an illusion or appearance was their familiarity with the fact that the historical reality of Jesus’ passion cannot be ignored. Since the testimonies of both Jewish and non-Jewish eyewitnesses made the removal and deletion of the cross from Jesus’ life improbable, the removal of Jesus from the scene of crucifixion was tried as a remedy. This cunning strategy resulted in the depiction of the god of the Qur’an as a deceptive and unreliable deity that concealed the truth about Jesus until Muhammad’s advent. Consequently, the Messiah of the Qur’an was condemned by Muhammad to death only in appearance for the punishment of His adversaries unlike the true Messiah of the New Testament, who died in reality for the salvation of sinful mankind. The New Testament proclaims the crucified Messiah and saved humanity whereas the Qur’an promotes the saved Messiah and punished humanity.


1 All Islamic scriptural references used in this study, unless otherwise stated, come from Shakir’s translation (source).

2 Sam Shamoun analyzes these disputes in one of his extensive articles while criticizing the Islamic creed on Jesus’ crucifixion (here).

3 Surah 6:60

4 Jamal Badawi is one of such Muslim apologists who hold this view during theological debates with Christians (see here).

5 Philippians 2:5-11

6 In all of the Gospels Jesus delivers an apocalyptic speech and makes it clear that He will descend from Heaven in glory at the end of times to judge all of mankind (Matthew 24: 3-51, Mark 13: 3-37, Luke 21:5-36, John 5:26-29).

7 The Book of Revelation 1:17-18

8 The following Qur’an verse may be used in support for the expected rescue of God’s prophets: The people of Nuh and the parties after them rejected (prophets) before them, and every nation purposed against their apostle to destroy him, and they disputed by means of the falsehood that they might thereby render null the truth, therefore I destroyed them; how was then My retribution! (Surah 40:5)

9 St John of Damascus’ Critique of Islam (here).

10 John 3:16, Romans 5:8

11 Matthew 21:33-44, Mark: 12:1-11, Luke 20:9-18

12 In sharp contrast to the accounts about Abraham in the Torah, the Qur’an teaches that Abraham was miraculously saved from the fire of his pagan folk. For further info on this legendary rescue, see this article.

13 Surah 21:52-71, Surah 37: 83-98

14 For further reading, see this article.

15 Matthew 26:57 - 27:50, Mark 14:53 - 15:37, Luke 22:54 - 23:46, John 18:12 - 19:34

16 God supposedly tells Jesus in the Qur’an that He saved Him from the harm of His disbelieving enemies (Surah 5:110).

17 All the prominent Islamic theories related to the denial of Jesus’ crucifixion are presented and discussed in another article.

18 Canon L. Ragg’s English translation of the Gospel of Barnabas (source).

19 For info on the distinct Ahmadiyya beliefs concerning Jesus’ crucifixion, cf. Wikipedia.

Articles by Masud Masihiyyen
Answering Islam Home Page