Responses to Islamic Awareness

'Crucifiction' In Egypt?

M S M Saifullah & 'Abd ar-Rahmaan Robert Squires inform us that:

The Qur'an talks about crucifixion as punishment in Egypt. Below are the relevant verses.

"Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on apposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the CROSS."[Qur'an 7:124]

(Pharaoh) said: Ye put your faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! he doubtless is your chief who taught you magic! But verily ye shall come to know. Verily I will cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and verily I will crucify you every one. [Qur'an 26:49]

(Pharaoh) said: "Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this must be your leader, who has taught you magic! be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of PALM-TREES: so shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment!" [Qur'an 20:71]

These three passages from the Qur'an tell the story of Moses which occurred between 1450 - 1200 BC.. There is another mention of crucifixion in the Qur'an:.

"O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord to drink: as for the other, he will hang from the CROSS, and the birds will eat from off his head. (so) hath been decreed that matter whereof ye twain do enquire"... [Sura 12:41]

This passage refers to the story of Joseph's which is dated around 1880 BC. The event described took place long before the time of Moses and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. It is also interesting that Suras 7:124 and 12:41 refer to CROSSES while Sura 26:49 talks about palm-tree trunks. Which is it, a cross or a palm-tree trunk? After pondering this problem, I understand your confusion in the remainder of this section.

The Qur'an is saying that crucifixion was a punishment during Pharaoh's time. The specifics of the punishment was cutting hands and feet on opposite sites and crucify on the trunk of the trees.

The Qur'an is in error based on the historical and archeological evidence.

It has been claimed by Christian missionaries that:

We have no record that Egyptians used crucifixion as punishment. This only becomes a punishment much later in history and then in another culture. Such a threat is historically inaccurate.

They are correct. Archaeology and history show us NO EVIDENCE of the use of crucifixion in ancient Egypt. This is clearly another case of the Qur'an compressing historical events based on a misunderstanding of Biblical history.

As usual, no references are quoted and hence it is hard to verify the information.

Can anyone prove that something DID NOT occur? If you want to prove the positive, that crucifixion was practiced in ancient Egypt, all you need to do is find an inscription or papyri that describes it. This is clearly an attempt to dismiss a very serious problem in the Qur'an without proving the positive - that such events actually happened.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see if there are no records of Egyptians using crucifixion as a punishment why does the on-line Smith's Bible Dictionary say under Crucifixion:

Crucifixion was in used among the Egyptians, Ge 40:19; the Carthaginians, the Persians, Es 7:10; the Assyrians, Scythains, Indians, Germans, and from the earliest times among the Greeks and Romans. Whether this mode of execution was known to the ancient Jews is a matter of dispute. Probably the Jews borrowed it from the Romans. It was unanimously considered the most horrible form of death.

This definition is misleading. Crucifixion was a method of execution. Prisoners were fastened to wooden crosses (not trees) where they slowly, and painfully, died of suffocation. Fastening someone to a cross was different that hanging them, or impaling them, on a tree.

As noted in the above quote, in Genesis 40:18-19 we read the interpretation of the dream by Joseph(P). It is talking about the 'Pharaoh' in Joseph's(P) time will hang the person on a tree.

"This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh." [Genesis 40:18-19]

Similar story is also mentioned in the Qur'an in the story of Joseph(P):

"O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord to drink: as for the other, he will hang from the cross, and the birds will eat from off his head. (so) hath been decreed that matter whereof ye twain do enquire"... [12:41]

Once again, the Qur'an is in error!!

So, the crucifixion was practiced by the 'Pharaohs' (as well as Kings) in Egypt during the time of Joseph(P) much before the time of Moses(P). Hence it would be appropriate to refer of crucifixion without labeling it as an anachronism in the time of Moses(P) in Egypt.

NO!! This was not crucifixion! If you read your Qur'an in context, the baker's head was chopped off and then his dead body was hung on the tree and eaten by the vultures. Crucifixion is a method of execution or "putting a living person on a cross in order to kill him", this man was already dead.

Displaying the body of someone who was executed was a common practice in the Old Testament and even in Medieval Europe. The purpose of this was to warn others not commit similar acts.

Will the Christian missionaries now prove that the form of crucifixion practiced during the time of Joseph(P), as mentioned in the Bible [Genesis 40:18-19], from the Egyptians records that are available now? Missionaries are very much in a habit of asking proof and evidence concerning the historical statements in the Qur'an. Is it not high time that they show such an evidence of the form of crucifixion [as mention in Genesis 40:18-19] from the Egyptians records? After all the Bible is proved so well by archeology, is it not? Why not Muslims also see such an evidence?

There are very few legal documents from ancient Egypt. We do know that there were two courts which tried capital cases: Thebes and Heliopolis. We also have one capital punishment case called the "haram conspiracy", where Ramses III was killed. In this case, which involved members of the royal family, those convicted were permitted to take their lives. The Edict of Horemheb gives the legal methods for execution. I am trying to locate a copy of this Edict and will update this page when I find it.

Many historians believe that Joseph lived around the time of the late Hyksos Kings. There is an inscription on the walls of the Temple of Karnak, dated after the fall of the Hyksos, which describes the success of Tehutimes III:

"On the 10th of Epiphi he took Ni without striking a blow. The inhabitants, men and women, were on the walls to do honour to his majesty. Other places, like Akerith, underwent long siege, before surrendering. But the insurrection was entirely quelled by the year III, and in the course of the campaign the Pharaoh captured seven chiefs of the country of Thakhis. Six of them were solemnly sacrificed to Amen, their hands and heads being exposed on the walls of the temple of Karnak. The seventh was treated the same way at Napata, as an example to the Ethiopian princes and to make them respect the authority of the Pharaoh.(The Historians A History of the World by Henry Smith Williams, Hooper and Jackson Ltd, London 1908, page 139.)

Crucifixion amongst the Jews was rare and except for a few instances, the subject was stoned to death first and then hung on a tree in accordance with the Biblical passage in Deuteronomy.

Yes and no. Crucifixion was very rare among the Jews. Once again, crucifixion is a method of execution. If a dead body is hung in a tree, this is a public display of an already dead person, not a crucifixion.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. [Deuteronomy 21:22-23]

The Hebrew word for "hung" in both cases in this verse is "talah". The literal translation of "talah" is "to hang up for display". The man, in this case is put to death and THEN his body is displayed by being hung on a tree.

Joshua 8:29

He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day. [Joshua 8:29]

Once again, the Hebrew word "talah" is used in this verse, implying that he was already dead and was hung up for display. Once again, this is not crucifixion!

Galatians 3:13

With strong connotations of crucifixion, in Galatians, Paul says that Jesus(P) redeemed people from curse of the law by becoming a curse for them.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." [Galatians 3:13]

The Greek word for "tree" in this verse is "xulon" which is more accurately translated as wooden beam or stock. In any event, in the context of Paul's message, it refers to the cross.

Act 10:39

Or in Acts, concerning Jesus(P), we read:

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, [Act 10:39]

Once again, the Greek word for "tree" in this verse is "xulon" which is more accurately translated as wooden beam or stock.

It is clear that we do not know the various forms of crucifixion that existed in antiquity, particularly in Egypt. More research needs to be conducted on various forms of crucifixion in antiquity, inshallah.

The problem for the Qur'an is that crucifixion did not exist in ancient Egypt and you are well aware that you have no evidence to support your arguments. You only have the a priori assumption that the Qur'an is true and you are seeking evidence to fit your conclusion!

Of course, the last thing the Christian Missionaries would like to do is to read their own books properly!

My, my, when we cannot defeat the argument we insult the person making it! I pray that everyone who reads this response weighs the facts based on the evidence. Once again, the Qur'an makes a serious error, this time historical. In my mind, and heart, this is clear evidence that the Qur'an is the word of man and not the Word of an all-knowing God. God could not make such an error because, as you love to say, God knows best!

Andrew Vargo

This rebuttal was published in July 1999. Many years later, on 31st July 2005 to be precise, Islamic Awareness responded to this article by rewriting their paper. Our response to their update is found here.

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