WITH Easter now with us, one might be curious about what the Holy Qur’aan has to say about the “crucifixion” of Jesus (peace be upon him). Before we even go into that particular point let us remember the status of Jesus (peace be upon him) in Islam.
For a start : there are millions of Muslims named after Jesus and Mary (peace be upon them both) — we call them Isa (Jesus) and Maryem (Mary) and obviously nobody names their children after someone they don’t like!
In Islam, believing in Jesus (peace be upon him) is an absolute requirement. If you don’t believe in him, you’re automatically not a Muslim. What Muslims don’t believe, though, is that Jesus (peace be upon him) died on the cross.
It’s spelled out quite clearly, in the Holy Qur’aan’s fourth Chapter, verse 157: “They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, rather it was made to look like that to them.” And also according to the Hadeeth—sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), second only to the Holy Qur’aan in Islamic authority — Jesus (peace be upon him) was raised up into the heavens, and will return at the end of time in the east of Damascus, his hands resting on the shoulders of two angels. When the Antichrist will see him, it will dissolve like salt in water, and Jesus (peace be upon him) will then rule the earth for forty years.
Muslims firmly believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) was born of a virgin mother (Mary, peace be upon her), but he isn’t the son of God.
He did not die on the cross and he did not redeem the sins of humankind. Yes he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead, all by the will and power of God Almighty.
He even spoke complete sentences as a mere infant in the cradle, announcing to his mother, Mary (peace be upon her), that God Almighty had granted him the scripture and made him a Messenger / Prophet but Jesus (peace be upon him) himself was neither almighty nor is he immortal or eternal. Jesus was the Messiah sent by God Almighty.
This is the Jesus (peace be upon him) of the Holy Qur’aan. Ninety-three of its verses refer to him — more than any other Messenger / Prophet save Muhammad (peace be upon him) — and the Qur’aanic account of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) life harmonises with the Gospels in more particulars than many would ever think of or even realise.
How then, can the verse in the Holy Qur’aan be reconciled with the accounts of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) death in the Gospels? The key is in the phrase that follows the declaration “nor did they crucify him”……..“rather it was made to look like that to them.” (Holy Qur’aan Ch 4 : v 157).
Muslim scholars, interpret this aspect in two ways. Some believe that someone was, in fact, crucified, but it was not Jesus (peace be upon him); maybe it was Judas? Whoever it was, they say, God miraculously changed his face to resemble that of Jesus (peace be upon him), and Jesus (peace be upon him) himself was spared, raised up physically to the heavens.
A slight variation suggests that God changed the vision of all those who witnessed the crucifixion to make them think they were seeing Jesus because of the hype and psyche that was abound at the time.
There is yet another opinion, though not widely accepted, that it was in fact Jesus who was nailed to the cross, but that he survived it; what happened on Easter Sunday then, was not a “resurrection” but a “resuscitation”.
For Muslims, the specifics of the “crucifixion” are largely academic.
The disagreement between Christians and Muslims on the nature of Jesus (peace be upon him), though, is fundamental, no matter how many ways their understanding of him may correspond. To Muslims, Jesus (peace be upon him) is not, and could not possibly be, divine in his being.
He is a prophet but he’s still a mortal, and God is not his father.
It is understandable that if you believe someone to be God, and others say he’s not God, it’s like an insult, but if you look at it from the Muslim perspective, there’s no difference between Jesus, Abraham, Muhammed (peace be upon them all).
The Holy Qur’aan mentions twenty-five Messengers / Prophets of God Almighty, and nearly all of them are familiar from the Bible: Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, Lot, Job, John the Baptist.
They’re all Messengers, but to Christians, the message of Jesus (peace be upon him) is inseparable from his “crucifixion” and “resurrection”.
While Christians generally cite the divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him) as key to the way he saves, Muslims consider the deification of Jesus as an obstacle to knowing God and His true salvation. Muslims, like Christians, regard Jesus (peace be upon him) as a saviour, but not through a redemptive sacrifice. Islam differs on a few essential notions in the Christian salvation concept:
- In Islamic canon, all prophets, and not just Jesus (peace be upon him), lived sinless lives, and this trait is an indication of a Messenger or Guide of God, but not of divinity. The purpose of all these Messengers and Guides is the delivery of God’s guidance and to demonstrate and teach how to live a good life via example.
- God can forgive sins by simply doing so, and has not chosen to constrict His forgiveness to the method of a blood sacrifice of a sinless or divine person.
Salvation is in essence a meeting between a human’s approaching God by trying to live a sinless and ideal life according to God’s guidance, and the Love and Mercy of God turning to His Creation with forgiveness. No one is guaranteed salvation by claiming a certain set of beliefs, but people’s actions, beliefs and intentions will all be weighed with both Justice and Mercy.
- According to the Qur’an and other Islamic sources, Jesus (peace be upon him) was not crucified and did not die for anyone’s sins.
He has not died yet, and was raised alive and will return.
On these latter points of being raised alive and returning, as well as many other awesome aspects of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) nature, such as virgin birth and performance of miracles, Muslims and Christians tend to agree.
Thus, the primary differences between Muslims and Christians about the historical Jesus are only his divinity and his death – but these differences contribute to considerably different conclusions about salvation.
For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact:
Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic Scholars
P.O. Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare
Tel: 04-614078 / 614004, Fax : 04-614003