Whether or not Jesus was crucified is a heavily debated issue in modern Islam. While it used to be a generally accepted notion that Jesus was not crucified in Islam, more and more people who identify as Muslims now believe that he was indeed crucified. Contrary to many myths about Islam, most Muslims believe that Jesus will return so this is an important issue for us.
Muslims who say that Jesus was no crucified quote the following verse:
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.
But interestingly enough, Muslims who believe that Jesus was indeed crucified also quote the same verse! Why? The answer seems to lie in the wording. As you know, the Qur’an was written in Arabic and the English versions (or any versions in languages other than Arabic) are only interpretations of the original text, and so they are of course, subject to interpretation. Muslims either interpret this verse in the sense that Jesus never went to the cross at all, while others believe it really says that Jesus did go to the cross but did not die by crucifixion.
Let’s look at a different version of the English Qur’an, this one by A.J. Arberry:
And for their unbelief, and their uttering against Mary a mighty calumny, and for their saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’ — yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them.
Did you notice the difference? In the first version, the text appears to imply that Jesus never went to the cross, but in the second version it’s clear that Jesus did go to the cross but it only looked like he died on the cross. Lastly, here is a screenshot from the Holy Quran app produced by Peace Through Understanding, available on iPhone and Android:
You see, this version clearly says that his death was not caused by crucifixion even though it looked like it, so this means that Jesus did indeed go to the cross. Notice that this version may also be quoted that Jesus was the false Messenger of God, even if the other versions do not have this word. So what do we make of these seemingly contradictory statements? Consider the following:
- Scriptures are only 100% authentic in their original languages
- It’s impossible to directly translate any text word for word in any language because not all languages are equal
- The best we can do is try to keep the meaning of a text and the author’s original style
- Languages change and different words mean different things to different people despite that all the interpretations come from the same original Arabic language
- The Qur’an was written by God through the prophet, and humans will never be able to accurately reproduce or duplicate such a complex and mysterious document
Just look at all the different translations of the Bible. All of them use different wording to convey the same messages found in the original manuscripts. Just like in Islam, there are also many different denominations in Christianity with varying opinions on the same things, each with good proof to hold their particular position. Some versions may be more accurate than others based on several factors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the others are corrupt or that nothing can be learned from them.
Personally I believe that there is enough historical evidence to say that Jesus was indeed crucified, but whether or not he died on that cross in an entirely different matter. Two things are universally agreed upon when it comes to Jesus between historians of all backgrounds: he existed, and he was crucified. Many Muslim scholars deny that he was crucified using the argument that God doesn’t use deception, meaning that it would not have looked as Jesus had died if he really hadn’t. On the other hand, there are verses such as the following that states that things aren’t always what they seem:
It was not ye who slew them; it was Allah: thou didst not throw when thou threwest, but Allah threw.
Does this verse imply deception on God’s behalf? Not at all! It is a statement that the way we perceive things here on earth isn’t always the way they actually happen. We cannot see what God sees, we can only see what he enables us to see. In the desert one can easily see an illusion called a mirage, and in the same way it appeared as if Jesus was crucified and died on the cross even though he survived.