Islamic view of Jesus' death

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The issue of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus (Isa) is rejected by most (not all[1]) Muslims, but similar to Christians they believe that Jesus will return before the end of time.[2] Muslims believe Jesus was not crucified, but was raised bodily to heaven by God, a similar belief is found in the Gospel of Basilides,[3][4][5][6] the text of which is lost save for reports of it by other early scholars like Origen (c.185 – c.254). Basilides (Βασιλείδης), was a leading theologian of Gnostic tendencies, who had taught in Alexandria in the second quarter of the second century. This stream of teaching was first condemned by St. John, the apostle of Christ in his first epistle, chapter 4, under the category of the spirit of Anti Christ, concerning all of those that refute the notion that Jesus came in a body from flesh and blood to redeem the sin of the world. Basilides' teachings were also condemned as heretical by Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130 – c.200),[7] and by Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 - c.236),[8] although they had been evaluated more positively by Clement of Alexandria (c.150 – c.215).[9] However, this view is disregarded by mainstream Christianity which only accepts the four gospels contained in the New Testament as genuine, the other twenty-eight, seldom publicised, are viewed as heretical[citation needed].

Depending on the interpretation of the following verse, Muslim scholars have abstracted different opinions. Some believe that in the Biblical account, Jesus's crucifixion did not last long enough for him to die, while others opine that God gave someone Jesus's appearance or someone else replaced Jesus and the executioners thought the victim was Jesus, causing everyone to believe that Jesus was crucified.[citation needed] A third explanation could be that Jesus was nailed to a cross, but as his body is immortal he did not "die" or was not "crucified" [to death]; it only appeared so (this view is rare).[citation needed] In opposition to the second and third foregoing proposals, yet others maintain that God does not use deceit and therefore they contend that crucifixion just did not occur.[citation needed] The basis of all of these beliefs is the following verse in the Qur'an:

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:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-

— Qur'an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158[10]

Jesus lives[edit]

Discussing the interpretation of those scholars who deny the crucifixion, the Encyclopaedia of Islam writes:

The denial, furthermore, is in perfect agreement with the logic of the Qur’an. The Biblical stories reproduced in it (e.g., Job, Moses, Joseph etc.) and the episodes relating to the history of the beginning of Islam demonstrate that it is "God's practice" (sunnat Allah) to make faith triumph finally over the forces of evil and adversity. "So truly with hardship comes ease", (XCIV, 5, 6). For Jesus to die on the cross would have meant the triumph of his executioners; but the Quran asserts that they undoubtedly failed: "Assuredly God will defend those who believe"; (XXII, 49). He confounds the plots of the enemies of Christ (III, 54).

In regard to the interpretation of the Muslims who accept the crucifixion, Mahmoud Ayoub states:

The Qur'an is not here speaking about a man, righteous and wronged though he may be, but about the Word of God who was sent to earth and returned to God. Thus the denial of killing of Jesus is a denial of the power of men to vanquish and destroy the divine Word, which is for ever victorious.[11]

Substitution interpretation[edit]

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While most Western Scholars,[12] Jews,[13][14] and Christians believe Jesus died, most Muslims believe he was raised to Heaven without being put on the cross and God transformed another person to appear exactly like Jesus who was crucified instead of Jesus. Muslims believe Jesus ascended bodily to Heaven, there to remain until his Second coming in the End days.[15]

The identity of the substitute has been a source of great interest among Muslims. One proposal is that God used one of Jesus' enemies.[16] Judas Iscariot, Jesus' betrayer, is most often cited, including by the 17th century Gospel of Barnabas.[citation needed] The second proposal is that Jesus asked for someone to volunteer to be crucified instead of him.[17] Simon of Cyrene is the person most commonly accepted to have done it, perhaps because according to the Synoptic Gospels he was compelled by the Romans to carry Jesus' cross for him (there is no indication in the Gospels that he volunteered).[18] Al-Baidawi writes that Jesus told his disciples in advance that whoever volunteered would go to heaven[citation needed].

The following narration recorded in the Qur'anic exegesis of Ibn Kathir is graded as authentic by orthodox Sunni scholars[citation needed] for the Qur'anic verse related to the substitution of Jesus:

Ibn Abbas said, "Just before Allah raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, 'There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.' He then asked, 'Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place. Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in Paradise).' One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, 'You will be that man,' and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven from a hole in the roof of the house. When the Jews came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him. Some of Jesus' followers disbelieved in him twelve times after they had believed in him. They then divided into three groups. One group, the Jacobites, said, 'Allah remained with us as long as He willed and then ascended to Heaven.' Another group, the Nestorians, said, 'The son of Allah was with us as long as he willed and Allah took him to Heaven.' Another group, the 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."

— Al-Nasa'i, Al-Kubra, 6:489

The Islamic Interpretation of the events at the end of Jesus' Earthly Life[edit]

Some Islamic scholars like Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali (not Imam al-Ghazali) and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi argue that Jesus was rescued but was given death by God before he was ascended bodily as God never allows His messengers to be dishonored, even their dead bodies.[19][20][21]

Thomas McElwain states that the context of the verse is clearly within the discussion of Jewish ridicule of Christians, not in context of whether or not Jesus died. He continues that the text could be interpreted as denying the death of Jesus at the hands of Jews rather than denying his death. He adds, however, "the expressions against the crucifixion are strong, so that to interpret the meaning for Romans rather than Jews to have committed the act is also suspect" and that if this meaning is correct, "it would have been more effective to state that the Romans killed Jesus, rather than to emphasise that the Jews were not in possession of the facts."[22]

According to some translations, Jesus says in the Qur'an:

I said not to them except what You commanded me - to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness.

— Qur'an, sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida) ayah 117[23]

The majority of Muslims translate the verb "mutawafik" (متوفيك) "to terminate after a period of time" while others translate it "to die of natural causes". Islamic scholars like Javed Ahmad Ghamidi consider it as the physical death of Jesus, and hence question the return of Jesus.[20] Geoffrey Parrinder discusses different interpretations of the Qur'anic chapter 19, verse 33[24] and writes in his conclusion that "the cumulative effect of the Qur’anic verse is strongly in favor of a real death".[25] This verse could also refer to the Second Coming of Jesus. According to Muslim tradition, after his Second Coming, Jesus will die.[citation needed]

One should note, the claim that Jesus will die after his Second Coming is in direct opposition to Christian teaching. Christians believe that Jesus will reign supreme over the nations forever and they also view Isa, known as Yeshua or Jesus, as the son of God.

The following minority of translations or translators translate "to die":[26]

However, the majority of Qur'anic translators[citation needed], including Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Habib Shakir and Marmaduke Pickthall, do not translate as "to die".

Ibn Babawayh (d.991 CE) in Ikhmal ad Din recounts that Jesus went to a far country. This was adapted by the Ahmadiyya as the basis of their Jesus in India theory[29] This is promoted also by writers such as Holger Kersten (1981).[30] They claim Jesus is buried at the Roza Bal shrine in Srinagar. However, the Sunni Muslim authorities at the shrine deny this as heretical and say that it is a Muslim saint buried there. The claims of the theory have been examined in documentaries[31][32] and generated tourist visits to the site.[33] Scholarly reception has consistently dismissed the theories, such as Norbert Klatt (1988),[34][35] and labelled speculation by Indologist Günter Grönbold (1985).[36][37]

David Marshall Lang stated in his 1957 book The Wisdom of Balahvar that confusion in diacritical markings in Arabic documents resulted in confusing Kashmir and Kushinara (the place of Buddha's death) with the place of the death of Jesus.[38] Lang has stated that the term Budhasaf (Buddha-to-be) became Yudasaf, Iodasaph, and then Yuzasaf, and resulted in the assertions of Jesus being buried in Srinagar.[38] In 1981 (in Jesus i Kashmir: Historien om en legend) and then in 2011, Per Beskow also stated that confusion about the traditions regarding Gautama Buddha in the Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf legend had resulted in the confused assumption that Jesus was Yuzasaf and was buried in Kashmir.[39]

Ahmadiyya view[edit]

Similar to mainstream Islamic views, the Ahmadiyya Movement consider Jesus was a mortal man, but go a step further to describe Jesus as a mortal man who died a natural death in India as opposed to having been raised up alive to Heaven.

The view of Jesus having migrated to India had also been researched in the literature of authors independent of and predating the foundation of the movement.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. ABC-CLIO. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-59884-203-6. 
  2. ^ "The Quranic Arabic Corpus - Translation". Retrieved 2016-05-20. 
  3. ^ Com. in Mat. prol
  4. ^ Exp. Ev. Luc. i.2
  5. ^ Hist. fr 4.4
  6. ^ In Luc. Ev. Exp. I prol
  7. ^ Haer. 1.24.4
  8. ^ Ref. VII 20.1
  9. ^ Strom. Iv 12.81; Strom. III 1.1
  10. ^ Quran 4:157–158
  11. ^ The death of Jesus: Reality or Delusion. Muslim World 70 (1980) pp. 91–121
  12. ^ Crossan, John Dominic (1995). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. p. 145. ISBN 0-06-061662-8. "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus...agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."
  13. ^ Josephus Antiquities 18.3.3
  14. ^ Sanhedrin 43a.
  15. ^ Reynolds, Gabriel Said. "The Muslim Jesus: Dead or alive?" Bulletin of SOAS, 72(2) (2009), 251.
  16. ^ Reynolds, Gabriel Said. "The Muslim Jesus: Dead or alive?" Bulletin of SOAS, 72(2) (2009), 243-44.
  17. ^ Reynolds, Gabriel Said. "The Muslim Jesus: Dead or alive?" Bulletin of SOAS, 72(2) (2009), 242.
  18. ^ Matthew 27:32
  19. ^ Alislam. [1].
  20. ^ a b Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Qur'anic Verse regarding Second Coming of Jesus.
  21. ^ Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali (Al-Azhari). "The thematic commentary of the Qur’an", explanation of verse 3:55
  22. ^ Islam in the Bible. [2].
  23. ^ Quran 5:117
  24. ^ Quran 19:33
  25. ^ Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Quran, p.121, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1996. ISBN 1-85168-094-2
  26. ^ Compared Translations of the meaning of the Quran - 3:55
  27. ^ Mohamed Ahmed
  28. ^ Free Minds Muslims
  29. ^ Schäfer, Peter; Cohen, Mark R. (1998). Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco. Leiden/Princeton: Brill/Princeton UP. p. 306. ISBN 90-04-11037-2. .
  30. ^ "Holger Kersten". Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  31. ^ Jesus In India The Movie
  32. ^ Did Jesus Die?
  33. ^ Miller, Sam (27 March 2010). "Tourists flock to 'Jesus's tomb' in Kashmir". BBC. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  34. ^ Norbert Klatt, Lebte Jesus in Indien?, Göttingen: Wallstein 1988.
  35. ^ [3]
  36. ^
  37. ^ Günter Grönbold, Jesus In Indien. Das Ende einer Legende, München: Kösel 1985, ISBN 3-466-20270-1.
  38. ^ a b In The Journal of Ecclesiastical History Volume 18, Issue 02, October 1967, pp 247-248, John Rippon summarizes the work of David Marshall Lang on the subject as follows: "In The Wisdom of Balahvar Professor Lang assembled the evidence for the Buddhist origins of the legends of the Christian saints Barlaam and Josephat. He suggested the importance of Arabic intermediaries, showing that confusion of diacritical markings turned Budhasaf (Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be) into Yudasaf, Iodasaph, Yuzasaf and Josaphat. By a curious roundabout journey this error reappears in once Buddhist Kashmir where the modern Ahmadiyya Muslims, well known for their Woking mosque, claim that a tomb of Yus Asad was the tomb of Jesus who died in Kashmir, after having been taken down live from the cross; though the Bombay Arabic edition of the book Balahvar makes its hero die in Kashmir, by confusion with Kushinara the traditional place of the Buddha's death."
  39. ^ Per Beskow in the The Blackwell Companion to Jesus ed. Delbert Burkett 2011 ISBN 140519362X "During the transmission of the legend, this name underwent several changes: to Budhasaf, Yudasaf, and finally Yuzasaf. In Greek, his name is Ioasaph; in Latin, Josaphat, ..."
  40. ^ The Life of Saint Issa (Nicolas Notovitch

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