The Quran Proclaims Christ Crucified & Resurrected
|Looking eastward (and from left to right) - Israel welcomes a new dawn; Mediterranean Sea meets Egypt's Delta;|
Nile River illuminated for miles; Luxor where the river u-turns; Jedda and Mecca in Arabia beyond the Red Sea.
|Looking northward (and from left to right) - North Eastern Africa along Mediterranean; Egypt's Nile River; |
Gulf of Suez; Sinai Peninsula; Israel along Mediterranean; Gulf of Aqaba; Red Sea; Arabia.
Ancient motifs reminiscent of resurrection may have existed in varying forms prior to Christianity being codified by the 2nd century.
These ancient motifs mostly suggest 'gods' having died and 'resurrecting' in other forms (of matter).
This premise is contested by some scholars as a modern interpretation of ancient ideas, arguing that the thought of life after death (for human beings) was understood differently by ancient peoples.
Either way, according to the current understanding of ancient thoughts, the coming back to life of dead people may have been an actual idea, but not something to be expected since evidence of such was nonexistent.
Beyond the mythology of certain cultures and some near eastern claims of people being resurrected, for example from Judaism (several Old Testament teachings and testimonies), the resurrection of the dead was a fanciful hope for most people of the world...until Christ was claimed to have also resurrected.
The testimony of Christ's resurrection has long been denied by those who would not (and dare not) confess Christ as Lord and Savior.
Facts Affirmed, Faith Beckoned
While the historicity of Christ dying is scholarly irrefutable, the resurrection is a different matter.
Secular history, Jewish history and Christian history records the man titled Christ as being killed with little doubt to the contrary.
As for the supernatural / miraculous claim of resurrection, that is historically recorded as a claim and not a fact since it cannot be scientifically nor archeologically evidenced.
Regarding what is written and believed-to-be inspired, people are apt to believe certain things while denying others.
Some folks only accept what secular society publishes as fact, historical or practical...while others do pick and choose based on a sliding scale of relative qualifiers.
It all depends on what the individual accepts as an authority on correct information.
Uniquely and contrary to historical accounts beyond Christendom and world history, concepts within the religion of Islam categorically deny Christ's death, having much exegesis explaining why.
More uniquely, while the death of Christ is refuted from Islam's mainstream point of view, a 'type' of resurrection (or saving from death) is interestingly affirmed in Islam alongside a variety of different, and conflicting, narratives explaining what happened at the Cross.
Beholden To Tradition
Studying the main source of inspiration of the Muslim world, is the death of Christ clearly refuted in the Quran?
The Quran is the believed-to-be inspired message given to a man named Muhammad by an angel.
The debate over Christ's resurrection after death has been happening between Christians, pagans, and other religious people since the middle of the 1st century.
The debate regarding that death, not so much the life thereafter of Christ, has been a contentious topic for Muslims since the 7th century.
Islam claims to believe, follow and obey the God that revealed Himself to both Jews and Christians (and other peoples throughout times), and that religion's dogma claims God spoke through the Quran and clarified or corrected past religious discrepancies...one correction being about the death of Christ.
Do, then, Jewish and Christian writings - and those religion's dogmas - deny Christ having died?
These two schools of thought affirm Christ's death, as does secular historical methodology.
Does the Quran itself, besides Islam's dogma, affirm Christ having died?
Depends on who you ask and how they understand the explosive implications of such an affirmation.
Most Muslims currently deny Christ having physically died and use one verse in particular (an Nisa 156) as their evidence, while also affirming Christ did rise to heaven.
However, when considering Christ's death as mentioned throughout the entire Quran, the affirmation of death is quite obvious.
Ancient through modern scholarship (including Muslim, Christian and secular) has either affirmed Christ's death, or has attempted to explain a mystery.
The attempts at explaining a mystery (how Christ escaped death) is made through a variety of narratives, including odd and questionable ideas and, interestingly enough, a “we don't know, but God knows best” resolve...which usually puts an end to discussion, thinking and searching.
When exploring the Quran and the topic of death as it relates to Christ, we find Christ foretelling a personal death, God decreeing Christ will die, Christ verifying His death having occurred and, the claim that Christ was raised and returned to God as having also occurred.
Death is usually explained in a way that projects hope when considering death's observable finality, and we see this written into the Quran's stanzas.
Poetry In Motion
Some scholars have suggested that the Quran is a compilation of Muhammad's poetry.
Prior to and enduring into the Islamic era, good poets were highly regarded and honored as learned men of class and prestige.
Arabic cultures, like other ancient cultures, forwarded their histories and stories by word of mouth and memorization (orally).
Through oral tradition is how the past was remembered before Islam's rise included written words and record keeping (written history).
This is why we find regional myths, local folklore and legends from distant places alongside some biblical narratives (Jewish and Christian thoughts) in the Quran.
The further one studies ancient history from that part of the world, and delves into the Quranic prose, the clearer a reality of 50/50 (half true / half false) narratives are revealed in the poetry.
This is why some biblical narratives are generally similar, while others vary in extraordinary and conflicting ways.
These narratives are delivered in a 'remember when' manner, not introducing new concepts per-say, but reaffirming previous occurrences.
An issue arises when such 'occurrences' are not found in biblical narratives, or our found in heretical sources or having been derived from religious ideas which are at odds with the Jewish and Christian narratives.
There are many beautiful and poetic verses in the Quran.
Rhythm, cadence, style and repeated themes compliment the poetic reality that comprise the Quran's stanzas, evoking emotion when sung or recited out loud in Arabic through either one of the seven recited versions.
The very manner of recalling and speaking from memorization the Quran is called recitation, which is how oral traditions and poetry existed prior to the written word becoming more common in Arabia.
Prepare For Exegesis
I will share some specific poetic verses from the Quran that identify the topic of 'death', speak specifically to Christ and His death, and elaborate an understanding of Christ's death that is beyond the literal interpretation and popular consensus.
I'll share some contextual commentary where necessary, while desiring to allow the prose speak for itself.
What I have found is that the extra writings that followed Muhammad's poetry, the Hadith (called the Sunnah or body of further believed-to-be inspired writings), are the ancient tools used to interpret the Quran and have become an evolving tradition on their own.
From these varying traditions we have a broad landscape of Islamic ideology that centers on few main details, but have over time drifted between complimentary or dissonant ideas.
Some of these interpretations have caused division among the ulema (Muslim scholars) throughout time, which led to infighting and eventual war between competing Islamic empires (besides political and economic motivations).
These interpretations have also provided justification for war against Jewish, Christian, pagan and other non-Muslim communities.
The Islamic perspective is typically that everyone else has gone astray, and this is why Muhammad is the 'last prophet' correcting everyone, using the sword whenever necessary.
Thus, the Hadith will not be considered in this article so we can focus on the so-called inspired writing itself.
Traditional study of the Quran demands the Hadith and tafsir (Arabic for 'exegesis') to be studied alongside it, as a guide to proper interpretation.
This is the sticking point of honoring tradition over critical examination, or linguistics...which should be taken together.
Islamic scholars have written about alternative interpretations that deviate from the popular (traditional) understandings, and have been careful not to fall out of favor.
The strict interpretations have long sparked opposition to scientific methodology of history, besides challenges to logical methods of deduction.
Accept The Obvious, Reflect On Logical Doubt
I must caution certain readers that the Quran makes a very humanistic argument regarding Christ, and these are reflected in the verses shared.
Besides Christ being believed to have somehow escaped death in most Islamic theology, Christ is expressed as simply another human being - albeit with certain special qualities.
Depending on the Muslim individual or doctrine one inquires, Christ's characteristics are either subject to Muhammad's, on-par with, or slightly 'above' Muhammad's character traits.
Christ's divinity or unity with God is categorically denied in Islam as a whole, although in the individual's heart this may be veiled in some manner and for good reason.
Quite surprisingly, there are have been individuals who held to a Muslim identity while also believing Christ having died and resurrected, accepting also the promise of their inclusion to His salvation.
These believing Muslims have realized, in their hearts, Christ being the revealed the Lord and God promised to appear on earth by the ancient Hebrew prophets.
The substance of faith, hope and love truly cannot be boxed into categories, labeled, nor filed away to fit another person's perception.
While some Islamic sects have explored a deeper understanding of Christ according to both the Quran and the Bible, there is always an identity leaning towards the Islamic backdrop of code, culture and doctrine...and the arguments or apologetic effort reflects the Muslim identity over anything resembling Christ-like exteriors.
It is interesting that the Christ-identity is an internal one first and foremost, and the manner people carry themselves on their exterior is usually of little concern.
Belief, thought and expression do originate from the heart after all.
This is the lens through which sophisticated Islamic exegesis portrays Christ; coming very close to attributing divine qualities, while always repeating the earliest and subsequent understanding of His humanity...walking (writing) a fine line.
I will thus respond with a humanistic argument while asking you, the reader, to consider what has been explained thus far and, according to your current understanding about 'death', to consider how this concept relates to Christ as plainly expressed from the Quran's perspective.
You may see clarity, then possible contradiction, then perhaps a compliment of the Gospel testimony about Christ.
Although the Quran calls Christ the “Word of God” and the “Spirit of God”, these terms raise further questions regarding Godly or human characteristics and attributes...and will not be explored in this particular article in keeping with the humanistic angle.
All verses from the Quran are sourced from Muhammad Asad's English translation found at this link, which includes the Arabic and its transliteration.
I start with the following verse because it shows a theme found repeatedly throughout the poetry of the Quran and magnifies a universal principle; the God that created all life and all things invisible and visible is the One who gives and takes life...either through, or as, an agent:
How can you refuse to acknowledge God, seeing that you were lifeless and He gave you life, and that He will cause you to die and then will bring you again to life, whereupon unto Him you will be brought back?
- Al Baqara (2) 28You will see this four-part theme repeatedly in this study, in different forms and at times with only two or three parts.
Quite straightforward the acknowledgement of God and how it is God who grants life, takes life (cause you to die), and is able to bring people back to life 'again'...with their return to God.
Put simply: God decrees life, death and life again (resurrection), and the person returns to God.
The next verse depicts the infant Christ speaking from the cradle.
Contextually, it is a miraculous feat considering the Christ is speaking as a newborn, and newborns are not typically born speaking:
“Hence, peace was upon Me on the day when I was born, and on the day of My death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life!”
- Maryam (19) 33Notice the theme is almost fully repeated; the order of life / birth, death and life again being linear.
Specifically, Christ proclaims an eventual day of His death and a day of being raised to life...following the thematic sequence.
Notice that verse speaks of a future time and is messaged in a future tense.
Looking at another verse, God is quoted decreeing what would become of Christ, with parts of the theme mentioned:
Lo! God said: “O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause Thee to die, and shall exalt Thee unto Me, and cleanse Thee of those who are bent on denying the truth; and I shall place those who follow Thee above those who are bent on denying the truth, unto the Day of Resurrection. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and I shall judge between you with regard to all on which you were wont to differ.”
- Al Imran (3) 55Here we see the theme and specifically God decreeing the death of Christ.
Contextually, the 'truth' it speaks to is the miraculous evidences and signs that Christ showed when walking the earth in Israel, and the disbelief of some in Israel at that time.
Contextually, the issue of whether or not Christ died is not contested nor being questioned nor doubted, although I'm sure that can be argued if this verse is taken out of context...but that is poor and incorrect exegesis / tafsir...context defines clear comprehension.
This next verse is quoting Christ, with parts of the theme echoed:
Nothing did I tell them beyond what Thou didst bid Me: 'Worship God, My Sustainer as well as your Sustainer.' And I bore witness to what they did as long as I dwelt in their midst; but since Thou hast caused Me to die, Thou alone hast been their keeper: for Thou art witness unto everything.
- Al Maida (5) 117Notice how the narrative speaks in past-tense and is mentioned twice (underlined portions).
Christ is witness while having been among Israel, then God having caused Christ to die.
Christ is quoted affirming the past event of His death.
In this next verse, focusing as previously mentioned on the humanistic argument, Christ's divinity is unfortunately denied...yet the death of Christ is once again affirmed:
Indeed, the truth deny they who say, “Behold, God is the Christ, son of Mary.” Say: “And who could have prevailed with God in any way had it been His will to destroy the Christ, son of Mary, and His mother, and everyone who is on earth-all of them? For, God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them; He creates what He wills: and God has the power to will anything!”
- Al Maida (5) 17It is a question, seemingly rhetorical, that shows God has absolute control and will over all life on earth (the theme).
It is a question asking if anyone can oppose what God chooses or has chosen to do, and God has the power to will anything.
It could be asking a 'what if'; either affirming Christ's death, or asking 'if' God so desired to destroy Christ no one could have stopped Him doing so.
Either way, it asks consideration regarding the will of God in choosing to kill Christ.
Perhaps people doubted how God could allow Christ, being elsewhere in the Quran mentioned as 'pure' (sinless), to die such a horrible and humiliating death on the Cross.
Many writings (Hadith and so on) try to explain why it would not be logical for God to kill the Christ (or allow Christ to be killed), yet we have already seen that the Quran has affirmed Christ's death in several places, following with the theme.
Here we see ambiguity or the beginning of a possible contradiction, or something else perhaps; a challenge for people to look past their doubt and acknowledge God's power and will, which is not based nor dependent on mankind's logic or rationale.
Notice how the question is also messaged in a past-tense fashion as the previous verse.
Following again the humanistic argument that negates Christ's divinity, the effort in denying Christ as Lord also surprisingly strengthens the fact of Christ's death, since Christ was also a man (human).
This verse validates Christ's humanity (and death) in attempting to deny Christ's divinity.
It also preludes the resurrection's confirmation.
The humanistic argument would state that God alone is unable to be killed, while humans eventually die, are killed or perish, as all other things in this world also dies since humans don the material as flesh.
The humanistic argument reasons that only God is infinite while humans experience a finite earthly experience.
Verse 18 from the same chapter affirms death for mankind, furthering the humanistic argument:
...Say: “Why, then, does He cause you to suffer for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of His creating. He forgives whom He wills, and He causes to suffer whom He wills: for God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and with Him is all journeys' end.”
- Al Maida (5) 18bThat verse shows how mankind is entirely subject to God.
It is God deciding who suffers.
God's will is not dependent on a human's logic or wisdom in understanding why or how God causes certain things to happen, even the death or suffering of a sinless person.
Islamic theology states Christ was sinless; a perfect man regarding obedience to God's law.
This then leads us to look at the verse that is the one used to negate Christ's death, despite what we've already seen and understood mentioned in the Quran:
..and their boast, “Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, an Apostle of God!” However, they did not slay Him, and neither did they crucify Him, but it only seemed to them so; and, verily, those who hold conflicting views thereon are indeed confused, having no knowledge thereof, and following mere conjecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay Him.
- An Nisa (4) 157Contextually, the preceding verse (156) is defending the immaculate conception of Mary against critics and accusers.
It is in the context of defending Mary's honor and God's power and will, that this verse is delivered and needs to be understood.
Context is key.
Verse 155 mentions the killing of certain prophets sent to Israel, and Israel's attitude towards these messengers (killing prophets and / or refusing to listen to prophets), and a portrayal of arrogance regarding new prophetic messages.
This makes sense since not all of Israel at the time Christ walked the earth believed in Christ, or accepted that Yeshua was their promised Messiah.
The Old Testament narratives show many Hebrew prophets being killed, and this is also affirmed in the New Testament.
The sharp tone in verse 157 is a response to the 'boast' that certain Jewish people had killed and crucified the Christ.
Since all historical references outside of Islam confirm this as a fact and reality, how should this verse be understood?
If contextually the poetry is being delivered as a correction against boastful arrogance, then the further mentions of 'but it only seemed to them so' and 'having no knowledge thereof, and following mere conjecture' makes perfect sense in addressing the arrogance.
This verse then confirms Christ's rising and returning to God as we've already seen in the prior verses.
This verse refutes the arrogant boasts of men who think they were able to erase the Word of God and extinguish the Spirit of God that was sent to save them.
The rebuttal 'they did not slay Him, and neither did they crucify Him' is actually affirming the resurrection and how Christ continues to live despite the flesh being destroyed (allowed by God).
It was in fact God who decreed Christ to suffer such a death, as we've already read in that rhetorical question.
Those who hold the Quran to be a revealed and God-inspired text need to address this supposed deviation in interpretation, or in the source itself.
Attention needs to be given to contextual conformity if such claims are to be taken seriously.
It is possible for Muhammad's poetry (the Quran) to have included true biblical testimonies while also adopting ideas erroneous and seriously flawed; the 50/50 I previously mentioned.
So let us consider what we have read thus far, and read it again if need be.
When exploring the Quran and the topic of death as it relates to Christ, we find Christ foretelling a personal death, God decreeing Christ will die, Christ verifying His death having occurred and, the claim that Christ was raised and returned to God as having also occurred.
Let us look at the traditionally misinterpreted verse in wider context, including the verses I mentioned:
And so, for the breaking of their pledge, and their refusal to acknowledge God's messages, and their slaying of prophets against all right, and their boast, “Our hearts are already full of knowledge” - nay, but God has sealed their hearts in result of their denial of the truth, and they believe in but few things -; and for their refusal to acknowledge the truth, and the awesome calumny which they utter against Mary, and their boast, “Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, an apostle of God!” However, they did not slay Him, and neither did they crucify Him, but it only seemed to them so; and, verily, those who hold conflicting views thereon are indeed confused, having no knowledge thereof, and following mere conjecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay Him: nay, God exalted Him unto Himself - and God is indeed Almighty, wise. Yet there is not one of the followers of earlier revelation who does not, at the moment of his death, grasp the truth about Jesus; and on the Day of Resurrection He shall bear witness to the truth against them.
- An Nisa (4) 155-159Notice the phrase 'their slaying of prophets against all right', for it will be explored further below.
Since it mentions that God exalted Christ to Himself, we see the context is denying the claim of having killed yet another prophet.
In denying this boast, the resurrection is further expressed...since Christ is proclaimed to be alive from the Islamic perspective.
Notice towards the end of this portion how it speaks about the moment prior to death and grasping the truth about Christ, with Christ bearing witness to that truth against them.
This is quite the resolve which echoes the testimony of the Gospel, yet only the non-Christians were likely to deny the news of a man having risen from the dead.
Yet this is the main point of Christianity: the resurrection of Christ.
Unfortunately, there is not much detail about what exactly the truth being mentioned is, aside from the truth of refusing God, killing prophets, acting arrogant, denying Christ continues to live, etc..
How does the Quran ask people to consider the dead?
And say not of those who are slain in God's cause, “They are dead”: nay, they are alive, but you perceive it not.
- Al Baqara (2) 154Notice how 'you perceive it not' also repeats the sentiment 'but it only seemed to them so' we read previously.
Speaking further on how God is the agent who directs, or allows certain things to happen, consider this verse:
And yet, it was not you who slew the enemy, but it was God who slew them; and it was not thou who cast, when thou didst cast it, but it was God who cast it: and in order that He might test the believers by a goodly test of His Own or daining. Verily, God is all-hearing, all-knowing!
- Al Anfar (8) 17That verse is yet another compliment in understanding how or why God would have Christ killed, and how men could not take full credit for any action.
Those who believed they killed Christ are unable to boast, since it was God who planned to allow Christ to be killed in order to raise Him up to life - the miracle of the ages.
The resurrection is the 'sign unto mankind' as mentioned elsewhere in the Quran when directly referring to Christ.
To mention the various interpretations denying Christ's physical death, read at least nine narratives arguing how the death supposedly did not occur.
You find the following of conjecture mentioned in an-Nisa 157 in those varied opinions.
To further confirm the Quran's manner of arguing a humanistic view of Christ, remember what was underlined earlier, 'their slaying of prophets against all right', when considering death, Christ, and how previous prophets also died:
The Christ, son of Mary, was but an Apostle: all Apostles had passed away before Him; and His mother was one who never deviated from the truth; and they both ate food. Behold how clear We make these messages unto them: and then behold how perverted are their minds!
- Al Maida (5) 75This final verse from Muhammad's poetry resolves the death factor regarding prophets / apostles.
In arguing Christ's humanity so is Christ's existence in the flesh expressed as a finite reality.
Since God raised Christ, the infinite reality is realized...and it is this that gives mankind hope for life after death.
For the sake of clarity, to resurrect hearts from the earlier caution of the humanistic point of view, and to share what was written down as testimony at least five centuries before the poetry of the Quran began to influence previous concepts of God, death and resurrection, let us consider these testimonies from eye-witness accounts; the fulfillment of the ages:
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Yeshua of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him...
...Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Yeshua to life, and we are all witnesses of it...
...Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Yeshua, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Yeshua Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
- Acts 2: 22-24, 31-32, 36-41Notice the theme that is highlighted in the Quran is actually found in the New Testament.
Notice the similarities in expression and the detail.
Notice the unique clarity of the narrative's testimony, leaving little room for ambiguity or guessing, unlike some of the poetry in the Quran.
Notice also who is the Lord - the Lord our God.
In this next passage the Gospel miracle is spoken to learned men, leaning more on philosophy and logic than religious themes, who may have been more apt to interpret the world through a humanistic perspective, using their logic and rational understanding rather than religious doctrines...yet God is not bound by man's limited understanding:
A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Yeshua and the resurrection...
…For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”
- Acts 17: 18, 31-32Who is this man appointed to 'judge the world with justice'?
The man Yeshua Christ.
The Christ is echoed in Islamic theology to be the judge who will return to earth with justice, but surprisingly this information is absent in the Quran.
What is found, again, are interpretations that weave human logic (Hadith and tafsir) into what is found in the poetry (Quran), yet the clear details of such an event are not explicitly implied in the Quran.
Gratefully, the Quran's poetry does include enough of the Gospel testimony (that 50%) that may grant faith in Christ as Savior to sprout and take flight.
Praised be His Holy Name - Yeshua!