Grace and Truth
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03. BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
4 - ISLAM'S OPEN DENIAL OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST
Servants of the Lord
Another main difference between Islam and Christianity is the Koranic denial of the fundamental message of the Gospel: Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins! Why do Muslims contest the historical fact of the crucifixion of Christ? What is the spiritual consequence of this Islamic suppression of the vicarious death of Christ for our sins?
4.01 -- ISLAM'S OPEN DENIAL OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST
Servants of the Lord
You will know the Truth,
Anyone who meets a Muslim and enters a conversation with him, hears from him sooner or later that Jesus was not crucified; instead another took his place on the cross and suffered the slow and excruciating pain of this kind of death.
Any attempt to check out the passages in the Koran which support such a statement will lead to four verses which purport to deal cautiously with this topic. In the course of time Muhammad became progressively more hardened against the historicity of Christ’s crucifixion. At the outset he accepted the fact of the natural death of Mary’s son. Later he taught that “’Isa” only fell asleep and was caught up to heaven alive. At the end he angrily and categorically denied Christ’s death on the cross.
Anyone who is still convinced that the three so-called monotheistic religions worship the same God and harmonize as far as their basic principles are concerned, ought to study these four verses in the Koran in order to be cured of his enlightened error.
4.02 -- Christ’s death – after his second coming
In Sura Maryam 19:33, Muhammad attributes the following words to ’Isa, the son of Mary:
Peace is on me
اوَالسَّلاَمُ عَلَيَّ يَوْمَ وُلِدْتُ وَيَوْمَ أَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ أُبْعَثُ حَيّاً (سُورَةُ مَرْيَمَ ٣٣:١٩)ا
This claim to blessedness, which the Koran ascribes to Christ himself, means first and foremost that Muhammad recognized, when he used this Christian saying, that from birth to death and even beyond his resurrection the favor of Allah rested on the Son of Mary.
Through this „revelation“, the virgin Mary’s honor was saved and she received the confirmation that she had born a son according to Allah’s will and without any masculine agency. The Koran testifies to the fact that her child was neither illegitimate nor the consequence of rape.
This verse is the only reference in the Koran, which clearly confirms the death of Christ. This suggests that Muhammad, at the outset of his religious career had questioned Christian slaves at Mecca and received the answer that the Son of Mary had been created within his mother through the Holy Spirit, that he had died and risen again from his grave.
Later, however, Muhammad rejected these former statements and reinterpreted them in his “traditions” (Sahih Muslim, Bab al-Fitan wa Ashrat al Sa'a 246 247, 5218). There he claimed that ’Isa had not died during his earthly existence but had been translated alive into Allah’s presence. From there he would return at the end of time to destroy the antichrist, to shatter the crosses in churches and cemeteries, to slaughter all pigs, to marry, to beget children and, as a reformer of Islam, to avert the Muslims' great apostasy and to bring them back together with the rest of humanity to the true faith. It is only after the fulfillment of his worldwide mission that he would have to die and be buried in Muhammad’s grave in Medina. His funeral would be the event which initiates the coming of Allah for universal judgment. Therefore the return of Christ in the Koran is called the "knowledge of the final hour" (Sura al-Zukhruf 43:61).
The postponement of Christ’s death until the period after his return is grammatically incorrect, because this particular verse refers to Christ’s death as an event in the near future, within the limits of his earthly life. This incredible reinterpretation situating the death of Jesus after his advent requires a verbal form describing a remote future which, however, is nowhere to be found in the Sura Maryam.
4.03 -- ’Isa’s falling asleep gently and his rapture to Allah
In the Koran, the truth regarding Jesus’ death is several times consciously distorted. In the Sura Al ‘Imran 3:54-55 we read:
54 They were cunning, and Allah was cunning.
ا٥٤ وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ ٥٥ إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ (سُورَةُ آلِ عِمْرَانَ ٣: ٥٤-٥٥)ا
This central statement concerning Christ was made before a delegation of sixty Christians of Wadi Nadjran (northern Yemen) which, under the leadership of their Emir al-Aqib Abd al-Masih and their Bishop Abu Haritha b. Alqama, had traveled to Medina to try the spirit which dwelt in Muhammad. They sat with him and a selected group of his followers for three days in the Mosque in Medina and received this answer amongst others at the end of this first official dialogue between Christians and Muslims. It was meant to open the way for Christians to join the new faith.
In the Koranic account of this meeting (Sura Al ‘Imran 3:33-34), Muhammad declares that the Jews were deceitful. They had contrived to kill Jesus unobtrusively to avoid causing unrest among their people as a result of this murder (Matthew 26:2-5; John 11:46-54). Allah, however, had reacted promptly and forestalled their duplicity by his own craftiness, because he, Allah, was “the best of the cunning ones”. He decided to save the Son of Mary from the anguish of the crucifixion and, shortly before his execution, he made him fall asleep and caught him up alive to heaven.
This distortion of the historical events sounds, humanly speaking, attractive since Muhammad used a word in Allah’s so-called address to Jesus which would satisfy both the attending Muslims and the Christians from northern Yemen. He used the Arabic concept “mutawaffika”, which means both „to put someone to sleep“ and „make someone die“. Muhammad was playing on the double meaning of the verb: for the Muslims Jesus had not died, he had only fallen asleep, but for the Christians he had really died and had finished his earthly existence peacefully and successfully.
Muhammad could not bear the idea that Christ, a prophet of Allah and his representative, was crucified. This contradicted Muhammad’s understanding of Allah and his theology. Why should the faithful Allah allow the faithful Christ, in spite of his innocence, to fall into the hands of his deceitful enemies? If such were the case, Allah would be no longer faithful nor almighty. Muhammad was squarely met by the scandal of the cross (1Corinthians 1:18,23,24). He refused to let himself be convinced by the Bishop from Wadi Nadjran, who appealed to the arguments used by Jesus when he met his disciples after his resurrection. (Luke 24:25-27 and 45-47; John 3:14-15). In order to evade his opponent’s line of reasoning, he denied the reality of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Muhammad may have reasoned that, if the son of Mary had been crucified, he himself might meet the same fate! This possibility, however, he rejected categorically. Therefore, he offered the Christians a compromise and told them the son of Mary had gently fallen asleep and had directly been lifted up to the presence of Allah.
This perversion of the facts proves the saying: „Before the cross of Christ every spirit must confess its true nature!“ („The cross of Christ is the touchstone that proves every spirit!“)
In the Koran, Allah suddenly reveals himself as „the most crafty of all“! The Bible explains in Genesis 3:1 who is the most crafty of all: it is the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan (Revelation 12:9). The cross of Jesus compelled the most deceitful one to show his true face. He tries in the Koran to obliterate the cross of Christ quietly, almost incidentally, and his tactics betray his origin as the father of lies, full of cunning and malice (John 8:44; Revelations 12:3,9; 20:2).
It is understandable that most Muslims and academic translators of the Koran try to paraphrase and camouflage this offensive name of Allah. They call him the best of all plotters, intriguers or schemers. But this does not change the fact that the Koran twice explicitly ascribes the “greatest deceitfulness” to Allah, (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:54; al-Anfal 8:30; see also al-Nisa’ 4:142).
4.04 -- The confirmation of Christ’s falling asleep
Muhammad attributes to Christ, in the perfect tense, the following endorsement of the myth of his „gentle falling asleep“. According to the Koran, the son of Mary appeared afterwards before Allah in heaven. Then he was confronted with the critical question, whether he had taught his followers a false doctrine concerning the trinity (father, mother and son). The living Christ immediately repudiated this suspicion, confirming, in the perfect tense, the Islamic theory of his gentle falling asleep! These are the words which he supposedly said to Allah:
I watched (as a guardian, shepherd) over them (his disciples) while living in their midst, and ever since You let me fall asleep (let me die), you have been watching them (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:116-117).
Ever since these alleged revelations, Muslims have believed, strangely enough, that Jesus lives in Allah’s presence! As for Muhammad, he is dead and waiting (in an intermediate state called Barzakh) for the day of Judgment. This is why all Muslims, when they mention the prophet’s name, must pray for him and wish him peace (Sura al-Ahzab 33:56). It is not Muhammad who prays for his followers; on the contrary, they must pray for him! With Jesus, it is the opposite. He intercedes for us and is our representative before his Father.
But since, according to Islamic theology, ’Isa will die at the close of his world-wide reformation of Islam, he would have to have a body at his second advent in order to be able to die a physical death. That is why Muftis of Saudi-Arabia declared that Christ had been lifted up to Allah with body, soul and spirit! According to their teaching, he is, admittedly, a spirit created by Allah in an earthly body, but he belongs to „those brought near” to Allah (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:45; al-Nisa’ 4:158,171).
4.05 -- The radical rejection of the crucifixion of Jesus
Muhammad accepted many Christian truths in a perverted form in order to win over contemporary Christians to his own views. He saw no problem in the virgin birth of Christ, nor in his mighty miracles, nor in his ascension to Allah (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:55; al-Nisa’ 4:158). On the other hand, he increasingly opposed the doctrine of Christ’s deity and in the end, sharply denied his death on the cross. In the Sura al-Nisa’, we read:
156 They (the Jews) in their disbelief
(but) they did not kill him,
Those that disagreed about him
ا١٥٦ وَبِكُفْرِهِمْ وَقَوْلِهِمْ عَلَى مَرْيَمَ بُهْتَاناً عَظِيماً ١٥٧ وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ مَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِيناً (سُورَةُ النِّسَاءِ ٤: ١٥٦-١٥٧)ا
This verse marks the definite dividing line between the two faiths. The text, however, is not easy to understand and raises many questions as well as ventures at explanation.
First of all, it is unlikely that the Jews in Medina would consider the son of Mary to be the “Messiah” or a “Messenger of Allah”. They did not believe in the virgin birth and made fun of his divine origin.
On the other hand, it is conceivable and even probable, that they threatened sarcastically to kill Muhammad also, should he continue to pester them, just as their ancestors had once gotten rid of Jesus, the so-called Messiah. Muhammad angrily rejected this threat and retorted: You never killed him, you never crucified him! Allah did not allow you to do it to Jesus in the past and will not let you do it to me now! You are liars!
Moreover, it may be that Muhammad had heard at that time of a Christian sect in the Nile valley which questioned the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. These heretics claimed that God had not become a real human being, but had only appeared in the shape of a man (1 Thimothy 3:16). For them, it was impossible, that the Everlasting and Holy One should take on a physical body and submit himself to its earthly needs. In the same vein, Christ did not really die on the cross, but only took on the appearance of a crucified convict.
This one-sided emphasis on Christ’s divine nature together with the denial of his incarnation had a fatal influence on Muhammad’s thinking. He adopted the idea of the “apparent” crucifixion of the son of Mary and despised the poor, misled Christians who believed that Christ had actually been put to death! -This argument gave the prophet a solid theological reason for rejecting the cross of Christ. He firmly anchored it in the Koran and thus made his followers in the whole world impervious to the salvation in Christ, which was accomplished for them also.
The Islamic interpreters of the Koran, nevertheless, have serious difficulties explaining the expression “They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but he only was made to resemble a crucified one for them”. Some of them write that Simon of Cyrene was forced by the soldiers to carry the cross of ‘Isa, since he (‘Isa) had been greatly weakened by the flogging (Mark 15:21). As the procession of convicts reached Golgotha, the waiting Roman executioners nailed the cross-bearer on the spot on the cursed wooden frame (the cross), whereas Jesus walked on, free and unmolested.
Other commentators emphasize the justice of Allah! He is said to have put the features of Jesus on the face of Judas, the traitor, and vice versa, so that in reality the villain was crucified! Islamic theologians and Turkish Muslims believe such nonsense to this very day and even defend it vehemently. They even feel a secret pity for the Christians who believe that Christ was really crucified.
Another interpreter (al-Tabari) writes that Jesus was in fact crucified. Afterwards, however, an eclipse of the sun and a strong earthquake deeply shook the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The guards at Golgotha ran away in terror and tried to find shelter. Then Jesus said to himself: Why should I remain hanging on the cross, while all are running for safety from Allah’s anger? So he descended from the cross and, under the cover of darkness, quickly disappeared. The Ahmadiyya sect claims that ’Isa walked all the way to Kashmir in Northern India, where he later died a natural death. They insist that his grave can still be seen in Srinagar today. (See: Iskandar Jadeed: The cross in the Gospel and the Koran.)
Muhammad noted in Sura al-Nisa’ 4:157 that there were considerable differences of opinion between Christians at that time concerning Christ’s nature and his death. Because of this situation, he was not quite sure of the facts and whether his denial of the crucifixion was justified. The Muslim scholars agreed after his death on a fixed expression: The son of Mary was not crucified, he only was made to appear so to them!
Only few Christians until now have realized that the denial of the crucifixion is a frontal attack on the core of Christianity. By drawing attention to this fact, we are not trying to stir up antagonism against Muslims. On the contrary, our aim is to explain to Christians open to dialogue that, for 1380 years, Islam has considered all Christians as „those who have gone astray“, liars and unbelieving idolators for the sake of the cross of Christ (Suras al-Fatiha 1:7; Al ‘Imran 3:61; al-Tauba 9:29). The cross, which is held in honor by many Christians, is despised as a fetish, hated and occasionally cursed by many Muslims!
Nevertheless, in order to bring moral disgrace on the Israelis, Gamal Abd al-Nasser in Egypt and Baschir Asad in Syria have dared, in contradiction to the teaching of the Koran, to call the Jews the assassins of Jesus. The showing of „The Passion of the Christ“ in 2004 was surprisingly permitted by many Arabic and Islamic states in order to provoke hatred against the murderers of Christ.
4.06 -- The denial of Christ’s substitution
A reader of the Koran will note that the following set phrase appears five times:
… No one (servant, minister etc.) shall bear another’s burden … (Suras al-An’am 6:164; Bani Isra’il 17:15; Fatir 35:18; al-Zumar 39:7; al-Najam 53:38).
ا... وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى ... (سُورَةُ الأَنْعَامِ ١٦٤:٦)ا
Everyone must carry the responsibility and bear the punishment for his own sin. That a Lamb of God should bear the sin of the world is unthinkable in Islam. The disciples of Muhammad do not recognize any divine substitute who took their guilt upon himself and was punished in their place (Isaiah 53:4-12; John 1:29; 3:16). Therefore, all Muslims try to document their own righteousness through their good works together with their faith in Allah and Muhammad. A justification by grace, on the basis of the atoning death of a substitute, seems to them an injustice towards those who worship Allah and try to fulfill the requirements of the Shari’a by their prayers, fasts, donations, pilgrimages and taking part in the Holy War. Islam is a legalistic religion, in which there is no place for a crucified savior.
The New Testament concepts of “salvation and Savior” and their significance are nowhere to be found in the Koran. The denial of the crucifixion of Christ is therefore no regrettable accident produced by the confrontation of two world religions; on the contrary, it springs from the incompatibility of their spiritual viewpoints. Islam is a „religion under the law“, in contrast to Christianity which is built exclusively on the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The words of the apostle Paul concerning the law and the gospel are largely applicable to Islam as well (Romans 3:9-20; Galatians 2:16,21).
4.07 -- No Muslim has received forgiveness of his sins
No one, who lives according to the gospel, believes that he is justified because of his own good works (which, measured by the holiness of God, are non-existent), but solely through the atoning death of the crucified.
The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us of all sin (1 John 1:7).
There is no other justification than through the blood of Jesus. Natural piety, as practiced in other religions, is not enough to meet the legal requirements of God’s holiness (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; Matthew 5:48).
Since Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Christ, they renounce at the same time the justification, the forgiveness, the salvation, the reconciliation with God and the deliverance available through Jesus Christ. The second article of the Christian Creed is totally absent in Islam! The third article is also unknown to Muslims, as far as its content is concerned. For, it was as a result of Christ’s atoning death that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples as they waited and prayed. Through its permanent denial of the crucifixion, Islam cuts itself off from all of God’s gifts of grace for the sake of Christ and renounces the privileges and resources of the Christian faith.
Muslims reckon that, at the Last Judgment, great scales will be set up: their good and their evil deeds will be thrown into the balance and weighed against each other. In the Koran, it is written:
„… Good deeds shall make amends for bad deeds ...“ (Sura Hud 11:114)
ا... إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ... (سُورَةُ هُودٍ ١١٤:١١)ا
For this reason, no Muslim can be sure what Allah’s final verdict will be, whether his sins will be forgiven or not. He lives without assurance that his transgressions have been remitted, in constant uncertainty and fear of the Last Judgment.
Approximately one billion four hundred million Muslims are bound by this collective spirit of Islam. When will responsibly-minded Christians finally wake up and realize that, on the basis of the overflowing riches of grace of the crucified Christ, we are debtors to the unsaved Muslims? Let us therefore, in the age of the multi-cultural religious dialogue practiced by some Christian leaders, hold fast to the witness of the apostle Paul and testify:
But we preach Christ crucified!
4.08 -- Q U I Z
as an encouragement for his/her future services for Christ. It will be appreciated if you include the Koranic references in your answers.
Every participant in this quiz is allowed to use any book at his disposition and to ask any trustworthy person known to him when answering these questions. We wait for your written answers including your full address on the papers or in your e-mail. We pray for you to Jesus, the living Lord, that He will call, send, guide, strengthen, protect and be with you every day of your life!
Yours in His service,
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