Q: Why do Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross?
A: Because of Surah 4:157
“And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.“
This is the only verse in the entire Quran that addresses the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
Q: When did Muhammad and the Muslims first hear the claim that Jesus did not die on the cross?
A: When this verse was first revealed.
My question is: When was the revelation of this verse?
This chapter is a Madinan sura. That means it was revealed after Muhammad fled to Madina from Mecca. Muhammad was in Mecca for 13 years. He received revelation for 85 surahs in Mecca from 610AD to 622AD.
He had interactions with Christians of the time, the People Of The Book. Christians have always believed that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and resurrected again. There was no Biblical teaching that said Jesus did not die on the cross. This is the very foundation of their faith and signified redemption and salvation.
Muhammad would have known their beliefs. However, in all that time of his prophethood, he never said one word to deny the crucifixion. Why? Because there was not one word of revelation on this matter!
We can come to only one conclusion.
For 13 years in Mecca, the prophet of Islam and all Muslims during that time, believed as the Christians did; that Jesus was indeed crucified because there was no message or revelation that was contrary to it. Absolutely nothing at all in the first 90 surahs revealed to Muhammad!
Question: In all of the earlier revelations to Muhammad in Mecca, were there any verses that mentioned Jesus’ and his death?
Answer: Yes, there was. Sura 19 was revealed in Mecca.
In Sura 19:33, Jesus says: “Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!”
The sequence is clear. Birth==>Death==>Resurrection
This was the belief of the Christians. This was also what Muhammad believed! There was no reason or revelation for Muhammad and the Muslims to believe any other interpretation and meaning.
In Mecca, Muhammad preached Islam with generally little success. Even his own relatives labelled him a liar and a con-man. He attempted to persuade the Christians by claiming that he was supposedly the closest to Jesus, and that Islam is a continuation of the revelation, and that his recitations confirm their books, etc. (cf 19:33 etc). In the end, he was forced to flee to Madinah with a small band of followers, fearing for his life after upsetting the pagan beliefs of the keepers of the kaabah.
In Madina, Muhammad finally managed to build a powerful following and amassed a strong and fearsome army. Now he didn’t need the Christians anymore. And then the “revelation” denying the crucifixion came. The fact that 4:157 was revealed as a simple and sudden denial of the crucifixion with zero evidence or witness, indicates it came as an afterthought, not just 15 years into his prophethood, but 600 years after Jesus!
Smarter modern Muslims today, begin to catch on that there could be a problem between Sura 19:33, (revealed in Mecca when Muhammad was weak, cajoling and persuading Christians to join him) and Sura 4, (revealed in Madina, when he had become powerful and turned hostile against the Christians who rejected his teachings}. It was tit-for-tat. “You rejected my teaching…well, now I’m stronger than you, boom, 4:157, I reject your teaching.”
Due to the problem of Sura 19:33, smart modern Muslims deny the clear reading of this verse and are forced to engineer this false interpretation instead:
Birth==>Raised to heaven==>Return to earth ==>Death==>Resurrection
However, there is absolutely nothing in the Quran that teaches Jesus will return to earth and die!
Dr. Mahmud Shaltut, the former Rector of Al-Azhar University, explains the meaning of Surah 19:33:
“Consequently, it is misleading to claim that the death of Jesus must occur after his triumphant return to Earth. It would be illogical. This verse deals with the relationship between Jesus and the people of his time and not with those of the time of his return.”
In conclusion, the revelation of the denial of the crucifixion in 4;157 came after 15 years into Muhammad’s prophethood.
What did the prophet of Islam and the Muslims believe about the crucifixion in all that time?
They believed what the Christians have always believed, that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and rose again from the dead alive!
There was no revelation, teaching, message or reason for Muhammad and the Muslims to believe otherwise.