Must Muslims deny the crucifixion of Christ?

This is a great paper. Written from an Ismaili perspective, it shows how all Ismaili Muslims and Alawite Muslims, many Sufi Muslims and individuals from other Islamic traditions have come to accept that Christ was in fact crucified, and that Qur’an 4:157 can mean something very different from a denial of the crucifixion.

One excerpt:

"The Isma‘ili position on the Crucifixion can be summarized as follows:

  • Historically, Jesus was crucified and killed; there was no ‘substitute’.

- That which ‘appeared to them’ (shubbiha lahum) as being crucified was precisely
the body or human nature (nasut) of Jesus.

  • Christ’s soul, as the manifestation of his divine nature (lahut), could not be killed
    and this is what the Qur’an speaks of when it says “they killed him not, nor did
    they crucify him”.

-The Bible and the Qur’an are thus in agreement over the Crucifixion. "

Compare to Matthew 10:28

“And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

There seems to be no universal hard and fast rule about the Crucifixion, only about the Resurrection, which is pretty much universally denied. Most Islamic opinion about the Crucifixion is also that it didn’t happen, that ‘Allah’ either tricked the onlookers and participants into thinking that it had taken place, that the account is ‘corrupted’, that someone else was made to appear as Jesus and was crucified in His place, or some other shoe horned or convoluted use of human imagination.

ML, does that mean the Sunni’s don’t believe that Jesus was crucified?


I have done a bit of trawling around on Islamic sites, and it appears more complex and confused than that even

That’s normal, when there is a 600 year gap from the events. :shrug:


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.

That “translation” is an interpretation, specifically written in that way as a polemic against Christianity by anti-Christian Muslims.

Here is a much better translation:

"And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, God’s messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.

But God raised him up unto Himself. God was ever Mighty, Wise."

The crux of the passage is – what does “appeared so unto them” actually mean? One possible interpretation is that when someone’s body is put to death it “appears to us” that they have been slain, but in fact they have not.

“And call not those who are slain in the way of God “dead.” Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not.” Qur’an 2:154

This is from the Bible:

“And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” - Matthew 10:28

So, did the Roman soldiers destroy Jesus’ body, or His soul? Did they crucify His body or his soul? They thought they were killing and humiliating Him, but they were raising Him up as a light unto all the world.

Muslims, if they wish to improve their relationship with Christians, might wish to open themselves up to an alternate reading of Qur’an 4:157-158 which is, after all, quite murky and opaque and subject to interpretation.

Most Sunni and Shia don’t believe that Jesus was crucified, but a few do.

Qur’an 4:157 is quite opaque, Muslims have many different interpretations of what it means ranging from things like “Jesus survived the Crucifixion” to “Judas was crucified instead of Jesus” to “the body of Jesus was crucified but His Soul was not harmed”.

Obviously, the last reading is much more conducive to Christian - Muslim relations, since it matches the account in the Bible.

What did the closest followers of Muhammad have to say about it? Does iit matter?

I would love the historical interpretations.

We don’t have any writings from the closest followers of Muhammad, unfortunately.

I do think the denial of the crucifixion matters in relations between Christians and Muslims, probably almost as much as the belief that many Muslims hold that the text of the Bible has been “corrupted”.

You might find this web page useful in reading some early Islamic commentary about the meaning of Qur’an 4:154 :

ML, you need to be careful when picking out Bible verses. Mat 10:28 is an ongoing discourse by Jesus to his disciples before they embark to the towns. It’s about preparing for persecution which they will have to face. Therefore i don’t see this helping Muslims to understand what transpired in the Crucifixion.

It is also far from clear what ‘mainstream’ Islamic thinking(s) say, if anything about Jesus post the time of the Crucifixion. Did ‘Allah’ continue to fool Romans, Jews and His followers until He had some sort of veiled ‘natural’ death?

How did the Islamic version(s) explain the rest of His life, and His death?

Of course it has a context to it, but I think it also demonstrates that being physically killed does not kill the soul.

The trouble ML here is that there is a huge eschatological explanation necessary here, Especially since the context is about what can happen to a person in general, but Jesus’ role is unique because of what he does subsequently after his death and before his resurrection. Even if Muslims “get” the first about the soul they will reject what Jesus did in the latter (descent and release of souls).


I would go with any translation that Muslims feel is the correct one. Many of those translations are from Muslims themselves though.

Why not ask Quran Arabic speaking Muslims? Is the language of the Quran still being spoken today?

What is more important here, for those who want to know, is whether Jesus in the verse (4:157) is crucified (death by crucifixion) or not.

I think the the official Islamic teaching on this is that he was not. There are however, certain Muslim sect that believe Jesus was dead.

In any case, there is no consensus among Muslims on the meaning of this verse. If Jesus only appeared to be crucified, then who was crucified and why? Muslims come out with various theories and explanation to that.


Most Muslims would say, I believe, that Jesus was not crucified. However, not all Muslims agree with this opinion and the verse in the Qur’an on this is somewhat ambiguous: 4:157 “and their boast, “Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, [who claimed to be] an apostle of God!” However, they did not slay him, and neither did they crucify him, but it only seemed to them [as if it had been] so.”

This might only mean that it was not they themselves who slew Jesus and crucified him by their own decision but only because this was by God’s decree. It is God, in the Muslim view, who brings everything into being and causes everything to happen. For example:

9:51: “Say: ‘Never can anything befall us save what God has decreed! He is our Lord Supreme; and in God let the believers place their trust!’”

57:22: “NO CALAMITY can ever befall the earth, and nei*ther your own selves, unless it be [laid down] in Our decree before We bring it into being: verily, all this36 is easy for God.”

On the other hand, the part about “it only seemed to them [as if it had been] so” has the definite feel of Docitism about it which might have been an influence upon Muhammad.

The best coverage of this issue is in Todd Lawson, The Crucifixion and the Qur’an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought (Oneworld, 2009); also see Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an (Oneworld 1965, 1995). Also see the following article, “Some Muslim Views on Jesus’ Crucifiction,” by the Muslim scholar Adis Duderija:–crucifiction/d/10770

Thanks Thorolfr for those quotations and the link!

Here is a video by Todd Lawson as well where he addresses the historical diversity and debate about the crucifixion in early Islam:

Is this the same Todd Lawson, who is a Bahai?


I didn’t know that, but I just googled Todd Lawson Baha’i and apparently he is.

Ok, thanks. :slight_smile: For balance, is there a Muslim professor that deals in this matter?


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