teacher and student


If Jesus wasn't crucified, what really did happen?

All Muslims agree that the Jews did not succeed in killing him, though they sure tried to. Some seem to think that he was not even placed on the cross. I consider that he was placed on the cross, but did not die on it. The word "salaba" in Arabic refers to "death on a cross", not mere placement on it.

It would follow that the Qur'an is repeating itself: "and they did not kill him, nor did they kill him on the cross."

This would violate the Qur'anic principle of mughayara or semantic differentiation. If the Qur'an states "A and B" then A is necessarily different from B according to mughayara. It is a good idea to approach Qur'anic interpretation through the sciences and rules that were developed to help us achieve it.

A second proof against the above misinterpretation is that the whole point of the denial is that Allah did not let his Prophet be subjected to infamy. The latter does not reside in being killed -- as other Prophets were killed -- but in the modality of being displayed on a pole like a criminal. Lapidation (stoning) is ruled out for the same reason.

A third proof is that, to my knowledge, the imams of commentary have not mentioned the hypothesis that ʿIsa himself was placed on the cross as a possibility, although they left no stone unturned in collecting narrations and going over the various scenarios. So the statement that "Some seem to think that he was not even placed on the cross" is disinformation posing as a statistical remark. The real statement would be that some seem to think that he was actually placed on the cross.

A fourth proof is that in Arabic usage salb or crucifixion does not denote death on a cross -- contrary to what is being claimed above -- but only hoisting or being hoisted up on a cross or plank or pole for the purpose of defamation and humiliation.

Abu Nuʿaym in Hilya al-Awliya' (1985 ed. 10:154=1997 ed. 10:161) narrates with his chain that when al-Daylami -- one of the early Sufis -- was captured by the Byzantines "he was crucified" (fa salabuh), and "when the Muslims saw him crucified (fa lamma ra'ahu al-Muslimuna masluban) they freed him after a raid and brought him down alive. He came down and asked for water, etc."

Al-Tabari in his history Tarikh al-Muluk wa al-Umam (1987 ed. 5:414) in the chapter of the year 252 describes the events of ʿAbdan ibn al-Muwaffaq's demise: "He was crucified alive (fa suliba hayyan)... and was left crucified (turika masluban) until the midafternoon prayer. Then he was thrown into jail and remained there for two days. He died on the third. It was ordered that he be crucified again..."

There are also examples using the term salaba or crucify for defamation-displays taking place _after_ the death of the crucified, as alluded to in the Qur'anic sequence: "They never killed him, and they never crucified him."

When Caesar's governor over Amman at the time of the Prophet ﷺ Farwa ibn ʿAmr al-Judhami declared his Islam, he was imprisoned until he died. After his death, he was crucified. Narrated by Ibn Saʿd, Tabaqat (7:435) May Allah be well-pleased with him, he believed in the Prophet ﷺ in the Prophet's time, yet never met him, like Uways al-Qarani.

In the hadith of Salman al-Farisi about the corrupt episcopus of the Syrian church who died, then it was discovered that he had amassed a treasure out of the people's alms, Salman narrates: "They said we shall never bury him. Then they crucified him on a plank and stoned him." Narrated by Ibn Saʿd, Tabaqat (4:77), al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad (1:167) and Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya (2:311).

In 231 Imam Ahmad ibn Nasr al-Khuzaʿi -- may Allah be well-pleased with him -- was decapitated in Samarra. "When his head was brought to the authorities [in Baghdad], they [literally] crucified it (salabuh)." Al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad (5:179). It is evident that the meaning here is "They displayed it on top of a pole."

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latest update: 2019-06-11
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