Islam & Crucifixion

by Michael Brenner

Islam and crucifixion are connected in two main ways -- crucifixion as a punishment in Islamic law and the Islamic denial of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, approved of the use of crucifixion in the Hadith, which is a collection of Muhammad's sayings and deeds. The Quran, which represents God's words transmitted through Muhammad, approves of crucifixion in most interpretations. The Quran also states that Jesus was never crucified.

Quran 5:33

The Quran, surah 5 verse 33, has traditionally been interpreted as prescribing crucifixion as a punishment. The passage states that those who wage war against God and Muhammad can be crucified or have their feet and hands cut off on opposite sides. The passage also offers exile as a possible punishment for the stated crimes. The four major schools of Islamic law -- Maliki, Hanifi, Shafi'i and Hanbali -- view this as a simple crime and punishment passage, and it is followed by a verse that orders forgiveness for those who repent.

An Alternate Reading of 5:33

Progressive Muslims are critical of those who have interpreted 5:33 as a legal injunction. Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad, who has written a 1,000-page interpretation of the Quran, believes that the passage is actually a broad factual statement -- do wrong and it will catch up to you. Asad notes that all the Arabic verbs in the passage are in the present tense, which does not indicate a prescription for future punishment. Asad also states that "cutting off hands and feet" was an Arabic idiom for powerlessness rather than a prescribed punishment.

Crucifixion in the Hadith

Crucifixion is supported by the Hadith. The Abu Dawud Hadith, book 38 number 4339, states that those who fight against God and Muhammad can be crucified, killed or exiled. Similar things are written in book 38 number 4357 and book 38 number 4359. The Abu Dawud collection, in book 2 number 0591, recalls the first crucifixion in a Muslim community.

Jesus Was Not Crucified

Islam denies that Jesus was ever crucified. The Quran states two times, in surah 4 verse 157, that Jesus was never killed. The next verse states, instead, that God raised Jesus "to Himself." The text hints that someone was made to resemble Jesus and was crucified in his place, but due to the ambiguity of the text, many other interpretations are possible as well. In Islam, the denial of the crucifixion also includes denying the Christian claim of Jesus' Resurrection and Jesus' atonement for the sins of mankind.

About the Author

Michael Brenner has been a writer for almost 10 years for various outlets including the "Chicago Tribune," "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," other newspapers and various business websites. He holds two master's degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in the areas of interfaith relations and world religions.

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