Read the previous part first: “A critical review of Trinity, Sin, & Salvation in Christianity“
The cornerstone of Christian belief is that Jesus came to die as the substitutionary death for the sins of mankind.
While one can argue for the case of Jesus’ death on the cross based on Gospel accounts, from the Muslim’s perspective this is not such a big deal. This is because of for several reasons.
First the Qur’an rejects this notion of “death on the cross” altogether. It is emphatic on this subject:
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. (An Nisa 4:157)
Second, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus (PBUH) is shown to be put on cross. Whether or not the account narrated in Gospels are authentic, there is case to be made that historically in the first couple centuries of Christianity, not all groups of Christians believed in Jesus’ crucifixion or his substitutionary death as a means of salvation. Even today, based on Gospel accounts, many people make the case that Jesus was just hung on cross but actually didn’t die. Many Muslims have jumped onto this bandwagon.
We don’t think this is the correct approach for Muslims to take. Rather, the right way is to say that even if Gospel accounts say Jesus was crucified, we don’t agree with it because from the Muslim perspective, the Qur’an is the final revelation from God and it tells us otherwise. Since God knows all the truth, He taught the correct position regarding this and other matters to Muhammad (PBUH) through revelation. Please note that in Islamic theology today’s Bible is not considered 100% authentic and thus the Gospel’s account aren’t taken at face value.
But lastly the real question that should be asked is this: If Jesus’ (PBUH) main mission in the world was to die as a substitute for our sins then there should be a whole lots of details and teaching from Jesus (PBUH) himself in this matter. But we are not aware of a single explicit statement from him which is clear and unambiguous in stating that his mission was to die as substitutionary death and atonement for sins of mankind and that we MUST believe in his death and resurrection to be saved.
The statement that is often quoted from Jesus on this topic is as follows:
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
We don’t see how this verse teaches substitutionary death and atonement. At best Jesus (PBUH) is saying that he is willing to give his life for his followers and for his cause. The willingness to sacrifice one’s life for a higher cause is something not unique to Jesus (PBUH). We see that many prophets in the Bible suffered immensely (such as Abraham) and some even gave up their life (such as John the Baptist) for their mission. The same is true for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). On the Trip to Taif, where he went to invite people to Islam, the people of Taif treated him real bad. The Prophet was badly stoned, so much so that his entire body became bloodied and his shoes were soaked in his own blood. So for Jesus (PBUH) to say that he will give blood or be a ransom to his people, it simply may mean that he was willing to sacrifice everything so that people can learn truth from him and be saved by following those teachings. This interpretation is consistent with sacrifices of all previous prophets.
There are a couple of other verses in the Gospels that are also brought by Christians as evidence that Jesus taught salvation through belief in his death and resurrection. But when we actually analyze those verses, we find that they don’t teach this doctrine in any explicit manner. Our perception is that people read into these verses “substitutionary death and atonement” because they already believe in this doctrine. Even the weakest connections make them think that these verses actually teach what they already believe. Perhaps this conclusion has something to do with what is known as power of suggestion.
Jesus’ Second Coming
Islam teaches that Jesus didn’t die on cross, but that he was lifted up to heaven alive. He will come back again and live normal life and then die. The purpose of his second coming is primarily establishment of justice on earth and killing of anti christ.
Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise . (An Nisa 4:158)
And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness. (An Nisa 4: 159)
[Mention] when Allah said, “O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ. (Ale Imran 3:55)
The Qur’an is not explicit about second coming of Jesus, but there are plenty of sayings of Muhammad (PBUH) on this matter.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts). (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 43, Number 656:)
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (PBUH) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (PBUH). He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognize him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizya. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him. (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4310:)
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “By Him in Whose Hands is my soul, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya (i.e. taxation taken from non Muslims). Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah (in prayer) will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it.” Abu Huraira added “If you wish, you can recite (this verse of the Holy Book): — ‘And there is none Of the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) But must believe in him, (i.e Jesus as an Apostle of Allah and a human being) before his death. And on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness Against them.” (4.159) (Sahih al-Bukhari 3448)
It should be clear from the above discussion that Muslims believe that Jesus (PBUH) will come back again before the day of judgment.
This article is the final part of a 6-part series on Muslim view on Jesus.
- Jesus from a Muslim perspective: Who is Jesus?
- Virgin Birth and Prophethood of Jesus
- Miracles of Jesus (PBUH)
- Who is not Jesus?
- Trinity, Sin, & Salvation in Christianity: A critical review
- Did Jesus die on Cross?
Article Courtesy: American Herald Tribune
Hadi Abdulmatin is a well known speaker and activist among the Colorado interfaith community. He has been representing Islam and Muslims at several inter-religious dialogues for many years. Abdulmatin is an Information Technology professional and lives with his family in Colorado. He currently serves as the President of ICNA Southwest Region.