Appendix F: The Suffering and Martyrdom of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)

The Suffering and Martyrdom of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)

The Injīl records that ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)was put to death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. The actual account of his death is recorded in Injīl, Luke 23. Below are just the verses that speak of his crucifixion and his death. More details can be found in the rest of Luke chapter 23.

Two others, both criminals, were led away with ‘Īsā to be put to death. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, the soldiers crucified ‘Īsā there, along with the criminals...

46 In a loud voice ‘Īsā cried out, ‘HeavenlyFather[1], into your hands I entrust my spirit.’ Having said this, he died.(Injīl, Luke 23:32-33, 46)

(Further accounts of al-Masīh ‘Īsā’s death can be found in Injīl, Matthew 27:32-56, Mark 15:21-41, John 19:17-36).     

The account of Sayyidnā ‘Īsā’s death in Injīl, Luke 23:46 is immediately followed by mention of three groups who witnessed or saw these events: a Roman centurion, the people of Jerusalem and those who knew ‘Īsā al-Masīh(hpbuu).

The centurion[2]sawwhat happened and praised Allah, saying, ‘Certainly this man was righteous.’ 48All the people who had gathered to watch this spectacle sawwhat happened, and they returned home, striking their chests. 49 All those who knew ‘Īsā, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and sawthese things.(Injīl, Luke 23:47-49)

A little further on in the account of al-Masīh ‘Īsā’s burial we read,

The women who had travelled with ‘Īsā from Galilee... sawthe tomb and how ‘Īsā’s body was placed in it. (Injīl, Luke 23:55)

It is clear that the account of ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s death and burial is based on eye-witness testimony.

‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)prophesied his own suffering and martyrdom

Before the events took place, ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)predicted that these things would happen to him:

He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief imāms and the ulemā. He must be killed, and on the third day be raised to life.’(Injīl, Luke 9:21-22, see also 18:31-33)

The teaching of the Qur’an

On the basis that the Qur’an affirms the Injīl as revelation, guidance and light from Allah[3], it would be very strange if the Qur’an then went on to contradict what the Injīl clearly teaches. We should therefore seek interpretations that harmonise the Injīl and the Qur’an. On the subject of ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s death, it is possible to harmonise these two Scriptures.

The Qur’an is often understood to deny al-Masīh ‘Īsā’s death from Sūrah an-Nisā’ 4:157-158, where the Jews say,

“We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the messenger of God”— though they did not slay him; nor did they crucify him, but it appeared so unto them. Those who differ concerning him are in doubt thereof. They have no knowledge of it, but follow only conjecture; they slew him not for certain. 158But God raised him up unto Himself, and God is Mighty, Wise.

But these verses do not deny that al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)was killed or crucified. They only deny that the Jews killed and crucified him. It was the Romans and not the Jews who actually crucified ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu). Under Roman rule the Jews did not have authority to sentence anyone to death.

However, a more profound cause of ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s death is revealed in Prophet ‘Īsā’s own words that speak of his death:

‘I lay down my life for the sheep...I lay down my life, in order that I may take it back again. No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back again. I received this command from my heavenlyFather.’(Injīl, John 10:15, 17, 18)

The Jews thought that they, by their own scheming, had got rid of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)and triumphed over him. This is what is meant when an-Nisā’ 4:157 says that it seemed to them that they had killed the Messiah, ‘Īsā son of Maryam. But these Jews failed to understand that al-Masīh’s death was in the purpose of Allah SWT, and that Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu), in obedience to that purpose, deliberately and voluntarily laid down his life. As ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)himself says, ‘No one takes my life from me’ – not the Jews, not the Romans nor anyone else, ‘but I lay it down of my own free will.’ This agrees exactly with what the Qur’an teaches when it says the Jews did not kill him or crucify him.

Understood in this way, an-Nisā’ 4:157-158 harmonises with both the Injīl and also what the Qur’an itself says in the following āyāt:

In Maryam 19:33. ‘Īsā ibn Maryam (hpbuu)says,

“Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised alive!”

And in Āl-’Imrān3:55, we read,

Remember when God said: ‘O Jesus, I shall cause you to die[4]and make you ascend to Me. (TK)

In al-Mā’idah 5:117, al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)says,

I said nothing to them except what You commanded me: “Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.”

I was witness to them while I lived among them,

But when You caused me to die[5], it was You Who kept watch over them

You are a witness over all things.(TK)

In each of these three Qur’anic verses, it speaks of the death of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu). In Sūrah Maryam 19:33, Sayyidnā ‘Īsā’s death is followed by his resurrection from the dead, and in Sūrah Āl-’Imrān3:55, his death is followed by ascension into heaven. In Sūrah al-Mā’idah 5:117, Prophet ‘Īsā’s death is spoken of as a past event. These verses from the Qur’an are in agreement with the teaching of the Injīl about the death of ‘Īsā al-Masīh(hpbuu).

 To find out more about the reasons for ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s suffering and martyrdom, turn to Appendix G, ‘Why did ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)suffer and die?’

 

[1]When al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)speaks of Allah as ‘Father’ he does not mean a physical or biological relationship. So when the Qur’an says of Allah, ‘He begets not, nor was he begotten’ (al-Ikhlās 112:3) there is no need to see a contradiction with the Injīl because the Injīl does not teach that Allah physically begets or is begotten. To highlight this, we have translated into English as ‘heavenlyFather’. See below also. For more detail, see Appendix B, ‘The Translation: “spiritualson of Allah”‘.

[2]A centurion was an officer over 100 soldiers in the Imperial Roman army.

[3]Al-Mā’idah 5:46, we gave him the Injīl, in which is guidance and light… as guidance and an admonition to the godly (RQ). See Introduction.

[4]The Arabic-English Reference Qur’an comments as follows on the verb translated, ‘I will cause you to die’:

‘This word in Arabic /tawaffa/ means “to cause to die.”... This verb, in its various forms, occurs 25 times in the Qur’an. Twice (here and 5:117) it refers to Isa, and everywhere else (2:234, 240, 3:193, 4:15,97, 6:60,61, 7:37,126, 8:50, 10:46,104, 12:101, 13:40, 16:28,32,70, 22:5, 32:11, 39:42, 40:67,77, 47:27), it is in the context of death. Even today, it is used euphemistically to mean “to pass away,” and the word “obituaries” is from the same root.’ (page 66)

[5]The same verb, ‘tawaffa’ is used here as in Āl-’Imrān3:55.