Why don’t Muslims believe that Jesus was crucified or that he sacrificed himself to save humanity?

I take it you mean the idea that all humans are condemned to eternal torment because of the original sin inherited from Adam, unless of course they accept atonement for their sins made by Jesus with his blood. It’s ridiculous to say the least. Don’t you think this is grossly unfair? On the one hand, it assumes that the offspring of Adam have to pay for their ancestor’s sin and on the other it affirms that Jesus atoned for it on behalf of all men by giving himself to be crucified and so salvation is to be sought through him.  Even if we suppose that Christ was indeed crucified, one may well ask how one being could atone for all the wrongs of men, past, present and future, bearing their whole load of punishment. In any case why should Jesus pay for the sins of Adam or for any others? Doesn’t such an idea go against the very grain of what we call justice? Worse still, doesn’t it assign to God the unimaginable trait of being unjust, punishing men for the sins of others?

   Islam is very clear that none can bear the burdens of another. Each man or woman must answer to God for his or her own deeds. Sin is not inherited but acquired by doing evil just as merit is acquired by doing good. The Qur’an clearly says: “No Bearer of Burdens can bear the burden of another. In the End, to your Lord is Your Return, when He will tell you the truth of all that ye did (in this life). For He knows well all that is in (men’s) hearts” (The Crowds:7).

There is no original sin in Islam. Firstly because we hold that God forgave Adam for his transgression:

Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration and his Lord turned towards him (in forgiveness). For He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful

(The Heifer: 37)

But Satan whispered evil to him. He said: “Adam! Shall I lead thee to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?” They both ate of the tree and so their nakedness appeared to them. They began to sew together for their covering, leaves from the Garden. Thus did Adam disobey his Lord and allow himself to be seduced. But His Lord chose him and turned to him in forgiveness and guided him

(TaHa: 121-122)

    Just because Adam and Eve committed a sin, does not mean that they or their offspring were barred from God’s Mercy. God is All Mercy and when they asked for forgiveness, He forgave them. So how could their offspring inherit a sin that no longer exists? Secondly, because all children are born pure and sinless, in a state known as the fitra. “Every child”, said the Prophet “is born in a state of fitrah and it is his parents who make him a Jew or Christian or Magian”(Saheeh Al-Bukhari).

     That all children are born sinless was preached not only by Islam, but by Christ himself when he said: “Suffer not the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein”(Mark 10:14-15). It’s therefore surprising that Christendom should have accepted the likes of Saint Augustine who condemned all unbaptised infants to eternal torment in the hellfire rather than the likes of well meaning men like Albert Midlane who wrote: There’s a Friend for Little Children Above the Bright Blue Sky, A Friend who never changes, Whose love will never die which is more in keeping with the true teachings of Christ.

   That Jesus came to die willingly for the sins of men is not even supported in the Bible itself.  When he realized the impending danger from the Jews, he ordered his disciples to fetch swords even if they had to sell their cloaks. When he came to know that his foes were plotting to kill him he declared that his soul was “exceedingly sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34) and later he prayed to God, saying: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup (death) from me; nevertheless not what I will, but Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). And if we are to suppose that the one who was crucified was indeed the Jesus who had come to sacrifice himself for humanity, how are we to explain his crying out in a loud voice shortly before the death pangs: “Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?” (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?) (Matthew 27:46).

    Jesus never said that the way to eternal life was through his blood. What he said was “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). The fact is that Jesus came to rescue his people from sin through his teachings and to urge them to repent if they ever hoped for salvation. We see this countless times in the Bible like in Matthew (4:17) where we learn that when Jesus began to preach, he said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Never did he say that he was sent to atone for the sins of men.

   It is only the Gospel of John that suggests Jesus came to take away the sins of the world. In it we come across a very questionable passage not found in any of the other Gospels: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever beliveth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is also here that we find Jesus saying: “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the world.”” (John 6:48-52). These certainly cannot be the words of Jesus, but the work of some mischief-maker who surreptitiously introduced them to mock Christ.

   Paul added fuel to this fire of lies. Unlike the immediate followers of Jesus who held no such view, he stressed on a belief in the crucifixion, that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity. Henceforth it mattered not what sins men committed so long as they believed in Christ and in the sacrifice he made on behalf of man. Paul used some choice words to drive home his point:

All have sinned and are deprived of the Glory of God. They are justified freely by His Grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed” (Romans 3:23-25)

Even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14)

Despite desiring a break from the Mosaic law, Paul was influenced by the Old Testament in coming up with the idea of the redemptive power of the crucifixion: “If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God”. He adds: “According to the Law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”. And in support cites the story of Moses who after proclaiming the commandments to the people, took the blood of calves and sprinkled it on all of them, saying: “This is the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined upon you” (Hebrews 9:13-22).

    Thus Paul seems to have looked upon Christ as a sort of Paschal lamb, whose blood saved men from sin just as the blood of the sacrificial lamb celebrated in the Jewish Passover saved the Israelites of Egypt from certain death during Moses’ time. The story is found in Exodus where God, in order to force Pharoah’s hand to free the Children of Israel from their slavery tells Moses to apply the blood of a slaughtered lamb to the doorposts of the Israelite houses, a prelude to what would come to be known as the Passover, when God would go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn of the land dead, but pass over those houses that had been smeared with the blood of the lamb.

   Thus you will see that the idea of redemption through the crucifixion has a basis in Old Testament sacrificial ritual where blood formed an essential ingredient for purification from sin, which was familiar to Paul, the orthodox Jew he once was. Had Paul been a Muslim, he would have perhaps seen a similitude between God’s saving Jesus from crucifixion and God’s saving Ishmael from Abraham’s sacrificial knife. In the former case, another was given Christ’s countenance and crucified in his stead while in the latter case a ram was sent to be sacrificed in lieu of Ishmael. If God would not allow Abraham to sacrifice his Son, would He allow Jesus, born of His Spirit, to be sacrificed ? Certainly not! But Paul was no Muslim and still had the Jew in him.

   So let’s see if Jesus was really crucified. When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, to be sentenced to death, he said to the crowd as he was accustomed to release a prisoner they wished on the occasion of the Passover feast: “Which one do you want me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus the Messiah?” And they answered: “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them: “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” and they all said: “Let him be crucified!”. When he asked “Why, what evil has he done?”, they only shouted the louder: “Let him be crucified!”. When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, and that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd saying: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves”, and all the people replied: “His blood be upon us and upon our children”. And so he released Barabbas to them and handed Jesus over to be crucified (Matthew 27:15-26).

   So here we have it.Pilate gives the mob a choice between the Jewish insurgent Yeshu Barabbas Jesus Barabbas or Yeshu meshika Jesus the Messiah, a humble Jewish reformer, in other words between Barabbas ‘the son of God’ and Barnasha ‘the son of man’ which Jesus used to describe himself in all humility.. Thus it is possible that Barabbas who is described as a rebel and murderer in the Bible like in the Gospel of Mark and whose name litereally meant ‘Son of the Father (i.e.Son of God)’ in Aramaic was, in the ensuing melee, given Jesus countenance and taken to be crucified. It is also possible that the one who was really crucified was one Simon of Cyrene who was asked to bear Jesus’ cross by the Roman soldiers. Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian. and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.” (Luke 23:26).

   The Gospel of Barnabas, whose authority is disputed by the mainstream Christian churches, tells us that at the time of the arrest of Jesus by the Roman soldiers, Judas was transformed by the creator so that he resembled Jesus and that it was he who was crucified. Let’s hear what Barnabas had to say about it:

Jesus retired into the garden to pray, according as his custom was to pray, bowing his knees a hundred times and prostrating himself upon his face. Judas, accordingly, knowing the place where Jesus was with his disciples, went to the high priest and said: “If you give me what was promised, this night will I give into your hand Jesus whom ye seek, for he is alone with eleven companions”. The high priest answered: “How much seekest thou?”. Said Judas: “Thirty pieces of gold”. When the soldiers with Judas drew near to the place where Jesus was, Jesus heard the approach of many and withdrew into the house. And the eleven were sleeping. Then God, seeing the danger to his servant, commanded Gabriel, Michael, Rafael and Uriel to take Jesus out of the world. The holy angels came and too Jesus out by the window that looked toward the south. They bore him and placed him in the third heaven in the company of angels, blessing God for evermore.

Judas entered impetuously before all into the chamber whence Jesus had been taken up. And the disciples were sleeping. Whereupon the wonderful God acted wonderfully, insomuch that Judas was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus that we believed him to be Jesus. And he, having awakened us, was seeking where the master was. Whereupon we marveled, and answered: “Thou lord art our master, hast thou now forgotten us?”. And he smiling said: “Now are ye foolish that know not me to be Judas Iscariot!”. And as he was saying this the soldiery entered, and laid their hands upon Judas, because he was in every way like to Jesus. We having heard Judas’ saying and seeing the multitude of soldiers, fled as beside ourselves. And John who was wrapped in a linen cloth, awoke and fled, and when a soldier seized him by the linen cloth, he left the linen cloth and fled naked. For God heard the prayer of Jesus, and saved the eleven from evil (Barnabas: 214-216).

Barabbas or Simon or Judas or some other it may be, but not Jesus who was crucified. This explains why the crucified one, whom his followers thought to be Jesus cried out in a loud voice shortly before the death pangs: “Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?” (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?) (Matthew 27:46). It is unimaginable that a Prophet of God, much less a ‘Son of God’ could have spoken such words. It is still more unimaginable that if he were indeed God in human form – as today’s Christians hold him to be – that he should have uttered these words which was tantamount to saying: “Myself, Myself, why have I forsaken myself?”. And not just that. If indeed he had come to sacrifice himself for the sins of men – as today’s Christians believe – how could he have uttered these words? We also read that the crucifixion was not witnessed by any of the disciples of Christ as “they all forsook him and fled” (Mark 14:50). It is difficult to imagine that the disciples of Jesus would have done this, unless of course they had come to realize that the crucified one was not Jesus.

   Despite all this there are those who argue that the one who died on the cross at Golgotha was indeed Jesus as he cried out a final prayer to the Almighty to forgive his tormentors: “Father, father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). But little do they know that this expression which occurs only in the gospel of Luke does not occur in the oldest papyrus manuscript of Luke or in other early Greek manuscripts, showing that it is nothing but a later interpolation.

    Also very telling is the account of the resurrection, where we read that when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James entered the rock hewn tomb in which Jesus was said to have been laid, they did not find his body. But two men in dazzling garments appeared to them and said: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised” (Luke 24: 1-6). This shows that Jesus was still living when he was raised up to heaven and that he never suffered crucifixion.

   The supposed crucifixion led to a very questionable concept in Christianity, the doctrine of atonement, which simply put, sought to absolve men of their sins. Since Christ had died on the cross, it was argued, he had died to pay for the sins of all men which they inherited as a result of Adam’s disobedience to God. Adam’s misconduct by eating of the forbidden fruit meant that all humans were born in a state of sin, and so Jesus crucifixion was a sacrifice he made to atone for this state of original sin. But that’s not all. It was held that Jesus’ sacrifice was also for the wrongdoings of those who would come after him and who take baptism in his name and follow him. Thus baptism coupled with a belief in Christ ensured salvation and little or nothing else matters.

   Not only does it go against natural justice, but also contradicts the Bible itself which is very clear that no child can be penalized for the sins of his or her parents. We read in Deuteronomy (24:16): “Fathers shall not be put to death for the children; neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin”. In Ezekiel (18:20) we read: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. He son shall not bear the inequity of the father. Neither shall the father bear the inequity of the son”. Jesus himself stressed very clearly that each one was to bear the burden of their sins when he said: “Then He shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).

   How could Christ have offered an infinite sacrifice for sin when he suffered for only a relatively short time? That fate had even been meted out to the slaves led by Spartacus who rose up against Roman rule and were crucified along the Apian Way. But how, we may ask, could it compensate for the punishment people are liable to when they commit grave sins such as murder?

   How could God’s law then be binding, if the penalty for all sins has already been paid in full by Jesus? Wouldn’t that mean that man is absolved of accountability for his deeds, that he will be at full liberty to do as he likes, whether it be ingratitude to his Creator or oppression of his fellow man or the fair nature that God had created and expects us to respect. Why? because it would mean that God has lost all power to enjoin on man a pious life since by it he loses the prerogative of punishing the wrongdoer. Such an idea is very dangerous because it can lead man to discard the Divine Law and all the good that springs from it as we seen on countless occasions in the history of mediaeval Christendom and the subsequent colonial era when the oppression of man by man reached horrendous proportions.

   It also raises other questions, like for instance, if indeed Christ had come to the world to die on the cross, why then did he get angry at the Jews when he turned the tables of the moneylenders or declared that if one’s hand sins, to cut if off, or if one’s eye sins, to pluck it out? What about the fate of those who died before Jesus and had no opportunity to accept Christ’s atonement? Would they be doomed to eternal torment just for being born before Christ? It also conveys the ridiculous idea that God Himself chose to sacrifice Himself for the sins of His Creation, much like a Judge punishing himself for a crime committed by a criminal appearing in his court. What can be more ridiculous than this? Little wonder George Bernard Shaw pondered in Major Barbara whether not Christianity should be called cross-tianity!

   The fact is that Jesus never came to die on the cross. That was not his destiny and he himself did not desire it. For did he not beseech God in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Let this cup (death) pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). This is exactly what happened. God answered his prayer and saved him. Remarkably Jesus’ name in his original Aramaic Yeshua meaning ‘God Saves’ itself seems to have been Prophetic, for he was indeed saved by God.

  Even Paul who was responsible for the ridiculous idea that Jesus came to die on the cross had this to say of him: “In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews:5-7). So we have to take it that Jesus prayer to God to save him from being crucified by the Jews was indeed answered.   Finally I can only say that good Christians will be relieved, not pained, to hear from their Muslim brothers that their beloved Jesus was not done to death by the Jews, but that God took him up to Himself, preserving him for a day he shall send him back to earth to usher in a new era of peace and justice.

They (Jews) said in boast: “We killed Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Messenger of God”. But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them when another was given his likeness (and they crucified him). And those who differ are full of doubts with no knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not – Nay, God raised him up unto Himself, and God is Exalted in Power, Wise. And there is none of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him before his death; And on the Day of Judgement, he will be a witness against them (The Women:153-159).

   I only have to cite the words Simon Carabello who wrote a very touching book called My Great Love for Jesus Led Me to Islam. It happened one day that this pious Christian’s eyes fell on just two sentences that filled him with such joy that tears started flowing. They were from the Quran: “They (the Jews) said (in boast):“We killed Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Messenger of God. But they killed him not, nor did they crucify him” (The Women:157). So his beloved Jesus to whom he had prayed twice a day in a small altar in his house, had not been crucified after all. “To me it seemed as if the weight of the cross allegedly carried by Jesus to Mount Calvary vanished and disintegrated in the same manner that great buildings and firm mountains crumble when demolished by dynamite” he would later recall “A man who, by the Will of God, had returned sight to the blind, who had walked on water, healed a leper, made the lame walk, multiplied bread and fish to feed thousands of people and who had given life back to the dead, undoubtedly could not have been crucified!”. He resolved to belong to the religion that said so, in his own words: I wanted to be a Muslim!