The cornerstone of Christian belief is that Jesus (May peace be upon him) came to die as a substitute death for the sins of humanity.
Although one can argue the case of Jesus’ death on the cross based on Evangelical accounts, from a Muslim point of view, this is not of such magnitude. This occurs for several reasons.
First, the Qur’an completely rejects this notion of “death on the cross”. It is emphatic in this matter:
“And by his saying:” Certainly, we killed the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, Messenger of Allah. ” Now they did not kill or crucify him, but it was simulated. And, of course, those who disagree about it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of this, but conjectures, which follow. And they didn’t kill him, for sure; ” [Holy Quran 4: 157]
Second, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus is shown on a cross. Whether or not the account narrated in the Gospels is authentic, it must be argued that historically in the early centuries of Christianity, not all groups of Christians believed in the crucifixion of Jesus or in his substitutionary death as a means of salvation. Even today, based on Evangelical accounts, many people claim that Jesus was just hanging on the cross, but in fact he did not die. Many Muslims have joined this movement.
We don’t think this is the right approach for Muslims to take. Rather, the right way is to say that, even though the Gospel accounts say that Jesus was crucified, we do not agree with that because, from a Muslim perspective, the Qur’an is the final revelation of God and he tells us something else. Since God knows all the truth, He taught Muhammad (May peace and blessings be upon him) the correct position on this and other matters through revelation. Note that, in Islamic theology, today’s Bible is not considered 100% authentic and, therefore, Gospel accounts are not taken at their original value.
But, finally, the real question that must be asked is this: if Jesus’ main mission in the world was to die as a substitute for our sins, then there would be many details and teachings of Jesus in this matter. But we are not aware of a single explicit statement on his part, which is clear and unambiguous in stating that his mission was to die as a substitute death and atonement for the sins of humanity and that we MUST believe in his death and resurrection in order to be saved.
Jesus’ frequently quoted statement 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 is saying that he is willing to give his life for his followers and for his cause. The desire to sacrifice life for a higher cause is something not exclusive to Jesus. We see that many prophets in the Bible suffered immensely (like Abraham) and some even gave up their lives (like John the Baptist) for their mission.
The same applies to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. On the trip to Taif, where he went to invite people to Islam, the people of Taif treated him very badly. The Prophet was terribly stoned, so much so that his whole body was bloody and his shoes were wet with his own blood. So that Jesus says that he will give the blood or be a ransom for his people, it may simply mean that he is willing to sacrifice everything so that people can learn the truth from him and be saved by following these teachings. This interpretation is consistent with the sacrifices of all previous prophets.
There are some 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 analyze these verses, we find that they do not teach this doctrine explicitly.
Our perception is that people read these “substitute death and atonement” verses because they already believe in this doctrine. Even the weakest connections make them think that these verses really teach what they already believe. Perhaps this conclusion has something to do with what is known as the power of suggestion.
The Second Coming of Jesus
Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that he was taken to heaven alive. He will return and live a normal life and then die. The purpose of his second coming is mainly to establish justice on earth and to assassinate the anti-christ.
“But, Allah ascended him to Him. And Allah is Almighty, Wise.” [Holy Quran 4: 158]
“And there is none of the followers of the Book who, before dying, stop believing in it. And on the Day of Resurrection, he will be a witness against them. ” [Holy Quran 4: 159]
Remind them, Muhammad, of when Allah said: “O Jesus! Certainly, I will end your days on earth and I will ascend you to Me and separate you from those who deny the Faith and I will make those who followed you above those who deny the Faith to be until the Day of Resurrection. Then Me will be your return. And I will judge, among you, what you do not agree with. ” [Holy Quran 3:55]
The Qur’an is not explicit about Jesus’ second coming, but there are many words from Muhammad ﷺ on this subject.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Apostle of Allah said:
“THE HOUR WILL NOT BE ESTABLISHED UNTIL THE SON OF MARY (THAT IS, JESUS) COMES DOWN AMONG YOU AS A RIGHTEOUS RULER, HE WILL BREAK THE CROSS, KILL THE PIGS AND ABOLISH THE JIZYA TAX. THE MONEY WILL BE IN (SUCH) ABUNDANCE THAT NO ONE WILL ACCEPT IT (AS CHARITY). ” [SAHIH BUKHARI]
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet ﷺ said:
There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus. He will come down (to the land). When you see him, recognize him: a man of medium height, with a reddish face, wearing two light yellow clothes, looking like drops are falling from his head, although he will not be wet. He will fight people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill pigs and abolish Jizya. God will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy Antichrist and live on Earth for forty years and then die. Muslims will pray about it. [Abu Dawud]
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“For Him in Whose Hands is my soul, certainly (Jesus), the son of Mary will soon descend among you and judge humanity justly (as a Righteous Ruler); He will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya (that is, taxation of non-Muslims). The money will be in (such) abundance that no one will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah (in prayer) will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it. ” [Sahih Bukhari]