Abu Samad, Nayeem Akhtar M.D.

For ages Muslims propounded two theories: one, that Jesus was never ever nailed on the cross; two, Jesus was nailed on the cross but he did not die on the cross. The purpose here is to investigate both the theories and ascertain if the second possibility have any validity in itself.

Only one verse in the Quran references crucifixion of Prophet Jesus. The verse is from Surah An-Nisa' number 157. Discussion in this site will largely be based on this verse. Needless to say, the wordings in this verse are as crucial as in any other verse. For non-Arabic speaking readers, a correct understanding can result only from a correct translation. Obviously, some deviation from the original Arabic words and syntax could interject alternate possibilities. The deviations could be inaccurate translations of the verse,  omission of a word (or words) in translation or addition of new word (or words) suggesting that these are equivalent of "reveled text".

The correct translation of the verse, adapted word for word is:

And (because of) their saying: "Surely we have killed the Massih, - son of Maryam" the messenger of Allah, and they could not kill him nor could they crucify him, …….
Based on the first part of the verse 4:157, Muslims in general believe that Jesus was not crucified. The key words "maa salabuhu" was translated by many as "he was not crucified"; some others translated it as "not put on the cross". General observation is that only Qadiani Ahmadiyyaa sects hold that Jesus was put on the cross. Other Muslims flatly refuse the contention based on the statement in the verse "maa salabuhu".  This necessitates a critical analysis from the viewpoint of a bystander.

Had Allah closed the sentence here and told nothing more, then it would have meant that Jesus was not crucified. However, the sentence does not end here, it continues to the most critical part where Allah says something about "resemblance" or "similitude".

4:157 And (because of) their saying: "Surely we have killed the Massih, - son of Maryam" the messenger of Allah, and they could not kill him nor could they crucify him, even though a likeness of that was made for them. …….

Without going any further, first let us try to dissect the key words
wa lakin subbiha lahum  and understand the usage and syntax. The meaning of the root word  "shibbahum" is given in Arabic dictionary as "a likeness". The word "subbiha" is the passive form of the root word and means "to be made like". Below I am giving all possible meanings of the key words, some of them may be very remote synonym.

Arabic word 

Best meaning 

Remote synonym / meaning 

Wa and, but, also, whilst, too    - none -
Lakin but , still, nevertheless, yet, however, even though  even though, although, nonetheless, after all
subbiha <ha refers to that, it, which etc.> 
to be made like
A likeness of that / it / which 
A similitude of that / it / which 
A resemblance of that / it / which A similarity of that / it / which
Analogy of that / it / which 
Image of that / it / which Representation of that / it 
Posture of that / it / which 
Stance of that / it / which Appearance of that / it / which
lahum to them
was made for them
was shaped for them 
was produced for them 
was actualized for them 
was formed for them 
was fashioned for them 
was contrived for them

While translating the complete verse, many translators remained, as far as possible, loyal to actual Arabic words and refrained from advocating specific theories. Here most translators did not omit any key word from translating, however, quite a few ventured beyond what Allah said. These few translators very surreptitiously interjected
additional words inside the actual translation suggesting these were revealed text. Here are a few representative works:

Yusuf Ali ....Only a likenss of that was shown to them. …
Pickthall …. But it appeared so unto them; ….
M. H. Shakir …. But it appeared to them so (like Isa) …..
Hilali and Khan …. but the resemblance of 'Isa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man) ….
Rodwell …. but they had only his likeness …..
T. J. Irving …. even though it seemed so to them ….
Sher Ali ... but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; ....
Rashad Khalifa …. they were made to think that they did ….
Arthur J. Arberry …. Only a likeness of that was shown to them. …
Mohammad Ali …. but he was made to appear to them as such. …
Al-bukhari …. But this matter was made dubious to them. ….
Mohammad Asad ... but it only seemed to them (as if it had been so) ....
Zohurul Hoque ... but he was made to resemble to them. ...

In the above sample, only Shakir, Hilali & Khan and Rodwell suggested that a different person be substituted. Shakir placed 'like Isa' within parenthesis to suggest what may have happened. Rodwell simply structured the sentence to suggest the substitution theory. Hilali & Khan overstepped all boundaries and clearly falsified by putting interpolated words inside the translation. Shakir suggested a theory by placing his opinion inside paranthesis and not in the actual text.  Shakir and Rodwell may be excused for inaccurate translations, but Hilali & Khan remain notoriously corrupt and unpardonable for absolutely wrong translation. No sane person can find the words 'Isa' and 'another man' in actual Arabic text. Hilali & Khan tried to justify the substitution theory by resorting to cheating, falsifying the Quran, interpolating totally imaginary words and staying miles away from revealed text.

All Muslims agree that on the fateful day someone was raised on the cross. That someone was also killed (per the corrupt Hilali & Khan et. al.) on the cross. Question is was that 'someone': Jesus or another person?  Irrespective of whether it was Jesus or not, the word similitude here refers to showing the likeness of death.  Since the question here is of the death of Jesus, by all means, the likeness of death of Jesus was shown.

If a different person's appearance was changed to become like Jesus, then the APPEARANCE was mimicked or simulated and not death.  This is precisely what Hilali & Khan et. al. suggest.  According to them the substituted person was really killed. If the substituted person was really killed, then the death could not have been mimicked - rather it did happen.

The verse 4:157 does not refer to simulation of appearance of a different person.  If any of the fairly correct translation is considered, than the word similitude refers to the key words DEATH or CRUCIFIXION: …. they could not kill him nor could they crucify him, event though a likeness of THAT was made to them…..

When Hilali & Khan et. al. could not conclusively prove that a different person was substituted,  they  elected to mutilate the verse in the most wicked way by putting superfluous words 'Isa' and 'anotehr man'.

The substitution theory was propounded to justify that Jesus was not crucified. Those Muslims who say that Allah clearly mentioned that Jesus was not crucified have a point there. The verse is sufficiently clear and bear precise meaning that they neither could kill him nor crucify him. However, little more digging is needed to go beyond the meaning of of the word crucify. The purpose of crucifixion is to put someone to death by nailing. The Jews would not put a person on the cross and later let him walk away. For centuries, the Jews killed thousands of people on the cross and never they let anyone walk away. It was a form of capital punishment. It is a long event starting from raising on the cross, nailing or binding the hands and feet and letting the person to die through a slow painful process of death, often taking hours and sometimes days. If the person is nailed, then due to bleeding, death occurs far quickly - may be in hours. On the contrary, if a person is tied on the cross; then death is prolonged. Either way, if a person cannot be put to death by the process of crucifixion, then it is true that the person was not crucified - because, the purpose of crucifixion was defeated!

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus by crucifixion. When Allah refuted their contention of crucifixion, it is still possible that the Jews nailed him on the cross, but failed to ensure the completion of the entire process of killing by crucifixion. If that is so, the statement in the verse 4:157 is still valid and there is no need to invent a story of substitution. If the Jews failed to ascertain Jesus' death, then by all reasoning, they failed to crucify him. This is because the very purpose of nailing Jesus on the cross was defeated.

The meaning of 'showing a similitude' becomes easy to follow once the readers are ready to go beyond the flat meaning of crucifixion. The Jews thought they killed Jesus and Allah truly made them to think that they did, but in reality they failed to kill him because they failed to verify and ascertain whether he was acutally dead or not. Question is did Allah plan to put another man to Capital Punishment for the crime (?) committed by Jesus? Is Allah's mode of judgement so ridiculous?

Several possibilities can be investigated based on authentic history, descriptions available in Bible and to some extent Hadith. In this reagrd descriptions given in the Bible should be carefully investigated because it is contemporary to that period. Hadith was compiled 800 years after the event of crucifixion. One possibility is that Jesus fainted on the cross, other possibility is that Jesus was sent to a comatose state, yet another possibility is that the Jews brought him down from the cross far too early thinking that he died. Any or all of these possibilities go hand in hand with Allah's statement that a similitude or likeness of it/that/which (subbiha) was shown to the Jews. Once again, it/that/which here refers to death of Jesus.

Any of these possibilities as described above clearly goes with the acceptable translations of the verse provided by Yusuf Ali, M. Pickthall, T. J. Irving, Sher Ali, Rashad Khalifa, A. J. Arberry, Mohammad Ali, Al-bukhari, Muhammad Asad and Zohurul Hoque.

The staunch supporters of substitution theory (Hilali & Khan) in a way do feel the necessity to kill someone by crucifixion. They know someone was crucified on that fateful day, but they think it was not Jesus. The substitution theory propounds stories that are too far fetched and cannot be explained by logical inferences. Several questions arise without a satisfactory answer. For example:

Appearance of a different person became like Jesus. How did it happen? If Jesus designed and planned the disguise, then he is coward and cheat. He caused an apparent innocent person to die for him. If Allah caused the feature of a different person to get changed and made him to die, then it is injustice on part of Allah. With the vast power and possibilities of Allah, He could have accomplished this matter in more graceful manner.
If saving Jesus was the main intention of Allah, then quietly Jesus should have been raised. There was no need to kill a different person in his place. The Jews would have got a message that Jesus was indeed a prophet.
If appearance of a different person can become like Jesus, then what stopped Jesus' appearance to become like a different person? If Jesus' appearance was made to change, then the Jews could not have identified him and he could have been saved. Besides, no killing would have taken place.
If the likeness of Jesus was shown to the Jews, then what was shown to the actual followers? Were the actual followers led to believe that the substituted person was actual Jesus?
If the actual followers knew that the substituted person was not actual Jesus, why did some of them follow the substituted person to the place of crucifixion? Were they making a fun of the situation?
If the actual Jesus was raised alive before the incidence of crucifixion, why did the followers not mention it to the Jews? Were they scared? Scared of what? Jesus was already saved by then. By remaining silent, the actual followers made a different person to die for no fault of his.
Actual Jesus was raised alive by Allah. If so, while he was raised alive, how come nobody saw the event? Was he made invisible at that time? Or does it mean a similitude of raising alive was shown to them? There is no convincing answer available to explain the process of raising.
The substitution theory says that Jesus was raised alive in the Heaven on the eve of crucifixion.  However, verse 3:54 categorically says Allah will cause Jesus to die first than raise him.  How can he be raised contrary to the verse 3:54? Where is the scope to accomodate the substitution theory?
Verse 23:50 says Allah sheltered Jesus and his mother in a plateau of meadows and spring.  Did it happen before substitution? If so what is that place?
Further, verse 3:45 and 5:40 refers to Jesus talking to people in mature age or gray hair age. If Jesus was substituted and raised on the day of crucifixion, he did not reach gray hair age. If he reaches the mature age after his Second Coming, then at the age of 2000 years, he is beyond being mature, rather old and debilitated. That age cannot be referred to as mature age.

The substitution theory does not explain any of the points mentioned above. Even if an explanantion can be found, it is not surprising, a story can be adapted in any manner to serve the purpose. The substitution theory was propounded just to substantiate the fact that Jesus was not 'crucified'. The substitution theory uses one lie to cover another and in the end snowballs everything into a total clutter. The Quran does not support this theory.
Botttom Line: For a long time, it was maliciously propagated that crucifixion of Jesus was a Qadiani-Ahmadiyyaa conspiracy.  As a result, many traditional Muslims  remained in a cloud of confusion for ages. If at all there was a conspiracy, it was done by the right-wing pseudo-scholars like Hilali and Khan.  Their blatant lies and forgery has been accepted by most Muslims and notoriously supported by the Saudi Government.

 Acknowledgement: Quran does not categorically say Jesus was substituted with another man

Thought provoking sites: Death of Jesus is reasonable and valid argument.

Quranic evidences that Jesus is dead 



Longman Dictionary of Contemopary English

crucify/'kru:sefai/v[T1] to kill (someone) by nailing or binding to a cross and leaving to die

New Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus

cru-ci-fy (kru:sifai) pres. part. cru-ci-fy-ing past and past part. cru-ci-fied v.t. to put to death by fastening or nailing to a cross

WWWebster Dictionary

Main Entry: cru·ci·fy
Pronunciation: 'krü-s&-"fI
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -fied; -fy·ing
Etymology: Middle English crucifien, from Old French crucifier, from Late Latin crucifigere
Date: 14th century
1 :
to put to death by nailing or binding the wrists or hands and feet to a cross

Any comments, suggestions: please send email to:
Abu Samad
Nayeem Akhtar
You are visitor number

since November 13, 1999.


Hosted by www.Geocities.ws