Crucifixion or Impaled? Understanding Qur’an 4:157

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 impale him; (وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ)but it was made to appear to them so. Those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no certain knowledge of it, but only follow conjecture. For certainly, they did not kill him.”  (Qur’an 4:157)

Allah-willing I will be going through my articles and replacing the standard translation into English with what you see above.

Before I get into this let me first say that there seems to be three ways of understanding the above text among Muslims today.

1)   The majority view is to affirm the Christian ecclesiastical view of the patibulum –(The crossbar of a cross used for crucifixion). However, at the same time deny that instead of Jesus being on the cross, Allah swt made someone look like Jesus and to put this person on the cross.  The ecclesiastical view is not challenged.

2) The second view is to affirm the Christian ecclesiastical view of the patibulum. However, this view first espoused by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of the Ahmadiyyah movement has that Jesus was on the cross but swooned and was taken down alive where he migrated to Qadian India and died.

This view is later adopted by Muslim apologist Shaykh Ahmed Deedat -raheemullah, and Toronto based apologist Shabir Ally.  However, it should be noted that neither Deedat or Ally believes that Jesus migrated to India and died.

3) The third view is also to affirm the Christian ecclesiastical view of the pabibulum. However, this view also accepts the entire position of the Christian ecclesiastical view even stating Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. The only difference with the Christians is on the theological implications. This view is espoused by Zaytuna College alumni Dr. Ali Ataie-whom is an assistant professor with interfaith activities.

Most likely Dr. Ali Ataie is attempting to reconcile clear passages of the Qur’an that Jesus died all the while trying to reconcile the Christian ecclesiastical tradition along with the various hadith that mention the second coming of Christ Jesus.

Dr. Ali Ataie position has the influence of Todd Lawson written all over it.

Todd Lawson is the author of the book: The Crucifixion and the Qur’an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought.

Now without getting too much into this particular book, I think it suffices to bring to the readers’ attention two glaring problems with Todd Lawson’s book.

Todd Lawson himself does not even attempt to define the word ‘Crucifixion’. It certainly seems rather odd having the very word in the title of one’s book and not attempt to challenge the ecclesiastical handed-down version of the Christian tradition and yet in the same vain challenge the “ecclesiastical” handed-down version of the Islamic tradition.

Secondly, Todd Lawson dissects many words in  Qur’an 4:157 yet, curiously doesn’t give any attention to the very word in question.

There is no discussion at all on the various verb forms ‘sulb‘.

Another interesting take away from Dr. Ali Ataie’s position is that Zaytuna champions the idea of following strictly a legal school and considers that we must champion traditional scholarship without question.

Yet, Dr. Ali Ataie’s position if honoured by Zaytuna is certainly a sign that a whole string of titans in the Sunni Islamic tradition on exegesis made a gargantuan error.  Something interesting to ponder.

The reason is that I believe that we (as Muslims) have made a major mistake in the translation of this crucial text.

Every translation I have encountered in English has Quran 4:157 as “they didn’t crucify him.”

There are a few reasons why I can no longer accept the standard understanding and translation of this text as such.

1) I am not convinced that sad lam ba Used twice as salabu, four times as yusallabu and twice as sul’b means double cross or double cross-like structure. A double-cross or double cross-like structure would include any of the following:

Let us look at all the instances of this verb form in the Qur’an.

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or (أَنْ يُقَتَّلُوا أَوْ يُصَلَّبُوا أَوْ تُقَطَّعَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍimpaled( yuṣallabū)” (Qur’an 5:33)

Question: Are we really to believe that Muslims carried out this Hadd punishment made double crosses and double cross like structures when dealing with these criminals?

O two companions of prison, as for one of you, he will give drink to his master of wine; but as for the other, he will be impaled (fayuṣ’labu) (وَأَمَّا الْآخَرُ فَيُصْلَبُ فَتَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْ رَأْسِهِ), and the birds will eat from his head. The matter has been decreed about which you both inquire.” (Qur’an 12:41)

I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides; then I will surely impale(la-uṣallibannakum) (لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ ثُمَّ لَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَyou all.” (Qur’an 7:124)

It is obvious and plain as day that a person who has their hand cut off is not going to be “crucified” -especially not in the way the ecclesiastical sense that Christians imagine.

“[Pharaoh] said, “You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will impale you (wala-uṣallibannakum) (وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ)  on the TRUNKS OF PALM TREES, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring.” (Qur’an 20:71)

Again, a person is who has their hand cut off is not going to be “crucified” -especially not in the ecclesiastical sense that Christians have imagined.

Very interesting here is the addition in the above text that these people will be “crucified”  but in reality, they will be impaled against the trunks of palm trees!

The above picture is of Egyptian Palm Trees. 

I don’t want to post images that are too graphic and there maybe people reading this blog in public places, but you can feel free to research images of ancient impaling to get an idea of this gruesome legal punishment. 

“[Pharaoh] said, “You believed Moses before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic, but you are going to know. I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will surely impale (wala-uṣallibannakum) (لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ you all.” (Qur’an 26:49)

Again as above a person who has their hand cut off on opposite is certainly not ‘crucified‘ -especially not in the ecclesiastical sense that Christians would image.

And also prohibited are the wives of your sons who are from your loins  (aslabikum)(وَحَلَائِلُ أَبْنَائِكُمُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَابِكُمْ), And that you take in marriage two sisters simultaneously, except for what has already occurred. Indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an 4:23)

The use of verb form sulb is very interesting here. It indicates the loins.  Which also gives a very strong proof that these people were indeed not ‘crucified‘ and that the text translated in 4:157  ‘they didn’t crucify him‘ is sorely mistaken.

Emerging from the lumbus (l-ṣul’bi) (يَخْرُجُ مِنْ بَيْنِ الصُّلْبِ وَالتَّرَائِبِ)   ” (Qur’an 86:7)

What more proof does a person want? Again the verb form sulb being used to talk about the lubmus system and nothing to do with hands and or feet!

Also as mentioned in the text above many times a hand was cut off before a person was so-called “crucified” but makes total sense if they are impaled.

In Oman the Arabic speaking people have various interesting phrases none of which has to do with hands or feet being pierced.

2)  The second reason that I reject the usual translation of the text as ‘crucify‘ or  ‘crucifixion is to unwittingly agree to the historicity of the Double Cross/ or a Double Cross like structures.

This would be a major error for the Qur’an as the overwhelming evidence shows that ‘The Double Cross‘ as Christendom understands it today was not the common use of public display of humility, nor was it used by the Jews, and all early evidence indicates that Romans displayed criminals in trees or impaled them.

Notice that the majority interpretation does not deny the Christian claim that there was any double cross-like structure.  The majority position is simply that another person was made to look like Christ Jesus and then put on the cross like structure.

3) Most telling is that the text of Qur’an 4:157 is that there is no mention of nails, or piercing of one’s feet or hands at all.   This may seem pedantic to some; however, when we investigated all possible uses and verb forms of the word sulb it certainly merits reflection.

4) There is no mention of a patibulum –(The crossbar of a cross used for the crucifixion is the text of Qur’an 4:157).  In fact, there is no such reference of crossbars used in any instance of the verb form sulb in any text of the Qur’an.

5) Muslims we have 7 major legal schools today. 4 among the Sunni. 2 among the Shi’a. We also have our beloved Ibadi school.  When fulfilling the requirements of (Qur’an 5:33) to deal with criminals none of these legal schools make it a requirement to put people on a patibulum-the crossbar of a cross.

6) I also believe that this information is devastating to the Ahmadiyyah movement.   A movement that believes that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a prophet.   Mirza Ghulam Ahmad taught that Jesus was on a double cross-like structure but taken down alive.   So Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya movement NEED the translation to read “nor did they crucify him“.

You can see a  refutation of this concept of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as well as something interesting that The Church has kept hidden from the masses here:

Henceforth from today, I will be translating the Qur’an 4:157 as saying, “They didn’t impale him” -keeping consistent with his various usages and forms throughout the Qur’an.

And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth. They say, “Our Lord, we have believed, so register us among the witnesses.” (Qur’an 5:83)


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4 responses to “Crucifixion or Impaled? Understanding Qur’an 4:157

  1. JazaKallah Khayran for the read!

    Even with all this i find it REALLY interesting that people like mustafa khattab, saheeh international and mufti taqi usmani, still translate 20:71 as “Crucifixion”, i find it bizzare that one gets crucified on “trunks of palm trees”, i guess they have to translate all the uses of salabu as “crucify” so as to keep consistent with 4:157… And Allah knows best.

    May Allah bless you.

    • May Allah bless us all. It is interesting and not only that their translation in fact ALL translations in English give leverage to the Christian perspective. Because it is a tacit admission that Jesus was crucified on a cross. The Qur’an comes to negate this.

    • Also keep in mind brother..

      Qur’an 5:33 on its own:

      إِنَّمَا جَزَاءُ الَّذِينَ يُحَارِبُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَسْعَوْنَ فِي الأَرْضِ فَسَادًا أَنْ يُقَتَّلُوا أَوْ يُصَلَّبُوا أَوْ تُقَطَّعَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُمْ مِنْ خِلافٍ أَوْ يُنْفَوْا مِنَ الأَرْضِ ذَلِكَ لَهُمْ خِزْيٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَلَهُمْ فِي الآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

      yuṣallabū- Do we as Muslims crucify people? Has the description of this punishment been written down in our books of legal code?

      Who ever put two cross beams together and displayed these people on a cross? I can’t discover a single instance of it.

      Wallahu ‘Alim wa bisawab

      • I don’t think you’ll ever find an instance of a crucifixion being an islamic punishment, they translated it to stay consistent with 4:157 but they don’t know the large amount of connotations that come with continuously translating salabu as “crucify”…

        May Allah guide us all.

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