Copyright © 1996 by M. Anderson. All rights reserved.
In both tragedies greed played its part: Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and the army leader who killed al-Husein was promised the governorship of a great province. Both Jesus and al-Husein felt thirsty as a result of being wounded, bleeding and exhausted. Al-Husein requested a drink of water from his enemies and was denied. Jesus expressed His thirst, and was offered vinegar, which He refused. Their experience was real.
Both were robbed of their clothing: The Roman soldiers took the garments of Jesus while He was still on the cross. Enemies of al-Husein took his turban, his sword, his shirt, his shoes, and the last man came, but finding nothing, cut off his finger and took his ring.
Both al-Husein and Jesus prayed for their enemies. Al-Husein prayed for vengeance against them, asking God to withhold the rain, to give them years of starvation like those of Joseph, and to drink a bitter cup. Jesus prayed to God for forgiveness for his murderers, on the grounds that they did not know what they were doing.
Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub, in his book Redemptive Suffering in Islam noted another similarity. He said of the suffering of Jesus:
Dr. Ayoub saw Jesus' death on the cross and the death of al-Husein as transcending the human plane of existence of humility and defeat to the level of submission to the divine will, which is victory and triumph. So the cross, the tool of execution, becomes the throne of glory; and the crown of thorns, which was intended as mocking, became the crown of victory.
But it is important to note that in the above statement of Dr. Ayoub, the validity of the parallel between the two lives can only be true if Jesus suffered and died. If Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross, there is no parallel, for myth cannot parallel history. If the crucifixion of Jesus is but a myth or mere story, it cannot be the archetype of the suffering and death of al-Husein. Only reality can parallel reality, only truth can parallel truth. As Dr. Ayoub wrote, al-Husein spent his last moments 'in a Gethsemane of sorrow and tears.'
The similarities even include the claim that, like Jesus, al-Husein was not murdered, 'for some have stressed unequivocally that al-Husein did not die, but was taken up to heaven, and that his likeness was assumed by someone else.'
This claim is flatly denied by those who know the historically transmitted reports:
Moreover, it is related on the authority of the twelfth Imam, as transmitted by his first representative (wakil): 'As for those who claim that al-Husein was not killed, this is infidelity (kufr) lying and straying away (dalalah) from the right.'
Just as the crucifixion of Jesus was denied by claiming that a double took his likeness, al-Husein's murder was also denied with the same claim. And just as new versions of what was supposed to have happened to Jesus were forged, so it was with the murder of al-Husein.
Here is one version of how it happened: It is attributed to one of the sixth Imam's most important disciples, al-Mufaddal, who said:
The Imam continued: 'When the soldiers surrounded al-Husein, he called Gabriel, Mikhael, and Israfil, and they answered, "Here we are (labbayk), O our Lord.' He ordered them, 'Lift me up in the air.' Thus they lifted al-Husein and his servant Gabriel...' The sixth Imam turned to his disciple and said, 'O Mufaddal, you have been granted much good, for you have received esoteric knowledge. Beware that you keep the secret of God hidden. Disclose it only to a sincere friend (wali). For if you were to disclose it to our enemies, you would help in the destruction of your own soul." As al-Mufaddal showed his surprise that such wonderful things should be hidden from men, the sixth Imam concluded, 'Yes, for God wished to be worshipped in secret.'
It is interesting to note that this statement is attributed to the sixth Imam, who categorically condemned those who claimed that a substitute was killed instead of al-Husein, calling them liars, infidels and accursed.
But forgers used the same method, for that is what they made Barnabas say, in the fabricated work, 'The Gospel of Barnabas'. Just as the fabricators hid behind the authority of the sixth Imam to propagate the lie that al-Husein was not murdered, so they also hid behind the authority of Barnabas to propagate the lie that Jesus was not crucified.
Another explanation attributed to the sixth Imam sheds light on the reason for the introduction of such fabrications:
This is the underlying principle that gave rise to the theory of substitution not only for Jesus and al-Husein, but also of 'Ali (one of Mohammad's companions).
This is the seed of the theory, the first step away from the truth about the death of Jesus, al-Husein and 'Ali. What happened to Jesus and al-Husein and 'Ali was explained as only external - for the eyes of the onlookers, whereas in reality their blood was not shed.
And why? Because they are the pure ones of God, the friends of God and His elect, whom God must preserve. 'That they could actually be killed, that cannot be' Otherwise, their enemies would have triumphed.
However al-Husein was killed:
He was killed gradually, first by randomly shot arrows, then by wounds inflicted on him by stones and the swords of those passing by, who did not wish to kill him... He was left naked on the sand...alone, unable to move, he sat on the ground and uttered a pathetic cry for help:
One can argue theologically that the murder of al-Husein was impossible, and that his lifting up was the only possible alternative. For how could any Muslim lift a finger to harm the grandson of the prophet? To have the majority of the Muslims doing nothing to help the grandson of the prophet is unthinkable, let alone to actually harm him. To read that his supporters were only eighteen in number is unbelievable. To read that the head of the grandson of the prophet was mocked by a man who confessed the prophethood of Muhammad is illogical, etc., etc. But then we come through theological reasoning to a position that is contrary to the historical facts. We can turn the historical facts upside down. And all the historical after-effects of his death would have been based on nothing. The multitude of books written on his death would become a farce.
What emerges out of all this is that just as the efforts to corrupt the truth concerning the death of al-Husein could not change the fact that he was murdered by decapitation in the desert of Karbala'a, so the fabrications surrounding the death of Jesus can never change the facts of His death by crucifixion and His bodily resurrection after three days.
In the light of this, Jesus' struggle was not a flaw in his heroic character but an insight into the perfect process of submission, in which the perfect servant cleaves to God despite the opposing forces. This struggle is like that of the process by which a seed unfolds to upturn the rock that obstructs its growth. A life without difficulties and hence without struggle does not constitute heroism, but rather a life which unfolds in the face of opposing forces that unfolds upwardly to God in perfect submission The sword of death could not sever the relationship between Jesus and God. Jesus emerged victorious and the sword of death was left blunt.
Some have concluded that the cry on the cross, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me' could not have been that of Jesus, because it portrays him as lacking submission to the will of God. However, closer examination shows that only Jesus could utter such a statement on the cross.
The moment of death reveals man's true nature, especially if he is a religious man. It is a universal phenomenon that many religious men just before this moment of death seek the forgiveness of their sins. This was the experience of Muhammad:
This is a revealing comment on the relationship between the dying man and God. The request for forgiveness reveals the dying one as the transgressor; it points to the party that did not keep the covenant.
However, the words of Jesus on the cross contain no confession of sin, and no request for forgiveness. If the victim on the cross was not Jesus, chances are that the substitute would have sought forgiveness. But the absence of such a statement from the cross is in line with what we know of the sinless character of Jesus.
The more sensitive the dying person is, or the more pious, the more remorseful he will be in confessing his sins - even those the average person would not consider worth mentioning. Those little sins cause the same remorse as big ones.
The character of the Christ belonged to the transcendent level, and the whiter the page the clearer the stain, even one sin in Jesus would have shown up starkly. But what do we find being uttered in those final moments? Not one confession, not one mark against himself, but a statement concerning God. We do not have any reference about what Jesus did to God, as with the rest of mankind, but a statement concerning what God did to Jesus!
To understand the implications of this statement we must understand something about the war between Satan and God. The suffering of the prophet Job serves as an illustration.
Satan went back and requested that he should have power over Ayoub's children, for that would be more effective than destroying his belongings. Having been given permission by God, Satan killed Ayoub's children. Distraught, Ayoub placed dust over his head, then sought forgiveness from God, but he did not blaspheme God.
Satan finally went back and said, 'To Ayoub the loss of belongings and children is a little thing, but if you give me power over his body, I can assure you that if he himself suffers in his own body he will blaspheme You.' So God granted him his request, and Satan afflicted Ayoub in his body. Ayoub's flesh and skin began to fall off him, and though he complained to God yet he did not blaspheme.
Ayoub's ultimate test was not in his belongings, neither in his children, but in the closest thing to his soul - in that which directly affected him. His acid test of loyalty to God was extremely personal. Indeed, it is the afflictions that touch us personally that reveal our inner nature.
Now Satan comes to afflict every person in the particular area that constitutes his greatest advantage. Satan attacks where it will cause the most damage. He comes to rob the person of whatever represents the cornerstone, or the most vital aspect of his being.
When Satan came to afflict Jesus, which area would he attack? Which area represented the most vital aspect of Jesus' being, which if attacked would sustain the greatest damage? To Ayoub this area was his own body, but to Jesus it was his union with God. For this was what set Jesus apart from all others. This union was his joy, his riches, his belonging. It was the strength of his inner being. It was upon this area that any attack should be concentrated - the area of ultimate testing. Those who are of the dust are tested in their flesh, but He who is of God had to be tested in His union with God.
To attack the union of Jesus with God is to touch Jesus himself, just as Ayoub was attacked in his body. It is the most personal, direct and devastating assault on Jesus himself.
This abandonment by God experienced by Jesus was the ultimate form of suffering. This explains the struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was not due to fear of death but it was the struggle of one who eternally experienced one-ness with God, yet in time was to experience the abandonment of God.
Jesus on the cross experienced the scorching heat of spiritual desert, the absence of the Divine, which is Hell. This was the most bitter cup of all. Yet it is here we hear the words 'My God, My God'. Jesus, although forsaken by God, and afflicted with the ultimate affliction, takes the confession of God, His God to this spiritual barrenness, to hell. When Adam surrendered his will to the enemy of God, he was implying that Satan is right and God is wrong (God forbid), and in effect he was denying that God is God - at least for the duration of his disobedience. But if God is not God at all times, He cannot be God at all. So while Adam denied God in the paradise, the Christ confessed God in hell. The confession that Adam denied in the presence of God in paradise, Jesus upheld in spite of the abandonment of God. That confession of God in spite of Hell, to the last drop of blood on the cross, is the ultimate victory.
Finally Jesus' statement on the cross was not a question directed to God in the hope of receiving an answer, but a statement expressing his current spiritual experience.
However, the author of al-Insan al-kamel (i.e. The Perfect Man) gives the clue as to the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus when he wrote 'the extra thing that Jesus brought, apart from what is in the Torah is that He revealed the secret of Lordship and Power.'. Then he stated the implication of this: 'For the revealing of the secret of Lordship is blasphemy'
It is this charge of blasphemy that the Jews used to crucify Jesus. And that is also why al-Hallaj was killed. For the Hallaj, being a man, made a statement that was considered to be blasphemous. His most famous words are, 'Ma fil-jubbati el'la-Allah', that is, 'There is nothing in the Jubba [his garment] except Allah'. Another such statement was made in his reply to one of his opponents al-Shibli, in the mosque of al-Mansur, when he said, 'Anal-haqq', that is 'I am [God]', so proclaiming that he had no other 'I' than God. He also said: 'The important thing is to proceed seven times around the ka'ba of one's heart.' His opponents therefore accused him of being a rebel, who wished to destroy the ka'ba of Mecca.
As a result he was sentenced to death by the pronounced formula: 'It is lawful to shed your blood.' Al-Hallaj was handed over to the chief of police, and in the evening in his cell, he exhorted himself to face martyrdom and foresaw his glorious resurrection. Next day, before an enormous crowd, al-Hallaj, with a crown on his head, was beaten, half killed, and exposed still alive on a gibbet. Those who had signed for his condemnation cried out: 'Let his blood be on our heads'. He was then decapitated, his body sprinkled with oil and burned, and the ashes thrown into the Tigris from the top of a minaret on the 27, March 922.
It is not myth that has this quality of repeating itself, but history. The similarities between the death of al-Hallaj and the death of Jesus are quite remarkable. al-Hallaj was accused of claiming divinity as was Jesus.
It is interesting to note that in all the traditions mentioned by Tabari, the reason why the Jews sought to kill Jesus is not mentioned at all. Some have suggested it was because Jesus proclaimed that God is love. But that is not controversial enough to be a reason to kill him. Jesus had no political ambitions, He was the poorest of the poor, His companions were not high-class or considered among the powerful, but rather were weak and poor. The reason the Jews sought to kill Him was because he claimed divinity.
But there is another factor in Jesus' death that repeated itself, in the death of al-Hallaj. The opponents of al-Hallaj, to insure his complete removal, had to have a political component in their accusations. So they accused him of being 'an agitator and a rebel who was a threat to the order of the community.'
The same accusation was levelled against Jesus 900 years before the death of al-Hallaj. Even the accusation that al-Hallaj wished to destroy the ka'ba had its counterpart in the accusation against Jesus, that He said he would destroy the Temple and then rebuild it three days.
However, all who claim Divinity died and remained dead, except Jesus. He rose again, to prove that He is the Eternal, Uncreated Word of God.
It is reported that al-Hallaj said to his disciples as he was being taken to be executed: 'Do not be upset over this: in thirty days I will return to you.' Others reported him as predicting to those present that he would return in forty days. Nevertheless, after his death and cremation, his ashes were thrown into the Tigris River. And as a result of the promise of his return, 'his disciples still waited there on the bank of the Tigris, in the hope that he would arise from it.'
Where are the followers of al-Hallaj today? They do not exist, for the claims of al-Hallaj were not substantiated; they did not come true. He promised his disciples he would return, but he remained dead. Jesus, on the other hand spoke of His resurrection, and showed Himself to His followers.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, there would be as few followers of Jesus as there are followers of al-Hallaj. However, the faith of the followers of Jesus is based on his resurrection from the dead.
The Qur'an said: 'God strikes both the true and the false. As for the scum, it vanishes as jetsam, and what profits men abides in the earth...'
The truth has been struck, and has proved stronger than death. For by the death of Jesus on the cross, the truth was struck. Jesus' claim to divinity was subjected to the acid test, and the truth became victorious. Jesus rose again. His claims to divinity were not blasphemous, they were defended and attested to by God.
Jesus was killed on the cross because He claimed to be the Fragrance of God, the Radiance of God, the Power of God, the Love of God, and the perfect Servant of God. All these are summed up in the title 'the Son of God'. Because of this claim He was crucified, and everyone who rejects this claim of Jesus is siding with the Jews who crucified Jesus. Every one who passes a verdict on Jesus is actually passing a verdict on himself.
God's verdict on Jesus, demonstrated by his rising from the dead, was God's seal of approval on the truth of Jesus' claims.
Ikhwan as-Safa (a religious group who regarded themselves as Muslims but were open to other points of views as well) believed in the actual crucifixion of Jesus. This is what they believed:
They said, 'What is the commandment?'
He said, 'Go to the kings of the end of the earth and tell them what I have taught you, and call them to what I called you to, and do not be afraid of them, for when I leave My human nature, I will stand in the air in the right hand side of My Father and your Father, and I will be with you wherever you go, confirming you with victory and help by My Father's leave! Go to them and call them gently, and heal them, and command that which is good, and rebuke that which is evil, until you get killed, crucified or expelled from that country'.
They said to Him, 'How can we know the truthfulness of what you command us?' He answered, 'I am the first to do just that!' He went out to the people next day, and began to call them, and to preach to them, until He was taken to the king of the Jews, who commanded that He should be crucified. So they crucified His human nature. And they nailed His hands to the wood of the cross, and He remained crucified from the forenoon to the afternoon. He asked for water but they gave Him vinegar instead. His body was pierced by a spear, and was buried in the place of the cross [or the wood]. Forty persons were assigned to guard His grave. All this took place in the presence of His disciples and acquaintances, so when they saw all that, they were convinced and knew that he did not command them to do anything different from what he himself did. Then, after three days, they met with Him in the place where He promised to see them. They saw the sign that was between them and Him, and the news spread in Israel that Jesus was not killed, and they opened the grave but the human nature (nasut) was not found! ... And those disciples who accepted His commandment scattered in the different parts of the world ... calling people to the teaching of the Christ, so that most of them were killed, and the message of the Christ spread east and west by the works of the disciples of Jesus.
Elsewhere we read in Ikhwan al-Safa the following:
The Christ, then, died and rose again from the dead. The fact of his death on the cross still shines after almost 2000 years, for 'lies written in ink can never disguise facts written in blood', no matter how pious, even well-intended these lies may be.
Jesus, then, is the only Person who died and was resurrected and lifted up to be with God, never to die again. Idris was lifted up to a high place, but he did not die. Jesus was lifted up in spite of death. This is God's Word, who prevailed over death. It is in the resurrection of Jesus that we see God's declaration of who Jesus was and is.
In this appendix to part four we will comment on Mr. Deedat's approach to the death and resurrection of Jesus. (Mr. Deedat, from South Africa, is a follower of the Ahmadiyya which is considered a cult by traditional Muslims.).
(For a complete commentary on Deedat's approach read John Gilchrist's books The Crucifixion Of Christ: A Fact Not Fiction, and What Was The Sign Of Jonah? available from MERCSA, PO Box 342, Mondeor 2110, South Africa.)
Traditional Muslims and in particular Muslim scholars disagree with Deedat on many points. The Muslim Digest devoted an entire issue attacking and exposing Deedat as a threat both to Muslims and non-Muslims. The Muslim Digest had this to say about Mr. Deedat:
Mr. Deedat in his approach, has revived the swoon theory, a theory propagated around 1800, which says that Jesus did not die on the cross, but merely fainted, and was buried alive, and subsequently revived in the cool air of the tomb.
His theory, however, should be tested using a principle established by the early Muslims who were careful to transmit only the authentic Hadith. One of the tests used by Muslims to determine the authenticity of a Hadith was this: 'If the Hadith reporter claims to transmit of the knowledgeable that which the knowledgeable did not know, his report cannot be accepted.' In other words, if those who are closer to the historical events, and consequently in the know, said nothing about a particular event, then how can those who came later in history, who are less knowledgeable, venture to assert their knowledge of that event?
The application of this test is particularly valuable in historical investigations. If the prophet of Islam (who spoke on a multitude of subjects, some far less important than our topic) did not speak of the swoon theory, and the companions did not mention it, what authority has 'Gulam Ahmad (the prophet of the Ahmadiyya sect) who lived more than eighteen hundred years after the event, to advance the swoon theory? Was he more knowledgable than the prophet of Islam and his companions? Not only is there no mention in the Hadith of a swoon theory, there is not even one fabricated Hadith to that effect.
This is a case of the less knowledgable reporting that which the knowledgable did not report. Therefore, using the above rule of common sense, Deedat's theory must be rejected.
Indeed Muslim scholarship vehemently disagrees with Mr. Deedat on this topic. Here is an extract from a letter written to Mr. Deedat published in the Muslim Digest:
These are strong words about Mr. Deedat and his deaf, dumb, blind cheering audience. We can see that neither Ahl-al-Hadith 'who were present in the hall' nor the story tellers mentioned anything about the swoon theory. From a Muslim point of view Deedat's theory must be rejected.
So if we give Deedat the benefit of the doubt we would assume that he is a good Muslim and hence he believes that Jesus was resuscitated by his friends, and after crawling from the tomb was lifted up alive and stationed in the place of honour near God. Yet according to this belief, God barely managed to keep Jesus alive, this is the same Jesus who raised others from the dead, according to the Qur'an!
What a pathetic picture Deedat paints of the Almighty God! Even the theory of substitution does more justice to the character of God than the swoon theory, for in the substitution theory the Jews could not harm Jesus. However, according to the swoon theory the Jews could have inflicted all the humiliation they desired upon God's anointed. As a result, to the outside world the Jews are victorious, and God and His anointed are the losers. If God was going to lift Jesus up, just as there is no reason for a substitute, there is no need to have Jesus humiliated on the cross. The picture Mr. Deedat paints of Jesus is as pathetic and offensive as the one he painted of God, and once again Deedat's pictures differ from the picture (of Jesus this time) depicted in the Qur'an.
According to the Qur'an, Jesus all His life was confirmed and fortified by the Holy Spirit, and was later lifted up to be with God. According to the Qur'an Jesus was the one who knew the unseen, healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind and raised the dead. In contrast, Deedat's picture of Jesus is an insult to the spirit and intention of the Qur'an.
Jesus is portrayed by Mr. Deedat as being so afraid of being killed by the Jews that He disguised himself as a gardener, and when He appeared to Mary Magdalene, He was so weak and in such agony that He said to her 'Do not touch me!' Mr. Deedat would have us believe that this one who disguised himself and hid from the Jews in fear, was later lifted up to the glories of heaven near the throne of God Almighty Himself.
Mr. Deedat infers that God was unable to protect Him from the Jews, that the only place God could protect Jesus was in heaven. As if God were saying to Jesus 'Be careful, because if the Jews catch and kill you they will spoil the divine plan. I can lift you up against all physical laws, but I cannot protect you from the Jews.' This is the ultimate conclusion of Deedat's theory, and what a blasphemy it is!
There is no smoke without fire: an injured, weak and disillusioned Jesus could not have inspired or motivated the petrified and dispirited disciples to stand against the hatred of the Jews and the might of the Roman Empire. However, a risen Christ who conquered death could. This is the fire that produced Christianity, the power that changed chicken hearted men into heroes who regarded it an honour to be mutilated and killed by the Roman Empire rather than deny their faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ.
If you would like to ask further questions, obtain a hard copy of this series of booklets or for any other reason you are welcome to contact M. Anderson via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.