Q. I have a query about Jesus. I do know that Jesus was raised to heaven before the crucifixion and that God replaced him with a look-alike. The Christians believe that Jesus was crucified and after 3 days he was raised. They say that the tomb he was in was empty and that the rock that was in front of the opening was moved and even the soldiers who were guarding the tomb did not see anyone or anything. So who moved it? And who took away the body? It’s also said that Jesus was seen several times, but wherever he showed up he then disappeared. Now if that is the case, was that the real Jesus? And what happened to the look-alike corpse? Please explain this to me. And who exactly is responsible for the crucifixion: The Jews or the Romans, i.e. Pontius Pilatus, or are they all to blame? I feel very confused, although I have no doubt that Jesus was not crucified. It is just that I cannot explain the disappearance of the body and people seeing him. Is that also made up?
A. With regard to historical accounts about earlier prophets and what happened to them, we have no means of establishing the facts. There are numerous reports about prophets like Moses and Jesus, while other prophets’ histories seem to be largely forgotten. But the accounts related by the communities claiming to follow these prophets are mixed up with traditions, legends and exaggerated stories that have no sound basis. We do not engage in any attempt to relate these accounts to what is mentioned in the Qur’an and in the authentic Sunnah. Instead, we confine ourselves to what is mentioned in these sources, taking it at face value, believing it to be the truth since it comes from God or from the Prophet who only says what is true.
On this basis, when we read God’s words about the alleged crucifixion, we deny that it ever happened, because God says: “They boast: ‘We have killed the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, God’s Messenger.’ They did not kill him, and neither did they crucify him, but it only seemed to them (as if it had been) so. Those who hold conflicting views about him are indeed confused, having no real knowledge about it, and following mere conjecture. For, of a certainty, they did not kill him. No! God raised him up to Himself. God is indeed Almighty, Wise.” (4: 157-158.)
This Qur’anic statement is emphatic that Jesus was not killed in any way, least of all crucified. Hence no Muslim can ever entertain any doubt about this. We also know that God raised Jesus to Himself. How did this take place? God does not give us any details. So we do not engage in any conjecture about it, because we will not arrive at any conclusion that may be described as correct and certain. Why should we go into this when we know that God is able to achieve any purpose of His with absolutely no difficulty? We also know that God achieves His goals in any way He likes. We accept the statement as it is, meaning that, body and soul, Jesus was actually raised to heaven.
Now, was there a look-alike who was crucified in Jesus’ place? Maybe, but we do not know. The Qur’anic statement, “it only seemed to them as if it had been so,” allows this possibility; but it also admits other interpretations. It may be that those who were intent on crucifying Jesus were made to sleep and they might have dreamt about the crucifixion in a way that they thought it real. There may be other interpretations. Why should we prefer one to the other when we have no supporting hint or indication? We accept the Qur’anic statement as it is: Those people thought they crucified him, but, most certainly, he was not killed in any way. To me, denying the crucifixion means that Jesus was never put on the cross.
What happened on earth with regard to the alleged crucifixion is given in different accounts. To us, none of these approaches any degree of authenticity. Hence, we do not consider them in any way. This makes things much easier to accept, because we will not have to reconcile any reports that seem to be in conflict with the Qur’anic account.
Ablution and Reading the Qur’an
Q. You mentioned previously that grand ablution incorporates normal ablution, or wudhu. Could you please clarify whether this ablution will be invalidated if one touches one’s genitals? Could you also explain whether it is permissible to read the Qur’an when one has not performed ablution, or when one is in the state of ceremonial impurity, or janabah?
A. It is as I said, when we perform grand ablution, which is a complete shower or bath in which we wash our bodies completely to remove the state of ceremonial impurity, or janabah, this incorporates the normal ablution. Such grand ablution involves washing our genitals at the beginning, which is perfectly all right. After that we wash the rest of our bodies. So, there is no problem with that.
Scholars have different views on whether reading the Qur’an is permissible if one has not performed ablution. The view that holds that is permissible to read the Qur’an without ablution is, in my view, stronger and has the better evidence in support. As for the state of janabah, or ceremonial impurity, which results from ejaculation, intercourse, menstruation or postnatal discharge, the overwhelming majority of scholars consider that it is a state when one cannot read the Qur’an, even from memory. However, a small number of scholars, some of them highly distinguished, take the opposite view feeling that there is little evidence to support such prohibition. It is safer to accept the majority view.