By Gabriel Sawma
The Quran states the Following:
“Waqawlihim inna qatlna al Massih Issa ibn Maryam rasul Allah, wama qataluhu wama salabuhu walaken shubbiha lahum”, Quran 4: 158. Translated: ‘and their saying, we did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah; whereas they slew him not nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like the one crucified (M. Sher Ali’s translation).
On this verse, Muslim commentator Abdullah Yusuf Ali renders the following explanation:
‘The end of the life of Jesus on earth is as much involved in mystery as his birth, and indeed the greater part of his private life, except the three main years of his ministry. It is not profitable to discuss the many doubts and conjectures among the early Christian sects and among Muslim theologians. The Orthodox Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that his life was taken on the Cross, that he died and was buried, that on the third day he rose in the body with his wounds intact, and walked about a conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. This is necessary for the theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins, which is rejected by Islam. But some of the early Christian sects did not believe that Christ was killed on the Cross. The Basilidans believed that someone else was substituted for him. The Docetae held that Christ never had a real physical or natural body, but only an apparent or phantom body, and that his Crucifixion was only apparent, not real. Tha Marcionite Gospel (about A.D. 138) denied that Jesus was born, and merely said that he appeared in human form. The Gospel of St. Barnabas supported the theory of substitution on the Cross. The Qur’anic teaching is that Christ was not curified nor killed by the Jews. Notwithstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies; that disputations, doubts, and conjectures on such matters are vain; and that he was taken up to God.’ (Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s commentary # 663, Text, Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an, 2 vols. Published by Dar Al-Kitab Al-Masri (Egypt) and Dar Al-Kita Allubnani (Lebanon), 1934).
Crucifixion was attested first among the Persians. The Greeks and the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans adapted the practice, later employed it. In the Old Testament, the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters punished by stoning might be hanged as further humiliation (Deut. 21: 23).
Crucifixion was introduced in Palestine during the Greek time. Josephus, the Jewish historian (A.D. 37-100), tells us that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes crucified those Jews who refused Hellenization. The Emperor Constantine, abolished the practice in deference to Christian belief concerning Jesus’ death.
Jesus crucifixion is recounted in Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19, and many times referred to elsewhere in the New Testament. The influence of early Christian literature on this subject and others is spread all over the Qur’an. Ali’s commentary regarding Christian and Gnostic literature is just one example of that influence.
Crucifixion was a form of capital punishment. It involved public shame to the person being crucified. The condemned had to be stripped of all his clothing; he was physically tortured, and was made to carry his cross along the public roads to the execution ground; then he was affixed to the cross, and was the object of taunts and indignities from passers-by. Death by crucifixion brought the condemned into a public disrepute.
Crucifixion provided an obstacle in the subsequent effort to convert the Jews to Christianity. The Jews were not prepared to accept the thought that the Messiah, whose coming is prescribed in the Old Testament, should be crucified. To many of them, such a thought was considered a blasphemy. That was probably the thought of the Muslim communities, who introduced the Hadith tradition.
But contrary to the Hadith interpretation of the Qur’anic verse, and contrary to the translation mentioned above, and to the erroneous interpretation rendered by Abdullah Yussuf Ali, the Qur’an does not deny the death and Crucifixion of Jesus, the Messiah. In fact the Aramaic language of the Qur’an is identical to the story of Crucifixion mentioned in the New Testament.
The Qur’anic conjugation “w” in the word “[w]ama” is similar to Aramaic “w” meaning ‘so, then, and’; Akkadian “u”. The Qur’anic word “wama” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘did not’. Syriac “wmo, or “wma” is an interrogative pronoun means ‘what’. Syriac “wmo li wlokh” or “wma li wlokh” means ‘and what have I to do with you’. The Qur’anic verse, “wama qataluhu” is identical to Aramaic “wm qtlhu”, Syriac “wmo qatluuy, or wma qatluuy” means ‘what they slew’. The Qur’anic verse “wama salabuuhu” is identical to Syriac “wmo salbuuy or wma salbuuy” meaning ‘what they crucified’. In other words, the Qur’an is saying: ‘what they slew and what they crucified’, a confirmation of the death and crucifixion of Jesus, the Messiah.
The Qur’anic word “walaaken” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘but’. Aramaic “lkn”. The initial “l” is a prepostion, it means ‘to, for, in regard to’. When the suffixes are added, it is pronounced ‘li (mine), lokh, or lakh (yours, sing.), leh (his), loh (hers), lan (ours), lkhuun (yours, plural), lkhen (yours, fem. Plu.). When the vowel sign /a/ is added to the Syriac “lkhen”, it turns into “lakhen”, Arabic “laken”, which means ‘theirs’. It is important to keep in mind that the early Qur’anic manuscripts did not use the vowel signs. Thus the original word used in the Qur’an was “lkn” as in Syriac “lken, or lkhen” meaning (yours, fem. Plu), which is found in Syriac Peshito (Ezekiel 13: 18) and Biblia Hebraica “lknh” (Eze. 13: 18). The reference to feminine plural in the Qur’anic verse is compatible with the Biblical events, which are mentioned in Matthew 27: 55, which reads the following: “There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee and helped him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the wife of Zebede”.
The Qur’anic word “shubbiha” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘he was made to appear to them like the one crucified’. Syriac “shabah” means ‘blessed’. The Qur’anic preposition “lahum” is equivalent to Aramaic “lhmh” meaning ‘in regard to, in reference to’ (Jer. 14: 16).
The correct interpretation is: ‘and they say, we did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah, what they slew, and what they crucified, and to you (the women who followed Jesus at the Crucifixion) he is blessed and to them (his followers) as well.
This and other interpretations of the Qur’an according to Aramaic is the subject of a new book titled, the Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an. Available for sale on Amazon.com and on our website at http://www.syriacaramaicquran.com
about the author:
Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer dealing with International Law, mainly the European Union Law, the Middle East and Islamic Shariaa Laws. Professor of Aramaic and a distinguished authority on Islam. Author of the Quran: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur'an.