Although Muslims reject the deity of the Lord Jesus, they still hold a high view of him. Some of the titles used for Jesus agree with the Bible. The most common title for Jesus in the Qur’an is “Son of Mary.” This was probably written to contrast the title Son of God and deny Christ’s divinity (1). He is also called Prophet (Sura 19:30) (2). The Qur’an also agrees at some points about the events of Jesus’ life, such as his virgin birth, miracles and sinlessness. These things are not said of even Muhammad (3).
One major point of contention between Islam and Christianity is the cross. The Bible clearly teaches that the Lord Jesus was crucified and died on the cross (e.g. Luke 23:26-49). The Qur’an, however, teaches that Jesus did not really die on the cross (Sura 4:157-158). Muslims claim that Jesus’ ascended to heaven without dying, and passages referring to Jesus’ death talk about the future (4).
The most common Muslim objection to the reality of the cross is that God is just and would not have allowed Jesus to die on the cross. Jesus was sinless, and suffering implies sin, as well as weakness. When faced with enemies, Muhammad either defeated them or escaped. A Muslim might say, “If indeed the cross is the revelation of God’s love, then that love seems both cruel and weak, for if God is love, how could He permit the beloved Messiah to suffer so, and if God is all-powerful why did He not intervene and rescue the Messiah?”(5) One Iranian Muslim asked, “Do we not honor him [Jesus] more than you do when we refuse to believe that God would permit him to suffer death on the cross? We believe that God took him to heaven” (6).
There are a couple of ways that Muslims deal with the death of Christ. Some claim that there was a crucifixion, but Allah performed a miracle and made someone else to look like Jesus, who was crucified and died in his place. Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot are suggested as possible substitutes. Others claim that there was no crucifixion at all, but it was an illusion. Allah caused the Jews to imagine the crucifixion of Jesus. One minority sect, the Ahmadiyyas, advocate the swoon theory. This theory claims that Jesus was crucified but never died, and was revived when he was in the tomb. Even further, they claim that Jesus then went to India, married and had a family, and died in old age (7). All of these theories clearly contradict the Bible.
Phil Parshall describes the Muslim dilemma of the person of Christ in this way:
Islam is distinctly uncomfortable with Jesus. On the one hand Muslims desire to follow the traditional dictates of Islam and honor Christ as one of the greatest prophets of all time. On the other hand the alleged excesses of “Christ worship” as founding Christendom have made Muslims more than a little hesitant to attribute more than a passing word of respect toward Jesus. To Muslims, Christ’s deity and crucifixion present massive stumbling blocks (8).
(1) Malek, 87.
(2) Martin, 623.
(4) Saal, 65, 119.
(5) Woodberry, 11
(6) Ibid, 164.
(7) Malek, 186.
(8) Parshall, 184.
Also of Interest: Did Jesus Foretell Muhammad?