An interview on Fox News of Reza Aslan and his new book Zealot has received numerous social media posts recently. Here is a copy of the interview that currently has over 2 million views:
The interviewer is slammed for asking him again and again why he is writing this book as a Muslim. I think Reza’s answers could have been much better, but the interviewer just keeps asking the same question again and again and it gets nowhere and we don’t get to learn much of what Reza actually believes concerning the life of Jesus.
What stood out the most to me in the interview is that Reza states that it is a fundamental truth that everyone agrees that Jesus was crucified, but that’s not the Muslim belief and teaching of Islam as he also states! Reza must mean that every historian believes Jesus was crucified.
Why do Muslims believe Jesus wasn’t crucified? Sura 4:157-158 clearly states that he wasn’t. These two verses read:
“That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not -Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”
This leads me to believe that Reza is a very liberal Muslim. It even makes me think that he isn’t Muslim at all to so openly deny a teaching of the Qur’an like this. However, I was told that there were different Muslim interpretations on this passage. I however don’t think that Jesus actually being crucified was one of them. Some Muslim scholars believe that Jesus never died and others believe that he died of natural causes, but which Muslim scholar besides Reza believes that Jesus was crucified.
Before Reza I have only read Muslim teachers and Muslims I have spoken with to hold to the interpretation that Jesus did not die, at all! According to Adil Salahi who wrote on this topic on Muslim.org says that there are two views within Islam. He writes:
“The first, which is held by a majority of scholars, is that Jesus Christ did not die but was raised by Allah and that he will make a second coming at a time determined by Allah, when he will be preaching the message of Islam. The other view is that Jesus Christ died a natural death after Allah had saved him from his enemies. Both groups of scholars agree that Jesus Christ was neither killed nor crucified. Needless to say, those who subscribe to the second view do not speak of a second coming of Jesus Christ.” (http://www.muslim.org/islam/deathjarab.htm)
It appears as if Reza has an interpretation which does not fit with the interpretations of mainstream Muslim scholars on the teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadiths, so I’m very interested to read his book to see where else he skews not only on orthodox Islam but also Christianity. I wish the interviewer allowed him to get into such things, but it would have been nice if he had answered her question in a better fashion by just saying, “As a Muslim, I’m very deeply concerned with and interested in the person and history of Jesus (peace be upon him) because there is more in the Qur’an about Jesus (peace be upon him) than Muhammad (peace be upon him) and since the teachings of Christianity contradict the teachings in the Qur’an I have every right and interest as a religious scholar, Muslim, or any person interested in seeking religious and historical truth to research the life of Jesus.” I think if he had answered in such a way it would have shut down her stupid string of questions. She clearly is very ignorant on the subject of religious studies and the desire that any religious adherent should have in researching the claims of religions other than their own.
If Reza and other Muslim scholars are beginning to say that Jesus was crucified then it seems like a direct leave from the direct statements of Sura 4:157-158. I see where there is room for Jesus to have died a natural death in that passage, but there is clearly no room given for him to have died by crucifixion. I have never met a Muslim who has read the Qur’an to say that Jesus died of natural causes, much less that he was crucified, and these were leaders of Muslim unions on college campuses and teachers from whyislam.org who I invited to my world religions class to speak. You can check out their website and they very clearly state that Jesus did not die! (http://www.whyislam.org/submission/prophethood-in-islam/jesus-peace-be-upon-him/jesus/) They leave no room for any other interpretation. I’m afraid to say that Reza doesn’t seem very reliable as a Muslim theologian.