Refuting Zakir Hussain on Hebrews 5:7

Islamic Apologist Zakir Hussain

Islamic apologists have often appealed to Hebrews 5:7 for support that Jesus Christ was not crucified or didn’t die.  The most recent person to do this is Zakir Hussain in his recent debate against James White.  Here is what the verse says:

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.

Before I respond to this, I just want to point out that the book of Hebrews is probably the least friendly book to Islam in the New Testament.  In the first chapter you have Jesus Christ referred to as God and a verse from the Psalms that was applied to Yahweh, applied to Jesus.

In addition to the clear support of the incarnation, we also have several references to the death of Jesus.  The same event that Hebrews 5:7 supposedly denies.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

– Hebrews 2:9

This is a clear reference to the death of Christ.  It’s also a good proof text against Calvinism but that’s for another post.  A few verses later we read:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil

– Hebrews 2:14

In Chapter 13, we have a testimony to the resurrection of Christ.  We read:

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

– Hebrews 13:20-21

This is a clear refutation of the theology of Islam.  Also, if Zakir Hussain accepts Hebrews 5:7, he should have no problem accepting Hebrews 5:9 which reads:

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

Not very Islamic sounding to me.

Dr. White did bring up how anti-Islamic Hebrews is in many places and all Zakir Hussain said was that Hebrews contradicts itself like most books of the Bible contradict themselves.  No evidence was given.  All Hussain has is the supposed contradiction with Chapter 5, verse 7.  He doesn’t read the book in it’s entirety which I find to be quite inconsistent.

When Hussain debated Samuel Green on whether Muhammad was foretold in the Bible, Green brought up the story of the Satanic verses to discredit Muhammad.  Hussain pointed out that if he excepts the part of the story where Muhammad is tricked by Satan, he has to accept the later part of the story where Allah sends an angel to correct Muhammad.  In other words, the whole story and context has to be taken into account.

Zakir Hussain had no interest in doing that against White.  All he said was that Hebrews and most books in the Bible contradict themselves.  He had no respect for the entire context that he expected from Samuel Green.  I find that to be extremely inconsistent.

Let’s take a close look at Hebrews 5:7.  It doesn’t say what Hussain wants us to believe it says.  Here is the verse:

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.

Look closely at the verse.  No where does it say he offered up prayers and supplications to be saved from death.  He simply offered up prayers to the one that could save Him from death.  The prayers are not identified.

As a devout Muslim, Hussain probably believes that Allah is the only one who can save people from death.  As a devout Muslim, Hussain prays multiple times a day to the only one who can save him from death.  However, his prayers can be about anything.  They could be to get saved from death, or they could be for something completely different like good health, good speaking skills or something like that.  We won’t know unless he tells us.  In Hebrews 5:7, what is requested through prayer is not told.  Hussain can assume what it is but it’s just an assumption.

If he is consistent and looked at the whole context of Hebrews like he expected from Samuel Green regarding the Satanic verses then he couldn’t interpret these prayers as prayers to be saved from death.  Since the passage is ambiguous he must interpret it according to the rest of Hebrews, which has been shown to shred Islamic theology.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Refuting Zakir Hussain on Hebrews 5:7

  1. I think you have fundamentally misunderstood Zakir’s position.

    He did not claim that the author of Hebrews was affirming that Jesus was saved from crucifixion. Only that Heb5:7 was drawing on an earlier tradition based on the Psalms that said this.

    Let me give my two cents here. The people to whom the author was writing had come to believe that Christ had been saved because the One who had the power to save him from death answered his prayer. (It is obvious from the text that the prayer referenced here was at Gethsemene which was to be saved and not about anything else). The author of Hebrews is affirming the basis of their view i.e. the supplication to be saved and the fact that the Psalms show a saved Messiah whose prayers are answered. But instead of accepting this at face value he is going for a “higher interpretation”.

    • Hello Fawaz,

      Thanks for taking an interest in my blog. Yes, Hussain believes this to be an early tradition based on his interpretation of the prayer in Gethsemane and the Psalms.

      For the sake of argument, let’s assume that what Hussain said about the Gethsemane prayer and the Psalms is true. Hebrews 5:7 still can’t fit in with that because of the point that I made clear in the post. The text doesn’t say that he prayed to be saved from death. It says that he prayed to the one who could save him from death. What he prayed for is not stated in the text.

      Stay tuned as I will be doing a response to Hussain’s misrepresentation of the Gethsemane prayer and the Psalms. I’m also going to publish a response to the Muslim interpretation of Song of Solomon 5:16 in a way that I’ve never seen done before.

      Thanks for reading and God Bless.

  2. “He did not claim that the author of Hebrews was affirming that Jesus was saved from crucifixion. Only that Heb5:7 was drawing on an earlier tradition based on the Psalms that said this.”

    As usual Fawaz is kind enough to take part in a discussion and set out his stall clearly. In order to progress this argument, it would be interesting to know what earlier tradition claimed that Jesus was saved from crucifixion? (This is a genuine question and not a rhetorical one.)

    • These earlier “traditions” only exist in the world of speculation. The problem is that speculation, wherever it comes from, can be used for almost anything. I could speculate that the early Muslims were Trinitarian based on the fact that Jesus is called the word in the Quran and therefore there is an “earlier tradition”. The sky is the limit. Thank the Lord that Christianity doesn’t have to resort to this stuff.

      • I would love to see a proponent of Islam provide his proofs. To put his assertions to the test.

        That is all these sort of claims tend to be, merely assertions in order to support a particular view. I have lost count of the number of times you have written an article that has resulted in a comment from a Muslim, to which you then reply whereupon the Muslim is not heard of again in that thread.