Recently there was a debate between Protestant apologist Mike Licona and Islamic apologist Shabir Ally. The proposition was Jesus: Resurrected or Rescued. While Licona was defending resurrection, Ally was defending what is known as swoon theory. Classical Islam has traditionally stated that Jesus was never crucified but that someone was meant to look crucified in his place. This comes from the Quranic verse Surah 4:157 which reads:
And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.
What Ally is saying is that contrary to classical Islamic interpretation, Jesus was actually put on the cross and hung there for hours. He was taken down alive though he appeared to be dead. His body was placed in the tomb and he was assumed bodily from the tomb while still alive. He has defended this position for many years and continues to defend it to this day.
I must re-emphasize that this is not the orthodox Islamic position. I must also say that its extremely improbable with the evidence available to us. This is because we know of almost no instances where people survived Roman crucifixion. Since 99.99% of people ever hung on the cross have died on the cross, the odds aren’t in Ally’s favor. The fact that Jesus was nailed to the cross, hung for several hours, was taken down from the cross, received no medical attention and placed in a tomb while appearing dead but still barely alive seems highly improbable.
Despite all of these problems, the thesis has an even deeper flaw. Sadly it’s a flaw that no apologist has brought up when debating him. While I would say that Licona won the debate, he would have done even better had he brought this up. Since Ally is a muslim, he needs to believe that the disciples of Christ were muslims since Surah 5:111 says exactly that:
And when I inspired the disciples, (saying): Believe in Me and in My messenger, they said: We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered (unto Thee) “we are muslims”.
The problem for Ally is that the disciples would have had to preach swoon theory in opposition to Paul. Shabir has stated in his debate with William Lane Craig that Paul was the first to preach resurrection. In other words, it was Paul vs the disciples. Paul preached resurrection and the disciples preached assumption from the tomb while still alive.
In the scriptures, we have evidence of friction between Paul and the disciples in regards to the role of Law and what gentile converts must do to be part of the Church. This comes out clearly in Acts and Galatians. That such a conflict existed is not in dispute. Shabir Ally has often pointed this out in the past to show that it was two religions competing against each other. If this friction is so apparent, where is the friction on the issue of the resurrection? If the earthly disciples of Christ were muslim and preached what Ally believes, surely Paul would bring this out in his epistles to argue against. There is not a single hint of conflict on the issue of resurrection vs Ally’s theory. The reason is because no one was preaching his theory. Every early follower of Jesus was preaching resurrection in contrast to what Ally proposes. I believe that his thesis fails on this argument alone, even if we ignore the other numerous problems.
I would like to hear a response from Ally or a muslim who takes this view.