The Black Prophet: He Lives/Editor’s Desk



The Editor Global News Centre

“John the Baptist has been misrepresented by scholars of both Christianity and Islam.”
Ace Knight

(This book) by Ace Knight is an engaging analysis of the life and mission of the two kindred religious personages, John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus (‘Isa).

Dr. Mahmoud M. Ayoub, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations Hartford Seminary, Hartford CT.

This book is slim, but both erudite and yet easy to follow, in its step by step progression through the many scriptures, seemingly so familiar is Ace Knight with every passage, the apt ones come easily to mind for him, and strike an immediate cord in us, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar we are with the text and story. And yet, this book is no recipe for persuasion. It is much more sophisticated than that. Written in a devout and true Muslim spirit, it is also—as mentioned at the beginning of this review—an inquiry and a wholly new contribution to that body of sculptural scholarship.Dr. Harte Weiner, Lead Editor, Ph.D., Stanford University

The most conclusive arguments in Islamic tradition to prove or disprove something is to use the Quran to prove another point in the Quran. This Ace Knight has done in his work on John the Baptist, in particular, John having been a concealer of secrets.  Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar

Ace opens several windows with which to air questions and suggestions that might lead to greater reasoning, awareness and understanding… part of a great gift we often take for granted (or, in some cases, refuse to employ). It is telling that some men will welcome a flame with which they may explore caverns of thought previously cursed by darkness while others will curse the flame and cling to the walls of darkness swearing that this is all there is… and all that should be. My brother Ace is most definitely the former. Dr. M. Dennis Paul

A More Likely Scenario. An Inspiring Read. A well written and well thought out alternative to what was at best a problematic and most likely fictitious account of the personalities involved in the crucifixion. Knight’s evidence to support his supposition is very strong, much stronger than can be found in the new testament. A very enlightening and entertaining read. Professor P. Dreier/Encore Music Academy

The John/Yahya that Knight’s work brings forth from the shadows of history is a major prophet in his own right, with an independent stature and mission.

 The book is a thought- provoking and fascinating re-examination of the prophet’s place in history. Dr. Jay R. Crook 

In this book, Ace Knight offers a fresh interpretation of the momentous events on a hillock beyond the walls of Jerusalem nearly two millennia ago: the Crucifixion. Knight asks disconcerting questions about the received version of gospel “history” and gives free rein to his inquisitive nature. Many of his ideas and speculations will strike the casual reader schooled in the ancient Biblical traditions with which they conflict as unhistorical, impossible, and unbelievable. Y et, when questioning established premises, the impossible may often be shown to be possible, as Socrates was fond of doing.

Mr. Knight does not claim to be proving anything, except that with some speculation and reinterpretation of the Biblical record and relevant Quranic texts, when coupled with a few remarks from Josephus, the whole traditional version of the Crucifixion can be seen in a different light. Knight throws new ideas and new possibilities at the reader, asking only that they be considered. Like a barrage of rockets shot into the moonless night sky, some flaring more brightly than the others, some of his speculations are more plausible than others, but all are provocative and worth thinking about. His is the first innovative interpretation of the Crucifixion since Dr. Hugh Schonfield looked at it two generations ago.

Beyond that, Knight has taken upon himself the task of redressing the imbalance between the gospel Jesus and the gospel John the Baptist and, in our opinion, has done so with justice on his side. The gospel writers diminished John in order to exalt Jesus and transform him into a superhuman, divine entity. While their motives are understandable, the researcher who seeks to explore unanswered questions and obscure “competitors” to the demigod they were creating, is understandably frustrated and can only mourn the lost evidence. This is particularly true for John the Baptist. In the New Testament, he is a minor figure, his purpose is to introduce and validate the mission of his kinsman Jesus as the Messiah.

Knight asks why was John the Baptist so used by the gospellers and then dismissed to the limbo of silence, together with the Essenes who, though a considerable presence in the Palestine of the day, are not even mentioned by them? He was intrigued by that question and began to study the references to John, gradually conceiving unprovable, but provocative theories. His work became known to a mutual friend, the author of a number of valuable books and articles on various aspects of Islamica, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar—who also became interested in John the Baptist, and through her, I was introduced to him. At first, I was rather skeptical, but was persuaded to look into the historical injustice done to John. (He is much better served in the Quran than he is in the Bible.) Having trusted her instincts over the years in such things in my own literary projects, and with her continuous encouragement and suggestions, I set to work. The result of my own inquiry, the monograph Rethinking John the Baptist, is appended to the present volume.

Meanwhile, Ace Knight continued his own research, examining new evidence while elaborating and working out his theories and speculations. The results of this work constitute the main portion of this volume that is dedicated to the rehabilitation of the repute and stature of that much neglected prophet, John the Baptist, known in the Islamic world as Yahya. I was pleased to be chosen as his editor and annotator for this book.

The reader may note that when Jesus and John are mentioned in their Biblical and Western context in this book, they are referred to as John and Jesus, or John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. However, in an Islamic context the Quranic names are generally used: for John, Yahya; and for Jesus Isa. We hope that this does not cause undo confusion.

We have used Pickthall’s admirable translation as the starting point for all of the translations of Quranic verses. However, we have made one consistent change in his work: substituting the English “God” for the Arabic “Allah” to avoid the invidious connotation that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are talking about different Supreme Beings. (After all, Christian Arabs also call God “Allah.”) We have also made some modifications based upon Knight’s interpretations.

We have used the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible (RSV) as the basis for Biblical quotations. We have also

consulted other translations of the Bible, principally the King James Version (KJV) and the scholarly Jerusalem Bible (JB). We have also had occasion to refer to the Hebrew text with parallel English translation issued by the Hebrew Publishing Company of New York.

In our Biblical quotations we have restored the distinction between second-person singular thou and plural pronouns ye (with attendant verb changes), because we feel strongly that an important distinction is often lost by ignoring this difference. Is the addressee an individual or a group? Many times in order to clarify the matter we have had to refer back to the KJV, the magnificent prose of which—though not so accurate in places as that of the RSV—maintains that distinction. However, when the Bible is being quoted in the context of a direct quotation taken from another source, we have usually respected the author’s usage in such matters, though on occasion we have also made some alterations in punctuation and capitalization of a minor nature to improve readability.

Biblical quotations are designated in the standard fashion, using the abbreviated name of the book, the chapter, colon, and verse or verses. The fourth verse of chapter one of Genesis = Gen. 1:4. The abbreviations used to designate the various books of the Bible will be found in the list following this Foreword. As in the case of the Quran, we are responsible for the final form of the quotations.

Italics are used in quotations from the Quran, for names of Biblical books and other writings when they occur in our text, especially where there is likely to be confusion between the name of the writer and his work as, for example: “The disciple Matthew is the putative author of Matthew.” The phrase “May the blessings and peace of God be upon him!” uttered following the Prophet’s name and similar phrases honoring other Prophets and the Companions are not indicated in our text, but should be uttered by the Muslim reader either aloud or in his heart when they occur.

We would remind the reader that this contains both fact and speculative theory. We hope that we have made the difference between the two clear in the text and notes. We do not

claim to have said the last word about John the Baptist, but we offer our opinions and speculations in the hope that we may stimulate others to join us in the project to restore John/Yahya to his proper rank and dignity among the prophets. And God knows best! THE EDITOR


ttonixToni L. Taylor is a visionary artist whose work travels through the realms of fantasy and mysticism. She feels a special kinship with the mysteries of Ancient Egypt as well as the spirit of Native America. Goddess imagery is represented powerfully in her collection and as a lover of all things celestial; the beauty and limitlessness of the cosmos often finds its way into her paintings.

Toni’s creative history includes commercial illustration, the fantasy and visionary facets of fine art, scenic painting and she now has a new passion for creating copper wire sculptures. Her fine oil paintings are inspired by her beliefs, desires, and inner visions. Always attracted to the unusual, her subjects will range from angels, whom she deeply believes in, to dragons—and she will be quick to tell you her beloved dragons are benevolent and wise—as are the rest of her characters. She says of her work, “When people view my creations, I want them to feel as though they’re taking a journey of the mind while tapping into the ethereal and otherworldly. My desire is to touch some part of their souls, allowing them to dream their dreams, stimulate their own imaginations while elevating their spirits.”

Having had no formal training, Toni considers herself ‘life taught’ and her gift a blessing from God/Universe. She was born to be an artist, beginning at the tender age of three with crayons. Now her preferred mediums are oil and pencil. Her professional career began in 1985 with a cover for Heavy Metal Magazine, of which she was an avid collector. She was commissioned for another in 1991. Since then she has worked with various clients such as The Miller Brewing Company, Marvel Comics, Black Enterprise Magazine, MBI—Easton Press, Inner Traditions— Destiny Books, U.S. Games, American Kennel Club, PolyGram, GRP, RCA, EMI, Island Records, Creative Kingdom’s Magic Quest and as a scenic artist at Disney and Universal Studios among other projects.

She contributed her scenic skills to both installations of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and Gringotts Bank in Daigon Alley. Toni especially enjoys catering to private collectors. She teaches private art lessons and workshops to aspiring students from beginners and intermediates. Her work has been shown at local galleries such as Avalon Island, City Arts Factory, Om Lab Gallery, Orlando Museum of Art, the Shakespeare Theatre in Loch Haven, Café Tu Tu Tango, The Hyder Gallery and Gods & Monsters in Orlando. Toni is also self-published with 18 images in print and 24 greeting cards with astrological, angelic and goddess imagery. She includes portraits and custom murals in her repertoire and has exhibited her work at galleries, conventions and festivals from Boston to Dallas.

Bill Moyers once asked Joseph Campbell, a scholar, writer and the preeminent authority on mythology before his passing, “Who interprets the divinity in nature for us today? Who are our shamans? Who interprets unseen things for us?”

Campbell replied, “It is the function of the artist to do this. The artist is the one who communicates myth for today.” He added, “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you all the time.”

Contact: Phone: 407-515-0885 ~ Email:

About the Editor

Jay R. Crook (Md. Nur) was born in upstate New York, the second son of a clergyman, but spent his formative years in the New York metropolitan area. A chance acquaintance awakened his interest in Islamic culture and civilization, and he soon embraced Islam. After completing his military service and saving some money, he traveled to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to study for a few years. He wound up spending most of his working life in the Middle East, especially in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Hired by the Peace Corps as a field representative, he finished in 1971 as Deputy Director in the Iran program. He then enrolled in the Doctoral Program of Persian Literature for Foreigners at Tehran University and received his Ph.D. in 1978. His doctoral thesis was A Comparison of the Quranic Stories of Surabadi With the Bible.  Much revised and expanded, it has become the core of The New Testament: an Islamic Perspective and its companion volume The Old Testament: an Islamic Perspective. Subsequent to leaving Iran in 1980, he worked as an English teacher in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia before retiring in 1997. He now resides in Arizona and has translated several books from Persian into English, including Kashifi’s The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and Ghazzali’s The Alchemy of Happiness.


I would especially like to express my gratitude to Annie Bishai at the Harvard Book Store for her untiring assistance in bringing this book to the public. In the past, I have found from my own experience that publishing a book is not as simple as many think and her advice and assistance greatly facilitated the process. Many thanks, Annie.  Ace Knight

The Revival of Chief Yahya by Ace Knight ©2008-2016

The Quran mentions the prophets as having special names and qualities. For example, Prophet Muhammad is called the Seal of the Prophets (Q. 33:40) and a mercy for the worlds (Q. 21:107). Abraham is called Imam (Q. 2:124), the friend of God (Q. 4:125), a model to the world (Q. 16:120), one who is forbearing and repentant (Q. 11:74), a monotheist (Q. 16:123). Isaac is also given the quality of an Imam (Q. 21:73) who has power of vision (Q. 38:45). Aaron is called a minister (Q. 20:29); he is blessed with eloquence (Q. 28:34) and he is sent with signs and manifest authority (Q. 23:45). David is called a vicegerent on the earth (Q. 38:26) who has power and wisdom (Q. 2:251); a man of strength (Q. 38:17). Solomon is a king (Q. 38:35); he is taught the speech of birds and is bestowed with all things (Q. 27:16).

Joseph is a ruler (Q. 12:88) and one who interprets dreams and visions (Q. 12:21), a man of truth (Q. 12:46), concealed as a treasure (Q. 12:19). Jacob is also called Imam (Q. 21:73). He is given the power of vision (Q. 38:45). Jesus is called the Messiah (Q. 3:45). He spoke in the cradle (Q. 3:46) and is a sign to humanity and a mercy from God (Q. 19:21).

These are all prophets whose lives are familiar to us. What about the Prophet Yahya/John the Baptist? What have we been taught about this prophet who has been overlooked and misrepresented. One reason he has been overlooked is because there are five words used in the Quran to describe Prophet Yahya that have been misinterpreted in translations of the Quran.

The first is the word hasur used in the Quran (Q. 3:39) which is usually translated “chaste.” My research shows that the Arabic word hasur does not mean “chaste” with regard to Yahya; rather, it means a concealer of secrets.

Why the mistake in translation and commentary? As there was no extensive information given in the Quran about the life of Prophet Yahya nor in the Tradition (Hadith), the commentators then turned to Christian tradition and simply repeated what they found there.

Nonetheless, the commentators of the Quran have placed considerable emphasis on this word. Al-Tabari interprets the word hasur to mean one who abstains from sexual intercourse with women. He then reports a Tradition on the authority of Said ibn al-Musayyab which has Prophet Muhammad saying the following: “Everyone of the sons of Adam shall come on the Day of Resurrection with a sin (of sexual impropriety) except Yahya bin Zechariah.’ Then, picking up a tiny straw, he continued, ‘this is because his generative organ was no bigger then this straw (implying that he was impotent).’”

Does this mean that even the prophets outside of Yahya will be raised up with this sin of sexual impropriety? How can we accept that this was said by such a modest human being, comparing a straw to another prophet’s generative organ? Was Yahya impotent?

One commentator, Ibn Kathir, a renowned Islamic scholar, rejects this view and adds, “This would be a defect and a blemish unworthy of prophets.” He then mentions that it was not that he had no sexual relations with women, but that he had no illegal sexual relations with them. Indeed, the whole discussion is unseemly.

It is known that prophets of God are immune from major sins, so this statement makes no sense at all when interpreting the word, hasur. In addition, I would like to mention the fact that in his commentary, Ibn Kathir says he (Yahya) probably married and had children. He said this on the basis of what was related in the Quran of the prayer of Zachariah.

There are several reasons why interpreting hasur in this context as “chaste” or “celibate,” as has been done by commentators, is a misinterpretation: First of all, there is another word in the Quran for “chaste” and that is muhsin As God used a different word with hasur, it must mean something different.

Secondly, God says in the Quran that Islam did not bring monasticism but that it was something that they (the Christians) invented. (Q. 57:27) Also, And verily We sent messengers (to mankind) before thee, and We appointed for them wives and offspring, and it was not given to any messenger that he should bring a portent save by God’s leave. For everything there is a time prescribed. (Q. 13:38)

This is definitely not a recommendation for monasticism. Furthermore, we find in the Traditions that the Prophet said that there is no monasticism in Islam. Therefore, God would not have sent a Prophet who was celibate. In addition, it is contrary the exhortation in the Torah to “go forth and multiply.”

Thirdly, Yahya’s father, Zechariah prayed for a protector who would provide descendants (dhurriyah) for his family. There Zachariah called to his Lord; he said: My Lord! Bestow on me good offspring from Thy presence; truly Thou art hearing supplication. (Q. 3:38) God gave him Yahya. God would not have sent a son to Zechariah who would not carry on the line of Jacob’s descendants because then God would not have answered the prayer of Zechariah.

The word hasur is used only one time in the Quran and that is in regard to the Prophet Yahya. A major Arabic-English lexicon, that of Edward William Lane (Taj al- Arus) states that when hasur is used alone, it means “concealer of secrets.”

In his translation, of Ibn al-Arabi’s Book of the Fabulous Gryphon, Elmore also translates the Arabic hasur as concealer of secrets. In the referenced passage, “chaste” would not have been appropriate (Gerald T. Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time, Brill 1999, P. 482)

The second word that has been misinterpreted is waliy (Q. 19:5) which in this verse and many other places in the Quran means “protector” or “guardian” rather than “heir” or “successor.” Waliy can also refer to the Levites as they were Protectors or Guardians of sacred places.

In this specific case, Zechariah prayed to his Lord: “And truly I have feared my defenders after me and my wife has been a barren woman. So bestow on me from that which proceeds from Thy Presence a protector (waliy).” In Q. 3:39, Zachariah’s prayer is answered, “…God, giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) Yahya (who cometh) to confirm a word from God, and (he will be) a chief (sayyid), and concealer of secrets (hasur), a prophet of the righteous.” Thus John became the waliy “protector” or “guardian” of Mary and Jesus. It can also imply that John is safeguarding revelation as a whole.

It is commonly thought that Zachariah was simply asking for a son; however, this misconception may be corrected by reading further into the text. After receiving this good news, Zachariah asked, “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when age hath touched me already and my wife is barren? ” Zachariah was asking how this would be possible as he had not even contemplated being blessed with a son in his old age, and that with a barren wife.

Compare this with Mary who said, when she was given good news of a son, “How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” (Q. 3:47) Both Zechariah and Mary were asking about the possibility of such a thing. If Zachariah were asking for a son, as has been suggested by many scholars of Islam, than why did he ask such a question when God informed him of the impending birth?

The truth is that Zachariah was not asking for a son explicitly. He was asking God to send him a divinely appointed protector, from the same place whence Maryam received her provisions (rizq); hence “Give me from thy presence a protector (waliy)’ (Q. 19:5, 3:38).

The third word that is misinterpreted is fard in Q. 21:89: “And mention Zechariah when he cried out to his Lord: My Lord! Forsake me not unassisted (fard) and Thou art the Best of the ones who inherit.”

It is usually translated as “childless” or “heir,” but the same reasoning applies as above. The word unassisted refers to the fact that Zechariah did not want to be left alone without any protector. He feared for those who would defend him and his honor after he died, that they would be left without a protector and thereby could not defend his honor.

The fourth misinterpreted word in relation to Prophet Yahya is sayyid. Prophet Yahya is referred to as a sayyid, chief in the Quran. The commentators have interpreted this to mean that he was a scholar of religious law, a wise man, a noble wise and pious man, and so forth.

This was a prophet of God. Knowledge and wisdom were given to him by his Lord. The title given to Yahya by his Lord shows that Prophet Yahya is one who has spiritual authority over his people and not “noble” or “honorable” as this word is usually translated. Honor and nobility are good qualities but they fail to indicate that Prophet Yahya is given a role of leadership by his Lord.

Also, why has the title of Sayyid not been exclusively reserved for the prophet Yahya as is the title Messiah for Jesus? If one were to say Messehu Muhammad, Muslims would quickly respond astagfurullah (seeking forgiveness as if one had committed a huge mistake). They would insist that this title is exclusively for the son of Mary.

Would it not be fair to ask why is the title Sayyid, given by God, not exclusive for the prophet Yahya? Keep in mind that technically, any of the prophets, messengers, and righteous servants of God can be called Messiah as it means “one who is anointed or appointed for divine service.

That being said, no one has the right to be called Sayyid in this meaning, not the so-called descendants of Muhammad, and most certainly not the Prophet Muhammad himself. This, in my opinion, would be a great injustice, Quranically speaking.

It should also be noted that the word sayyid shares the same root as sud meaning “black.” I see Prophet Yahya as the Black Chief who has inherited the House of Jacob; hence, The Black Prophet. The word also signifies “greater or greatest in estimation, rank, or dignity” (aswadu). See the root s m w discussed below also in connection with Chief Yahya/John the Baptist.

The fifth word is hanan which means mercy, which is part of the compound name Yu’hanan (in English “John”), meaning “God is Merciful.” The word hanan is used once in the Quran (Q. 19:13) and that is in reference to Chief Yahya: “And continuous mercy from Us and purity…’ This is singularly appropriate to the circumstances of the Prophet Yahya.

The names Yahya and Yu’hanan are not the same as many assume. They have two entirely different roots. Hanan and the hannah both derive from the Semitic root h n n. While the word hannah means “mercy or tenderness,” the root word for Yahya is h y y. It means “life” or “he lives.” One does not need to be a linguist to see the obvious.

In addition, I would like also to mention that this name and attribute given to Prophet Yahya can also be found in Sabian literature. The Sabian’s are mentioned in the Quran in verses (Q. 2:62), (Q. 5:69) and (Q. 22:17). In their canonical prayer book we find Yahya Yuhanna.

It has been known that it is the practice of the Sabian’s to have two names, a real name and a special name. According to the Sabian’s, this prophet’s real name was Yahya (he lives) and his lay name was Yuhanna (John).

Prophet Yahya is the only one given this name as the Quran clearly states: “O Zechariah! Truly We give thee the good tidings of a boy; his name will be Yahya (he who lives) and We assign it not as a namesake (samiy) for anyone before.”

Again, another word that we need to pay attention to is samiy. It is used twice in the Quran, once in reference to Chief Yahya (Q. 19:7) “O Zechariah! Truly We give thee the good tidings of a boy; his name will be Yahya and We assign it not as a namesake for anyone before.” The other time it is used is in reference to God. “…Knowest thou any namesake (samiy) for Him [God]?” (Q. 19:65) In the famous Arabic lexicon Lisan al-Arab, the root s m w means “elevation or highness.”


We are told by an early historian, Josephus, that Chief Yahya/John the Baptist was put to death because of his political importance. The belief that he was is probably related to the New Testament story of his beheading at the behest of Salome, a story the truth of which we reject. Josephus does not mention the manner of his death.

Others have stated that he was beheaded. If it be true that Chief Yahya was put to death by Herod Antipas on the suspicion of planning an insurrection as Josephus indicates, the punishment would not have been beheading. Under Roman law, only Roman citizens were sentenced to beheading. Any non-Roman citizen was sentenced to death by crucifixion for such activity.

This was the case with Jesus, a non-Roman citizen, being accused of treason and sentenced to crucifixion. In addition, we see that when Paul was sentenced to die, he pleaded that he was a Roman citizen so that he would be beheaded and not crucified (Acts 22:27-28).

Certainly, if it is the case that Chief Yahya’s followers were many, spread far and wide, as it has been reported by some, and that Josephus mentions that the Jews were greatly moved by his words, and that Herod Antipas feared that Chief Yahya’s influence over the masses would cause a rebellious uprising leading to a revolt by the Jews against the Romans (Antiquities 18:5.2 116-119), then this would be in accord with the practice of capital punishment of said criminals under Roman law. That is, that non-Roman citizens be crucified.

As far as his being beheaded by Antipas, now believed to be a fiction, we know that records show Herod the Great lost his power to execute anyone. It is also known that he had to bring those whom he wanted to execute to the Roman authorities as he had lost his title of “Caesar’s Friend.”

With that in mind, there is nothing whatsoever showing that this power to execute prisoners was ever restored to his heirs one of whom was Herod Antipas. If Antipas had wanted to execute Chief Yahya/John the Baptist, he most likely would have needed permission from Rome to do so. If this be true, then the punishment would have to have been crucifixion and not beheading as this was reserved for Roman citizens.

Would it be fair to say that the High Priest Caiaphas, who was endorsed by Rome, had a problem with this new Black Chief whom the masses were going to see by the River Jordan? Would it be fair to say that Chief Yahya/John the Baptist threatened not only the throne of Antipas, but also the Jewish religious establishment?

Would it be fair to say that both Antipas and Caiaphas conspired together to do away with Chief Yahya? The Sanhedrin and Antipas could not execute anyone should be kept in mind. Would it be fair to say that Chief/Yahya was arrested and brought before Pilate?

The Prophet Yahya could not have been beheaded as has been stated by Muslim and Christian scholars. In regards to Jesus in the Quran we read: Peace on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day I will be raised up again. (Q. 19:33)

The verse states that Jesus was given safety and security in these three situations. But what about the son of Zechariah? We find the same description for him as we find for Jesus, Peace on him the day he is born, the day he dies, and the day he is raised up again. (Q. 19:15)

How does the supposed beheading of this prophet fit with the above Quranic verse of one given peace by his Lord? We find in the commentary of Ibn Kathir that Yahya was also given safety and security in these three situations, but the book speciously ascribed to Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets, agrees with the Gospel accounts of Chief Yahya’s being beheaded and the serving of his head on a platter.

How do we explain the beheading of this Prophet of God? How, then, is he one who was “safe and secure”? Are we to say that God saved Jesus, but abandoned Yahya? Is this divine justice?

Josephus’ account of the imprisonment and execution of Yahya/John the Baptist would place it in the middle of the fourth decade, say 35 or 36 AD and therefore years after the events of the supposed crucifixion of Jesus, not before.

In the New Testament: An Islamic Perspective, Crook writes, “Josephus’ evidence creates a colossal chronological problem of enormous consequences.”

That is still true. Since we also know that while the gospels portray John in their narratives primarily to introduce and testify to Jesus’ superior stature, we also know from Josephus, that John/Yahya was a major player on the Palestinian stage, not just a walk-on to herald the messiahship of Jesus.”

Subsequently, Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas were both removed in 36 AD. Where does the supposed crucifixion of Jesus fit in here exactly? The two principal characters in the gospels responsible for allegedly crucifying Jesus were no longer in power (Roman governor Pontius Pilate–Ant. XVIII, iv, 2; Caiaphas the High Priest–Ant. XVIII, iv, 3).

Consider the following examples of the way God dealt with his prophets: “And, certainly, Noah cried out to Us. And how excellent were the ones who answer! And We delivered him and his people from tremendous distress. And We made his offspring—they, the ones who remain. And We left for him to say with the later ones: Peace be on Noah among the worlds. (Q. 37:79)

About Prophets Moses and Aaron: “And, certainly, We showed Our grace to Moses and Aaron. And We delivered them and their folk from the tremendous distress and helped them so that they, they had been the ones who are victors. And We gave them the manifest Book and guided them to the straight path. We left for them a good name with the later ones: Peace be on Moses and Aaron! (HQ 37:114-120)

About Prophet Lot: “Truly, he was of Our servants, ones who believe. And, truly, Lot was of the ones who are sent. We delivered him and his people, one and all, but an old woman of the ones who stay behind. Again, We destroyed the others.” (Q. 37:133-136)

About Prophet Jonah: “Then, the great fish engulfed him while he was one who is answerable. If he had not been of the ones who glorify, he would have lingered in expectation in its belly until the Day they are raised up.” (Q. 37:142-144)

All of them, plus Jesus, and Muhammad—as far as we know, all the prophets mentioned by name in the Quran were delivered from their enemies. Yet, the Prophet Yahya, whose name ironically means “He Lives”, is popularly supposed to have been put to death. Clearly, you can see how this story of the beheading creates an inconsistency with a text believed by muslims all over the world to be internally consistent.

It is my belief that Prophet Yahya was possibly put on the cross and not Jesus. However, he did not die on the cross. By God’s giving him the name of Yahya (“he who lives”) in the Quran and the Quranic fact that the Messiah was not crucified, but it appeared to the people as such, the Quran is telling us that that person was Chief Yahya (The Black Prophet).

Chief Yahya survives as he lives out the words from God of “peace be upon him” as was the case with Prophet Abraham when he was thrown in the fire yet he was saved, “We said: O fire! Be coolness and peace for Abraham!” (21:69); hence: “Peace be on Abraham! Thus We give recompense to the ones who are doers of good! (37:110)”

Chief Yahya died a natural death at some later time, as did Jesus. It is my belief from my understanding of the Quran that Yahya was raised up in honor (rafa‘a) as was Jesus. Because this is not mentioned in the Quran, it does not mean that it could not have happened this way.

Again, we must turn to the Quran and its “divine wisdom” to receive understanding. When one compares Isa/Jesus and Yahya/John, we can observe that Jesus has been mentioned in detail, whereas John has not.

Here are some examples for one to consider:

The Quran tells us that Jesus was sent to the children of Israel, but John is not mentioned as being sent to them. Was John sent to the children of Israel? Of course he was.

Jesus in the Quran preaches to the children of Israel, but John is not mentioned. Did John preach to the children of Israel? Of course he did. We are told that Jesus had disciples, but John’s are not mentioned. Did he have disciples? Of course he did. We are told that Jesus received the Gospel (Injil), but John’s revelation was not specified, but he was told to hold onto the scripture with might. Did John receive scripture from his Lord as did Jesus? Of course he did.

Because John is not mentioned in similar circumstances, it does not mean that he was not as favored as Jesus.

Countless works have been published pertaining to the false crucifixion of the son of Mary by Muslims, yet the false beheading of the son of Zachariah is largely ignored, why?


And because of their saying: ‘We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, God’ s Messenger—They slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so [shubbiha] unto them; and lo! Those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of conjecture; they slew him not for certain. (Q. 4:157)

Although Muslims believe in the words of God, that the son of Mary was neither killed nor crucified, they too ask questions about the circumstances of the crucifixion and the identity of the victim if, indeed, there was one and the whole crucifixion was not an illusion.

In common with the early Christian sects that doubted the reality of the crucifixion, Muslims also have proposed many theories about who may have been crucified in place of Jesus. We find the commentators of the Quran offering contradictory theories about this. Some say it was a companion of Jesus who volunteered to be crucified in his place.

This theory can be found in the famous commentary of the Quran by Ibn Kathir. In it, he mentions a strong chain of narrative going back to Ibn Abbas, who is known in the Islamic world as a great interpreter of the Quran.

Yet in the commentary of Ibn Abbas, it is reported that he said: God destroyed their man Tatianos… God made Tatianos look like Jesus and so they killed him instead of him [Jesus]… certainly they did not kill him,” thereby contradicting the Ibn Kathir’s version noted above.

So, clearly we can see the conflict in the commentaries. Others say it was Simon of Cyrene, a Roman soldier, or even that it was Judas Iscariot. This last theory is found in the Gospel of Barnabas. Unfortunately, there is no factual evidence to prove any of these theories.

The Quran challenges us, Say: Bring your proof if ye have been speakers of the truth! (Q. 2:111) Consequently, with so many different and incompatible traditions flying about, the matter of the true meaning of the Quranic verse cannot be considered closed and one may feel free to argue other possibilities, as I shall do below.”

So, who was the man who was identified, tried, and put on the cross? We are told in the Quran that it was not the son of Mary, but someone (or something) resembling him (Shubbiha). Who would likely to have resembled him more than a relative? If not Jesus, could it have been his cousin Yahya?

The victim does not die on the cross but is taken down from the cross when the Roman soldiers mistakenly think that he is dead. An indication of this may be found in Mark where we read that a certain Joseph of Arimathea went to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea, and asked for the body of a man on the cross whom many assume to have been Jesus.

What is interesting to note is that he asks to take down the body (soma), while Pontius Pilate had told him to take the corpse (ptoma). There are many signs in the New Testament that suggest that the man crucified that day did not die on the cross.

What does all this mean? Keep in mind that Yahya in Arabic suggests life, “he lives.” The victim survives and continues to teach in secret after this ordeal. God tells Yahya, … hold fast the Book (Q. 19:12) What does this mean? It suggests that Yahya may have been given a special book or task and will face great opposition.

All Muslims agree that Jesus did not die on the cross; rather, what the witnesses of the crucifixion saw was a deception, a similitude, or a substitution. It is my belief that it was a case of mistaken identity.

By using the method of explaining the Quran by the Quran, (as should be done with regards to the crucifixion in relation to the word shubbiha), I examined this word shubbiha more closely, and if there were anyone more similar or shared any kind of resemblance to Jesus, it would have been Yahya, the son of Zechariah, and no one else.

Here are some of those distinct similarities:

  • Both were born miraculously: (About Yahya) He said: ‘My Lord! How can I have a son when age hath overtaken me already and my wife is barren?’ (The angel) answered: ‘So (it will be). God doeth what He will.’ (Q. 3:40) and (about Jesus): ‘She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me?’ He said: ‘So (it will be). God createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is.’ (Q. 3:47)
  • Both were given unique names: And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: God giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) Yahya, (who cometh) to confirm a word from God, chief, concealer [of secrets], a prophet of the righteous (Q. 3:39) and he whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto God).” (Q. 3:45)
  • Both were given significant titles by God: Yahya: …Chief, concealer of secrets, a prophet of the righteous (Q. 3:39) and Jesus whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto God). (Q. 3:45)
  • Both Yahya and Jesus received mercy: In regard to Yahya: … And mercy from Our presence, and purity; and he was devout. (Q. 19:13) and in regard to Jesus: …and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. (Q. 19:21)
  • Both were prophets of God: In regard to Yahya: … a prophet of the righteous. (Q. 3:39) and Jesus: He spake: ‘Lo! I am the servant of God. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet.’ (Q. 19:30)
  • Both were righteous: Yahya: …a prophet of the righteous. (Q. 3:39) and Jesus: …and he is of the righteous. (Q. 3:46)
    Both were given sagacity: Yahya: And we gave him wisdom when a child. (Q. 19:12), Jesus: And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom… (Q. 3:48)
  • Both were associated with the Word of God: Yahya: …who confirms a Word from God (Q. 3:39); Jesus: God gives glad tidings of a Word from Him. (Q. 3:45)
    Both were respectful to their parents: Yahya: …and (he was) dutiful toward his parents (Q. 19:14); Jesus: And (God) hath made me dutiful toward her who bore me. (Q. 19:32)
  • Both were humble: Yahya: and he was not arrogant, rebellious19 (Q. 19:14); Jesus: and (God) hath not made me arrogant, villainous.20 (Q. 19:32)
  • Both were saved as infants from death; both were unknown when they returned. One baptized with water (Yahya) and the other with the Holy Spirit (Jesus). Both had followers and disciples; both were sinless; and both were sent to the Children of Israel. Both finished and completed their missions successfully and were elevated and honored with God’s peace: Yahya: Peace be upon him the day he was born, and the day he dies and the day he shall be raised alive! (Q. 19:15) and Jesus: Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! (Q. 19:33)

Moreover, there are parallels in the conditions of Mary and Zechariah. Both reacted with incredulity when given the news of their future offspring: (Zechariah: (Zechariah) said: My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached inform old age? (Q. 19:40; see also Q. 3:40) Mary: (Mary) said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? (Q. 19:20; see also Q. 3:45)

If anyone was substituted for Jesus, as has been suggested above, then the substitute must have been Yahya. One cannot dismiss the implications of the circumstantial evidence which points to the Prophet Yahya and explains why it was possible to mistake the identity of one for the other. There is no factual evidence for the belief that it was any of the other men mentioned in the commentaries when explaining this verse (Q. 4:157).

Keep in mind that the word shubbiha also has the meaning of “to be doubtful, dubious, uncertain, or obscure.” Circumstantial evidence may be weaker than fact in a court of law, but when facts are absent, strong circumstantial evidence is often enough to prevail.

This brings us to the question of the mistaken identity. Turning to the New Testament, we read in John: “And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who art thou?’ He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Art thou Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Art thou the prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’ They said to him then, ‘Who art thou? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What dost thou say about thyself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.’ (Jn. 1:19-23)

It is quite clear from this passage that John was causing quite a stir; why else would the Jews be sending their priests and Levites to him? His position of authority is confirmed in the Quran with the title “chief” (sayyid), given to him not by man, but by God (Q. 3:39). Zachariah had prayed to God for a “protector” (wali) from His Presence (Q. 19:5).

The Arabic word so used in the Quran in this context denotes one with authority. Yahya’s prominence is well known from the passages about him in the Antiquities of Josephus, as well as in other traditions. Yet, perhaps the most important part of this passage is that he does not mention his name. He conceals his identity from them; hence, the Quranic reference to him as hasur.

Let us continue with John:

“Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Then why art thou baptizing, if thou be neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water; but among you is one whom ye do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’ This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (Jn. 1:24-28)

This passage would indicate that in addition to his baptizing, his powerful preaching was of a special kind, and not as it was usually heard by the Jews.

It also appears that what he was saying touched upon something they had found in their traditions concerning the signs of a messiah; hence, the gospel passage: “and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Messiah.” (Lk. 3:15)

If we look more closely, not only had John not revealed his own identity, but he also had not disclosed the identity of his contemporary, Jesus. Note, too, that the people mentioned by Luke must have thought that the man they had just met was worthy of consideration as a potential messiah, so much so that they wondered about his real identity.

One cannot miss the appearance that John is concealing something (hasur) here. Why is that? Though the messiah is present, he is not to be revealed. There is a reason for this, that is, if we follow scriptures.

According to the Quran, after the birth of Jesus, when Mary brought her infant to her people, they accused her of fornication. This accusation is also recorded in extra-Biblical Jewish tradition. Does this have anything to do with Jesus’ identity not being revealed?

According to Jewish law, “and the daughter of a priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire” (Lev. 21:9).

If the accusation mentioned in the Quran against Mary were true, then accordingly, Jesus would have been labeled illegitimate. Jewish law states that “no bastard shall not enter the assembly of the Lord, even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:2)

With such threats overhanging them, would Mary and Jesus have revealed themselves publicly after their return to Palestine? Would they have ever revealed themselves to anyone?

Jesus never revealed his identity just as John never revealed his. That is why we never find in the gospels either of them mentioning their own names. Little wonder that Jesus is also mysterious to the point that today some even deny the reality of his very existence.

That Jesus was present, but not known, does not remove him from the picture. He continued his mission in secret, while John filled the office of “chief” (sayyid) and “protector” (wali). He was designated as such by God and given command over his people.

What does this have to do with shubbiha? As was mentioned above, the Jews did not know who Jesus and John were. John’s own testimony is sufficient. We have also shown above from the text of the Quran the complementary natures of Jesus and Yahya.

One can see that it was quite possible for one to be mistaken for the other. It was John’s authority and reputation that certain factions among the Jews wished to do away with. It is for this reason that I believe that John the Baptist was put on the cross. Consider the meaning of shubbiha in this context.

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things? Q. 2:106


ace knight

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