I have gathered that God does not punish a people until such time that God, through the Messenger, has made it crystal clear to the people that the Messenger is indeed true. It is only after this time, that God orders His Messenger to migrate. Then the Rejectors of the Messenger will be punished.
I deduce from this that a Messenger cannot be killed. This is the basis that Muslims believe Jesus (p) did not die on the cross, nor was he killed by the Jews.
However, Qur’an 5: 70 says:
We made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel and We sent unto them messengers… Some [of the Messengers] they denied and some they slew.
Does this not contradict the Divine Law pertaining to a Messenger? If the Children of Israel were able to kill some Messengers sent to them, why was Jesus (p) saved? On an article posted on “Understanding Islam”, under a Readers article “Prophets and Messengers: The Dynamics”, the author interprets this in two ways:
-The word Rasul is used in the literal sense. That is, although the word Rasul is used here, what is meant is simply a nabi, “who was sent”. This interpretation is weak, and lacks much basis.
–Rasul’s can be killed, but only after the message has been successfully conveyed, and only with an ensuing punishment for those who killed and rejected the messenger. Even so, the general pattern is that they are saved. Furthermore, as we have previously stated, the punishment is not complete destruction.
Under interpretation 1, the question would be: by what basis does verse 70 use the word “Messenger” in its literal sense? If we follow the second interpretation (granting that the existence of the Divine Law), then why was an exception made for Jesus (p)? Or why was an exception made for the Messengers which were killed by the Bani Isra’il?
If a Messenger can indeed be killed only after the successful completion of the Message, why was Jesus (p) saved? The Jews were punished by God in their rejection of Jesus (p) only after the completion of the Message, so surely Jesus (p) being saved (or the other Messengers being killed) was an exception.
Please can you clarify this.
Finally, is there any mention of the Messengers killed by the Bani Isra’il in any of the Scriptures?
The Qur’an has used some words as ‘terms’ implying an additional connotation to the meaning of the word compared to its literal meaning. However, this does not mean that the Qur’an would not use that word in its literal meaning. In most of the cases, the Qur’an would use the word in its general literal connotation. A very pertinent question, in this situation would be that how can the reader of the Qur’an distinguish between instances where the Qur’an has used a word as a ‘term’ and where the same word has been used in its general literal meaning. The answer is that a careful study of the Qur’an would itself guide the reader in this respect. Once a reader realizes the point that Qur’an uses the two words “Nabiy” and “Rasul”, he would be forced to undertake a thorough study of the Qur’an to determine the different connotations in which these words are used by the Qur’an. Once these connotations are determined, in the light of the Qur’an, the reader can now easily appreciate where the Qur’an has used these words in their literal meanings and where it has used these words as its own specific terms.
Take, for instance, the word “Sala’h”. We know that the literal meaning of “Sala’h” is glorification, prayer, supplication, blessings etc. However, we also know that the Arabs also used the word “Sala’h” for a specific form of worship. Thus, when the Qur’an directs Muslims to establish Sala’h, we can easily determine that the word “Sala’h” in all such directives is used for the specific kind of worship, which the Arabs were aware of and which the Qur’an has prescribed upon all Muslims. Nevertheless, on the other hand, when the Qur’an directs the Prophet (pbuh):
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَهُمْ… (التوبة 9: 103)
Take charity from their wealth – you will purify and cleanse them through it – and pray for them, indeed your prayers shall be a source of peace for them.
or when it says:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا (الأحزاب 33: 56
Indeed God and His angels send their blessings upon the Prophet. O you who believe, you should also pray for him and bless him to your utmost.
the reader of the Qur’an can easily determine that the word ‘Sala’h’ is not used as a term in these verses.
Similar is the case of all those words, which the Qur’an has used as specific terms as well as literally. A careful reader can easily determine the instances, where these words are used in their different connotations. Thus, once we have determined the connotation in which the Qur’an has used the term “Rasul”, in contrast to “Nabiy”, we can then easily determine that in Al-Maaidah 5: 20, the word “Rasul” has been used in its general literal meaning where the distinction between “Rasul” and “Nabiy” is not intended to be highlighted.
As for the second interpretation, it holds that a “Rasul” cannot be slain by his rejecters, before the completion of the ‘mission’ that the Almighty desires to accomplish through that Rasul. However, because there is no known record of a “Rasul”, who was killed by his addressees, therefore, it is difficult to say that Jesus (pbuh) was, in any way, an exception in this category. The available record of Jewish history does indeed mention the transgressions of the Jews against a few prophets/messengers but it is extremely difficult, on the basis of these records, to determine with any degree of certainty, whether any of these slain prophets were deputed by the Almighty as “Rasul”.
I hope this helps.
 Just as it has clearly been used in its general literal meaning in Al-Haaqqah 69: 40 and Al-Takweer 81: 19, where the word “Rasul” is used for the angel Gabriel – A respected “Messenger” of God.