Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Don’t be so sure

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Ever felt content with your worship of God and thought that you have done well for yourself and deserve to go to heaven? Let me tell you three stories.

A man observed Al-Hasan ibn Ali, may God have been pleased with both, supplicating hard and weeping. He approached him and said, “You cry out of fear of God when you have all the means to salvation?” He replied, “Like what?” The man said, “How about your lineage to the Prophet (PBUH)? [Al-Hasan was the Prophet’s grandson]. What about his mediation for Muslims? What about God’s vast mercy?”

Good points, right? Well, Al-Hasan answered him: As for my lineage, God says, “Then when the Horn is blown (on the Day of Judgment), there is no kinship between them!” (23:101) As for the Prophet’s mediation, God says, “Who is that who will mediate with Him except by His permission?” (2:255) As for God’s vast mercy, God says about it, “I will grant it to those who watch out [for Me].” (7:156) So, where is security, brother?

Good counter-points, don’t you think? If a saint whom the Prophet (PBUH) said was going to be a prominent youth among the people of Paradise isn’t sure, how can ordinary folks be sure?

Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may God have been pleased with him, once said, “If an angel on the Day of Resurrection, announced that all people will go to Paradise but one, I’d worry I’m the one!” This, coming from the second Caliph, a man renowned for his piety, whom the Prophet (PBUH) gave him the good news that he was one of ten who will go to Paradise, if he is not sure, how can the rest of us be?

One time the Prophet (PBUH) surprised his fellows sitting with him listening to his teachings when he said to them, “The work of any of you will not enter him into Paradise!” They asked, “Even you, O Messenger of God?” He replied, “Even me, unless God covers me with mercy from Him and favor.” Narrated by `Aa’isha and Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari and Muslim in their authentic collections.

The Prophet (PBUH) was teaching that while faith and good deeds are necessary for admission to Paradise, they are not sufficient. It is God’s mercy and favor that gets us there. Faith and good deeds only make it likely.

This is not to dash the hopes of Muslims, but rather to balance their attitude. Imam Al-Ghazaali, may God bless his soul, brilliantly defined faith in Islam as “The balance between fear and hope.”

Are doctrinal errors forgiveable?

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Can one hold erroneous views as a Muslim but still be saved as long as the error is due to honest ignorance and not willful sin?

Not only doctrinal errors due to ignorance, but errors due to making the wrong conclusion from your analysis (Ijtihaad). The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “If the judge rules wrong, after analysis, he gets a reward (for his diligence). If he rules right, he gets two rewards.” Reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Ibn Maajah and narrated by `Amr ibn Al-`Aas and Abu-Hurayra.

That is why Ijtihaad is important and should have never been put on hold. Erroneous views cannot last long when Ijtihaad is encouraged and practiced.

Please explain Ijtihaad in detail.

Ijtihaad means analysis. It’s an Arabic word that means exerting an effort. That is, doing what is necessary regarding an issue for the purpose of arriving at a conclusion that hopefully pleases God.

What is necessary? It’s all of the following:

  • Collecting all of the relevant verses and authentic hadeeths that address the issue directly or indirectly. Many fatwas, unfortunately, pick evidence.
  • Learning what the scholars said about the issue and what conclusions they reached. Most fatwas, unfortunately, stop here. Stopping here is not Ijtihaad but Taqleed.
  • Determining if those conclusions are appropriate. If they are based on relevant, authentic evidence, followed proper reasoning based on Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction), and have not neglected other relevant evidence, then those conclusions may be adopted.
  • Otherwise, further analysis is necessary. All evidence is examined and rules of deduction are applied to it to reach a conclusion.

The conclusion reached may or may not be enforceable. It depends on the certainty of evidence and robustness of reasoning. If the evidence is certain in its occurrence (قطعي الورود), such as a verse or a ubiquitous hadeeth (Mutawaatir), and the meaning of it is certain (قطعي الدلالة), then the conclusion is certain and therefore enforceable. An example is the prohibition of eating pork.

If the evidence is certain in its occurrence but its meaning is not certain (ظني الدلالة), then the conclusion, after robust reasoning, will remain a probability. An example of that is what part of a woman’s face is to be covered.

If the evidence is uncertain in its occurrence (ظني الورود), such as hadeeths narrated by a few (Aahaad), then the conclusion will remain a probability, even if the meaning is certain. An example of that is stoning.

If you read the classic literature, you’d find so much of the conclusions made do not follow the above recipe. Many fatwas have set the bar much lower than the above. Many conclusions are based on weak or even fabricated hadeeths. Many conclusions are based on a wrong understanding which lead to wrong assumptions, e.g., abrogation. Many fatwas declare their conclusions mandating or forbidding even when the evidence is uncertain or the reasoning is flawed. In fact, much of what was written was no more than opinion.

It is good that all the venerable scholars have warned their followers from following them blindly! Abu-Haneefa said, “If you learn of a hadeeth that says differently from what I said, the hadeeth is my ruling!” Maalik said, “Everyone’s talk may be taken or left, except the dweller of this grave”, pointing to the tomb of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Ash-Shaafi`i yelled at a man who was about to write down his fatwa, “Don’t. I may change my opinion by tonight!” Ibn Hanbal said, “Never say there is consensus about a matter; say instead, ‘I do not know of dissenting opinions.'” Some scholars said on their death beds that they wished their books be burned!

Indeed, classic literature is filled with conflicting reports in many rulings from the same scholar. It is also chock full of dissenting opinions. Ibn Hazm wrote a book hoping to show all issues in which there was consensus, but ended up showing that not one of nearly a thousand issues he listed, not one escaped a dissenting opinion.

Attitude toward such phenomenon has typically been one of two extremes. One extreme was to blindly follow one school of thought (Mazhhab) and stick with it. Another extreme chose to discard all scholarship of the past. Both approaches are wrong. We have a huge database of conclusions, methodologies, reasonings and evidence. We should take advantage of it and use it instead of reinventing the wheel, but we also should not take a shortcut and choose the lazy approach of mindless following.

Are there unforgivable sins in Islam?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

In Islam, there is only one cardinal sin, called “Shirk.” It translates to “associating others with God in worship.” That sin is unforgivable if a person dies and has not repented from it.

There is one terminal sin, suicide. It is unforgivable too. It is the only sin one cannot repent from for obvious reasons.

The rest of the sins, major or minor, can all be expiated or forgiven if repented from in this life and may be forgiven by God in the hereafter even if the sinner died before repentence. That’s because the sinner may have accumulated more good deeds that outweigh his sins, for instance.

Accepting Islam wipes away all sins and starts a person anew like a newborn.

Is it too late for me to be a Muslim?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

My sins are a mountain. I have no hope that God will forgive me. I’ve been considering converting to Islam, but my sins stop me.

I mentioned the following in a previous post and it applies to this question:

The good news is that God has provided countless means of expiating sin and has repeatedly affirmed that He forgives and accepts repentance. God says in the holy Quran, “O My servants who have excessively sinned, do not despair of the mercy of God. Verily, God forgives all sins. He is the oft forgiving, the merciful one.” (39:53). And the prophet, peace be upon him said, “The door of repentance is open until the sun rises from the west!”

A person can at any time join that warm fold of God by accepting Islam. The prophet, peace be upon him said, “Islam buries deep what was before it.” When one accepts Islam, one starts anew. I fondly remember a Scottish lady who was telling her story of conversion. She said, “I’m a 65 year old baby!”

Is hope lost for a repeat sinner?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I’m a mix of atheist, pagan and christian! I believe that sin is only crimes in which a victim suffers harm to life, limb or property. I have done many of what Islam considers sin. Is there any hope for people like me?

There is always hope.

First, it must be said that we humans cannot define sin. Only God has that authority. We cannot postulate about what God wants and we certainly cannot custom make religion. We can only know what God wants by reading His message to us and following the Messenger He sent to us.

The good news is that God has provided countless means of expiating sin and has repeatedly affirmed that He forgives and accepts repentance. God says in the holy Quran, “O My servants who have excessively sinned, do not despair of the mercy of God. Verily, God forgives all sins. He is the oft forgiving, the merciful one.” (39:53). And the prophet, peace be upon him said, “The door of repentance is open until the sun rises from the west!”

A person can at any time join that warm fold of God by accepting Islam. The prophet, peace be upon him said, “Islam buries deep what was before it.” When one accepts Islam, one starts anew. I fondly remember a Scottish lady who was telling her story of conversion. She said, “I’m a 65 year old baby!”

How is individual salvation achieved in Islam?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Salvation means different things to different people. Most Christians, for instance, think of salvation as an expiation of the original sin of Adam and Eve. They believe the original sin was not forgiven, that Adam and Eve descended to earth as punishment for it, that all of us their children are born in sin as a result and that a sinless savior is the only way to expiate this sin; that no amount of repentance, supplication and good deeds can substitute for a savior.

Islam narrates the story of Adam and Eve with some fundamental differences from the Biblical story. The Quran makes it clear that the original sin did occur. Adam and Eve felt remorse afterward. God looked upon them with grace and inspired Adam and Eve to repent and ask Him for forgiveness. They did and He forgave them. Original sin gone!

The Quran repeatedly asserts that “no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another” (35:18). Thus, no one is born in sin and no one is tasked with saving humanity.

Now, why did God send Adam and Eve down to earth even though He forgave them? It wasn’t a punishment. It was their assignment for which He created them in the first place. He says in the holy Quran, “And when your Lord said to the angels I am setting up in the earth a deputy.” (2:30)

So, why did God place Adam and Eve in the Garden first? IMHO, because He wanted to teach them about Satan, temptation, sin and its wages, repentance, supplication, and His forgiveness, all lessons they will need to learn and heed when they go to their assignment: Life on earth.

So, is there an individual salvation in Islam? Sure. But our savior is not a person; it’s our faith and good deeds. God promises to answer our supplications, accept our repentance from sin and reward us for our faith and good deeds. Salvation in Islam is not delivery from the original sin, it’s the escape from God’s punishment of Hellfire and the attainment of God’s reward of Paradise in the Hereafter.

What about re-incarnation?

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Is there no re-incarnation whatsoever in Islam? If so, if someone dies and is not Muslim do they go to hell? Do they get no other chances? What if someone doesn’t believe in a physical hell, or for that matter any hell at all?

I understand a lot of the Quran, but some must be left up to the imagination, because no one knows for sure if there is a heaven or a hell.

If someone never had access to a Quran or never met Muslims or heard of Islam, would they still go to hell for not being Muslim?

There is no reincarnation in Islam. When someone dies, that’s the end of their life on earth and the beginning of their life in the grave (Barzakh). On the Day of Judgment, all will end their lives in the grave and start their lasting life (Al-Aakhira) in heaven, either in the hellfire or in the Garden (Janna).

The Quran quotes many people who wished they could go back to earth to fix what they did! For example, “We wish we could go back so we can be believers!” (26:102), “We wish we could be returned so that we wouldn’t deny the signs of our Lord and be believers!” (6:27), “Do we have any to vouch for us, or can we be returned so we would do things differently?” (7:53)

If someone dies before becoming Muslim, he or she will go where God sends him or her. Nobody knows where but God. Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may God have been pleased with him, who became the second caliph and whom the Prophet, peace be upon him, told that he would go to Paradise, once said, “If on the Day of Judgment an angel calls out that all will go to Paradise but one, I’d worry I’m the one!!”

Don’t worry about where others are going, worry first about where you’re going!

Belief that hell exists is part of the Islamic faith. God says in the holy Quran, “Nay, if you have certain knowledge, you would see the hellfire. And you shall eyeball it with certainty.” (102:5-7)

Is “shirk” forgivable or not?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

The Quran states that God will not forgive “shirk,” associating partners with God. So, a pagan is doomed?

What the Quran states about shirk being unforgivable applies to dying that way. As long as one is living, he or she always has a chance to start over again with repentance. “Islam buries what was before it”, said the Prophet, peace be upon him.

Can you be a Christian Muslim?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

A Catholic man converting to Islam wrote,

I was raised Catholic and I’m converting to Islam. I feel it is vital to say that I am embracing Islam. In doing this, I am making my Christian heritage stronger and so I believe I can call myself a Christian Muslim.

In doing this I will be closer to Allah, I will respect my family and follow my own path in life.

The values of faith, hope and charity, dedicated service to God, love and gratitude for Jesus and Mary, and peace and harmony, the values you probably cherish the most about Catholicism are all very emphasized and stressed in Islam. If these values are what you think of when you think of Christianity then you’ll find yourself at home with Islam.

Where the two religions differ is in key Christian dogma: That sin is inherited; that a savior is needed to forgive sin; that God has a son and is a trinity; that Jesus is divine; and that Jesus was crucified. Islam teaches that sin is not inherited, every newborn is born sinless with the pure original nature. Repentance, good deeds and seeking God’s forgiveness are the way to wipe out sin. God is one, unique, indivisible and uncontainable and there’s none like unto Him. He has no son nor was He begotten. Jesus was human in every way, a very honorable and distinctly noble man. He was miraculously conceived by his chaste, virgin mother Mary. He was a prophet and a messenger of God. He was given the holy scripture of the Gospel and he was the Christ promised to the Jews. Jesus was not crucified and he didn’t even die. God saved his life and dignity and lifted him up to heaven. Jesus will come back to rule the world and establish peace on earth for a while before the world comes to an end.

Just like Jesus said to the Jews that he did not come to abolish the law but to complete it, so did Islam come to confirm God’s message to humanity and correct deviations from it. It has always been the same message “Worship God, you have none worthy of worship but He” (Quran 7:59) which is the first commandment and the first words God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai “I am Eloah, your God. Worship none but Me.” To associate in the worship of God anything or anybody, be it a man, an image, a statue, a crucifix, a bite of bread, a sip of wine, you name it, is the one and only cardinal sin in Islam.