What is religion? This question has puzzled theologians throughout human history. But how did religion start in the first place? Why did it start? In order to understand some of these issues, let us have a look at the etymology of the word “religion” itself, and see that when and where this word was used for the very first time in the human history.
The word religion was used for the very first time in the Latin language. The actual word used in Latin was “religio”, which changed into religion when came into English. The roots of the Arabic word “Mazhab” or “Deen” can also be traced back to “religio”. In the Latin language, the word “religio” had three basic meanings; which are Faith, Trust & Belief.
If you further analyse these three words, faith, trust and belief; then you realize that there are actually three different characteristics of any healthy and strong relationship. For example in a husband-wife relationship, the wife believes her husband’s honesty and integrity, the husband also trusts the faithfulness of his wife, and both of them have faith in each other. This helps them sustain a healthy relationship with each other. But just imagine if the husband doesn’t trust his wife any more, and the wife also stops believing her husband, and neither of them have any faith in each other any more. In this case the relationship will obviously disintegrate or break very soon.
Since we are discussing religion, and even if the etymological meaning of the word religion is relationship; even then one may wonder about the significance of relationship in religion. That is where we need guidance from the divine scriptures of the world’s three main Abrahamic/Sematic cousin religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Talmud, the Holy Bible and the Koran, all agree that God is the creator of the universe and all its inhabitants, including humankind. The relationship of the Creator with His creation is not denied in either of these religions. When God created Adam & Eve, He had a relationship with them; and according to the Holy Bible, God used to come and have fellowship with Adam & Eve, walking & talking face to face with them. (Gen. 3:8)
Sin is the disobedience or transgression of God’s law or commandments. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all agree that Adam & Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit.
Sin has its consequences, and the very first consequence of sin is the spiritual death or separation from God.
When Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, then eventually their relationship with God was broken. Though some Muslim scholars would like to believe that the relationship was never broken in the first place. They would argue that Adam & Eve simply apologized to God, and God just forgave them. Though they then find difficulties in explaining that if God forgave Adam & Eve, then why, even then, were they expelled from the Garden of Eden. They also find difficulties in explaining the justification for wars, famine, diseases and all sorts of other evil in the world today, which exist because of the separation of humanity from God Almighty, as a result of their sin. Because when Adam & Eve were in a perfect relationship with God, there were no illness, disease, hunger or any of the evils mentioned above. In the presence of all these sin related evils in the world, saying that God is in full communion with humanity, is nothing but to insult God.
Moreover if we are already in communion with God, and don’t need to be put right before God according to Islam; then why bother about praying five times a day, fasting and keeping other tenets of Islam to go to the Islamic paradise, and have that ultimate relationship with God as a result of their good deeds. They won’t need to fast or pray before God in the Paradise, they would rather enjoy themselves with the fruits, wine and beautiful women according to the Koran (Sura 56:12-22). And if Muslims are already in communion with God, then why pray and fast instead of just eating, drinking and being merry here in this world as well.
Obviously sin has broken our relationship with God, and that is the only reason that all the major world religions emphasize the need to do something about it. It is for the same reason that the basic essence of the world’s major Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam is to re-instate or re-establish the same relationship between humanity and God, which used to exist between Adam-Eve & God.
God loves His creation, and couldn’t abandon them in their sin. God also knew that the humanity couldn’t establish a loving relationship with him on it’s own, no matter how much they fast or pray. Simply fasting and praying couldn’t be a substitute for God’s ultimate justice and righteousness, because justice requires the punishment of the breaker of the law, and without punishment there is no justice. It is same if someone in Britain breaks the British law, and if even after being found guilty he/she is not punished; then obviously there is no justice. In the same way without punishment of sin there could not be any justice on God’s part.
Therefore God decided to reveal His plan to His creation, showing how they could have a loving relationship with Him. This plan was revealed to humankind through various prophets throughout human history, how we can have a loving relationship with Him. God promised through these prophets that what we couldn’t do through our own human effort, God would do it by himself. All of these promises, and prophesies about how exactly He would do it, are spread all over the pages of Old Testament in the Holy Bible. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Holy Bible being the word of God is that we discover all these Old Testament promises and prophesies of God, being fulfilled in the New Testament. This gives us the assurance, that the promises of God in the New Testament would also be fulfilled in the same way. Therefore unless we fully submit ourselves to the God’s plan, revealed to us through God’s chosen prophets; we can’t have any loving relationship with God. In the eyes of God, it doesn’t matter that how much prayer, fasting, charity or whatever hard work we do we can’t achieve it by ourselves.
What exactly is that plan? What is the reason for following only God’s plan? Why is it that other plans won’t or don’t work? In order to understand some of these questions, we need to understand a bit more about the nature of God first. So let us have a closer look at some of the characteristics or attributes of God.
As we are all aware that justice is always done through a law, Sharia (Arabic) or Kanoon (as in Urdu). Every country in the world has her own law, and without law there is no concept of justice. One doesn’t need a doctorate degree to understand that in the absence of the law, the concept of justice will be totally non-existent. In the Old Testament, we read about the God of justice (Deut. 32:4;cf. Isa. 45:21). The word used in Hebrew for God's justice is Saddik. So, our Just God gave His law through Moses to fulfil this aspect of His personality (Rom. 3:8; Heb. 2:2). Although God gave various commandments through various prophets, even before Moses’ time; He revealed His law in a corporate & comprehensive way only through the prophet Moses. Koran also proclaims the God to be “Adil”, or a God of justice (Sura 21:47). So both Christians and Muslims agree about God being “just”, and believe from the core of their hearts about this particular attribute of the Almighty God. But what exactly does it mean by God being “Adil” or a God of justice? How He is just? How exactly God will do His justice???
The Muslims believe that God gave another law or Sharia through prophet Mohammed too. Now unless we believe that there is more than one God, it would be contrary to reason, to believe that there can be more than one God given law. It would also be unthinkable to assume that somehow God decided to change, amend or upgrade his own law that He gave through Moses, and then sent a modified form of it through prophet Mohammad. Because we are discussing here about God’s law; and not about Pakistani law, which does have an amendment added every now and then. If the God is one then His law is one too, which He gave through prophet Moses; and if any other law comes, then it is debatable if it can possibly be from God. But right now we won’t go into that debate, because in this chapter we are dealing with the concept of salvation in Islam & Christianity, in relation to God’s justice & righteousness. Therefore, for the argument sake, we would assume that the Islamic belief of Mohammedan law or Shariat-e-Mohammadi is God’s law for the Muslims.
Now let us try to understand God’s justice by having an analogy with the justice system in Britain, Saudi Arabia or any other country in the world. For example, the British justice system runs through the British law, whereas God’s justice system runs through God’s law or Sharia. Now what happens if someone breaks the British law? Obviously that person is called a criminal, and gets punished for his/her crime. The same way when someone breaks the law of God, then both Muslim and Christians believe that the person is called a sinner, and would be punished by God. This is very simple, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand this phenomenon. Therefore, either a criminal or a sinner, whosoever breaks ‘law’ would be punished; because if the breaker of the law is not punished, there is no justice.
The eventual outcome of law is to punish anyone who violates it, be it the British law, American law, Pakistani law, Saudi law or the law of God. There is no law anywhere in the world, which promises forgiveness to those who have broken, transgressed or violated it.
How would God punish sinners or those who have violated His law? Simply by sending them to hell.
Who would go to heaven then?
There are two types of people who would be able to go to heaven:
Those who are innocent, and have never sinned in the first place!
Those who are sinners, but would be able to somehow justify their innocence and righteousness before God on the Day of Judgment!
Let us discuss both of these categories one by one:
1. Who is Innocent, or Have all Sinned?
Who is a sinner? Almighty God revealed through His prophets, that all the human beings are sinners or “Gunehgar” (as in Urdu)? There is no one who could ever say that he/she is not a sinner. The Holy Bible tell us that the wages of sin are death, and moreover that all of us have sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God. It is also written, that whoever claims to be righteous is calling God a liar. (1John 1:10) It is written in the Bible, that all have sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God (Heb. 4:15; 1Peter 2:22)
Jews, Christians and Muslims, all would agree that all of us are sinners, maybe some of us sin more than others. Even the greatest of the prophets have sinned, and couldn’t establish their righteousness before God. (Sins of other prophets) In the Koran, prophet Mohammad is called a sinner in Sura 4:106, 40:55, 47:19, 48:2 and 94:1-3, where Allah is asking him to seek forgiveness for his sins. Though some Islamic theologians argue that a prophet is always innocent, and cannot sin; therefore one who is a sinner cannot be a prophet in the first place. But in the light of the Koranic references given above, how they can justify Mohammad’s prophethood??? But we won’t go any deeper in that debate, because again this is not our topic in this session.
But it is interesting that both the Holy Bible and the Koran testify to the righteousness of Jesus. Though the Koran mentions about the sins of many prophets including Mohammad, who are in need of God’s forgiveness for their sins, it doesn’t mention anything like that about Jesus Christ. Therefore apart from Jesus Christ, no other human being in history has ever been righteous or sinless in the eyes of God. Which proves that apart from Jesus Christ no-one can be put in the first category of people able to go to heaven, because apart from Jesus, no one can claim to be sinless.
2. Which sinners would be able to justify their innocence & righteousness before God & how?
We showed above, that Jesus Christ is the only person in the entire human history, who never sinned before God and hence doesn’t need to justify His innocence or righteousness before God. Therefore we won’t discuss Jesus in this second category of people, who need to justify themselves before God.
The rest of humanity, including all of us, and the greatest of all the prophets, fall into this second category. We all need to justify our righteousness to avoid God’s justice, wrath and the hell fire. God has explained his way, how we could have a loving relationship with him, and avoid judgment and the hell fire too. But before we discuss that, we would like to see if it is really possible to go to heaven without that plan that God revealed in the Holy Bible through his prophets. In order to examine other options, we would start with the prophets; because if even the prophets don’t have a hope without God’s plan, then we are no one.
In the Bible the prophets like David and Solomon are found relying on God’s mercy. (2Sam 12:13)
In the Koran, Sura 46:9 explains, that how Mohammad wasn’t sure about his own salvation, or the salvation of his followers. In one of the Hadiths, a Bedouin says in front of Mohammad, that I pray that Allah would do His justice. The Mohammad immediately responds to him by saying that:
“Don’t ask for justice, ask for his mercy only-Because if Allah would do his justice, then even I would not be spared”.
I agree with Mohammad that if God does justice, then even he would not be spared. But I don’t share his optimism that God Almighty would not do His justice. But why was Mohammad so afraid of the justice of God? Simply because he wasn’t sure about the forgiveness of his sins; and unless you have assurance for forgiveness, you can’t have assurance for heaven. No one can give us that assurance apart from Jesus Christ. But before looking into that, let us first analyze the 3 major Islamic concepts of forgiveness, which would explain that why Mohammad was so frightened of God’s justice.
(1) Through submission.
(2) Through good and bad deeds put in a scale.
(3) Whoever Allah wants to forgive.
1) Through Submission:
The word Islam means ‘submission’, and a Muslim is somebody who submits to God through believing in ‘Tawheed’ (the oneness of God), prayer, fasting for the month of Ramadan, giving alms, and performing ‘Haj’. The Muslims practice of Haj is a pilgrimage to their holy places in Saudi Arabia, including the Ka’bba (the black cubical structure) in Mecca, they belief that the Ka’bba is an exact replica of something in heaven.
Let us analyze if one can possibly be forgiven by God, through this criteria. We will analyze this Islamic belief in three parts; past, present and the future.
Let us first go to the past, and look at the time of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. If simply submission could lead to God’s forgiveness, then why Adam & Eve were not given that option by God, when they transgressed God’s commandment by eating the forbidden fruit. God could have asked them to submit, and become good Muslims; and their sins could have been forgiven so easily. The only thing that they needed to do was to:
- Believe in Tawheed, or the oneness of God, which they already did.
- Pray five times a day in the Garden of Eden.
- Fast for one month a year.
- Give alms of 2.5% of the fruits of Garden of Eden.
- Go to a particular place in the Garden of Eden every year, which God might have appointed to be their Hajj
And in this way Adam & Eve could have been forgiven by God, and not need to pay, or be punished for their sin at all. But we see that God didn’t do this, but rather expelled them from His holy presence. This is because forgiveness of sins through submission was never God’s way in the first place. The reason God didn’t do it was because of the justice aspect of God’s character. Adam & Eve had violated God’s law, and unless they were punished there would be no justice.
Let us analyze forgiveness through submission in the present contemporary world. Let us imagine that a murderer is brought before the Judge in a British court, and is found guilty of first-degree murder. The murderer says to the Judge, “Mr. Judge! I submit to you, please let me go home now.” One doesn’t need a PhD to understand that what will happen, even a five years old child can tell that how the Judge would respond to that criminal who has broken the law. Because obviously the Judge will say “You have no brains man! What has your submission got to do with your crime?” (or words to that effect). Because if he let the criminal go home without punishment, then he himself is breaking the law, which requires him to do justice by punishing the criminals.
Let us look now in the future: if God didn’t adopt this criterion for forgiveness in the past, and no judge in the world would adopt that in the present time either; then how we can expect Almighty God, who is judge of all the judges, to do that in the future? But it is amazing that the Muslims believe that on submission Almighty God, being the perfect Judge, would say to us sinners, “You feel free to go to heaven.” In this way God would be breaking his own law, or in other words God would become a sinner. I am sure that according to both Islam & Christianity, it would be considered a blasphemy even to think that God would do that.
2) Through Good and Bad Deeds put in a scale:
This idea is mentioned in the Koran (Sura 101:6-9), whereby our good and bad deeds will be put in a scale, and if the good deeds are heavier, we would go to heaven, if our bad deeds are heavier, we would go to hell. Let us analyse this belief also in three ways; past, present and the future.
Let us again first of all go back to the past, to the time of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. God created Adam & Eve, and after some time they sinned; but we don’t know the time between their creation, and before they sinned. This time is not mentioned in the Holy Bible, or the Koran; and could be anything between 100 days to 100 years, or maybe 100,000 years.
(100 Day/100 Years/100,000 years)
Now if Islamic idea of good deeds is about obeying God, or at least about not disobeying Him; then Adam & Eve were doing good deeds successfully during all that time, otherwise God would have thrown them out of the Garden of Eden long before. This suggests that they were doing nothing but a lot of good deeds until they picked and ate that fruit. Now if the Koranic belief of Sura 101:6-9 is applied & tested here, then God could have put Adam & Eve’s good deeds and bad deeds in a scale.
Since their many good deeds between the period of their creation and sin were obviously so much heavier, compared to their one sin, an almost negligible bad deed; God might have said to them,“Adam & Eve! Your good deeds are so much heavier as compared to just one single bad deed, so I would forgive you and let you continue to live in the Garden of Eden”. But we know that God obviously didn’t do it, and they were not forgiven, but were rather shunted out of the Garden of Eden and away from the presence of the God Almighty. Therefore, obviously it wasn’t God’s way of forgiving sins in the past.
Now let us further examine this Islamic belief in our contemporary world, and see how much it helps and guides humanity. Let us take a hypothetical example of a man in Saudi Arabia, who never did any sin or any crime in his life. At the age of sixty, he kills somebody else, is brought before the judge, and is found guilty of first-degree murder. According to the Saudi law, the judge announces the death penalty, and orders that the head of that person should be chopped off. This person says to the judge, that his good deeds are so much heavier compared to his bad deed that he should be forgiven & not be punished. What do my Muslim friends think that the judge would do with this man? I believe that the person would definitely be punished, to fulfil the requirements of Saudi law.
We have examined how God didn’t use this criterion for forgiveness in the past, and we have also examined that it is not logical in the contemporary world either. Thus how we can expect God to forgive us through this criterion, and at the same time to do justice with this absurd idea of good and bad deeds. This seems more like a mockery of the justice of God, and indeed of God Almighty Himself. Secondly if this is such an ideal and divine method of justice, then why don’t Muslims demand its implementation in all the 55 Muslim countries in the world? This would mean that one could go out and do as many rapes, murders, thefts and robberies as he/she liked, but that he/she shouldn’t be punished, as long as his/her good deeds are greater then his/her bad deeds. But the reason, why Muslims don’t demand that in their countries, is because they themselves know fully well that it would be the most absurd form of justice imaginable. I am amazed, that how Muslims realise the absurdity of this kind of justice anywhere in this world, but are still ready believe that God would do that for them.
God is a God of holiness, and wants complete holiness. For example, if there were a glass, full of fresh milk; one drop of urine in it would make it undrinkable. The Islamic idea of good deeds and bad deeds is similar to saying that even if there is 51% milk and 49% urine; even then it is OK to drink it. This is not how God of the Holy Bible works, and neither there is any such teaching in the Old Testament, nor it is in the New Testament. Adam & Eve were shunted out of the presence of God, because of just one small bad deed; and all their good deeds were not considered even worth looking at. God Almighty teaches us in the Holy Bible teaches that our good deeds are just like dirty rags. (Is 64:6)
Moreover if our relationship with God is based on our good & bad deeds, then what exactly is the nature of such a relationship? It seems more like a master-slave relationship, because when a slave pleases his master through obeying, he/she expects some reward, but expects flogging when something gone wrong. The more you would fast and say prayers; the more would be the chances for going to heaven. But the question is, “Were Adam and Eve in this kind of master-slave relationship with God in Garden of Eden?” The scriptures of Judaism, Christianity & Islam don't support this idea. Then the question arises is “why God would like to establish that kind of relationship with us now?”
According to the Holy Bible, the relationship that God wants to establish with us is that of a father and child. That is why when Jesus taught us to pray to God, he asked us to call Him ‘Father’. It is interesting to note here, that only a child can inherit from his/her father; and a slave never inherits from his/her master. Secondly a child has the assurance of forgiveness from his/her parents, whereas slave is never sure about forgiveness. This explains why Muslims are not sure of their salvation, whereas Christians have that assurance, which comes only through putting trust in Jesus Christ.
3) Whoever Allah wants to forgive:
After believing that God is “Adil” or a God of justice, this belief of God’s forgiveness & justice is even more absurd than the two previous ones we just discussed.
Just imagine that in the British courts, there is a Judge who forgives whoever he wants, no matter how gross their crime might be; and punishes whoever he wants no matter how innocent that person is. Who in the right sense of their mind would believe it to be justice?? I am sure that it doesn’t take a genius to tell, that this kind of justice is nothing but recipe for disaster and anarchy, if implemented in any country in the world. I wonder if Muslims may want to appoint this kind of judges in all the Islamic countries in the world. Though sometime it seems to be the case, when Asif Zardari, the husband of former Pakistani Prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is still in prison after five years, without found guity; whereas Nawaz Sharif (another former prime minister of Pakistan) was released by the supreme court judges to go abroad, though accused of much bigger crimes compared to Asif Zardari.
How anyone can testify and believe God to be a God of justice, and in the same breath also tell us that God would do such a crazy thing. Any deeper you go into this belief, and the shallower it would appear to be to you. Though possibly it has got something to do with one of the 99 attributes of God in the Koran, called ‘Asmad’, which means the uncaring, unconcerned one (Sura 112:2). This contrasts with the God of the Bible who is a very concerned God: about the welfare of the people who obey and follow Him; and even those who don’t obey and follow Him.
If God forgave Adam & Eve, just by them apologizing; and would forgive Muslims without punishment, if they just apologise, then what about the Devil? What if the Devil or ‘Shaitaan’ also sincerely repents and apologises to God for his disobedience, then is God also going to send him to Jannah or paradise along with the other Muslims? This would negate God’s righteousness.
Muslim theologians agree that Mercy is part of God’s character, and God is many times referred to in the Koran as ‘Rahim’, meaning merciful (Sura 1:1,2), it is one of the 99 names or attributes of God in Islam. But since God is also called ‘Adil’ meaning ‘Just’ in the Koran, let us investigate and analyze that whether these two attributes of God are compatible or contradictory to each other, according to the Islamic theology.
We have previously established, that apart from Jesus Christ, every single person including greatest of the prophets is a sinner. Therefore for transgressing God’s law, every human being should be punished according to the requirements of God given law. In this way, although God is doing His justice by punishing us according to His law, He is not acting Mercifully towards us. How can God be merciful, if He is sending us to a terrible place called hell? If God lets us go without punishment, then He is merciful, but in then He is not doing His justice.
So how come, according to Islamic theology, God can be a God of justice & of mercy at the same time??? This is a million dollar question, for which Muslim theologians have been trying to find a logical answer for the last 1400 years, and I would like to wish them the best for another 1400 years in future. But I would address this question from a Christian perspective in the last chapter of this document.
We all know that what happens when people are caught for their crimes in Britain. They need an advocate, because without an advocate there is no chance for them to be released. The same way being a sinner, we need an advocate or a counselor, who would intercede to God Almighty on our behalf for our redemption from the hell fire. The Holy Bile tells us that this counselor is the Holy Spirit of God, which is given as a gift for accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
It is written in the Holy Bible that God is love, and it is interesting to see that ‘love’ is not one of the 99 names of God mentioned in the Koran. The God of the Koran is not ‘father’ or ‘savior’ either, whereas in the Bible we find all these three qualities of God. Muslims would like to argue about God’s mercy, and some argue that it is the same as love. Let us examine the difference between love & mercy through an example. Just imagine that some Serbian soldiers went in a Bosnian village during the Bosnian conflict, and killed every single person in the village. In a house at the end of the village, they came across an 80-year-old lady; who was handicapped, having no legs. They looked at her, and out of mercy decided not to kill her. Now that is called mercy; but can we say that they didn’t kill her because they loved her? Let me give another example, to further explain my point. Just imagine that in the ancient days, a person had two children and a slave. Whenever his children or slaves disobeyed him, or did anything bad; he forgave them both, because he was good at heart. Now obviously he forgave his children out of love, whereas he forgave the slave out of mercy. But can we say that he forgave his children out of mercy, and forgave the slave out of love? No. Moreover his children would have the assurance of his forgiveness, because they know that their father loves them. But whereas the slave might have a hope, but would never be able to have the same assurance as the children. That is why Muslims have a hope of salvation, whereas Christians have the assurance of salvation; and it is because of the two distinctive relationships they have with the God almighty.
Do All Ways Lead to God?
There is often a common consensus on this question, among the liberal theologians of pluralist approach within almost every religion. I neither classify myself as liberal, nor as pluralist; but I would partly agree with them on this issue. Yes! All the ways do lead to God. But another million-dollar question here is that “Do all the ways lead to heaven as well”?
Because all those masses, from every religion, destined for judgement under God’s law, are going to go God first; who will then let them know about their doomed fate in hell. But it doesn’t mean that everyone on a way to God is also necessarily on the way to heaven too, so it is very important to keep that distinction between ‘way to God’ and ‘way to heaven’.
The Only Way to God:
The only way to God that would also lead you to heaven goes via Jesus, and this way can only be adopted by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Let us examine from a logical point of view, that how exactly this all works out.
Before we unfold this mystery of God, let us first look at a few examples from everyday life. A 19-year-old guy was arrested for reckless driving in California, and was found guilty of breaking the Californian law. After finding the boy guilty of his crime, the judge fined him $100. But then the judge took off his robe, came down to the boy, and wrote a cheque of $100 to be paid on behalf of that boy. The reason for doing that was that the judge was actually the father of that boy too. But since he was also the judge, he had to do justice; and couldn’t let the boy go unpunished, just because he was his son. In the same way Almighty God, being the perfect judge, has to do his justice, and can’t let anyone undermine his justice and righteousness. But he loves us too; therefore he decided to pay the penalty by offering his only son Jesus on the cross, so that we could be saved from the punishment of hell fire. But he would do that only to those who would accept and trust in Jesus as a atonement or ‘Deeyat’ (Arabic) for our transgression of God’s law. Only those who would accept Jesus as their saviour, and put their trust in him will be saved from the punishment of hell, and enjoy eternal communion with God.
In 1998, two British nurses were accused of killing an Australian nurse in Saudi Arabia, and this incident became headline news in the international press. On being found guilty of their crime, it was ordered that one of the nurses should be punished by chopping her head off, according to the Islamic Sharia law of Saudi Arabia. But we are all aware that her head wasn’t chopped off, because a lot of ransom or blood money was raised in the UK, and was paid on behalf of those nurses. According to Islamic law, there is a clause called Deeyat, which states that the person can be spared punishment if an acceptable amount of money is paid on behalf of the person killed. Therefore Jesus is our Deeyat, raised by God to free us from the condemnation of the law. Both Muslims and Christians are like those British nurses, condemned to death under the law. Those nurses were condemned to the physical death, and we are condemned to the everlasting spiritual death under the law, because of our sins. The difference is that Christians have accepted Jesus as their deeyat, and are saved, just like those British nurses were saved by accepting the money raised for them. Whereas Muslims are saying that they don’t need Jesus as a ransom, and believe in continuing to submit to God’s law or Sharia, are trying to work their own way out of their sins. It is same as those British nurses saying that they don’t need Jesus, and they simply trust the Saudi law or Sharia. If they had not paid the deeyat, saying instead, they trusted in Saudia law, they would not have been alive today.
The important thing to note here is that though God hates sin, but he loves sinners. So he couldn't desert His creation altogether. But the question was, how to reinstate that broken relationship? Adam & Eve were innocent and knew no sin, because sin is the violation of the law (or commandments) of God, which they never did until they ate the forbidden fruit.
In presenting Jesus to Muslims, Christians may be asked this question. If Jesus was the answer for humanity’s salvation, the why didn’t God send him earlier? According to the Biblical genealogies, there is difference of about four thousand years or more, between Adam and Jesus’ time. So God could have sent Jesus 10 years after expelling Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, or maybe after 100 years, or 1000 years; so why did God leave humanity without her saviour for such a long time?
The answer to the above question can be simplified through a parable from the everyday life. A five-year-old boy gets some dirt on his face, while playing. Now if his father grabs him by the collar, and drags him to the washroom, and forcibly washes his face; the boy would probably never be thankful for that. He would probably cry, and complain about why his face was washed; and may even argue that his face wasn’t dirty in the first place. But wise parents might show a mirror to their son first, and make him realize about his dirty face. Then he would probably request his parent to help him wash his face, and would be thankful for them doing that too.
Since we are the children of God, He did exactly the same as wise parents should always do; by showing us a mirror, which is His law or Sharia. The law says; ‘Don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery’ etc.; when we end up doing these things, we realize that we are dirty with our sins, and are set for God's judgment or punishment. A mirror can show us our dirt, but it is incapable to wash it away; the same way law or Sharia can make us realize, or prove that we are sinners, but it is unable to wash our sins away. Therefore God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to be crucified for those sins of ours, so that we might be washed with His blood.
Then Mohammad comes with another law, claiming it to be from God. Let us analyze if that fits into the chronological order of what God is trying to do since the creation of Adam & Eve. We have earlier seen that God gave His commandments through various prophets; and revealed His law in a more corporate form through the prophet Moses. The whole idea of sending this law, along with countless promises, was to make humanity aware that they are dirty with their sins; and therefore need a savior, which God is promising to send to be crucified for their salvation. Then Jesus Christ is sent as the fulfillment of all those promises of God, and gives His blood to wash us of our dirt of sins. Then if God is sending another law through Mohammad, it would mean that God is sending another mirror, to make us realize our sin. Why would God send another law to do that, when the law of Moses has served that purpose already? And secondly the logical consequence of the law through Moses was the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. Therefore if God is sending another law through Mohammad, then the question is: is he going to send another Christ to be crucified? The answer to this question is no, according to the Torah, the Holy Bible and the Koran. Therefore we are left with no other logical conclusion: any law that comes after Jesus cannot be by God at all, simply because it doesn’t fit into the chronological order of God’s way of doing things. Then the question arises, that if the law sent through Mohammad is not from God, then whom it is from?? I would leave it for both Christian & Muslim theologians to decide: where does the law of Mohammad come from?
But here is another questions, which is often raised, ‘if salvation comes only through Jesus, then what about people before Jesus Christ’? In the Old Testament, we read about the Chief Priest, who used to go behind the curtain into the most sacred place in the Jewish temple once a year. He used to pray, fast and do all sorts of good deeds, for the whole year; to prepare himself to face the presence of the Lord. There he used to intercede for his people before God, taking the blood of the animals for the forgiveness of their sins. There used to be some bells hanging around his neck, which were used as a signal to those outside that he was still alive. But if there was even the slightest element of impurity in his life, he would die in the most holy place in the presence of the Lord. But nobody was even then allowed to go in to bring his corpse out, because of the presence of the Most Holy Almighty, any sinful creature would have died. In case of death, he was dragged out with a rope that was tied to his leg. This was symbolic that God hasn’t forsaken His creation altogether, and still listened to them through their Chief Priest. Even so, the Chief Priest’s uncertainty about his own purity was also symbolic that through our own righteousness, we can never be sure about our salvation. But when the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross, that curtain in the Jewish temple was torn from top to bottom. The most holy place in the temple, where the chief priest of the Jews couldn’t go by trusting his own righteousness, now anyone could go by just putting their trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus through his death on the cross has removed the curtain of sin, which had separated humanity from God. Once we are washed with the blood of Jesus, by accepting Him as our personal Savior, then we automatically come to join God in the same relationship Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall. There is always a need for some commonality in a relationship between two individuals, groups or parties. In the God‑human relationship, before the fall, that common thing was sinlessness. To mend that broken relationship either we must become sinless and righteous like God, as previously demonstrated this is impossible, or God must mediate, becoming like us, which He did in Jesus Christ. Only though God’s efforts can we again have a ‘deen’ (religion), like Adam and Eve had before their sin. Through our own efforts we cannot have any relationship with God.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all agree that Christ is going to come as the perfect judge, and judge the whole world. So what he is going to judge the world for, and what exactly He is going say to all of us on his return? He is probably going to say that: ‘I gave you my law, and made you realize that you are found guilty for violating it thus you stand for punishment under & according to that law. I gave my life on the cross for your sake, and my blood to cleanse you of all that dirt and filth of sins. But you didn't accept that, so I am going to Judge and punish you with hell fire.’ Some people would say to Jesus at that time, that they believed in the law. But it is the same as if a criminal found guilty of first-degree murder in a British court asks the judge for forgiveness, because he/she believes in the British law. But just as believing in the British law can't save a person from punishment if he/she has violated it, in the same way believing in God's law or Sharia can't save anyone from punishment if he/she has violated it. Therefore the only way to avoid the judgment and punishment of God is in asking forgiveness in Jesus’ name. In the same way one of those robbers, who were being crucified along with Jesus asked for forgiveness, by saying “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve-----Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:41-42). If Jesus could say to that robber, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with in paradise" (Luke 23:43), then He can certainly say this to each & every one of us today; provided we sincerely repent, and accept Him as our personal Savior. Apart from through the Lord Jesus Christ, no other religion or ism in the world can give us this assurance of salvation. May the God Almighty open up the hearts & minds of all the lost souls, who are deceived into the slavery of whatever false religion, ism or philosophy in this world! May God help everyone realize the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation that comes through it, before it is too late for too many! Amen.
1. The Eerdsmans Bible Dictionary, Bruce M. Metzger, B. Eerdsmans Pub. Co. MI, U.S.A., 1987.
2. The Harlins Dictionary of Religion, Jonathan Z. Smith, Harper Collins Pub. London, 1996.
3. The ‘New International Version’ Study Bible, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1998 edition
4. The Koran (M.M. Pickthall translation) Islamic Book Service, New Dehli
5. Ninety Nine Names of Allah, M. I. Siddiqi, Kazi Publications, Lahore, 1993 edition
---A Few Questions for the Muslim Apologists---
- Without an assurance for forgiveness in the Koran (Sura 46:9), how come Muslims can be sure about going to heaven?
- How can God forgive sins of the Muslims without punishment, and still be a God of justice & righteousness?
- Don’t you think that the justice and Mercy of God are incompatible to each other in Islam? And this is possibly the reason for Muslims not being sure of forgiveness or heaven!
- If putting of good and bad deeds is such a divine idea of God’s justice, then why don’t Muslims demand for the introduction of this idea in the judicial systems of all the Muslim countries? Any criminal would be able to avoid punishment as long as his/her good deeds are heavier than his/her bad deeds.
- Why is this that the Muslims are still searching for “Siratul-Mustaqim” or the straight path, whereas Jesus Christ has clearly said “I am the way and the Truth and Life, and no one comes to father apart from me”. (John 14:6 (need to check)
- Jesus Christ was sent to fulfil the law of God given through Moses, because the law alone could save no one. Why would God Almighty change his mind after six hundred years of Jesus, send another law through Mohammad, and ask people to follow it? Instead of asking people to follow Jesus Christ, who is the fulfilment of the law, previously given by God through Moses?