Saturday, May 14, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - The hospitality of God

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
For those who have lived a surrendered life, kept the laws of Islam, and for whom Allah wills, theirs is the reward of eternity in Paradise. However, Muhammad's idea of Paradise is quite different from the Christian's view of Paradise. Central to the Islamic doctrine of Paradise is the idea of the hospitality of God.
"But those who fear their Lord -- for them shall be gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein dwelling forever -- a hospitality God Himself offers [their reception with God]; and that which is with God is better for the pious." (Koran 3:197)
"therein you shall have all that your souls desire, all that you call for, as hospitality from One All-forgiving [Gracious], One All-compassionate [Merciful One]." (Koran 41:31-32)
Paradise is a place where God waits on us and entertains us, providing us with everything we desire and wish for. All out dreams, all our desires, all our wished will there be provided for us by God as His invited guests. Nothing shall be refused us; all is waiting for us there. How different from what the Christian scriptures teach. John, in describing the great multitude he saw in heaven, records a conversation between himself and one of the heavenly elders, "'These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?' I said to him, 'My lord, you know.' And he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.'" (Revelation 7:13-15) One could argue that this is not the fate of all humans who make it to heaven, but there appears no other picture of life in heaven other than this. In all descriptions of heaven, people are assembled around the thrown, giving praise and honor to God; not caring for themselves but enraptured by the very presence of God. Heaven is not a place to be entertained by God, but a place to eternally worship and adore Him. It's a place for us to worship and serve God not to be served and entertained by God.

Furthermore, the treasures we will find in heaven are not the hospitable provisions of God, but the fruits and rewards of our labors here on Earth. Jesus told the rich young ruler, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21) And He counseled all people saying, "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:33-34) Heaven is not a place to get what we never had here on Earth, but a place to enjoy the rewards of our godly labors upon the Earth. Not hospitality, but rewards.

Another significant difference between the Christian and Islamic teaching of Paradise is the idea of Paradise itself.
"And those that believe, and do deeds of righteousness -- those are the inhabitants of Paradise; there they shall dwell forever.'" (Koran 2:76)
Muhammad always spoke of Paradise as being our future eternal home while Jesus always spoke of heaven as being our eternal dwelling place. Jesus always spoke of Heaven as being the place where God, His father, lived, and, speaking of that place, Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2-3) One could say that the difference between Heaven and Paradise is merely a matter of words. However, in those words there is expressed a significant difference. Paradise is a place of bliss while heaven is the dwelling place of God. Muhammad's Paradise is a place of getting our every needs and wants satisfied while the Christian Heaven is a place were we get to draw near to God, to ever be in Hi presence, and to ever serve and worship Him throughout all eternity. In Islam you get your desires meet, but in Christianity you get God. How much greater is the eternal hope of Christians over the hope of satiated desires of Muslims!

David Robison

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