Saturday, May 07, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - A resurrection to come

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.
One of the fundamental tenets of Islam is a belief in a life to come. Muhammad emphatically states God's promise of a resurrection of the dead and a life after death.
"God -- there is no god but He. He will surely gather you to the Resurrection Day, no doubt of it. And who is truer in tidings than God?" (Koran 4:89)
"Then after that you shall surely die, then on the Day of Resurrection you shall surely be raised up [waken up]." (Koran 23:15-16)
In fact, faith in the resurrection on the last day is an essential tenet of faith for all Muslims. Anyone who denies the resurrection or the last day is and unbeliever and an infidel.
"True piety is this: to believe in God, and the Last Day, the angels, the Book [Scriptures], and the Prophets, to give of one's substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveller, beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform [observeth] the prayer, to pay the [legal] alms." (Koran 2:172)
"Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry [Jews], and the Sabaeans, and those Christians, whosoever believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness [doeth what is right] -- no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow [grief]." (Koran 5:73)
According to Muhammad, the resurrection will be a resurrection unto judgment; some being rewarded and others chastised for how they conducted their life upon the Earth.
"Nay, but whoso fulfils his covenant [is true to his engagement] and fears God, God loves the godfearing. Those that sell God's covenant [barter their engagement with God], and their oaths, for a little price, there shall be no share for them in the world to come; God shall not speak to them neither look on them on the Resurrection Day, neither will He purify [assoil] them; and for them awaits a painful [grievous] chastisement." (Koran 3:70-71)
"But as for those who are niggardly with the bounty God has given them, let them not suppose it is better [good] for them; nay, it is worse [bad] for them; that they were niggardly with they shall have hung about their necks on the Resurrection Day; and to God belongs the inheritance of the heavens and earth; and God is aware [well informed] of the things you do." (Koran 3:175-176)
Two things are of interest here. First, Muhammad conflates the ideas of salvation and rewards. The judgment we face on the last day is not a judgment of faith but a judgment of works. Our eternal state and eternal rewards are based on how diligently we obeyed God as well as how readily we expended our wealth in the service of God, especially in our service in war. On the day of resurrection, every way in which we acted niggardly (stingy) with the things God had given us, will be hung around our necks as judgments against us. Those who did not obey God, who did not believe, and who did not generously expend their wealth in the way of God, will loose their reward of paradise and find for themselves grievous chastisement in hell.

While the Christian scriptures do teach the assignment of rewards or heaven and the punishments of hell, there is a clear separation between salvation and rewards. Paul writes of those who were saved but failed to properly develop their lives on the basis of that faith. "Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) Here, the foundation is Jesus Christ Himself and the materials we use to build upon the foundation are the good works we add to our faith. However, notice that Paul teaches that, even the one who failed to build properly upon the foundation, yet still had the foundation which is Christ, will be saved and enjoy eternity with God in heaven, although he will suffer loss of the rewards that might have been his in the after life. This truth Muhammad failed to understand.

Secondly, notice the demeanor of God towards those who failed to believe and to inherit the rewards of paradise. Muhammad says that God will not look at them, He will not speak to them, and He will not purify them. First, purification does not happen at the day of resurrection. It happens here and now through our faith and the agency of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Muhammad's view of God is very different from the Christian view of God who is a God of love. Muhammad's God is vengeful, petulant, and dismissive. This does not mean that God is not a God of judgment and that He will not send people to hell, but he does so with His love for all mankind intact. God is a god of pure emotions. He can love us and be just at the same time. He does not need to resort to hatred in order to execute His judgment as we might have too. Muhammad confuses the emotions of men with the emotions he presumes upon God.

Muhammad tries to give proof of the resurrection by reminding us of our current life.
"How do you disbelieve in God [withhold faith from God], seeing you were dead and He gave you life, then He shall make you dead, then He shall give you life, then unto Him you shall be returned?" (Koran 2:26)
Islams teaches that our souls existed prior to our birth with God. They infer this from the following verse.
"And when thy Lord took from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed, and made them testify touching themselves, 'Am I not your Lord?' They said, 'Yes, we testify'-- lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, 'As for us, we were heedless of this,' or lest you say, 'Our fathers were idolaters aforetime, and we were seed after them. What, wilt Thou then destroy us for the deeds of the vain-doers?'" (Koran 7:172)
They believe this verse to mean that God created all the souls of mankind at once and made them testify that God was the only true God. Then God erased the soul's memory of this event when they were sent into the bodies conceived within the womb. This would correspond to the first death that Muhammad refers to when he says we were dead them God made us alive. We were merely souls in a "dead" state waiting for a body to inhabit, at which time, we became alive. It is important to note that no such evidence for a pre-existent soul is presented in the Jewish or Christian scriptures, nor was such a believe held by the early Christian church. However, Muhammad tries to use the idea of our soul existing before our birth and our birth as evidence to believe our soul's reunification with our resurrected bodies at the end of the age.

Finally, there is the issue of the immediate transition of the soul to heaven upon death verses the idea of soul-sleep where the soul "sleeps" until the resurrection to be reunited with our bodies. For most of the Koran, the resurrection is associated with the Last Day. However, for some, especially those who are killed in battle, their immediate resurrection to life is promised.
"And say not of those slain in God's way [path], 'They are dead'; rather they are living, but you are not aware." (Koran 2:149)
"Count not those who were slain in God's way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him provided [richly provided], rejoicing in the bounty that God has given them, and joyful in those who remain behind and have not joined them, because no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow," (Koran 3:163-164)
Rodwell interprets the phrase "God's way" to refer to the "warring with the infidels." (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, footnote 2:60) It is unclear if everyone who dies a Muslim is immediately alive with God in heaven or it it is only those who die in battle. However, Paul gives all believers this promise and blessed hope. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain... But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake." (Philippians 1:21-24) It was Paul's belief that, upon his death, he would be usshered into the very presence of Christ. This was the gain he spoke of in death. All who die in Christ have their reward in the presence of Christ, not because they died in battle, but because they died in fiath.

David Robison

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