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 maladies of the human race that all religions must address is that of sin. Each religion defines sin according to its own standards and, accordingly, each religion assigns its own consequences and remedies for sin. In this, Islam is no different. To Muhammad, sins is ranked into various levels of severity. The less severe sins are more readily forgiven while the more egregious sins, if they are forgiven at all, require a more stringent means to secure their forgiveness.
"Those who avoid the heinous sins [great crimes] and indecencies [scandals], save lesser offences [but commits only lesser faults] surely thy Lord is wide in His forgiveness [diffuse in mercy]." (Koran 53:33)This is a very human way of looking at sin, for we evaluate sin as it effects us. In this valuation it is easy for us to see that murder is far more egregious than lying. We also tend to see our sins as far less sinful then other's sins. For example, we may be quite willing to overlook drunkenness in ourselves while we severely condemn gossip in others. However, the issue is not how we judge the severity of our sins but how God judges them. To God, sin is sin and to commit any sin is to become a sinner. James wrote, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery.' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law." (James 2:10-11) To break one of God's laws is sufficient to become guilty of the entire law of God and to sentence us to its righteous judgment and punishment.
The message of the Koran is to avoid heinous sins and then hope that our lesser offenses are small enough to earn us the forgiveness and acceptance of God. However, such a system is devoid of any hope and the assurance of one's future end. How can one know if their few heinous sins are forgivable or if the multitude of their lesser sins will amount to one big heinous sin in the eyes of God? Islam provides no answers and no assurance of righteousness or of the prospects of salvation.
"from their Lord's chastisement none feels secure [is none safe]" (Koran 70:28)For a Muslim, there is no secure place; no place or time where they may reset in peace and in the security of the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God. Each day is a new day to worry about the judgments of God and the possibility that we might secure for ourselves His punishments by our daily actions and decisions. Worse than that, we find that our end is out of our control. If we are to be condemned it is because God wills it, and if we are to be rewarded, it is only because God willed it to be so,
"Thou shalt assuredly find me, if God wills, one of the Righteous [upright].'" (Koran 28:27)We are not free to be righteous or to choose good for our lives, it is all up to the capricious will of God. If He chooses so for us then we are rewarded, however, if He chooses malice towards us, then we will be with the loosers. Such is the predestination forced upon us by the gracious, or malevolent, will of God.
"for whosoever of you who would [willeth to] go [walk in a] straight [path]; but will you shall not, unless God wills" (Koran 81:28-29)We have no free will, only the will God wills for us. Therefore, how can anyone have any assurance of their forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life? Under such a system, no one can. How different from the Christian gospel that provides assurance based not on the predestination of God but on the never ending love of God. The writer of Hebrews writes concerning Jesus, "and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:21-22) Our assurance comes not from our avoidance of sin nor even from the multitude of our righteous deeds but from our faith in Jesus as the Christ and His work for us on the cross. John wrote, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) John did not write that we might hope one day to have eternal life but that we might know for certain that we already have it here and now! We no longer need to live our lives wondering if we will ever be good enough or ever do enough to earn God's favor. We can know for sure, here and now, what God thinks of us and the future He has assigned for us. We can know this beyond all hoping and with the certainty that only faith can provide. We know this because we know Him who has promised. This is the promise we have from God. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18) Oh blessed assurance! Such hope reminds me of the old hymn by Fanny Jane Crosby, "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood."
More to come...