Sunday, 13 June 2010

Salvation in Islam...


Alrighty! Now time for the Islamic perspective on Salvation. In order to understand this concept in Islam, I believe it is completely necessary to understand Islam’s view on:
1.      the 'nature of man'; the concept of original purity (vs. Christian belief of original sin).
2. God's attributes,
3. how 'deeds' and rewards have been 'decided' and how that relates to God's attributes.
4.  We have to take a look at it all, together, as one single equation
.
Ready? Let’s start!
To begin with, in Islam we believe that every single individual is born pure.  That is, Islam does not believe in original sin; instead, in Islam, we believe that every person is born free of sin. Allah, the Most Merciful and Most Just, lets us each begin on a ‘clean slate’, so to speak. In fact, He does more than that. He engraves/programs in each of us a compass guiding us to Him. Yes, we believe that every person is born on the ‘fitra’, which is ‘awareness of God and His Oneness’ and is also an innate disposition that guides us to the right way to God. Think of our consciences and how we ‘instantly’ know that some things are wrong without having to be told. Also, you can consider the fact that our bodies physiologically protest when we lie, although lying is an activity that has nothing to do with our physical bodies (meaning we make up the lie using our mind, but it is our bodies that naturally go against us when we do so, with our heart rate increasing, blood pressure acting up, respiratory rates changing, etc!).
Actually, you should know that we say that the moment a person is born, s/he is born a “Muslim”. That is why many converts to Islam call themselves ‘reverts’, because they feel that they have ‘reverted’ or ‘gone back’ to their original state ..
Therefore, it should be obvious that we reject the notion of original sin completely. We do not believe that Adam and Eve’s sin was hereditary or that it is what actually made us imperfect or that it even resulted in us ‘wanting to sin’. We do however believe that every person has been naturally endowed with the inclination to do good as well as the inclination to do bad. So yeah, we may want to sin, but this has nothing to do with Adam and Eve’s sin. We were simply created that way. The test of life, thus, is to rise above the inclination to do bad, follow our innate disposition and put God’s commandments and desires above our own.
And [by] the sky and He who constructed it (5) And [by] the earth and He who spread it (6) And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it (7) And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, (8) He has succeeded who purifies it, (9) And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]. (Surah or ‘Chapter’ As Shams)
The fact that we ‘can do both good’ or ‘evil’ relates to the fact that we, unlike the angels, have been given ‘free will’. In fact, we believe that when Allah told the angels of His ‘decision’ to create us [with free wil], the angels were very surprised.
And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif (vicegerent), they said: What! wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know.
Therefore, Allah  knew, (like the angels said), that by giving us free will, we would sin, but above that, He also knew (that despite our sins), there would be a be a people who would love Him, put Him above their own selves, and try to draw near Him.
Most importantly, we believe because He knew that we would sin, and because He knew we were created ‘weak’, He never expected perfection from us in the first place. He alone is Perfect. He does not ‘expect’ from us that we should not sin at all, but that we should repent and ask for His forgiveness. This is what He asks from us. Therefore, we do not believe in ‘a redeemer’ to ‘rescue us’, so to speak or God sacrificing Himself (Jesus) to forgive us.  Instead, part of being human is making mistakes.
“To err is human,
And to forgive is Divine.”
Speaking of “Divine”, let’s now talk about the Divine. How do Muslims view Him? What are His attributes that are relevant to this question on ‘salvation’?
We Muslims take the analogy of a mother her  baby when we think of God with us (as Exalted and Beyond Compare as He is) .
Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) relates that some prisoners were brought before Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and amongst them was a woman who was frantically searching for someone in the crowd. When she found a baby amongst the prisoners, she took it in her arms, cradled it next to her chest and suckled it. So Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: "Do you think that this woman would ever throw her child into the fire?" We said: 'By Allah, Never!' So he said: "Allah is more merciful to His believing servants than that mother could ever be to her child."
Allah did not create us simply to cast us into Hell. Instead, He essentially created us for Paradise and to be Merciful to us: “Except for him on whom your Lord bestowed His Mercy; and for that did He create them…” [Quran, Surat Hud]..
You might know that we believe that Allah has 99 Names or attributes. We need to understand a few of these in order to fully understand the topic of salvation. That is because we believe that Allah Alone is:
Ar-Rashid: The One who guides. Allah guides all the creatures to the proper means of living and performing their role in the worldly life, and He also guides people to the Path of jannah (paradise).  Hence, guidance is not restricted to man, but it embraces all the creatures in the universe
Al-Hadi: The One whom with His Guidance His believers were guided, and with His Guidance the living beings have been guided to what is beneficial for them and protected from what is harmful to them.
We realize that God alone can guide us and that we are spiritually and physically lost without Him. For this reason, we ask Him at least 17 times a day to guide us to His Way, the Straight Path (when we recite Surat Al Fatiha in our prayers.) So say I pray dhuhr (the noon prayer), I recite this surah in ever rakah, asking God to guide me. 3 hours later, when it is asr time, I do it again, asking Him to guide me.  Two or three hours later, I do it again in the maghrib prayer. One hour and a half later, I do it again in the Isha prayer. Then, I do it at fajr, the dawn prayer, then dhuhr again… is a never ending cycle because we are always always in need of guidance and HE alone can guide us.
Al-Waliyy: The Supporter, the Ever Patron. Linguistically, waliyy (patron) is a relative or someone close who takes care of you, “Did He not find you an orphan, so He gave (you) an abode,” (93:6), or someone loving who supports you; a patron is the first person you go to with a problem. Allah is not just a supporter but The supporter. The story of Joseph in Islam is used to explain this. Allah made the travellers need water so they would rescue him from the well, He made the Egyptian nobleman childless so he would adopt him, He made the King of Egypt need him to interpret his dream so he would release him from jail, He made Egypt in need of food so he would became a nobleman of Egypt…etc.
Al-Mujib: The One who answers the one in need if he asks Him and rescues the yearner if he calls upon Him
Al-Ghafoor: The most Forgiving. This name occurs in the Qur’an more than seventy times. There are other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar. The meaning of the “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse”, “to pardon”, “to remit” and “to forgive”. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does all these things. The only thing that He does not forgive is Shirk (without repentance) – which is associating partners with Him.

Al-’Afuw: This has another aspect of forgiveness. Some have translated this name to means “to release us from the burden of punishment due to our sins and mistakes”, “to restore our honor after we have dishonored ourselves by committing sins and making mistakes.” Others have also translated it to mean “The One Who Blots out Sins”, which means that not only does He forgive your sins but He erases them from the records completely. He doesn’t even ask you about them (when you repent). A dua (or prayer) we say is: Oh Allah, You are the Afuw, You love to forgive, so forgive me”.

Al-Tawwab:
The Acceptor of repentance. The word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning” which means that Allah again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accept us and gives us another chance. Day and night, He stretches out His hands, waiting for us to return to Him.
When we read this Name, we must realize that as At-Tawab, He is the One who out of His Mercy taught us the words to ask for Forgiveness. We could never have done this by ourselves.
Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of forgiveness and his Lord turned toward him, for He is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful. (2:37) They said, "Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and if you forgive us not, and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall be losers. (7:23)


Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Allah, the Exalted, will continue to stretch out His Hand in the night so that the sinners of the day may repent, and continue to stretch His Hand in the daytime so that the sinners of the night may repent, until the sun rises from the west”. [Muslim]

Al-Haleem: The Clement. This means that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is not quick to judgment. He gives time. He forebears and is patient to see His servant to return to Him.
Not only is He not quick to Judgment, He has commanded the angels ‘to take their time’ when it comes to recording our bad deeds.
Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “The angel of the left raises [and holds] his pen for six hours from the Muslim servant of Allah who has wronged or committed a mistake. So if he regrets and seeks Allah’s forgiveness from it he returns it back, and if that is not the case then it is written as one.” [Mu'jam al Kabeer, Hasan according to Albani]
Al-Rahman and al-Rahim: The most Merciful and Compassionate. These names are the most frequent in the Qur’an. Al-Rahman indicates that Allah’s mercy is abundant and plenty and al-Raheem indicates that this is always the case with Allah. He is full of love and mercy and He is ever Merciful.

Hadith Qudsi 1:

When Allah decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my wrath.
Ash-Shakur: The One who is Ever Appreciative. He is the One Who appreciates your deeds, however small they are, and doubles the rewards for you in this world and in the hereafter
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that." 
Allah said: I am as My servant thinks I am (1). I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.

Now, a few more general hadiths:

Hadith Qudsi 34:

Allah the Almighty said:
O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.
Hadith Qudsi 31:
A man said: By Allah, Allah will not forgive So-and-so. At this Allah the Almighty said: Who is he who swears by Me that I will not forgive So-and-so? Verily I have forgiven So-and-so and have nullified your [own good] deeds (1) (or as he said [it]).
 Hadith Qudsi 35:
Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night (in a way befitting Him) to the earth's sky when there remains the final third of the night, and He says: Who is saying a prayer to Me that I may answer it? Who is asking something of Me that I may give it him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him? 


Now that we’ve read a little about who Allah is and how He has chosen for His Mercy to prevail His Wrath, let’s talk about ‘deeds’ in Islam.
First of all, deeds in Islam are by intention, as I said before. We can see that clearly here:

Hadith Qudsi 16:

On the authority of son of Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both), from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), among the sayings he related from his Lord (glorified and exalted be He) is that He said:
Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones. Then He explained it [by saying that] he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed. 
As well as here:





On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say:
The first of people against whom judgment will be pronounced on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who died a martyr. He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them. [ The Almighty] will say: And what did you do about them? He will say: I fought for you until I died a martyr. He will say: You have lied - you did but fight that it might be said [of you]: He is courageous. And so it was said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire…..[I’ve previously mentioned this long hadith before.]





Taken together what that means is that ‘what may appear to be a good deed’ may reap nothing if it is not intended for Allah’s sake alone. On the other hand, what may ‘not be considered a good deed’ can actually count as one, if our intention is for Allah.




That’s right . We believe by our intentions we can turn simple habits into acts of worship. If we eat healthy because we want to take care of the bodies our Lord has trusted us with, we are actually worshipping Him! Our intention changed it into an act of worship. If we sleep early for example so that we can wake up to pray the dawn prayer (fajr), our sleep would be considered worship. The whole time we’re sleeping, we are actually worshipping Him and ‘gaining good deeds’. 



So, as you can see, Allah is so Merciful. He has chosen the most Merciful way to record our deeds (10-700 or more = good deed, 1=bad deed). He is Forgiving, the Clement, the Afu, the Appreciative. He has allowed simple habits to be turned into acts of worship so that we could be worshipping Him 24/7!  

Not only that, but when we realize that good deeds may not be ‘good’ if our heart is not in the right place, we realize that the essential thing Allah looks at is our hearts.



Okay, Sarira, you haven’t answered the real question here, which is, do Muslims think that their good deeds earn them heaven?



No, we could never ever earn heaven by our own deeds alone. We in fact, believe that we can never repay Him for what He has already so Graciously and Generously granted us. Let me paraphrase one hadith: on the Day of Judgment, God will say, let this servant enter heaven through My Mercy, and the servant who had devoted (I remember it being) 80 full years of worship to Allah will say “No, my Lord, through my worship”. Then Allah will say, let us measure your worship with the gift of eye sight that I gave you- and the gift of eye sight when placed on the scale will far outweigh the  servant’s worship.
So not only are we all sinners, we are already all in debt for all that Allah has given us, every breath of life, every chance to draw near Him.
Our very existence is a gift He has so graciously given us. We cannot even pay back for that, let alone, for heaven. In fact, we as Muslims believe that every act of worship we do could never be 100% ‘right’. We could never even worship God completely properly/praise Him as He deserves. We have that we can recite in our prayers: 
O Allah, I seek protection in Your pleasure from Your anger, and I seek protection in Your forgiveness from Your punishment. I seek protection in You from You. I cannot count Your praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.
However, although we cannot ‘earn’ heaven, the primary key to entering heaven then lies in the previous hadith. It is first and foremost through God’s Mercy that we can enter heaven. We see Prophet Mohammed sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam explicitly stating that here:
"Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and rejoice, for no one's good deeds will put him in Paradise." The Companions asked, "Not even you O Messenger of Allah?" He replied. "Not even me unless Allah bestows His pardon and mercy on me."”
This hadith clearly shows that Allah’s Mercy comes first.
When we think of all that we’ve discussed we realize that we are number one saved through His Mercy, which is exemplified in the fact that He lovingly accepts our Repentance, the fact that He opened the door to us for forgiveness, the fact that He taught how to ask for forgiveness, the fact that He created us with a compass in us guiding us to Him, the fact that He created a Conscience in us, the fact that  He created our bodies ‘naturally detesting lying’, fact that He lovingly put such a ‘low’ standard for us and appreciates what little work we do, even accepts our ‘very fallible deeds’, the fact that he sent us prophets to show us the way, Revealed the Qur’an to teach us, etc.…
This is also why believe it is necessary at the moment one is dying to believe in Allah’s Mercy and to hope for it.
However, as the above hadith also shows, we do believe in the importance of doing deeds. This does not contradict believing in Allah’s Mercy and hoping for it. I like how Ayha.org explains it:
The example of a slave's hope in Allah's Mercy and Forgiveness can be explained by the example of a farmer. If the farmer searches for fertile soil, then sows it with good and healthy seeds, giving to the seeds what they need at the appropriate time, removing from around them the weeds and anything else that may hinder or ruin their growth and then hopes in Allah for His Favor with regards to keeping away violent storms and other harmful elements, until the seeds have fully ripened and grown - then this type of expectation can truly be described as hope. However, if the farmer sows the seeds in hard and barren soil, too high up for water to reach it, and he does not take care or protect the seed from harm, and expects a good harvest, then this expectation is not called hope, it is only wishful thinking.

Similarly, if the servant sows the seeds of Eemaan (faith), and waters them with acts of obedience to Allah, and protects himself from committing sins and seeks Allah's Forgiveness, then he is truly hoping in the Mercy of Allah.

Yahyaa Ibn Muaadh said: "In my view, the worst kind of self-delusion is to greatly sin, yet hope for forgiveness without feeling any regret; and to hope to draw close to Allah - the Most High - without obedience to Him; and to await the fruits of Paradise, by planting the seeds for Hell-Fire; and to seek the abode of the obedient ones, by doing acts of disobedience; and to expect a reward, without doing any worthy action; and to hope in Allah - the Mighty and Majestic - after overstepping the bounds." "You hope for salvation but do not tread its path. A ship never sails upon dry land." [Related by Ibn Hibbaan in Rawdatul-'Uqalaa (p.284), from the poetry of Abul-'Atiyyah]

Again, as Muslims we believe that none of us deserves heaven and none of us can earn heaven without God’s Mercy, including Prophet Mohammed. It is out of His Mercy, that He appreciates any ‘willingness’ we demonstrate that we truly desire to be near Him.

Our willingness is demonstrate d through our actions-

Faith= input, Good deeds= output.

Those who are truly eager to meet God and love Him will ‘race’ to meet Him by doing good deeds.
Input + Output + God’s Mercy (which is in the first place needed for us to have faith and to do good deeds)= going to heaven. 
One last way to think of it is this:  Islam is submission to God! Even Shaytan (or Satan) believed in God and had no doubt of his existence. Is he granted paradise? NO, because he refused to submit to God. He refused to follow God’s commandments, which essentially shows that he did not truly believe in Allah’s Power and Might.
 However, we need to realize that there also could be no Islam without Iman (faith). The two are connected and that is why they are always mentioned together in the Qur’an. Also, the heaviest thing in the scales is the sincere belief of 'la illah illah Allah', there is no God worthy of worship but God.
Let’s wrap this all up with one last ‘interesting hadith’:
“There was among the people who came before you a man who killed ninety-nine people.  Then he asked about the most knowledgeable person on earth, and was directed to a hermit, so he went to him, told him that he had killed ninety-nine people, and asked if he could be forgiven.  The hermit said, ‘No,’ so he killed him, thus completing one hundred.  Then he asked about the most knowledgeable person on earth and was directed to a scholar.  He told him that he had killed one hundred people, and asked whether he could be forgiven.  The scholar said, ‘Yes, what could possibly come between you and repentance? Go to such-and-such a town, for in it there are people who worship God.  Go and worship with them, and do not go back to your own town, for it is a bad place.” So the man set off, but when he was halfway there, the angel of death came to him, and the angels of mercy and the angels of wrath began to argue over him.  The angels of mercy said: ‘He had repented and was seeking God.’ The angels of wrath said: ‘He never did any good thing.’ An angel in human form came to them, and they asked him to decide the matter.  He said, ‘Measure the distance between the two lands (his hometown and the town he was headed for), and whichever of the two he is closest to is the one to which he belongs.’ So they measured the distance, and found that he was closer to the town for which he had been headed, so the angels of mercy took him.”
According to yet another version, God commanded the righteous town to draw closer and the evil town to move away, and He said, ’Measure the distance between them,’ and he was found to be closer to (the righteous town) by a hand span, so he was forgiven.

Alright, I know this was really long, but I hope it clears things up a bit on the Islamic perspective of things. If I said something wrong, I ask Allah to forgive me and my sisters here to correct me. Jazakum Allah koli khair.

P.S I honestly did not type up the Names myself but chose/modified the ones I wanted from Amr Khaled’s site, http://amrkhaled.net/acategories/categories192.html, and http://www.islamawareness.net/Salvation/forgiveness.html ).
PS.S I did not include the ‘list of transmitters’ in some of the ahadith because they took up an incredible amount of space and I didn’t want to confuse the non-Muslim readers. You can find most of them here:    http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/hadithqudsi.html




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5 comments:

  1. It was so good reading clear well explained issue,specially in English. Great work Sarira mashallah. I'd love to read the comments..:)

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  2. Oh another thing.I hope this blog will last longer than 50 days only..

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  3. mashaAllah!

    i hope this stays more than 50 days too ;)

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  4. Thanks for the explanation, Sarira. You did a nice job. I saw the part about God blotting out sins yet in the Quran I remember reading about a ledger of deeds being given to people on what I assumed was Judgment Day. Are these unconfessed sins that they will be judged on? Things that go on the "bad deeds" side of the scale because the individual failed to ask forgiveness for those things?

    Thanks for the interesting post. :)

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  5. Thanks , guys! It means a lot to me! You guys are so kind about keeping the blog longer, but you know, as soon as I stop posting here, lol, I’ll have more time to read all of your blogs and comment :D

    Susanne, that’s it. We believe that we have to ask for forgiveness and repent and then Allah will blot out our sins :D We also believe that if a person is patient when trouble, sickness, even a thorn pricks them, Allah either blots their sins out or raises their ranks. Also, I think you may remember on your blog that we said if we do good deeds, Allah blots out some of our bad ones, as well (but we said, that doesn’t blot out rape or anything like that)

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Hey :D So am I talking to myself or...? Tell me what you think :D