Criticism by Misrepresentation [Part 2]

Reply to a Christian Leaflet contrasting Islam and Christianity

by Dr. Zahid Aziz

The Light & Islamic Review (US), March/April 1992 Issue (Vol. 69, No. 2, p. 10)

We conclude our reply to the criticisms of the Christian leaflet, which began in the last issue.

At the close of the first part of this reply, the following objection advanced in the leaflet was being dealt with:

“Allah’s indifference to the lost souls stands in complete contrast to the God of the Bible who seeks to save the sinner from eternal death.”

But according to Christian belief, the “God of the Bible”, as termed here, withheld from mankind the means of salvation till the appearance and the subsequent death of Jesus upon the cross. No one prior to that event could have been saved from sin, as no one could have believed in the doctrine of atonement. At best, a law was sent, but that was confined to only one of the many nations on earth, namely, the Israelites. And even they were misled into believing that acting on the law was a means of salvation, since the same law was later deemed by Christianity as a “curse” (see Galatians 3:13).

According to Islam, on the other hand, prophets were sent to every nation on earth, bearing the means of salvation for that people. And the principle of salvation was ever the same, namely, the submission of one’s own desires and ego to the will and purpose of God, and the doing of good to others. The prophets came with guidance to enable people to tread the path towards salvation, and they taught by the example of their own lives as well. Can Allah be called indifferent to the lost, Who made so much provision for the whole of humanity to go aright?

Other Allegations — Man reaching God:

We now take briefly the other allegations against Islam in the leaflet. It is contended:

“There is no possibility of [man] being united with God. In fact, any such claim would make one guilty of shirk…”

Actually, the Quran speaks in several places of man’s meeting with God, for example:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الۡاِنۡسَانُ اِنَّکَ کَادِحٌ اِلٰی رَبِّکَ کَدۡحًا فَمُلٰقِیۡہِ ۚ﴿۶﴾

“O man, thou must strive hard to thy Lord, until thou meet Him” (The Holy Quran, 84:6).

To belittle the Quranic teaching that

“Allah is nearer to man than his jugular vein”,

the leaflet says:

“nearness does not mean fellowship, and the Muslim doctrine of shirk forbids this interpretation”.

What is shirk is to consider Divine attributes as being possessed by others besides the One God, and not closeness to God which may be of such a high degree that the acts of His chosen ones may be spoken of as the acts of God Himself. As the Quran says of the Holy Prophet Muhammad:

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ یُبَایِعُوۡنَکَ اِنَّمَا یُبَایِعُوۡنَ اللّٰہَ ؕ یَدُ اللّٰہِ فَوۡقَ اَیۡدِیۡہِمۡ ۚ

“Those who swear allegiance to thee do but swear allegiance to Allah; the hand of Allah is above their hands” (The Holy Quran, 48:10).

Here the Holy Prophet’s hand is spoken of as the hand of Allah.

Sin and Forgiveness:

Regarding sin, it is objected:

“Sin in Islam is not a sinful condition of the heart, mind and will inherited from Adam … Rather sin is the breaking of a code of laws given through their prophet”.

Sin in Islam is certainly a condition of the heart and mind, which then leads man to do acts of wrong-doing, and is not limited to the actual commission of misdeeds. The Quran states clearly:

وَ اِنۡ تُبۡدُوۡا مَا فِیۡۤ اَنۡفُسِکُمۡ اَوۡ تُخۡفُوۡہُ یُحَاسِبۡکُمۡ بِہِ اللّٰہُ ؕ

“And whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it” (The Holy Quran, 2:284).

Only one with a clean heart can approach God:

مَنۡ اَتَی اللّٰہَ بِقَلۡبٍ سَلِیۡمٍ ﴿ؕ۸۹﴾

“…who comes to Allah with a sound heart” (The Holy Quran, 26:89).

But it is an entirely different matter to assert that sinfulness is man’s natural state “inherited from Adam”. We need offer no apology whatsoever for the fact that Islam certainly does reject the concept of inherited sin.

Finally, we read:

“Forgiveness in Islam is bound up with man’s own works … The Muslim has no ground of assurance of forgiveness but must leave it with Allah”.

Forgiveness must stem from man’s own work in expressing regret for sin, and making efforts to repent and reform. Then Allah’s mercy comes into play, being vastly greater than his works deserve. Assurance, rather than hope, can only make man complacent and lax as regards making efforts for self-reform. The kind of assurance of forgiveness suggested by the doctrine of atonement can only encourage the continuance of sin.