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Mercy and Judgement

Both Islam and Christianity believe that God sent His messengers to lead human beings into the right path. They do differ as to how to deal with the separation between God and man caused by the sin of men, which the Bible clearly states is evident in the whole of humankind, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:11), for, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In general, sin means transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4). This law exists because God is Holy and so cannot abide evil. It is offensive to God no matter what the sinner’s excuse or how insignificant the sin.

The Qur’an also tells us that all are guilty and unworthy to be saved. If God were to judge us all according to his rules, none of us would be saved. “If Allah were to punish men for their wrong-doing, he would not leave, on the earth, a single living creature” (Surah 16:61, see also Surah 35:45).

Forgiveness

It is said in the Qur’an: “He forgiveth whom He pleaseth and punisheth whom He pleaseth” (Surah 3:129; 11:118; 14:4; 16:93; 19:71,72). The teachings about forgiveness in the traditions of Islam are quite contradictory. One tradition is that the forgiveness of sin depends on righteous works or good deeds. Muslims believe that on the day of judgement, God will set up a balance with an indicator and two weighing pans, on which will be weighed all the deeds of each person – their good deeds and their evil deeds. He who has more good deeds goes to Paradise and he with fewer goes to Hell. But some believe that the mere confession of the Kalimah – the creed: “There is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah”, is a passport to full forgiveness. Yet on the other hand many believe that even total obedience does not necessarily ensure salvation. Other Muslim traditions say that God has already created some for Hell and others for Paradise, which no action can alter.

From one tradition of Islam (hadith), we learn that our righteousness and good actions may not help us to enter Paradise: Muhammad said, “None can enter Paradise through his good deeds”. The disciples asked, “Not even you, O Allah’s Apostle?” Muhammad replied, “Not even myself, unless Allah bestows his favour and mercy on me” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol.7). The whole subject is full of uncertainty, giving the impression that Allah acts entirely on a whim, without reference to His promises or any other consideration.

Favour and Mercy

In the Bible, we see God as consistently generous, not capricious. He surely can do whatever He will, but He chooses to keep His covenants and promises. Without God’s mercy and favour, no one is able to gain salvation. The Qur’an and traditions do not tell us how His mercy and favour operate, so that God may still remain a just Judge and merciful at the same time. If He is to forgive the sinner, there must be a reason for forgiveness, which will also satisfy His justice. If God simply forgives as if sin did not matter, then where are His holiness and justice?

Answer available

The Bible has the answer to this dilemma. According to the Scriptures, Jesus the Messiah is God’s mercy for all people and is able to give us a new heart and a new nature. God sent him into this world so that “whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3: 16). It is in Isa al-Masih that God has fulfilled the demands of His mercy and His justice. In him we find the ransom, fidyah, and atonement, kafara, God Himself has provided the ransom as His grace and mercy for us all. He has bestowed His mercy and favour through the redemptive suffering and death of Isa Saffaiyatu’llah. We may try to obey all the righteous commandments of God, but He wants to see us changed through His powerful work in order to bring glory and honour to His Holy Name.

We learn from the Scriptures that by believing in Christ we become a new creation. “The old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Thus it is not because of good deeds, but by virtue of God’s own mercy provided through Jesus that we will enter the Paradise of God to be in fellowship with Him (Titus 3: 5).

Freedom in Christ

A believer in Christ does not neglect doing good and righteous things. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). This is why Christians keep His commandments, not to gain Paradise, but because Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

“If Allah were to punish Men for their wrongdoing He would not leave on the (earth), A single living creature.”

Surah (An-Nahl) 16:61

Steven Masood

All Biblical quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Qur’anic reference is taken from The Holy Qur’an, English translation of the meanings and Commentary. Revised & edited by the Presidency of Islamic Researches, IFTA. King Fahad Holy Qur’an Printing Complex, Al-Madinah, Saudi Arabia, ed. 1990.

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