Christian – Muslims Q & A session
Dear Bill & Don,
You have asked so many good questions in your latest comments, I decided to collate my answers together in a questions and answers session and give them a separate post, taking the form of a Questions and Answers session.
Islam emphasizes the reality and importance of the hereafter, The Day of resurrection, where every human will be physically resurrected to face judgement. It is as real as this world we live in it. The resurrection is a corporal and not spiritual one.
The hereafter is the everlasting life. It is what really matters. Our life in this world is insignificant compared to the hereafter. Your ultimate fate is either everlasting paradise or everlasting torment in Hell.
Islam teaches that life on earth is nothing but a very short, temporary existence where people are tried and tested from adolescence till death.
Muslims do not ignore the Grace and Forgiveness of God to the believer, The importance of repentance. As I have said in a previous comment, a Muslim should continually repent and ask God for forgiveness of sins.
Below I will provide my answers to your questions. Where applicable, I will provide the verses from Quran and Hadith that I basing my answers on.
God says in the Quran:
[39:41] Lo! We have revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture for mankind with truth. Then whosoever goes right it is for his soul, and whosoever strays, strays only to its hurt. And thou art not a warder over them.
Q1: What do you mean by Association of partners to God? Do you mean to say that idolatry considered unforgivable (ie, Catholics and Buddists worshiping statues)?
Ascribing divinity to entities other than God is association. Worshiping or invoking deities other than God also falls under the same category, similarly, The Christian Trinitarian theology which says Jesus is also god, The worship of Mary, The Saints, relics, Shrines, Statues, The cross, all these involve the belief that these people/ things can help us in a divine way and are thus idolatry.
God has created us in a perfect way, he feeds and cloth us, protect us, and allowed us to have the intelligence to conquer and utilise the universe. Giving credit to others for all these privileges is unforgivable: He said in the Quran:
[Quran 4:116] Lo! Allah pardons not that partners should be ascribed unto Him. He pardons all save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribes partners unto Allah has wandered far astray.
Q2: Are you saying that no amount of good deeds can make-up for this weighty sin?
That is right. The only thing that negate this sin is to confess before your death that there is no god save Him, for God says in the Quran:
[Quran 3:91] Lo! those who disbelieve, and die in disbelief, the (whole) earth full of gold would not be accepted from such an one if it were offered as a ransom . Theirs will be a painful doom and they will have no helpers.
Q3: Does this mean that certain sins carry different weight?
Yes, different sins carry different weight.
God says in the Quran:
[53:31] And unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, that He may reward those who do evil with that which they have done, and reward those who do good with goodness.
[53:32] Those who avoid enormities of sin and abominations, save the unwilled offences – (for them) lo! thy Lord is of vast mercy. He is Best Aware of you (from the time) when He created you from the earth, and when ye were hidden in the bellies of your mothers. Therefor ascribe not purity unto yourselves. He is Best Aware of him who wardeth off (evil).
Q4: Do you need to balance the weight of certain sins vs the weight of certain good deeds?
Generally speaking, there are major sins that could incur severe punishment. These include murder, adultery, false testimony, mistreating parents amongst others. There are also righteous deeds that have higher rewards. However, God alone can determine the weight of both sins and good deeds. There are factors that are important in deciding the weight of a certain deed, and these factors such as sincerity, intentions, are only known to Him. It is His judgement that matters.
Take the example, someone who performs prayers with an absent mind, hoping to finish it as soon as possible and get on with other things. This person can not expect the same reward as someone who reflect in his presence before God, and utter his words with sincerity and strong belief. Someone who helps an old lady cross the road so that other people might see and praise him is not like one doing the same deed solely for the purpose of obeying God command of showing compassion.
[57:29] That the People of the Scripture may know that they control naught of the bounty of Allah, but that the bounty is in Allah’s hand to give to whom He will. And Allah is of Infinite Bounty.
Q5: Who judges us and what happens to us after we are judged?
God alone judges us. He can command any of his creation to execute his judgment, but the judgement itself is His preserve.
[28:88] And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He. Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face. To Him belongs the judgement, and to Him will ye (all) be brought back.
Q6: Do people who have good deeds that greatly outweigh their sins receive a greater reward than those who barely squeak by?
In general yes, but as I said above, things like sincerity and intentions are taken into account. It is not just adding the numbers of sins/ good deeds.
Q7: How does doing a good deed pay the price for disobedience?
Q8. the sin of disobedience to God’s commandments remains (Thou Shalt Not Steal). How does praying several times a day, donating money to charity, volunteering for whatever make up for the harm caused infidelity or murder?
Believers must ask God for forgiveness and repent and show remorse. If you are sincere in your repentance, you will no doubt strive to do what God commands, and try to avoid what He dislikes.
You can not pay God to forgive you, but you can humbly ask for forgiveness and show remorse. God is Most Forgiving, Most Compassionate towards believers. There is NO guarantee and you can not get forgiveness from anyone other than God, The Merciful.
[3:134] Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind;- for Allah loves those who do good; [3:135] And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins,- and who can forgive sins except Allah?- and are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done.
Q9: After we are judged, do we return to the presence of God?
The believers who enters Paradise may dwell in God’s presence. Idolaters can not:
[Quran 3:77] Lo! those who purchase a small gain at the cost of Allah’s covenant and their oaths, they have no portion in the Hereafter. Allah will neither speak to them nor look upon them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He make them grow. Theirs will be a painful doom.
As for the believer in the Last Day, God says:
[75:22] That day will faces be resplendent,
[75:23] Looking toward their Lord;
Q10: God is perfect and no imperfect being can dwell in His presence.
It is for God alone to decide who dwells in His presence. He commanded that disbelievers and idolaters will not dwell in His presence. Believers whose sins have been Forgiven can dwell in His presence, by His permission, and subject to His will.
Q11: Does He issue us forgiveness based on our good deeds and confession of Him while on earth?
God issues forgiveness, subject to a sincere confession of true faith, sincerity, good and sincere deed bases on His knowledge of us and His will.
Q12: why were Adam and Eve cast out of the Garden of Eden and caused to die? As far as we know, they committed only one sin:
The punishment that Adam incurred was limited. He had to endure life on earth for a short time until his death. He repented and God accepted him back. In a rather short time he will be back in Paradise, and for ever.
Adam is prophet because he received revelation from God. He saw paradise and the angles. Death is the destiny of all things. Animals die and they do not sin as they are not responsible in the way humans are, nevertheless, God decreed that they should die.
God says in the Quran:
[Quran 2:37] Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful.
[28:88] And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He. Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face. To Him belongs the Command, and to Him will ye (all) be brought back.
Q13: What do Muslims see as the purpose of Mortality?
Mortality was decreed by God on all things . The purpose of life and death is that people are tried and tested, for God gave us intelligence and a free will to choose between good or evil and between true faith and disbelief. Death signals the end exam time. God says:
[67:1] Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Sovereignty, and, He is Able to do all things.
[67:2] Who hath created life and death that He may try you which of you is best in conduct; and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving,
Q14: Do Muslims view God as a being who loves us and is the father of our spirits?
God loves those who believe in Him. He tolerates the disbelievers and blasphemers, and gives them the opportunity to repent until their time is up. He is the Creators of our flesh , bones and spirits and everything else.
Q15: what is our relationship to him and what is our relationship to each other?
We are God’s servants and He is our Lord. To each other we are bothers. There are various levels of brotherhood between humans: We can be brothers in humanity, Brothers in faith, Brothers in kinship etc.
Q16: Are you denying that when we sin against God our sins are not deserving of an infinite penalty?
It is not for me , you or anyone else do decide what a certain sin deserve in the way of penalty. This is God’s judgment and I can only say a certain sin is deserving of a particular penalty based on what God says. I can only say that God decreed that a disbeliever who dies whilst denying God or associating partners will not be forgiven. Anything else is subject to God’s will and mercy. God said:
[39:53] Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.
[39:54] Turn unto your Lord repentant, and surrender unto Him, before there come unto you the doom, when ye cannot be helped.
[39:55] And follow the better (guidance) of that which is revealed unto you from your Lord, before the doom cometh on you suddenly when ye know not,
[39:56] Lest any soul should say: Alas, my grief that I was unmindful of Allah, and I was indeed among the scoffers!
[39:57] Or should say: If Allah had but guided me I should have been among the dutiful!
[39:58] Or should say, when it seeth the doom: Oh, that I had but a second chance that I might be among the righteous!
[39:59] (But now the answer will be): Nay, for My revelations came unto thee, but thou didst deny them and wast scornful and wast among the disbelievers.
Q 17: How do you propose that we will compensate God for sinning against Him?
See the verses from the Quran just above this question for answer
Q18: The only difference is what they define good deeds to be.
Nope. The definitions of good and bad deeds are more common between Muslims and Christians than you might think.:
On good deeds, summed them up saying:
[16:90] Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed.
And on evil deeds He said:
[6:150] Say: Come, bring your witnesses who can bear witness that Allah forbade (all) this. And if they bear witness, do not thou bear witness with them. Follow thou not the whims of those who deny Our revelations, those who believe not in the Hereafter and deem (others) equal with their Lord.
[6:151] Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath made a sacred duty for you: That ye ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that ye do good to parents, and that ye slay not your children because of penury – We provide for you and for them – and that ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath command you, in order that ye may discern.
[6:152] And approach not the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better, till he reach maturity. Give full measure and full weight, in justice. We task not any soul beyond its scope. And if ye give your word, do justice thereunto, even though it be (against) a kinsman; and fulfil the covenant of Allah. This He commandeth you that haply ye may remember.
[Pickthal 6:153] And (He commandeth you, saying): This is My straight path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way. This hath He ordained for you, that ye may ward off (evil).
Q19: The Bible says even our righteous acts are like filthy menstrual rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6) if we are doing them to earn God’s favour.
The Quran says righteous deeds are for the benefit of the person who does them. They do not benefit God, but He loves those who strive to be righteous
Q20: what happens to those who never had the opportunity to learn of the one true god before they left this earth? Are they also out of luck?
This is a question where there is no agreement between Muslims scholars. I personally am inclined towards the opinion which says that, All nations have actually received a revelation at some point in their history, and that All humans are capable of finding true faith of monotheism and discover the falsehood of idolatry practices if they use their brains to think about the creation, its organisation and splendour. God says in the Quran:
[2:164] Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth: are signs (of Allah’s Sovereignty) for people who have sense.
and He says:
[35:24] Lo! We have sent thee with the Truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; and there is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them.
Q21: If you commit a sin that harms someone else, how can you atone for that sin?
Islam puts a great emphasis on personal responsibilty. Every human is accountable for his own actions. You can not get someone else to pay the price of your misdeeds. God says in the Quran:
[35:18] And no burdened soul can bear another’s burden, and if one heavy laden crieth for (help with) his load, naught of it will be lifted even though he (unto whom he crieth) be of kin. Thou warnest only those who fear their Lord in secret, and have established worship. He who groweth (in goodness), groweth only for himself, (he cannot by his merit redeem others). Unto Allah is the journeying.
Every human has a personal account. In this account, righteous deeds are rewarded with credits whilst sins are debited. obviously, certain deeds have higher rewards than others and likewise for sins.
If you commit a crime against another person, you are also required to compensate that person, either in this world or in the hereafter. So, in the case you mentioned, of a criminal harming someone you love, if that criminal is caught and the Law applied to him, that is his punishment. If the victim forgives him, she gets credits for that, if his crime goes undetected, he will face his victim in the hereafter and pay for his crime from his personal account. If he does not have enough credits to pay, then he takes debits from the victim’s account. There is an accurate Balance, and nothing is unaccounted for. There is Absolute Justice.
Abû Hurayrah relates in Sahîh Muslim:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked us: “Do you know who is bankrupt?”
We replied: “The one among us who is bankrupt is someone who has neither gold nor silver nor any provision.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said: “Among my people, the one who is bankrupt is the one who – after praying, fasting, and paying charity – arrives on the Day of Judgment having cursed one person and slandered another, assaulted another, and misappropriated the wealth of someone else. Then those people will be given of his good deeds, and if his good deeds run out before redress is made, then some of their sins will be taken from them and put upon him. Then he will be cast into Hell.”
This why we need to do righteous deeds. It is the only currency acceptable in the hereafter, it constitutes your most important ‘pension fund’.
N.B: Q21 is taken from my post: Islam Views on Salvation, see link below