Sunday, May 15, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 10

A Fatalistic Salvation

surah al-Baqarah 2:284 - "To Allah belongeth all that is in the heavens and on earth. Whether ye show what is in your minds or conceal it, Allah Calleth you to account for it. He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and punisheth whom He pleaseth, for Allah hath power over all things."

The author wants to make the point that in Islamic theology, there is no hope of salvation. She intends to pain the picture that Muslims spend their entire lives trying to earn enough good deeds to make it into heaven, even though, according to their own theology, God has already decided who is in and who is out and there's nothing they can do about it.

She starts out with the above verse. I understand what she's getting out of it, she focuses only on the last sentence of the verse. However, I don't understand it the way she does. I don't see it as a statement that God punishes whomever the whim strikes Him to punish, or anything like that. To my mind it is merely an example of the failure of human language. The entire verse is about how God is in charge of everything. Everything is His and His alone. Punishment or reward is not based on the whims of the divine, but on the laws that were set up for mankind to follow.

Anyway. She clearly has never heard of, or is ignoring, the Christian sects who believe in predestination, since she seems to believe that her (incorrect) version of Islamic theology (God deciding ahead of time who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell) only exists in Islam.

Let me lay out, briefly, her argument for terming Islamic salvation, 'fatalistic'.

All people are born muslim. Not, as she coins it, Muslim, meaning followers of the revelation of Mohammed. She quotes this hadith, sahih Bukhari 2:23:441 - "Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magainism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?" Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: "The pure Allah's Islamic nature (true faith of Islam) (i.e. worshipping none but Allah) with which He has created human beings. No change let there be in the religion of Allah (i.e. joining none in worship with Allah). That is the straight religion (Islam) but most of men know, not." (30.30)" 

Then she quotes sahih Bukhari 4:54:430 - "Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mus'ud: Allah's Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, "(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature's) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into him. So, a man amongst you may do (good deeds till there is only a cubit between him and Paradise and then what has been written for him decides his behavior and he starts doing (evil) deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire. And similarly a man amongst you may do (evil) deeds till there is only a cubit between him and the (Hell) Fire, and then what has been written for him decides his behavior, and he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise.""

Her argument is this. Though we are all born 'Muslim', 'knowing' the truth of Islam (and she never corrects the impression that this means Mohammed's religion, our parents corrupt us and we can live our lives incorrectly. But none of that matters. As a matter of fact, nothing that we do matters because God, at our creation, tells an angel to write down our fate. So no matter what we do, we will wind up in a pre-determined place. The end.

Only, that's not how I read the hadith. As I see it, a) they claim that people are born 'muslim', meaning that they submit to God. Not that they are Muslims. And b) the angel is sent to write down the deeds and the fate of the soul. That does not say that God decides what that fate is for the person. God *knows* it, because He is God. But foreknowledge is different from causing the thing to be.

Aside from all of this, the author believes that Islamic salvation is 'fatalistic' because no one can ever be certain of their salvation. And I find that to be a Protestant problem. They have this idea that their salvation is 100% assured if they say the Jesus prayer or whatever their particular group has decided on. That after that, they're in the clear. But that's not the way it works. Salvation is a process, one that we live out for our entire lives. The idea that a person can say that they know they will go to heaven, or to hell, or that they can tell another person where they will be for eternity is arrogant in the extreme, and takes onto a human being what belongs to God alone.


  1. I agree with you. I do think that salvation is something you have to work for. One of my issues with Christianity was the concept that if you believed in Jesus you didn't need to do anything else for your salvation. You could basically do whatever you want as long as you believe Jesus is God. Obviously that is not what Christianity says but its always been a major selling point. Less rules, instant salvation.

  2. LK,

    Like you say, that's not what Christianity really teaches. But some people have taken what is really taught and twisted it out of true.

  3. I don't think we must work for salvation, but I also don't agree that you can do whatever you want if only you believe in Jesus. Now if that is contradictory,so be it. :D

    I agree about her ignoring the predestination Christians. I know many!

  4. I agree with your analysis. I remember similar discussion taking place on Susanne's blog and it was a very interesting debate.

  5. Susanne,

    But you do agree that works play a part of salvation? Not that we earn salvation by anything that we do, but that our works *show* our salvation. And there are certain actions, certain rituals, if you like, that help us, as human beings, remain close to God and remember Him. The rituals themselves don't hold salvation, but they're there as an aid to us.

  6. Suroor,

    Yeah, I think I remember that discussion. :)

  7. Amber, definitely! That's why that whole you can do whatever you want as long as you believe in Jesus is false. A living faith works. We don't work to earn God's favor, but we work because it's fruit of salvation.

  8. Susanne,

    Oh, good. I thought we were on the same page there, but, you know, I had to check! :D

  9. I feel very much the same as LK, that I've always had an issue with the 'instant salvation', although, yes, I do realize that's not what Christianity really says, but I know waaaay to many Christians who think this way.

    Also, I agree with you Amber, that the way I understand, what Islam teaches is that God knows already. I see Christianity as teaching the same, God already knows who will and who will not accept Christ. It's not in a "he decides and you have no choice" kinda way, but because God is All-Knowing.

  10. Becky,

    I've got issues with 'instant salvation' too, so that works out well. It's good that that's not what Christianity actually says, but there's clearly a problem since so many Christians believe that it is what it says!

    *nods* Yeah. In this instance, I think Christianity and Islam really say the same thing. God *knows*, because he is omniscient, but that doesn't mean that He causes the thing to happen. He just knows how it's all going to come out in the end.


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