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What does the Qur’an teach about God? 

Posted October 23, 2019 by Mark Anderson 8 comments
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Ceiling of Sheikh-Lotf-Allah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran

What does the Qur’an teach about God? 

Posted October 23, 2019 by Mark Anderson 8 comments

The question of whether the Qur’an’s Allah is the same as the God of the Bible divides Christians. But in one sense, the answer is very simple. Because by Muhammad’s time, Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians had been using the word Allah for God for centuries. And the Qur’an’s use of Allah came with the claim that its component messages came from the God of the Bible.[1] But comparing the two scriptures’ theology calls the simple answer into question. 

For while the God of the Bible and that of the Qur’an are similar in many respects, the two are also profoundly different.

That’s why Christians are divided over Allah and why Muslims explain the differences by saying that the Bible has been seriously corrupted.

Most basically, the Qur’an claims God is the source of its messages as well as the earlier biblical scriptures. God also speaks non-verbally in sun, rain and other powerful displays of his goodness. The Qur’an combined this idea of revelation with other key theological ideas to combat the thinking of Muhammad’s pagan hearers.

For the pagans too believed in Allah, but as the High God who created the world and then became too self-preoccupied to bother with humankind. They said Allah

  • Had fathered several gods
  • Was remote and unseeing
  • Had no interest in judging humankind

The pagans thus reduced Allah to the level of a glorified man.

Against this reduction of God, the Qur’an stressed that there’s only one true God, who, though highly exalted, sees all we do.

The Qur’an says God is all-powerful and needs nothing. It warns rebels of his nearness[2] and of the reality of the Last Day, when he’ll judge everyone, small and great. It also encourages believers to call on him when in distress since he’s near and responsive (Q 2:186, 11:61). But having said that, it also presents God’s uniqueness, nobility and grandeur in such a way that they leave no room for him to come down and interact with mortals, let alone live among them, as the Bible says.

The Qur’an describes God as “compassionate,” the “justest of judges” and “most merciful of the merciful” (e.g., Q 7:151, 95:8).[3] Hence, it encourages us to forgive and condemns such sins as theft and adultery. But since God is so much greater than we are, it offers the individual believers no certainty that he will welcome them to Paradise and never states on what precise basis God will grant or withhold mercy on the Last Day.[4]

In fact, the Qur’an seems to limit itself to disclosing about God only what his servants need to know to obey him.[5]

Emphasizing God’s otherness, the Qur’an says there’s none at all like him and that he couldn’t possibly have a son.[6] Surah 112 says,

He is God alone.

God, the eternal refuge.

He neither begets nor was he begotten

Nor is there anyone like him.

Thus, though it honors Jesus as a great prophet, no standard reading of the Qur’an leaves room for Christian belief in the Trinity.[7]

The Qur’an uses six professional images of God found in the Bible, presenting him as:

  • Master/provider/king
  • Creator/sustainer
  • Judge
  • Guardian/protector
  • Guide/revealer
  • Deliverer

The Qur’an presents itself as divine guidance. In fact, this is one of its primary emphases. While the Bible makes God’s role as deliverer central, the Qur’an mentions it only peripherally and only in relation to temporal dangers.[8] Equally striking is the Qur’an’s avoidance of the Bible’s more personal images of God—for example, the central New Testament images of father and lover/husband of his people. The Qur’an refers to God’s being a friend only once and makes the New Testament’s casting of him as a servant seem utterly unthinkable.[9]

In the Qur’an, God makes covenants with humankind, but he answers to none and never invites us to hold him to his word. In keeping with this, the Qur’an does not

  • root God’s ethical attributes in his holiness[10]
  • base its entire call to moral renewal on our need to be morally like him[11]
  • mention divine atonement

These are key biblical emphases.

All this makes God’s relationship to humankind in the Qur’an most basically that of an all-powerful Master to his servants and us rather disposable to him.

Muslims are united in deeming this theology God-honoring to a degree that nothing else is—certainly not the Bible in its present form. As noted above, that’s one of the main reasons they contest the Bible’s authenticity. By contrast, qur’anic theology divides Christians. Some claim that the Qur’an makes room for belief in the Trinity, emphasizing those parts of the Qur’an that agree with the Bible and explaining all the discrepancies away.[12] But most Christians lament that, though it conveys so many other great truths about God, the Muslim scripture rejects what they prize as the very best of revealed theology.

————————

[1] It specifically names the Torah (Tawrat), the Psalms (Zabur) and the New Testament (Injil). It also names various biblical prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist and Jesus.

[2] Q 50:16, for example, warns that he’s nearer to Muhammad’s enemies than their “jugular vein.” This implies that he could effortlessly snuff out their lives in a second.

[3] It also says his likeness is the “loftiest of likenesses” (Q 16:60; 30:27). This means that, while qur’anic descriptions of him stretch language to its limits, we must still give the words used their normal meaning.

[4] The Qur’an clearly promises paradise to believers generically, and it does so repeatedly. What it does not do is give individual believers the assurance that they’ll be admitted to paradise. It does not do this because the path it sets out for those admitted to paradise involves a lifetime of faithful Muslim practice. Since no one is perfect, no Muslim can claim to meet God’s requirements perfectly, and each believer’s deeds will be weighed against her misdeeds on the Last Day (Q 7:8-9, 21:47, 101:8-11). But it doesn’t say how much one deed will weigh over against another. (A single act of performing one’s prayers or giving alms would presumably weigh the same as its opposite—omitting requisite prayer or almsgiving. But would giving alms be equal in weight to adultery or murder?). Furthermore, we have no way of knowing how many misdeeds our good deeds must outweigh. Ultimately, everyone hopes that her balance of good deeds will be enough to merit God’s mercy.

Hence, most Muslims consider it highly presumptuous for anyone to claim that he’ll go to paradise. The Qur’an refers to a bridge (sirat) over hell which everyone must traverse en route to paradise (Q 37:23-24, 19:70-72). Another picture of the Last Day shows everyone who has ever lived awaiting the moment when they will discover their eternal destiny, underscoring the point that no one will know for sure until that day (Q 19:66-72).

[5] At first glance, the statement made by some that God reveals his will in the Qur’an, but not himself may seem right. But it’s actually contradictory since any revelation of one’s will also implicitly reveals oneself. (Forbidding adultery, for example, expresses one’s values, unless one’s command is purely arbitrary, in which case it would still reveal that.) Hence, we should rather say that God’s self-revelation appears to be incidental to his revelation of his will. The Qur’an reveals God to have no interest in having his subjects get to know him personally in a relationship of mutual intimacy and love, which is in sharp contrast to biblical theology.

That is certainly not to say that the Qur’an is devoid of love. On the contrary, it presents a God who is compassionate toward his servants (Q 19:96) and repeatedly emphasizes our need to worship him alone. Being omnipresent, he may be described as always near in some sense. In the Qur’an, however, God always maintains what might be called his “professional distance,” as our Master, Guide, King, Provider, etc. He sometimes stoops to deliver us from trouble. And he seeks our loyalty and devotion, but not our friendship or love.

[6] The Qur’an’s rejection of divine sonship typically comes in blanket statements without specific reference to Jesus. This could mean that it refers to the pagan Arab concept of divine sex and procreation. However, Q 4:171 denies that Jesus is God’s Son and Q 5:116 declares that Jesus is not to be worshipped as divine.

[7] There’s no evidence to suggest that Muslims ever understood the Qur’an in any other way. Put positively, all the earliest Muslim commentary on the Qur’an shows that they have never believed God became incarnate in Jesus. In fact, the Qur’an makes associating anything created with God the unforgiveable sin. In keeping with this, the Qur’an’s creation accounts, which are similar to the biblical account in many other respects, omit the biblical account’s key feature of humankind’s being made in God’s likeness.

Nevertheless, some today interpret the Qur’an in such a way as to allow for belief in the Christian Trinity. They do this out of a desire to build bridges between Muslims and Christians. However, most Muslims consider their interpretation of the Qur’an perverse in much the same way that Christians do when members of the Bahai faith tell them they have seriously misunderstood Jesus.

[8] The Qur’an says, for example, that God delivered his people from Pharaoh under Moses (e.g., Q 26:65). But unlike the Bible, it presents the human race in need of no salvation beyond the guidance the Qur’an affords.

[9] Q 4:125 refers to God’s friendship with Abraham. But since it supplies no explanatory context, it leaves us to supply as much or as little meaning as we like here. Biblically, by contrast, Abraham’s friendship with God was marked by the intimacy and mutuality of God’s informing Abraham of his intentions and even allowing Abraham to bargain with him over how he would effect his plan (Gen. 18:16-33).

Central to the New Testament is the concept of God’s serving his people even to the point of laying his life down to redeem them. Hence, the Bible presents God as simultaneously both servant and king.

[10] Both mentions of holiness leave us unsure if the Qur’an has God’s existential or ethical holiness in mind (Q 2:1, 59:23).

[11] We are sometimes called to imitate God. For example, Q 28:77 tells believers to “be kind in the way that God has been kind to you.” However, the Qur’an does not make imitating God the central purpose of humankind’s moral renewal as the Bible does.

[12] This implies that Muslims have historically misinterpreted their own scripture and need Christians to dispel their confusion and show them its true meaning. After all, the theological discrepancies I refer to are both pivotal and ubiquitous in the Qur’an. But so narrowly focused on bridge-building are those who take this approach that they seem to be unaware of both the implication and how paternalistic their approach is.

8 Comments

  1. I’m a Christian who values Muslims and is interested in learning about the Muslim faith. I’m curious. How would Muslims respond to the article above. Is it fair? Does it fit with what you believe the Qur’an teaches?

  2. I am glad you asked, Joel. As a Muslim, I would say that this article suffers from a lack of close reading of the Qur’an, and what was read was clearly interpreted through the author’s Christian point of view rather than providing an accurate picture of what the Qur’an is saying or how Muslims understand it. One of the common Christian misconceptions that was present in this article is the idea that Allah is a distant and unknowable god. Perhaps this misconception has its roots in the Protestant belief in a personal relationship with God, and then assuming that Islam must have the opposite of that. Wherever the origins of this idea may lie, Allah does not certainly describe Himself in this way throughout the Qur’an. Places like 2:186 or 11:61 are good examples to show Allah’s nearness and responsiveness to His believing slaves, though I would like to point to the end of surah Maryam [19]. From 19:88-95, Allah negates the false belief that He has any son, but then goes immediately to affirm that He has love and affection for His believing slaves in 19:96. So this denial of a son of God in an intermediary or atoning role does not entail a distant Lord, as Christians often assume, but rather Allah points out in this very passage and in several places throughout this surah and repeatedly on almost every page of the Qur’an how He apportions His mercy: those who believe and do good deeds will receive His mercy while those who associate partners with him will receive His punishment. Read surah Maryam (all of it or from 64 to the end), or other places like 7:156-158 or the beginning of surah Ghafir come to mind, but the subject of who receives Allah’s mercy and who receives His punishment is so ubiquitous throughout the Qur’an that I am amazed by the author’s claim that the Qur’an “has no interest in asking, On what basis does [Allah] grant or withhold mercy?”

    In fact, the entire Qur’an is a sign of Allah’s rahmah – mercy, love and affection – for us, just as He has described the Qur’an as a mercy and a healing for what is in the chests. As the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim said, every single ayah (verse) in the Qur’an is about al-Tawheed – Allah’s sole right to be worshipped. This is either by the information that He gives us about Himself which lets us know who we are worshipping, commanding us to worship Him so that we can put this into practice, informing us of His legislation which enables us to further actualize our worship of Him, giving us information about those who believe in Allah and how He rewards them which can serve to engender our love, hope and obedience in Allah, and informing us of those who disbelieve in Allah and how He punishes them which can serve to dissuade us from disobedience. So while the author poses the question, “Why would God disclose anything about himself that his servants don’t need to know to obey him?” – seeming to imply that information about Allah is scarce and scant throughout the Qur’an – we can say instead that every single thing in the Qur’an is telling us about our Lord and this information is either telling us who we are worshiping, how to worship Him, or why to worship Him. For the author to assert that “the Qur’an shows God to have no interest in having his subjects to get to know him, which, again, is in sharp contrast to biblical theology” shows a terrible and frankly inexcusable bias and misrepresentation of the Qur’an and Islamic belief.

    So these are some issues that the author gets wrong from the angle of interpretation. Then there are a handful of factually incorrect statements, such as that the Qur’an describes the Prophet as a guide more often than it does Allah or that it never calls us to be morally like him (see 28:77, for example). These and others are sloppy claims.

    Without going too much longer, the issue of deliverance is an interesting one. Here the author correctly points out that deliverance or salvation has a much less prominent place in the Qur’an than in a Protestant understanding of Christianity, and notes that deliverance or salvation in the Qur’an is usually used in reference to deliverance from a worldly punishment, such as saving Noah and his people from the flood or Moses and his people from the drowning of Pharoah and the Egyptians. So a shallow reading from a Christian perspective would see this as a deficiency in a key area and further affirm his notion that Islam is so opposite to Christianity in yet another way. But a careful reading would find that it is not salvation/deliverance which is used to talk about eternal wellbeing in the Qur’an, but rather the terms guidance and success are the ones he should be looking for. Rather than a focus on some singular deliverance/salvation event (such as the death of Jesus in atonement for sins), the Qur’an frequently speaks about sliding scales of guidance to misguidance and success to loss. That is because Islam does not present any sort of “one-and-done” saved event, but rather at each moment we are either moving closer to our Lord in obedience and remembrance or farther away from Him in disobedience and heedlessness until the moment we die [74:37]. The Qur’an repeatedly speaks about different levels of guidance and misguidance and different levels of success and loss, rather than any one-time spiritual deliverance event. So, we cannot compare apples to apples here.

    These are a few thoughts about this article. If you are sincerely interested in learning about the Muslim faith, then I would recommend referring to Islamic sources and Muslims going forward. Otherwise, you are liable to get a skewed picture of what the Qur’an teaches or what Muslims believe, such as what we have found in parts of this article.

  3. Thank you Khalil, for responding. It is interesting. I’ll read what you’ve written a few times and think about it for a while. If I think of any questions for the conversation, I’ll plan to post again. God bless.

  4. Thanks so much, Khalil, for all the time and thought you put into your response. I found some of your comments very helpful and have made a few revisions to my article as a result.

    Just to clarify: My one and only goal in writing the article was to present the qur’anic view of God as fairly and faithfully as possible, simultaneously showing how it relates to biblical theology. So I was sorry to see that you felt I misrepresented the Qur’an.

    Everyone reading the Qur’an or Bible has a particular perspective or bias—I no less than you—and it’s unavoidable that our bias will show when we write about it. But I had no agenda of making the Qur’an seem as unlike or as like the Bible as possible. My goal was simply to show the many similarities and differences between them. Of course, it’s only right that we compare and contrast the two scriptures because the Qur’an specifies that it’s revealed by the God of the Bible.

    But as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, attempting to do that on so central a topic as “God” in fewer than 800 words—not counting footnotes—is extremely challenging. (Not to criticize, but just to compare: your response is more than 200 words longer than my original article.) So I’m not surprised if I didn’t get it all perfect. And in response to your criticisms, I’ve tried to clarify a number of the points I was making.

    Thanks again, brother. I’ll respond directly to your specific comments as time allows.

  5. Let me respond directly to a few of your criticisms, Khalil:

    The verses Muslims cite most often as indications of God’s nearness are warning verses like Q 50:16. Thanks for pointing out Q 2:186 and 11:61. The danger in attempting to write as briefly as I do is always of over-simplifying. So I appreciate your correction here.

    You’re right to think Protestants have put their own stamp on the teaching that we’re to have a personal relationship with God. But I know of no major Christian writer—Catholic or Orthodox, no less than Protestant—who doesn’t teach this also. They just say it differently.

    My article in no way means to say that the Qur’an doesn’t give Muslims lots of teaching about God. If I’d thought that, I wouldn’t have had anything to write about. But there’s a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. I believe I’m on very firm ground when I say that the Qur’an has nothing comparable to the biblical “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” (John 17:3). If I’m wrong, I’d be happy to know it. Otherwise, your charge that I’ve inexcusably misrepresented the Qur’an here seems unfair to me.

    Thanks to your comment, I’ve revised what I first wrote about God’s not being specifically called a guide often. What I said was technically correct, but it unfortunately shifted the emphasis in a way that was unhelpful. Thanks again for the criticism.

    I appreciate the verse you cited which calls us to imitate God’s action. But I believe the point remains that calling us to imitate God isn’t a major emphasis in the Qur’an, as in the Bible’s “You must be holy for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2).

    I’m sorry you felt I misrepresented your beliefs, Khalil. Hopefully, my revision is closer to what you might say if you were writing on God in the Qur’an. But as you know, there’s a myriad of Muslim interpretations of the Qur’an—not just one. A person can’t really say much about the Qur’an (or Bible) without someone saying they’re wrong. So I know I’m never going to please everyone. But again, I’m very grateful that you took the time to respond as helpfully as you did.

  6. Thank you, Mark, for taking the time to consider the comments and respectfully respond. Although there is much that could be said, I would like to limit myself to one piece of the article that you edited following our initial exchange. Specifically, you wrote, “But since God is so much greater than we are, [the Qur’an] offers the believer no certainty that he will welcome her to Paradise and has no interest in asking, On what precise basis will he grant or withhold mercy on the Last Day?”

    Firstly, a seemingly small but important point of correction. The Qur’an certainly does offer certainty that the believers will be welcomed into Paradise (see 4:122, 4:124, 10:4, 31:8-9, 39:70-75, and 40:40 for some examples). The thing that we are not certain about is the condition in which we will die (whether we will die as believers or disbelievers), but for those who die as believers, Allah has clearly and emphatically promised them Paradise.

    Secondly, as mentioned before, the Qur’an spends a considerable amount of time discussing the precise basis for how Allah with grant or withhold His Mercy on the Last Day. This is discussed repeatedly throughout the Qur’an in various levels of detail according to the context and theme of each surah. In fact, the theme of how to obtain Allah’s pleasure and avoid His punishment begins on the very first page of the Qur’an in surah al-Fatihah (1:5-7) and then continues for the first few pages of surah al-Baqarah (2:1-29) by describing the straight path mentioned in surah al-Fatihah and those who follow or diverge from it, their reward or punishment and why Allah alone deserves our worship. In this section you find the first instance of a repeating pattern throughout the Qur’an, which is mentioning things in contrasting pairs (characteristics of the believers contrasted with characteristics of the disbelievers, rewards of the believers contrasted with punishment of the disbelievers, etc). This is a quality that the Qur’an itself alerts us to (39:23). If you look for these patterns throughout the Qur’an, you will see that many of them are telling you the basis on which people will receive or be deprived of mercy on the Last Day. Again and again we are told that those people who believe and do righteous good deeds will be entered into Paradise while those who disbelieve will be subjected to a terrible punishment. Here are a few examples just from what I have been reading the past few days: 29:52-59, 30:10-16, 31:1-9, 31:22-24, 32:10-20. If these are not precise enough, consider the criterion set forth in 4:116 (as well as the surrounding context of 4:115-125 for another example of this contrasting pattern). Even if we do not find the word “rahmah” – mercy, love, kindness – mentioned in these passages, the rewards of the hereafter that are mentioned are only possible after the believers have been entered into Paradise as a result of Allah’s rahmah. One example where rahmah is explicitly mentioned though would be 7:156-158 where Allah first mentions how His rahmah encompasses all things in this worldly life and then on what basis He grants it in the hereafter.

    So, as I mentioned in the previous post, I am truly amazed by the author’s claim that the Qur’an “has no interest in asking, On what precise basis will he grant or withhold mercy on the Last Day?” Whatever your intentions may have been, this is simply an untenable claim about such a pervasive and recurring theme of the Qur’an.

  7. Thank you, Khalil, for your kindness and patience in responding to me. I am impressed by your sincere devotion to the Qur’an and how central it is to your life. I’ve added a footnote to clarify what you objected to. You are right to say that the Qur’an clearly and repeatedly promises paradise to believers. What I’m trying to get at is that it does this generically, but what it does not do is give individual believers the assurance that they’ll be admitted to paradise.

    I think it avoids doing this because the path to paradise involves a lifetime of faithful Muslim practice. Since no one is perfect, no Muslim can claim to meet God’s requirements perfectly, and each believer’s deeds will be weighed against her misdeeds on the Last Day (Q 7:8-9, 21:47, 101:8-11). But the Qur’an doesn’t say how much one deed will weigh over against another. Not to complicate things, but we might assume that a single act of performing one’s prayers or giving alms would presumably weigh the same as its opposite—-omitting requisite prayer or almsgiving. But would giving alms be equal in weight to adultery or murder? Furthermore, we have no way of knowing how many misdeeds our good deeds must outweigh. Ultimately, everyone hopes that her balance of good deeds will be enough to merit God’s mercy. And the one thing everyone can rely on is that God will be just.

    With all that in mind, most Muslims consider it highly presumptuous for anyone to claim that he’ll go to paradise. Only those killed while fighting for God’s Cause can be assured of that. The Qur’an refers to a bridge (sirat) over hell that everyone going to paradise must first traverse (Q 37:23-24, 19:70-72). Another picture of the Last Day shows everyone who has ever lived awaiting the moment when they will discover their eternal destiny, underscoring the point that no one will know for sure until that day (Q 19:66-72).

    Does that seem right to you?

    I think one of my biggest challenges when writing so briefly on such a big topic is that it’s hard to write with both Christian and Muslim concerns in mind. This is a case where I had Christian concerns more in mind than Muslim ones.

    Again, I really do appreciate your criticisms. The last thing I want to do is misrepresent the Qur’an, Muslims or Islam to any of my readers.

  8. There are a few points to mention in response to the November 27th comment, Mark.

    The weighing of deeds is not as I see many Christians imagining it. We know from the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah that good deeds can be multiplied (6:160) or annulled (2:264). We are told in the Qur’an that the reward of good deeds will be multiplied by at least ten times, while sins will be repaid in equal measure (6:160), and that some good deeds will be rewarded up to 700 times (2:261) or even rewarded without measure (39:10). If we look to the Sunnah, we will find many more specifics about the rewards of specific deeds or types of deeds or factors which will increase or decrease the rewards of deeds. These details have been well-documented in scholarly writings and preclude the need to speculate and make unfounded assumptions or introduce speculative principles. Furthermore, we find that sins can be forgiven (39:53) and wiped away (8:38). Repentance and forgiveness are major themes in the Qur’an which cannot be ignored. So all of these factors affect the weighing of deeds.

    If we understand the points above, then we must take a step back to realize that good deeds can be either be accepted or rejected. The good deeds of the disbelievers will be rejected (25:23, 11:16, 39:65, 2:217), making his scale devoid of any good deeds, though he still accrues bad deeds (74:42-47). That is because the conditions for the acceptance of good deeds (making them sincerely for Allah, following the legislated guidelines, and being a believer) have not been fulfilled. Then if the believer performs deeds while fulfilling these conditions he will be rewarded (4:124) but if he fails to fulfill these conditions then his deed may not be accepted (5:27).

    If we understand this, then we must take another step back to realize that it is not the weighing of the deeds that determines whether someone will reside eternally in Paradise of the Hellfire. The determining factor for entrance in Paradise is one’s eeman and tawheed – faith and exclusive worship of Allah alone – while the determining factor for eternal consignment to the hellfire is kufr or shirk – disbelief or directing worship to others besides Allah. Every single person who dies as a believer will eventually be entered into Paradise, even if they are punished for a time in the hellfire due to their sins, while those who die not as a Muslim despite having heard the call will remain in the hellfire eternally. So that is the criteria, while the deeds are a factor in determining one’s level within Paradise or the hellfire. Consider 35:32-36 – all the different levels of believers will be entered in Paradise while the disbelievers will be sent to the Hellfire. Think of the people being given the scroll of deeds in the right hand or the left as the sign of whether they will be in Paradise or Hellfire, and then the subsequent weighing of the deeds being used to determine where exactly in Paradise of Hellfire a person will be placed. Then the disbelievers will be driven to the Hellfire and the people who claimed Islam (both sincere believers and the hypocrites along with them) will proceed to the Sirat where the believers will be given a light to guide them according to the eemaan that they had and they will pass over the Sirat at varying speeds according to the deeds that they did while the hypocrites will be deprived of any light due to their lack of true eemaan and will fall into the Hellfire where they will remain eternally (57:12-15).

    Moving on: Yes, the individual believer does not know where he or anyone else (aside from the handful of individuals specifically mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah) will be in the Hereafter. This life is a test, so we will not know our own results until the end. Perhaps the Christian can relate to this by thinking of how the time of the Hour has been withheld from us so that we would be in a state of constant readiness for it. Likewise, the believer is motivated to continuously strive and not become complacent (3:133, 57:21) so that he meets death while is a believer. But just as the Hour has signs before its arrival, the way one lives his life is typically a sign of the way he will meet His Lord.

    Finally, I have heard a number of Christians repeat the claim that death while fighting in Allah’s cause is the only sure way to know that one will be entered into Paradise. Actually, this is not true on two counts. First, we find more than one report from the Sunnah about a person who died while performing jihad and was entered into the hellfire (see Saheeh Muslim #114 for instance). Second, we also find other deeds in the Sunnah that promise entrance into Paradise (see Saheeh Muslim #218 for example). There is a lot of incorrect information about Islam that I see repeated in Christian publications and discourse, so I always recommend learning Islam from the Muslim scholars for anyone who wants to gain an accurate understanding.

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