Sin in Christianity & Islam

By Daniel Scot Sept. 2008

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Sura 'Al-Fatihiah' (The Opening) 1:1-7

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment, You (alone) we worship; You (alone) we ask for help. Show us the straight path, The path of those whom You have favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Your anger nor of those who go astray.

Jesus said: "...and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32

Warning—This pamphlet contains words of the Qur'an in Arabic and English. Please use appropriately.

NOTE: Authoritative Islamic texts are the Qur'an and Hadith. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the revealed word of Allah (verse numbers differ slightly in different versions). Sura always stands for a chapter in the Qur'an. Islamic belief is that Muhammad is the perfect example to be followed by all Muslims. Whatever he said, practiced or approved is called Hadith. There are six different sets of authentic ahadith (Hadiths): Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmizi, Sunnan Ibn Majah and Sunnan Nasa'i. This pamphlet is intended to show the teachings and examples of Muhammad, and is not intended to be offensive to Muslims; many Muslims may have little real knowledge of what their god, Allah, and their prophet has said on this topic.

Many people think that all religions teach the same set of moral values with only minor variations. Factual understanding of the major doctrines of Jesus and Allah/Muhammad reveal superficial similarities but also that the teachings are often very different. As a result, the actions that stem from these beliefs are also different.

The Source of Sin

In Islam, the origin of sin is Allah. Islam claims that humans were created in a state of equilibrium; sinless at birth (Sura 16:78; Pickthall 30:30 & 98:5) and with pure Islamic faith (Bukhari, vol. 8, Hadith No. 597). The Qur'an makes it perfectly clear that no person is really free to choose good or evil, Allah leads people astray.

Z Sura 7:178, 'Whomsoever Allâh guides, he is the guided one, and whomsoever He sends astray, those! They are the losers.' (see also Sura 7:179; 13:31 95:4-5; 4:142; 39:57).

Thus, in Islam, Adam did not bring sin into the world. Indeed Allah had destined Adam to sin—40 years before he created him (Bukhari, vol. 8, Hadith No. 611; see also Sura 9:51).

In Christianity, humans are believed to be born sinners by virtue of Adam's sin We inherit a sinful nature (Romans 5:12), and so people commit sin because they are sinners.

Definition of Sin

In Islam, sin is sometimes intention of heart (except unbelief) (Sura 33:5; Bukhari, vol. 1, Hadith No. 1; cf 2:284); but other times it is only wrong actions (Bukhari vol. 8, Hadith 498).

The Qur'an recognizes that all living persons are inherently good, and it is their actions and devotion to Allah that enables them to obtain salvation. Even demons are capable of regaining salvation (Ibn Kathir on 55:71 and Al-Tabari 23:65)

In Christianity, sin includes actions, but is primarily wrong thoughts, desires and inclinations, a rebellious defiance of God (Exodus 20:17; Matthew 5:28; Romans 1:21; 1 John 2:15) as these are the source of your actions (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).

The Seriousness of Sin

In Christianity, there is no changing standard regarding sin: the standard is always God's holiness.

... Be holy for I am Holy (Leviticus 11:45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16); I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8); and All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

For example, adultery is completely forbidden (Matthew 5:27-28), whereas in Islam, limited prostitution is permitted (Sura 24:33; 4:24; 33:37).

Unlike Christianity Islam does not consider all sin equally wrong. Sins are divided into different categories, but are most usefully separated into greater and lesser sins. There are several lists of great sins (albeit conflicting), which can be summarized as:

    1. To join partners in worship with Allah;
    2. To practice sorcery;
    3. Murder without just (legal) cause;
    4. To charge usury (money lent at high interest);
    5. To consume the property of an orphan;
    6. To be a coward in battle;
    7. To be undutiful to one's parents;
    8. To give a false witness (lying);
    9. To kill your child lest he should share your food with you (i.e. poverty);
    10. To commit illegal sexual intercourse with the wife of your neighbour (a.k.a., adultery);
    11. Alcohol; and gambling.

Even though these are listed as great sins, they are obviously not seen as very serious according to Muhammad's teachings.

As seen above, though adultery is forbidden, prostitution (Sura 24:33) and limited (temporary) marriage are permissible (Sura 4:24). Thus, in Islam, the seriousness, and even the definition of sin varies. For example, alcohol is forbidden on earth (Sura 5:90-91) but in Islamic Paradise, alcohol is allowed (Sura 56:18; 76:5, 17; 78:34). On earth, Islam forbids more than 4 wives (excepting temporary wives, and concubines) and adultery (Sura 4:3), but in Islamic Paradise, 72 virgins (at-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 1067, 1494 [Alim Software]; see Sura 56:22-40; Ibn Kathir on 55:72) and boys (Sura 52:24; 56:17; 76:19).

Lying is generally forbidden, but the doctrine of Al-Taqiyya [legal right of a Muslims to deceive non-Muslims] permits lying. Muhammad believed that lying was acceptable and said,

Z 'Allah willing, if ever I take an oath to do something, and later on I find that it is more beneficial to do something different, I will do the thing which is better, and give expiation for my oath.' (Bukhari, vol. 4., Hadith No. 361). Allah had taught in the Qur'an that, Muslims are not bound by their oaths (Sura 66:2).

Lying is permitted because Allah can deceive. In fact, Allah calls himself the greatest of deceivers [Allaahu Khayrul-maakiriin]. (Sura 3:54; 8:30) and leads people astray (Sura 4:88, 143; 7:178,186; 13:27, etc). Murder, even though it is a great sin, is actually commanded to prevent or remove al-Fitnah [opposition (Sura 2:191 and 2:217) or disbelief (Sura 8:39)]. Muslims are even commanded to slay unbelievers if they do not convert (Sura 9:5 etc.). Thus, the great sin of murder is commanded if unbelievers do not convert or when Al-Fitnah exists. No Muslim should be put to death for murdering an unbeliever (Bukhari, vol. 4, Hadith No. 283).

Muhammad permitted sorcery although it is listed as a great sin (Muslim, Book 26, Hadith No. 5449, 5452, 5456). In keeping with this attitude to the great sins, Muhammad forbade children from obeying or even being near their parents, if their parents were unbelievers (Sura 9:23).

Despite all these irregularities, Allah sought to emphasize the necessity of sin when his messenger said:

Z 'By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them' (Muslim, vol. 4, Book 37, Hadith No. 6622 & 6621).

This shows how serious Allah regards sin. If you do not sin, Allah will wipe you out and replace you with people who will sin. It is then incumbent upon Muslims to sin, so that they will repent and seek Allah.

How then, can Muslims get into Heaven? Allah weighs their sins and good deeds in a balance (Sura 7:8, 9; 21:47; 23:101-103). If the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, then entry is assured. To aid a Muslim in this venture, Allah proclaims: 'Those who avoid great sins (see Sura 4:31) ... except the small sins, verily, your Lord is of vast forgiveness ...' (Sura 53:32). Good deeds remove sinful deeds (Sura 5:39; 11:114; Bukhari, vol. 1. Hadith No. 504). Punishment now, means no punishment after death (Bukhari, vol. 1, Hadith No. 17).

Additionally, every letter of the Qur'an that is read in Arabic, accredits the reader with ten good deeds recorded (at-Tirmidhi, vol. 3, Hadith No. 2327). Good deeds can be multiplied many times, up to 700 times (Sura 4:40; 6:160; Bukhari, vol. 1, Hadith No. 40) and are easily obtained (Bukhari, vol. 4, Hadith No. 112, 514; vol. 8, Hadith No. 335, 412, No. 9, Hadith No. 507). Reciting the confession of faith is recorded as ten good deeds (at-Tirmidhi, No. 308).

All this gives the impression that sin is easily forgiven and seems to convey the certainty of entry into heaven. However Muhammad, under Allah's inspiration, revealed that good deeds will never get you into heaven (Bukhari, vol. 7, Hadith No. 577 and vol. 8, Hadith No. 474) for Allah may not forgive you (Sura 4:116). The last Rightly Guided Caliph said: "I swear to Allah that I do not feel safe from Allah's cunning (deceit) even if one of my feet is already in Paradise." (Khalid Muhammad Khalid, Successors of the Apostle).

Summary

As we have seen, sin is not a serious issue in Islam, and even great sins are forgiven easily. Christianity, however, never changes the standard, and forgiveness is never obtained by doing good works. It is the heart and mind that needs to be changed. In Christianity, forgiveness of sin is only available through the atoning death of Jesus Christ (Islam forbids atonement, Sura 4:112; and see 17:15 etc). The God of the Bible and the God of Islam too often have different standards regarding holiness; Allah has an arbitrary standard and requires Muslims to sin; Yahweh (Jehovah) requires perfection of heart, mind, soul and body (Matthew 5:48) —they can never be contaminated by sin and still enter heaven without atonement by the blood of Lord Jesus.

Only faith in the righteousness of Christ offers forgiveness now and a certain hope of heaven.

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