I am from Bangladesh and I was born in the Muslim Family. Islam is the largest religion of Bangladesh; Muslims constitute 89.5 % of the population followed by Hindus who constitute 9.6 %. The remainder of Bangladesh practices other religions such as Buddhism and Christianity. As a minority in Bangladesh, why didn’t I follow Islam?
When I studied the Quran and Hadith and other Islamic books, I came to know that Salvation is dependent upon doing good works. I found many verses which declare this doctrine, but shall quote only two of them here:
“But as for those who believe and do good works, for them are Gardens of Retreat a welcome (in reward) for what they used to do. And as for those who do evil, their retreat is the fire. Whenever they desire to issue forth from thence, they are brought back thither. Unto them it is said: Taste the torments of the Fire which ye used to deny.” (Quran.32:19-20).
“And whoso doeth good an atom’s weight will see it then, and whoso doeth ill an atom’s weight will see it then.” (Quran.99:7-8).
At first glance, these verses were very beautiful and consoling, but in my mind they raised a question: Is it possible for us to do only good and no evil? Does man possess such power? When I considered this carefully, and at the same time reckoned with the faculties and passions of man, it became clear to me that it is impossible for man to remain sinless. A man has no power to continually do good and only good.
The moral philosophers of Arabia claimed that there are four faculties in man which give rise to all his actions. Of these four, three powerful ones work against his spiritual interest. There is only one, the angelic faculty, which impels man towards God, helping him to obey God’s commands; but its effect is hidden from man’s sight. On the other hand, there is the combined strength of the other three faculties, the effects of which delight and motivate man at once. Therefore, the mind of man sees only what is on the surface; he cares only for the present, pays more attention to earthly things, and becomes careless in the things of the Spirit and God. A distinguished Muslim described the matter this way:
“I am trapped in four things, the ascendancy of which is the cause of my misery and suffering. These four things are Satan, the world, lust, and greed. How may I be free from these when all of them are my enemies? Evil desires allure me and throw me into the dark abyss of sensuality and pleasure.”
According to the Arabic philosophers, the three faculties gained mastery over the angelic faculty, and Adam did that which God forbade him to do. The result has been manifestly inherited by his descendants down to the present time. According to a tradition, it is related from Abu Huraira that the Apostle of Allah said”
“When Allah created Adam, He stroked his back and there fell from his back all the men whom He was creating from his descendants until the Day of Resurrection. And He placed before the eyes of each man a flash of light. Afterwards, He brought them to Adam. Adam said; ‘O my Lord, who are these?’ He replied; ‘They are thy descendants.’ And he saw a man among them whose flash of light between his eyes astonished him. He said; ‘O my Lord, how long have You fixed his eyes?’ He replied; ‘Sixty years.’ Adam said; ‘My Lord, increase it from my life by forty years.’ The Apostle of Allah said; “When the life of Adam was completed, except for forty years, the angel of death came to him. And Adam said, ‘Are there not yet forty years of my life remaining?’ He replied; ‘Did you not give them to your son David?’ Then Adam denied this and his descendants have denied and Adam forgot and ate of the tree and his descendants have forgotten and Adam sinned and his descendants have sinned” (Tirmidhi).
From this Tradition, it is clear that all the children of Adam are assuredly sinners because Adam’s sin has entered into all. Accordingly, saints and religious leaders have confessed their sins. Thus Adam, the first of the prophets, and Eve say:
“They said; ‘Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost!” (Quran.7:23).
Likewise, the Prophet Abraham says:
“Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents and believers on the day when the account is cast.” (Quran.14:41).
The Prophet of Islam made this prayer:
“O Allah, wash my iniquities with snow-water” (Bukhari).
Abu Bakr, the first caliph of the Prophet of Islam, says in his famous poem, “O Allah, how shall I be saved, for there is no goodness in me? I am overwhelmed with iniquities but I am wanting in goodness.”
In addition to all evidence, the following verse from the Quran maintains that all men are sinners:
“Lo! Man is an ingrate unto his Lord, and Lo! He is a witness unto that” (Quran.100:6-7).
In this connection, the following thoughts confronted me: the Prophet Jesus was also a man. The Koran refers to the sins of the other prophets. But why does the Quran record no sin of Jesus? As I found that the Quran records that Jesus only is sinless, So I turned to the Bible (Gospel of Jesus).
Here I found the following verses:
- “Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46).
- “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
- “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22/ Isaiah 53:9).
- “But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5).
Thus, there is solid evidence to prove that, with the exception of the Prophet Jesus, all mankind is sinful. Under these circumstances, who was I that I should claim to be able to gain Salvation by good works, when many religious leaders, philosophers and saints had failed to run the impossible course?
Again I turned to the Quran to examine its teaching about the doctrine of Salvation by works. I will quote two verses here which make it clear that no human being can escape condemnation no matter what his status may be:
“There is not one of you but shall approach it. That is a fixed ordinance of thy Lord. Then we shall rescue those who kept from evil and leave the evil-doers crouching there.” (Quran. 19:71-72).
No one but I know what terror, dismay and disappointment I felt when I read these words. I, a spiritually sick man, was reading the Quran as if I were consulting a physician so that it might offer me the remedy for my sinfulness. But instead of giving me a solution, it said,
“Every one of you will to perdition, for this is the absolute of thy Lord.”
“All people shall enter hell. Then they will come out of it according to their works. Those who will come out first will do so like a flash of lightning, the next like a gale of wind, then like a horse at full speed, afterwards like a swift rider, then like a man springing, and finally, like the walk of a man” (Tirmidhi and Darimi).
The meaning of the previous verse was now clear. It is inevitable that everyone will enter hell and emerge according to his works. The meaning of the Quran was plain and was supported by the statement of the Prophet of Islam himself. I wished that I could have ended my search at this point but thought it best to seek an interpretation in the Quran itself. Thus, after a long search, I came this verse:
“And if thy Lord had willed, He verily would have made mankind one nation, yet they cease not differing, save him on whom thy Lord hath mercy; and for that He created them. And the Word of the Lord hath been fulfilled; verily I shall fill hell with the jinn and mankind together” (Quran. 11:118-119).
I was so stricken after reading this verse. Even in sleep I found no rest. So I began to search Traditions (Hadith/Bukhari), but it is not easy job because these are contained in six thick volumes.
According to the Traditions, there are three ways of Salvation.
First, there is absolutely no connection between works and Salvation. The very worst sinner, who spent his whole life breaking God’s laws, may enter paradise. Also, the best kind of man, having spent his life in good deeds, may enter hell. As the following Traditions say, Hazrat Anas relates that the Prophet of Islam was riding, followed by Maadh,
When the Prophet repeated thrice, “Anyone who honestly believes and repeats: ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet,’ shall never be doomed to the fire of hell.”
Maadh said, “O Prophet of Allah, shall I not proclaim these tidings?”
The Prophet answered, “In that case, they will believe in nothing else but this” (Mishkat).
On this subject, there is a Tradition handed down by Abu Dharr, the words of which force the conclusion that Salvation by works is meaningless for even the adulterer and thief obtain Salvation by the mere repetition of the words of the Muslim creed. The Tradition runs thus:
It is related from Abu Dharr that he said:
“I came to the Prophet and he had a white cloth over him and was sleeping. Later on, I came to him after he had awakened. Then he said, ‘Any servant of Allah who says, “There is no God but Allah” and afterwards dies relying on that, will enter heaven.’ I said, ‘Although he commit adultery or steal?’ He replied, ‘Although he has committed adultery and theft?’ I said, ‘Although he committed adultery and theft?’ He replied, ‘Although he commit adultery and theft and in spite of Abu Dharr” (Muslim, Bukhari).
I found another Tradition that comforted me, which promises that, whether a man does good or evil, he can obtain paradise by means of the repetition of a few words and these are:
“It is related from Ubadah bin Samit that the Apostle of Allah said; ‘Whoever bears witness that there is no God but Allah alone and that he had no partner, and that Muhammad is his servant and his Apostle and that Jesus is the servant of Allah and his Apostle and the son of his handmaid and his word which he cast into Mary and a spirit from him and that heaven and hell are true, Allah will take him into paradise in spite of what his works may have been!”
When I read these Traditions, the question came into my mind whether it is just that one who spent his whole life doing evil and never thought of good should enter paradise at death, while another who has spent his life in the fear of Allah, self-restraint and good works should be cast into hell at death!
Secondly, it is shown in the Traditions that Salvation is dependent upon the mercy of Allah-so much that the Prophet of Islam himself is a needy beggar of this mercy. Unless God has mercy upon him, the Prophet himself cannot obtain Salvation through works!!?? One Tradition in the Mishkat reads as follows:
“Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet of Islam said: ‘No one of you will enter Paradise through his good works.’ They said: ‘Not even you, O Apostle of Allah?’ ‘Not even I,’ he replied, ‘Unless Allah cover me with his grace and mercy. Therefore be strong and morning and evening, every moment, try to do good.”
Compare also the following Tradition:
“Jabir reported that the Prophet of Islam said: ‘No good works of your can ever secure heaven for you nor can they save you from hell-not even me without the grace of Allah” (Bukhari. Book.70/Hadith.577).
From these Traditions, I understood that no one can obtain Salvation unless Allah’s mercy rests on him. This comforted me a little, but at the same time I began to think: If Allah is merciful, He is likewise just. If Allah should forgive by the exercise of his mercy alone, He would be evading the demands of his justice and righteousness. Such an evasion of his justice would indicate a defect in the being of Allah. Certainly such an act would be unworthy of the glory to Allah.
The third thing that became clear to me in the Traditions was that even the Prophet of Islam cannot save himself or anyone, not even his daughter, Fatimah, or his relations. Hence, the idea that the Prophet would intercede for the faithful, which I thought would surely be correct, proved to be wrong.
One Tradition runs like this:
“Abu Huraira related that when the verse, ‘Cause thy near relative fear,’ was revealed to the Prophet of Islam, the Prophet arose and began to proclaim: ‘Oh people of the Quraysh and you sons of Abdul Manaf and you Abbas son of Abdul Muttalib and you Safyyah my aunt, I cannot save you from the punishment of the Day of Resurrection. Take care of yourself, O my daughter Fatimah; you may use my property but I cannot save you from Allah. Take care of yourself’ ( Bukahri. Vol.4/Book.51/No.16).
After all this research it is pointless to go any further. Because the Prophet of Islam himself lost, died as a sinner and is waiting for the Judgement Day. The True God will never and ever forgive any one on that day no matter how big or how small the sin. Surely God will throw you into the eternal hell. I closed Hadith and the Quran for good.
I stopped my research.
I checked the Holy Bible and found the most beautiful verse (what is not in the Quran):
“Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). This verse gave me hope and comfort. Jesus Christ says, “I will give you rest.” He shows how Salvation depends upon Him. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Yet, the question came to my mind: Can one have confidence in this extraordinary claim of Christ?
I concluded that one could rest upon it, for in the first place, Christ is accepted by Muslims as sinless, glorious in this world and the next, the Word of Allah, and the Spirit of Allah. These and other descriptions, which are applied to Jesus, indicate perfection. Secondly, according to the Christians, He is a perfect God and perfect Man, free from all base passion and worldly ambitions.
Thus, it is impossible that Christ, who, according to both Muslims and Christians possesses the highest qualities, would commit sin or do anything unworthy of Himself.
The Gospel says, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Christ gave His most precious blood and life for us sinners. This is a marvelous way to which the world can show no counterpart. Scores of men have founded religions in this world, but none of them has claimed that his death will serve for the forgiveness of sins. Christ alone not only made this claim but also fulfilled it. Amen.
Now another question came on my mind. What was the need of Christ’s sacrifice and atonement?
Could He not have given Salvation without giving His life? After some further research, I found the answer to this also: God is both merciful and just. If Christ had promised Salvation without giving His life, the demands of mercy would certainly have been fulfilled. But in order to satisfy the demands of justice also, Christ paid the ransom–His precious blood. In this way, God has manifested His love for us through His Son Lord Jesus Christ.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).
After long years study and research I found hundreds of verses and scores of parables which proved to me that Salvation–the very heart and purpose of religion–is available only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:19-25 says,
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…”
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