Original Sin in Christianity and Islam: A Christian perspective by PS Rudolph P. Boshoff

(Average: 15 minute read).

A definition of Sin:

Sin! The mechanism the world use to indulge itself in acts of selfishness. Scripture reminds us ‘all have sinned’[1]  because ‘’each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”[2] We dabble with Sin every single day! David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”[3] Sin is not just about making poor choices or illegitimately getting what we want. What is the understanding of Sin from a Christian perspective as seen in both the Christian and Muslim Sources? In Christianity Sin is an act of moral transgression against God.

R.C. Sproul esteems it about right when he writes:

“Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.”[4]

In fact, a poor estimation of Sin breads a poor inclination towards the righteous demands of a Holy God. R.A Blasdell mentioned that

“A slight sense of sin produces a slight regard for the Saviour from sin… Sin is exceeding sinful, that it is utterly displeasing to God, and that its detection and punishment are certain.”[5]

 

The Rev. W.R.W. Gardner in his book ‘’the Quranic Doctrine of Sin’[6] mentions that even though Islam has a doctrine of Sin, they do not have an adequate sense of Sin. In other words, the two does not necessarily go hand in hand. Even though the Quran mentions the necessity of giving more than outward obedience it appears to convey a feeling that Sin has to do with ‘concrete acts’ rather than ‘inclination and disposition.’ Blasdell says that:

“when sin becomes dependent upon acts which are as closely classified as acts are in Islam, it becomes very difficult to prove that many of the daily acts, however questionable they may be, fall under the class of ‘forbidden’ acts and thus constitute Sin.”[7]

In Islam, it is difficult to know what is lawful, and even discerning between what is right and wrong. In Christianity, the Character of God and the moral law of God is one, and there cannot be any distinction. Blasdell laments that;

“Only when the individual is led to understand not only the holiness of God, but also His righteousness, will he be apt to take a serious view of his own sin in relation to his enlarged view of the nature of God.[8]

As Samuel Zwemer states,

“Nothing is right or wrong by nature, but becomes such by the fiat of the Almighty. What Allah forbids is sin, even should He forbid what seems to the human conscious right and lawful. What Allah allows is not sin and cannot be sin at the time he allows it, though it may have been before or after.”[9]

In Islam Man’s sin is not ultimately against God, but against himself.[10] Adam’s response in the garden, “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls.” (S 7:23), so sin is mostly against oneself–not against God. [11]

Surah An Nisa (4) 110-111 says:

“And if any one earns sin, He earns it against His own soul: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.”

 The Sinlessness of Prophets (‘Isma’).

There is a prevailing idea that all the Prophets of Islam is in fact without Sin, but we can see quite clearly in the Torah and the Gospel that the Prophets Sinned. Even Muhammad is counted as being a sinner (S. 40:55, 48:2, 47:19). Al Ghazali in the ‘Ihya’ (Kitabu’l-Taubat) quotes a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad where he says;

“There is an oppression on my heart until I ask pardon of God seventy times every day and night. Therefore God Almighty honoured him by saying: ‘May God forgive your former and latter sins’. Then comes the additional observation: ‘If this was the case of the Prophet, what must be the condition of other men?’”[12]

Where did this doctrine of ‘Isma’ come from that declared they were protected from Sin? My friend John Gilchrist explains:

“Throughout the Muslim world today it is generally believed that all of the prophets enjoyed an “isma,” a protection against sin, and that they were accordingly sinless. It is one of the anomalies of Islam that this doctrine has been established and maintained against the plain teaching of the Quran and Hadith to the contrary. In the early centuries of Islam, however, a doctrine founded on popular sentiment and theological presuppositions arose and developed away from the teaching of the Quran and Hadith. It was first formulated in the creed known as the Fiqh Akbar II and it is there stated: “All the Prophets are exempt from sins, both light and grave, from unbelief and sordid deeds. Yet stumbling and mistakes may happen on their part. (Wensinck, “The Muslim Creed, p. 192”).

It was not possible to defy the written sources of Islam entirely, however, and so the records of the sins of the prophets in the Quran and Hadith became watered down into “mistakes”. Similar euphemisms, such as “acts of forgetfulness”, are constantly used by Muslim writers today to account for these misdemeanors which the Scripture and traditions of Islam record. There are basically two reasons for the rise of this doctrine in Islam. Firstly, the early Muslims soon discovered that the Bible taught plainly that Jesus was the only sinless man that ever lived and, confronted with this evidence, deemed it necessary to invent the fiction that all the prophets — especially Muhammad — were sinless as well. A superiority of Jesus over Muhammad could not be tolerated and, just as miracles were attributed to the figurehead of Islam to give him a status at least equal to that of Jesus, so he was also held to be sinless for the same purpose. Secondly, the doctrine of revelation in Islam holds that the scriptures were dictated directly to the prophets by the intermediary angel (Gabriel) and it was therefore believed that the prophets must have possessed an impeccable character for, if they could not keep themselves from error in their personal lives, how could they be trusted to communicate God’s revelation without error? This latter presupposition led perforce to the conclusion that the prophets must have been sinless.”[13]

We can clearly recognise that there is a very different understanding between Christians and Muslims as to the object of their sins. As we have just seen in Islam man’s sin is against himself, but in Christianity, man was created Sinless but they fall into sin. Genesis 1:31 “God saw everything that he made was good”.

However, in Genesis 3 man falls into sin by his own rebellion sinning against God and both Adam and the generation after Him are tainted by the effects of his original Sin[14]  Man’s fall clearly affected the state of the earth, himself, and all of the created order in it. Now the effects of these sins on Adam’s kin[15] we will discuss shortly, but the effects of Sin is clear:

What are the effects of Sin in Christianity:

In Christianity we recognize three effects of sin:[16]

1) Total Original pollution – the absence of original righteousness and the presence of positive evil.

2) Total DepravityNegatively: Every man is as deprave as he can become and the sinner has no innate knowledge of the will of God nor can desire any moral good and will indulge in wilful sin. Positively: Inherent corruption extends to every part of man soul and body and there is no good in man but only enmity towards God.

3) Total Inability – Reformed Theologians maintain that man is still able to perform natural good; civil good or civil righteousness; and external religious good but when we speak of total inability we maintain: man cannot merit any act of righteousness that will adequately maintain the demands of God’s Holy Laws nor can man change his natural preference towards Sin and self-love for God.[17]

In Islam, there is the idea that all men are inherently good and therefore can appease God with the good deeds. Religious formalism in Christianity is a void pursuit that is seemingly empty of any noticeable substance. D. Bakker writes;

“Heathenism and Buddhism, Mohammedanism and Judaism, yea, nominal Christianity, too, all seek to found their salvation on doing, the work of the creature and not the eternal unchangeable love of God, the creator, and Saviour.”[18]

There are numerous passages in the Qur’an that recognises more than mere ‘opus operatum’ or salvation by good works (S.5:9, 8:29, 42:26) and also the assumed reaction necessary from Allah that is seemingly dependent on the deeds of man to forgive (S.33:70-71, 49:14, 49:14). M. Keyzer in his ‘Leerstellingen van de Mahomedaansche Godsdienst (Pg.203)’ describes ones entrance into paradise as follow:

‘’Upon reaching the gate, one is met and welcomed by beautiful youths who were appointed to serve and care for him. One of them shall run ahead in order to announce his arrival to the woman who were set apart for him. Two other angels shall meet and greet him bearing presents for him sent by God. One of the angels shall dress him with the robe of paradise, and the other shall place a ring on each finger, upon which are inscribed the bliss of his new estate. It is not worth the effort to ascertain, through which of the eight gates (it is supposed there are many to paradise) they will enter, but we should rather consider what Mohammed has made plain, that the good deeds of anyone shall not guarantee him entrance, and that he himself shall not be saved because of his merits, but alone through the grace of God.”[19]

In Christianity, the vindication of an individual is not in any way dependent on the good works of man. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

What is the state of man in Islam?

Robert W. Thomas,

“Muslim theologians explain man’s nature at birth as fitrah: state of intrinsic goodness. Like Adam, people are born pure and sinless. They are Muslims by birth, and salvation is intact, but they must do all in their power to maintain this status. Everyone is “accountable for what he himself inscribes upon the unblemished Tabula Rasa or tablet of his nature.”[20]

Muslims admit that maintaining a sinless life in the long run is impossible and that fitrah does not last. Humans become polluted due to outside evil influences.[21] Christian Scholar Sam Shamoun asks an interesting question:

“Now if it is correct that man is born pure then why would anyone need the grace of Allah to be purified? Aren’t they pure to begin with? If  man becomes impure later on by disobeying Allah then the obvious question is what is it about a man’s nature that causes him to do that which is evil thereby necessitating his need to be purified by Allah?

The Qur’an seems to agree that sin is universal and people are sinful and blameworthy:

Surah Al-Nahl (16) 61 say:

“If Allah were to punish men for their wrong-doing, He would not leave, on the (earth), a single living creature.”[22]

 In fact, the Quran does not only teach man is sinless but created to be sinful:

  1. Man is unjust and ungrateful. S. 14:34 S. 80:17 Shakir S. 100:6-8
  2. Man is foolish and fails to do what is commanded. S. 33:72 Shakir S. 80:23 Shakir
  3. Man is created impatient. S. 70:19-24 Sher Ali S. 17:11 Shakir
  4. Man is created weak. S. 4:28
  5. Man inclines to evil. S. 12:53
  6. Man is lost. S. 103:2-3
  7. Man thinks he is self-sufficient. S. 96:6-7
  8. Man is incapable of becoming pure in and of himself. S. 24:21
  9. Man is created in distress. S. 90:4 Shakir” [23]

 

The Quran explains that the reason why man has a natural tendency for evil is because Allah breathed wickedness into him! D. Bakker laments:

“The Mohammedan idea of sin and grace depends wholly upon his conception of God. Whenever he commits sin, he scribes this to the will; of Allah. In his heart, he makes God the author of Sin, and furthermore, he considers the Almighty to be the ruler who dispenses his favours in a wholly irresponsible way.”[24]

 

Surah Al Shams (91) 7-8 says;

“By a Soul and Him who balanced it, and breathed into it its wickedness, and its piety.”

The Study Quran mentions that;

“This verse indicates that God taught the soul the nature of evil and good and set the course for which it should follow.” (Pg.1519). 

Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6406: affirms both the notion of determined guilt and the predestined nature of the individual:

Abu al-Aswad reported that ‘Imran b Husain asked him: What is your view, what the people do today in the world, and strive for, is it something decreed for them or preordained for them or will their fate in the Hereafter be determined by the fact that their Prophets brought them teaching which they did not act upon? I said: Of course, it is something which is predetermined for them and preordained for them.[25] Thereupon, he said: Of course, it happens as it is decreed by destiny and preordained for them, and this view is confirmed by this verse of the Book of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious: “Consider the soul and Him Who made it perfect, then breathed into its sin and its piety”[26]

 

The following narratives provide further substantiation that Allah has preordained everything that occurs, both good and evil:[27]

Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6441

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your “if” opens the (gate) for the Satan.

Islam also seemingly affirms the universality of Sin even though they downplay the effects of Sin.[28] In Christian theology, man is deemed helpless[29] and even unable to escape the state of his own sinfulness. In Islam, man sins because he was predestined by Allah to do so.[30]

The Origin of Original Sin:

Paul the Apostle relates in Romans 5:12;

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. 13 In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression. He is a prototype of the Coming One.”

 

It means that sin entered the world through Adam—that is, Adam is the one credited with sin’s entrance and hence the subsequent entrance of death and suffering and the need for a Savior and the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Genesis 3 tells the story of two humans created in the image of God (Gen.1:26-27), who are given but one task: to govern the world on God’s behalf. Adam represents God. But governing the cosmos on God’s behalf was—and is—not enough for Adam. He ached to rule the cosmos. Genesis 3 reveal they wanted to be like God not in character but in essence. Their ache to be God and acting as if they were God, was what sin was all about. Sin, at its core, usurps God’s place in this world and puts us there instead. What happened in the garden was a “fall,” but not “The “Fall.” It was merely a mistake, and unlike Christianity, did not have serious consequences. Adam was created as God’s kalifa (vice-regent) on earth but it is blasphemous to say humans were made in God’s image. Muslims do not by default downplay the origin of Sin but the effects of Sin. Satan deceived Adam into eating from the forbidden tree (Surah Al Baqarah (2) 24-36), however, his Sin did not alienate him from God. When he repented, God “turned toward him,” because he is merciful and forgiving (2:37).

Moreover, Muslims claim it was God’s plan from the beginning to put Adam and Eve on earth; it was never to leave them in the garden. The garden was only a training ground to reveal his continual need for guidance.[31] But the Quran is clear in that Adam was created in Yanah (Paradise) and he was banished for his sin as a punishment to earth. Now how does his sin affected all mankind? Babies are born sinless in the very place of punishment yet they are not guilty? The obvious objection needs to be that the Biblical understanding is that God imputed Adam’s sin to all mankind and that is unjust, yet, we find that in the Islamic system, man was created weak, indebted with Sin as Allah predestined it.

The state of man and Adam’s original Sin:

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 611 Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “Adam and Moses argued with each other. Moses said to Adam. ‘O Adam! You are our father who disappointed us and turned us out of paradise.’ Then Adam said to him, ‘O Moses! Allah favored you with His talk (talked to you directly) and He wrote (the Torah) for you with His Own Hand. Do you blame me for action which Allah had written in my fate forty years before my creation?’ So Adam confuted Moses, Adam confuted Moses,” the Prophet added, repeating the Statement three times.

Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0380:

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira and Hudhaifa that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, would gather people. The believers would stand till the Paradise would be brought near them. They would come to Adam and say: O our father, open for us the Paradise. He would say: What turned you out from the Paradise was the sin of your father Adam. I am not in a position to do that.”

 Mishkat Al-Masabih:

Abu Huraira reported that God’s messenger told of Adam and Moses holding a disputation in their Lord’s presence and of Adam getting the better of Moses in argument. Moses said, “You are Adam whom God created with His hand, into whom He breathed of His spirit, to whom He made the angels do obeisance, and whom He caused to dwell in his garden; then because of your sin caused mankind to come down to the earth.” Adam replied, “And you are Moses whom God chose to deliver His messages and to address, to whom He gave the tablets on which everything was explained, and whom He brought near as a confidant. How long before I was created did you find that God has written the Torah? Moses said, “Forty years.” Adam asked, “Did you find in it, ‘And Adam disobeyed his Lord and erred’?” On being told that he did, he said, “Do you then blame me for doing a deed which God decreed that I should do forty years before He created me?” God’s messenger said, “So Adam got the better of Moses n the argument.” [32]

 

Malik’s Muwatta, Book 46, Number 46.1.1

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abu’z-Zinad from al-Araj from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Adam and Musa argued and Adam got the better of Musa. Musa rebuked Adam, ‘You are Adam who led people astray and brought them out of the Garden.’ Adam said to him, ‘You are Musa to whom Allah gave knowledge of everything and whom he chose above people with His message.’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Do you then censure me for a matter whcih was decreed for me before I was created?’

It appears from the Muslim sources that Adam was created in Yanah (paradise) and his sin affected all mankind because he was banished to earth and all mankind is now born on earth guilty because of Adam’s punishment (Surah Al Baqarah (2) 35-38). This should not be the only concern for Muslims but what we can see from the traditions is that there is a clear arbitrariness of Allah’s choice in salvation. The Muslim concept of forgiveness is unlike that of biblical Christianity. In Islam, because there is no substitutionary atonement for forgiveness of sins, forgiveness is predicated upon both personal merit and Allah’s choice.

 

Surah Aal `Imran (3) 129

And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is Forgiving and Most Merciful.”

 

The Quran clearly shows a determinism that is because of Allah’s own predetermined will. Those who find themselves in ignorance and darkness are clearly doing so purely by the will of Allah (Surah 6.25) because all things have been created by His predetermined ‘fixed decree’ (Surah 54.49). Allah misleads whom He wants to be misled and guides those whom he was guided (Surah 14.4). I have written extensively about the arbitrariness of Allah here!

In the Mishkat-ul-Misabih, Book I on the title “Faith” it relates this story:

“God created Adam and touched his back with His right hand and brought forth from it a family. And God said to Adam, I have created this family for Paradise and their actions will be like unto those of the people of Paradise. Then God touched the back of Adam and brought forth another family and said, I have created this for hell and their actions will be like unto those of the people of hell. Then said a man to the prophet, Of what use will deeds of any kind be? He said, When God creates His slave for Paradise his actions will be deserving of it until he die, when he will enter therein; and when God creates one for the fire his actions will be like those of the people of hell till he die, when he will enter therein.”[33]

It is very important to note that since there is a clear predestination evident in the Quran, both good and bad actions are predetermined by the will and decree of Allah. Man is therefore culpable but not responsible for his own corruption or goodness. There is one sole predetermined will in action on earth, which is Allah. Man cannot choose God’s guidance accept if Allah previously decreed for it to be so (Surah 81.27-29; 18.30). If we lead the evidence to its most logical conclusion, we find that Allah is the only proprietor of what is good and evil in the world because man is not a free moral agent but merely dances to his prescribed predetermined condition. [34]

 Original Sin and inherent guilt in Christianity.[35]

The question we have to ask is this: does Romans 5:12 teach that we are guilty sinners in Adam and that physical death came about through him? Romans 5:12 reads:

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

Dr. Henry B. Smith posits the question:

“Sometimes the doctrine of original sin is represented as implying that each individual is personally worthy of eternal damnation for Adam’s sin. This is not true. The conditions of judgement as to personal desert do not exist until personal transgression has occurred”[36]

In Ezekiel 18:20 God declares through the prophet:

“The person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.”

 

Dr. Denis Alexander believes Romans 5:12 do not speak of sin as inherited from Adam but rather coming through our own individual acts of sin. He argues:[37]

So Paul is saying here that spiritual death spread to all people on account of their own sinning. Once Romans 5:12 is correctly translated it does then bring its teaching into line with the rest of Scripture, which is insistent that each person is responsible for his or her own sin. It is not guilt that is inherited from Adam but a propensity to sin, so that as a matter of fact everyone does in a sense repeat the sin of Adam.[38]

Scholar Simon Turpin sums it up in an excellent manner:[39]

As Alexander argues, the translation of Romans 5:12 as “because all sinned” seems to indicate that individuals are subject to death because of their own personal sin. Whereas, the translation “in whom all sinned” would mean that people are subject to death not because of their individual sin but because of Adam’s.

Yet it is not necessary to view Romans 5:12 as either teaching that our sin is the result of Adam’s disobedience or that it is because of our own individual sin. It should be recognized that the text indicates that there is a primary and a secondary cause, as Theologian Thomas Schreiner[40] acknowledges:

“Paul does not deny in this text that the sin of individuals lead[s] to death. What he affirms . . . is that individuals come into the world condemned and spiritually dead because of Adam’s sin. The latter part of 5:12 must not be separated from the first part of the verse. Sin and death entered into the world through Adam, and hence people sin and die both because of Adam’s sin and their own sin, though the sin of Adam is fundamental and foundational.”[41]

 

Colin G. Kruse in his commentary on the Book of Romans recognize both the primary cause which would be Adam’s disobedience, when death entered the world, and the secondary cause is the sin of individuals who through their own disobedience bring death upon themselves.[42]Throughout Romans 5:12–21 Paul contrasts the sin of the one (Adam) and the righteousness of the one (Jesus). The whole argument of Romans 5:12–21 is the unity of all sinners in Adam and the unity of the redeemed in Christ.All through Romans 5:12–21 Paul speaks of the sin of one man (verses 15–19) and not individuals as the cause of the problem. It can be understood from Paul’s comments in Romans 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” that Adam’s disobedience (sin) made[43] all of his descendants guilty by virtue of his first sin. As New Testament Scholar Douglas Moo says:

“Paul is insisting that people were really ‘made’ sinners through Adam’s act of disobedience.”[44]

Reformed Scholar Michael Horton mentions;

In context, the “many” of verse 19 are the “all men” of verse 12. It is because of Adam’s disobedience we are considered sinners. This is not to deny human responsibility for sin as we “are not guilty for Adam’s sin; we are guilty sinners in Adam.”[45]

It is because of Adam’s sin that humankind is described as “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), which is describing the nature of our being. The fall brought about a fundamental change in our human nature. Literary critic Dr Karl Giberson maintains that:

“The story of Adam is thus the story of Everyman”[46]

John Piper argues that if we read,

“Through Adam sin and death entered the world, and death spread to everybody because all sinned individually,” then the comparison with the work of Jesus . . . would probably be, “So also, through Jesus Christ, righteousness and life entered the world, and life spread to all because all individually did acts of righteousness.”[47]

Scholar Simon Turpin says:

Paul, as an apostle in the New Testament, gives us inspired, theological insights and explains the significance and meaning of Adam. The Old Testament gives the information that speaks of the Fall of the human race due to Adam’s disobedience. Paul looks back with theological reflections in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, teaching an inseparable tie between the historical reality of Christ’s work of redemption and the historical reality of the fall in Genesis 2–3. In the New Testament, Paul is giving a theological justification for the consequences of Adam’s Fall in Genesis 3.

In Islam, it is assumed that it does not hold to the concept of original sin and as a religious system, they frown at the imputation of one man’s sin to another. Muslims reject the doctrine of original sin and cannot accept that death ensured; it was a natural process built into creation (Surah Al Mu’Minun (23) 14-16). It is important to note that in Christianity, death was not a natural part of God’s created order but it was the result of Sin. Muslims reason it would be unjust for God to punish all humanity because of Adam’s deed. Sin is not hereditary and no one born a sinner. However, the Islamic hadith literature shows that Adam expelled humankind from paradise because of his sin; it even claims that Allah actually predestined this for him and his seed! What about the idea of imputed guilt on another?  Can one man’s guilt be imputed to another? Well, the hadith shows clear imputation:

Hadith Qudsi 110 (8):

Narrated Abu Musa: Allah’s Messenger said: On the Day of Resurrection, my Ummah (nation) will be gathered into three groups, one sort will enter Paradise without rendering an account (of their deeds). Another sort will be reckoned an easy account and admitted into Paradise. Yet another sort will come bearing on their backs heaps of sins like great mountains. Allah will ask the angels though He knows best about them: Who are these people? They will reply: They are humble slaves of yours. He will say: Unload the sins from them and put the same over the Jews and Christians; then let the humble slaves get into Paradise by virtue of My Mercy.

 

Sahih Muslim (2767) narrated that Abu Moosa said:

“The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “When the Day of Resurrection comes, Allah will give every Muslim a Jew or a Christian, and He will say: This is your ransom from the Fire.”[48}

So the idea that one man can be imputed with the Sin of another is embedded in the core of the teaching of the Hadith and the Sunna of the Prophet. There are various attempts to explain away the clear contention these Hadith pose against the central teaching of the Quran (S.6.164, 17.13-15) in that every man bares his own Sin, but the Hadith clearly stipulates that for Jews and Christians there will be an ‘unloading’ (Qudshi) and they will be a ‘ransom’ (Muslim) for the sin of Muslims. Trying to twist the clear implication of these recensions in conflict with the Quran is a Muslim conundrum that Muslim scholars have to deal with, not a Christian one! The idea of imputation is exactly what we find in Christian Theology. Man, as a result of his disobedience and sin is helpless, but in spite of their sin is ransomed by the perfect God/Man Jesus Christ. 

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 says;

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

So Original Sin does not end with imputed guilt but with imputed righteousness. Muslims lament and say but no man can be punished on behalf of another but we should note that there is a strong assumption that Jesus received a substitute to help Him escape the Cross (Surah 4.157).

As for the substitution of Jesus on the Cross Tafsir Ibn Kathir on 4:157:

“Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “Just before Allah raised `Isa to the heavens, `Isa went to his companions, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping water and he said, `There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after he had believed in me.’ He then asked, `Who volunteers that his image appear as mine, and be killed in my place. He will be with me (in Paradise)’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered and `Isa asked him to sit down. `Isa again asked for a volunteer, and the young man kept volunteering and `Isa asking him to sit down. Then the young man volunteered again and `Isa said, `You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of `Isa was cast over that man while `Isa ascended to heaven from a hole in the house.”[52]

But what about the idea that there is no sacrificial death that can atone for Sin? Muslims contend there is no atonement necessary for the forgiveness of sin and Allah can forgive man by mere fiat. Well, Surah As Safat (37) 107 says;

“And We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice”

When I read the Historical sources, Muhammad advocated a sacrificial death of a lady for her own purification.

 Sahih Muslim Book 017, Hadith Number 4206:

“There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me. He (the Holy Prophet) turned her away. On the following day she said: Allah’s Messenger, why do you turn me away? Perhaps, you turn me away as you turned away Ma’iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant. He said: Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child). When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: Here is the child whom I have given birth to. He said: Go away and suckle him until you wean him. When she had weaned him, she came to him (the Holy Prophet) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: Allah’s Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him, and he eats food. He (the Holy Prophet) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) heard his (Khalid’s) curse that he had hurried upon her. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven. Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried.”

What is it that granted her forgiveness? Her death atoned for her sin! It is equally interesting that in this Hadith this lady says that ‘by Allah’ I became pregnant which means this was not outside the scope of Allah’s will which means it is purely deterministic which actually gave her no choice. In Christianity, the very idea that is central to the Judeo/Christian Sacrificial System is that the justice of God is appeased and the individual sin is ransomed. But what about the justice of Allah in Islam? Again, like I stated earlier, Allah does not need his just requirements to be met because he is not essentially one with his revealed attributes! He is seemingly void and no necessity is impugned upon him to act according to his own assumed holiness. Allah is even beyond His reveled attributes and therefore it is not necessary for him to act consistent with it!

What about justice?

In the traditions we can recognise the he injustice of forgiveness without retribution. There is a story in Sahih al-Bukhari (Volume 4, Book 56, no. 676) that I think illustrates quite well the concept of Justice and forgiveness according to Islam:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, “Amongst the men of Bani Israel there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment quarreled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven.

My friend Apologist Jonathan McLatchie writes:

“Do you see the problem? The man has murdered 100 men (including the monk) and Allah simply turns a blind eye to it and forgives without any form of retribution. Where is the justice in that? How can a perfectly Holy and righteous God freely acquit the guilty? Indeed, that is the great enigma of the Old Testament that is addressed, as we will see, only in Christ.”

 In Closing:

In this article I endevour to show four things:

  1. In Islam, man’s sin is against himself where in Christianity man’s Sin is against God.
  2. In Islam, man is intrinsically good but does bad because Allah determined it for him. In Christianity, man is intrinsically bad because of the effects of Adams fall.
  3. Original Sin in Islam is decreed and made sure by God but in Christianity man sin from his own free volition.
  4. I showed that in both Christianity and Islam the imputation of another’s guilt and righteousness, the vicarious atonement and substitution for another is not a foreign idea at all.

Daud Rahbar was an eminent Muslim Scholar that concluded in his book “God of Justice” that Allah cannot be known. The revelation of Allah leads us to a deity that is pure will and absolute legalism and ultimately the Quran does not anywhere gives the indication that Allah is immanently present to be known by humankind. Contrast that with the Hebrew and Christian scriptures we find a God that is known and wanting to be made known by the essence of His love. His love is expressed completely in Himself because as a Triplex God He is complete. Daud Rahbar comes to the profound conclusion: “I cannot worship a God who does not understand human suffering.” Daud Rahbar became a Christian because here he discovered the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The immanent Lord, knowing us completely in our suffering by suffering for us. In that suffering, He defeats death and makes us Sons and daughters. In the third Letter to Titus we read:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Jesus says,

You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24).

Cambridge Declaration

“Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature … God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace. We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature”.

Let us pray and find the truth as revealed in the Jesus Christ of the Christian Scriptures.

Selah. PS Rudolph.

Sources:

[1] Romans 3:23.

[2] James 1:14-15.

[3] Psalm 51:5.

[4] The Holiness of God.

[5] The Moslem World Vol.30-31, Pg.145

[6] http://www.muhammadanism.org/Gardner/quran_sin/p00i.htm

[7] The Moslem World Vol.30-31, Pg.145-146.

[8] The Moslem World Vol.30-31, Pg.146.

[9] The Moslem Doctrine of God, 51.

[10] Samuel Zwemer adds that God’s holiness is “completely ignored in the Qur’an.”  “If any one does evil or wrongs his own soul”.

[11] Phil Parshall, veteran missionary among Muslims, said this: “It is difficult to communicate the biblical meaning of sin to a Muslim. His outlook is horizontal rather than vertical. Often the key criterion of a definition of sin is whether or not a person is caught.” Phil Parshall, Muslim Evangelism, 97.

[12] The Moslem World Vol.30-31, Pg.148.

[13] Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, Pg.273-284. by John Gilchrist

[14] When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”

[15] Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;     no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Psalm 51:5 (ESV)

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

[16] Genesis 2:17-“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”

Proverbs 11:19-“Genuine righteousness leads to life, but the pursuit of evil brings death”

Ezekiel 18:4-“Behold, every soul belongs to Me; both father and son are Mine. The soul who sins is the one who will die.”

James 1:15-“Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”

Romans 6:23 (a)-“For the wages of sin is death”.

[17] The Doctrine of Man in relation to God. Pg.246-247.

[18]   The Moslem World Vol.6–7, Pg.394

[19] The Moslem World Vol.6–7, Pg.397.

[20] Islam: Aspects and Prospects a Critical Analysis, 41.

[21] This is why we sin, or as Islamic scholar Yasien Mohamed explains,

“Every child is born in a state of fitrah, and social environment causes the individual to deviate from this state.”

[22] “And your Lord is Most Forgiving, Owner of Mercy. Were He to call them to account for what they have earned, then surely, He would have hastened their punishment. But they have their appointed time, beyond which they will find no escape.” S. 18:58 Hilali-Khan

 

“If Allah were to punish men according to what they deserve. He would not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated Term: when their Term expires, verily Allah has in His sight all His Servants.” S. 35:45

[23] https://www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/zawadi_original_sin.htm

[24] The Moslem World Vol.6–7, Pg.399.

[25] He (further) said: Then, would it not be an injustice (to punish them)? I felt greatly disturbed because of that, and said: Everything is created by Allah and lies in His Power. He would not be questioned as to what He does, but they would be questioned; thereupon he said to me: May Allah have mercy upon you, I did not mean to ask you but for testing your intelligence. Two men of the tribe of Muzaina came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Allah’s Messenger, what is your opinion that the people do in the world and strive for, is something decreed for them; something preordained for them and will their fate in the Hereafter be determined by the fact that their Prophets brought them teachings which they did not act upon, and thus they became deserving of punishment?

[26] (xci. 8). (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6406)

[27] Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6416

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As: I heard Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) as saying: Allah ordained the measures (of quality) of the creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth, as His Throne was upon water.

[28] Franciscan Sage Francis of Assisi states; “the only thing you can truly boast about is Sin”

[29] Isaiah 64:6 says:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

[30] First, sin is a debt; second, it is an expression of enmity; third, it is depicted as a crime.

In the first instance, we who are sinners are described by Scripture as debtors who cannot pay their debts. This debt represents a failure to keep a moral obligation.

The second way in which sin is described biblically is as an expression of enmity. In this regard, sin is not restricted merely to an external action that transgresses a divine law. It represents an internal motive, a motive that is driven by an inherent hostility toward the God of the universe.

The third way in which the Bible speaks of sin is in terms of transgression of law. The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the fourteenth question, “What is sin?” by the response, “Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God.”

[31] http://www.zwemercenter.com/guide/sin-according-to-muslims/

[32] Muslim transmitted it. (Mishkat Al-Masabih English Translation With Explanatory Notes by Dr. James Robson, Volume I [Sh. Muhammad Ahsraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore-Pakistan, Reprint 1990], p. 23; bold and capital emphasis ours)

[33] Book I. Faith. Pg.27.

[34] To declare therefore that the sin of Sins is unbelief and some greater sins are idol worship, murder, false witness, and oppressing orphans and ultimately that the nature of Sin is ignorance is to move beyond what the Quran says about the determined will of Allah. Salvation (naja) is therefore only mentioned once in the Quran (Surah 40.41) because Allah clearly guides and misguides whom He will (Surah 61.5) and even more problematic Allah holds non-autonomous creatures responsible to what he have predetermined and decreed. Repentance is therefore seemingly just a dress rehearsal that will not affect the ultimate predetermined outcome willed by Allah.

[35] American-Dutch Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof writes:

“The guilt of Adam’s sin, committed by him as the federal head of the human race, is imputed to all his descendants. This is evident from the fact that, as the Bible teaches, death as the punishment of sin passes on from Adam to all his descendants (Rom.5:12-19, Eph.2:3, 1 Cor.15:22).”

[36] System of Christian Theology. Pg.291.

[37] The error arose from a mistranslation of the Greek construction eph’ ho (i) (ἐφ᾽ ᾧ) as ‘in whom’ rather than its correct meaning in this context of ‘because.’ So Augustine read the last phrase to mean that sin was transmitted from Adam to ‘all men,’ whereas Paul’s meaning is quite different, as NIV has it. . . .

[38] Denis Alexander, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (2d ed. revised, Monarch Books: Oxford, UK, 2014), 343–344.

[39] https://answersingenesis.org/sin/original-sin/how-original-is-it-romans-5-12/

[40] https://www.thoughtstheological.com/romans-5-and-original-sin/

[41] Schreiner, Original Sin and Original Death, 280. For an exegesis and defense for Romans 5:12–19 teaching the doctrine of original sin, see Thomas Schreiner’s chapter “Original Sin and Original Death: Romans 5:12–19,” in Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin (eds. Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academics, 2014).

[42] Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter To The Romans: The Pillar New Testament Commentary (W. B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2012), 240–242.

[43] The Greek verb translated as “made” (καθίστημι, kathistemi) in the New Testament does not mean to change the character of something but to “bring, conduct” (Acts 17:15), “appoint” (Titus 1:5), or “make” or “constitute” (James 3:6; 4:4; 2 Peter 1:8) someone in a particular way.

[44] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans: NICNT (W. B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996), 345.

[45] Horton, The Christian Faith, 426.

[46]  Giberson, Saving the Original Sinner, 170; see also pages 30 and 50.

[47] Counted Righteous in Christ (InterVarsity Press: Leicester, England), 92.

[48] https://islamqa.info/en/198745. Sahih Muslim also narrated (2767) from Abu Burdah that he told:

‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez, from his father, that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “No Muslim man dies but Allah causes a Jew or a Christian to enter the Fire in his stead.” ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez asked him to swear by Allah, besides Whom there is no other god, three times that his father narrated that to him from the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and he swore to him.

[49]https://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=3&tAyahNo=61&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0

[50] Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 78, Number 690

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

A man came to the Prophet and said to him, “My sister vowed to perform the Hajj, but she died (before fulfilling it).” The Prophet said, “Would you not have paid her debts if she had any?” The man said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “So pay Allah’s Rights, as He is more entitled to receive His rights.”

[51] See also Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 29, Number 78 and Volume 5, Book 59, Number 682.

[52] https://www.answering-islam.org/authors/adams/crucifixion_confusion.html

[53] The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Website