Ramadan and the Islamic Search for Righteousness

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In a well-researched paper, Jacob Pursely compares and contrasts the righteousness that Abraham receives in the Bible due to faith, and that described in Islam. In his work entitled The Search for Righteousness: Islamic Doctrine of Justification Apart from God. Abraham, the patriarch of Islam?, Pursely defines righteousness as seen by Muslims, using the word salih as well as a number of Biblical words. In defining salih, he explores its qur'anic use, its use in hadithic literature, and its use by some Muslim theologians. This is a wise strategy, as he is defining the term as Islam defines the term itself.

Although he does not set out to show the specific type of righteousness that Muslims seek in Ramadan, he quotes a Turkish theologian who suggests ten ways that a person can attain a state of righteousness, or salih.  Mehmet Ali Demirbaş  states, “1. Be physically clean on the outside zahiri temizlik and have a clean heart batıni temizlik by means of not envying, not thinking bad about others, by hating those that are God’s enemies and loving ones own friends. 2. To control the tongue. 3. To stay far away from crowds, (for the purpose of not looking lustfully on a woman). 4. By keeping the fast, (for if one fasts they are like angels). 5. To remember God, this by at the least saying la ilahe illallah (there is no deity but Allah). 6. To protect the heart, this by not
listening to the devil or ones own nefs. 7. To show contentment towards the judgments of God, this by having fear and hope. 8. To converse with salih people, this by speaking with a salih person one will see the evils of that which is haram. 9. To be adorned with good character, meaning having the moral character of God. 10. One must eat the foods that are helal." 

A glance over this list shows that number 4 has to do with Ramadan, and with it comes the implicit promise that one is like an angel. After clearly demonstrating that in Islam, righteousness is what someone merits, such as the list above, or gains by avoiding demerit, Pursely shows that in the Bible, Abraham was declared righteous due to his belief in the Living God.

Genesis 15:5-6: And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness."

Romans 4:22-25: That is why his [i.e. Abraham's] faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up
for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

Thus, via Pursely's article we are reminded that even in Ramadan, Muslims are not seeking the righteousness that is a free gift given to those who put their trust in "him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord" but seeking a righteousness that comes from their own efforts. It is to this vain search that we as compassionate ambassadors of the Lord Jesus must caringly confront our Muslim friends. Not to do so is to affirm their own replacement of the true source of righteousness, which father Abraham found.

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