What is Salvation in Islam?

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Saved from what? Saved through what? Saved for what?

These three small questions demonstrate that Christians and Muslims, although at times speaking the same language, have radically different meanings when it comes to salvation.

Saved from what?

At a message given in 1974, the Muslim Mohamed Al-Nowaihi set out the Islamic view.

Thus the great and central idea of redemption through Jesus is denounced, and this stems from the basic concept that man is not born a sinner loaded with original sin so as to need a redeemer. Man is born of a neutral nature with a completely clean slate, and is capable of both good and evil. He is given both rational power and divine guidance through the prophets to induce him to choose the good and forsake the bad, but it is his duty to make the choice. He alone is responsible and answerable for his error if he errs. Every individual carries only his own burden of deeds and misdeeds and has himself to expiate his sins.

What was he saying?

  1. People are basically good.
  2. They just forget.
  3. Islam is a reminder system.
  4. Everyone saves themselves by getting proper guidance.

Is he alone?

Isma’il Al-Faruqi in his “The Nature of Islamic Da’wah” declares that the Christian idea of salvation is a concept foreign to Islam.

Islam holds man to be not in need of any salvation. Instead of assuming him to be religiously and ethically fallen, Islamic da’wah acclaims him as the khalifah of Allah, perfect in form, and endowed with all that is necessary to fulfill the divine will indeed, even loaded with the grace of revelation! 'Salvation' is hence not in the vocabulary of Islam.

The Muslim Rashīd Riḍā sees the cross as some kind of un-necessary “magic” and is superfluous. He states:

Redemption and salvation (in Islam) depend on what is found in the soul of man, and not on what is external to it, as the infidels imagine regarding redemption ... This is an essential and clear difference between Islam and the other religions. The corporal and spiritual happiness of man in this world and in the next springs from the human soul alone, and from no one else.

Saved through what?

From the New Encyclopedia of Islam:

“The crucifixion of Jesus does not play a role in the Islamic perspective any more than does his superhuman origin, for salvation in Islam results from the recognition of the Absoluteness of God and not from a sacrificial mystery.” [Cyril Glassé, The New Encyclopedia of Islam]

The Muslim, Yasein Mohamed recognizes that the Christian concept of salvation is,

“centered on an external entity – the mystical body of Christ in which the Christian must participate in order to be saved” while in Islam he sees that “the redemptive potential is centered in the individual himself.” [from Yasien Mohamed, Human Nature in Islam].

Saved for what?

The Roman Catholic scholar Christian Troll suggests that in Islam, salvation is mostly an escape from the “wrath to come” by joining oneself to Islam and its teachings. Similarly, the Muslim al-Faruqui says that salvation in Islam is known as “Falaby" or the positive achievement in space and time of the divine "will” and that it is the Islamic counterpart of Christian ‘deliverance' and 'redemption.’ Rashīd Riḍā says that Islamic salvation affects the “purification of the soul from hollow pagan beliefs and immoral practices.”

So what?

These questions have important consequences for those who would share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Muslims. Here are four takeaways:

  1. The Islamic doctrine of fitrah [original innocence] means that Muslims see themselves as essentially good, although slightly lacking in guidance. They believe that it is within themselves to save themselves by following the guidance of Allah. Consequently they consider that they do not need an external Savior, like the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that some people have offered the medicine of Jesus to people who have no idea that they are desperately ill and in need of such a Savior.
  2. The sacrifice on the cross by Jesus is not seen as necessary for Islamic salvation. In fact, the Muslim author Tarif Khalidi, asserts that Islam took the Biblical Jesus and “cleaned him up”and turned him into a true Muslim prophet, rid of the vestiges of “the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Redemption.” Thus to offer the way of a cross to a Muslim who thinks that he/she neither wants it or needs it, is akin in the Muslim mind to offering an Alcatel push-button cell phone to someone who has an I-Phone X.
  3. To tell a Muslim that Jesus saves them from their sins, might be received with a kind nod, but it might completely miss the point that for the Muslim, avoidance of hell-fire, good standing in the Muslim community, and “doing the good and avoiding the evil” are what matter more. In fact, they may accept the Jesus offered by Christians as long as he can help to accomplish these matters.
  4. For some Muslims, an easing of the guilt feelings of their “sinlets” or little-sins is what they are looking for. This is anything but the comprehensive salvation offered by Jesus, which includes not only the guilt of sin, but its pollution, and even the very sin-nature which is inherited from Adam and Eve. The Muslim authors above, reject the idea of a sin nature which is passed from one generation to another, as they frequently quote the Qur’an to the effect that each person has to pay for their own sin. “No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another …” (Quran 6:164). This text also militates against the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for sinful humans.

And now?

“Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

We show that the whole race of humanity has been affected by the virus of the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God, and that a truly just God will not simply close His eyes to this wrath-deserving situation.  

We pray that Muslims will, by means of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, come to see their desperate need for a Savior much bigger than themselves.

We preach that there is only One Mediator between a completely Holy and Just Living God, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

We pray that Christians might have holy boldness to speak the truth in love to the absolute folly of the idea of saving oneself, and point Muslims to Jesus.

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