Sunday, October 17, 2010

Salvation for non-Muslims? Reconciling 2:62 and 3:85

Some verses of the Qur'an indicate that salvation is possible for non-Muslims:
Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. -- 2:62
Other verses of the Qur'an deny this:
If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost. -- 3:85

This apparent contradiction is resolved by some principal proponents of the Shafi'i madhhab as follows:
Suddi states that (2:62) was revealed about the former companions of Salman the Persian when he mentioned them to the Prophet, relating how they had been, saying, "They used to pray, fast, and believe in you, and testify that you would be sent as a prophet." When he had finished praising them, the Prophet replied, "Salman, they are the denizens of hell," which came to discomfit Salman greatly, and so Allah revealed (2:62).

The faith of the Jews was that of whoever adhered to the Torah and the sunna of Moses until the coming of Jesus. When Jesus came, whoever held fast to the Torah and the sunna of Moses without giving them up and following Jesus was lost.

The faith of the Christians was that whoever adhered to the Gospel and precepts of Jesus, their faith was valid and acceptable until the coming of Muhammad. Those of them who did not then follow Muhammad and give up the sunna of Jesus and the Gospel were lost.

The foregoing is not contradicted by the hadith relating that (2:62) was followed by Allah revealing (3:85), for the hadith merely confirms that no one's way or spiritual works are acceptable unless they conform to the Sacred Law of Muhammad, now that he has been sent with it. As for people prior to this, anyone who followed the messenger of his own time was guided, on the right path, and was saved. (Reliance of the Traveller, 848-849)
In other words, salvation for non-Muslims was possible "until the coming of Muhammad." After that point, "those of them who did not follow Muhammad... were lost (to Hell)."

Some polemicists will play semantic games with the words "Islam", defining it as "submission to God" in order to make it appear that 3:85 allows for a Jew or a Christian to be saved. Indeed, even the above translation by Yusuf Ali seems to be doing that. However, traditional commentaries are much more forthright and they exegete the Qur'an more honestly: Islam teaches that non-Muslims cannot be saved.

Of course, I have only provided the Shafi'i interpretation; I believe it will be representative of the other major schools, but if I find otherwise, I will make a note.

As a final note, I would like to add that the Shafi'i interpretation is the best case scenario for the Muslims. They've got a dilemma: either the Shafi'i interpretation is accurate, or these two verses pose a contradiction. If the Shafi'i interpretation is accurate, it doesn't make good sense of the present tense used in 2:62. If there's a contradiction, well, it's clear what the implications would be. I actually think the latter is a better conclusion, but so as to offer the benefit of the doubt to Muslim exegetes and commentators (and the virtually unanimous decisions of the fuqaha), I will concede the Shafi'i interpretation.


Sam said...

You should include Q. 24:62 since this shows that the only true believer as far as the Quran is concerned is one who believes in Allah and his messenger:

Only those are believers, who believe in God and His Apostle: when they are with him on a matter requiring collective action, they do not depart until they have asked for his leave; those who ask for thy leave are those who believe in God and His Apostle; so when they ask for thy leave, for some business of theirs, give leave to those of them whom thou wilt, and ask God for their forgiveness: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Y. Ali

Rose said...


GreekAsianPanda said...

I heard Imam Rauf say on TV that Jews and Christians are saved, so I wonder what he thinks of 3:85 and 24:62, the one Sam pointed out. I don't really think there's any getting past "Only those are believers, who believe in God and His Apostle". That can't include Christians or Jews, because they would no longer be Christians or Jews if they believed in Muhammad; rather, they would be MUSLIMS.

I don't know why anyone would need to hide the teaching of hell in one's religion; there has to be justice for crimes. I guess it's because there's this idea in the West that God is a fluffy love ball in the sky who's only goal is to make people happy (perhaps from overapplying "God is love" or maybe from what the children are taught in Sunday school), so maybe that's why Western Muslims feel the need to soften the concept of hell when they present Islam to non-Muslims.

minoria said...

One can also go to,go to "arabic transliteration"(the Koran in Arabic with Latin letters).

There there is the word KAFARA(kafir,unbeliever) for:

5:72:KAFIRS are those who say that Allah is the Messiah,son of Mary.

(Laqad KAFARA allatheena qaloo inna ALLAHa huwa AL-MASEEHu(the Messiah) IBNu(son of) MARYAMa(Mary) waqala almaseehu ya banee isra-eela oAAbudoo Allaha rabbee warabbakum innahu man yushrik biAllahi faqad harrama Allahu AAalayhi aljannata wama/wahu alnnaru wama lilththalimeena min ansarin)

5:73 Kafirs are those who say Allah is one of three(note:reference to the Trinity).There is no Allah but one.

(Laqad KAFARA allatheena qaloo inna Allaha thalithu thalathatin wama min ilahin illa ilahun wahidun wa-in lam yantahoo AAamma yaqooloona layamassanna allatheena kafaroo minhum AAathabun aleemun)

aussie christian said...

Well Minora, I have no problem there because no Christian will ever say that allah is anything but satan, so that makes it we're not kafir.

But on a good note, anywhere that muslims go to is where I don't want to be, so if I am destined for islams version of hell, I am glad for this as it simply means I will be sent to where the real God, creator of the universe and all that is in it resides.

Jeff said...

The problem with this reading, though it may be common with the schools, is that it doesn't match very well with the text.

The text doesn't say, "Those who USED to follow the Torah...Those who USED to be Christians"

The text is in the present tense. It says that those who PRESENTLY follow Judaism and Christianity. And the present tense has the natural implication of extending into the future. What one calls in English, "the habitual present", as when one says, "Policemen catch criminals".

If one is going to argue for natural interpretations of other verses with negative implications, I think a natural interpretation of this one can also be defended.

forgive_your_enemies said...

I came across this contradiction in reading the Qur'an. The Shafi'i solution is rather neat. But this sentence "When Jesus came, whoever held fast to the Torah and the sunna of Moses without GIVING THEM UP and following Jesus was lost" shows something of the Muslim mentality - whenever someone new comes, throw out your previous Scriptures. An attitude that hardly befits those who claim they would never, ever corrupt their own Scriptures, let alone throw them away! What a contrast with Christianity!!

baziz said...

"...any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness"

but a Christian cant be a Christan if he believes an Allah, nor can a Jew be a Jew if he believes in Allah.

If you believe in Allah that means your a muslim.

Sam said...

Here is another text that proves that the only true believers in the sight of Allah are those who believe in him and Muhammad and who also strive in his cause (i.e., jihad):

The bedouins say: "We believe." Say: "You believe not but you only say, 'We have surrendered (in Islam),' for Faith has not yet entered your hearts. But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not decrease anything in reward for your deeds. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." ONLY those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the Cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful. S. 49:14-15 Hilali-Khan