Muhammad’s Perverted View of Vicarious Atonement
We continue from where we left off by turning our focus on Muhammad’s understanding of vicarious suffering.
It may come as a surprise for Muslims to discover that even their own prophet subscribed to substitutionary atonement, albeit a rather perverse form of what we find in the Holy Bible.
Muhammad taught that Allah would ransom Muhammad and his followers from hell by unloading all of their sins upon the disbelieving Jews and Christians, who in turn would be tortured forever in place of the Muslims:
Superiority of the believers in the Oneness of Allah and the punishment of the Jews and Christians
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.
(This Hadith IS SOUND and mentioned in Mustadrak of Hakim). (110 Hadith Qudsi (Sacred Hadith), translated by Syed Masood-ul-Hasan, revision and commentaries by Ibrahim m. Kunna [Darussalam Publishers and Distributors], pp. 19-20; capital and underline emphasis ours)
Chapter 8: THROWING OF NON-BELIEVERS IN HELL-FIRE FOR BELIEVERS AS DIVINE GRACE AND MERCY
Abu Musa' reported that Allah's Messenger said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your RESCUE from Hell-Fire. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6665)
Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah's Apostle said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit IN HIS STEAD a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire. 'Umar b. Abd al-'Aziz took an oath: By One besides Whom there is no god but He, thrice that his father had narrated that to him from Allah's Messenger. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6666)
Abu Burda reported Allah's Messenger as saying: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with AS HEAVY SINS AS A MOUNTAIN, and Allah would FORGIVE THEM and He would PLACE IN THEIR STEAD the Jews and the Christians. (As far as I think), Abu Raub said: I do not know as to who is in doubt. Abu Burda said: I narrated it to 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, whereupon he said: Was it your father who narrated it to you from Allah's Apostle? I said: Yes. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6668)
Talk about a perversion of the Biblical doctrine of substitutionary atonement! Muhammad’s statements are an assault against the holiness and justice of God.
Contrast the differences between the scriptural teaching concerning the vicarious death of the Servant with these sayings of Muhammad. Yahweh’s Servant dies a voluntary death on behalf of his people and the nations in order to make atonement for their sins. In light of his willing submission to bear the sins of others, God rewards his righteous Servant by exalting him to share in his glorious reign over the nations. See part 1 for the details.
Muhammad, however, has his deity eternally torturing and humiliating Jews and Christians in hell for all the crimes and evils committed by Muhammad’s followers. This means that Allah will actually be punishing Jews and Christians for their own sins as well as for all the wickedness carried out by Muslims. To say that this is an insult against the perfect character of God would be a wild understatement. Thankfully, however, Muhammad’s god is not the true God revealed in the Holy Bible, so Christians and Jews need not take any offense at Muhammad’s travesty of divine holiness and justice.
Embarrassed by such reports, certain Muslim scholars have tried to come up with some justification for this rather perverted view of divine justice and redemption. One such Muslim was al-Nawawi, one of Sunni Islam’s renowned authorities who wrote a commentary on Sahih Muslim which is still considered the premiere exposition. The following citation is taken from a Muslim writer(1) who not only refers to al-Nawawi’s explanation, but also shows why his exposition of these narratives is rather weak and desperate:
“Al-Nawawi, Muslim’s commentator, seems unable to advance any rationale for these traditions and, therefore, unsuccessfully tries to interpret them in a bid to maintain their sanctity. He believes that what Abu Hurayrah has reported from the Prophet, namely that: ‘For everyone there are two places reserved, one in Hell and the other in Paradise. If a believer enters Paradise, his place in Hell will be taken over by a disbeliever due to his disbelief,’ explains the ahadith. By this he means to say that Jews and Christians will enter Hell owing to their own sins and not because of the sins of Muslims. In order to strengthen his stand he derives an argument from another hadith–‘He who introduces an evil act will have to bear the sin of everyone who does it’–and extrapolates that the non-believers will bear the sins of Muslims due to their having introduced evil acts. Al-Nawawi’s argument can hardly stand up to scrutiny. The traditions clearly mention that Allah will transfer the sins of Muslims onto Jews and Christians. The second tradition, which he quotes to explain the matter, does not indicate what he derives from it; he only takes one part and leaves the other. According to this hadith, the introducer of a sin will be burdened not only with his own sin but also with the sin committed by others, whilst the sins of others will not be commuted. The three ahadith are categorical in the transfer of the sins of Muslims to Jews and Christians, who will then be burdened with two categories of sins: 1) their own, and 2) those of the Muslims.” (Israr Ahmad Khan, Authentication of Hadith: Redefining the Criteria [The International Institute of Islamic Thought, London●Washington, 2010], Chapter 3. The Quran and Authentication of Hadith, pp. 64-65; bold emphasis ours)
The author goes on to cite Q. 6:164, which denies that Allah punishes people for the evil deeds committed by others, in order to show how these ahadith contradict the Quran. There are two problems with the author’s response. First, his reply assumes that the Quran is God’s word and that Muhammad is a true prophet, and therefore would never say anything to contradict the so-called “revelation.” This approach begs the question since it takes the Islamic position concerning the status of the Quran and Muhammad as a given, even though Muslim scholars and/or apologists have yet to produce any convincing and irrefutable evidence to support this assumption.
This leads me to the second problem with Khan’s argument. Contrary to his assertion, the Quran does in fact teach that people will suffer and be punished for the sins committed by others:
And those who disbelieve say to those who believe: Follow our path and we will bear your wrongs. And never shall they be the bearers of any of their wrongs; most surely they are liars. And most certainly they shall carry their own burdens, AND OTHER BURDENS WITH THEIR OWN BURDENS, and most certainly they shall be questioned on the resurrection day as to what they forged. S. 29:12-13 Shakir
We, thus, have a contradiction within the Quran itself since there are specific texts which say that no sinner will bear the sins of someone else (cf. Q. 17:13-15; 53:38-42), and yet both Q. 29:12-13 and 16:25 expressly teach that they shall indeed be forced to carry the burdens of others. As the late scholar of Islamic studies Arthur Jeffrey noted in his exposition of Q. 16:25:
"This is in contradiction with the oft-repeated statement that no burdened soul will bear the burden of another. But that statement seems meant to exclude hope in a Redeemer who will take on himself the guilt of others, whereas here the meaning is that some of the guilt of those led astray will be placed on those who have led them astray." (The Koran, Selected Suras, footnote 4 to Sura 16)
Nor can taqyyists such as Ally and Williams simply brush aside these narratives since they are all included within a work that Sunni Islam deems to be the second most authentic collection of narrations ever compiled. In fact, some Muslim scholars have gone as far as to argue that in some aspects Sahih Muslim is actually superior to al-Bukhari’s collection!
“… Although Sahih al-Bukhari is the most reliable collection of Ahadith, however, Sahih Muslim has certain aspects of superiority. Imam Muslim adhered strictly to most of the principles of the Science of Hadith which were somehow at some places ignored by his teacher Imam Bukhari. Imam Muslim accepted for his collection only such Ahadith which had been transmitted with an unbroken chain of reliable narrators, free from all defects and were in perfect harmony with the narrations of other narrators. He has recorded only those ahadith which were transmitted at least by two different transmitters from two different Companions. Imam Bukhari has sometimes used the Kunyah (surname) of the narrators and sometimes their names. Imam Muslim avoided this confusion. Imam Muslim is also particular in pointing out the slightest difference in the text of the narrations. Imam Bukhari has fragmented most of the Ahadith and presented the portions under different chapters, while Imam Muslim presented them as a whole narration. So, the works of both Imams provide different approaches for the scholars and readers of Ahadith.” (The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Muslim, Publisher’s Note, Volume 1, p. ii; bold emphasis ours)
“Imam Muslim compiled many books and treatises on Hadith, the most important of his works is the compilation of the Hadith collection Al-Jami‘ As-Sahih, which is famous by the name of Sahih Muslim. Some scholars of Hadith opine that in some respects IT IS THE BEST AND MOST AUTHENTIC COLLECTION of Ahadith. Imam Muslim laboriously collected 3,00,000 Ahadith, but after critical study, he selected only 4,000 Ahadith for this collection…
“Many students learned the Science of Hadith from Imam Muslim. Those who became famous and occupied a prominent position are: Abu Hatim Razi, Musa bin Harun, Ahmad bin Salamah, Abu ‘Isa Tirmidhi, Abu Bakr bin Khuzaimah, Abu ‘Awanah and Hafiz Dhahbi.” (Ibid., p. v; bold and capital emphasis ours)
This demonstrates that these traditions thoroughly met Imam Muslim’s stringent criteria of authenticity, which also indicates that this renowned hadith scholar was fully convinced that these were actual statements uttered by Muhammad.
Therefore, these dawagandists are going to have to do a lot more than claim that these narrations are weak or fabricated seeing that they met the very strict criteria employed by Imam Muslim. As such, Ally and Williams have no choice but to accept the fact that according to Islamic historiography and the science of hadith criticism, these reports are genuine sayings of the historical Muhammad.
For more on this topic we recommend the following articles and rebuttals:
Addressing Paul Williams’ False Accusations Pt. 6
Islam and the Punishmentof the Innocent: A Response to MENJ’s Proposed Harmonization of a Quranic Contradiction
We will conclude this series with an addendum where we will cite from specific Jewish sources to show that even Jewish authorities viewed Isaiah 53 as a prophecy concerning the sufferings of the Messiah. This will demonstrate that Christians aren’t the only ones who have taken Isaiah 53 to be a prediction of the vicarious death of Christ.
(1) Ironically, Israr Ahmad Khan’s book came highly recommended by none other than Shabir Ally himself in one of his “Let the Quran Speak” episodes (Following the Quran Alone?). The reason why this is ironic is because Khan’s work provides plenty of ammunition for Christians in their witness to Muslims, since it highlights the rather irrational and highly unethical teachings which pervade the hadith corpus. Khan even manages to put holes in the explanations given by Muslims to justify such silly and immoral stories and commands. We, therefore, highly recommend this book to any serious Christian apologist interacting with Muslims. We also want to thank Ally for bringing this work to our attention. Much appreciated!