According to dictionary definitions salvation means “deliverance from the power and effects of sin” . Even some people believe that all Abrahamic religions have been sent to human beings to free them from the effects of their sins and guide them to the path of salvation. However, there are some major differences in the way that followers of different Abrahamic religions believe in the concept of salvation and that the above definition is not necessarily compatible with the Islamic meaning of Salvation. Therefore, this article is a study on the concept of salvation in Islam and tries to point out its major differences with Christianity.
Before starting the argument about the concept of salvation in Christianity, it is important to point out the two main ideas of Christian Catholic theologians:
1- ‘Adam by his sin caused the fall of the human generation on earth and as a result of this worldly life, he caused death for the human generation.
2- Adam by his fault transmitted sin to the human generation’ .
According to some Christians’ opinion, death and sin are transmitted to the human race generation after generation, "for as by the disobedience of one man, many [i.e., all men] were made sinners" (Romans 5:19) .
Now let us study how Christianity explains the concept of salvation for men who are all born sinners.
Some Christian sects believe that all men are born sinners, and it becomes more complicated when the belief comes to the point that says “no amount of human goodness, human works, human morality, or religious activity can gain acceptance with God or get anyone into heaven; the moral man, the religious man, and the immoral and non-religious, are all in the same boat” .
“In the Christian doctrine of salvation, God has rescued man through Christ (John 3:17). Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved man’s salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). It is explicitly stated in The Bible that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12)” .
There are a few differences between the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible and the Quran, one of which is the concept of original sin in Christianity that is contrary to the Islamic teachings. According to Islam, we are all born pure and even if we consider Adam’s act as a sin [i], it is not logical to count it as an everlasting sin for the whole human generation. According to Islam, everyone is responsible for his/her own acts: “no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another” (6: 164).
Therefore, according to Islam, salvation is not defined as the human’s deliverance from the original sin, but it is a path that guides human beings towards spiritual development and reaching God.
Even following the prophets in Islam, never means that the human generation can be saved by having belief in their prophethood, but it is by following their guidance and the rules of religion and by doing “righteous deeds” (7:42) that one can reach salvation:
“And those who have faith and do righteous deeds—they shall be the inhabitants of paradise; they will remain in it [forever].” (2: 82)
In the Quran, Allah introduces prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as the one who rescues people from their burdens and shackles. (7:157). We need to find out what those burdens and shackles are and how the prophet is supposed to relieve people from them, which are all mentioned in the Quran.
By finding the answer to the above question, we will realize the Islamic viewpoint on the concept of salvation and the role of Prophets and people in attaining it.
The Quran exegetes have different interpretations of burdens and shackles that are mentioned in this Holy Book; including superstitions, wrong habits, and traditions, ignorance, discrimination, false rules of the society, oppression, and dictatorship of the government, etc. It is also said that these burdens were those hard rituals and laws that God had obliged over the Jews .
But the deliverance that prophet brings for people is not reachable by sacrificing himself. As it is mentioned in the Quran the duty of prophets is to invite people to the right path and teach them the book and purify them by giving them the guidelines for a successful life (24: 54). However, it is the human himself who has to choose and do righteous deeds to reach salvation.
Therefore, according to the Quran sins cannot be transmitted from one person to another, just as a prophet cannot take away the sins of his people by sacrificing himself; “No bearer shall bear another’s burden” (17:15).
Salvation in Islam opens the gate of hope into people’s hearts. Unlike Christianity, in Islam people are not sinful and can reach the closest levels to God and His messengers by doing righteous deeds, acting according to the religious rules and living a decent life. And having true faith in God and his apostle is necessary but not enough.
As mentioned in the Quran, the human is a creature that “its virtues and vices” are inspired to him and it is the human who chooses one and leaves the other behind . Therefore, in the Islamic doctrine, it is the human’s free will that makes his/her destiny; “one who purifies it (the soul) is felicitous, and one who betrays it fails” (91: 9-10).
To sum up, believing in Jesus and his sacrifice for the salvation of human race is not acceptable according to Islam. But the only way of salvation is the belief in the prophets, especially the last one, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and in the messages that he delivered to us. These messages invite us to do righteous deeds based on our conscious act and choice. And if the belief is not accompanied by righteous deeds it will not lead to salvation.
[i]. Muslims believe in the infallibility of prophets. Also, the reason for which Muslims do not count Adam’s act as sin is that at his time there had been no religion and no specific frameworks for human behavior. And God had not ordered him not to eat of the forbidden tree, but He recommended Adam and Eve to keep away from that tree. Therefore, they had not committed a sin, to face punishment, rather they had chosen to take an action regarding the forbidden tree and they faced its consequences.
Don’t speak when it’s not a good time to talk.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no. 10274.
Any day on which you don’t commit sins or disobey Allah is a day of celebration (Eid).
Nahj al-Balagha, Wisdom no.428.
Looking at nature brings happiness.
Nahj al-Balagha, Wisdom no.400.
There are two things whose worth you will find out only after losing them; youth and health.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, vol. 1, p.449.
Do not impose your own traditions on your children, since they are living in a different era than yours.
Ibn abi al-Hadid, Interpretation of Nahj al-Balagha, vol.20, p.286.
Consult with your wise enemy, but avoid your ignorant friend’s advice.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.2471.
The wise, knowledgeable, experienced, and prudent ones are the best to consult with.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.4990.
Consult before making decisions and think before taking action.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.5754.
If you don’t endure the difficulties of working, you are made to bear the misfortunes of poverty.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.8987.
Be kind to the less privileged ones than you, so that your superiors be kind to you.
Muhammadi Reyshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, Hadith no. 6960.
Rise in respect to your father and your teacher, even if you possess a high status.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.2341.
The world is founded on justice.
Muhammadi Reyshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, Hadith no. 11955.
The fairest among you is the one who observes justice between people while in power.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.3242.
The fairest manner is to treat people the way you expect them to treat you.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.3170.
Don’t worry about how fast you do a job; instead, observe the best quality in whatever you do.
Ibn abi al-Hadid, Interpretation of Nahj al-Balagha, vol.20, p.267.
The worst homeland is the one that doesn’t keep its citizens safe.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.5712.
You need to have enough knowledge of a deed before doing it.
Nahj al-Bakagha, p.171.
Do every day’s work on that specific day, since each task is due to its special day.
Nahj al-Balagha, letter no.53.
The ones who don’t keep their promise do not believe in Allah.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.9577.
It’s beneath you to make a promise to your child and not keep it.
Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Amali, p.342.
If you have a child, be childlike with him/her.
Usul al-Kafi, vol.6, p.50.
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come, while today is a precious chance for you to make the most of it.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.9840.
The heart of the teenage is like an unplanted land that is ready to receive any seed planted in it.
Nahj al-Balagha, letter no. 31.
The greatest peace is obtained by reading books.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.8126.
Find the scholars’ heaven within the pages of the books.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.991.
The perfection of religion is in seeking knowledge and making use of it.
Usul al-Kafi, vol.1, p.30.
Pay attention to what is said, not who is saying it.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.5048.
Try to ponder and understand instead of quoting.
Muhammadi Reyshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, Hadith no. 3355.
You will be helped, the same way as you help others.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.7209.
The faithful who help the destitute in the hardships and misfortunes of their lives are loved most by Allah.
Tuhaf al-Uqul, p.376.
I found peace, so far as it won’t degrade Islam, more beneficial than war.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.10138.
Don’t be happy about the mistakes of others, since you are not perfect either.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.10294.
Talk respectfully to people to hear respectful responses.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.2568.
Optimism reduces despair and keeps you away from committing sins.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.4823.
What is right is not distinguished by the people; You should first know what is right to find the ones following it.
al-Fattal al-Neyshaburi, Rawḍat al-wāʿiẓīn wa baṣīrat al-muttaʿiẓīn, p.31.
Whoever avoids holding grudges, his/her heart and mind will remain at peace.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.8548.
Be thankful to Allah on your days of comfort and happiness, and be patient on the days of difficulty and hardship.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.7148.
Health is more precious than any other of Allah’s blessings.
Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, p.483.
Women are Allah’s trusts upon you, do not hurt them, and do not put pressure on them.
Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.2, p.551.
Enjoy your moments of happiness with all your heart to help you at the time of sadness.
Ibn abi al-Hadid, Interpretation of Nahj al-Balagha, vol.20, p.286.
There are many cruel incidents in the history of humankind, in which millions of people have been violently killed. Two of the deadliest and the most notorious wars in the history each of us know and have heard about are the First and the Second World Wars, with an ultimate death toll estimated at over 100 million people. An indisputable fact about the Second World War is that it wiped out around 3 percent of the world population at the time. Some other gruesome conflicts the world has ever seen, with large numbers of casualties, include: Chinese Civil War (1850-1864,25 million deaths), Qing Conquests (17th Century, 25 million deaths), War of Three Kingdoms, 2nd & 3rd Centuries CE, 38 million deaths), Mongol Invasions (13th & 14th Centuries, 55 million deaths), and etc.
Have you heard the names of the latter wars before? If yes, can you recall who the oppressors and the oppressed ones were? Why don’t people commemorate the anniversary of these important battles each year? Why isn't there so much passion, excitement, or motivation to honor the heroes that fought courageously in those wars?
There is one battle in the history of the human race, however, that has not faded from the memory of humans yet- after about fourteen hundred years-, is still commemorated and celebrated year after year with more passion, love, and excitement. That is the anniversary of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions’ martyrdom at the battle of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram of the year 61 AH.
Why do you think the reason behind Imam Hussain's (AS) movement was that made it endure so long? Whereas many other wars throughout history during which millions of oppressed people have been killed, have been forgotten?!
While for many leaders and commanders of wars, the only purpose is to gain victory by any means, for Imam Hussain (AS), the end does not justify the means. What mattered to him more than anything else in the battle of Karbala was the values, not the victory in its apparent sense. He never disregarded human values or committed even one minor sin to achieve his purpose.
He did not also seek out a large army to fulfill his aim, whereas most of the other commanders always try to increase their troops in wars. It is narrated in an account, on the night before Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) asked all his companions to leave Karbala without any restrictions to save their own lives.
If you take a look at the general overviews of why wars happen, you will clearly see people have been involved in wars for some common reasons over the years. Some of these reasons include: economic gain, territorial gain, nationalism, taking revenge, etc.
Imam Hussain (AS), however, fought in the battle of Karbala for none of the reasons above. He did not want to invade or conquer a city or a country, nor did he want to impose his beliefs and religion upon people. The only thing he aimed in his movement was not to be oppressed by a cruel tyrant. He was unwilling to compromise with the tyrant of his time because he had violated their very fundamental human rights. He put his life and his family at risk to recognize and maintain human dignity.
As mentioned above, while many warriors of either side of the battle have different motives to fight, like financial gains, promotions, etc., Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions in the battle of Karbala fought for no other reason than sincerely following in their Imam’s footstep and remain loyal to him. They didn’t even long for Heaven or the rewards of Hereafter. In an account, on the day of Ashura at noon prayer, one of Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions -named Saeed bin Abdullah Hanafi- saved Imam’s life, shielding him against arrows and spears thrown to him and other prayer performers. He continued doing this until the prayers finished. He then fell down before his Imam (AS), saying: “O son of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) of Allah! Have I fulfilled my promise?” “Yes! You have,” the Imam replied. Saeed bin Abdullah then left this world smiling.
And on the night before Ashura Imam Hussain (AS) once again gave all his companions the opportunity to rethink their choice and freely decide whether to stay or leave. However, they not only did not leave or escape –as many other warriors in different battles- but insisted on staying with the Imam (AS) in spite of all the dangers that were threatening their lives and families. They resisted to the last drop of their blood, and courageously declared their loyalty to their Imam (AS).
And finally, when it comes to the way different sides of a battle deal with their enemies, the only things that come to your mind are probably humiliation, disrespect, foul language, etc. But these are not even close to how Imam Hussain (AS) treated his enemy. He recognized his enemy’s dignity as a human being in the most challenging situations, never insulted or disrespected them, and seized every opportunity to invite them to peace and stop the war.
So these were very few reasons why Imam Hussain (AS)’s movement has not faded from our memory; because this historical event is an enlightening and life-giving truth that nurtures self-sacrificing, honest, and moral people who treat everyone with dignity and respect even when confronted with the enemy. That’s why when Arbaeen comes, about twenty million people head for Karbala since Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions did not fight for worldly desires. They fought for eternity, and for the sake of their creator, Allah Almighty.