Here are the two ayahs I would like to focus on from today’s section, the last part of the “Livestock” or “Cattle” surah:

Whoever has done a good deed will have it ten times to his credit, but whoever has done a bad deed will be repaid only with its equivalent. (6:160)

Each soul is responsible for its own actions; no soul will bear the burden of another. (6:164)

Two of the handful of questions that all worldviews answer are: 1) What is humanity’s basic problem? and 2) What is the solution to humanity’s basic problem?  

All three of the Abrahamic religions answer the first question the same way: sin, though each defines sin in slightly different ways.  One of the biggest differences between Christianity and Islam (and all the other religions) is how each answers the second question.  A fundamental tenet of Christianity is that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in the atoning blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7, 2:8).  What does Islam teach about how one solves the problem of sin?   

First and foremost, one must believe sincerely in the One God (tawheed) and be totally devoted to him (islam).  This element alone can “seal the deal” or jeopardize one’s eternal destiny irreparably.   

Next, belief is validated through good deeds, the absence of which calls belief into question:

We [Allah] shall admit those who believe and do good deeds into Gardens graced with flowing streams, there to remain for ever. (4:122; c.f., 14:23)

It is said by Muslims that good deeds don’t merit a person a place in Paradise; that only comes through the mercy of God.  If this is the case, then this very similar to Christian grace.  (Note, though, that Christian depictions of the Islamic view of salvation more often describe it as a works-based system, the opposite to what has been stated here.)

Then, sin is forgiven when a person shows repentance.  But what is it that allows God to forgive sins?  What or who makes amends for sin?  This is where the greatest difference is seen between the Christian and Islamic views.  According to the Qur’an, we make amends for our sins (c.f., 5:89, 95).  That leads us back to the second of the two ayahs highlighted from today’s reading.  We are all responsible for our own sins and no one else can make amends for you (c.f., 39:7).  This is very different from the sacrifice of the Christian Savior. 

How do we make amends for our sins?  Socially, we may have to repay a debt.  Spiritually, we may have to do some sort of ritual.  Cosmically, we produce more good in our life than bad.  As we will see in the next surah, there will come a “great accounting” of our deeds on Judgment Day.  On that day it is hoped that our good outweighs our bad.  So in a sense, is salvation not up to us?  Do our deeds not determine some element of our destiny? 

Which leads us to the first ayah quoted at the beginning of this post.  God’s mercy is seen in the way he multiplies the number/weight/effect of the good deeds of believers.  This ayah talks about a 10:1 ratio, and those are some good odds! 

Let’s continue to collect more information from the Qur’an to flesh out the Islamic view of salvation.  I suspect we will find by the end of the year that this theme is a big one.

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