Because the Qur’an1
teaches that, "The true religion with God is Islam"2
this means for the Muslim that salvation is achieved
submission to the teachings of Allah.
Thus, salvation in Islam requires one must be a member
of the Islamic faith. "Whoso desires another religion
than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him;
next world he shall be among the losers."3
Thus: "But those who disbelieve, and die
disbelieving—upon them shall rest the curse of God and
the angels, and of men altogether; there indwelling
forever; the chastisement shall not be lightened for
them; no respite shall be given them."4
But, what exactly does the Muslim
believe about salvation? Below we present four basic
teachings that reveal what Islam teaches about
teaches that forgiveness is conditioned upon good
works and Allah’s choice of mercy.
Islam is a religion of salvation by
personal righteousness. In other words, the Muslim
believes that by striving to please God and by doing
good works, he will hopefully gain entrance to heaven
through personal merit.
The Qur’an clearly teaches that
salvation is achieved on the basis of good works.
Considering the following statements:
...every soul shall be paid in full
what it has earned,...5
...God loves those who cleanse
Gardens of Eden, underneath which
rivers flow, there indwelling forever; that is the
recompense of the self-purified.7
Islam teaches that on the Day of
Judgment one’s good and evil deeds will be weighed on
a scale. Good works are heavy and evil deeds are
light. Thus, the person whose balances are heavy with
good deeds will go to heaven, while the person whose
scales are light will go to hell. The Qur’an asserts:
[In the Day of Judgment] they whose
balances shall be heavy with good works, shall be
happy; but they whose balances shall be light, are
those who shall lose their souls, and shall remain
in hell forever.8
With knowledge We will recount to
them what they have done, for We are watching over
all their actions. On that day, their deeds shall be
weighed with justice. Those whose scales are heavy
shall triumph, but those whose scales are light
shall lose their souls, because they have denied Our
The Muslim assumes that his chances for
heaven are good if he 1) accepts only the Muslim God
Allah and his prophet Muhammad, 2) does good works and
all that is required of him by Allah (e.g., the
pillars of religion), and 3) if he is predestined to
heaven by Allah’s favor.
Unfortunately, given such requirements,
one wonders if the Muslim can have any assurance of
salvation at all. Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq comments
that the Islamic reliance on good works is bound to
leave any Muslim who seeks for personal assurance of
salvation "utterly confused"10
because in this life no Muslim can ever know if his
good works are finally sufficient—let alone if he is
predestined to Allah’s favor.
William Miller was a missionary to
Muslims in Iran from 1919 to 1962. He dis-cusses the
Islamic view of salvation, its dependence upon good
works and personal merit and the uncertainty this
tends to bring to the heart of every Muslim:
Islam has no Savior. Mohammad is
rarely called Savior. He is said to have brought
God’s laws to men, and they, by keeping those laws,
must satisfy God’s requirements and win His
approval.... Since many Muslims realize that they
[fall short of Koranic standards],… they recite
extra prayers in addition to those required for each
day, they make gifts to charity, and go on
pilgrimages not only to Mecca, but also to other
sacred shrines, in order to gain merit, and if
possible, balance their account with God. But since
God does not make known how the accounts of His
stand, a Muslim facing death does not know whether
he is to go to paradise or to hell. After all, the
decision is made by the arbitrary will of God, and
no one can predict what that decision will be....
And so the Muslim lives and dies, not sure of his
Thus, the Muslim concept of forgiveness
is unlike that of biblical Christianity. In biblical
Christianity, forgiveness is based upon the death of
Christ on the cross as a past action. This
means that once a person receives Christ as his or her
Savior, all of his or her sins are forgiven and each
one is guaranteed a place in heaven: "I tell
you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him
who sent me has eternal life and will not be
condemned" (Jn. 5:24); and "Praise be to
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his
great mercy he has given us new birth into a living
hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, and into an inheritance that can never
perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who
through faith are shielded by God’s power until the
coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed
in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
In Islam, there is no atonement for
sin—no propitiatory basis for forgiveness of sins. The
Bible, however, teaches of Jesus that "He is the
atoning sacrifice for our sins." Because of His great
love for us, Jesus willingly died in our place (Jn.
10:18)—taking the penalty due our sin—so that God
could freely forgive us. Indeed, "God presented him
[Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement" and "God did it
to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as
to be just and the one who justifies those who have
faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:25-26). In Islam, however,
Allah simply forgives whom he chooses to forgive.
Again, this forgiveness is predicated upon both
personal merit and Allah’s choice of mercy. Again, no
one ever knows if one’s personal works are sufficient
to forgive one’s sins or if Allah will finally be
merciful to him. Muslims certainly hope they will be
saved. But the following statements in the Qur’an, as
well as others, indicate the conditional nature of
…And whosoever of you turns from his
religion, and dies disbelieving—their works have
failed in this world and the next; those are the
inhabitants of the Fire; therein they shall dwell
God has pardoned what is past; but
whoever offends again, God will take vengeance on
him; God is All-mighty, Vengeful.13
But this is contrary to what the Bible
teaches—that full salvation comes solely by God’s
grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for
all the believer’s sins: "He forgave us all
our sins" (Col. 2:13). The Bible also emphasizes that
salvation does not come by good works or anything else
we can do to please God on our own efforts: "For we
maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from
observing the law" (Rom. 3:28). "For it is by grace
you have been saved, through faith—and this not
from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not
by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph.
In contrast to the teachings of Islam,
the Bible teaches that anyone who wishes may come to
God, freely receive salvation, and know
they are eternally saved. Jesus taught, "For God so
loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whosoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). The Apostle
Peter taught, "The Lord… is patient with you, not
wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come
to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Again, Jesus taught, "He
who believes has eternal life" (Jn. 6:47) and
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the
End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink
without cost from the spring of the water of life"
(Rev. 21:6). The Apostle John emphasized, "I write
these things to you who believe in the name of the Son
of God so that you may know that you have eternal
life" (1 Jn. 5:13).
B. Islam teaches that Jesus Christ was
neither crucified nor resurrected; therefore salvation
cannot possibly be had through faith in Jesus Christ.
Islam rejects the atoning sacrifice of
Christ on the cross. One reason for this is its view
that man is basically good; thus, if men are not
unredeemed sinners, they do not need a savior from
sin, just good works, abstention from wickedness, and
Allah’s favor. Also, Islam considers Jesus Christ one
of Allah’s prophets, and it is unthinkable that God
would permit one of His prophets to be crucified.
Thus, the Muslim religion denies that Christ died upon
the cross. The Qur’an teaches: "They denied the truth
and uttered a monstrous falsehood…. They declared: ‘We
have put to death the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary;
the apostle of Allah.’ They did not kill him, nor did
they crucify him, but they thought they did."144
Because Muslims do not believe that
Christ died on the cross, they are also forced to deny
His resurrection. Ahmad Dedat is one of the leading
public defenders of Islam. He claims the following:
Throughout the length and breath of
the 27 books of the New Testament, there is not a
single statement made by Jesus Christ that "I was
dead, and I have come back from the dead." The
Christian has [wrongly] been belaboring the word
resurrection. Again and again, by repetition, it is
conveyed that it [the resurrection] is proving a
fact.... [But] Jesus Christ never uttered the word
that "I have come back from the dead," in the 27
books of the New Testament, not once.15
But Mr. Dedat is wrong. On numerous
occasions in the New Testament Jesus predicted both
his death and his resurrection. For example, he
told his disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer many
things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests
and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and
on the third day be raised to life" (Lk.
9:22). After His resurrection, He told His disciples
that this was to fulfill the prophecies written about
This was what I told you while I was
still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is
written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets
and Psalms.... He told them, "This is what is
written: The Christ will suffer and rise
from the dead on the third day, and repentance
and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name
to all nations,..." (Luke 24:44-47)
Further, in Revelation 1:18, Jesus
taught, "I am the Living One;
I was dead, and behold l am alive for
ever and ever!"
Muslims also say Jesus Christ will not
return at the Second Coming. But in Matthew 16:27 and
25:31 and elsewhere Jesus also predicted His literal,
physical return to earth to set up His
Dr. John Elder was a missionary to
Muslims in Iran from 1922 to 1964. Among his scholarly
works are eleven books in Persian and two in English.
He discusses the Muslim rejection of the atonement and
the reasons upon which it is based:
Like the doctrine of the death of
Jesus, the ordinary Muslim completely rejects the
doctrine of Jesus’ atonement for sin. He rejects it
first on historical grounds. If Jesus survived the
cross [i.e., never truly died], as the Muslim
believes, then He could not have given His life to
atone for man’s sins.
In the second place, the Muslim idea
of God and His decrees recognizes no need for
atonement. According to the doctrine of decrees, God
determined the fate of all men from the beginning,
and we are helpless to change it. This belief is
taught in many places in the Qur’an....
A third reason why Muslims deny the
possibility of an atonement is their belief that God
does not love man, and indeed, is unaffected by
man’s actions... any idea that God so loved the
world that He gave His only son is completely
foreign to the Muslim mind... Thus, a pious Muslim
is constantly performing acts which he explains by
saying, "savab darad" (It is meritorious).
Thus, he saves for most of his lifetime to make the
Meccan pilgrimage; he gives money to help erect a
mosque; he faithfully reads the Qur’an even though
it be in a language he does not understand; and he
prays the prescribed Arabic prayers.16
In conclusion, Muslims reject the
biblical teaching that Christ died for their sins and,
therefore, seek salvation by religious observance.
Unfortunately, in doing so they deny their need for
Christ and repudiate what Jesus and the Bible teach
concerning His death: "just as the Son of Man did not
come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life
as a ransom for many" and that "He Himself bore our
sins in his body on the Cross, that we might die to
sin and live to righteousness..." (Mt. 20:28; 1 Pt.
C. The concept of the loving God of the
Bible is difficult for the Muslim to accept.
As we have indicated, the God of Islam,
Allah, is not ultimately a God of love. In Islam,
Allah’s love is not based on unconditional commitment
and self sacrifice as is biblical love (1 Cor.
13:1-13). "But God demonstrates His own love
toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ
died for us" (Romans 5:8). In Islam, Allah’s love is
based on conditional performance and/or divine decree.
In Islamic theology, much like Buddhist philosophy,
the concept of love seems to be primarily that of
"mercy." It is more impersonal than personal.
Dr. J. Christy Wilson observes that the
concept of God’s love is foreign to Islamic thinking
because of the extreme emphasis placed upon Allah’s
sovereign power and transcendence: "It should be said,
however, that most Muslims will misunderstand and
question the statement of the New Testament that ‘God
is love.’ His power and sovereign transcendence over
all creation are so emphasized in Islam that to call
Him a God of love or to address Him as ‘Father’ would
be far from Muslim thought."17
John Elder, cited above, comments, "In
addition to the idea that God does not need men and
therefore cannot love, the Muslim commonly cites two
main problems in believing that God is love: the
existence of sin and pain, and man’s insignificance in
the vastness of the universe."18
But again, the Bible teaches the
Islamic view of God is wrong when it declares that
"God is love" (1 John 4:16).
D. Muslim salvation is fatalistic.
The Muslim concept of forgiveness is
conditioned upon good works. On the one hand, we find
in the Qur’an the promise of heaven for those who do
good. But on the other hand, the promise is
conditional—one must possess the true religion of
Islam, obey its precepts, and also find favor with
Allah. But at this point Islam’s predestination (in
contrast to that of the Bible) appears to become
The largest apparent indeterminacy in
the Muslim concept of salvation is Allah’s
predestination. The Qur’an teaches, "All things have
we created after a fixed decree…."19
Further, "God leads astray whomsoever He will; and He
guides whomsoever He will.…"20
Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq observes, "There are several
[Muslim] traditions also about the predestination of
all things, including all good and bad actions and
guided and misguided people.... Even if a person
desires to choose God’s guidance, he cannot do so
without the prior choice of God in favor of his free
choice. This is sheer determinism."21
Dr. Wilson comments, "The fifth article
of faith is predestination,... the fact that
everything that happens, either good or bad, is
foreordained by the unchangeable decrees of Allah. It
will be seen at once that this makes Allah the author
of evil, a doctrine that most Muslim theologians
The Qur’an teaches, for example, "And if a good thing
visits them, they say, ‘This is from God’; but if an
evil thing visits them, they say, ‘This is from thee.’
Say: ‘Everything is from God.’"23
The man whom Allah guides is rightly
guided, but he who is led astray by Allah shall
surely be lost. As for those that deny Our
revelations, We have predestined for hell many
jinn and many men... .We will lead them step by
step to ruin... None can guide the people whom Allah
leads astray. He leaves them blundering about in
their wickedness.... Say: "I have not the power to
acquire benefits or to avert evil from myself,
except by the will of Allah."24
At first glance, there does appear to
be one way a Muslim can guarantee his salvation. This
is found in connection with the Muslim concept of
jihad or holy war: achieving security of salvation
requires death in battle: "If you are slain or die in
God’s way,… it is unto God you shall be mustered.…"25
When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefields
strike off their heads and, when you have laid them
low, bind your captives firmly.... Thus shall you
do.... As for those who are slain in the cause of
Allah,… he will admit them to the Paradise he has
made known to them.26
Allah has given those that fight with their goods
and their persons a higher rank than those who stay
at home... The unbelievers are your sworn enemies...
Seek out your enemies relentlessly... You shall not
plead for traitors... Allah does not love the
treacherous or the sinful.27
In the above material, it first seems
that the Muslim is promised heaven for death in
battle. But we discover that even this security of
salvation is apparently conditioned on something
else—in this case, bravery:
O believers, when you encounter the
unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs
to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them,
unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to
join another host, he is laden with the burden of
God’s anger, and his refuge is Gehenna—an evil
Thus, even in the guarantee of heaven
through death in a holy war, the Muslim promise of
salvation appears to remain provisional. And none can
deny that unnumbered Muslims, trusting in Islam to
save them and take them to heaven, have instead been
sent to their deaths in the jihads of history and
today. They have been sent to eternity without Christ.
E. Do Christians Have Salvation
According to Islam?
Some have claimed that, according to
Islam, Christians can remain Christians and still
inherit salvation. They also claim that the God of
Islam and the God of the Bible are the same God. But
to the contrary, the Qur’an teaches that only if
Christians convert to Islam and remain good Muslims
will they have the opportunity for salvation. If
Christians reject the Qur’an, they are classified as
unbelievers and their destiny is an eternal hell:
God guides not the people of the
unbelievers…. They are unbelievers who say, "God is
the Messiah, Mary’s Son."...The Messiah [Jesus]
said, "Children of Israel, serve God, [Allah] my
Lord and your Lord. Verily, whoso associates with
God anything, God shall prohibit him entrance to
Paradise, and his refuge shall be the Fire; and
wrong doers shall have no helpers." They are
unbelievers who say, "God is the Third of Three." No
god is there but One God. If they refrain not from
what they say, there shall afflict those of them
that disbelieve a painful chastisement.…29
In the above citation, we see that (1)
Christians who believe that Jesus is the Messiah are
classified as unbelievers; (2) that those who believe
in the Trinity (that "God is the Third of Three") are
unbelievers, and (3) that Christians who believe that
Christ is God (those who associate God with Jesus)
will be consigned to hell. Thus, if Christians do not
turn from their errors and accept Islam they are
subject to the strictest judgment:
…[in war] kill those who join other
gods with God [the phrase in other translations
reads "kill those who are idolaters, pagans"]
wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege
them, and lay wait for them with every kind of
ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe
prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them
go their way, for God is Gracious, Merciful.30
Do they not know that whosoever
opposes God and His Messenger—for him awaits the
fire of Gehenna, therein to dwell forever?31
Verily, God will not forgive the
union of other gods with Himself!… And He who
uniteth gods with God hath devised a great
wickedness.... the flame of Hell is their sufficing
punishment! Those who disbelieve our signs we
will in the end cast into the fire: so oft as their
skins shall be well burnt, we will change them for
fresh skins, that they may taste the torment.32
Ali’s translation at Sura 9:17 reads,
of those who "join gods with God.... In Fire shall
In conclusion, by accepting the
biblical nature of God as trinitarian, Christians show
themselves to be unbelievers destined for eternal
judgment. Thus, Islam does not accept that Christians
can have salvation if they remain Christian.
Variously spelled Koran, Quran, et al.
A. J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (NY:
MacMillan, 1976), p. 75.
Ibid., p. 85.
Ibid., p. 48.
Ibid., p. 93.
Ibid., p. 220.
Ibid., p. 344; cf., pp. 102, 105.
Sura 23:104-105 in the George Sale translation
(1734) as cited by Phillip H. Lochhaas, How To
Respond to Islam (St. Louis, MO: Concordia,
1981), p. 24.
N. J. Dawood, The Quran (Baltimore, Penguin
Books, 1972), p. 241.
Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith With
A Muslim Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1980), p.164.
William Miller, A Christian’s Response to Islam
(Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1977), pp.
Arberry, p. 58.
Ibid., p. 143.
Dawood, p. 372.
Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist, The Islam
Debate (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life
Publishers, 1983), p. 172.
John Elder, The Biblical Approach to the Muslim
(Fort Washington, PA: Worldwide Evangelization
Crusade, 1978), pp. 94-96.
J. Christy Wilson, Introducing Islam (NY:
Friendship Press, 1965, rev.), p. 20.
Elder, p. 59.
J. M. Rodwell, The Koran (NY: Dutton, 1977),
Arberry, p. 274.
Abdul-Haqq, p. 159.
Wilson, p. 24.
Arberry, p. 111.
Dawood, p. 256, emphasis added.
Arberry, p. 93; cf. p. 98.
Dawood, pp. 212-122.
Ibid., pp. 367-368.
Arberry, pp. 198-199.
Ibid., pp. 139-140
Rodwell, p. 471.
Arberry, p. 214.
Rodwell, p. 417.