What does a person have to do to gain favor, not just in this life but in the life to come with Allah, with Islam’s God?
And this is the central message of Islam. The word “Islam” means “submission” and so in order to gain favor with Allah, you were supposed to submit, you do what he tells you to do. And this is why the name Abdullah is so popular amongst Muslims. Abdullah means a slave or a servant of Allah – you just do what Allah tells you to do. And that’s how Islam plays out. If you’re going to earn Allah’s favor, do what he tells you. The primary things are the five pillars of Islam – so you recite the Shahada (which is the proclamation that you are a Muslim). There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger. That’s number one. Number two is to pray the five daily prayers. Every single day you recite these memorized prayers. Number three is to fast, fast every year during the month of Ramadan. Four is to pay the alms. You’re supposed to pay a certain amount of alms called “zakat”. And lastly is the hajj, which just happened – the pilgrimage you’re supposed to take at one point in your life. Just do it. Allah has told you to do it, you submit, you do it. But then there’s also these other rules. Again through the hadith that you’re supposed to follow in order to be a good Muslim and the more you do good deeds, the more you submit to Allah, the better your your weights are in favor of your good judgment on the day of judgment.
Then how do I know what I’ve done enough? In other words, if it’s based on me doing the right things, how do I know that I’ve done enough to earn heaven or whatever the Islamic concept of salvation is?
What I’m sharing with you is the traditional understanding of Islam. Modern Muslims might tweak this. You know all kinds of Muslims have their own specific beliefs but the traditional understanding of Islam is: you can’t know. Muhammad himself didn’t know whether he would go to heaven and he said to people “pray for me that Allah would look upon me with favor.” The only way you can really know is if you died in Jihad – if you were waging battle for the sake of Allah. Surah 9 verse 111 is known as the the verse of bargain where Allah says “if you give your life for the sake of Islam, then Allah will give you your eternal reward”. But that’s really the only way you can know.
It leaves one a bit insecure doesn’t it? You can never know.
In fact there’s a hadith, which is fascinating. This is the second Caliph, the one who succeeded Muhammad. I’m sorry the first caliph Abu Bakr said “If I even had one foot in heaven, I would still fear the deception of Allah.” In other words, Allah could still throw them into hell if he wanted to.
It’s interesting about what you’re saying here. This is not just in Islam its some versions of Christianity in our country where you do do do and we’re judged at the end of life. If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we make it into heaven. If they don’t then were we’re in trouble. And of course genuine Christianity is a whole different system. Someone has said “It’s not “do”, it’s “done”. Done because it’s based on what Christ is.
And that’s what flips Christianity and puts it on a whole different scale than everything else, because within the Christian faith it’s “God has done this for you” as opposed to you having to earn the favor.
I think I’ll take the “gut is done it for me” approach. Let’s go back to your upbringing. You’re raised in this very devout home and as I understand from reading your book and I do want to say to people this is a terrific book I recognized as a New York Times bestseller – Seeking Allah, finding Jesus. I couldn’t put it down as I was reading it and I hope our people will pick up a copy not only for themselves. I’ve passed this on to other people as well. Working out with a guy at the club whose wife had an interest in Islam and she asked her husband a question so he came to me knowing I’m a pastor said “what do you know about this?” I said “I’ve got a book for your wife” so gave her a copy of it.