Muslim Conversation – Salvation

Islam teaches salvation through faith and good deeds

Conversation point: According to Islam, what must a person do to be saved? *

According to Islam, faith is a necessary precondition for salvation. A person becomes a Muslim by reciting and meaning these words: There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.

These words constitute the declaration of faith or shahadah of the Muslim and is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Besides having faith in Allah and His Prophet Muhammad, Muslims believe that they have to do more good works than bad ones in order to receive salvation.

Surah 23:102-103  Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy,- they will attain salvation:  But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide. * *

Share with your Muslim friends what Jesus taught about salvation. Jesus taught that He has come to pay the ransom for our sins.

(Mark 10:45 NIV)  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We do not have to do good deeds to earn our salvation because eternal life in Paradise comes from believing in what Jesus has done for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)

Christians, therefore, do not believe that good deeds are necessary for salvation. Christians strive to do good deeds, but only to please God and not to earn their salvation.

Jesus taught that he would die to pay the penalty for our sins.
What is atonement?

ATONEMENT refers to the reconciliation between God and man effected by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Because Muslims believe that one needs to work for his own, they do not believe that someone can come to pay the ransom for us. However, there are teachings within Islam that can help them to understand the concept of atonement.

Atonement in the story of Abraham

Conversation pointer: Do you know about the story of Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice. The Bible also has a similar story (Gen 22).

Surah 37

102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!”

103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

104. We called out to him “O Abraham!

105. “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

106. For this was obviously a trial-

107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

God provided a lamb that would be killed and sacrificed so that Abraham’s son need not have to die. (Muslims believe that the sacrificed son was Ishmael and not Isaac. Do not spend time discussing about such issues. Just use the word “son” to avoid controversy.)

In the same way, Jesus died for our sins so that we need not have to pay the penalty of our sins. Jesus taught that He is the ransom for our sins.

(Mark 10:45 NIV)  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Tell them about the story of Jesus in the New Testament. When he met John the Baptist (Muslims know him as Yahya), John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God.

(John 1:29 NIV)  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Meaning of the word “ransom”

Some Muslims interpret the word “ransom” to mean “suffering”. However, the ransom does not mean “suffering”.

A “ransom” is an amount that has to be paid to set someone free. When someone is kidnapped, we pay a ransom so that the person can live. Jesus paid the ransom so that we need not have to die for our sins. That is the meaning of ransom and that same word is used the same way in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) as in the following verse.

(Exo 21:28-30 NIV)  “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. {29} If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. {30} However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem (or KJV ransom, Greek word: Lutron) his life by paying whatever is demanded.

The meaning is clear from the passage above. The owner of the bull should pay with his life but the law allows him to ransom his life by making a payment. This is the meaning of Lutron.

“Ransom” also does not refer to suffering in the Quran.

And he said, “Verily I repair to my God who will guide me. O Lord, give me a son, of thy righteousness.” We announced to him a youth of meekness. And when he became full grown youth, his father said to him, “My son I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice thee; therefore, consider what thou seest right?” He said, “My father, do what thou art bidden; of the patient, if God please, shalt thou find me.” And when they had surrendered themselves to the will of God, he laid him down upon his forehead. We cried unto him, “O Abraham! Now hast thou satisfied the vision. See how we recompense the righteous?” This was indeed a decisive test. And we *ransomed* his son with a noble victim. And we left this for him among posterity, peace be on Abraham. Thus we reward the well-doers, for he was of our believing servants. (Sura 37:99-111)

The ransom is the ram provided by God to be sacrificed in place of his son. It does not refer to “suffering”.

Jesus taught that self-righteousness will not save us

Jesus taught that religious disciplines do not save us. We need to acknowledge that we have done wrong and call on God to save us.

(Luke 18:10-14 NIV)  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. {11} The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. {12} I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ {13} “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ {14} “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisees were excellent observers of religious requirements. They obeyed diligently all the “dos and don’ts” of their religion. Yet Jesus taught that it is not those things that save them but emphasized the need to recognize you are a sinner and completely put yourself at God’s mercy.

Speaking to people who are weary and burdened by so many laws that they have to obey in order to be right before God, Jesus preached a way to salvation that is not burdensome.

(Mat 11:28-30 NIV)  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest….{30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Christian creed or “shahadah”

A person becomes a Muslim by reciting and meaning these words: There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.

What then is the Christian creed of salvation? What is the summarized statement of how to attain salvation? Share with your Muslim friend that this “shahadah” is taught by Jesus Himself.

(John 17:3 NIV)  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

As the Shahada can be seen as a brief summary of the Islamic faith, this verse is a summary of the gospel, which states that to know God is to know Jesus Christ, whom God sent in to this world, as his word to us, through whom he revealed himself and enabled us to receive the gift of eternal life.

Why can’t God just forgive our sins without having Jesus die on our behalf?

God is both just and merciful. The way He responds to sin has to be in a way that is consistent with both His justice and His mercy. Through atonement, God did just that. Being just, He has to execute punishment for sins. Being merciful, He sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment of sin on our behalf.

There was a story about a young woman who was caught for speeding. She was brought to court where the judge pronounced a fine of $100. After that, the judge did a surprising thing. He got down from his chair and walked down to pay the fine. The judge did so because he was the girl’s father. Being a judge, he had to be just and pronounce the sentence. But because he loves his daughter, he is willing to take the punishment and pay the fine himself.

(Jude 1:21 NIV)  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

The Qur’an depicts Jesus also as rahma (mercy) from God for all people.

Surah 19: 20-21 She (Mariam) said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”  He (the angel) said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him (Jesus) as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’: It is a matter (so) decreed.”

Assurance of salvation

Conversation pointer: Do you keep track of your good deeds and bad ones so as to be completely sure that you will enter Paradise?

Muslims do not have assurance of salvation. *

In the merit system of Islam, one never knows whether he has done enough good deeds to earn him salvation.

One Muslim wrote…I’ll be honest, all my life, I was terrified every time I read the Koran, as, after every other verse, there was always threats of hell fire for this sin and that. All I wanted was to reach out to my Maker to say I am sorry, forgive me, give me another chance. But I failed to keep count of all my sins and my good deeds and I was sure that at the end, my sins would outweigh my good deeds.

Furthermore, the Quran teaches that it is entirely up to Allah to decide whom He will forgive.

004.048 SHAKIR: Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases…

Muhammad told his followers that he did not know their fate on Judgment Day.

Surah 46:9. Say: “I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the apostles, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear.” *

Muhammad told his followers that he couldn’t intercede for them.

This verse in the Quran says that no intercession is allowed.

When one soul shall not avail another nor shall intercession be accepted for her, nor shall compensation be taken from her, nor shall anyone be helped (from outside). Surah 2:48 * *

The hadiths (history of the life of Prophet Muhammad) confirm that Muhammad is unable to intercede for his followers.

Sahih Bukkhari Volume 4, Book 51, Number 16:

Narrated Abu Huraira: When Allah revealed the Verse: “Warn your nearest kinsmen,” Allah’s Apostle got up and said, “O people of Quraish (or said similar words)! Buy (i.e. save) yourselves (from the Hellfire) as I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment; O Bani Abd Manaf! I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment, O Safiya, the Aunt of Allah’s Apostle! I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment; O Fatima bint Muhammad! Ask me anything from my wealth, but I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment.”

Conversation point: With all the praying, fasting and good works, do you have assurance that you will definitely be in heaven?

Show your Muslim friends that those who follow Christ have assurance of salvation.

Jesus’ teachings are very clear on what it takes to attain eternal life in heaven.

(John 14:6 NIV)  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Another interesting fact is that even in the Quran, Jesus was very clear that those who obey him will go to heaven and no punishment will fall upon them. You can discuss more with your Muslim friend about why Jesus could provide assurance of salvation to His followers.

Surah 43

63. When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: “Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me.

68. My devotees! no fear shall be on you that Day, nor shall ye grieve.

Does the concept of free salvation leave man with no responsibility for sin?

Muslims point out that if the concept of free salvation that is found in Christian does not offer a sufficient deterrent to sin. Explain to your Muslim friend that a correct understanding of salvation by grace does not result in greater motivation to sin. Rather the gratitude we have towards God for saving us motivates us to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

There will also be those who profess to be Christians but continue to do evil deeds because in their hearts, they are not true believers. The Quran also speaks about these hypocrites.

Surah 2:8. Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they do not (really) believe.

Judgment Day

Muslims believe that there will be resurrection after death. On this day, everybody will stand before God, who will judge him for his deeds during his earthly life and receive his full recompense.

003.185 YUSUFALI: Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense.

Dialog: Christians can affirm with their Muslim friends that we also believe in the resurrection of the dead and in appearing before God for His judgment.

Share with your Muslim friend that Christians believe we are not judged by good deeds because no amount of good deeds can save us. We are judged on the basis of whether we have received Jesus as our Savior.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. (ASV)

John 5:24  (Jesus said) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. (ASV)

Tell your Muslim friends that God is merciful and will not give us our full recompense. That is because Jesus had already paid the penalty of our sins as a ransom.

(Mark 10:45 NIV)  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Suffering in hell for our sins

Islam teaches that anyone who professes faith in God will eventually go to Paradise but those that have more bad deeds than good ones will have to go through hell so that their souls can be purified.

Surah 19

71. Not one of you but will pass over it: this is, with thy Lord, a Decree which must be accomplished.

72. But We shall save those who guarded against evil, and We shall leave the wrong-doers therein, (humbled) to their knees.

This teaching is also found in the traditions of the Prophet and they indicate that they will be allowed to enter Paradise after their sins have been accounted for.

Explain to your Muslim friends that the Bible teaches that those who believe in God do not have to go through hell to have their souls cleansed since they have been completely pardoned.

Conversation point: Do you know that the Bible teaches a follower of Jesus has complete pardon and need not suffer for his sins in hell?

And to the thief who was crucified with Jesus who believed in Him, He said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) *

Even in the Quran, Jesus was very clear that those who obey him will go to heaven and no punishment will fall upon them.

Surah 43

63. When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: “Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me.

68. My devotees! no fear shall be on you that Day, nor shall ye grieve.

In Islam, sins are paid in full in hell. In Christianity, a believer gets the pardon of God and does not have to pay the penalty of his sins.


Paradise is described in Quran as a place where sensual pleasures abound. It is a place populated with wine and beautiful maidens.

Surah 56

22. And (there will be) Companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes,-

23. Like unto Pearls well-guarded.

24. A Reward for the deeds of their past (life).

Surah 55:56. In them will be (Maidens), chaste, restraining their glances, whom no man or Jinn before them has touched;-

The paradise described in the Bible does not have sensual pleasures.

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:30)

Paradise is a place where we enjoy the presence of God and worship Him day and night.