v2.3 It is obligatory to believe in the scale, which consists of two scalepans and a balance indicator between them and is as great in size as the thickness of the heavens and earth. It weighs a servant’s deeds through the power of Allah Most High, and the weights placed on it are as fine as an atom or mustard seed, that justice may be perfectly done.1
And from the Qur’an (Haleem translation) we read:
Qur’an 7:8 – 9: On that Day the weighing of deeds will be true and just: those whose good deeds are heavy on the scales will be the ones to prosper, and those whose good deeds are light will be the ones who have lost their souls through their wrongful rejection of Our messages.”
In Islam, a Muslim may “fall short,” but if so, it is because his good deeds were offset by his bad deeds so that the balance indicator tilted to the side of Hell. A Muslim’s bad deeds offset his good deeds throughout his lifetime (Qur’an 11.111) which is why, of course, the need for the two scalepans and the balance indicator. I suppose the good news is that in Islam, Hell is not eternal (for all true monotheists):
V, 2.7 states, “It is obligatory to hold that true believers in the oneness of Allah . . . will be taken out of hell after having paid for their sins, through the generosity of Allah Mighty and Majestic. No one who is a true monotheist will abide in the fire forever.”2
In Islam, however, repentance is necessary for forgiveness to be granted by Allah. “According to one hadith, a person who repents of his sins becomes like one who has never committed any sins; . . . Repentance involves: “the penitent be convinced that a sin did occur, show remorse, and resolve to abstain in the future.”3 The Qur’an, in fact, states, for the person who “repents, attains to faith and does righteous deeds, God will change the evil … into good.” (Qur’an 25:70). In Islam, then, repentance is the “antithesis of the crucifixion and its accompanying salvation.”4
In Islam nothing is more important than one’s belief in the oneness of Allah and Muhammad as the messenger of Allah. Quoting again from Islamic Sacred Law: Book V, 2.0 states,
Allah Most High sent Muhammad …., the Qurayshite unlettered prophet, to deliver his inspired message to the entire world, Arabs and non-Arabs, jinn and mankind, superseding and abrogating all previous religious systems with the Prophet’s Sacred Law, except for the provisions of them that the new revelation explicitly reconfirmed. Allah has favored him [Muhammad] above all the other prophets and made him the highest of mankind, rejecting anyone’s attesting to the divine oneness by saying, “There is no god but Allah,” unless they also attest to the Prophet by saying “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” He has obliged men and jinn to believe everything the Prophet…. has informed us concerning this world and the next, and does not accept anyone’s faith unless they believe in what he has told us will happen after death.”5
In Islam, the final reckoning is a matter for only Allah to decide regardless of the tilt of one’s scalepans and the resulting balance. If Allah wills Paradise, it is off to the Garden. If Allah wills Hell, it is off to the furnace. Reliance of the Traveller, Book V, 2.6 states,
It is obligatory to believe in the Final Reckoning and the disparity in the way various people are dealt with therein, some made to answer, others pardoned, and some admitted to paradise without reckoning, being the intimate of Allah (muqarrabun). Allah Most High shall ask whomever He wills of the prophets if they have conveyed their message, ask unbelievers why they denied the messengers, ask those of reprehensible innovation (bid’a) about the sunna, and ask Muslims about their works. (p. 824).
Allah not only wills Paradise or Hell, Allah wills everything. Qur’an 5:18, “The Jews and the Christians say, ‘We are the children of God and His beloved ones.’ Say, ‘Then why does He punish you for your sins? You are merely human beings, part of His creation: He forgives whoever He will and punishes whoever He will.”
I do wonder how Allah’s scalepans are balanced?
So then, Paradise is never guaranteed to a Muslim. It is contingent at all times upon Allah’s will. A Muslim never knows whether his good deeds outweigh his bad, or whether the scale is tipped in his favor or not. Paradise, then, is never assured to a Muslim. Allah decides; and, if Hell is his decision, to Hell he will go. His only recourse? If he is truly Muslim (believes in the Oneness of Allah and Muhammad as His messenger), then he will remain in Hell only until Allah decides his time is up.
I wonder if Allah is forgetful?
What does a Muslim do if Allah is having a “bad hair day”?
In Christianity, Christians are not left to the capriciousness of God. There is no disparity in treatment among followers, no favorites. As someone has put it, the ground at the foot of the cross is level. Christians are not even dependent upon God’s mercy, or His compassion, although both mercy and compassion are His attributes (Psalm 86:15). To the believer in Jesus Christ, all sins have been atoned for by Christ as Savior (Romans 8:1; 1 John 4:10, 1 Peter 2:24). Christians are saved because Jesus has borne their iniquities, carried their sins to the cross, and eternal salvation is given by God’s grace and received through one’s faith (Isaiah 53:4-5; John 1:12-13, 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-10). Jesus is the “door” through which believers must walk but they do so in the certainty that the door stands open for them, and will remain so for them (John 10:3, 9, 28). Salvation is God’s invention, not man’s. It is God’s responsibility to save man, not man’s responsibility to save himself– for man cannot do what only God can do; and, God has prepared man’s salvation in Jesus Christ (Luke 2:30-31). Humanity is a recipient of God’s saving action; and humanity can never earn what God has already bought and paid for. This does not mean that Christians have a pass to “get out of jail free.” Sin matters for Christians. It impacts their eternal rewards once entering the pearly gates of St Peter (2 Corinthias 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Which god would you want to trust in? Which god would you want to stand before on judgment day? The God who has taken personal responsibility for mankind’s unrighteous acts, and has executed justice upon the Lamb that He, Himself, has provided (Genesis 22:8, 13-14)? Or the Allah that requires mankind to not only believe in him and his messenger, but also to balance the scales on the side of good deeds? And, perhaps, if Allah wills it, Allah will open the door to Paradise but not because his scales tipped to the good, but because Allah simply decided it.
I don’t know about you, but I think I will let Jesus tip the scale for me.
- Ahmed ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Amana Publications, 1999, v2.3. [↩]
- Ibid., p 824 [↩]
- Quoting, Moosa, Ebrahim. “Repentance.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0677. [↩]
- Moosa, Ebrahim. Ibid. [↩]
- Ibid., Reliance of the Traveller, p 822 [↩]