According to Islam there was no fall from grace that rendered human beings sinners desperately in need of divine salvation. The offense of Adam and Eve was simply forgetting their duty to God, and once they were reminded of their lapse, they were back on track. Their human nature after their sin, and that of their descendants, was not corrupted with self-centeredness or a penchant for evil. Hence, for Islam there is no savior or redeemer, for there is no human crisis beyond human fixing. Human nature is basically good; what is needed is not moral transformation but absolute obedience (as best one is able) to the commands of Allah. One hopes as a Muslim to have been “obedient enough” to make the grade before the judgment seat of God so as to gain the reward of heaven.
Though the teachings of Islam are filled with moral demands, these are by and large not ends in themselves. That is, they are not actions which should spring from a perfect human nature, but rather are tests of obedience which God sets before the human race. To obey is to curry Allah’s favor; to disobey is to earn his wrath. Our lives in this world are not about the transformation of our character toward moral perfection but about enduring the time of testing with a passing grade from God.
Islamic theology refers to this temporal world by using the Arabic word “dunya,” which is found in the Qur’an and Hadith traditions often. The tempting blessings of this world provide the tests concerning one’s allegiance to Allah. So we find for example in Sahih Muslim (bk 1, hadith 70):
The Prophet said, “The life of the world is sweet and green [i.e., alluring]. Allah makes you generations succeeding one another so that He may try you in respect of your actions. So beware of the beguilements of the world and those of women. The first trial of Banu Israel was through women”.
The young Chattanooga Muslim terrorist, Mohammad Youssuf Abdelazeez, who earlier this month shot and killed five American servicemen, was motivated by this core understanding of Islam — obedience to Allah, culminating in death by jihad, is the ultimate ticket to “making the grade” into paradise. Three days earlier, on July 13th, he posted a blog entitled, “A prison called Dunya” ( you can read the entire post at https://myabdulazeez.wordpress.com/) in which he writes:
Imagine that you are taken by force and placed in a prison. Once in the prison you realize that the living arrangements in this prison really aren’t that bad. There is a sun room, a TV to watch, computer to use, phone, different kinds of food, and even a section for exercise. After spending a couple weeks in the prison you get used to it and develop a routine. You still aren’t sure why you are in prison, or how long you will be there, but you are comfortable in your life. At this time one of the guards enters with a large folder that he hands you. You open the folder and read its instructions, stating that you will be spending the next couple years in this prison, and at the end of this term you will be given a test at a random time. It could be in 2 years or it could be in 4. The instructions state that passing this exam will result in you being released to the city of your choice and your living expenses will be paid as well as an allowance. Failing will lead to your transfer to another prison cell, one that has no windows or accessories except a hole in the ground for you to relieve yourself, and your meals will be the same oats and water day after day until you die.
A study guide for the test is included in the folder, and you are left alone. Put yourself in this position. What would you do?
I would imagine that any sane person would devote their time to mastering the information on the study guide and stay patient with their studies, only giving time for the other things around to keep themselves focused on passing the exam. They would do this because they know and have been told that they will be rewarded with pleasures that they have never seen.
You might wonder why committed Muslims would gun down unarmed soldiers, or behead Christians, or drown unbelievers, or beat and throw alive into a furnace those they accuse of blasphemy, or torture and crucify apostates. How could religious people engage in such barbarous, immoral and inhumane behaviors. The answer is: They believe they are acting in obedience to Allah, and earning his pleasure. The intrinsic evil of the act (as judged by others) makes no difference to them. All that matters is showing obedience to Allah, in order to gain paradise. And the Muslim paradise is no home to moral purity. Believers there are not lauded for their holiness or moral decency. The emphasis of paradise is one of unbridled sensual pleasure (at least for men). The cuisine of heaven offers all the delicacies so difficult to find in a 7th C Arabian desert context. The landscape likewise contains an overabundance of greenery. The climate is delightfully cool, and the surroundings teem with rivers and well-shaded carpets of comfortable moss. In addition to wife or wives, there are other beautiful women created especially for your sexual pleasure. In fact, according to some Muslim scholars, a man’s main activities in paradise will be endless sex with women (and perhaps boys), punctuated by breaks for sumptuous meals. Many of the divine laws governing life in the time of dunya will fall by the wayside: whereas wine and strong drink were forbidden on earth, there are now in paradise rivers flowing with wine free for imbibing. All the purity rituals (washing, food restrictions, prayers five times a day, etc.) seem to have disappeared. Where most Muslims have only one wife on earth and no slaves to serve them, those who make it to heaven will have a bevy of personal attendants and a harem with a minimum of 72 virgins (in addition to any wives) to keep them fully satisfied.
One might imagine that even the most crazed sex-addict would not be able to keep up with all these pressures, but Islamic tradition offers great reassurance:
Anas ibn Malik narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
“A believer in Paradise will be given the stamina to have sexual intercourse such-and-such (number of times).”
Anas said, “O Messenger of Allah! (How) will he have the ability to do so?”
“He will be given the stamina of one hundred (men).”
— Collected by at-Tirmithee (#2536)
The point of all this is that the religion of Islam does not envision or promise that its adherents will have broken, sinful natures redeemed and perfected. Rather, it promises as a reward the fulfillment of a hedonistic lifestyle beyond what the most dissolute and depraved man could ever achieve on earth, provided that individual obeys Allah fully in this present world.
A Christian worldview, on the other hand, begins with the declaration that human beings have sinful natures, and are driven by inordinate desires that need to be tamed and ultimately reformed. The promises of heaven are not sensual, but spiritual and relational. The redeemed will have new natures, reflecting the perfection of Jesus Christ (“Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Romans 8:29). Beyond streets of gold and pearly gates, the grand emphasis of the biblical description of heaven is that God will be with His people, personally wiping every tear from the eyes of His adopted children. To be eternally in the sacred presence of Him who is the source of every joy will be an experience that dwarfs even the greatest sensual pleasures the human body could ever muster.
Those who “enter into the joy of their Master” will love what God loves, will shine with His holiness, will act with His righteousness, ever filled with the Holy Spirit. Such a transformation begins even now, when one enthrones Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in his/her heart. Such spiritual and moral transformation forbids actions which oppose God’s eternal commands, which is why you will never find a true disciple of Jesus doing to others what true disciples of Muhammad are doing increasingly in public.
I of course recognize that some who take the name of Christ (but not His nature) do engage in inhumane actions toward others, and on the other that some Muslims resist the commands to violence and live lives of kindness toward the larger world. But the trajectory of each religion is clear, and the fruit of their promises all too divergent. It’s time to wake up and stand for truth — live the good life!