‘Isa (Jesus) is an intercessor and not a redeemer
It is not meet for a man that Allah should give him the Book and the Judgment and Prophethood, then he should say to men: “Be my servants rather than Allah’s;” but rather (he would say): “Be worshippers of the Lord because of your teaching the Book and your reading (it yourselves)”. Or that he should enjoin you that you should take the angels and the prophets for lords; what! would he enjoin you with unbelief after you are Muslims (Submitting Ones)? (Qur’an, 3:79-80)
The Christians believe that Jesus Christ atoned for their sins with his blood; and that is why they call him the Redeemer, the Savior. They explain this belief as follows:
“Adam disobeyed Allah by partaking of the forbidden tree; it was a sin which remained with Adam, and it is inherited by his progeny who came into this world burdened by that original sin; and the recompense of sin is punishment in the next world, the eternal perdition, the everlasting ruin – which cannot be warded off. And Allah is Merciful and Just – both at the same time.
“This situation created a knotty problem which defied all solutions: If Allah were to punish Adam and his progeny for their sin, it would have been against the mercy for which He had created them; and if He were to forgive them, it would have been against His Justice. Justice demands that a sinner should be punished for his sins and errors, just as a good-doer and obedient person should be rewarded for his good deeds.*
“This problem remained unsolved until Allah solved it through Christ. Christ – the Son of God who was Himself God – entered the womb of a descendent of Adam, that is the Virgin Maryam, and was born from her as a human being is born. In this way, he was a complete man, because he was a son of man; and at the same time, was complete God, because he was the Son of God.
“And the Son of God, being God Himself, was sinless and protected from every sin and error.
“He lived among his people for sometime, mixing and dealing with them; he joined them in eating and drinking, talked and walked with them and befriended them. Thereafter he surrendered to his enemies enabling them to kill him the worst killing – killing by crucifixion, because one who is crucified is, according to the Divine Scriptures, cursed by God.
“He took upon Himself the Divine curse and crucifixion, with all the condemnations, sufferings and chastisement which it entails. In this way he redeemed the people through his sacrifice, in order that they might be saved from the chastisement of the hereafter and the eternal perdition. Thus, he is the atonement for the sin of the believers, nay, for the sins of the whole world.” **
This is what the Christians believe.
The Christians have made this theory (i.e. the crucifixion and atonement) the foundation of their religion. It is the Alpha and Omega of their call and mission – in the same manner as the Qur’an has founded the Islam and its mission on monotheism; as Allah says addressing His Messenger (s.a.w.a.): Say: “This is my way: I invite (you) unto Allah: with clear sight (are) I and he who follows me; and glory be to Allah; and I am not of the polytheists” (12:108).
It is the Christians’ belief in spite of the fact that Christ (as the Gospels clearly say, and we have mentioned earlier) used to admonish them first of all to believe in one God and to love Him.
The Muslims as well as many non-Muslims have shown the Christians the defects and invalidity of the above-mentioned belief of Christianity. Countless books and booklets have been written and numerous pamphlets and articles published, showing that this theory is not only contrary to logic and reason, but it also contradictory to the Books of the Old and the New Testaments. What we are concerned with here – and what comes within the purview of this book of ours – is to show how this idea is opposed to the basic Qur’anic teachings, and to explain the difference between intercession (as confirmed by the Qur’an) and atonement (as claimed by the Christians).
Moreover, the Qur’an clearly says that it talks with the people explaining the things in such a way as to bring it to the level of their understanding, to make it easier for them to grasp its realities. It explains what helps them to distinguish the truth from falsehood, so that they may accept that and reject this. It enables him to differentiate between virtue and evil, between beneficial and harmful, so that he may take the one and leave the other. The fact that the Qur’an keeps in view the level of the healthy reason and understanding is abundantly clear to all who study the Divine Book.
Now let us have a critical look at the above-mentioned Christian theory of atonement.
First: They say that Adam committed a sin by eating from the forbidden tree. But the Qur’an refutes this idea in two ways:
The said prohibition was not like a binding order given by a master to his slave; it was only an advisory counsel aiming at the good of the person so advised – in order that he may live more comfortably. Such an advice does not bring any judicial reward or punishment whether one acts upon it or ignores it. It is not different from the order or prohibition of an advisor to the one who seeks his advice, or the directions given by a physician to his patient. What happens in such situations is this: If the person concerned acts upon the advice, he achieves what is good and beneficial to him in this life; and if he neglects such advice, he may come to harm in this world. When Adam ate from the forbidden tree, the only harm he suffered was his removal from the Garden, and thus he lost the comfort and happiness he had been enjoying there. But there was no question at all of any punishment of hereafter, because he had not disobeyed any compulsory legislative order, which could have resulted in “punishment”. (For detail see the Commentary of the verses 2:35 – 39)
Adam (a.s.) was a prophet. The Qur’an clearly says that the prophets were sinless; they were protected by Allah from committing sins and transgressing the “orders” of Allah. Logical reasons supports this belief and the Qur’an proves it. (See our discourse on sinlessness of the prophets)
Second: They say that the said sin remained with Adam. But the Qur’an rejects this idea when it says: Then his (Adams) Lord chose him, so He turned to him (with mercy) and guided (him) (20:122); Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful (2:37). The reason also supports, nay, proves it. Retribution of sin is a frightening and formidable thing which the reason – or the master – thinks necessary for him who disobeys the command or shows obstinacy; it is from fear of punishment that legislations and laws are obeyed. Had there been no reward and punishment, the mastership could not be enforced and no order or prohibition would be obeyed. The master has the right and power to punish the sinners for their sins as well as to give rewards to the obedient ones for their obedience. Likewise, it lies within his power to exercise his discretion in a way he thinks fit, within the jurisdiction of his mastership. He has every right to pass over and overlook the disobedience and mistakes of wrong-doers by forgiving and pardoning them their sins and wrongs. This power of forgiveness is a part of management and rule as much as is the authority to mete out punishment. There is no doubt in any mind that forgiveness and pardon, in certain cases, is good and commendable when the forgiver has full power to punish; even today reasonable persons practice it and put it into effect. In this background, there is no reason why a wrong done by a man should remain attached to him forever. Otherwise, forgiveness and pardon would have no meaning at all. One forgives and pardons for erasing a mistake, for nullifying the effect of a sin; and if we say that the mistake and sin remains attached and cannot be removed, then forgiveness and pardon are meaningless.
Moreover, the Divine Revelation is full of descriptions of forgiveness and pardon; also the Old and New Testaments speak of it. Not only that, even the afore-mentioned “Christian dogma” speaks about it. In short, the claim that a certain sin or mistake had been attached to a man, which could not be erased or forgiven even after repentance and expression of sorrow, even after returning to the Lord with sincerity, is a thing which no reason would accept, nor would any straight thinking person agree with.
Third: They say that the sin of Adam has remained attached not only to him but even to his progeny up to the Day of Resurrection. It means that the punishment of a crime of one person was extended to the others too who had no hand in that sin. In other words, a slave commits a sin and the master widens the circle of punishment to include even those who were in no way connected with that sin! (We are not speaking about a situation where someone had committed a sin and his descendants were pleased with his action; because in that case all would be counted as sinners.) What the Christians say puts the burden of sin on those who had nothing to do with that supposed sin. And the Qur’an rejects it when it says: That no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another.- and that there is not for man (aught) except what he strives for (53:38-39). Sound reason supports this dictum, because it is an evil to penalize someone for a sin he has not committed. (vide the discourse on the “Deeds”, under the verses 2: 216 – 218.) *
Fourth: Their argument is based on a misconception that every mistake and sin without any exception – throws the man into eternal perdition. In other words, sins do not differ in size and magnitude – all are great and capital. But the Qur’an teaches us that the sins and errors are of various categories: some are great, others small; some may be forgiven, others like polytheism shall not be forgiven except after repentance. Allah says: If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden, We will expiate from you your (small) sins and cause you to enter an honorable (place of) entering (4:31 ); Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases (4:48). Thus Allah has taught us that some of the forbidden things, that is, sins and mistakes, are great, and others are, by implication, small; some are not forgivable while others are forgiven. In any case, sins vary in their seriousness, and not every sin puts the sinner in eternal perdition or ever burning fire.
Reason also refuses to lump all sins together, to put all mistakes in one category. A slap on face is different from murder; a lustful eye and fornication are not one; and so on. Never in the long human history have people treated all sins and errors alike. Sane persons in every age have prescribed different punishments for different crimes. How can it be possible to bracket all sins together without any discrimination, when there is so clear difference among them? In view of this-.accepted difference, only a few of them may cause eternal perdition, never-ending chastisement (for example) associating others with Allah, as the Qur’an has said: Obviously going against the prohibition of partaking of a tree cannot be put in the category of disbelief in Allah or polytheism or things like that. Thus there is no reason why it should cause an eternal punishment. (vide the above-mentioned discourse on Deeds).
Fifth: Let us look at what they have said about the problem of the conflict between the Divine attributes of mercy and justice; how a plan was devised to overcome that difficulty; and how Christ came down and then ascended to heaven to effect that scheme – with all the ramifications they have mentioned.
Ponder on this statement and its concomitants, and see what type of god they believe in. Here you will find a Creator God Who is the beginning and the end of this created universe and all its components. But all His actions emanate from a will and a knowledge which are found in Him; and His will depends on an academic preference – in the same way as a man opts for a course of action after weighing its pros and cons according to his knowledge. Likewise, God ponders on the positive and negative sides of a thing and then decides whether to do it or not. Sometimes He makes a wrong choice and repents for it*; at other times He meditates upon a problem without finding its correct solution; often He remains unaware of many affairs. In short, in their eyes, God in His attributes and actions is not different from a man. Whatever He does, He does it after thinking and meditating over it, directing His endeavors to the advantages of that action. His decision is thus governed and controlled by some extraneous factors, that is, the said advantages. He may find His way to the correct decision, also He may take a wrong decision; there may be error, misunderstanding or forgetfulness in the course He has taken. Sometimes He knows, at other times He does not; often He overpowers, and frequently is Himself overpowered. His power, like His knowledge, is limited. When all this is believed about Him, then it should be equally possible for Him to be subjected to all the conditions which prevail in a human being who decides to do a work after pondering on its pros and cons: God will thus experience joy and grief, vainglory and shame, happiness and sorrow – and things like that. Needless to say that such a being would be a physical and material one, governed by the laws of movement, change and gradual completion. A thing having these attributes must be a transient being, a created thing; it cannot be the Self-existing God Who is the Creator of all things.
If you study the Old and New Testaments, you will know that all that we have said above is true; and that they believe in a god who has a body and has all the attributes found in a body, and especially in a man.
As for the Qur’an, it declares the Lord’s glory in all these matters, showing that He is far above such myths and superstitions, as it says: Glory be to Allah (for freedom) from what they describe (37:159). We have many incontestable rational proofs to show that Allah is One in Whom all the attributes of perfection are united. His are the existence without any hint of inexistence, absolute power without any shade of weakness, all-encompassing knowledge without any taint of ignorance, absolute life without any possibility of death or destruction. This being the case, there can never come any change in His existence, power, knowledge or life.
Consequently, He cannot be a body or a thing related to body, because body and the things connected to it are surrounded by change and alteration, subdued by incorporeality, neediness and shortcomings. As He is not a body, nor related to body, He is not subjected to varying circumstances or changing conditions; He is far above forgetfulness or obliviousness, mistake or repentance, undecidedness or uncertainty, reaction or despondency, weakness or defeat – and things like that. We have fully explained the rational arguments (related) to these topics in this book in relevant places- those who want a thorough study should look for them under relevant verses.
A discerning reader may easily judge between the two beliefs: Here is the Qur’an, declaring the glory of the Lord of the universe; it affirms for Him every attribute of perfection, and asserts His freedom from every imperfection; and declares that He is too great to be comprehended by our understanding – beset as it is by limitations and imperfections. And there are the Old and New Testaments describing God in terms which can only be found in the Greek, Indian and Chinese mythologies of the ancient times; and ascribing to Him such things which primitive man imagined and which his superstition Jed him to believe.
Sixth: They say that Allah sent His Son, Christ, and told him to enter into the womb of a woman – in order that he could be born a man while he was a god. It is the same unintelligible theory which has been strongly refuted by the Qur’an; there is no need to repeat here the earlier-explained Qur’anic arguments against it. Also the reason does not support this theory. First look at the attributes which are essential for the Self-existing Being. His existence is eternal, without beginning or end; there can be no change in Him; His existence knows no limit; He encompasses everything, but Himself is above the limits of time, space and their concomitants. Then think over the creation of man from the time he was a sperm to the stage when it is a fetus in a womb – no matter which interpretation you accept for this human birth of god: that of the Melchites, or the Nestorians, or the Jacobites or some other groups. In the end you will have to admit that there is no relationship between a thing that has a physical body with all its accidents and concomitants and a Being that has neither a body nor any of its concomitants or accidents (like time, space, movement etc.). How can one even think of unity between the two in any way?
The fact is that this theory does not agree with self-evident rational propositions. That is why St. Paul and other leaders of Christianity hold philosophy in contempt and spurn and disdain rational arguments. St. Paul writes: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? . . . For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified.” (Epistle of Paul, ch. 1 ) **
We find a lot of pronouncements – in similar vein – in his as well as in others’ writings. This line was adopted only for propagation of their ideas and missionary activities. Anyone pondering on these epistles and books and studying the way they address the people may easily understand the motive behind it.
he above discourse also exposes the flaw in their statement that: “God is sinless and protected from sins and errors.” The God they have imagined is not safe from errors at all,- He errs in His perceptions and He errs in His actions. Of course, He does not disobey anyone because none is superior to Him. That is why the question of sin and disobedience does not arise at all, so far as God is concerned. Consequently, it is irrelevant, nay, unimaginable, to say that He is “protected from sins”.
Seventh: They say that God became man and then lived with his people as a man lives in society until he surrendered to his enemies. It means that the Self-existent God may acquire for Himself some properties especially reserved for transient and incorporeal creatures – only then He can be God and man all at the same time. If so, then He can also become any of His other creatures; He may acquire for Himself the reality of any of the species created by Him. One day He may appear as a man, the next day as a horse; sometimes as a bird, at other times as an insect, and so on. He may even acquire more than one reality at a time, that is, He may come to this world as a combination of several species, for example, He may appear as perfect man and perfect horse and perfect insect, all at the same time.
Likewise, He may do any action done by His creatures because He may appear as a certain species and then would do the actions reserved for that species. Going a step further, it would be possible for Him to do two opposite things together like justice and injustice, or to acquire opposite attributes for Himself, for example, knowledge and ignorance, power and lack of power, life and death, want and freedom from want. Glory be to Allah Who is far above such absurdities! (This snag is different from the one explained in the Sixth Objection.)
Eighth: They say that he suffered until he was crucified and took upon himself the curse, because a crucified person is cursed. What do they really mean when they say that he took the curse upon himself? What is the meaning of curse? In common usage and language curse means removal from Divine Mercy and Honor. Does that supposed curse imply the same meaning? Or is it something else? If it has the same meaning which is known to the language and common usage, then how can God remove Himself from His own mercy? Or, how can anyone else remove Him away from His own mercy? What is mercy? It is a positive bestowal, a grant of favors and bounties, a bequeathal of specialties of existence. When one is cursed – taken away from Divine Mercy – it results in poverty, disgrace or effects like that – in this world or the next or in both. This being the case, what is the sense of saying that God was effected by curse? Choose any meaning for curse, it cannot apply to God – the God Who is Self-sufficient and fulfils the needs of everything. The Qur’anic teaching is diametrically opposed to this truly amazing theory of the New Testament. Allah says: O men! you are the ones who stand in need of Allah, and Allah is He Who is Self-sufficient, the Praised One (35:15). Also the names and attributes of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an make it clear that it is impossible for any type of need or want, shortcoming or defect, loss or extinction, evil or abomination, disgrace or stigma to reach the sublime majesty of Allah.
Poser: God suffered disgrace and took the curse upon Himself only because He became one with man. Otherwise, He in His own Self is too high to be affected by such things.Reply:Did God, by becoming one with man, take upon Himself that curse and those sufferings in real sense of the word? Or, was it all just a metaphor, only an allegory? If it was in real sense, our objection stands. And if it was only in a metaphorical sense, then the original “problem” would remain unsolved-, the birth of Christ would not solve the conflict between Divine Mercy and Divine Justice. If it was not God – but someone else – who suffered all those indignities and curse – the so-called scheme of atonement would remain unfulfilled. Obviously, the said plan was based on the idea that God Himself should be the ransom for human beings.
Ninth: They say that ‘Isa (Jesus) atoned for the sins of the believers, nay, for the sins of the whole world. This talk shows that they do not understand the real meaning of sin and error, nor do they comprehend how the sins bring the next world’s punishment, or how that punishment is affected. Also, they have not grasped the relationship between sins and errors on one side and Divine Legislation on the other, nor do they know the stand of the shari’ah about it. But the Qur’an clearly describes all these things and teaches us these realities – as we have explained in the Commentaries of verses 2:26 (Surely Allah is not ashamed to set forth any parable . . .) and 2: 213 (Mankind was but one nation . . . ). We have described there that the orders and laws (which might be the subject of disobedience) and the sins and errors all are mentally posited things based on subjective consideration. They have been made for the protection of society’s welfare; and the punishment of its disobedience is the unpleasant result which has been prescribed with a single aim in view – to discourage and prevent a responsible man from indulging into sin, from disobeying the law. This is the view of the sages who have laid the foundation of human society.
But the Qur’anic teaching leads us to a still higher level in this respect (and the rational reasoning supports it, as we have explained). It says that when a man obeys the shari’ah prescribed for him by Allah, his psyche acquires some noble and praiseworthy inner traits; and if he disobeys the said shari’ah, he acquires unworthy-, hideous and evil traits. It is these deeply ingrained traits and characteristics which prepare for him the rewards or punishments of the next life, respectively. That reward and punishment is represented by the Paradise and the Hell, respectively – and their respective reality is nearness to Allah or distance from Him. Thus the merit and demerit of deeds are based on things which actually exist and have a system. Unlike our social laws they are not based on any imaginary thing emanating from subjective consideration.
Also it is not a secret that the Divine Legislation perfects and completes the Divine Creation. It brings the creative guidance to its final destination. In other words, Allah brings every thing to the perfection of its existence, to the final goal of its being. And among the perfection of human existence are a good social system in this world, and a happy, bounteous life in the hereafter. The way to that perfection is religion, which enacts and promulgates laws for society’s reform and development, and contains directions for reaching nearer to Allah (and these directives are called acts of worship). When a man follows the laws of religion, his life and livelihood are improved, and his soul becomes ready to receive Allah’s bounties; and he is qualified – in his self and in his actions – for the Divine Honor in the hereafter. All of this emanates from the light put in his heart, and the purity that is found in his self. This in short is the reality.
Man gets nearer to Allah or goes far away from Him. This nearness and distance are the foundations of his eternal happiness and unhappiness, respectively – and also for his social development (or otherwise) in this life. And religion is the only factor that brings about his nearness and distance. All these are real things, not based on imaginary assumptions or subjective considerations.
Now suppose that one putative sin of Adam – his partaking of the forbidden tree – brought eternal perdition on him, and not only on him, but on all his descendants also; and that there was no remedy for it, no relief from that ruination – except atonement through Christ. Then what was the use of sending religion – any religion – before Christ? And what was the use of ordaining it with Christ? And what is the use of promulgating it after Christ?
Let us put it this way: Eternal perdition and punishment in hereafter was a firmly -decreed fate of man – because of the said sin; it could not be removed or averted from him either through good deeds or through repentance; the only effective remedy was the atonement through Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. Then why did Allah promulgate the laws, revealed the books, and sent the prophets and messengers? What was the sense behind all this exercise? Were not all those promises and threats, all those good tidings and warnings devoid of truth? What could all those endeavors avail mankind when the whole species was doomed to perdition, and when eternal punishment was their firmly-decreed fate?
Also, suppose there were people who perfected themselves by sincerely following the previous shari’ah (and there were countless prophets and also men of God in previous ummah who were like that, for example, the honored prophets lbrahim, Musa and others); they lived perfectly and died before the time of atonement. Now what would you say about them? Did they end their life in infelicity and perdition? Or in felicity and happiness? What did they face when they met death and went to the next world? Did death bring them to chastisement and ruination? Or to Divine bounties and happy life?
Moreover, Christ clearly says that he was sent only to save the sinners and wrong-doers, and that good-doers and righteous have no need of such help.***
Frankly speaking, no valid reason can be given for promulgating the Divine Laws, for ordaining the religious values – before the supposed atonement was affected through Christ; it was but a vain, senseless and aimless exercise. Nor can any good and correct reason be advanced for this “strange” action of God. The only thing that can be said is this:
God knew very well that, unless the problem of Adam’s sin was solved, no law promulgated by Him would do any good. Yet He went on promulgating those laws just to be on safe side, hoping that one of these days He would get a chance to solve this problem and then He would be able to harvest the fruits of those legislation! Thus He legislated the laws and promulgated them through the prophets – hiding the truth from the prophets and their people alike. He did not tell them that there was a big problem which – if it remained unsolved – would nullify all the efforts of the whole group of the prophets and the believers, and which would render all the laws ineffective and useless. On the contrary, He pretended that the legislation and the prophetic missions were very serious, very important and very real things.
Thus God deceived the people, and deceived Himself too. He deceived the people by promising that their safety and happiness was guaranteed if they faithfully followed the shari’ah. And He deceived Himself because, once the atonement was affected, legislation of the shari’ah would become irrelevant, without having any effect on the people’s felicity – in the same way as it was without any effect as long as the problem of Adam’s sin was not solved. This was the case before affectation of the said atonement.
Corning to the time when atonement was affected, and to the later days, ineffectiveness and futility of the shari’ah, of prophetic mission and of Divine Guidance is much more self-evident. What is the use or benefit of believing in divinely-sent realities and doing good deeds now that the problem of the original sin has been solved, and the atonement has brought forgiveness and mercy to all men, believers and unbelievers, righteous and unrighteous, all alike, without any difference between the most impeccable righteous one and the most incorrigible impious one: Both were to suffer eternal perdition when the original sin was not redeemed and both are to share in the Divine Mercy now that it has been redeemed through the said atonement. (Remember that no good deed could remove that stigma, if there were no atonement.)
Objection: The atonement would benefit only those who believe in Christ. Therefore, the prophetic mission did have its use and benefit, as Christ has said in the Gospel.****
Reply: First of all, it contradicts the saying of St. John referred to earlier. Secondly, it destroys all the edifice built so far, because nobody – right from Adam to the Last Day – would enter the sanctuary of safety and deliverance except a very small group, that is, those who believe in Christ and the Holy Ghost; and not even all the Christians but only a certain group among all those widely differing denominations – all other denominations would be thrown into eternal perdition. I wish I knew what would happen to the honored prophets (who came) before Christ, and to the believers of their ummah! What would be the status of their mission, of the books they brought and of the wisdom they taught? Was it true? Or just a lie? The Gospels verify the Torah and its mission, and there is no mention at all of the Ghost and the atonement in the Torah. Does the Gospel verify a true book? Or does it verify a pack of lies?
Poser: As we know, the previously revealed books give the good tidings of Christ. This was a sort of a general call by them towards Christ, although they did not give any detail about his coming and atoning the sin. God was always telling His prophets about the advent of Christ in order that they might believe in him and be happy with what he would do.
Reply: First: To make such claims for the prophets before Musa is to shoot in the dark, to venture into terra incognito. Moreover, if there was any good news, it was not an invitation to believe in, and follow, him. Secondly, that good tiding does not solve the problem of futility of the shari’ah; if Christ delivered all those who believed in him, then was it not useless and futile to invite people to follow the laws of the shari’ah and to practice good ethics and morality? Even Christ exhorted people to follow the rules of religion and be of good conduct; and the Gospels are full of his sermons to this effect. Thirdly, the basic problem still remains. They had talked about the original sin and the unfulfilment of the Divine Purpose, and that purpose is still unfulfilled. God had created mankind to bestow His mercy on all of them, to cover all of them with His favor and bounties, felicity and happiness. But what is the result? Almost all of them – with the exception of a small group – are going to be punished, suffering under the wrath of God, thrown into eternal perdition.
These are just a few of the rational reasons showing the absurdity and invalidity of this theory. The Qur’an too supports these reasons. Allah says: Our Lord is He Who gave to everything its creation, then guided it (to its goal) (20:50). He has made it clear that everything is guided to its goal and to what its existence demands. The guidance is of two kinds: creative and legislative. It is the established way of Allah to bestow every relevant guidance on everything, and it includes the religious guidance bestowed on man.
Then Allah says – and it is the first religious guidance given to Adam and those who were sent down with him from the Garden: We said: “Get down you there from all together; if there comes to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve, And (as to) those who disbelieve in and belie our signs, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide” (2:38-39). It gives in a nut-shell what various laws were to promulgate in detail up to the Day of Resurrection; it contains legislation as well as promise and threat – all in clear terms without ambiguity. Again He says: . . . and the truth do I speak (38:84); The word is not changed with Me, nor am I in the least unjust to the servants (50:29). Allah declares that He has no hesitation or misgiving about what He decides, He does not break what He has joined; whatever He decides, He enforces; and what He says, He enacts; His action does not deviate from the line He has prescribed for it. He does not waver or hesitate when He wills; nor is it befitting to His knowledge that He should intend a thing and then some demerit should appear in that course of action which He did not know before and thus He should decide not to do it. Nor can anyone else hinder His plan: It is not that He should will a thing, deciding to do it and then some rational defect should prevent Him from doing it, or some snag should appear in its execution and He should abandon the plan – because all such things, if they ever happened, would show helplessness of God. Allah says: and Allah is predominant over His affairs (12:21); surely Allah attains His purpose (65:3); and Musa is reported as saying: The knowledge thereof is with my Lord in a book: errs not my Lord, nor does He forget (20: 52); and Allah says about the Day of Judgment: This day every soul shall be rewarded for what it has earned; no injustice (shall be done) this day; surely Allah is quick in reckoning (40:17).
These and similar other verses clearly show that Allah, after creating His creatures, has not neglected to look after their affairs, nor is He ignorant of what they would do, nor is He sorry for what He has done. As He is constantly looking after their welfare, He has ordained for them His laws – a serious and important legislation which He has ordained not because He is afraid of something or expects to gain something through it. He shall reward every doer for his action – if good, then good- and if evil, then evil. In all these affairs nobody can overpower Him, nor can anyone impose his will on Him — because He has no partner or colleague.
There will be neither any ransom nor any redemption to save anyone; nor can anyone intercede for someone without Allah’s permission. Because all such propositions are against His absolute ownership which He has over His creatures.
Tenth: Let us look at the story of atonement. What is atonement or ransom? A man – or a thing related to him – is involved in some crimes or sin, as a result of which he faces the possibilities of harm or destruction of life or valuable property; and therefore he offers something less important in order to save his life or the more valuable property. A man taken prisoner redeems himself with offer of some money; crimes are redeemed with money paid as fine. The thing given for this purpose is called ransom, fine or redemption. Atonement, in short, is a deal, which transfers the right of the claimant from the person so redeemed to the thing given in ransom or redemption – and thus the redeemed one is saved from captivity or from the evil consequences of the crime he had committed.
This description shows that atonement and redemption is simply unimaginable in the matters related to Allah. The Divine Authority – unlike human authority, which is merely an abstracted idea, a subjective consideration – is the real authority, which cannot be changed or transferred. Things, in their species and with their effects, actions and reactions, have been created by Allah and continue to exist because of Him. It is a reality, a fact; and reality and fact cannot change into non-reality, non-fact. Such a proposition cannot be imagined – let alone its ever coming into being. Allah’s ownership, authority and rights are not like those of us human beings. We are bound with social norms and laws. Our social rights, authority and ownership are merely subjective considerations, abstracted ideas based on our imaginations; their status and worth is in our own hands; we may establish a right today and abolish it tomorrow – as our interest and outlook change concerning our life and livelihood. For details see Commentaries of the verses 1: 4 (the Master of the Day of Judgment)*, and 3:26 (Say:’O Allah, Master of the Kingdom…’)*****.
Allah has specifically refuted the idea of atonement in the following verse: So today ransom shall not be accepted from you nor from those who disbelieved; your abode is the fire (57:15). And as explained earlier, the same is the import of the words of the Messiah quoted by Allah in the Qur’an: And when Allah will say: “O ‘Isa son of Maryam! did you say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah’ “, he will say: “Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say); … I did not say to them save that what Thou didst enjoin me with: ‘That worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’, and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when Thou didst take me (away) completely, Thou wert the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things. If Thou shouldst chastise them, then surely they are The servants; and if Thou shouldst forgive them, then surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise” (5:116-118). His words: “and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them. . . “, have the following import: ‘I had nothing to do with them except what Thou hadst entrusted me to do, that is, conveying Thy message to them and being a witness over them – as long as I was among them; whether Thou shouldst chastise them or shouldst forgive them, entirely depends on Thy discretion; I have nothing to do with it. I do not have any authority on Thy will, with which I could save them from Thy chastisement or sentence them to punishment.’
It clearly refutes the idea of ransom and atonement. Had there been any ransoming or redeeming, it would have been wrong for him to wash his hands of the fate of his ummah, telling Allah that it was His (Allah’s) discretion whether to punish them or forgive them, and that he (‘Isa – a. s.) had nothing to do with it.
Of similar connotation are the following verses:
And be on your guard against the Day when one soul shall not avail another in the least, neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped (2:48).
... before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, neither any friendship nor intercession . . . (2: 254).
The day on which you will turn back retreating; there shall be no savior for you from Allah . . . (40:33).
Obviously, the “compensation” (in the first verse), the “bargaining” (of the second) and the “savior” (of the third) all apply to the idea of atonement and redemption; the verses in refuting these things refute the belief of atonement.
Of course, the Qur’an accepts the Messiah as one of the intercessors – but not as an atonement. We have explained about “Intercession” under the verse 2:48 (And be on your guard against the day when one soul shall not avail another . . . ) ******. We have explained there that intercession shows the nearness of the intercessor and his good standing with the master, without there being any transfer of authority from the master to the intercessors; without affecting in any way the ownership or power of the master; without nullifying or abrogating the, master’s commandment which the sinner had disobeyed; and without negating the system of recompense, reward and punishment. Intercession is but a sort of prayer and request by the intercessor that the master – in this case, the Lord – should manage the affairs of His creature with mercy. The intercessor accepts the Master’s right to punish the sinner (because he had sinned and the law of recompense makes him liable to punishment), but asks the Master to exercise His power of forgiveness – because He has the right to forgive as He has the right to punish.
The intercessor thus requests the Master to exercise His right of pardon and forgiveness, when the sinner has become liable for punishment, without in any way affecting the Master’s ownership or authority. But atonement is something else; it is a deal, a bargain, which transfers the Master’s authority from the sinner to the ransom given in his place, and removes the sinner from the Master’s power as soon as the Master accepts the ransom in his place.
That the Messiah is an intercessor is proved by the following verse: And those whom they call upon besides Him have no authority for intercession, but he who bears witness of the truth and they know (43: 86). It clearly says that the people excepted would have the authority to intercede. ‘Isa (a.s.) is among those whom they call besides Allah. But he has the authority of intercession because he is included in the exception: Allah confirms in the Qur’an that He had taught him (‘Isa) the Book and the Wisdom, and that he (‘Isa) shall be among the witnesses on the Day of Judgment. Allah says: And He will teach him the Book and the Wisdom (3:48), and (quotes him as saying: and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them (5:117). He also says-. and on the Day of’ Resurrection he shall be a witness against them (4:159).
All these verses read together prove that ‘Isa (a.s.) is one of the intercessors. We have described it in detail under the following verse – ..And be on your guard against the day when one soul shall not a ail another in the least … (2:48).
* “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart,.” (Gen., 6 :6). (Author’s Note)
** “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke, 5:30-32) (Author’s Note)
*** “Also I say unto you, whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke, 12:8-9) (Author’s Note)
**** Vide al-Mizan [Engl. transl. 1, vol. 1, pp. 29 — 31. (pub.)
***** ibid., vol. 5, pp. 193 – 202. (pub.)
****** ibid., vol. 1, pp. 221 – 265. (pub.)
Shari’ah = Law
Ummah = Community
Musa = Moses