Does Allah forgive shirk?

Allah does NOT forgive shirk:

Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed. -- Sura 4:48

Allah forgiveth not (the sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with Allah, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right). -- Sura 4:116

Allah forgives shirk (even in the same sura):

... Yet they [the Israelites] worshipped the calf even after Clear Signs had come to them; even so We forgave them; and gave Moses manifest proofs of authority. -- Sura 4:153

See also Sura 2:51-52, describing the same specific event. [This holds not only for the Israelites, Sura 6:76-78 asserts that even Abraham took the sun, the moon, and the stars as idols. This is sheer polytheism; yet Muslims respect Abraham as he is portrayed in the Qur'an as a great prophet, and nevertheless they believe that prophets are sinless.]

I suppose a Muslim could say that God abrogated his previous approach of granting forgiveness of idolatry but now does no longer forgive it. But is that so? In 6:88, after speaking of Abraham (verse 83), Isaac and Jacob (84), Moses, Job, Jesus, Joseph, Noah, David, Solomon, etc., Allah says, "Had they served other gods besides Him, their labours would have been vain indeed."

It seems obvious that since Abraham and Isaac are mentioned also (they preceeded Moses and the Hebrew slaves), and who were under the same command of "don't serve idols or your out of luck", that abrogation could not be possible in this case, since otherwise we would have to assume oscillating abrogations (no forgiveness, forgiveness, no forgiveness) suggesting that God cannot make up his mind. This would be utterly unworthy of God, who is eternally the same and as the All-wise does not need to change his laws because he is surprised by new developments.

On the other hand, we can even find a general statement about the forgiveness of shirk, since Sura 25:68-71 speaks about people who worship gods other than God and when they repent, believe, and work righteousness then God not only forgives them but He even substitutes their sins (sayyi'aat) with righteouss credit (hasannat).

Moreover, nearly all the Meccans of Muhammad's time had committed shirk. They were basically all worshipping various idols. Nevertheless Muhammad calls them to repentance and to faith in Islam. Some believed in Muhammad early on, most of them converted only later after Muhammad came with a large army. Most Muslims believe that Allah forgave these Muslims (the companions of Muhammad!) their sins, including their shirk. Why then are there several verses in the Qur'an that claim that the sin of shirk will never be forgiven?

A Muslim's Response by Randy Desmond
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 05:12:26 PDT

"Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil
in ignorance and repent soon afterwards. To them will
Allah turn in mercy. Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom"
Sura 4:17

You don't seem to read the clear words of the verse given above. Let me make it abundantly clear by giving it in bold face.

... Yet they [the Israelites] worshipped the calf even after Clear Signs had come to them; even so We forgave them; and gave Moses manifest proofs of authority. -- Sura 4:153

Surely, the Qur'an says that this was not in ignorance. The only thing you introduced is another contradiction. Sura 4:17 says he forgives if sins were done in ignorance, but 4:153 says he forgave them even though they clearly knew what they were doing and worshiped the idol anyway.

I just came across another verse in surat az-Zumar (39:53) where it is stated in general terms:

Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. -- Sura 39:53

Taking this statement in its literal and absolute sense, it clearly contradicts to the first two verses quoted above.

Which actually compounds the problem since these next passage says that Allah does not forgive a person who has turned away from the faith:

How shall God Guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Apostle was true and that Clear Signs had come unto them? But God guides not a people unjust. Of such the reward is that on them (rests) the curse of God, of His angels, and of all mankind; - In that will they dwell; nor will their penalty be lightened, nor respite be (their lot); - Except for those that repent (Even) after that, and make amends; for verily God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. But those who reject Faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of Faith, - never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray. As to those who reject Faith, and die rejecting, - never would be accepted from any such as much gold as the earth contains, though they should offer it for ransom. For such is (in store) a penalty grievous, and they will find no helpers. -- Sura 3:86-91

Contradictions in the Qur'an
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