Salvation According to Islam:

By good works, faith alone, vicarious punishment, and/or Muhammad’s intercession?

A follow up reply to MENJ

Sam Shamoun

Now that we have addressed MENJ’s criticism of what the Holy Bible teaches regarding salvation (see Part 1), whether it comes by good works or through the death of the Lord Jesus, we want to focus our attention on Islam and apply MENJ’s arguments to his own religion.

In many places in the Quran, believers are promised that if they do what is right and fear their Lord then they will be granted entrance into paradise. If they don’t then hell will be their abode:

And give glad tidings (O Muhammad) unto those who believe and do good works; that theirs are Gardens underneath which rivers flow; as often as they are regaled with food of the fruit thereof, they say: this is what was given us aforetime; and it is given to them in resemblance. There for them are pure companions; there for ever they abide. S. 2:25 Pickthall

Nay, those who seek gain in evil, and are girt round by their sins, - they are companions of the Fire: Therein shall they abide (For ever). But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are companions of the Garden: Therein shall they abide (For ever). S. 2:81-82 Y. Ali

Men and women who have surrendered, believing men and believing women, obedient men and obedient women, truthful men and truthful women, enduring men and enduring women, humble men and humble women, men and women who give in charity, men who fast and women who fast, men and women who guard their private parts, men and women who remember God oft -- for them God has prepared forgiveness and a mighty wage. S. 33:35 Arberry

This clearly presupposes that salvation according to Islam is the result of having true faith and doing good works.

But other texts and the so-called sound narrations of Islam teach something quite different; in fact they present a rather incoherent and contradictory view of the means of salvation. For example, the Quran claims that it is purely the grace of Allah that purifies a person:

O ye who believe! follow not Satan's footsteps: if any will follow the footsteps of Satan, he will (but) command what is shameful and wrong: and were it not for the grace and mercy of God on you, not one of you would ever have been pure: but God doth purify whom He pleases: and God is One Who hears and knows (all things). S. 24:21 Hilali-Khan

This, perhaps, explains why Muhammad supposedly taught that good works couldn’t save a person:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise." (i.e., None can enter Paradise through his good deeds.) They (the Prophet's companions) said, "Not even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Not even myself, unless Allah bestows His favor and mercy on me." So be moderate in your religious deeds and do the deeds that are within your ability: and none of you should wish for death, for if he is a good doer, he may increase his good deeds, and if he is an evil doer, he may repent to Allah." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 577)

Narrated Aisha:
The Prophet said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will NOT make him enter Paradise." They asked, "Even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 474)

Moreover, certain reports claim that a Muslim who dies confessing the Shahadah, the Islamic profession of faith that there is no god except Allah, will enter paradise even if s/he has lived a grossly immoral life!

Narrated Abu Dharr:
I came to the Prophet while he was wearing white clothes and sleeping. Then I went back to him again after he had got up from his sleep. He said, "Nobody says: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that he will enter Paradise." I said, "Even It he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft." I said, "Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft? He said. "Even If he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft." I said, "Even it he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and thefts." He said, "Even If he had committed Illegal sexual intercourse and theft, in spite of Abu Dharr’s dislikeness." Abu ‘Abdullah said, "This is at the time of death or before it if one repents and regrets and says ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’, he will be forgiven his sins." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 717)

Narrated Abu Dharr:
The Prophet said, Gabriel came to me and gave me the glad tidings that anyone who died without worshipping anything besides Allah, would enter Paradise. I asked (Gabriel), ‘Even if he committed theft, and even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse?’ He said, ‘(Yes), even if he committed theft, and even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 579)

The above assertion that a person’s repentance at death will be accepted contradicts the express teachings of the Quran:

Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully), and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise. And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Surely now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are unbelievers. These are they for whom We have prepared a painful chastisement. S. 4:17-18 Shakir

So when they saw Our punishment, they said: "We believe in Allah Alone and reject (all) that we used to associate with Him as (His) partners. Then their Faith (in Islamic Monotheism) could not avail them when they saw Our punishment. (Like) this has been the way of Allah in dealing with His slaves. And there the disbelievers lost utterly (when Our Torment covered them). S. 40:84-85 Hilali-Khan

According to the above, Allah does not and will not accept the repentance of a person at death.

There are other narrations claiming that Allah will cast Jews and Christians into hell in the place of the Muslims!


Abu Musa' reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your RESCUE from Hell-Fire. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6665)

Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit IN HIS STEAD a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire. 'Umar b. Abd al-'Aziz took an oath: By One besides Whom there is no god but He, thrice that his father had narrated that to him from Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6666)

Abu Burda reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with AS HEAVY SINS AS A MOUNTAIN, and Allah would FORGIVE THEM and He would PLACE IN THEIR STEAD the Jews and the Christians. (As far as I think), Abu Raub said: I do not know as to who is in doubt. Abu Burda said: I narrated it to 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, whereupon he said: Was it your father who narrated it to you from Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him)? I said: Yes. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6668)

The following narrations are taken from Riyad as-Salihin:

412. 'Ubada ibn as-Samit reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Whoever testifies that there is no god but Allah alone with no partner and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger and that 'Isa is the slave of Allah and His Messenger and a word which He cast into Maryam and a spirit from Him and that the Garden is real and the Fire is real will enter the Garden WHATEVER HIS ACTIONS." [Agreed upon]

415. Anas said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was riding with Mu'adh behind him. He said, 'Mu'adh!' He replied, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Mu'adh!' He replied, 'At your service, Messenger of Allah' three times. Then the Prophet said, 'There is no one who testifies that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, sincerely from his heart, without Allah making it unlawful for the Fire to touch him.' Mu'adh said, 'Messenger of Allah, shall I tell the people that so that they can rejoice?' He said, 'Then they will rely on it.' Mu'adh related it when he was dying, fearing to commit a wrong action [by concealing the knowledge]." [Agreed upon]

426. Mu'adh ibn Jabal said, "I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on a donkey. He asked, 'Mu'adh, do you know what is Allah's right on His slaves and the right of the slaves on Allah?' I replied, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, 'Allah's right on His slaves is that they should worship Him and not associate anything with Him. The slaves' right on Allah is that He will not punish anyone who does not associate anything with Him.' I said, 'Messenger of Allah, shall I tell the people that so that they can rejoice?' He said, 'Then they will rely on it.'" [Agreed upon]

432. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "On the Day of Rising, Allah will hand over a Jew or a Christian to every Muslim and say, 'Here is your redemption from the Fire.’" [Muslim]

In another variant from him is that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Some of the Muslims will be brought on the Day of Rising with sins the size of mountains and Allah will forgive them."

(Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi, Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous), 51. Chapter: On Hope; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Allah is going to ransom Muslims from their sins by punishing the Jews and Christians in their stead, which is nothing more than a form of vicarious atonement! Moreover, the narrations from Riyad as-Salihin help explain why Muslims are saved by faith in the Islamic creed alone in spite of being grossly immoral and wicked … the Jews and Christians will be punished for the sins of these Muslims!

The hadiths further teach that Muslims are saved not on the basis of their good works, or because a Jew or Christian will be punished in their place, but because of Muhammad’s intercession:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
The Prophet said, "A man keeps on asking others for something till he comes on the Day of Resurrection without any piece of flesh on his face." The Prophet added, "On the Day of Resurrection, the Sun will come near (to, the people) to such an extent that the sweat will reach up to the middle of the ears, so, when all the people are in that state, they will ask Adam for help, and then Moses, and then Muhammad (p.b.u.h)." The sub-narrator added "Muhammad will intercede with Allah to judge amongst the people. He will proceed on till he will hold the ring of the door (of Paradise) and then Allah will exalt him to Maqam Mahmud (the privilege of intercession, etc.). And all the people of the gathering will send their praises to Allah. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 553)

Muhammad even stated that his intercession would be for those Muslims who commit major sins, i.e. adultery, murder etc.

Narrated Anas ibn Malik:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: My intercession will be for those of my people who have committed major sins. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 40, Number 4721)

What this essentially means is that Allah will forgive rapists, adulterers, murders etc. all because of Muhammad’s intercession, showing that it really doesn’t matter how a Muslim lives, whether s/he decides to live a righteous life or a very wicked and immoral one. All that matters is that s/he dies professing faith in Islamic monotheism since this is all that is needed for Allah to grant such a person entrance into paradise.

Yet Muhammad’s intercession introduces another contradiction with the Quran since it expressly denies that there is any intercessor besides Allah:

And warn therewith those who fear they shall be mustered to their Lord; they have, apart from God, NO protector and no intercessor; haply they will be godfearing. S. 6:51 Arberry

Leave alone those who take their religion for a sport and a diversion, and whom the present life has deluded. Remind hereby, lest a soul should be given up to destruction for what it has earned; apart from God, it has NO protector and no intercessor; though it offer any equivalent, it shall not be taken from it. Those are they who are given up to destruction for what they have earned; for them awaits a draught of boiling water and a painful chastisement, for that they were unbelievers. S. 6:70 Arberry

God is He that created the heavens and the earth, and what between them is, in six days, then seated Himself upon the Throne. Apart from Him, you have NO protector neither mediator; will you not remember? S. 32:4 Arberry

It even contradicts other texts and narrations where Muhammad himself didn’t know whether he was saved, let alone whether he could save anyone else!

Say (O Muhammad SAW):"I am not a new thing among the Messengers (of Allah) (i.e. I am not the first Messenger) nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner." S. 46:9 Hilali-Khan

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." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 51, Number 16)


After professing faith in Islamic Tauhid, the punishment of Jews and Christians in place of Muslims, and the (alleged) intercession of Muhammad, if there is still need of doing good works and good deeds for forgiveness of sins, then the above factors are without purpose, for there has already been the way of pardoning our sins, i.e. through good works as mentioned in the Quran. Or, if there is no need to do good works and good deeds after all the above issues, then it means that Muslims are free to do crimes and sins (which is precisely what the so-called sound ahadith say).

Therefore this is, quite expressly, a doctrinal paradox and if the Muslims continue to insist that good works save mankind, they will have to come to the conclusion that both the Quran and the so-called authentic sources of Islam contradict one another.

Further Reading

Responses to Bismikaallahuma
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page