This is a record of a conversation I had on Facebook with some Muslim friends. To keep their identity private I have named them ‘Muslim 1, Muslim 2 . . . etc’. No disrespect is meant by the titles – it was just easier to type it up like that. I have found the conversation enlightening and very interesting, so thought I would share it.
Please note: the text below is copied from Facebook, so there may grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Muslim 1:Hi Ruth 🙂 No it doesn’t mean that. It means if Allah wills He may forgive any sin other than the sin of shirk, the sin of associating partners with him or worshiping anyone other than him, hope that helps 🙂
Muslim 2: Hi Ruth, I think what that verse means, as well as my own understanding from growing up as a Muslim is that God is Forgiving and the Merciful but He only wants us to worship him ‘alone’ and not ascribe partners with him: we should worship him as our creator alone.I’ve been undertaking my research project on Chrisitianity and the Baptist denomination specifically, something a Christian said to me still rings a bell in my head- ‘When there is a mistake doesnt mean God will easily punish the person immediately, you still have time for change’ this was in relation to interpreting the Bible and mistakes generally. It’s about your actions end of the day in this world, if we do a mistake/sin we should repent and ask for forgiveness from God. Its the similar concept to what Christians believe. Anyways hope I helped. Btw just wondering which denomination do you belong to? Xx
Me:Hello, thank you for both your comments. I thought that most Muslims would accept a Christian who converted, because there are many who have! And the umma has accepted them!
But it still seems strange that Allah says that they is ‘no forgiveness’ for this sin. Dosen’t that mean even if one repented they wouldn’t be forgiven?
Also, Muslim 2, your dissertation sounds fascinating! Would you like me to read it from a Christisn perspective? I’d love to read it. You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org if you were happy!?
Oh and, I’m apart of no denomination, but my church is apart of the evangelical alliance and is apart of a movement of churches called New Frontiers:
And this is my church in Brighton:
Muslim 3:I feel you misunderstand the latter part of the verse. First of all if one reverts to Islam and repents for all his sins including the sin of associating partners to Allah and they do this sincerely and whole heartily then Allah is Oft-forgiving and hence they’ll be forgiven for those past sins and it will be as if they have been born again. However Allah will not forgive those who die believing and proclaiming and associating partners to Him, they will never be forgiven for that sin as they never repented for it. To sum up; if one dies whilst associating partners to Allah then according to the Qu’ran (hence not my own opinion) they shall never be forgiven, key points being to sincerely repent will lead to forgiveness (God willing) and to dies in (Major) Shirk will lead to NO forgiveness. I hope this makes the verse clearer to you.
Muslim 1:maybe this is a better translation of the verse Ruth 🙂
“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.”
Me:Muslim 3 Thanks thats really helpful. But does the Qur’an say that the person who assosiates partners with Allah will be forgiven if he/she repents? because it seems to say that it cannot be forgiven. So this would mean they cannot be forgiven now on earth as well as later at the judgment, surley?
As Muslim 1 has provided a better translation it says that ‘he fogives what is LESS than this’, which again implies that Allah will not forgive Shirk. So again I would be unsure if any christians would ever be forgiven even if they did convert . . . ?
I know that the umma does accept converted Christians, and I know that you are all very nice people. But I’m concerned with what the Qur’an seems to be saying! Also another question. If a muslim converts to Christianity, and then back again to Islam – will they be forgiven?
Muslim 3: Once again like I said; if; one dies in a state of shrik then it won’t be forgiven. However if they repent for for it whilst still alive and have hope and trust in Allah then Allah if Oft forgiving and will forgive them. That is what the scholars discuss in relation to this matter. It makes logic sense. I mean what kind of God would Allah be if He calls Himself Oft forgiving and yet wouldnt forgive those who repent sincerely whilst still alive? That’s the question one should ask themselves. Thus in the end Allah does not forgive that sin only if one dies in the state of that sin.
When Allah says “”Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him…” He is really trying to emphasis the seriousness of associating partners with Him. Hence why it is the greatest sin in Islam. There are numerous verses within the Qu’ran stressing the same very point. In some verses the consequences of association are even given rather than just a warning. This is the one most important right that every human owes to God, I mean even when we look at the 10 commandments this is stressed.
Me:When I read your comments I thought ‘but where is your assurance coming from? Where is your authority?’ because the Qur’an seems to say one thing, and you say ‘oh but you can be forgiven if…..’ do you see my problem? I want to know why you are so certain your interpretation is correct.
You mention ‘the scholars’ – do you follow their interpretations of this verse? Who are they? Could I read them?
Muslim 3:When I the Quran I practice horizontal reading not vertical reading. This way I can compare verses and get a whole picture and not just a snippet. The problem with some people is that they forget to do this and thus misunderstand the meaning especially when they take a verse out of context. Anyway you asked who my scholars are…well I read the Yusuf Ali translation which has the commentaries from a number of scholars. If you want to know them I would strongly recommend you purchase a copy of the Yusuf Ali. It find it really useful especially the commentary in getting the assurance you ask for. Of course God knows best at the end of the day.
And indeed there is also the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) that we could refer to for further understanding too!
Me:OK cool. This is starting to make more sense to me. When you say horizontal reading – you mean you take a systematic theological approach to the Qur’an? So what other verses to you compare this verse with to give you your interpretation. Thanks for Yusuf Ali’s reference. And what Hadith refers to this passage? Thanks!
Muslim 4: Hi Ruth, just to re-iterate what the brothers have said, the two main sources of islamic knowledge are the Qur’an and Sunna (sayings and actions of prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). The Qur’an refers directly to the Sunna by commending us to follow the example of the prophet. A lot of what muslims do is based on how the prophet himself interpreted the Qur’an (he is best placed to do so). God tells us He can forgive those sins which He wishes to forgive us at His discretion. However He warns us of the gravity of associating partners with Him as this is equivalent to disbelief, and disbelief does not lead to salvation. If one dies whilst not believing that God is the Creator, the only one whom we should worship, then this person is considered to have died in disbelief. God has sent us many messengers with this message, to believe in one God, the Creator, the one to whom all thanks is due. I hope we all die on this belief. Ameen.
Me: ah yes, so is the Hadith and the Sunna sort of the same thing? And is there a web link you could provide me to a passage in the Hadith that gives you the interpretation of Qur’am 4:48? Thanks guys!
Muslim 3: Here is just a slight example of what you may be looking for. Please read 47:34. Perhaps the latter part of that verse puts in perspective what I was trying to state above.
‘Lo! Those who disbelieve and turn from trhe way of Allah and then die disbelievers, Allah will surely not pardon them’
Me:Right, we are getting somewhere! So the text says: 47:34 ‘Those who reject Allah, and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, then die rejecting Allah,- Allah will not forgive them.’
So, in this ayat we acknowledge when Allah says he will not forgive, it means just that. But how do we know that the people to whom this verse applies are comitting Shirk? Because the other ayat clearly says that Allah will not forgive that, so why don’t you take Allahs word literally for both verses?
I’m truly interested! I’m not just trying to be troublesome! Promise 🙂
Muslim 3: We do take it literally of course, but in context with other verses. One cannot just read one verse and then claim to understand everything. In 47:34 the key point with respect to this discussion is “…then die rejecting Allah…”
We appreciate your interest too, however u must understand that we’re not schorals and can only offer u so much explanation, that’s why I recommended u the Yusuf Ali Quran with comments. But of course I will do my best to answer if I have the knowledge tour questions.
Me: I appreciate that you are not scholars, but I recon you have all thought about what you believe and why – so I guess you will be able to answer my questions 🙂
I have actually found a verse that help
Sorry, I used ‘verse’, when I meant ‘ayat’! Anyway, here it is: ‘(2:62) Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ So I guess that because Muhammad accepted Christians into his umma, then it would only make sense that Christians would be allowed to now. I think I’ve answered my own questions!
It does seem strange tho that Allah would say that something will not be forgiven, but then it is forgiven . . .
Muslim 3: I totally agree with you; that we have thought about what we believe (in) and why. I always say that, we have to believe with reason and understanding, not with blindness and ignorance. Even Allah asks us throughout His Book…do you not reflect/ponder over His verses/signs
Nevertheless, with regards to Ayat 2:65; you have unfortunately fallen victim to the same mistake I pointed out to you in the above comments (hence why I recommend a Yusuf Ali copy with commentaries). You read the verse out of context and consequently you misinterpreted and misunderstood it. Once again, I would strongly suggest obtaining that Yusuf Ali copy before continuing, otherwise you will find yourself at the wrong conclusions in each case. You must empty your tea cup if you are to search for Truth.
Once again, I stress that I am no scholar, all the comments I have made above are based on those individuals with better knowledge/understanding of the Qur’an (and Arabic for that matter) than myself. Hence why I keep recommending you to them. But if you truly and faithfully think, feel and believe that you have answered your own questions then I have nothing more to say expect that I quote 109:1-6.
Me: How have a misunderstood from context? Can you explain? I don’t need a scholar – just a Muslim will do 🙂 Is it because its surrounded by ayat concerning Musa (Moses?)
Muslim 3: (Sorry just to correct myself …Ayat 2:62;…) not 2:65 I wrongly put it.
These scholars are Muslims too so you’ll understand better if you consult the source.