No Mediator/Intercessor In Islam?
A common misunderstanding that is often promoted not just by Muslims, but by Christian scholars and apologists as well, is that in Islam there is no middleman, no mediator or intercessor between God and mankind, since everyone has direct and unhindered access to Allah. Muslims even use this as an argument against the Christian faith, since they claim that in Christianity one needs Christ to be the go-between God and mankind, otherwise they will not accepted, whereas in Islam everyone can simply go straight to Allah with the assurance that Allah will accept them, provided that they are sincere in their faith and repentance and not just paying lip service.
With that said, pay attention to what James R. White said in one of his sessions on Islam:
“Think about the position that the believing Muslim is in today. They have a holy God who will judge sinners. He is transcendent. He would never lower himself to enter into his own creation. So because of the ignorance of the founder there is no mediator in Islam. There is no one to come between you. Now think about what Job said. Think about what Paul said, about a mediator, the need for that mediator. They have no mediator! You still got a holy God, you still got a broken law, and you’ve the reality of hell described even in more vivid colors than anything we find in the Bible. You put all that together and the believing Muslim has to ask himself, ‘How can I have peace with God? How can I know that when I die I am going to enter into paradise?’ Even some of the companions of Muhammad wept considering the coming of their death because they did not know whether they were going to enter into paradise. And the Quran only provides one way of knowing that you will enter into paradise, and that is to die in an act of jihad.” (Reaching Muslims with the Gospel 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPHcLJeGhK8)
And speaking of why two Muslim medical doctors drove their jeep Cherokee filled with flammable liquids into the airport in Glasgow Scotland, White asks:
Why did they do it? Because they had no mediator. They were convinced this was the only way they could have peace with God. My friends, you and I have the very message that could stop someone from doing that, because there is a mediator, there is a way of peace. But we have to be the ones, we’re the ones called to communicate that message to these people. My question is, we’ll we love them enough to put aside fears, prejudice, to open our hearts, to open our minds, to take the risk, and proclaim to these folks the Jesus of history, not the Jesus of the Quran? (Reaching Muslims with the Gospel 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB0Quj_sozs)
He also repeats this same point in another talk he gave. Starting around the 1 hour 32 minute mark White again mentioned the story of these two Muslim doctors, where he again asked why these men did what they did. White’s answer?
Well, because in Islam you have a holy God, you have a law, you have hell, you have punishment, but you have no mediator. We don’t know enough about Muhammad’s life to really know what his exposure to Christianity was. But one thing is for certain; the resultant religious system that came from his teachings has no mediator. Jesus is a mere rasul, he did not intend to give his life. The whole Gospel issue was completely unknown to Muhammad in any meaningful fashion. And so most of you who now me have heard me say that theology matters, and this is where it matters very, very, very clearly. You have men here who are trying to earn their way into the presence of Allah. And the only way that the Quran reveals that you can know when you die that you will be accepted of Allah, is if you die in an act of jihad. It’s the only way. You can do everything else, you can do the five pillars, you can say the Shahadah, you can go on hajj, you can say the five daily prayers, you can do all that stuff, and still Allah is very arbitrary. You will find stories about some of the sahabah, some of the companions of Muhammad, crying at their own death because they did not know whether they would be accepted by Allah. (Reaching Muslims with the Gospel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3YgKuK5_dc)
I must say that nothing could be further from the truth since Islam does in fact have a mediator whose intercession will result in Allah saving the “believers” from his wrath and torture. His name is Muhammad ibn Abdullah, the self-professed prophet of Islam.
To be fair, White isn’t the only Christian writer and apologist to make this erroneous claim since there have been others before him that have done so as well, such as Dr. Robert A. Morey in his book The Islamic Invasion: Confronting the World’s Fastest Growing Religion:
Grace Versus Works
Lastly, the Bible speaks much of the grace of God in providing a free salvation for man through a Savior who acts as an intercessor between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
Yet in the Quran there is no concept of the grace of Allah. There is no savior or intercessor according to the Quran.
In conclusion, when you examine the attributes of the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible to the Allah who is described in the Quran, they are not one and the same God. (Morey [Xulon Press, 2011], Part Three: The God of Islam, Five: Allah and the God of the Bible, p. 67)
The Working Assumption
The working assumption throughout the Hadith is that without Allah’s forgiveness, no one may enter into Paradise. Hellfire awaits those who do not gain Allah’s favor.
But to gain Allah’s acceptance and forgiveness is no easy manner. One must EARN Allah’s forgiveness by following an elaborate set of rules and rituals. One mistake can cancel out all that you have done up to that point. There is no concept of salvation by grace in the Hadith.
The Hadith sets forth the rules and rituals which must be followed to earn salvation. Those Muslims who ignore these rules and rituals imperil their immortal souls. (Ibid., Appendix A: An Analysis of the Hadith, pp. 208-209)
However, what makes White’s claim all the more egregious is that he is fully aware that he is wrong since he himself has stated elsewhere that Islam does have a mediator, an intercessor, namely, Muhammad himself!
Note what White wrote in his book, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an:
The Vital Issue of Intercession
Before moving on, it is useful for the Christian reader to grasp something of the Islamic view of Muhammad in comparison to what was just reviewed from the Qur’an in reference to Jesus, son of Mary. Though the majority of this material is drawn from outside the Qur’an, it remains relevant to our task. Once you claim your revelation is consistent with what has come before, but then eviscerate the central message of that preceding Scripture (in this case, Christ’s coming, Saviorhood, and intercessory work), you’ve dug out a void that must be filled. After reducing Jesus to mortal messenger, you are still left with a holy God, a holy law, and human sinfulness. Christianity presents a mediator, one who provides the way for a holy God to redeem and then have relationship with sinful people. God’s wrath and holiness meet His mercy and grace in the unique person of Jesus the Messiah. But Muhammad did not understand this message, and, in fact, rejected it, so what happens then?
The prophet of Islam is exalted to fill the void left by the diminishment of Jesus. This is true not only of various sects that have gone outside Islamic orthodoxy in exalting Muhammad but also is seen clearly within orthodox Islam as well. One need only peruse a popular book like the Ash-Shifa of Qadi ‘Iyad (Muhammad: Messenger of Allah) to see the trend.11 It seems inevitable, given human nature. But here one finds the foundation for this exaltation in the early generations of the faith. Though the Qur’an seems to deny that Muhammad performed miracles, the Qur’an being the only miracle men needed to affirm his prophethood,12 the succeeding generations produced an entire host of supposed miracles that found their way into the hadith.13
This leads us to our focus at this point, that of intercession. The New Testament places much attention on this aspect of Jesus’ heavenly ministry.14 But for Him to appear in the Father’s presence in place of His people requires Him to be more than a mere prophet, and the Qur’an has denied him this status. So we encounter in primitive Islamic teaching, THE CONCEPT OF THE INTERCESSION OF MUHAMMAD. It is of two forms, a lesser and greater.
We had reason earlier to note the “lesser,” related to Abu Talib, uncle of Muhammad, having died without embracing Islam. Precluded from praying for his parents, who likewise died as mushrikim [sic], in the state of shirk, but in this one instance Muhammad was granted the privilege of interceding. Abu Talib not only had helped raise him but also greatly protected him during the first period of his prophethood. According to several ahadith,15 as a result of intercession, Abu Talib has the best spot in hellfire (the place of least punishment). Details vary: In some versions he stands in shallow fire only up to his ankles; in others he must wear sandals of fire. The consistent element is that the fire is so hot that, even in hell’s least torturous spot, “his brains boil.”
The far more important “greater” intercession speaks directly to A PARALLEL BETWEEN CHRISTIAN TEACHING ABOUT CHRIST AND A ROLE IMPUTED TO MUHAMMAD in Islamic thought. Once again, versions differ in the amount of detail they contain. In fact, the story is found in a hadith Qudsi, which, remember, has a special authority due to conveying words spoken by Allah. But it appears in almost all the reliable collections, making it, for all intents and purposes, unquestionable. It is lengthy, yet well worth close attention.
Narrated by Abu Huraira: Some (cooked) meat was brought to Allah Apostle and the meat of a forearm was presented to him as he used to like it. He ate a morsel of it and said, “I will be the chief of all the people on the Day of Resurrection. Do you know the reason for it? Allah will gather all the human being of early generations as well as late generation on one plain so that the announcer will be able to make them all-hear his voice and the watcher will be able to see all of them. The sun will come so close to the people that they will suffer such distress and trouble as they will not be able to bear or stand. Then the people will say, ‘Don’t you see to what state you have reached? Won’t you look for someone who can intercede for you with your Lord’ Some people will say to some others, ‘Go to Adam.’ So they will go to Adam and say to him. ‘You are the father of mankind; Allah created you with His Own Hand, and breathed into you of His Spirit (meaning the spirit which he created for you); and ordered the angels to prostrate before you; so (please) intercede for us with your Lord. Don’t you see in what state we are? Don’t you see what condition we have reached?’ Adam will say, ‘Today my Lord has become angry as He has never become before, nor will ever become thereafter. He forbade me (to eat of the fruit of) the tree, but I disobeyed Him… Myself! Myself! Myself! (has more need for intercession). Go to someone else; go to Noah.’ So they will go to Noah and say (to him), ‘O Noah! You are the first (of Allah’s Messengers) to the people of the earth, and Allah has named you a thankful slave; please intercede for us with your Lord. Don’t you see in what state we are?’ He will say.’ Today my Lord has become angry as He has never become nor will ever become thereafter. I had (in the world) the right to make one definitely accepted invocation, and I made it against my nation. Myself! Myself! Myself! Go to someone else; go to Abraham.’ They will go to Abraham and say, ‘O Abraham! You are Allah’s Apostle and His Khalil from among the people of the earth; so please intercede for us with your Lord. Don’t you see in what state we are?’ He will say to them, ‘My Lord has today become angry as He has never become before, nor will ever become thereafter. I had told three lies (Abu Haiyan (the sub-narrator) mentioned them in the Hadith) Myself! Myself! Myself! Go to someone else; go to Moses.’ The people will then go to Moses and say, ‘O Moses! You art Allah’s Apostle and Allah gave you superiority above the others with this message and with His direct Talk to you; (please) intercede for us with your Lord Don’t you see in what state we are?’ Moses will say, ‘My Lord has today become angry as He has never become before, nor will become thereafter, I killed a person whom I had not been ordered to kill. Myself! Myself! Myself! Go to someone else; go to Jesus.’ So they will go to Jesus and say, ‘O Jesus! You are Allah’s Apostle and His Word which He sent to Mary, and a superior soul created by Him, and you talked to the people while still young in the cradle. Please intercede for us with your Lord. Don’t you see in what state we are?’ Jesus will say. ‘My Lord has today become angry as He has never become before nor will ever become thereafter. Jesus will not mention any sin, but will say, ‘Myself! Myself! Myself! Go to someone else; go to Muhammad.’ So they will come to me and say, ‘O Muhammad! You are Allah’s Apostle and the last of the prophets, and Allah forgave your early and late sins. (Please) intercede for us with your Lord. Don’t you see in what state we are?” The Prophet added, “Then I will go beneath Allah’s Throne and fall in prostration before my Lord. And then Allah will guide me to such praises and glorification to Him as He has never guided anybody else before me. Then it will be said, ‘O Muhammad Raise your head. Ask, and it will be granted. Intercede It (your intercession) will be accepted.’ So I will raise my head and Say, ‘My followers, O my Lord! My followers, O my Lord’. It will be said, ‘O Muhammad! Let those of your followers who have no accounts, enter through such a gate of the gates of Paradise as lies on the right; and they will share the other gates with the people.” The Prophet further said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, the distance between every two gate-posts of Paradise is like the distance between Mecca and Busra (in Sham).”16
Another version has an important addition at the story’s end, beginning with Muhammad’s actual act of intercession, and touches on the results thereof:
Then I shall intercede and He will set me a limit [as to the number of people]. So I shall admit them into Paradise. Then I shall return for a third time, then a fourth, and I shall say: There remains in Hell-fire only those whom the Quran has confined and who must be there for eternity. There shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a barley-corn; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a grain of wheat; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing an atom.17
The story is fascinating in many respects. As mankind goes to various figures, seeking an intercessor in the day of God’s wrath and judgment, the responses are telling. Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses recount sins committed and hence decline the call, saying it is not for them to intercede. But Jesus mentions no sin.
Ironically, in the hadith Qudsi version, He says, “Go to Muhammad, a servant whom Allah has forgiven all his wrongdoing, past and future.” No sin on His own behalf, but He does mention Muhammad’s, and it’s forgiveness! Still, in each version, Jesus says it is not for Him to undertake this intercession, in direct contradiction to the biblical teaching.
Muhammad does accept the people’s pleas. He goes before Allah and is taught a new way of worship. In the fuller version, he intercedes either three or four times. Each time part of his Ummah, his people, are removed from the hellfire. This, of course, raises the debate, even among Muslims, as to whether all Muslim or only some will enter for a time into hellfire. That issue aside those removed first are those with the most iman (faith), and then with less and less, until the last ones removed have but an atom of goodness. This does seem to raise the possibility that one could confess the Shahada and still be left in hellfire if not even an atom of goodness is in his heart. But in any case, they are rescued THROUGH MUHAMMAD’S SPECIAL, UNIQUE INTERCESSION ON THEIR BEHALF. “So I shall admit them into Paradise,” are his own words, at least as recorded by the hadith. This is vitally important to remember, for the same story records Jesus declining the call of intercession. Instead He is said to direct men to Muhammad, a clear apologetic argument from the earliest Islamic generations. (White [Bethany House Publishers, Bloomington, MN 2013], pp. 121-126; capital and underline emphasis ours)
16. Sahih Al-Bukhari, 6:236
17. Hadith Qudsi 36, www.iium.edu.my/deed/hadith/other/hadithqudsi.html. (Ibid., p. 127)
Seeing that White admits that orthodox Islam has taken Christ’s intercessory role and ascribed it to Muhammad, thereby replacing the Lord Jesus as God’s Mediator with the prophet of Islam, how then can he claim that there is no such thing as mediation or intercession according to the Islamic faith?
This is a serious issue since not everyone is going to read White’s book, but many will view his countless numbers of lectures and debates on Islam that are found all over youtube, and find him repeating this blatant error that there is no mediator or intercessor in Islam and think that he is correct when he is grossly mistaken. As White himself acknowledges, Muhammad has replaced and supplanted Jesus by becoming the intercessor and mediator that Muslims need to turn to, which is why they do not believe that they need the Cross of Christ at all. More on this point later.
Nor is it entirely true that Islam is a faith and works based religious system, which leaves no room for a person to be saved by divine grace and mercy. The Quran and ahadith are replete with passages affirming that a person shall not enter into everlasting bliss because of his/her righteous deeds. Rather, a person shall only enter into the everlasting gardens by the grace and mercy of Allah:
And had it not been for the Grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, (Allah would have hastened the punishment upon you). And that Allah is full of kindness, Most Merciful. 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. 24:20-21 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 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=70&translator=1&start=0&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 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=76&translator=1&start=0&number=474)
Chapter 15: NONE WOULD ATTAIN SALVATION BECAUSE OF HIS DEEDS BUT IT IS THROUGH THE LORD’S MERCY (THAT HE WOULD ATTAIN THAT)
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: None amongst you would attain salvation purely because of his deeds. A person said: Allah’s Messenger, even you also. Thereupon he said: Yes. Not even I, but that Allah wraps me in Mercy, but you should act with moderation. This hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Bukair b. al-Ashajj with a slight variation of wording. (Sahih Muslim, Book 039, Number 6760 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=039&translator=2&start=0&number=6760)
Other 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 if 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 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=72&translator=1&start=0&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 http://searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=93&translator=1&start=0&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 these texts, Allah does not and will not accept the repentance of a person at death.
With that said, it is quite clear that Islam does have a concept of mediation and salvation by grace, even though it is not exactly the same as what the God-breathed Scriptures teach. Salvation by grace and mercy according to both the Quran and ahadith basically deals with Allah’s decree, that Allah has already predestined all those who shall enter paradise and those who shall be tortured in hell.
To make this simple, if Allah has chosen to show someone grace and mercy then that person will be guided to Islam and empowered by Allah’s Spirit remain faithful in carrying out Allah’s prescribed will in order merit eternal life:
[Prophet], you will not find people who truly believe in God and the Last Day giving their loyalty to those who oppose God and His Messenger, even though they may be their fathers, sons, brothers, or other relations: these are the people in whose hearts God has inscribed faith, and whom He has strengthened with His spirit. He will let them enter Gardens graced with flowing streams, where they will stay: God is well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are on God’s side, and God’s side will be the one to prosper. S. 58:22 Abdel Haleem http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/58/st3.htm
And if he doesn’t do enough good deeds to attain paradise, then Allah will have Muhammad intercede for him at the last day in order to bring him out of hell and usher him into the garden where he will be given an eternal erection so he can spend all eternity deflowering virgins. In the case of women believers, they will be given the privilege of being among the virgins whom Muslim men will enjoy deflowering forever.
For more on this topic we recommend the following articles:
The Problem of Divine Sovereignty, Predestination, Salvation and Human Free Will http://www.answeringislam.net/Quran/Contra/predestination.html
Salvation According to Islam: By good works, faith alone, vicarious punishment, and/or Muhammad’s intercession? http://www.answeringislam.net/Responses/Menj/salvation_islam.htm
This, by the way, explains why Muslims reject the cross of Christ since they already have a mediator in the person of Muhammad whom they believe will end up saving them from the wrath of Allah at the last day. And since Muhammad didn’t need to die in their place in order to save them from everlasting torture, the Muslims reject as utterly foolish the notion of an innocent human being having to die in their place as an atoning sacrifice for their sins. After all, if Allah will accept the intercession of Muhammad on behalf of the Muslims, and on that basis forgive them and ransom them from hell, then this conclusively proves that he doesn’t need anyone to die on the cross for anyone’s sins.
In fact, Muslims are scandalized by the Christian belief that Jesus Christ, whom they take to be one of God’s greatest messengers and prophets, had to die a brutally painful and shameful death in order for sinners to be forgiven and God’s justice to be satisfied.
In this regards, the Muslims are no different from the disbelieving Jews and Greeks at the time of the Apostles, since they too were offended by the message of the Cross, and thought it foolish that this was the means through which God in his wisdom chose to save the world. In the words of the blessed Apostle Paul:
“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, we preach Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:23-24
In the subsequent sections of my response I will provide thorough documentation from both the Quran and hadiths that Muhammad is THE savior and mediator of all “believers,” and that apart from him no Muslim can ever hope to be saved from Allah’s wrath.