The Deception of Allah and the Uncertainty of Salvation

The Quran warns people against feeling secure from Allah’s lies, deceit, schemes etc.

Have they become sure about Allah’s scheming/deceit (makra Allahi)? None are sure about Allah’s scheming/deceit (makra Allahi) except the people who are losers. S. 7:99

The verse is formulated in absolute terms, e.g. “none … except …,” which means that it has consequences for the believers as well. Muslims must pretty much live in constant fear from the makr (cheating/scheming/deception) of Allah, since it is only the losers, the disbelievers, who do not fear it. Thus, if a Muslim thinks that s/he is secure from Allah’s cheating/deception then s/he is already among the losers.

To state this differently, unbelievers think they are secure but their sense of security is misguided and are headed for a dreadful judgment. And yet believers cannot feel or be secure since a sign of disbelief is having a sense of security or safety from Allah’s schemes and lies. They must necessarily live in fear of Allah in order to show or know that they are not among the losers, or disbelievers, but are true believers.

This explains why Allah doesn’t guarantee the salvation of his followers, and why the Quran often says that the Islamic deity may choose to do such and such if he so wishes but is not obligated to do so:

Allah forgives not that aught should be with Him associated; less than that He forgives to whomsoever He will. Whoso associates with Allah anything, has indeed forged a mighty sin. S. 4:48

Hence, even though Allah has committed himself to torment and condemn sinners he isn’t obligated to forgive them even if they happen to turn to him in repentance. Only he shall inhabit Allah’s places of worship who believes in Allah and the Last Day, and performs the prayer, and pays the alms, and fears none but Allah alone; it MAY BE that those will be among the guided. S. 9:18 Medinan

O believers, follow not the steps of Satan; for whosoever follows the steps of Satan, assuredly he bids to indecency and dishonour. But for Allah’s bounty to you and His mercy not one of you would have been pure ever; but God purifies whom He will; and Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing. S. 24:21

O ye who believe! Turn unto Allah in sincere repentance! It MAY BE that your Lord will remit from you your evil deeds and bring you into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, on the day when Allah will not abase the Prophet and those who believe with him. Their light will run before them and on their right hands; they will say: Our Lord! Perfect our light for us, and forgive us! Lo! Thou art Able to do all things. S. 66:8 Medinan

In fact, the Quran itself shows that it is not Allah’s will to save everyone since he has chosen to send whomever he wants to hell:

Whomsoever Allah guides, he is the guided one, and whomsoever He sends astray, those! They are the losers. And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones. S. 7:178-179 Hilali-Khan

If We had so willed, We could have given every soul its guidance; but now My Word is realized – ‘Assuredly I shall fill Gehenna with jinn and men all together.’ So now taste, for that you forgot the encounter of this your day! We indeed have forgotten you. Taste the chastisement of eternity for that you were doing!’ S. 32:13-14

The above verses demonstrate that Allah is under no obligation to forgive or purify anyone and doesn’t commit himself to save any individual since he obviously doesn’t want his followers from ever feeling safe and secure from his lies and deceit.

This then explains why even those nearest to him, such as the angels, can only hope for mercy and fear Allah’s wrath:

Those they call upon are themselves seeking the means to come to their Lord, which of them shall be nearer; they HOPE for His mercy, and fear His chastisement. Surely thy Lord’s chastisement is a thing to beware of. S. 17:57 Meccan

In light of the foregoing does it really come as a surprise that Muhammad was never certain of his destiny and didn’t know whether Allah would save and forgive him? Should it shock us to discover that Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad’s closest friends and the first Muslim leader after Muhammad’s death, was afraid for his own eternal destiny?

“Although he had such a faith, which was too great to suffice all the inhabitants of the earth, he was afraid that his heart might go astray. So, he used to utter, while weeping: ‘Would that I have been a bitten tree!’ Whenever he was reminded of his position in Allah’s sight, he would say: ‘By Allah! I would not rest assured and feel safe from the deception of Allah (la amanu limakr Allah), even if I had one foot in paradise.’” (Khalid Muhammad Khalid, Successors of the Messenger, translated by Muhammad Mahdi al-Sharif [Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut Lebanon, 2005], Book One: Abu Bakr Has Come, p. 99; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Allah’s non-commitment to save and his deceptive character also help us to make sense out of the following reports where other companions of Muhammad would weep in fear in the face of their impending deaths:

It is narrated on the authority of Ibn Shamasa Mahri that he said: We went to Amr b. al-As and he was about to die. He wept for a long time and turned his face towards the wall. His son said: Did the Messenger of Allah not give you tidings of this? Did the Messenger of Allah not give you tidings of this? He (the narrator) said: He turned his face (towards the audience) and said: The best thing which we can count upon is the testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah. Verily I have passed through three phases. (The first one) in which I found myself averse to none else more than I was averse to the Messenger of Allah and there was no other desire stronger in me than the one that I should overpower him and kill him. Had I died in this state, I would have been definitely one of the denizens of Fire. When Allah instilled the love of Islam in my heart, I came to the Apostle and said: Stretch out your right hand so that may pledge my allegiance to you. He stretched out his right hand, I withdrew my hand, He (the Holy Prophet) said: What has happened to you, O ‘Amr? I replied: I intend to lay down some condition. He asked: What condition do you intend to put forward? I said: I should be granted pardon. He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Are you not aware of the fact that Islam wipes out all the previous (misdeeds)? Verily migration wipes out all the previous (misdeeds), and verily the pilgrimage wipes out all the (previous) misdeeds. And then no one was as dear to me than the Messenger of Allah and none was more sublime in my eyes than he. Never could I pluck courage to catch a full glimpse of his face due to its splendour. So if I am asked to describe his features, I cannot do that for I have not eyed him fully. Had I died in this state I had every reason TO HOPE that I would have been among the dwellers of Paradise. Then we were responsible for certain things (in the light of which) I am unable to know what is in store for me. When I die, let neither female mourner nor fire accompany me. When you bury me, fill my grave well with earth, then stand around it for the time within which a camel is slaughtered and its meat is distributed so that I may enjoy your intimacy and (in your company) ascertain what answer I can give to the messengers (angels) of Allah. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=001&translator=2&start=0&number=0220)

And:

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Muhammad b. Ishaq – Muhammad b. Ja‘far b. al-Zubayr – ‘Urwah b. al-Zubayr, who said: The Messenger of God sent his expedition to Mu’tah in Jumada I of the year 8. He put Zayd b. Harithah in command of the men and said, “If Zayd b. Harithah is killed, Ja‘far b. Abi Talib shall be in command of the men; if Ja‘far is killed, ‘Abdallah b. Rawahah shall be in command… When ‘Abdallah b. Rawahah said goodbye with the other commanders of the Messenger of God who were doing so, HE WEPT. They said to him, “What is making you weep, Ibn Rawahah?” He said, “By God, I have no love of this world or excessive love for you, but I heard the Messenger of God recite a verse from the Book of God that mentioned the Fire [of Hell] – ‘Not one of you there is, but he shall go down to it; that for thy Lord is a thing decreed, determined’ – AND I DO NOT KNOW HOW I CAN COME OUT AFTER GOING DOWN.” The Muslims said, “May God accompany you, defend you, and bring you back to us in good health.” … (The History of Al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume VIII (8), pp. 152-153; bold and capital emphasis ours)

All of these Muslims shared this in common: None of them knew for certain whether Allah would save them from hell and had to die in a state of dread and fear as a result of their uncertainty. As one Christian writer puts it:

TWO OF THE FIRST MUSLIMS

Finally, to close this Chapter we shall look at the attitude of two of the earliest and greatest Muslims, which shows how they were feeling as death approached. Jens Christensen, after many years of Islamic studies, wrote,[14]

One of the things that often surprised me in my first studies of Islam was the note of despondency and insecurity that is found in the deathbed utterances of so many of Islam’s great men.

Abu Bakr, for example, was a prince among men, of sterling character and a true Muslim. Yet it is said of him that he was so fearful of the future and labored so much under distress that his breath was often as of a roasted liver. According to two traditions he is supposed to have said to Aisha on the day of his death,

“Oh my daughter, this is the day of my release and of obtaining of my desert:—if gladness it will be lasting; if sorrow it will never cease.”[12]

Do you see those two “ifs”? Nothing in Islam can remove them; not even the fact that Abu Bakr was given the title ‘Atiq (Free) because Muhammad is supposed to have told him: “You are free (saved) from the fire.”

T. P. Hughes quotes Omar as saying, “It had gone hard with my soul, if I had not been a Muslim”[13], but in telling of Omar’s death Christensen writes,[14]

When Omar was lying on his deathbed, he is reported to have said,

“…I am not other than as a drowning man who sees a possibility of escape with life, and hopes for it, but fears he may die and lose it, and so plunges about with hands and feet. More desperate than the drowning man is he who at the sight of heaven and hell is buried in the vision…Had I the whole East and West, gladly would I give up all to be delivered from this awful terror that is hanging over me. And finally touching his face against the ground he cried aloud: `Alas for Omar, and alas for the mother of Omar, if it should not please the Lord to pardon me.”

Do you see Omar’s difficulty? It is the uncertainty expressed in the “if” of the last sentence. That “if” does not express any feeling of uncertainty regarding Omar’s faith, Omar’s belief in one God, Omar’s trust and confidence in the prophet, or Omar’s lack of having lived a moral life. All of these things are in order as far as a human being could do that which is right.

No. The “if” refers to Allah; “if” it should not please the Lord to pardon him.

NO MAN CAN KNOW

When Yazid was burying Omar his father, he is quoted as saying: “I will not magnify him before the Almighty in whose presence he has gone to appear. If He forgives him it will be of His mercy; if He takes vengeance on him, it will be for his transgressions.”

Here again you have the two “ifs“:

If Allah forgives…
If Allah takes vengeance…

This remark of Yazid’s seems to me to epitomize the whole of Islam.[14] No man from Muhammad himself, right down to the least educated non-Arabic speaking Muslim who knows only a few prayers, would ever presume to know, or dare to predict what “if” will mean for him.[15] …

Notes…

12. This and the following quotations about Omar are found in The Torch of Guidance to the Mystery of Redemption translated by Sir W. Muir, printed by the Religious Tract Society, London [Christensen’s footnote]
13. Hughes, op.cit., p.654.
14. Practical Approach, Pakistan, 1960 as correspondence course. Republished 1977, p. 379.
15. Ibid., p. 381   (Dr. William Campbell, the Qur’an and the Bible in light of History and Science, Section Six: Jesus and Muhammad, Two Prophets For A Lost World?, Chapter V. The Power of Intercession; source)

When we better grasp what Q. 7:99 says and the complicit and capricious nature of Allah, this fear is very understandable. These Muslims knew their god enough to know that he is a deceiver who could change his mind and send them to hell if he wanted to without anyone stopping him from doing so.

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