The Quran Confirms Vicarious Atonement

Contrary to the claim made by Muhammadan polemicists, the Quran actually testifies that a person can bear the sins of another, and that an individual can and does stand in the place of a multitude of people as their representative.

This is most clearly seen in the garbled-up story of Cain and Abel, who are never mentioned by name in the Quran:

Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to God): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: “Be sure I will slay thee.” “Surely,” said the former, “God doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous. If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear God, the cherisher of the worlds. For me, I intend to let thee draw ON THYSELF MY SIN as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the companions of the fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.” The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones. Then God sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he; “Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?” then he became full of regrets – On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew A PERSON – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew THE WHOLE PEOPLE: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life OF THE WHOLE PEOPLE. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. S. 5:27-32 Y. Ali

Pay close attention to the fact that the passage expressly teaches that Abel’s sins will be transferred or imputed to Cain, and that a human soul is equivalent to an entire nation.

With that said, note some other English renderings of the relevant verses:

Lo! I would rather thou shouldst bear the punishment of the sin AGAINST ME and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers… For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed ALL MANKIND, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of ALL MANKIND. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth. S. 5:29, 32 Pickthall

‘I desire that thou shouldest be laden WITH MY SIN and thy sin, and so become an inhabitant of the Fire; that is the recompense of the evildoers.’… Therefore We prescribed for the Children of Israel that whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether; and whoso gives life to a soul, shall be as if he has given life to mankind altogether. Our Messengers have already come to them with the clear signs; then many of them thereafter commit excesses in the earth. Arberry

And here’s how the Muslim commentators and/or translators understood Q. 5:29:

I desire that you should end up with my sin the sin of slaying me and your own sin the one that you had committed before and so become an inhabitant of the Fire whereas I do not want to end up with your sin if I were to slay you and become one of them. God exalted be He says that is the requital of the evildoers’. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold emphasis mine)

Lit., “my sin as well as thy sin”. It is evident from several well-authenticated ahadith that if a person dies a violent death not caused, directly or indirectly, by his own sinful actions, his previous sins will be forgiven (the reason being, evidently, that he had no time to repent, as he might have done had he been allowed to live). In cases of unprovoked murder, the murderer is burdened – in addition to the sin of murder – with the sins which his innocent victim might have committed in the past and of which he (the victim) is now absolved: this CONVINCING INTERPRETATION of the above verse has been advanced by Mujahid (as quoted by Tabari). (Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an; bold and capital emphasis mine)

Hence, the Quran is emphatically affirming the biblical doctrines of corporate solidarity and federal headship, namely, an individual stands in the place of others due to his being the head of those united to him and for those whom he represents.   

The following narrations further highlight the fact that Islamic tradition does affirm that a person’s actions do impact and affect others, whether good or bad:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Apostle said, “Adam and Moses met, and Moses said to Adam “You are the one who made people MISERABLE and TURNED THEM OUT OF PARADISE.” Adam said to him, “You are the one whom Allah selected for His message and whom He selected for Himself and upon whom He revealed the Torah.” Moses said, ‘Yes.’ Adam said, “Did you find that written in my fate before my creation?’ Moses said, ‘Yes.’ So Adam overcame Moses with this argument.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 260

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “Moses argued with Adam and said to him (Adam), ‘You are the one who got the people out of Paradise by your sin, AND THUS MADE THEM MISERABLE.’ Adam replied, ‘O Moses! You are the one whom Allah selected for His Message and for His direct talk. Yet you blame me for a thing which Allah had ordained for me before He created me?’” Allah’s Apostle further said, “So Adam overcame Moses by this Argument.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 262

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira and Hudhaifa that the Messenger of Allah said: Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, would gather people. The believers would stand till the Paradise would be brought near them. They would come to Adam and say: O our father, open for us the Paradise. He would say: What turned you out from the Paradise WAS THE SIN OF YOUR FATHER ADAM. I am not in a position to do that; … (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0380

Abu Huraira reported that God’s messenger told of Adam and Moses holding a disputation in their Lord’s presence and of Adam getting the better of Moses in argument. Moses said, “You are Adam whom God created with His hand, into whom He breathed of His spirit, to whom He made the angels do obeisance, and whom He caused to dwell in his garden; then BECAUSE OF YOUR SIN caused MANKIND to come down to the earth.” Adam replied, “And you are Moses whom God chose to deliver His messages and to address, to whom He gave the tablets on which everything was explained, and whom He brought near as a confidant. How long before I was created did you find that God has written the Torah? Moses said, “Forty years.” Adam asked, “Did you find in it, ‘And Adam disobeyed his Lord and erred’?” On being told that he did, he said, “Do you then blame me for doing a deed WHICH GOD HAD DECREED THAT I SHOULD DO forty years before He created me?” God’s messenger said, “So Adam got the better of Moses in the argument.” Muslim transmitted it. (Mishkat Al-Masabih English Translation With Explanatory Notes by Dr. James Robson, Volume I [Sh. Muhammad Ahsraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore-Pakistan, Reprint 1990], p. 23; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abu’z-Zinad from al-Araj from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah said, “Adam and Musa argued and Adam got the better of Musa. Musa rebuked Adam, ‘You are Adam WHO LED PEOPLE ASTRAY and brought them out of the Garden.’ Adam said to him, ‘You are Musa to whom Allah gave knowledge of everything and whom he chose above people with His message.’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Do you then censure me for a matter WHICH WAS DECREED FOR ME BEFORE I WAS CREATED?‘” (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 46, Number 46.1.1

Notice how all the major hadith collections affirm that Adam’s offspring share in the guilt and judgment of Adam for the sin that he committed while in the garden, which is why none of them are dwelling in it now. The narrations even go so far as to say that mankind is in a state of misery because of Adam’s transgression. And also pay close attention to the fact of Adam blaming Allah for having already predestined that Adam would inevitably sin forty years before his creation, a fact reiterated in the following tale:

“… The following dialogue between God and Adam typifies well the theological debate concerning predestination in the early Islamic community: ‘O Lord, this sin which I have committed, is it something which you decreed for me before you created me, or is it something which I have invented of my own accord?’ God answered, ‘Rather it is something which I DECREED FOR YOU BEFORE I CREATED YOU.’ Adam said, ‘Then as you have decreed it for me, so do now forgive me my sin’ (Tabari I, p. 544).” (Mahmoud M. Ayoub, The Qur’an and Its Interpreters [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY 1984], Volume 1, pp. 84-85; bold and capital emphasis mine)

The traditions also blame Eve for causing God’s curse to fall on all future generations of women. The ahadith further hold the Jews responsible for food becoming stale and the decay of meat!

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay; and were it not FOR EVE, no woman would ever betray her husband.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 611

Hammam b. Munabbih said: These are some of the ahadith which narrated to us from Allah’s Messenger, and one of these (this one): Allah’s Messenger said: Had it not been for Bani Isra’il, food would not have become stale, and meal would not have gone bad; and had it not been FOR Eve, a woman would never have acted unfaithfully toward her husband. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3472

Renowned Muslim historian and commentator al-Tabari goes so far as to narrate a story that holds Eve accountable for women being stupid!

According to Yunus – Ibn Wahb – Ibn Zayd (commenting on God’s word: “And he whispered”): Satan whispered to Eve about the tree and succeeded in taking her to it; then he made it seem good to Adam. He continued. When Adam felt a need for her and called her, she said: No! unless you go there. When he went, she said again: No! unless you eat from this tree. He continued. They both ate from it, and their secret parts became apparent to them. He continued. Adam then went about in Paradise in flight. His Lord called out to him: Adam, is it from Me that you are fleeing? Adam replied: No, my Lord, but I feel shame before You. When God asked what had caused his trouble, he replied: Eve, my Lord. Whereupon God said: Now it is My obligation to make her bleed once every month, as she made this tree bleed. I ALSO MAKE HER STUPID, although I had created her intelligent (halimah), and must make her suffer pregnancy and birth with difficulty, although I made it easy for her to be pregnant and give birth. Ibn Zayd said: Were it not for the affliction that affected Eve, the women of this world would not menstruate, AND THEY WOULD BE INTELLIGENT and, when pregnant, give birth easily. (The History of Al-Tabari: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood, translated by Franz Rosenthal [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1989], Volume 1, pp. 280-281; bold and capital emphasis mine)

According to this reference, Eve was not only made to bleed for her sin but she was also made stupid with the result being that all women now bleed and are basically stupid!

Nor is this an isolated opinion from some obscure, unknown Muslim historian since Muhammad himself taught that women were morally and intellectually deficient in comparison to men, which is why the majority of the people burning in hell are women!

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) on ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that THE MAJORITY of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion THAN YOU. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not THE EVIDENCE OF TWO WOMEN EQUAL TO THE WITNESS OF ONE MAN?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301; see also Volume 2, Book 24, Number 541)


Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, “Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?” The women said, “Yes.” He said, “THIS IS BECAUSE OF THE DEFICIENCY OF A WOMAN’S MIND.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826:

Unlike Muhammad and his god, nowhere will one find a single verse in the Holy Bible where the true God revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ teaching that women have become stupid as a result of the Fall, or that they are the majority of those who end up in hell.

What makes this all the more interesting is that the Quran cites a rabbinic tradition which it erroneously attributes to God to support its view:

Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidences, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits (e.g. by doing oppression unjustly and exceeding beyond the limits set by Allah by committing the major sins) in the land! S. 5:32 Hilali-Khan

Here, Muhammad and/or the author(s)/editor(s) of the Quran have quoted the following uninspired rabbinic interpretation:

How does the court intimidate the witnesses in giving testimony for cases of capital law? They would bring the witnesses in and intimidate them by saying to them: Perhaps what you say in your testimony is based on conjecture, or perhaps it is based on a rumor, perhaps it is testimony based on hearsay, e.g., you heard a witness testify to this in a different court, or perhaps it is based on the statement of a trusted person. Perhaps you do not know that ultimately we examine you with inquiry and interrogation, and if you are lying, your lie will be discovered. The court tells them: You should know that cases of capital law are not like cases of monetary law. In cases of monetary law, a person who testifies falsely, causing money to be given to the wrong party, can give the money to the proper owner and his sin is atoned for. In cases of capital law, if one testifies falsely, the blood of the accused and the blood of his offspring that he did not merit to produce are ascribed to the witness’s testimony until eternity. The proof for this is as we found with Cain, who killed his brother, as it is stated concerning him: “The voice of your brother’s blood [demei] cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). The verse does not state: Your brother’s blood [dam], in the singular, but rather: “Your brother’s blood [demei],” IN THE PLURAL. This serves to teach that the loss of both his brother’s blood AND THE BLOOD OF HIS BROTHER’S OFFSPRING are ascribed to Cain. The mishna notes: Alternatively, the phrase “your brother’s blood [demei],” written in the plural, teaches that that his blood was not gathered in one place but was splattered on the trees and on the stones. The court tells the witnesses: Therefore, Adam the first man was created alone, to teach you that with regard to anyone who destroys one soul from the Jewish people, i.e., kills one Jew, the verse ascribes him blame AS IF HE DESTROYED AN ENTIRE WORLD, as Adam was one person, from whom the population of an entire world came forth. And conversely, anyone who sustains one soul from the Jewish people, the verse ascribes him credit AS IF HE SUSTAINED AN ENTIRE WORLD. The mishna cites another reason Adam the first man was created alone: And this was done due to the importance of maintaining peace among people, so that one person will not say to another: My father, i.e., progenitor, is greater than your father. And it was also so that the heretics who believe in multiple gods will not say: There are many authorities in Heaven, and each created a different person. And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of Adam the first man, as all of them are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another. Therefore, since all humanity descends from one person, each and every person is obligated to say: The world was created for me, AS ONE PERSON CAN BE THE SOURCE OF ALL HUMANITY, AND RECOGNIZE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS ACTIONS. The court says to the witnesses: And perhaps you will say: Why would we want this trouble? Perhaps it would be better not to testify at all. But be aware, as is it not already stated: “And he being a witness, whether he has seen or known, if he does not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 5:1)? It is a transgression not to testify when one can do so. And perhaps you will say: Why would we want to be responsible for the blood of this person? But be aware, as is it not already stated: “When the wicked perish, there is song” (Proverbs 11:10)? (Mishnah Sanhedrin, 4; capital emphasis mine)

According to the rabbinic exegesis of Genesis 4:10, the reference to the bloods (plural) of Abel which Cain shed refers to all of his offspring that would have sprung forth from his loins had Abel not been murdered. This is why Adam was created alone, in order to show that a human soul is more than a single individual. Rather, a human being stands in the place of all those human souls that spring forth from him.

Therefore, by including this rabbinic understanding of the murder of Abel as part of his so-called revelation Muhammad was basically agreeing with this biblical concept. Muhammad endorsed the notion that a person can and does represent others in what s/he does, and his/her actions are accredited to all those whom s/he represents. In other words, Muhammad pretty much accepted the idea that killing or saving a person could be attributed and even equated with killing or saving all those united to that particular individual.    

And yet in affirming this biblical concept Muhammad ended up inadvertently confirming the New Testament revelation that Jesus came to stand in the place of all those who are united to him so that his death, burial and resurrection to immortality becomes the death, burial and resurrection of all those who put their hope and trust in him.

Essentially, Muhammad confirmed what the blessed and holy Apostle Paul wrote in his inspired epistles:   

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:12-21

“Do you not know that we who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, so shall we also be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection,knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him, so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we should no longer be slaves to sin.For the one who has died is freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death has no further dominion over Him. For the death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God.” Romans 6:3-10

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming… And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 45-49

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

“You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

“Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ from a servant though he is lord of all. But he is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father. So when we were children, we were in bondage to the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:1-7

All Scriptural citations taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible.


Original Sin in Islam Revisited

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