Was Muhammad certain of his Salvation?
Examining the capriciousness of Allah as the cause of Muhammad’s uncertainty
Introduction – Muhammad just doesn’t know
According to the Quran, Muhammad was uncertain whether Allah would save him:
Or do they say, ‘He has forged it’? Say: ‘If I have forged it, you have no power to help me against Allah. He knows very well what you are pressing upon; He suffices as a witness between me and you; He is the All-forgiving, the All-compassionate.’ Say: ‘I am not an innovation among the Messengers,and I know not what shall be done with me or with you. I only follow what is revealed to me; I am only a clear warner.’ S. 46:8-9 Meccan
The so-called authentic narrations make it clear that Muhammad was speaking in respect to his eternal fate:
Narrated ‘Um al-‘Ala:
An Ansari woman who gave the pledge of allegiance to the Prophet that the Ansar drew lots concerning the dwelling of the Emigrants. ‘Uthman bin Maz’un was decided to dwell with them (i.e. Um al-‘Ala’s family), ‘Uthman fell ill and I nursed him till he died, and we covered him with his clothes. Then the Prophet came to us and I (addressing the dead body) said, “O Abu As-Sa’ib, may Allah’s Mercy be on you! I bear witness that Allah has honored you.” On that the Prophet said, “How do you know that Allah has honored him?” I replied, “I do not know. May my father and my mother be sacrificed for you, O Allah’s Apostle! But who else is worthy of it (if not ‘Uthman)?” He said, “As to him, by Allah, death has overtaken him, and I hope the best for him. By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me,” By Allah, I will never assert the piety of anyone after him. That made me sad, and when I slept I saw in a dream a flowing stream for ‘Uthman bin Maz’un. I went to Allah’s Apostle and told him of it. He remarked, “That symbolizes his (good) deeds.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266)
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)
These references should trouble any Muslim. If Muhammad himself, the very founder and prophet of the religion of Islam, was uncertain where he would spend eternity then how can any Muslim know where they will go after they die?
Muslim scholars to the rescue!
Needless to say, these statements didn’t sit well with Muslims, especially the scholars. They were obviously troubled by the fact that even their very own prophet, who is supposed to be the standard of moral perfection, didn’t know for certain whether he was going to paradise or hell. The Muslims had to therefore come up with some convenient ways of explaining these troubling statements.
Some Muslims believe that these statements were made before Muhammad knew or was informed that he would be going to paradise. Still others are of the opinion that Q. 46:9 is not even speaking about the afterlife but this life, e.g. Muhammad doesn’t know whether he will be rejected by the people, driven out, killed etc.
The problem with the second explanation is that this directly conflicts with the hadith reports which specifically deal with the issue of the afterlife, not life in this world. In fact, according to some scholars Q. 46:9 was uttered in connection with Muhammad telling the woman that he didn’t know what Allah would do with ‘Uthman bin Maz’un even though he was dead:
As for his expression “By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me”, the Prophet uttered this in accordance with Allah’s statement in Surah al-Ahqaaf, “Say: “I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you”. This was before the revealing of the verse by Allah All Mighty, “That Allah may forgive you your sins of the past and the future” (Surah 48:2), because al-Ahqaaf is a Makkan Surah, while Surah al-Fatah is a Madinan Surah and there is no contradiction between the two of them. And it has been established that he said, “I am the first who will enter paradise,” and there other reports which convey this meaning as well… (Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Fathul Bari, Kitab al-Janaaiz, Bab al-Dukhool ‘Ala al-Mayyit Ba’d al-Mawt izhaa Adraja fi Akfaanihi, Commentary on Hadith no. 1166; bold and underline emphasis ours)
(nor do I know what will be done with me or with you.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “It (this Ayah) was followed in revelation by…
(That Allah may forgive for you your sins of the past and future). They said that when the latter Ayah was revealed, one of the Muslims said to Allah’s Messenger, “Allah has declared what He will do for you. But what will He do for us?” Then Allah revealed…
(That He may admit the believing men and the believing women to Gardens under which rivers flow). This is what they said. That which has been confirmed in the Sahih is that the believers said, “May you enjoy that, O Allah’s Messenger! But what do we get?” So Allah revealed this Ayah. Imam Ahmad recorded that Kharijah bin Zayd bin Thabit, reported that Umm Al-`Ala’ — a woman from the Ansar who had given her pledge of loyalty to Allah’s Messenger — said, “When the Ansar drew lots regarding taking in theMuhajirun to dwell with them, our lot was to have `Uthman bin Maz`un. Later, `Uthman fell sick in our house, so we nursed him until he died, and we wrapped him in his garments (for burial). Allah’s Messenger then came in, and I said, `O Abu As-Sa’ib! May Allah have mercy on you. I bear witness that Allah has indeed honored you.’ Allah’s Messenger asked…
Even Muslim polemicist Bassam Zawadi, who tried to address this very topic, accepts that Q. 46:9 is dealing with Muhammad’s eternal destiny:
I personally favor the first solution. This is because it appears to me that the context of the hadeeth in Saheeh Bukhari makes it appear that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is speaking about how he doesn’t know what will happen to him in the Hereafter. This of course is not necessarily true, but in my opinion it seems more likely. Thus, even though I believe that the second solution is still plausible, I will nevertheless personally opt for the first solution. (Was Prophet Muhammad Uncertain of His Own Salvation?;source; underline emphasis ours)
We can therefore rule out the second explanation since the context of the hadiths demonstrates the implausibility of this view, just as this Muslim dawagandist admits.
Was Muhammad actually forgiven of his sins?
According to the above expositors Q. 46:9 was canceled out or abrogated by Q. 48:2 since the latter text states that Muhammad’s past and future sins had been forgiven.
But is this what the verse actually says? Does it really claim that Allah had forgiven all of Muhammad’s previous and latter sins? Let us see:
Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory, That Allah MAY forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come, andMAY perfect His favour unto thee, and MAY guide thee on a right path, S. 48:1-2 Pickthall Medinan
As the readers can see for themselves the reference doesn’t say that Allah HAD forgiven Muhammad completely, but that he MAY forgive his messenger of his sins. Moreover, the following Sura, which was composed at a later time, shows that Allah hadn’t removed all of Muhammad’s sins:
When comes the Help of Allah (to you, O Muhammad against your enemies) and the conquest (of Makkah), And you see that the people enter Allah’s religion (Islam) in crowds, So glorify the Praises of your Lord, and ask for His Forgiveness. Verily, He is the One Who accepts the repentance and forgives. S. 110:1-3 Medinan
The question to ask is why is Muhammad still being commanded to ask forgiveness for his sins if Allah had already completely forgiven him?
The answer is obvious… the text of Q. 48:2 doesn’t say that Allah would definitely wipe away his prophet’s sins, but that he may do so if he so chooses to. Yet Q. 110 makes it clear that Allah hadn’t chosen to remove all of Muhammad’s sins, which explains why the latter is still being commanded to seek for forgiveness. After all, if Allah has already forgiven Muhammad then there is no need to remind or command him to ask to be forgiven.
Muhammad lives in constant fears and doubts
There is further evidence that Allah hadn’t forgiven all of his prophet’s sins since the Quran is a witness that Muhammad remained uncertain of his destiny and that his god was constantly threatening him all throughout his career.
For example, Allah made Muhammad repeat the point that, even though he is a messenger, he doesn’t know what will happen and that he doesn’t have any power to hurt or benefit anyone:
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): I pray unto Allah only, and ascribe unto Him no partner. Say: Lo! I control not hurt nor benefit for you. Say: Lo! none can protect me from Allah, nor can I find any refuge beside Him (Mine is) but conveyance (of the Truth) from Allah, and His messages; and whoso disobeyeth Allah and His messenger, lo! his is fire of hell, wherein such dwell for ever. Till (the day) when they shall behold that which they are promised (they may doubt); but then they will know (for certain) who is weaker in allies and less in multitude. Say (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): I know not whether that which ye are promised is nigh, or if my Lord hath set a distant term for it. S. 72:20-25 Pickthall Meccan
Moreover, on more than one occasion Allah warned his prophet from changing the Quran:
And when Our clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look not for the meeting with Us say: Bring a Lecture other than this, or change it. Say (O Muhammad): It is not for me to change it of my accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! if I disobey my Lord I fear the retribution of an awful Day. S. 10:15 Pickthall Meccan
And surely they had purposed to turn you away from that which We have revealed to you, that you should forge against Us other than that, and then they would certainly have taken you for a friend. And had it not been that We had already established you, you would certainly have been near to incline to them a little; In that case We would certainly have made you to taste a double (punishment) in this life and a double (punishment) after death, then you would not have found any helper against Us. S. 17:73-75 Shakir Meccan
That this is verily the word of an honoured apostle; It is not the word of a poet: little it is ye believe! Nor is it the word of a soothsayer: little admonition it is ye receive. (This is) a Message sent down from the Lord of the Worlds.And if the apostle were to invent any sayings in Our name, We should certainly seize him by his right hand, And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart: S. 69:40-46 Y. Ali Meccan
Allah also threatened his messenger from turning away to worship other gods,
This is (part) of that wisdom wherewith thy Lord hath inspired thee (O Muhammad). And set not up with Allah any other god, lest thou be cast into hell, reproved, abandoned. S. 17:39 Pickthall Meccan
And certainly, it has been revealed to you and to those before you: Surely if you associate (with Allah), your work would certainly come to naught and you would certainly be of the losers. S. 39:65 Meccan
Allah even had to rebuke Muhammad for fearing men instead of his god:
O Prophet! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and do not comply with (the wishes of) the unbelievers and the hypocrites; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise… And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favor and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah’s command shall be performed. S. 33:1, 37 Medinan
O Messenger, deliver that which has been sent down to thee from thy Lord;for if thou dost not, thou wilt not have delivered His Message. Allah will protect thee from men. Allah guides not the people of the unbelievers. S. 5:67 Medinan
We further read in the Quran how Allah constantly chided his apostle for inclining his heart to the wealthy nobles of the Arabs while turning away or frowning upon the poor, the misfortunate and the marginalized:
And do not drive away those who call upon their Lord at morning and evening desiring His countenance; nothing of their account falls upon thee, and nothing of thy account falls upon them, that thou shouldst drive them away, and so become one of the evildoers. S. 6:52 Meccan
And restrain thyself with those who call upon their Lord at morning and evening, desiring His countenance, and let not thine eyes turn away from them, desiring the adornment of the present life; and obey not him whose heart We have made neglectful of Our remembrance so that he follows his own lust, and his affair has become all excess. S. 18:28 Meccan
Stretch not thine eyes to that We have given pairs of them to enjoy – the flower of the present life, that We may try them therein and thy Lord’s provision is better, and more enduring. S. 20:131 Meccan
He frowned and turned (his) back, Because there came to him the blind man. And what would make you know that he would purify himself, Or become reminded so that the reminder should profit him? As for him who considers himself free from need (of you), To him do you address yourself. And no blame is on you if he would not purify himself And as to him who comes to you striving hard, And he fears, From him will you divert yourself. S. 80:1-10 Shakir Meccan
And on one occasion Allah had to warn Muhammad to stop having doubts lest he become one of the losers:
And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. And be not thou of those who deny the revelations of Allah, for then wert thou of the losers. S. 10:94-95 Pickthall Meccan
Yet it is hard to see how Muhammad could avoid having serious doubts when his deity is constantly warning and threatening him. These repeated scare tactics would cause him to have greater doubts and may explain why Muhammad never felt certain whether Allah would honor him,
And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It MAY BE that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. S. 17:79 Meccan
‘Abdullah b. Amr b. al-As reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: When you hear the Mu’adhdhin, repeat what he says, then invoke a blessing on me, for everyone who invokes a blessing on me will receive ten blessings from Allah;then BEG from Allah al-Wasila for me, which is a rank in Paradise fitting for only one of Allah’s servants, and I HOPE that I MAY BE that one. If anyone who asks that I be given the Wasila, he will be assured of my intercession. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 0747)
And why he asked his community to pray for his salvation and peace:
Verily, Allah and His angels pray for the prophet. O ye who believe! pray for him and salute him with a salutation! S. 33:56
We know that Allah, his angels, and the believers are all praying for Muhammad’s salvation and forgiveness because of the following verse which appears in the same sura:
He it is who prays for you and His angels too, to bring you forth out of the darkness into the light, for He is merciful to the believers. S. 33:43
As well as this one:
The heavens wellnigh are rent above them, when the angels proclaim the praise of their Lord, and ask forgiveness for those on earth. Surely Allah — He is the All-forgiving, the All-compassionate. S. 42:5
The foregoing indicates that the very purpose for praying for Muhammad is to beseech Allah to bestow peace and salvation on his messenger.
For more on this issue we recommend the following articles and rebuttals:
Allah disgraces his prophet
It goes from bad to worse for Muhammad. Not only did he have to live under the constant terror and dread of his god he even had to undergo some rather humiliating circumstances:
Magic was worked on Allah’s Apostle so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not (Sufyan said:That is the hardest kind of magic as it has such an effect). Then one day he said, “O ‘Aisha do you know that Allah has instructed me concerning the matter I asked Him about? Two men came to me and one of them sat near my head and the other sat near my feet. The one near my head asked the other, ‘What is wrong with this man?’ The latter replied he is under the effect of magic. The first one asked, ‘Who has worked magic on him?’ The other replied, ‘Labid bin Al-A’sam, a man from Bani Zuraiq who was an ally of the Jews and was a hypocrite.’ The first one asked, ‘What material did he use?’ The other replied, ‘A comb and the hair stuck to it.’ The first one asked, ‘Where (is that)?’ The other replied, ‘In a skin of pollen of a male date palm tree kept under a stone in the well of Dharwan.’” So the Prophet went to that well and took out those things and said, “That was the well which was shown to me (in a dream). Its water looked like the infusion of Henna leaves and its date-palm trees looked like the heads of devils.” The Prophet added, “Then that thing was taken out.” I said (to the Prophet) “Why do you not treat yourself with Nashra?” He said, “Allah has cured me; I dislike to let evil spread among my people.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number660)
According to specific sources the spell lasted a year:
I In commenting on this Suhayli asserts that the tradition is sound and is accepted by the traditionists. He found in the Jami’ of Mu‘ammar b. Rashad (a work which I cannot find mentioned by Brockelmann) the statement THAT THE SPELL LASTED A YEAR. He adds that the Mu‘tazila and Modernists rejected the tradition on the ground that prophets could not be bewitched otherwise they would commit sin and that would be contrary to the word of God ‘And God will protect thee from men’ (5.71). He finds the tradition unassailable. It is properly attested and intellectually acceptable. The prophets were not preserved from bodily afflictions in which category sorcery falls. (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995), p. 240; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Moreover, Allah allowed Muhammad to endure a very painful death as a result of food poisoning:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, “Shall we kill her?” He said, “No.” I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah’s Apostle. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number786)
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
‘Umar bin Al-Khattab used to let Ibn Abbas sit beside him, so ‘AbdurRahman bin ‘Auf said to ‘Umar, “We have sons similar to him.” ‘Umar replied, “(I respect him) because of his status that you know.” ‘Umar then asked Ibn ‘Abbas about the meaning of this Holy Verse:– “When comes the help of Allah and the conquest of Mecca…” (110.1)
Ibn ‘Abbas replied, “That indicated the death of Allah’s Apostle which Allah informed him of.” ‘Umar said, “I do not understand of it except what you understand.” Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet in his ailment in which he died, used to say, “O ‘Aisha! I still feel the pain caused by the food I ate at Khaibar, and at this time, I feel as if my aorta is being cut from that poison.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 713)
His condition became so severe that some of his own companions thought that Muhammad had become mentally ill, even delirious:
Narrated Said bin Jubair:
that he heard Ibn ‘Abbas saying, “Thursday! And you know not what Thursday is?” After that Ibn ‘Abbas wept till the stones on the ground were soaked with his tears. On that I asked Ibn ‘Abbas, “What is (about) Thursday?” He said, “When the condition (i.e. health) of Allah’s Apostle deteriorated, he said, ‘Bring me a bone of scapula, so that I may write something for you after which you will never go astray.’ The people differed in their opinions although it was improper to differ in front of a prophet. They said, ‘What is wrong with him? Do you think he is delirious? Ask him (to understand).’ The Prophet replied, ‘Leave me as I am in a better state than what you are asking me to do.’ Then the Prophet ordered them to do three things saying, ‘Turn out all the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, show respect to all foreign delegates by giving them gifts as I used to do.’” The sub-narrator added, “The third order was something beneficial which either Ibn ‘Abbas did not mention or he mentioned but I forgot.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 393)
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
When Allah’s Apostle was on his death-bed and in the house there were some people among whom was ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, the Prophet said, “Come, let me write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.” ‘Umar said, “The Prophet is seriously ill and you have the Qur’an; so the Book of Allah is enough for us.” The people present in the house differed and quarrelled. Some said, “Go near so that the Prophet may write for you a statement after which you will not go astray,” while the others said as Umar said. When they caused a hue and cry before the Prophet, Allah’s Apostle said, “Go away!” Narrated ‘Ubaidullah: Ibn ‘Abbas used to say, “It was very unfortunate that Allah’s Apostle was prevented from writing that statement for them because of their disagreement and noise.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 573)
A side note: How interesting to find Umar and a group of unnamed companions of Muhammad stating that Allah’s book, i.e. the Quran, is all that is needed when we have Sunnis telling us all the time that Muslims also need Muhammad’s sunna since the Quran is insufficient.
Ahmad b. Hammad al-Dulabi – Sufyan – Sulayman b. Abi Muslim – Sa‘id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas: Thursday, what a Thursday! He said: The Messenger of God’s pain because to severe that he said, “Give me [pen and paper] so that I may write a document for you and you will never go astray after me!” His companions wrangled over it, and it did not befit them to carry on a dispute before a prophet. Some people said, “What’s the matter with him! Is he talking nonsense? Ask him a question.” [When] they went back, repeating [those remarks] to him, he replied, “Leave me [alone], the state that I am in is better than that for which you are calling me.” He charged them with three things: … [Sa‘id b. Jubayr states that Ibn ‘Abbas] became silent about the third [command] either intentionally, or that he said that he had forgotten it.
Abu Kurayb and Salih b. Sammal – Waki’ – Malik b. Mighwal – Talhah b. Musarrif – Sa‘id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas: Thursday, what a Thursday! [Sa‘id b. Jubayr:] Then I looked at Ibn ‘Abbas’ tears flowing on his cheeks as if they were a chain of pearls, [saying:] The Messenger of God said, “Bring me a tablet (lawh) and an inkpot (dawat), or a plank of the shoulder blade (katif) and an inkpot, so that I can write for you a document, after which you will not go astray.” Some [people] said that the Messenger of God was talking deliriously. (The History of al-Tabari – The Last Years of the Prophet, translated and annotated by Ismail K. Poonawala [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany 1990], Volume IX (9), pp. 174-175; bold and underline emphasis ours)
The translator adds some interesting notes:
1206. Baladhuri: They said: “Do you see him talking nonsense?” and [started] wrangling among themselves. The Messenger of God became grieved and annoyed and asked them to leave.
1207. The Prophet was not happy with ‘Umar because he did not cooperate with him when he asked for pen and paper. See Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqat, II/2, 36-38; Buhl, Leben, 353: Momen, Shi‘i Islam, 15-16. The Shi‘is claim that the prophet wanted to make a written testament favoring ‘Ali’s succession as head of the nascent Islamic state but that ‘Umar foiled his plan. See Mirza, al-Balagh, I, 254-86. (Ibid., p. 174; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Thus, Allah humiliated his prophet by allowing him to come under the power of magic for a year which caused him to think that he was actually having sex with all of his wives. To see just how disgraceful this is one simply has to ask what was Muhammad actually doing during the entire year that he thought he was sleeping with his wives? Are we to assume that Muhammad was pleasuring himself in some manner which led him to think that he was actually engaging in intercourse?
Allah further disgraced Muhammad by permitting him to die in an excruciating manner, from the effects of poison, which led to a situation where his very own companions thought he was delirious, out of his mind, and speaking nonsense.
Allah did all this to him despite his promises in the Quran that he would protect his righteous servants from the Devil and insuring his messenger that Satan and the disbelievers would not be able to harm him by their schemes, which would obviously include such things as magic and poison (cf. Q. 5:67; 7:11-18; 15:32-44; 16:98-100 & 72:27-28).
For more on Muhammad being poisoned and bewitched and the implication that all of this has on the veracity of the Quran and the integrity of Allah we suggest consulting the following articles and rebuttals:
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 bee 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 0220)
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,
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.”
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”, but in telling of Omar’s death Christensen writes,
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, ifit 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. 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. …
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.