Will Only Good Deeds take Non-Muslims to Paradise? Is Faith in Prophet Muhammad a Prerequisite for Salvation in the Hereafter? By Mufti Muhammad Shafi

Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

اِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَالَّذِيْنَ هَادُوْا وَالصّٰبِـُٔــوْنَ وَالنَّصٰرٰى مَنْ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْاٰخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُوْنَ

Surely, those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians – whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and acts righteously, shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.

Salvation promised for Four Communities having faith and good deeds

In the verse (69), Allah Almighty addresses four traditional religious communities, persuades them to have faith and act right¬eously whereupon He promises salvation for them.

  • The first of those are: الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا (those who believe) that is, the Muslims.
  • Secondly: الَّذِينَ هَادُوا (and those who are Jews)۔
  • thirdly: صابِئُونَ (the Sabians);
  • and fourthly: نصَارَ‌ىٰ (the Christians).

Three of these Communities – Muslims, Jews, and Christians are well-known and found in most parts of the world. Any community having the name Sabian does not exist today. Therefore, scholarly opinion varies as to their exact identity. Quoting Qatadah, the Tafsir authority, Ibn Kathir has reported that Sabians were people who worshipped angels, offered prayers contra-oriented to the Qiblah, and recited the Scripture, Zabur (revealed to Sayyidna Dawud).

The context of the Qur’an seems to support it as the four Scriptures mentioned in the Qur’an are Torah, Zabur, Injil, and Qur’an. Thus, named here are the believers in these four Books.

Another verse on the same subject, almost in the same words, has appeared in the seventh Section of Surah al-Baqarah:

اِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَ‌ىٰ وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ‌ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُ‌هُمْ عِندَ رَ‌بِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

Surely, those who believed, and those who are Jews, and Christians, and the Sabians – whoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day, and does good deeds – they have their reward with their Lord. And there is no fear for them nor shall they grieve. (2: 62)

Other than the place-oriented transposition of some words, there is no difference between them.

With Allah, Distinction Depends on Righteous Deeds

The gist of both these verses is that distinction of lineage, home-land, and nationality do not matter in the sight of Allah. Anyone who takes to total obedience, faith, and good deeds as a way of life – no matter what he has been before – shall find himself acceptable with Allah and his devotion will bring the best of appreciation from his Creator. And it is obvious that total obedience after the revelation of the Qur’an depends on being a Muslim – because, there are instructions to this effect in the past Scriptures of the Torah and the Injil as well, while the Qur’an itself was revealed for this particular purpose. Therefore, after the revelation of the Qur’an and the appearance of the Last among Prophets, it cannot be correct – without believing in the Qur’an and having faith in the Holy Prophet ﷺ to follow either the Torah or the Injil or the Zabur. Thus, these verses would mean that whoever from among these communities becomes Muslim shall become deserving of salvation and reward in the Akhirah (Hereafter). Provided right here is the answer to the doubt as to what would happen to all their dark doings of sin and disobedience and dis¬belief and anti-Islam and anti-Muslim mechanizations once they have become Muslims? The disarming answer is: All past sins and short-comings will stand forgiven and in the life-to-come, they shall have no fear or grief.

Why Muslims are mentioned at this point?

A surface view of the subject may suggest to someone that this should not be the place to mention Muslims because they are – in their faith and through their obedience – at the stage desired in the verse. In other words, the occasion here calls for the mention of only those who are supposed to be persuaded to enter the fold of Islam. But, what we have here is a special mode of eloquence employed by the Qur’an. It is like the law promulgated by the highest imaginable authority saying that it is for everyone, in favor or in opposition, bringing reward for the law-abiding and punishment for the law-breaking. It is obvious that those in favor are already obedient. The purpose is to make those in the opposing camp hear it. The particular element of wisdom behind mentioning those already in favor is that they are being told here that they are being appreciated not because of any person or group excellence of theirs but simply because of their quality of obedience to their Creator. If the dissenter in the opposing camp were to take to the path of obedience to his Creator, he too will deserve the same grace and reward.

There is No Salvation (Najat) without Belief in Prophethood (‘Iman bir-Risalat)

The set of instructions given in the address to these four Traditional Religious Communities is divided in three parts:

  • (a) ‘Iman bil-lah : Belief in Allah
  • (b) ‘Iman bil yowmil akhir : Belief in the Last Day
  • (c) and Al-Amalus Salih: Good deeds.

It is obvious that the intention in this verse is not to give the entire details of Islam’s articles of faith, nor is there any occasion for it. By mentioning some basic beliefs of Islam here, the aim is to point out to all Islamic beliefs, and to invite people to them – nor is it something so necessary that whenever ‘Iman or faith is mentioned in a verse, all details about it should also be mentioned right there. Therefore, the absence of a clearly emphasized mention of the faith in the Messenger or Prophet at this place should have not given anyone having the least commonsense and justice the room to entertain any doubt especially, when the whole Qur’an and hundreds of its verses are brimming with clear statements about belief in the Risalah. Present there are loud and clear assertions that there is no Najat (salvation) without believing in the Rasul (Messenger of Allah) and the sayings of the Rasul fully and completely, and that no belief and action is acceptable or valid without it. But, a group of deviators, which insists on thrusting its repugnant ideas in the Qur’an somehow, has come up with a new theory based on the absence of an explicit mention of prophethood in this verse – which is absolutely contrary to so many open assertions of the Qur’an and Sunnah. They theorize that every person, despite his religion, a Jew or Christian, even an idol-worshipping Hindu could deserve salvation in the Hereafter – if he believes only in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds. For final salvation (as they would prefer) entry in Islam is not necessary. (Na’udhu-bil-lah : Refuge with Allah! )

People whom Allah has blessed with the Taufiq of reciting the Qur’an and having true faith in it would not need some major knowledge or insight to help them remove this doubt which even they could do through these very clear statements. Even readers of the Qur’an with the help of authentic translations could understand the falsity of this kind of theorizing. Some verses are being given here as an example.

The place where the Holy Qur’an has described the articles of faith (Iman) in details appears at the end of Surah al-Baqarah as follows:

كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُ‌سُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّ‌قُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّ‌سُلِهِ

All have believed in Allah, and His angels, and His Books, and His Messengers. (in a way that) “We make no difference between any of His Messengers,” and they have said … (2:285).

Within the details of ‘Iman (faith) described clearly in this verse, it has also been clarified that believing in any one or some Messengers is absolutely insufficient for salvation. Instead of that, believing in all Messengers is a binding condition. If anyone does not believe even in one single Messenger, his or her ‘Iman shall not be valid and acceptable in the sight of Allah. At another place, it is said:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْفُرُ‌ونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَرُ‌سُلِهِ وَيُرِ‌يدُونَ أَن يُفَرِّ‌قُوا بَيْنَ اللَّـهِ وَرُ‌سُلِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ نُؤْمِنُ بِبَعْضٍ وَنَكْفُرُ‌ بِبَعْضٍ وَيُرِ‌يدُونَ أَن يَتَّخِذُوا بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ سَبِيلًا أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُ‌ونَ حَقًّا

Surely those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers, and wish to make the division between Allah and His Messengers, and say, “We believe in some, and disbelieve in some” and wish to take away in between that. Those are the disbelievers in reality … (4:150-151).

The Holy Prophet ﷺ has said:

لَو کَانَ موسٰی حَیًّا لَما وَسعَہ اِلَّا اِتّبَاعِی

Had Musa been alive, he would have had no choice but to follow me.

Now, if someone were to say: Let the followers of every religion keep acting according to their respective religions. Thus, they can find Paradise and achieve salvation in the Hereafter without having to believe in the Holy Prophet ﷺ and without having to become Muslims!’ – this would, then, be a flagrant disregard of the verses cited above.

In addition to that, if every religion or community is something acting according to which in every age is sufficient for ultimate success and salvation, then, the coming of the Last among Prophets and the revelation of the Qur’an itself becomes meaningless. The sending of one Shari’ah after the other also becomes redundant. The first Messenger would have brought one Shariah and one Book. That would have been sufficient. at need was there to send other Messengers, Shariahs, and Books? At the most, sufficient would have been the presence of people who would have preserved the Shari` ah and the Book, practiced it themselves, and persuaded others to do the same – as has been the duty of the ` Ulama of every community. This, then, would be a situation in which the words of the Qur’an:

 لكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْ‌عَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا

(For each of you We have made a way and a method – 5:48) will lose their meaning.

Is it not that the Holy Prophet ﷺ carried out the mission of Jihad against Jews and Christians, and others, those who did not believe in him and in the Book of Allah revealed to him, even fought against them on battlefields? What justification would remain for that? And if, for a human being to be a true believer acceptable with Allah, having faith only in Allah and the Last Day should be taken as sufficient, why then, would Iblis (Satan) be cursed? Did he not believe in Allah? Or, was he a denier of the Last Day? Was he not the one who, even in his fit of anger, by saying: إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ (Till the Day, the [ dead ] are raised – 38:79), confirmed his faith in the Last Day?

The truth of the matter is that this error is the product of the notion that religion can be given as a gift on a silver plate as done in marriages. Seen in a modern and international context, religion can be used to develop bonds of relationship with other nations – although, the Holy Qur’an has said very openly and clearly that we should have our relations with non-Muslims based on tolerance, sympathy, favor, charity, mercy and things like that, this should be done by ensuring that the limits of religion are not crossed and that its frontiers remain fully guarded.

If in the verse under reference, let us suppose, there was no mention of the faith in prophethood, then, other verses quoted above which command it emphatically, would have been sufficient. But, a closer look at this verse itself will show a distinct hint towards belief in prophethood because, in the terminology of the Qur’an, only that ‘Iman billah (belief in Allah) is valid, in which there is the belief in everything told by Allah. The Qur’an has made its terminology very clear in the following words:

فَإِنْ آمَنُوا بِمِثْلِ مَا آمَنتُم بِهِ فَقَدِ اهْتَدَوا

So, if they (the Companions) believe in the like of what you (the Prophets) believe in, they have certainly found the right path – 2:137.

It means that the kind of ‘Iman the noble Sahabah had is the only ‘Iman which deserves to be called ‘Iman billah. And it is obvious that ‘Iman birrasul was a great pillar of the edifice of their ‘Iman. Therefore, the words: مَن اٰمَنَ بِاللہِ (whoever believes in Allah) are inclusive of the belief in the Messenger of Allah.

SOURCE: Maariful Quran, Vol 3, By Grand Mufti Muhammad Shafi (R.A).


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