The Glorious Qu’ran represents man as a free and responsible being, gifted with the faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong. Then according to the Qu’ran, man is capable of obeying the law of God. He needs nobody to atone for his sins, but himself; for the Lord is merciful and will forgive him his sins. The Glorious Book of Islam mentions no original sin, which we inherit at our birth. It does not represent man as coming into the world with a load of sin on his back. On the contrary, it represents him as an unconscious Muslim at the moment of creation. The Prophet of Islam says: “Every child is born with a Muslim heart”, and it is the external influences that make it what it becomes afterwards in life. If bad influences happen to be at work, the child generally surrenders to such influences, unless God Himself undertakes to care for the little soul. When the child grows into manhood, he may used God gifted faculty of discrimination and may become what he chooses in life. Indeed, God gives him many a chance in life, that he may recover himself from sin and iniquity. He may make or ruin his fortune even in the spiritual sense. If in him, Faith asserts its power, if true repentance places him in the right attitude towards God, if God impels him to do virtuous deeds, if he feels the hand of God working in the smallest concerns of his life, and, above all, if he accepts death with a smiling face, why this is sufficient atonement in the sight of the Lord, whose pre-eminent attribute is Mercy.
To understand the Qu’ranic conception of man, a reference to the following verses is necessary: “Of goodliest fabric We created man, then brought him down to be the lowest of the low; save who believe and do things that are right, for theirs shall be a reward that faileth not” [95:4-8]. These verses indicate that man, at the moment of his creation, is perfectly sinless. It is afterwards, that sin tries to assert itself and bring him down to the level of the brutes. But he has also the divine in him, - the power to offer if he so wills, a stubborn resistance; and by the help of this power, he may “grow up to a pious believer”. Although his own force is feeble, there is the support of God which will cooperate with him in this work of self–regeneration only if he shows genuine desire to turn to God, to believe and to do things that are right. The Glorious Qu’ran is very clear on this point. It does not ask to believe in the doctrine of original sin; and so atonement, in a Christian sense, has no place in the Islamic Scripture. What God wants of us, is this that we for our part, should make the utmost endeavour to secure His obedience and grace while He for His part, undertakes to direct us into His ways. “And whoso maketh his utmost endeavour towards Us, We will surely direct him into Our ways,” says the Qu’ran [29:69].
This utmost endeavour on our part to reach God, involves the idea of personal atonement and sacrifice which the Muslim is required to offer. We find the same thought clearly expressed elsewhere in the Word of God. “They who set their face with resignation God–ward, and do what is right, their reward is with their Lord; nor fear shall come on them, neither shall they be grieved.” [2:112] The Muslim is taught the high truth, that “the good drives away the evil in man”, and so he requires not anyone to take the burden of his sin and to undergo punishment as his ‘substitute’. He develops his faculties, and tries his very best, to make use of them in doing good deeds and working out the will of his Maker; and hopes that his little will be accepted as much by the Most Merciful Lord.
Everywhere, in the Glorious Qu’ran, man is represented as the crown and glory of creation. He is the central figure of this beautiful universe. In Adam, he is God’s vicegerent on earth. Out of love, God has created man. And he has created for him the heavens and the earth, and sendeth down water from the heaven, and so bringeth forth the fruits for his food and to him He has subjected the ships, so that by His command they pass through the sea; and to him He has subjected the sun and the moon in their constant courses; and to him He has subjected the day and the night; of everything which he may ask Him, giveth He to him; and if he would reckon up the favours of God, he can never count them.
“And the cattle, for you He created them; from them you have warm garments, and they are useful in many ways; and of them you eat; and they obey you well when you fetch them home and when you drive them forth to pasture: and they carry your burdens to lands which you could not else reach, but with travail of soul: truly, your Lord is full of Goodness, and Merciful: And He has given you horses, mules and asses, that you may ride them, and for your pleasure: And things, of which you have no knowledge, has He created. Of God it is, to point out the way. Some [of you] turn aside from it; but had He pleased, He had guided you all aright.” [16:5-9]
According to the Qu’ran, God has endowed us with the power of self–government which is an almost incredible trust. This earth is put into our hands, to make what we will of it and ourselves, and its inhabitants. It is stored with all possible helps to us, in natural forces and materials; we are given intelligence, to find them out and to use them for the enrichment and comfort of our lives; we are given a complete code of regulations, to guide us as to what is right and what is wrong; we are drawn towards well–doing, in accord with this code of regulations, we are trusted with the freedom to do with all this what we will. The outcome, good or evil, is what we and our fellows of the human race, past and future, are helping, or have helped, or will help to make it in the future.
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