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Islam Part 2

A while back, I was reading that book by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross called "My Year Inside Radical Islam". I had mentioned in a previous post some questions I had about the position of Christians before Allah. Are we capable of going to heaven? Are we infidels? What does Islam teach about these issues? So, in our cool technological age I decided to email Mr. Gartenstein-Ross and see what he says about it all. I found him to be very accomodating, and he's allowed me to post his response on my blog. (You really must read his book!) Here's his answer:

"With respect to your question, there is a split opinion among Muslims in contemporary times about whether Christians can go to heaven. Compare Qur'an verse 2:62 (saying that Jews, Christians, and Sabians "who believe in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord") to verse 3:85 (saying that "whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers"). The traditionally dominant interpretation is that verse 3:85 abrogates verse 2:62, and therefore that only Islam is a path to salvation. Some contemporary scholarship has challenged that view, but my guess based on observational data is that most Muslims, and most Islamic scholars, hold an exclusivist view of salvation.

As to Christians being "people of the book," that's primarily a political classification and doesn't speak to whether or not Christianity is a path to salvation. The "people of the book" classification allows Christians to continue to practice their faith under Muslim rule, although with the visible subjugation of the dhimmi class.

One final point. You ask whether you're "OK or not" in Muslims' eyes. This ties into the question of whether there can be respect and friendship between people of different faiths that make competing truth claims. It's worth noting that under most interpretations of Christianity, adherents to other religions cannot reach heaven. I do not find this to be an inherently offensive view, so I have difficulty finding it offensive when coming from Muslims rather than Christians. After all, if someone believes that you're on a path to hell and he's right, he's doing you a favor by trying to correct your course. And if he's wrong, that erroneous belief has no impact at all on you. I believe there can be friendship, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence between people who belong to faiths that make competing truth claims. Problems occur when adherents of one faith believe that it is their religious obligation to physically dominate believers in another creed, as is the case for radical Muslims today."


This is really interesting. Thanks for sharing!

April 25, 2007 at 4:45 PM  

hello again,

and upon exploring your blog further i land on this post :) and another on the book by hirsi.

please, if you want to learn about islam learn it from its sources. from scholars who have studied the traditional sciences of islam. if you only want to read critcism's thereof then that's a totally different matter.

with all due respect to the author i have not heard this interpretation of the verse before. it is certainly credible. keep in mind, in islam there is no equivalent of the christian clergy. each person has equal right to interpret the word of god. however, over the years, muslims have come to regard certain interpretations as more credible than others based on the methodology followed.
islam here is meant in its most fundamental sense. literally islam means "to submit (one's will to god to achieve peace)". in this sense, everybody who believes in one god has a claim to salvation. muslim scholar's are unanimous in saying that a person who lived a good life, never heard the message of islam, but believed in one god has a claim to salvation.

January 14, 2008 at 8:03 PM  

thank you khany for your thoughtful comment! i appreciate you taking the time to share your ideas.

i was told you must read the original arabic version to be able to discuss it with any merit with a Muslim. do you find that to be the case, or would an English translation suffice? i am certainly interested in this religion that is affecting so many of the world's events right now.

January 15, 2008 at 9:55 AM  

hello juloyes,

you might already know but i will state to be sure. muslims regard the quran (literally the recitation) as the word of god revealed to the prophet mohammad (peace be upon him) in arabic through the angel gabriel. the quran is not the word of mohammad inspired by god. we also believe that the quran has been preserved in its original form from the first day. therefore there is only one quran, that in arabic. if we dispute an issue we refer back to the precise text of the quran.

translations of the quran are now available in many languages including english. if you have had the chance to translate you will appreciate the difficulties this process ensues. certainly no translation will bring forward the beauty of the quranic recitation in arabic however some translations do a better job than others in capturing part of the essence.

i am a non-arab muslim myself and i have very limited arabic vocabulary. whether the english translation will suffice depends on what purpose you would like it to serve. i believe if you read the entire translation you should come out with a fairly good idea about what the central message of the quran is, what is the purpose of its revelation, what it commands of the believers... however, if you want to debate the precise meaning of a particular verse and you find two translations in disagreement then the arabic is indispensible.

learning modern standard arabic will go some way in this direction. however, the quran was revealed 1400 years a go and, really, this is the arabic you will be required to master, by reading poetry and literature of this time.

yet, i highly recommend that you read a translation of the quran. this is what the majority of the muslims have access to (fewer than 20% of muslims are arabs). if you want to learn about islam there is no better way. you can read the translation online at
or you can download a translation here

may god have mercy on all those who seek true guidance.

January 15, 2008 at 12:54 PM  

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