Dr. Peter Riddell delivered a lecture on sin, repentance, and forgiveness in Islam during a CIU course. Here, Riddell presents the Islamic view of sin, repentance, and forgiveness from the Islamic materials. 


  Here starts the auto-generated transcription of Dr. Peter Riddell’s Lecture: Sin, Repentance, and Forgiveness: 


Welcome back to understanding the Quran. We’re moving on to a new lecture topic now. The topic is sin, repentance, and forgiveness in Islam. We’re going to break this into different parts. We’re going to look first at sin.


I draw your attention to the materials on the Moodle page. You have a set different set of materials there. You have a translation by Arthur Jeffery from, a work by Ibn Saud, a classical writer on the fall of Adam, which of course is a key sin in the Islamic account. You also have a comparative index to sin drawn from the answering Islam website, a useful resource for compiling together diverse references to seen in the Islamic materials. We also have, in terms of Christian response, we have some writings on the website on the Moodle page by Karl Fander, a 19th century, Christian CMS missionary in India.


References to sin occur repeatedly in the Islamic literature. Beginning with the Quran, verse 2 verse 81, I’m sorry, chapter 2 goes as follows. Nay, those who seek gain in evil and are girt round by their sins, they are companions of the fire, therein shall they abide forever. So this association of sin and the fire, sin and the fire comes through repeatedly in the Islamic materials. The Quran presents it, and the other materials explicate it to explain the Quran.


The Hadith also contains multiple diverse references to sin. This reference is taken from the the collection by a Muslim, Muslim ibn Hajjaj, and his source is Uthman ibn Affan. That’s number 441 in Sahih Muslim. I heard Allah’s apostle, peace be upon him, say, when the time for a prescribed prayer comes, if any Muslim performs ablution well and offers his prayer with humility and bowing, it will be an expiation for his past sins so long as he has not committed a major sin and this applies for all times. So in this shorter death, we have a window into a broader understanding of sin that there are major sins and lesser sins.


Also, that sins can be canceled out, especially the lesser sins can be canceled out by certain works. Here’s another important reference in Bukhary that alludes to the question of sin. Bukhari writes, Allah’s apostle was asked, what is the best deed? He replied to believe in Allah and his apostle. The questioner then asked, what is the next?


He replied, to participate in jihad in Allah’s cause. The questioner again asked, what is the next? He replied to perform Hajj, Mabru, and adds comment pilgrimage to Mecca, which is accepted by Allah and is performed with the intention of seeking Allah’s Allah’s pleasure only and not to show off and without committing a sin and in accordance with the traditions of the prophet, peace be upon him. The translator has added that commentary at the end. So they are the good deeds to avoid sin.


Sin is a diverse concept in the Islamic materials, and different words are used for different kinds of sin. And what I’d like to do now is to give you a list of those words that are used at different points of Quran to refer to different kinds of sin. Hatia is the principal term used for sin in the Arabic Bible, and it literally means missing the mark. It occurs in those Quran verses listed there. Compare it with Romans 3 23.


The term entails a burden or a heavy load, and it incur occurs in in surah 94, in the early verses. We also have the term dalaal appearing in the Quran as well as dulma, which means injustice and inequity, whereas dala means astray. You have a range of other terms, vanba, which means a crime or a fault and that’s used a lot in the Arabic Bible but in the plural also appearing in the Quran at verse 2 of surah 48. Means transgression. It occurs in Quran surah 45.


Compare it with the use in Romans in the Arabic Bible. Now a key term for sin is shirk, which literally means association of God, association of Allah with other gods. There are four aspects to this shirk. Idolatry, ascribing plurality to god, ascribing divine knowledge or power to other than God, and performance of ceremonies implying reliance on other than God. I refer you to the dictionary by Thomas Hughes, the dictionary of Islam, which is available on your Moodle page, which discusses the four kinds of shirk, which we also encountered in an earlier lecture.


Shirk meaning association of Allah with other gods and thereby me ultimately meaning apostasy because it means renouncing belief in Allah as one god. That’s one of the major sins of Islam. Other terms used are fascia, fujur, sei, su and durum, referring to specific sins, adultery, depravity, single mistake, evil, crime, as well as vola, an error, an oversight, facade, corruption. Bhutan, lying or slander. Asyan, rebellion.


Junna, a crime. All of these terms are used for sin and they constitute the body of sin as a group understanding. Another key sin is being a free thinker or a vindic, a magician or an apostate that comes out of the Risaleh. And these are some of the greatest sins in Islam. So being an apostate, forgetting a quranic chapter or a verse which had been memorized this reference to that in the hadith collection of Abu Dawood.


Shirk, we mentioned, was one of the greatest sins in Islam. There is some difference among the scholars as to what are the greatest sins, and because there’s difference among the scholars, you will find difference in the modern day amongst, Islamic writers and ordinary Muslims. Al Ghazali, the great classical scholar who died in 11/11, he records a difference of opinion among the companions among Mohammed’s friends as to the number of major sins. Some were saying that there were 4. Others were saying there were 7 major sins, others were saying there are 9 major sins, and ibn Abbas, the early companion of Mohammed, who was a source of many of the hadith accounts, said that there were 70 major sins.


According to Al Ghazali, suicide is a major sin, but it is a lesser sin than shirk associating others with Allah. Al Baydawi, the commentator who we encountered in the earlier lectures on the tafsir, he died in 1286, he gives a concise listing of 7 grave sins. They are associating other gods with God, killing a person whom god has declared inviolable, slandering a blameless woman, consuming the wealth of an orphan, charging interest is a grave sin, in this view, deserting a cause, and being obstinate towards one’s parents. So these are the grave sins. In opposition to the grave sins, there are forgivable sins.


There are lesser sins. Being soiled with urine, according to Abu Dhabi, is one of those. Non payment of the zakat, the tithe, is another that’s referred to in one of the legal texts, the. And another legal text, Alhidaya, says letting premises for use as a church or a pagoda is a forgivable sin, but still a sin. I’d like you to go back and look at all of the slides on, the sins that we’ve encountered, and I’d like you to make notes on similarities and differences between the Quran and the Bible on the understanding of sin.


How would you go about talking to a Muslim? Given that they have the approach to sin that they do, how would you go about talking to a Muslim about a biblical understanding of sin? Continuing on from our discussion of sin in the last lecture, repentance and forgiveness are themes associated with sin in the Islamic discourse, and we’re going to turn our attention now to repentance and forgiveness in Islam. Now as we go ahead with this topic, I’d like you to be keeping one eye on the Moodle page. There are a number of important documents on the Moodle page to help you.


You have a film, which we’re going to look at shortly. There is a, sermon by a Muslim in Pakistan on the whole notion of forgiveness in Islam. And then you have two pieces of writing by Karl Fander, the 19th century CMS missionary in India in India, and he writes about the nature of sin and the means of forgiveness of sin and responds to it from a Christian perspective. So that will give you some important Christian angles on this whole discussion. Let’s first consider repentance in Islam.


Repentance is a theme that one finds in particular contexts. The month of Ramadan, the fasting month of Ramadan is a time when repentance is supposed to be at the fore of people’s consciousness. And indeed, there are many references to repentance in the Quran. Repentance in Arabic is a, and there is an entire chapter of the Quran that is called the chapter of, the chapter of repentance. Let’s first look at this reference from surah 85 verse 10, which says, those who persecute the believers, men and women, and do not turn in repentance will have the penalty of hell.


They will have the penalty of the burning fire. So punishment will come if there’s no repentance. In other words, sin, those who persecute, No repentance, therefore punishment. On the question of repentance, we turn to Sufi writers because repentance as a notion features very largely in Sufi consciousness and Sufi writings. Now one of the greatest Sufi writers was Al Ghazali.


He died in 1111. And one of his most famous works was translated in 1982 by Karim, and I have drawn on that for a discussion for Al Ghazali’s discussion of repent repentance or Tawba. Al Ghazali says, repentance has four principles. It must be sincere. The repentant must determine to turn away from both major and minor sins in the future.


There we have this distinction between major and minor sins. The repentant must search into into his or her past sins, and the repentant must understand the need for repentance. Al Ghazali goes on that repentance has 3 ingredients, the knowledge of the sin, repentance for the sin, and giving up sin in the future. Now this is a very Sufi discussion, and this is the kind of discussion that Sufi Muslims, mystical Muslims, engage in, and we’ll be looking more closely at Sufi Islam in a later lecture. Ghazali, a Sufi writer, says that repentance is compulsory because it’s firstly the only way to salvation, citing verse 24 verse 31 of surah 24.


But furthermore, repentance is compulsory because the Sharia law says it’s compulsory. So what are the forms of repentance in Islam? How can people repent or take penance? Well, penance can take the form of feeding 10 freeborn poor Muslims according to the legal text, Arisaleh. Or it can take the form of setting free a believing slave who is free from all blemishes, according to the same legal text.


Or repentance can take the form of returning stolen property, shunning what is forbidden, asking for forgiveness, performing superegoory superegoory acts of worship, and pronouncing formulaic conut supplications according to that same text. So you can see that repentance is a very workspace thing in Islam. Taking certain actions will bring about penance. How does the Islamic concept of repentance that we’ve just been discussing compare with biblical teaching on repentance? How would you respond as a Christian to the concepts of repentance that we have just discussed in the slides?


What about forgiveness? Allah is particularly pleased when one of his servants repents. We read in the riyadu sadihin. We’re told in the Quran in verse 3 of Surah 110, celebrate the praises of thy lord and pray for his forgiveness for he is off returning. Now this concept of forgiveness and mercy is a frequent recurrent theme in the Quran and in the Islamic literature.


In the Hadith, for example, we read in Bukhary’s Hadith, Allah’s apostle said if anyone of you feels drowsy while praying, he should go to bed till his slumber is over. Because in praying while drowsy, one does not know whether one is asking for forgiveness or for a bad thing for oneself. Always be on the lookout for terms which are similar, but which mask underlying differences. Is the forgiveness and the repentance that we read about in Islam, the terms are the same as in Christianity. Are they the same in terms of underlying function and form?


We read in the Hadith collection of Abu Dawood that when the prophet came out of the privy, he used to say grant me thy forgiveness. That’s an interesting one to think about. There are different views. Again, we’re drawing on a range of legal texts and Sufi texts here, Different views on forgiveness. According to the legal text, Harisala, Allah will forgive if the sinners repent.


Same texts ask God’s forgiveness for believing parents. And Al Ghazali says every sincere repentance is accepted and forgiveness is forthcoming. Salvation by deed. We find this in a hadith account. Whoever says glory be to God and in his praise 100 times in a day, his sins will be put away from him, though they be as the foam of the sea.


According to a hadith account recorded by William Goldsack the in his book on selections of Mohammedan traditions. Now the whole idea of forgiveness is interlinked with the often repeated concept of God’s mercy. How does intercession work with forgiveness? Can believers be interceded for? If they have sinned, is there a form of intercession?


Well, according to Ali Al Khari, a classical scholar, the righteous are prophets and saintly persons who can intercede for sinners. So prophets and saintly persons can intercede for sinners according to that writer. He also reports that the Mortazila, who we’ve encountered in earlier writing, they were the liberal theologians of early Islam who believed in free will and so forth. They apparently downgraded intercession to something which can only increase a person’s rank in paradise, not getting there in the first place. They believe that those committing the greatest sins remain in hell forever, and that was a great debate in early Islam.


Do Muslims who commit mortal sins remain in hell forever? The Mordazielites said yes. Others said no. Remember that repentance and forgiveness act as a sign of warning of the punishment of the fire. And we have to reiterate this this idea that so often when Christians study Islam, we see words that sound familiar.


Repentance, that’s a term that’s well embedded within Christian, doctrine. Similarly, forgiveness. But other terms used in the same way, do they mask a deep seated similarity or a deep seated difference? According to Lagard, he writes the reality of sin to repentance to forgiveness in Islam belongs to a system quite different from our own. William Phipps writes on this whole topic of, forgiveness in Islam and Christianity as well.


He argues that both the biblical and the Quranic and hadith materials argue for both vertical and horizontal forgiveness, namely God forgives as people forgive each other. However, Jesus attached no strings to this, he says, teaching forgiveness for any who repented, says Phipps. Whereas the Quran limits forgiveness. It’s not for pagans. Mohammed did not forgive poets who criticized him, and he showed no mercy in certain instances.


So forgiveness, says Phipps, in Islam is contingent upon certain conditions. I’d like you to stop the film. Stop the recording now and watch the film how to do repentance in Islam. A link is provided on the Moodle page. Furthermore, this whole question of forgiveness, sin, repentance, and forgiveness is the focus of Chalkut Mukherjee’s excellent book, The Search For Forgiveness, Pardon and Punishment in Islam and Christianity, published by IBP in 2004.


It’s a comparative study of the notion of forgiveness in Islam and Christianity, and I would highly recommend it.