UI – Part 204 – Grace – God vs Allah
Reading the Bible and the Quran the words Mercy and Grace often appear as an attribute of God. Just what is Mercy? Just what is Grace?
Understanding these terms is imperative to understanding God. What is provided humans when they experience God’s Mercy and/or God’s Grace?
This week we will delve into the term, “Grace.’
Grace – Quran
Grace is an elusive word in the Quran. Allah, in translations from the Arabic, is either the ‘Most Gracious’ or the ‘Most Beneficent.’ They are synonymous. In reading the references to this term the Quran provides little in terms of consistency or answers as to what is the Grace of Allah. It remains a mystery.
Using the Index of the Translation of the Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali[i] there is no reference to Grace or Beneficent. Even under the name Allah. There are passages that can be located that refer to Allah…is Loving, Allah…is Merciful, Allah…is Forgiving, Allah…is Compassionate, Allah…is Good, and so on, but not Gracious or Beneficent. I cannot answer as to Why. All Suras except 9 open with Allah the Merciful, the Beneficent, etc.
A more extensive article on this subject was referenced on the Internet – ‘Allah Most Gracious – Grace in the Quran.’
From an understanding of Grace and Mercy (in the next blog) we have an opportunity to know Allah or God better. Who is Allah and what is he like; who is God and what is he like? Is one more knowable than the other, revealed in Scripture?
Sura 19:96 reads: “Those who believe and do good deeds, for them the Beneficent (Allah) will bring them love.” Here the term is an attribute of Allah, a name that is the same as Allah. Believe in Allah. Do good works. It is not faith alone. The reward is Allah’s love. This suggests conditional Love, more than defining ‘Grace.’ Allah likes the charitable as well. Thus Grace from Allah, His love bestowed, is a positive gesture of acceptance. Charles St-Onge, the author of the article referenced[ii], refers to this as “a ‘good will’ type of grace.” It is earned. It is not a gift from Allah.
Sura 78:38 suggests Allah allows others to speak on His behalf, “none shall speak (on the Day of Judgment) except he whom the Beneficent (Allah) permits and he speaks aright.” This is notable. Who might Allah or God allow to so speak, or be an advocate for believers? Who in heaven can carry out that assignment? Sura 53:26 mentions the term, ‘intercession’ suggesting an intermediary. And there may be but one that can intercede, as in 19:87, “no power of intercession, save him who has made a covenant with the Beneficent (Allah)” And that ‘one’ intercessor is “but he who bears witness to the Truth…” (Sura 43:86) Could this be referring to Jesus?
Allah’s Grace, as it were, protects the Islamists from Satan (Iblis). Satan is said to be able to mislead man as long as they are on earth. Sura 7:14, “respite me (Satan) until the day they are raised (spiritual resurrection)” This led to deceit in the garden of evil (Sura 7:19-25). Was this the introduction of Original Sin (7:22), which the Islamists claim is not inherited? The exceptions to Satan’s temptations are the ‘purified ones’ (Sura 15:40), “My servants (Sura 15:42), thou hast no authority over them…” The Quran suggests Satan was judged to cause sin by Allah, not a creation of Allah, caused by Allah, to cause wrong among mankind. Allah’s Grace would not be causal. Yet the Quran also notes that Allah is the best of Deceivers (Sura 8:30 and 13:42) and the ultimate cause of all things (Sura 6:1) – “Allah…who created the heavens and the earth, and made darkness and light (the first cause)…” There are inconsistencies.
Allah is in full control of his grace, bestowing on those he chooses. “Had it not been for the favor of my Lord, I should have been among those brought (to Hell)” It is not unconditional. “There are they on whom Allah bestows favours, from among the prophets,…the seed of Adam,…the seed of Abraham and Israel, and those who We guided and chose….” (Sura 19:58).
Free will or free choice is not in the Quran. Muslims are measured by works, ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ (Sura 101:6-11). The ‘heavy’ get a blessing, the ‘light’ get Hell (a burning Fire), but judgment comes when you die. No early calls. Grace then comes in the afterlife – might be rephrased into a question. Obedience to Allah, according to the dictates in the Quran, is a pathway to the potential for Allah’s beneficent love. The Will of Allah is paramount, yet who knows his will, and thus who knows Allah? By His Will why is not everyone Muslim? Sura 17:7 suggests you do good for your own souls and evil for your own souls. Is this free will, yet to be contrasted with, “Whatever good befalls thee it is from Allah, and whatever misfortune befalls thee, it is from thyself….” (Sura 4:79). Allah, by Muhammad’s account, only takes credit for the good. But then the Quran states (Sura 2:26) “Many He (Allah) leaves in error…many He leads aright….” Those ‘he leaves in error’ are the transgressors. Is Allah forming his own class of transgressors? Is Allah relegating those he so chooses to be Infidels?
So if Allah is the chooser – all is his choice. The Quran thus suggests Predestination – all has been decided upfront. “Allah sets on the right path Whom he pleaseth” (Sura 2:272). The conclusion would be that Allah (He) then sets on the wrong path whom he pleases; leaving those in error he so chooses.
Grace by the standards of the Quran is elusive. It is an unknown as to whether man or woman has any control of his fate. There is no clarity to finding an answer to ‘what is grace?’ in the Quran.
Grace – Bible
“God, being rich is mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6)
Assume everyone is a non-believer. Who loves them? Allah or God? How do you go from being a non-believer to becoming a believer? What is the process? We all sin. We are all tempted. By that standard of perfection no one can achieve the level of righteousness to find the welcome mat of the eternal kingdom before you. We would all be condemned to The Fire. Laws are an obstacle all of which cannot be crossed. Disobedience is defined as disobeying even the least of the Laws. Obey most but not all, then who decides? By God’s own admission the bridge is too long to cross, the mountains too high, the rivers too deep – if not for the saving ‘Grace’ of the Lord.
That is the bad news – due to our sinful nature, our weakness, we are easily tempted. Even a lie, deception of any sort, is a crime committed against God for which his wrath, his severe chastisement, is punishment deserved.
But the ‘good news’, the Gospel, is through the Grace of God we can be saved, in spite of our sinful proclivities. We have inherited a sinful nature – Original Sin. As a result of Adam’s choice, Eve being deceived, we fell from grace, died spiritually, only to be restored by the new-Adam, Christ, via a New Covenant made between God and mankind. “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Christians view works as actions that we take because we love the Lord and do what is right. “If it is by Grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise Grace would no longer be Grace.” It is a simple matter. If we are to simply weigh the scales, the heavy side tipping towards a divine outcome, Grace is no longer needed. But we all know that is not the case. None deserve His Grace. But He favours everyone with His grace. It is not a merit system. No badges of courage or a book of green stamps for each good deed far exceeding any books of black stamps for evil or lesser deeds. The only requirement, or justification, is having faith in the Risen Lord.
One trespass, just one, that of Adam, brought condemnation from God. Think about how many trespasses by man have occurred since. Many, Many. Then came God’s free gift. We all like free stuff. Jesus Christ’s death, taking the punishment we all deserve, his sacrifice freed us from Hell, gave us hope and the opportunity to be with God forever. ”The free gift is not like the result of one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” (Romans 5:16) The magnitude of sin man aggregated since the Fall in the Garden when forgiven through God’s ultimate sacrifice makes Grace that much more significant. The newness of life given was that of living, made spiritually alive and right with God, through Christ’s death, resurrection and life, indwelling in those who believe in Him. Those who accept this Grace are united with him, and will live with Jesus as their example and guide.
There is no mystery in God’s Grace. Jesus was Divine. His miracle, the miracle of the Resurrection, proved his godliness. Christians are made right with God through baptism, erasing our sins and accepting Christ. God made that possible, making also a relationship with him, making God knowable. “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under Grace.” (Romans 6:14)
The non-believer becomes a believer when his heart opens to God, understanding and accepting his Grace through Jesus Christ. “You who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching….” (Romans 6:17) God writes no one off. You may choose God, choose Christ, and convert from a state of disbelief to having faith in the Risen Lord. Your home is with God, but should you choose to stray, know that he will always welcome you back.
Overcome your doubts, erase them, make the effort, and if you cannot then find another path, but if you can, and you will with the Word of God as your guide, you will discover God’s free gift of Grace. Your heart will be altered; your life will be dramatically different; your life will be most rewarding.
It is not God who chooses you, but you choose God, but then if you choose God, has God chosen you. This is the conundrum of Predestination. Either way once you have God in your heart you are on the eternal path. “The fruit (from God’s Grace) you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
“For by Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Grace is ill-defined in the Quran. It remains a mystery. It can be a variety of actions by Allah from choosing to free a person from his own potential demise, to selecting those who will follow the path of Islam, and to forgiving those Allah decides to forgive. Allah does not love unconditionally, as does the God of the Bible. However Allah may love those whose works are good and ‘heavy’ as a measure of weight, vs ‘light’ or inadequate. The decision is Allah’s. Having faith in Allah and Muhammad and the Quran are not requirements that engender Allah’s grace. They help. Certainly scholars of Islam, authorities whose governance is both spiritual and temporal rely on man’s interpretation and judgment, earthly judgment and punishment, to exercise restraint on the population they oversee. Allah’s grace is not free. It must be earned.
God’s Grace, that which is Biblical, is quite clear. It is the provision for man’s Salvation. God’s love, unconditional, enables mankind to release the chains of their sinful nature because He has provided the chastisement, the punishment, using a substitute for us all. Christ died for the sins of man, overcoming sin, but then miraculously rose from the dead, resurrected, to live, overcoming death, to then dwell within those who believe in God and his incomprehensible Being. People on earth came to know Jesus recording their experience and his words only to realize he was divine. His death was tragic, but the reason and the justification were God’s blessing on us all so that the impossible was made possible – a life eternal with Him. That is GRACE. God’s Grace is His free gift to those who believe in Him.
Allah and God, as viewed from their respective Scripture, the Quran and the Bible, are not the same. The Truth is no mystery, as it was revealed in the life, death and resurrection of the Being of Jesus Christ. Muhammad did not sacrifice for his people. He wanted a united Arabian Peninsula behind a singular God. That was a worthy objective. His foundation came from the Bible. His teaching reflected what he learned and understood, complicated, I feel, by his own mortal condition, that which befalls us all, sin. It was further clouded by achievements garnered in his pursuit for his people and the status he attained, a following, allowing for his pride to raise him to a pedestal of his own choosing. The Quran is not a corrected copy of the Bible, except as corrected by Muhammad to suit his purposes.
There are millions of Muslims that have faith in God, their Allah, and seek goodness in their lives and treatment towards others, to include the non-Islam-believer. It is not clear to them, it appears, however, what is Grace and how that is administered. It is not clear from the Quran that their path towards the eternal kingdom will actually bring them to the gates of Heaven.
That is not the case for Christians. God’s Grace is quite lucid. Through belief in Christ the welcome mat is laid before the gates of His Kingdom.
Grace and Peace
[i] The Holy Quran, with English Translation and Commentary, 2002, Ahmadiyya Anjunman Isha’at Islam Lahore Inc., USA, Dublin, Ohio. (First Edition 1917)
[ii] http://stonge.intheway.org/documents/Grace%20in%20the%20Qur’an.pdf – Allah, Most Gracious”: Grace in the Qur’an