Subject: Christianity and Islam Part 3 – Sin and the nature of man
Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”
On September 30, 2001, the Guardian published excerpts of a letter that authorities found in the luggage of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers who was the principle hijacker on American Airlines Flight 11. A second copy of this letter was also found at Dulles Airport in a vehicle that was used by Nawaf Alhazmi, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77. And then finally, a third copy of this same letter was found at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
As Attorney General John Ashcroft explained at the press briefing where he and the FBI announced this letter was being made public, these three letters are clear evidence linking the Islamic terrorists on the three separate flights of the morning of September 11, 2001. Here are selected excerpts from that letter:
“Read al-Tawba and Anfal (war chapters from the Qu’ran) and remember all of the things God has promised for the good believers and the martyrs… You should feel complete tranquility, because the time between you and your marriage (in heaven) is very short. Afterwards begins the happy life, where God is satisfied with you, and eternal bliss ‘in the company of the prophets, the companions, the martyrs and the good people, who are all good company’…
Do not seem confused or show signs of nervous tension. Be happy, optimistic, calm because you are heading for a deed that God loves and will accept. It will be the day, God willing, you spend with the women of paradise. Smile in the face of hardship young man. For you are heading toward eternal paradise.
So remember God, as He said in His book: ‘Oh Lord, pour your patience upon us and make our feet steadfast and give us victory over the infidels. Pray for yourself and all your brothers that they may be victorious and hit their targets and ask God to grant you martyrdom facing the enemy… Know that the gardens of paradise are waiting for you in all their beauty, and the women of paradise are waiting, calling out, ‘Come hither, friend of God.’ They have dressed in their most beautiful clothing.
When the hour of reality approaches, the zero hour, wholeheartedly welcome death for the sake of God. Always be remembering God. Either end your life while praying, seconds before the target, or make your last words: ‘There is no God but God, Muhammad is His messenger’. Afterwards, we will all meet in the highest heaven, God willing.”
This letter reveals a core tenet in the Qu’ran: earning the favor of Allah, and hoping for entry into eternal paradise filled with beautiful women, is based on doing the ‘good works’ of a ‘good believer’. For these suicide bombers, the ‘good work’ was martyrdom against the infidels (those who reject the core beliefs of the Qu’ran). As Dr. Ergun Caner explains in ‘Unveiling Islam’, the concept of ‘sin’ in the Qu’ran, which would jeopardize a good Muslim’s hope for paradise, is failing to do those good works put before you:
“The Qu’ran determines: ‘Every man’s fate we have fastened on his own neck’ (surah 17:13). Muhammed depended on his own good works, along with Allah’s mercy, to earn heaven. The Muslim has no concept of original sin, the Christian insistence that men and women are born sinful. Instead, sin comes from ignorance and pride… Allah demands only that the good outweighs the bad on the scales.”
In the Islamic worldview, men and women are born without sin and then commit sin based on their own weakness in following Allah’s will as defined in the Qu’ran. In the Christian worldview, all people are born sinful, as part of their very nature, and are in need of a Savior, as our verse this week (Psalm 51:5) explains. This is a crucial difference between Islam and Christianity.
In Islam, you place your hope in your good works, trying to please Allah more than you offend him. Even to the point of believing that you are a martyr by flying an airplane filled with innocent people into a building. In Christianity, any sin is an offense against a holy God and must be judged with a penalty. Good works cannot cover the offense. Since you are a criminal, justice demands that crime be punished.
And in history, it was. Jesus Christ paid that infinite penalty for all sin that has been committed by all people, Muslim or Christian or anyone else. It is called the grace of God, that He would maintain His standard of justice and still provide the solution to the punishment each of us deserves – through the sacrificial death of His only Son on the cross. And He does this for one reason: because He loves you.