The Koran

By Islam

Sin, Righteousness and the "Straight Path"

True faith (iman) consists of complete belief in the Divine Unity and submission to the will of God. In order to indicate the "straight path" (al-sirat al mustaqim), to true faith, God has periodically sent prophets to communicate his message to weak and forgetful mankind. Muhammad is the last and greatest in a long line of men elected to prophethood by God. Many of these are shared with the Judeo-Christian scriptures - Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus, to name a few - and the Koran relates their stories in very similar, although not entirely identical terms. Others, such as Hud and Salih are derived from Arab traditions. Abraham is the first prophet, and is also regarded as the first Muslim, being the first to whom the faith was revealed, indeed, the Koran frequently refers to Islam as "the faith of Abraham". There is also a sense of the Arabs being a "chosen people". Each prophet came from among a particular tribe or race, in order to guide his own people. The Koran states that God is very careful about whom he chooses as the recipients of his word, "He leads astray whom he will, and guides whom he will", and also explains that the Arabs were particularly favoured, being the descendants of Abraham, "Abraham enjoined the faith on his children" (K.2:132). Muhammad was sent to the Arabs in order to confirm and consummate the messages of the earlier prophets, "to warn the mother of cities (Mecca) and those round about her"(K. 42:5), in the face of the imminent Last Day. The Koran is his miraculous revelation, referring to itself as "a guide and joyful tidings for the faithful, confirming previous scriptures".

The Koran states that at the end of the world, the dead will be resurrected and each individual will be judged according to his faith and deeds. The Koranic argument for the necessity of this final judgement, is that because not all moral requital is meted out in our earthly lives, a conclusive judgement at the resurrection is needed to complete the process. Moreover on a physical level, God, being omnipotent has the ability to give and to destroy all life. As has been observed, all created life is limited, and therefore subject to God's uncreated and limitless power. According to the Koran, there will be no intercession (although Islamic tradition developed the notion of intercession quite early on). God is infinitely merciful, but it is up to his discretion alone which sinners shall be saved. Due to his weakness of nature, man is ever prone to forget of willfully reject the word of God. He is encouraged in this by the machinations of Satan (Shaytan), whom the Koran teaches was an angel who fell from divine favour by an act of disobedience resulting from his sinful pride. It seems that prior to Muhammad man has been particularly obdurate regarding God's message.

Very few men have accepted the grace of God; most have rejected it, and become "the ungrateful" (kuffar). Humans have proved especially prone to the grave sin of polytheism. However, as God is infinitely merciful, it is always possible for a sinner to repent, and to redeem his soul by a genuine conversion to faith in the Divine Unity, which will have the effect of annulling all previous sins. Those who have true faith will be saved and will enter heaven, whilst the condemned will burn in hell. Heaven and Hell are described as both spiritual and physical states. The blessed will bask in the blissful pleasure of divine grace, and shall experience endless physical enjoyment "His (the righteous man) shall be a Blissful state in a lofty garden, with clusters of fruit within his reach" (K.69:20). On the other hand, the damned will suffer fire in their hearts and will also have to endure the physical torments of "chains and fetters and a blazing fire".