Last Friday's post at Organic Muslimah (Will She Go to Hell?) got me thinking. Especially since I'm starting to get involved with some youth activities, it's been bothering me what a simplistic outlook on the world has been conveyed to children in the guise of Islam.
Now I'm far from an expert (I never attended Islamic Sunday School), so correct me if I'm wrong. But it seems like the basic message taught to Muslim kids these days is that one category of activities is fard (mandatory), another category of activities are haraam (forbidden), and if you don't follow the rules, you're going to Hell. And everyone who isn't Muslim? They're going to roast in Hell, too.
Very simplistic, isn't it? And sure, that is useful as little kids aren't prepared to accept the finer subtleties of fiqh, and a healthy fear of hellfire is certainly a good thing. But what you end up with are people who think that since they do the fard, and avoid the haraam, they are getting Jannah (Paradise) and everyone else is getting Hellfire. Ouch.
That is bound to leave a person wondering, just like the persona in Organica’s post, what about the people who lived before Muhammad (s), before Islam, before Shari’ah? In fact, as a Christian I had been seeking an answer to a similar question—what would happen to people who lived before Jesus (s), who didn’t have the opportunity to accept him or believe in him (who Christians believe died for their sins.) I wasn’t satisfied with the answers, as clearly Christianity abandoned the religion at the time of Jesus (s)—the law is gone, and I could see no reasonable explanation why people today wouldn’t have to follow the same or at least similar law as the people before Jesus. It never made sense that people would have to follow a different path to salvation. And what about the people who weren’t blessed to be in the nation of Israel? They didn’t seem to have any way at all of getting to Heaven before Jesus! (s)
So to see a Muslim struggle with a similar question is puzzling to me, because I embraced Islam partly because of the answer to this question. Abraham (s) wasn't Jewish, and he wasn't Christian--but yet he is a great patriarch in both of those traditions. He never, according to the Bible, mentioned belief in Jesus (s). So? Why should that be the cornerstone of my belief? Why the change? But Allah answers this question for us--Abraham (s) was on the true path of Islam, submission to God. Before Muhammad, after Muhammad--Islam is the same, the deen (although not necessarily the law--Shari'ah) is the same. So what happens to people before Muhammad (s)? They were sent messengers too, Allah tells us He sent a messenger to every nation. And if they still didn't get the message, we know that Allah is Just in His Judgment. Our obligation as Muslims is to believe in all of the Messengers of Allah--and that Muhammad is the very last one. The people before would only have to believe in what Allah told them through His messengers, but essentially the message, the way of life, it never changed.
This is one of the many logical truths which demonstrated to me the real beauty of Islam. On the other hand, I think people get confused about how they should view non-Muslims, and many people take the simplistic approach of reserving God's mercy for themselves, and God's wrath for everyone else, though it's not their place to do so. Mostly, I think that approach is a result of an overemphasis on either hope, or fear, where balance should be maintained. InshaaAllah I'm going to cover these topics in subsequent threads.