8 - HOW WAS ABRAHAM'S SON REDEEMED?
CHALLENGE: Muslims accept the teaching of the Koran, whereby man only can be saved from hell and get to paradise by doing good works. This is why they reject the Christian belief in redemption through sin offerings or through the vicarious death of Christ on the cross. According to this faith, man cannot save himself through good works. Rather, salvation is only possible through a third person, who as a substitute takes upon himself the punishment for our sin. Is it true that no trace of any redemption through the substitutionary death of another can be found in the Koran? Must a Muslim, therefore, according to the Koran, totally reject faith in the redemption through the vicarious death of Christ on the cross?
ANSWER: At first glance it actually seems so, for the Koran says (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157) that Christ was neither killed nor crucified, and so he could not have died for others, since he did not die at all. Rather, Allah is said to have saved him from his enemies, who were intending to kill him. Instead of dying and rising from the dead, he is said to have been taken directly up to heaven (Sura al-Nisa' 4:158), where he, according to Islamic tradition (Hadith), dwells today until the time of his return. Furthermore, according to the Koran, even if Christ would have died, His death could not have been a substitutionary punishment for the punishment that others deserve, for, as the Koran explicitly teaches, no soul burdened with guilt can be burdened with the burden of another soul. ( Suras al-An'am 6:164, al-Isra' 17:15; Fatir 35:18; al-Zumar 39:7 and al-Najm 53:38)
However, upon closer research, exceptions can be found. One of the most important passages of the Koran, which speaks of redemption through a third party, can be found in the context of the story about the son of Abraham being offered up as a slaughtered sacrifice.
This story is found in Sura al-Saffat 37:99-111: “99 And he (Abraham) said, 'I am going to my Lord; He will guide me. 100 My Lord, give me one of the righteous.' 101 And we proclaimed to him the good tidings of a gentle (well behaved) boy. 102 And when he had reached with him the Running, he said, 'My son! I see in a dream that I will slaughter you; consider what you think!' He said, 'My father, do as you are commanded; you will find me, if Allah wills, to be one of those who are patient.' 103 So when both had surrendered (i.e. enacted Islam), and he had flung him upon his brow (to slaughter him?) 104 we called unto him, 'Abraham, 105 you have confirmed the vision (i.e. believed the dream); even so we recompense the good-doers. 106 This is indeed the manifest trial.' 107 And we ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice. 108 And we left for him (as a legacy) among the later (folk, the blessing wish): 109 'Peace be upon Abraham!' 110 Even so We recompense those who do good. 111 He was among our believing servants.”
The decisive passage is verse 107. When translated literally from the Arabic original it reads: “And redeemed have we him with a slaughtered sacrifice that is mighty (great).” (In Arabic transcription: wa-faday-naa-hu bi-dhabhin 'adhim) In order to grasp the full explosive force of this Koranic verse, we need to precisely contemplate every element of this revelation of Allah. We will do so by asking questions arising both from the verse as well as from its context.
1. “And redeemed have …” (wa-faday-): Here the Koran clearly testifies that a redemption (fidya, fidaa' ) has taken place through a slaughtered sacrifice. On the basis of most of the other teachings of the Koran, a Muslim will ask himself: Why did Allah have to do something (redeem, bring in a sacrifice for slaughtering, slaughter it, offer it up)? Why didn't he simply let Abraham go with his son? Why was a redemption (ransom) necessary?
2. “… we …” (-naa-): The Koran doesn't just say here that a redemption took place, but that God Himself was the Redeemer. The majestic or royal plural “we” does not refer to angels or people, but to God Himself. Here a Muslim must inevitably ask the question: Why didn't Abraham himself redeem his son? Why did Allah have to do it? And since the sacrifice for slaughtering is described as being “mighty (great)”, it must be supposed that it did not come from the earth, but from heaven. Here the following questions arise for a Muslim: Why didn't Abraham himself provide the sacrifice for slaughtering, or at least pay for it? Why did the sacrifice for the slaughter come from heaven, and not from earth?
3. “… him …” (-hu): This word refers to Abraham's son, who in great obedience allowed his father to do with him all that God demanded of him. Here a Muslim will ask himself: Was the son of Abraham guilty, so that he had to be redeemed? Of course not, for he was an absolute example of obedience. Or did Abraham commit a sin when he wanted to sacrifice his son, so that he had to be redeemed? Once again the answer is “NO!” For God had expressly commanded him to sacrifice his son. From this it follows: The good deeds that I fulfill do not relieve me of the sin that I have.
4. “… with a slaughtered sacrifice, …” (bi-dhabhin): The Koran testifies that a redeeming sacrifice was killed, for it was a slaughtered offering, which dies when slaughtered. Here a Muslim has to ask: Why was it necessary to slaughter something and to spill blood, in order to redeem the son?
5. “… that is mighty (great).” ('adhim): This is the most peculiar word in this verse. It compels the following questions upon a Muslim: Why is the slaughtered sacrifice mighty (great)? Is it mighty (great) because it comes from Allah, or is it mighty (great) in itself? Since one of the 99 names of Allah is al-'adhim (the mighty great), does it become necessary to say that the slaughtered sacrifice is divine, since it bears the divine name?
If you want to satisfactorily answer all these compelling questions that the text of the Koran itself raises at the same time, then there is only one way out: You must accept the Gospel and believe in the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the sins of the entire world. This mighty sacrifice from God has redeemed Abraham's son, and you, too!
SAD NEWS: The Koran does contain, contrary to the common opinion of Muslims, traces of a redemption through the vicarious death of another – namely, in the story of how the son of Abraham was redeemed.
GOOD NEWS: For this reason a Muslim can, even according to the Koran, grasp faith in the redemption through the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. Yes, and by so doing he can come to understand this passage in the Koran, which otherwise would remain completely incomprehensible.
TESTIMONY: My name is Barakatullah and I come from Egypt. I was an officer and a leader of Muslims. One day a piece of paper caught my attention. Written on it was: “But I say unto you!” I picked it up and read it through. Christ was speaking there and He said: “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say unto you, 'love your enemies!' ” This verse from the Gospel (Matthew 5:43-44) shocked me. As a Muslim I knew Christ. Did He have the right to change the commandments of God? Did He have the authority for that? In order to clear up this question, I enrolled in an evening course at the al-Azhar University in Cairo. For four years I studied comparative religions from an Islamic standpoint, and in the end earned an academic degree. I got to know the world religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity, including their holy Scriptures. I diligently studied the Koran, comparing it to these other books. Through this study I became a Christian. I found out that Christ had the right to change the Law of God, for He, like Allah, had the right to command people to obey Him, as the Koran confirms. (Suras Al 'Imran 3:50 and al-Zukhruf 43:63) Today I tell Muslims what I learned then. The considerations of how Abraham's son was redeemed, which you read about in this leaflet, were the discoveries I made then. They helped me to believe in Jesus Christ as the crucified Son of God. My family and I have since then been severely persecuted because of my new faith. But till today, I have remained faithful to Christ.
PRAYER: I thank you from my heart, merciful God, that You redeemed the son of Abraham. You are right if you send me to hell because of my sin. But you have established a way, how we can be saved. I believe in the redemption that you wrought, so that we need not go to hell.