Does forgiveness require atonement? (Q 5:95, 89)

Muslims sometimes say that forgiveness that requires atonement or some form of penalty or payment isn’t truly forgiveness. The idea that Christ died for our sins thus is not an act of forgiveness from God, because someone still paid the price.

In this article I consider a couple of Qur’an verses that suggest sometimes, even if rarely, repentance alone is not all that is required.

Happy to discuss in the comments either here or there ๐Ÿ™‚

Categories: Islam

9 replies

  1. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your post.

    Simply put, from my understanding of Islam, what we believe is-

    1. Every person has to pay for his own sins. No one pays for someone elseโ€™s sin. Similar to Ez 18:20.

    2. No one will enter the kingdom of heaven except for Godโ€™s mercy. Similar concept as Mt 9:13. (Add for repentance at the end of the verse, which was taken out from many translations.)

    In Islam, there are punishment for sins, and accepting the punishment is AN ESSENTIAL part of repentance (i.e. the payment). This is what our Christian brothers and sisters usually miss.

    When you put the two I mentioned above together, you can see that we must repent before Lord for our sins, accept the punishment, and then it is up to Him if we are to enter His Kingdom or not (i.e. Only He decides if our repentance was sincere or bogus).

    In my journey I have found that a Christian personโ€™s heart is looking for a scapegoat for his sins, he wants a sure shot measure of salvation. A Muslimโ€™s heart surrenders and accepts the punishment and seeks for the mercy of God, and is scared of Him- because thereโ€™s no such sure shot concept as somebody has paid for their sins.

    Hope it makes sense! Again, this is my understanding.

    Have a fantastic day!!


  2. Hi Sami,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply ๐Ÿ™‚ I think you touch on a lot of the key issues.

    1) How does this fit with the idea of Sahih Muslim 2767b

    ‘No Muslim would die but Allah would admit in his stead a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire. ‘Umar b. Abd al-‘Aziz took an oath: By One besides Whom there is no god but He, thrice that his father had narrated that to him from Allah’s Messenger (๏ทบ).’ –

    I presume you would say there’s no transferral of sin, but that there are a pre-set number of places in hell, and for every one that a Jew or Christian fills, that’s one less place for a Muslim?

    Also, do you believe in the intercession of Muhammad? If so, while that’s not paying for someone elses sins, it is the forgiveness of sin based upon another.

    2) Agreed, Muslims absolutely believe in the mercy of God.

    3) That’s fair enough, you can say accepting the punishment is an essential part of repentance. But the point still remains I think that according to the Qur’an, there are a couple of particular sins for which God does actually ask for more than just a change of heart, but specifically requires the actions that go along with that. Which in at least one case (Q 5:95) requires animal sacrifice, where this can be afforded.

    This is still distinct from Christian theology of course. A Muslim can say there is no intrinsic necessity for him to forgive only once a sacrifice or atonement has been made – God can forgive anything. But he has simply chosen to decree these as being required. By contrast, Christians say that God cannot simply forgive anything without atonement being made – this would violate his standards of justice.

    I think my warning to Muslim apologists still stand. They cannot object that, by definition, a forgiveness that requires some form of atonement isn’t really forgiveness. However they are right to highlight that Christians and Muslims have fundamentally different standards of what God MUST do according to God’s justice, even if they might agree that at certain times and for certain things God actually HAS chosen to require atonement.

    4) Absolutely Christians want ‘a sure shot measure of salvation.’ Which isn’t to say Christianity doesn’t have other seperate reasons to believe in it, and that it’s all just ‘wish-fulfilment’. But a live lived in fear of the hell described in the Qur’an, sounds pretty horrific (e.g. Q 4:56) unless you can have some degree of certainty that you’re one of the true believers. But will even they escape the fire? (Q 19:71

    Liked by 1 person

    • If that is what the Hadith says, throw that Hadith away and follow what the Quran says. Your use the Quran as yardstick to measure everything, if it conforms with the Quran, you keep it. If it goes contrary to the Quran, throw it away and hold on to the Quran. So that Hadith is duaif as long as it doesnโ€™t conform with Al Quran.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is for Richard and Ibrahim and Paul if you are reading,

        First and foremost Sami, never reject an authentic hadith because that hadith came from the Prophet, just because you can not understand the hadith or are unable to reconcile it with the Quran due to your lack of knowledge and comprehension that does not mean it should be thrown away, the only time a so called ‘hadith’ is thrown away is if it is mukar or daif not if it is hassan, sahih or mutawatir even if it is ahad and authentic you must still take it.

        The Quran and the sunnah are completely compatible and that is because they are both revelation, the speech of Allah is revelation and the speech of the Prophet in regards to religious affairs is also a revocation, that is why Allaah said:

        ูˆูŽู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ุทูู‚ู ุนูŽู†ู ุงู„ู’ู‡ูŽูˆูŽู‰ ุฅูู†ู’ ู‡ููˆูŽ ุฅูู„ู‘ูŽุง ูˆูŽุญู’ูŠูŒ ูŠููˆุญูŽู‰

        (And he does not speak out of his own vain desire, (What he says is) only the Revelation that is revealed to him)
        surah Najam ayah 3

        Allaah also said:

        ู‡ููˆูŽ ุงู„ู‘ูŽุฐููŠ ุจูŽุนูŽุซูŽ ูููŠ ุงู„ู’ุฃูู…ู‘ููŠู‘ููŠู†ูŽ ุฑูŽุณููˆู„ู‹ุง ู…ู‘ูู†ู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ูŠูŽุชู’ู„ููˆ ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ุขูŠูŽุงุชูู‡ู ูˆูŽูŠูุฒูŽูƒู‘ููŠู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽูŠูุนูŽู„ู‘ูู…ูู‡ูู…ู ุงู„ู’ูƒูุชูŽุงุจูŽ ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ุญููƒู’ู…ูŽุฉูŽ ูˆูŽุฅูู† ูƒูŽุงู†ููˆุง ู…ูู† ู‚ูŽุจู’ู„ู ู„ูŽูููŠ ุถูŽู„ูŽุงู„ู ู…ู‘ูุจููŠู†ู

        He it is Who raises among the unlettered a Messenger of their own. He recites to them His Ayaat and cleanses them, teaches them the Book and the Wisdom. And verily, they had been before (wishing to reach Allah) in manifest Misguidance.

        surah Jumuah ayah 2

        in this Ayah the book is the Quran and the hikmah is the sunnah/hadith/prophetic tradition. This was also given to Musa and Isa if you read the quran.

        So it is not permissible for any muslim to claim islam whilst rejecting an authentic hadith, it is on par with rejection the an ayah quran because they are both revelation from Allaah but just in different forms.

        Allaah also commands us to follow the Prophet because Allaah knows that his speech is a from or revelation from Him, that is why Allaah says:

        ูˆูŽู…ูŽุง ุขุชูŽุงูƒูู…ู ุงู„ุฑู‘ูŽุณููˆู„ู ููŽุฎูุฐููˆู‡ู ูˆูŽู…ูŽุง ู†ูŽู‡ูŽุงูƒูู…ู’ ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ู ููŽุงู†ุชูŽู‡ููˆุง
        And whatever the Messenger gave you, then take it. And from whatever he forbids you, abstain from it
        surah Hashr

        However the Quran has more virtue due to it being the direct speech of Allaah however when it comes to legislation, law, belief they are as equal as still water because the hadith is also a type of revelation from Allaah, this is a principle so remember.

        If you are unable to answer Richard’s questions Ibrahim because you have not studied islam with the scholars then just keep quite in your lane because Allaah did not obligated you to speak or defend islam especially if you have no knowledge.

        Islam is only deafened with knowledge and truth not with ignorance, falsehood, lies, hook or crook ext….


    • And to Richard and Paul, if a muslim ever tells you to reject an authentic statement of the Prophet even in a ‘small’ matter then just walk away because this person can not even tell you the least about islam, their rejection and acceptance is based on their lack of knowledge and desires so they wont be able to help you except in misguidance.

      sorry if that sounds rude but this is the Religion of Allaah we are talking about it can not be made in to an arena for everyone to speak what they want

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your thoughts Madeedah, yes I agree that your approach is more in line with the classical Sunni perspective. The traditional Muslim approach has been to adhere to a sahih Hadith as far as possible, and to reconcile this with the Qur’an.


    • Richard if you would like to Know the answer to you questions and Ayaat then i do have an idea but it’s best not to speculate, it would be better to pass you on to a scholar.

      if you would like i can connect you with scholar who have been studying Islam for 20+ years in Saudi, He has a masters in Hadith which is useful for this topic and he studies and lived in saudi Arabia and is a teacher at Madinah university. He has actually studied with the scholars and he has studied sahih Bukhari from beginning to end and has memorized all of it i believe.

      if not him can can pass you over to some students of Shaykh Muqbil who died in the 1990’s he was the leading scholar of hadith of this generation and has memorized i believe almost if not all of the six books of hadith from back to front with it’s explanation.

      There are some English and American students who have taken his place as teachers in Yemen after studying with him for more than 20 years and they will me more than willing to answer your questions and if they don’t know they will refer you to someone who does and they wont speak out of ignorance or arrogance.

      if you would like your questions answered you can go to them, they who have studied for 20 years leaving their family behind, some of these people have not seen their mothers in 20 years because they went to study islam, they are more worthy of being asked these questions because they know what they are talking about no us random muslims here or the showmen is speakers corner who don’t know Arabic or have not even memorized the quran but will tell muslims and non muslims what islam is about…no offence to them again but it’s the truth.

      as the prophet said, the scholars are the inheritors of the prophet, during the time of the prophet if people wanted to learn islam they would go to him but now he has passed we go to the scholars not laymen.

      I hope this will help


      • Hi Madeenah,

        Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate your kind offer to put me in touch with others, and I respect your intellectual humility, and agree that it’s always good to talk to those who know more.

        To be honest, on this issue I think they and I will agree! We all agree that atonement is not central to forgiveness in the Qur’an, that the normal position is that sins can be repented off and then forgiven by God. My issue is not with Muslims who recognise this; this post was only aimed at Muslim apologists who make statements that I don’t think line up with the Qur’an.

        So thank you very much, but on this issue I don’t think there’s any need to trouble them!


    • No problem Richard


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