The concept of original sin is completely
foreign to Judaism and Eastern Christianity, having achieved acceptance in only
the Western Church. Furthermore, Christian and Islamic concepts of sin are
virtual opposites with respect to certain nuances. For example, there is no
concept of “sinning in the mind” in Islam; to a Muslim, an evil thought becomes
a good deed when a person refuses to act upon it. Overcoming and
dismissing the evil thoughts which forever assail our minds is considered
deserving of reward rather than punishment. Islamicly speaking, an evil
thought only becomes sinful when acted upon.
Conceiving good deeds is more contrary to the
base nature of man. Since our creation, if not bound by societal or religious
restrictions, humankind has historically dined on the banquet of life with lust
and abandon. The orgies of self-indulgence that have carpeted the corridors of
history envelop not only individuals and small communities, but even major
world powers which ate their fill of deviancy to the point of self-destruction.
Sodom and Gomorrah may top most lists, but the greatest powers of the ancient
world—to include the Greek, Roman and Persian empires, as well as those of
Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great—certainly bear dishonorable mention. But
while examples of communal decadence are innumerable, cases of individual
corruption are exponentially more common.
So, good thoughts are not always the first
instinct of humankind. As such, the Islamic understanding is that the very
conception of good deeds is worthy of reward, even if not acted upon. When a
person actually acts upon a good thought, Allah multiplies the reward even
The concept of original sin simply does not
exist in Islam, and never has. For the Christian readers, the question is not
whether the concept of original sin exists in present day, but whether it
existed during the period of Christian origins. Specifically, did Jesus teach
Apparently not. Whoever dreamt up the concept,
it certainly wasn’t Jesus, for he reportedly taught,
“Let the little children come to me, and do
not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14)
We may well wonder how “for of such” could be
“the kingdom of heaven” if the unbaptized are hell‑bound. Children are
either born with original sin or are bound for the kingdom of heaven. The
church can’t have it both ways. Ezekiel 18:20
“The son shall not bear the guilt of the
father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the
righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon
Deuteronomy 24:16 repeats the point. The
objection may be raised that this is Old Testament, but it’s not older than
Adam! If original sin dated from Adam and Eve, one wouldn’t find it disavowed
in any scripture of any age!
Islam teaches that each person is born in a
state of spiritual purity, but upbringing and the allure of worldly pleasures
may corrupt us. Nonetheless, sins are not inherited and, for that matter, not
even Adam and Eve will be punished for their sins, for God has forgiven them. And
how can humankind inherit something that no longer exists? No, Islamicly
speaking, all of us will be judged according to our deeds, for
“…man can have nothing but what he strives for” (Quran
“Who receives guidance, receives it for his own
benefit: who goes astray does so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear
the burden of another ...” (Quran 17:15)
Each person will bear responsibility for his or
her actions, but no infant goes to hell for being unbaptized and burdened with
sin as a birthright—or should we say a birthwrong?
© 2008 Laurence B. Brown—used by permission.
author’s website is www.leveltruth.com.
He is the author of two books of comparative religion entitled MisGod’ed
and God’ed, as well as the Islamic primer, Bearing True Witness.
All of his books are available through Amazon.com.