Questions and Answers > Paradise > Salvation in Islam

Quran 39:53: Does Allah forgive all sin?

1. Introduction
Some Muslims claim that Allah will forgive all their sin:

“Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’" (Qur’an 39:53)

Is the verse saying that there is forgiveness of all sin for all mankind according to the Qur’an? To check it out we need to have an overview of the concept of salvation in the Qur’an and forgiveness of sin in the rest of the Qur’an. Only then we may have a final conclusion about forgiveness of sin according to the Qur’an.

2. Concept of salvation in the Qur’an
The Qur’an puts works and predestination as the primary concepts of salvation. Salvation by predestination means that God has already decided for someone that the final destination will be hell of paradise (Qur’an 5:40, 11:34, 16:37, 17:57, 39:44). Some Muslims believe in the intercession of the prophets, especially in the intercession of Muhammad. However, the Qur’an denies the help of Muhammad for the salvation of a Muslim (Qur’an 4:123, 7:188, 9:80, 11:34, 16:37, 39:44, 42:31). Other Muslims believe in a purgatory like state. They claim Qur’an 23:100 for an intermediate state in which the soul of the deceased is transferred across the boundaries of the mortal realm into a kind of sleep where the soul will rest until Judgment Day [1]. But also this verse only mentions the time before Judgment Day. Most Muslims believe that salvation is by works. Salvation by works implies that all deeds, good or evil, will be weighed in a balance.
The eternal destiny of a soul is based on whether or not the good deeds outweigh our bad ones (Qur’an 101:6-11).

3. Forgiveness of sin in the Qur’an
The Qur’an is telling us that not all sin will be forgiven:

1. Intentional sins (Qur’an 4:17, 4:93, 6:145)
2. Repeated sins (Qur’an 3:135, 4:18, 5:95)
3. The great ones (Qur’an 4:31, 42:37, 53:32)
4. Apostasy (Qur’an 9:83, 18:57-58)
5. Idolatry (Qur’an 9:113, 22:31)

Allah forgives many things, but not all. He doesn’t forgive those who reject faith (Qur’an 4:168, 9:80, 63:5-6) or persist in evil doing (Qur’an 4:18) [2]. A Muslim will have doubts to meet the conditions to be righteous and is also not sure to be elected by Allah. Therefore a Muslim doesn’t have any assurance of the forgiveness of all his sins.

4. Conclusion
Muslims are not sure about escaping hell. The only hope to escape hell comes from the Previous Scriptures, the Bible (Qur’an 2:4, 2:136, 2:285, 4:136, 29:46). The Bible has the answer to the question about escaping hell: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Only the Bible is telling us that you can be saved by the love and grace of God. Islam has no Savior. A believer in the mighty Savior Jesus Christ is always certain about going to Paradise.


Notes:

[1] Wikipedia, Purgatory
[2] Daniel C. Peterson, Forgiveness, in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Volume Two, E-I, Brill, Leiden, 2002, 244-245.