This is the fourth part of a series of posts that examine different worldviews' teachings about man's problem and solution to that problem. The introduction post may be found here.
Last week we investigated Buddhism and its claims about man's problem. This week we look at Islam's view of man's problem.
What's Your Problem?
Islam holds that the problem with man is over-confidence in himself. It is obvious that man is not perfect, even though he may pridefully think that he is. I am not going to argue that this is not a problem of humanity (because I believe that it is- but comes from another source- I'll argue this later), so I can't really deny that this problem is grounded in reality.
The answer is simply to be in submission to Allah (God) by following Sharia Law and the Five Pillars. Islam teaches that Allah endowed man with the ability to choose to submit to him or not, and the default position is neutrality. In Islam, the goal in this life is 100% submission to Allah; however, to find the adherent's resting place to be Heaven, 100% is not required. The adherent must simply be more in submission to Allah during their life than (s)he is not in submission to Allah during their life. So, the question becomes, "Is it possible for man to be greater than 50% in submission to Allah during his life?"
The Problem of a Lifetime
The first thing that comes to mind in looking at this possibility is the length of time a person spends on this earth. It is a huge factor in whether or not they even have the possibility of heaven. If a person has lived their life opposed to Allah, then converts to Islam, then dies before reaching twice the age they were at their conversion, the 50+% goal is not attainable- if they were in submission for 100% of the time they adhered to Islam, that would have to be averaged in with the prior time, and would always be less then 50%. Granted, since we do not know when we will die, this is not a reason to not convert and at least try during younger years, but this impossibility does exist and is more likely the older that a person is if/when they do convert. In fact, since humans are limited in years, there will come an age in which the impossibility cannot be escaped and conversion is truly a waste of time.
Now, remember, even in younger years, the latter years as a Muslim must still be spent in 100% submission. Otherwise, the less overall submission (even as a convert) the younger the person must be in order to be greater than 50% in submission. So, we are effectively reducing the number of converts to Islam that heaven is even a possibility for (in favor of younger converts). But this does still leave open the possibility that some will be in 50% submission over the course of their lives. The only way to make this a complete impossibility for even the youngest, would be to show that it is not possible to be in submission greater than 50% even if averaged out.
Islam demands sincerity in performing of acts that are considered to be in submission to Allah. A great amount of the acts performed over a Muslim's life are ritualistic. After repetition of the same act over a certain amount of time, the act becomes mindless- meaning that the mind is not concentrating on it- its almost performed by "muscle memory" without thinking. Sincerity requires that the mind be focused on the task. As the task is performed time and time again, focusing becomes more difficult to the point that it is not needed and not even existent. If a Muslim performs the majority of their rituals mindlessly, they perform them insincerely. If the rituals are performed insincerely, they do not count as being in submission to Allah; in fact, they count against the adherent as being against Allah, due to their insincerity. Since these would actually count against the Muslim, it further reduces the age required for conversion for heaven to be a possibility. Of course, I am not placing all Muslims in this category, I'm just stating that those who would fall into the category are in trouble.
Finally, I would like to point out that even Muslims would not state that Allah is obligated to grant entrance to Heaven, even if the person has been 50+% submissive. To say that Allah has such an obligation would compromise his sovereignty. This does not further reduce the possibilities of getting to Heaven necessarily, but it does remove any assurance that a Muslim might think he possesses of his entrance into heaven. Most Muslims do recognize this lack of assurance, though. In fact, relinquishing that assurance is part of submitting completely to the will of Allah. On the flip-side, someone who has never submitted to Allah may be granted entrance into Heaven if Allah so chooses (those who are less than 50% submissive or never convert to Islam may not be damned after all).
Everything here certainly does not remove the possibility for man to be 50+% in submission to Allah or be granted entrance into heaven. But it makes it nearly impossible for those who live in the real world; and even if they manage the level of submission, Allah can override it. It is true that knowing that someone will go to heaven is impossible in Islam, but getting to heaven is not impossible, itself. If Islam is the true worldview, both accepting and rejecting it is a gamble, and the Dealer can change the rules that he set (as often as he likes) if he does not like the outcome at any point.
Next week we will look at Judaism.
I used The Illustrated World Religions by Houston Smith for the majority of the information in this post. More info was gleaned from the third-party site Wikipedia- articles here and an article here.