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No Atonement in Islam? Responding to Another Typical Muslim Objection

In dealing with Muslim polemicists, one will often encounter the objection that, in Islam, atonement for the forgiveness of sins is not required. Allah simply forgives anyone who asks without requiring that reparation be made for the person’s transgressions.

I have decided to address this oft-repeated claim in order to show that nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the Quran repeatedly emphasizes the point that forgiveness is predicated upon Allah making atonement or expiation for the transgressions committed against him:

It is he who sendeth down secure tranquility into the hearts of the true believers, that they may increase in faith, beyond their [former] faith: – The hosts of heaven and earth are God’s; and God is knowing [and] wise: -That he may lead the true believers of both sexes into gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever; and may expiate (yukaffira) their evil deeds from them: – This will be great felicity with God: -S. 48:4-5 Sale

The verb kaffara happens to be the Arabic cognate of the Hebrew word kaphar, the term that the Hebrew Scriptures often employ in respect to atonement (

In fact, there are a multitude of Quranic verses, which use this particular verb in connection with Allah making atonement/expiation for the sins of those who seek to obey him.

For instance, expiation/atonement will be made for all those who truly believe and fear Allah:

More, if they who have received the scriptures believe, and fear [God], we will surely expiate (lakaffarna) their sins from them, and we will lead them into gardens of pleasure; 5:65 Sale

O true believers, if ye fear God, he will grant you a distinction, and will expiate (wa’yukaffir) your sins from you, and will forgive you; for God is indued with great liberality. S. 8:29 Sale

But he who bringeth the truth, and giveth credit thereto, these are they who fear God; they [shall obtain] whatever they shall desire, in the sight of their Lord: This [shall be] the recompense of the righteous: That God may expiate (Liyukaffira) from them the [very] worst of that which they have wrought, and my render them their reward according to the utmost merit of the good which they have wrought. S. 39:33-35 Sale

This [is] the command of God, which he hath sent down unto you. And whoso feareth God, he will expiate (yukaffir) his evil deeds from him, and will increase his reward. S. 65:5

It is also offered for those who repent sincerely and do what is right:

“O Lord, we have heard a preacher inviting us to the faith, [and saying], believe in your Lord: And we believed. O Lord, forgive us therefore our sins, and expiate (wa’kaffir) our evil deeds from us, and make us to die with the righteous. O Lord, give us also [the reward] which thou hast promised by thy apostles; and cover us not with shame on the day of resurrection; for thou art not contrary to the promise.” So their Lord accepted their prayer: That I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other; they, therefore, who fled and were turned out of their homes and persecuted in My way and who fought and were slain, I will most certainly cover (laokaffiranna – “atone for”) their evil deeds, and I will most certainly make them enter gardens beneath which rivers flow; a reward from Allah, and with Allah is yet better reward. S. 3:193-195

Those who believe and do right, we will surely cover (lanukaffiranna) for them, their offences; and we will surely reward them with better than that which they have done. S. 29:7 Palmer

But those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad, for it is the truth from their Lord, He will expiate (kaffara) from them their sins, and will make good their state. S. 47:2 Sale

On a [certain] day he shall assemble you, at the day of the [general] assembly: That [will be] the day of mutual deceit: And whoso shall believe in God, and shall do that which is right, from him will he expiate (yukaffir) his evil deeds, and he will lead him into gardens beneath which rivers flow, to remain therein for ever. This [will be] great felicity. S. 64:9 Sale

O ye who believe! turn repentant to God with sincere repentance; it may be that thy Lord will cover (yukaffira) for you your offences and will bring you into gardens beneath which rivers flow!- the day God will not disgrace the Prophet nor those who believe with him; their light shall run on before them, and at their right hands! they shall say, ‘Our Lord! perfect for us our light and forgive us; verily, Thou art mighty over all!’ S. 66:8 Palmer

Expiation/atonement is even made for anyone who avoids committing the major or great sins:

If ye avoid great sins from which ye are forbidden, we will cover (nukaffir) your offences and make you enter with a noble entrance. S. 4:31 Palmer

Allah further demands that atonement be made for specific sins that the Muslim may commit, such as unintentional manslaughter:

AND IT IS not conceivable that a believer should slay another believer, unless it be by mistake. And upon him who has slain a believer by mistake there is the duty of freeing a believing soul from bondage and paying an indemnity to the victim’s relations, unless they forgo it by way of charity. Now if the slain, while himself a believer, belonged to a people who are at war with you, [the penance shall be confined to] the freeing of a believing soul from bondage; whereas, if he belonged to a people to whom you are bound by a covenant, [it shall consist of] an indemnity to be paid to his relations in addition to the freeing of a believing soul from bondage. And he who does not have the wherewithal shall fast [instead] for two consecutive months. (This is) the atonement (tawbatan) ordained by God: and God is indeed all-knowing, wise. S. 4:92 Muhammad Asad

(Note: Although the word used here is not the one normally used for atonement/expiation, it nonetheless carries the same connotation, as the context makes clear, which is why Muhammad Asad translated it as such.)

Atonement is also required for the breaking of vows and/or oaths,

GOD will not take you to task for oaths which you may have uttered without thought, but He will take you to task for oaths which you have sworn in earnest. Thus, the breaking of an oath must be atoned for (fakaffaratuhu) by feeding ten needy persons with more or less the same food as you are wont to give to your own families, or by clothing them, or by freeing a human being from bondage; and he who has not the wherewithal shall fast for three days [instead]. This shall be the atonement (kaffaratu) for your oaths whenever you have sworn [and broken them]. But be mindful of your oaths! S. 5:89 Asad

As well as for killing animals while in ihram, or the state of ritual purity required for making pilgrimage:

O you who have attained to faith! Kill no game while you are in the state of pilgrimage. And whoever of you kills it intentionally, [shall make] amends in cattle equivalent to what he has killed – with two persons of probity giving their judgment thereon – to be brought as an offering to the Ka’bah; or else he may atone for his sin (kaffaratun) by feeding the needy, or by the equivalent thereof in fasting: [this,] in order that he taste the full gravity of his deed, [while] God shall have effaced the past. But whoever does it again, God will inflict His retribution on him: for God is almighty, an avenger of evil. S. 5:95 Asad

And here is a text that is particularly interesting, seeing that it actually cites an OT passage:

And We ordained for them in that [Torah]: A life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and a [similar] retribution for wounds; but he who shall forgo it out of charity will atone (kaffaratun) thereby for SOME of his past sins (lit., ‘it shall be an atonement for him’). And they who do not judge in accordance with what God has revealed – they, they are the evildoers! S. 5:45 Asad

The Quran is quoting what is commonly referred to as the lex talionis, which was a command given through Moses to the Israelites (cf. Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-21; Deuteronomy 19:16-21), and adds the caveat that if anyone is willing to pardon the transgressor it will be atonement for him/her.

Moreover, the Islamic scripture recalls the supposed instructions, which Allah gave to the Israelites during the time of Moses (We say supposed since the Allah of the Quran is not the One who revealed himself to Moses, or to any of the other true prophets and apostles of God):

And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and assist them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover (laokaffiranna – “atone for”) your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way. S. 5:12 Shakir

Here we are told that Allah promised the Israelites that he would personally atone for their sins if they were to faithfully do what he commanded them.

This brings us to our next point.

Punishing Jews and Christians in Hell as a Sacrifice for Sins

According to the so-called authentic narrations of Muhammad, Allah will actually sacrifice Jews and Christians in hell as a ransom for all the sins committed by the Muslims!

Superiority of the believers in the Oneness of Allah and the punishment of the Jews and Christians

8) Narrated Abu Musa: Allah’s Messenger said: On the Day of Resurrection, my Ummah (nation) will be gathered into three groups. One sort will enter Paradise without rendering an account (of their deeds). Another sort will be reckoned an easy account and admitted into Paradise. Yet another sort will come bearing on their backs heaps of sins like great mountains. Allah will ask the angels though He knows best about them: Who are these people? They will reply: They are humble slaves of yours. He will say: UNLOAD the sins from them AND PUT THE SAME OVER the Jews and Christians: then let the humble slaves get into Paradise by virtue of My Mercy.

(This Hadith IS SOUND and mentioned in Mustadrak of Hakim). (110 Hadith Qudsi (Sacred Hadith), translated by Syed Masood-ul-Hasan, revision and commentaries by Ibrahim m. Kunna [Darussalam Publishers and Distributors], pp. 19-20; capital and underline emphasis ours)

  1. Abu Musa al-Ash’ari reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “On the Day of Rising, Allah will hand over a Jew or a Christian to every Muslim and say, ‘HERE IS YOUR REDEMPTION FROM THE FIRE.” [Muslim]

In another variant from him is that the Prophet said, “Some of the Muslims will be brought on the Day of Rising WITH SINS THE SIZE OF MOUNTAINS and Allah will forgive them.” (Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi, Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous), 51. Chapter: On Hope; capital and italic emphasis ours)

(20) CHAPTER. Disbelievers are sent to Hell as SACRIFICE to the Muslims

  1. Abu Musa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “When it is the Day of Resurrection, Allah will deliver every Muslim a Jew or Christian and say: ‘THAT IS YOUR SACRIFICE FROM HELL-FIRE.’” (The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Muslim (Arabic–English), Compiled by Al-Hafiz Zakiuddin Abdul-Azim Al-Mundhiri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: February 2000], Volume 2, 62– The Book Of Repentance And Allah’s Great Mercy, pp. 1033-1034; capital emphasis ours)

And here is a different translation of the above hadith, along with a couple of others from Sahih Muslim:


Abu Musa’ reported that Allah’s Messenger said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your RESCUE from Hell-Fire. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6665

Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle said: 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. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6666)

Abu Burda reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with AS HEAVY SINS AS A MOUNTAIN, and Allah would FORGIVE THEM and He would PLACE IN THEIR STEAD the Jews and the Christians. (As far as I think), Abu Raub said: I do not know as to who is in doubt. Abu Burda said: I narrated it to ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, whereupon he said: Was it your father who narrated it to you from Allah’s Apostle? I said: Yes. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6668)

This next one is even more heinous and sadistic since it has Allah laughing over the fact of his torturing Jews and Christians in hell in place of Muhammadans:

In a slightly more detailed version, Abu Musa leads us to an explanation of the reason for God’s laughter:

The Prophet said: “On the Day of Resurrection our Lord, to Him belong glory and greatness, shall be revealed to us, laughing (yataglla dahikan). And He will say: ‘Rejoice, you Muslims! For I have replaced each one of you destined to go to Hell with a Jew or a Christian’.”17 (Livnat Holtzman, “‘Does God Really Laugh?” – Appropriate and Inappropriate Descriptions of God in Islamic Traditionalist Theology,’” Laughter in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture), ed. Albrecht Classen [De Gruyter, Berlin/New York; 1st  edition, 2010], Chapter 2, p. 172)

17 Al‐Agurri, Kitab alsariah, 295, hadith no. 641; Al‐Agurri, Kitab altasdiq, 76. (Ibid.)

Talk about a travesty of justice!

Not only does the Muslim deity demand that atonement/expiation be made for the forgiveness of sins, he even goes as far as to eternally torture Jews and Christians as a ransom for all the transgressions committed by Muslims!

To get an idea of the kind of pain that Jews and Christians will have to endure for the evil and wickedness committed by Muslims, notice how the following verses depict the punishment of hell:

Surely! Those who disbelieved in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) We shall burn them in Fire. As often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for other skins that they may taste the punishment. Truly, Allah is Ever Most Powerful, All-Wise. S. 4:56 Hilali-Khan

In front of him (every obstinate, arrogant dictator) is Hell, and he will be made to drink boiling, festering water. He will sip it unwillingly, and he will find a great difficulty to swallow it down his throat and death will come to him from every side, yet he will not die and in front of him, will be a great torment. S. 14:16-17 Hilali-Khan

Imagine that! Jews and Christians will have their skins roasted over and over again, will be forced to drink boiling water, and endure other kinds of sadistic and barbaric tortures forever because of the sins committed by others!

What makes this all the more reprehensible is that, instead of condemning Allah and his messenger for teaching such nonsense, these same Muslim polemicists will go out of their way to justify their god’s barbarity and sadism!

The foregoing shows that, contrary to the assertion made by Muslim apologists, both the Quran and ahadith affirm that the Muhammad’s deity does require atonement/expiation for the forgiveness of sins.

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