How is forgiveness seen in Islam?

Sin, Guilt, and Forgiveness in IslamOnly murder is unforgivable

When asked about guilt and sin, Islam often first thinks of a punishing God. Because punishments were often discussed in the Koran and in the prophetic tradition.

"But at least as much, if not more, is the subject of repentance and divine mercy," says the Islamic scholar Esnaf Begic. "And one of the essential characteristics of God in the Islamic understanding of God is that he is merciful ... and has imposed mercy on himself."

Esnaf Begic trained as an imam in Bosnia and also worked as an imam there. He has just completed his doctorate at the University of Osnabrück. He emphasizes that in Islam there is no magisterium as there is in the Catholic Church or an authority that is recognized by all Islamic traditions. There is therefore a multitude of interpretations alongside one another. The question of sin, says Begic, in Islamic theology has always been linked to the question of happiness on the other side. Man is responsible before God for his own actions. Sins against God such as:

"The denial of the divine existence. Or the addition of further deities, so to speak, to the one and only God."

"You torment yourself with it"

When the community around the prophet Mohammed formed in Arabia around 1400 years ago, these were important questions for the continued existence of the still young religion. Today, sins that are directed against fellow human beings come more into focus. An Islamic social ethic is developing in which people should take responsibility. Esnaf Begic names these everyday sins:

"I was not fair to my parents, I treated them badly. I treated my children badly. I committed adultery on my own initiative. Or I threatened someone, beat someone up or something like that. You torture yourself with it. You load a certain one Guilt on himself and can't cope with it and of course comes to an Iman and talks about it. "

There can only be forgiveness from God. Like the other Abrahamic religions, Islam emphasizes repentance and conversion. Repentance is important in maintaining one's relationship with God. In the case of interpersonal misconduct, the sinner himself is called upon to put the matter in order. Not an easy task. It says:

"When it comes to interpersonal misconduct, the principle is that even God does not interfere. As long as these two people have not clarified a certain topic, a certain problem, guilt, etc. Otherwise that would be an unjust God . That would contradict the understanding of divine action, "says Begic.

Murder cannot be atoned for

In Islam, murder is considered to be the greatest sin between people. This act cannot be atoned for. British imams introduced a new way of dealing with what is probably the most extreme form, religiously motivated murder. They refused to pray for the dead of jihadists and terrorist attackers associated with IS, as a sign that they did not forgive.

In Muslim communities, scholars are observing a change in the Islamic understanding of sin. Today sins against the general public that harm other people weigh more heavily, says the Islamic theologian Serdar Kurnaz from the University of Hamburg. While sins against God are more of a private matter.

"For example, if someone doesn't say the prayer, then you don't necessarily think that they are a bad Muslim, then you just think he or she just doesn't say the prayer."

Muslim duties: fasting Ramadan, giving alms, performing prayers - in short: the outwardly celebrated belief that says nothing at all about a person's spirituality.

Polytheism is unforgivable

Serdar Kurnaz: "I am of the opinion that people, no matter what religion they belong to, tend to play God themselves. That is mainly our problem nowadays, I believe that one feels able to judge other people because of their opinion are observing certain actions that are wrong. You have to be very careful. "

The Islamic theologian Serdar Kurnaz argues here based on tradition that no one should condemn other people. For example, because they drink alcohol or do not fast.

"As you know, it is very bad in the Muslim tradition when you try to play God yourself. The only thing that God would possibly not forgive at all is polytheism. Or the polytheism that one associates other gods with God. There you always have to ask yourself. If I pretend to be able to look into people's hearts. The Muslim tradition says: Only God is able to look into people's hearts. "

Homosexuality: "The judgment is left to God"

If you approach controversial topics like that - it could provide space for factual discussions. For example, how to deal with homosexuality among Muslims - because this is considered a sin according to the conservative interpretation. And apart from the Liberal-Islamic Federation, there is little acceptance to be heard from the Muslim community. Imam Esnaf Begic says it is fundamentally wrong to exclude homosexuals.

Begic:

"But in this context it is important to emphasize that despite these sexual orientations - however they should be, the human being is in the foreground and that it is very important that the human being is to be respected as an expression of the divine creation. In this respect, someone is allowed do not judge or condemn from today's understanding, so this assessment is left to God alone. "

Because life changes, there are also new sins that can disturb the divine order - at least in theory.

Serdar Kurnaz: "In many religious circles the awareness is not yet there that if one harms the environment, that this can be interpreted as a great sin. In Muslim circles, one cites quite a lot of Koran passages or many sayings of the Prophet Mohammed that refer to them point out that one should not harm creation. But if you project that back into everyday life and look at how things are done, then I have only seen very few people who, for example, today refrain from driving a car because they are only traveling alone and not use public transport. "

Taboo subject violence

That probably applies to people, regardless of their religion. Judaism, Christianity, Islam - all Abrahamic religions know the idea of ​​moral failure. With deceit, enrichment, neglect and sexual misconduct, people move away from the divine order. But it's not just the interpretation that changes. It is doubtful whether today's generations develop similar feelings of guilt in a religious sense as their mothers and grandfathers. Whether concepts of sin in their complexity are even understood today is another question. It depends on the mediation and community life of the communities. And that is often quite wasted. Some really burning topics are hardly addressed in Friday sermons, criticizes the Islamic scholar Esnaf Begic. For example, dealing with violence.

"Even with me as an imam it sometimes happens that the choice of topics does not appeal to me when I listen to the Friday sermon. So that I switch off pretty quickly during the Friday sermon because these topics do not affect the reality of my life. And I can I can certainly imagine that it is much more pronounced among young people that they do not feel addressed by such topics. "