Other Worldviews

The Cross Is Good News for Muslims

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 03/19/2024

Muslims reject the cross. They deny Jesus was crucified and rose again. Since their highest authority—the Quran—explicitly denies his crucifixion (surah 4:157), they really have no choice. Whatever the Quran affirms, they must affirm. Whatever it denies, they must deny. Rejecting the reality of the cross, though, means Muslims miss out on a theological reality that has eternal consequences.

Part of the problem is that Islam operates on a meritorious system. Whether you enter Paradise or not is based on your works. You are born with a clean slate (Islam rejects the idea that we are born with a sin nature), and you accrue good and bad deeds during your life. Two angels keep track of your deeds. One angel tracks your good deeds, and the other tracks your bad deeds. At the final resurrection, all your good and bad deeds are placed on a scale (surah 21:47, 7:8–9). If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you go to Paradise. If your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, you go to Hell. Although some Muslims tell me that additional factors can play a role in your destiny, they confirm that the Islamic system of salvation is based on individual merit.

One of the most significant ways a Muslim can shift the scales in their favor is to perform a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj (surah 22:27), which entails performing numerous rituals in and around Mecca for about a week. After completion, a Muslim is cleansed of all their sins, thereby resetting their sin count to zero. It’s as if they were born again with a blank slate, though they get to keep the good deeds they’ve already accrued. Mohammed himself said, “Whoever performs Hajj to this Kaaba and does not approach his wife for sexual relations nor commit sins (while performing Hajj), he will come out as sinless as a newborn child, (just delivered by his mother)” (Bukhari 1820). At the moment a Muslim completes the hajj, they have zero bad deeds but a life’s worth of good deeds. The scales are tipped in their favor.

Here’s the problem for a Muslim. Unless they die immediately after completing the hajj, they’ll start accruing bad deeds again. Depending on how much longer they live and the number of bad deeds they accrue, they’ll be left again with uncertainty about their eternal fate.

Jesus and the cross directly address this problem. Unlike the one-time zeroing out of your sins with the hajj, Christ’s work on the cross forgives all your sins—past, present, and future. You no longer need to strive to earn additional merit or worry about racking up additional sin. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” At the moment a person puts their trust in Jesus, God justifies them. That person is no longer a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), but now is a child of God, adopted into his family. When God looks at that person, he doesn’t see the stains of sin, but the righteousness of Christ.

The fact that a person’s future sins are forgiven doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to continue to sin, presuming on God’s grace (Rom. 6:1–2). Such an attitude is unchristian. Nor is it appropriate to neglect to confess your sin. Indeed, we’re still commanded to confess sin (1 John 1:9).

The cross, though, is the good news that Muslims need. A Muslim who puts his trust in Christ is free from the uncertainty of where they’ll spend eternity. They no longer need to chase a lifetime of good deeds or fear an accumulation of bad deeds. Jesus completes the work on your behalf. He earns you God’s favor.

In fact, what Jesus offers is even better. Christ not only forgives your sins through his work on the cross, but he also transfers his righteousness to you. That means Jesus addresses both sides of Allah’s scales. One the one hand, Jesus’ death on the cross cancels sin, thereby eliminating the weight of a person’s bad deeds. On the other hand, Jesus’ righteousness weighs down the other side of the scale. With no bad deeds on one side and all good deeds on the other, the scale of justice is tipped in your favor. You don’t have to wonder about your destiny. Jesus takes care of both sides of the ledger.

Having said all this, I’m not claiming the Islamic system of salvation is true or that God uses a scale. Rather, I’m pointing out that the cross is good news for a Muslim, should they put their trust in Christ. It will end their lifelong (and impossible) struggle to earn God’s favor and grant them confidence in their eternal destiny.