Question: Since Islam had canceled all other religious, in some verses of Qur’an why does it considers all the people and communities of the world - whether Muslims, Jews and Christians etc. if they believe in Allah and do virtuous deeds they are people of salvation and says:
whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.1
Does not this mean that all communities of the world even after the advent of Islam, as per above-mentioned conditions (belief and action) would get salvation? And still their religions exist with their own strength and they are not annulled on the basis of credence?
Answer: Let us first see the text of the above-mentioned verses then we shall analyze them.
(1) “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews and the Christians and the Sabeans whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good they shall have their reward from their Lord, and those is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.”2
(2) Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good — they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.3
There is no difference in the meaning of the first verse and this one.
(3) Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians and the Magians and those who associate (others with Allah) — surely Allah will decide between them on the day of resurrection; surely Allah is a witness over all things.”4
It is possible that at first sight, it may be considered that these verses say that if the followers of aforesaid religions believe in the oneness of Allah and the day of resurrection and do good deeds, they are the people of salvation and one concludes that other religious are not yet abolished.
Now when Islam was presented to the people it does not mean that following other religions was eliminated, but each one from the previous religions is on a way towards Allah. And man can reach to his destination through any way he wants. And this is not at all necessary that a particular religion, for example Islam should be followed. This is the issue, which is repeatedly put forward by those people whose study of the Holy Qur’an is superficial.
Nevertheless it should be kept in mind that the base of exegesis of some single verse is not on that other verses should be neglected and overlooked. And relationship of this verse should be cut-off from them. But to understand the meaning of one verse, other than the circumstances of revelation, the verse preceding and the verse following that verse and other verses of the Holy Qur’an should also be kept in view.
If after the advent of Islam following other religions was allowed then there was no justification in continuing some other religion's law in the name of Islam. This was also not at all necessary that the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) should be the chief of all the races of the world and write to the leaders and rulers inviting them all towards his religion, and put forward his religion as a universal religion and the last divine law.
The letters of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his repeatedly inviting towards Islam in his days and after that Muslims waged holy war that which was wearing away their strength against the People of the Book and narrations concerning this which have reached us from Imams of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), all bear testimony that with the advent of Islam the period of the apostleship of the previous great Prophets (a.s.) came to an end and divine law other than Islam and the prophet hood other than that of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) do not have a standing anymore.
Now let us see what is the purpose of those verses. In the above-mentioned verses two facts are mentioned. One is brief and the other detailed.
(1) If the Jews and the Christians are truly by heart the followers of Tawhid and Qiyamat and do not show off they should according to Taurat and Injeel believe in the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.), because Taurat and Injeel had conveyed the good news of coming of Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and described his signs, like: you know him as you know your sons. It is a thing worth attention that, the Holy Qur’an in Surah Maidah just before the verse, which is under discussion says:
Say: O followers of the Book! You follow no good till you keep up the Taurat and the Injeel and that which is revealed to you from your Lord…5
There is no need to show that the meaning to keep up those Heavenly Books is to act on what is in them. And what is entered into those Books is the Prophet hood of the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) and it is universal Prophet hood, which is entered in them.
The Holy Qur’an has pointed towards it several times. If they really have faith in Allah and the day of resurrection, then it is a must for them that should have faith in the universal Prophet hood of Prophet (s.a.w.a.) also, which is part of the teachings of Allah in the old and new testaments. In that case they will become Muslims and surely get the rewards.
In short faith on Allah and the day of resurrection is not different from the Heavenly Books and their teachings. (In which the prophet hood of Last Prophet is included). Then such a person who has faith in these in a sense is not a Christian, but he will be considered a Muslim.
(3) It is evident from studying the verse preceding this verse in Surah Baqarah that, it is connected to these group of the People of Book, who believed in Allah in the time of the previous Prophets and they believed in the day of resurrection. In and in those periods of time they were following the commands of their respective religion.
In contrast to that, some others disobeyed the way of Tawhid and started worshipping calf and became shameless to the extent that, they said to Musa (a.s.) in clear words: As long as we do not see Allah with our own eyes we will not worship Him. As a result of such unbecoming ways the Israelites came face to face with the anger of Allah. And according to the meaning of the preceding verse, their foreheads were stamped with a seal of disgrace and misfortune and they were trapped in the wrath of Allah because they had committed blasphemy with respect to the signs of Allah and were killing the prophets unjustly.6
Allah has revealed above-mentioned verses to remove the wrong notions and to explain that the group of the People of book, which really believed in Tawhid and the day of resurrection and did good deeds, is different from others. They will get salvation on the day of resurrection and for them there will be no grief and sadness.
In these circumstances this verse will be especially for that group of the people of Book, who were alive in the past ages and died before the Proclamation of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and it is not with regard to the period of the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.).
The purpose of revelation of this verse also explains this subject in a complete way that, after the apostleship of the Holy Prophet and the revelation of Holy Qur’an some Muslims will think that, when Islam is the only way of truth and salvation, then what will be the fate of our ancestors, who were the followers of other religions at that time? The noble verse was revealed to assuage them.
Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.7
And in a formal way it was announced that all the people who in their own time believed in Allah and the day of resurrection and continued to do good deeds, will get salvation and for them there will be no grief and sorrow.
When Hazrat Salman-e-Farsi (r.a.) met the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) for the first he began to discuss about the caretakers of monastery and monks and many people also joined the gathering and sat around the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He addressing the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:
“All the monks of our monastery were waiting for your Apostleship, but with regret I have to say that before they could pay visit to your honored self they passed away.”
At that time someone said to Hazrat Salman (r.a.) that they were the people of fire. This thing did not go well with Hazrat Salman (r.a.). At that time the verse which is under discussion was revealed that those who believed truly in the past true religions, though that may not have seen the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) then too they will get salvation.
The summary of this answer is this that those people before the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) in their time had strong belief in true religion; they will get salvation on the day of Qiyamat. In this situation, this verse does not have any relevance to the thoughts like “peace-loving person” (Every religion's follower is from the people of salvation) and this type of exegesis shows lack of knowledge of the meaning of that verse and the verses, which are concordant to that.
Other than this the 17th verse of Surah Hajj does not have the slightest of conformity to the meaning, which they construe. Its meaning is nothing but that Allah on the day of resurrection will decide between different communities of the world. This assertion does not bear testimony at all that the followers of all the religions will get salvation. And that all are moving on the true path.8