Earlier this Ramadan, one of the most popular Islamic speakers in the Arab world, Dr. Tariq Suwaidan, wrote a series of posts promoting the idea that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims who believe in one God are people of Janna [links to his posts below].
This idea is heresy and explicitly contradicts numerous clear-cut ayat of the Quran and hadith.
What is sad is that Suwaidan has been giving good lecture series on stories of the Prophet ﷺ, the Sahaba, etc., for decades. This is why he is such a popular figure with millions of fans.
This is also why it is so dangerous that he is now promoting heretical beliefs. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of people liked these posts, so clearly this heretical belief is spreading like fire across the Muslim world and needs to be addressed.
The main proof Suwaidan used was the ayah:
“Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans – those who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” [2:62]
The scholars of tafsir have consistently given the same explanation of this ayah for 1400 years without exception.
This ayah and also ayah 5:69, which has the same wording, refer to one of two meanings.
The first meaning is that those Jews, Christians, and Sabeans who followed their prophets (e.g., Musa, Isa, Ibrahim) before the coming of the Final Messenger ﷺ with the Final Revelation, they will attain salvation. In other words, the ayah does not refer to those Jews, Christians, et al., in times after the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
The second meaning is that the ayah is referring to those Jews, Christians, et al., who become Muslim. They were Jews and Christians, but they came to true belief in God and the Last Day by accepting Islam and becoming Muslim.
There are numerous supporting evidences from the Quran and sirah (asbab al-nuzul) that firmly establish both these meanings.
The immediate context of the ayat in Surat al Baqara and Surat al Ma’ida, for example, is critical.
The ayat immediately preceding 5:69 are harshly condemning the People of the Book for their evil practices, including their rejection of the revelation given Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In the context of the harsh condemnation, ayah 5:69 is clearly reassuring the People of the Book that all is not lost. They are not irrevocably condemned. If they believe in Allah, meaning believe in what Allah has revealed in the Final Revelation, i.e., the Quran, then they have nothing to fear in the hereafter.
In Surat al Baqara, also, the immediately preceding ayat are harshly criticizing Bani Israel for their disbelief against the Messengers of Allah, specifically Musa, and how they consistently disobeyed him. Given the harsh condemnation, does that mean the descendants of Bani Israel (i.e., contemporary Jews) are being condemned carte blanche by the Quran?
That would make sense in the logic of Jews (and tribal people and people with race-based identities generally) because in Judaism, what makes a person “chosen” or condemned is blood heritage. What makes a person Jewish is not belief in God. It is about blood relations, which is why there are atheist Jews, etc. So in the logic of Judaism, condemning Bani Israel means condemning the entire race. But ayah 2:62 denies this by emphasizing that belief and goods deeds are central and that those People of the Book who come to true belief in Allah along with everything that that entails, are not condemned.
Besides these ayat, there are others which make the matter crystal clear:
“And whoever has not believed in Allah and His Messenger – then indeed, We have prepared for the disbelievers a Blaze.” [48:13]
In other words, belief in Muhammad ﷺ is necessary for salvation in the sense that those who hear about him and reject him are people of the Fire.
“Indeed, those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and wish to discriminate between Allah and His messengers and say, “We believe in some and disbelieve in others,” and wish to adopt a way in between, those are the disbelievers, truly. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment.” [4:150]
How much clearer can it be? Those who accept some prophets yet reject Muhammad RasulAllah ﷺ, as the Christians and Jews do, are disbelievers in the truest sense, according to this ayah, and they are people headed toward grievous punishment.
Over and over in the Quran, Allah makes clear that belief in Him is necessarily tied to belief in His Messenger ﷺ. Those who differentiate between messengers and believe in some and disbelieve in others do not really believe in Allah. This is very clear is 2:285:
“The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.””
Beyond ayat we find numerous hadith, the most explicit of which is perhaps the following:
“By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, every one of this people – whether a Jew or a Christian – who hears of me but dies without believing in that with which I am sent, will be one of the dwellers of the fire.” [Sahih Muslim]
And as final evidence for the falsity of Suwaidan’s claim, we find no scholar prior to the modern period ever claim that these ayat mean that contemporary Christians and Jews are saved in the hereafter. Not a single one.
We see this pattern of figures who become very popular because they are essentially skilled storytellers. People enjoy stories and this is an important and effective way to convey Islamic values.
What is dangerous is when those popular storytellers start promoting heretical views, either because they aren’t knowledgeable enough to know better or they have deviated for some reason. We have to hold these figures accountable by denouncing any heretical views they attempt to teach.
May Allah protect us.
- Here are Suwaidan’s posts related to this topic: