There is no Substitutionary Atonement in Islam

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين

Shameless Sam Shamoun plays with the subtleties of Hadith narrations to misguide people about Islam by bringing Islam’s just ideas down to the level of some of the celebrated ideals of the religion he professes.

He uses four different narrations. Let us see as to what they really mean.

Narration 1 & 2:

عن أبي موسى، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: " إذا كان يوم القيامة، دفع الله عز وجل إلى كل مسلم، يهوديا، أو نصرانيا، فيقول: هذا فكاكك من النار "
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)[1]

And another narration says;

عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، قال: «لا يموت رجل مسلم إلا أدخل الله مكانه النار، يهوديا، أو نصرانيا

Allah's Messenger –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit in his stead a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire.
(Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6666)

Al-Nawawi’s explanation:

Apparently, it does seem like what this shameless Sam Shamoun suggests, however, as the Muslim scholars have explained, this is not the case. And yes, these are the classical scholars and not modern “Muslim apologists”.

Imam al-Nawawi (d. 676 A.H.) comments on these narrations;

ومعنى هذا الحديث ما جاء في حديث أبي هريرة لكل أحد منزل في الجنة ومنزل في النار فالمؤمن إذا دخل الجنة خلفه الكافر في النار لاستحقاقه ذلك بكفره ومعنى فكاكك من النار أنك كنت معرضا لدخول النار وهذا فكاكك لأن الله تعالى قدر لها عددا يملؤها فإذا دخلها الكفار بكفرهم وذنوبهم صاروا في معنى الفكاك للمسلمين

And the meaning of this Hadith is like what is reported in a narration from Abu Hurayrah that, “For everyone there is a place in Paradise and a place in Hell” So if the believer enters paradise his place in Hellfire will be occupied by a disbeliever, due to (the fact that) he himself deserves it because of his disbelief. And the meaning of [the words] ‘Your rescue from Hell’ is that you were  susceptible to entry into Hell and this (disbeliever) is (as such) your rescue for Almighty Allah has destined for Hell a number that will fill it and (the number will be completed) when the disbelievers enter it due to their disbelief and sins. This is referred to as rescue for Muslims.”
(Sharah al-Nawawi, Dar Ehia al-Tourath al-Arabi, Beirut 1392 A.H.vol.17 p.85)

Here Imam al-Nawawi has pointed to a very interesting hadith i.e.

عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: " ما منكم من أحد إلا له منزلان: منزل في الجنة، ومنزل في النار، فإذا مات، فدخل النار، ورث أهل الجنة منزله، فذلك قوله تعالى: {أولئك هم الوارثون} [المؤمنون: 10] "

Narrated Abu Hurayrah, the Messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said: “There is not one among you who does not have two places, a place in Paradise and a place in Hell. If he dies and enters Hell, the people of Paradise will inherit his place, and this is what Allah said: ‘These are indeed the heirs. (Qur’an 23:10)’”
(Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith 4341, Dar Ahya Kutab al-Arabi, Beirut n.d.vol.2 p.1453 Classified as Sahih by Albani)

The narrator of this report Abu Hurayrah (d. 58 A.H.), may Allah be pleased with him- further elaborated on this issue;

يرثون مساكنهم ومساكن إخوانهم الذين أعدت لهم إذا أطاعوا الله

“They will inherit their own dwellings (in Paradise) and the dwellings of their brothers (in humanity) for whom the dwellings were prepared (and they would have owned these) if had they obeyed Allah.”
(Mustarak al-Hakim, Hadith 3845, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut 1990 vol. 2 p.427 al-Hakim classified it as Sahih, al-Dhahbi agreed with him)

Al-Baihaqi’s comment:

Having read al-Nawawi’s intake on it as an explanation of the other reports and the narration from Abu Hurayrah, let’s see what another great Hadith scholar had to say on it.

Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Baihaqi (d. 458 A.H.) said:

ويشبه أن يكون هذا الحديث تفسيرا لحديث الفداء، والكافر إذا أورث على المؤمن مقعده من الجنة، والمؤمن إذا أورث على الكافر مقعده من النار يصير في التقدير كأنه فدي المؤمن بالكافر، والله أعلم.

And it appears that this hadith is a commentary to the hadith of Ransom. As a disbeliever’s dwelling in Paradise is inherited (i.e. filled) by a believer, and a believer’s dwelling in Hell is filled by a disbeliever, it is in a sense like a ransom for a believer through a disbeliever. And Allah knows the best!
(Shu’b al-Iman, Maktaba’ al-Rushd, Riyadh 2003 vol.1 p.581)

The crux is, everyone has a home in both Paradise and Hell. If someone believes in Allah and His Messenger Allah will forgive him and his place in Hell will be occupied by a disbeliever, who will enter Hell due to his own sins but will fill the could-have-been place of a believer. While a believer in his turn when enters Paradise due to his own belief and submission that entitles him to Allah’s special blessing, he will be made to fill the could-have-been place of a disbeliever.

One may like to ask, as to why the dwellers of Hell and the inmates of Paradise fill the could-have-been places of each other while everyone has his place in both the abodes? This query is answered below under a separate heading.

An interesting point:

A hadith given above says, every person has a station each in Paradise and Hell. When a person enters hell, his place in Paradise is occupied by those who end up as inmates of the blessed abode, and likewise we can say when a person enters Paradise, his place in Hell is filled by a disbeliever. For the latter case, the Hadith narrations under consideration figuratively term the disbeliever, who occupies the could-have-been place of a believer in Hell, as his “ransom” and “rescue”. And for the former case, Qur’an 23:10 describes the believers as the “heirs” of the disbelievers “inheriting” and occupying their places in Paradise.

A believer who replaces the disbeliever in his could-have-been above at the place of bliss is called as his “heir” while the disbeliever who fills the could-have-been place of a believer in Hell is referred to as his “ransom” and “rescue”. The idea is same anyway. And while there is no question of Muslims entering Paradise in place of Jews and Christian. This point also makes it evident that the whole thing is about “filling the place (in the sense of location)” of the other in either of the abodes by the one who ends up there.

Answer to a query:

Now we come to the query that when every person has his place in both Paradise and Hell, why the inmates of each fill the place of those who do not end up there.

The answer to this query comes from the understanding of yet another Hadith.

عن أبي هريرة، قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: لا يدخل أحد الجنة إلا أري مقعده من النار لو أساء، ليزداد شكرا، ولا يدخل النار أحد إلا أري مقعده من الجنة لو أحسن، ليكون عليه حسرة

Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet –my the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said, "None will enter Paradise but will be shown the place he would have occupied in the Hell-Fire if he had rejected faith, so that he may be more thankful; and none will enter the Hell-Fire but will be shown the place he would have occupied in Paradise if he had faith, so that may be a cause of sorrow for him."
(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8 :: Book 76 :: Hadith 573)

Hafiz Ibn Hajr (d. 852 A.H.), while mentioning various comments on the issue writes;

يحتمل أن يكون الفداء مجازا عما يدل عليه حديث أبي هريرة ... لا يدخل الجنة أحد إلا أري مقعده من النار لو أساء ليزداد شكرا الحديث وفيه في مقابله ليكون عليه حسرة فيكون المراد بالفداء إنزال المؤمن في مقعد الكافر من الجنة الذي كان أعد له وإنزال الكافر في مقعد المؤمن الذي كان أعد له

“The “Ransom” might just be in figurative sense, and what makes an evidence for this is the narration of Abu Hurayrah, ‘None will enter Paradise but will be shown the place he would have occupied in the (Hell) Fire if he had rejected faith, so that he may be more thankful …’ And it is also about a possible reserve situation where a person has regret (ending up in Hell and seeing his place in Paradise.) And the meaning of “ransom” is the believer’s occupation of disbeliever’s dwelling in Paradise that was prepared for him, and likewise the disbeliever’s occupation of believer’s place (in Hell) that was prepared for him.”
(Fath al-Bari, Dar al-Ma’rifa, Beirut 1379 A.H. vol.11 p.398)

Firstly, it ought to be kept in mind that the “ransom” thing is only in the figurative sense.

Secondly as a believer will feel the pleasure seeing his place in Hell, and disbeliever will feel the agony seeing his place in Paradise, to further intensify the feelings on the part of people from both abodes, Allah will make them fill the places of others who did not make to respective abodes.

A believer seeing a disbeliever being punished at (not “in”) his place in Hell will truly understand how merciful Allah has been when He forgave His sins and saved him from the torment like what the disbeliever now suffers. And the remorse for failing to believe on the part of a disbeliever will increase manifolds when he will see a person enjoying at his place in Paradise. This regret and remorse will perhaps be a part of the punishment.

Narration 3:

The third narration from Sahih Muslim that the shameless Sam uses reads;

عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: يجيء يوم القيامة ناس من المسلمين بذنوب أمثال الجبال، فيغفرها الله لهم ويضعها على اليهود والنصارى

The usual translation, also reproduced by Sam is;

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.
(Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6668. Emphasis by Sam Shamoun)

The above is the commonly used translation of the narration. However, this is not the right translation. Let’s first go through the explanation by the scholars before we translate the narration aptly.

Imam al-Nawawi comments to this narration:

فمعناه أن الله تعالى يغفر تلك الذنوب للمسلمين ويسقطها عنهم ويضع على اليهود والنصارى مثلها بكفرهم وذنوبهم فيدخلهم النار بأعمالهم لا بذنوب المسلمين ولا بدمن هذا التأويل لقوله تعالى ولا تزر وازرة وزرأخرى

“Its meaning is that Allah will forgive these sins for the Muslims and will remove it (the burden of sins) from them. And the like of it (i.e. the burden of sins) will be put on the Jews and Christians due to their disbelief and their sins. And they will be made to enter the Hell-Fire because of their own deeds and not for the sins of the Muslims. And this interpretation is expedient due to the word of the Almighty, “And no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another.(Sharah al-Nawawi,.vol.17 p.85)

An erudite scholar of our day, Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, elaborates on this in much simpler wording;

ليس معناه أن اليهود والنصارى يحملون من الذنوب ما ارتكبها المسلمون، لأن ذالك مخالف لصريح قوله تعالى: (وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى) بل مراد أن اليهود والنصارى يوضع عليهم ذنوبهم، فى حين المسلمين المذكورين لا يوضع عليهم ذنوبهم، بل يغفرلهم

“It does not mean that Jews and Christians will bear the sins that are committed by the Muslims for it goes against the clear word of Allah, “And no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another” [6:164]. The meaning in fact is that the Jews and Christians will bear the burden of their own sins while the Muslims will not bear any sins rather Allah will forgive their sins for them.”

Continuing his comment on the words “He would place it on the Jews and the Christians he hits the bull’s eye and writes;

فضمير المؤنث فى (يَضَعُهَا) راجع إلى جنس الذنوب، لا إلى آحادها التى ارتَكبها المسلمون

“So the subject "it" here is pointing to 'sins' in general and not the specific sins committed by the Muslims.”
(Takmila Fath al-Mulhim, Dar Ehia al-Tourath al-Arabi, Beirut 2006 vol.6 p.32)

In the light of the above scholarly exegesis the correct translation of the Hadith is;

Abu Burda reported the Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- as saying: “There would come some people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with sins as heavy as mountains, and Allah would forgive them. However, He would place it (i.e. burden of sins) on the Jews and the Christians (unlike Muslims their sins will not be forgiven).” (Sahih Muslim)

Narration 4:

There is yet another narration that Sam refers to. It is from al-Hakim’s al-Mustadrak. This is how he puts it on his page;

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)

Following is the original wording in the Arabic language.

عن أبي موسى، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: " تحشر هذه الأمة على ثلاثة أصناف: صنف يدخلون الجنة بغير حساب، وصنف يحاسبون حسابا يسيرا ثم يدخلون الجنة، وصنف يجيئون على ظهورهم أمثال الجبال الراسيات ذنوبا، فيسأل الله عنهم وهوأعلم بهم فيقول: ما هؤلاء؟ فيقولون: هؤلاء عبيد من عبادك فيقول: حطوها عنهم واجعلوها على اليهود والنصارى وأدخلوهم برحمتي الجنة

The sentence that is most important here is;

فيقول: حطوها عنهم واجعلوها على اليهود والنصارى وأدخلوهم برحمتي الجنة

The translation reproduced by Sam puts it as;

“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.”

Now this is definitely a grossly mistaken translation. There is nothing in the Arabic text to suggest “put the SAME.” This Hadith means exactly the same as Narration 3. And the scholarly comments given under that equally apply to this narration.

Therefore, the correct translation of the relevant last part of the narration is;

“He will say: Unload the (burden of) sins from them. (However) put it on the Jews and Christians. And let them (the humble servants) enter Paradise by My Mercy.”
(Mustadrak al-Hakim Hadith 193, vol.1 p.126)

The last part of the narration that about humble servants of Allah to be made to enter Paradise by the MERCY of Allah is also suggestive of the fact that their sins will be obliterated and not shifted on to someone else.


The meaning s of Narrations 3 and 4 need no further elaboration. As to Narrations 1 & 2 another point adds much weight to the explanation given above. According to Qur’an and Sunnah the Jews and Christians, if the die like that, are actually destined to enter Hell anyway. It makes it very clear that they cannot “replace” Muslims in Hell or be a “ransom” as such.

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah -may peace be upon him- observed: “By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the denizens of Hell-Fire.”
(Sahih Muslim :: Book 1 : Hadith 284)

They will not enter Hell “in place of” Muslims but will occupy their place. In other words the difference is about “in their place” and “at their place.”

Islam’s ideal is very categorically stated in the Qur’an:

وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى

“And no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another” (Qur’an 6:164)

Acknowledgement: Sister Rabbaniyah’s  (Cairo, Egypt) help was imperative in bringing up the translation of the commentary notes from the works of great scholars. May Allah reward her!

Indeed Allah knows the best!

[1] From now onwards I will use the hadith numbering in vogue online for the hadith collections translated into English

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    1. As usual, Sam Shamoun is proven to be a mere 'distorter' and 'misrepresenter' of Islamic texts and doctrines.

    2. Also read إنكار حديث الكتابي فداء للمسلم من النار