The Mathematics of Works

On Friday a former Salifist Muslim (a group that follows the most literal, violent interpretation of Islam), Zakaria, explained to me a nagging question that always bothered him while he was a Muslim: If I am doing so well, why don’t I know for sure I’m going to heaven?

It was this question that led him to reject Islam.

According to Islam, one good work point (ajra or hasanat) cancels or balances out one bad work point in God’s mathematical works system.

So here are some of the ways Zakaria used to rack up some points in the “good” column:

*One prayer at home equals one point.

*One prayer at the mosque equals 27 points.

*One prayer in the front line of the mosque equals 27 points plus 10 more for early arrival.

*Every word read in the Koran gains 1 point which God automatically multiplies times 10.

*Good thoughts equal one point.

So what about the bad column? 

*One bad work gets one bad point.

*No multiplication.

*No additions.

*No bad thoughts get bad points.

With numbers like this, Zakaria figured he would rack up so many good points that he could not possibly go to hell. However, Islam gives no promise of heaven. Even the “good” prophet Mohammed did not know for sure that he was going to heaven. He instructed his followers to pray for him every time they said his name that he might receive God’s mercy after his death.

Maybe you were a Catholic and remember the numbers of Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s that it took to cancel certain sins. Each sin had its number. But then, there is no promise in the mathematics of the Catholic religion, either, that you would be saved.

Grace is the only thing that works mathematically: All of our sin added up still do not equal the imputed righteousness of Christ through faith by grace!

And that is a mathematical equation with a sure sum: saved for sure!

Pray for Muslims (and Catholics and any stuck in a works religion) that they might think, that they might add, that they might doubt in the inaccurate math of works.

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