There are many aspects of Islam which are hard to pinpoint; gray areas that require in-depth study by Islamic scholars. These scholars examine Islamic historical accounts, rulings, and schools of law, and occasionally come to differing conclusions. However, one aspect of Islam that is in no way under any debate or doubt is shirk, the ultimate crime. Shirk is the crime of associating partners with Allah. In other words, if a Muslim in any way denies the oneness (tawheed) of Allah, he has committed this most heinous sin. There is 100% agreement among all Muslims that this is the one sin that must never be committed. The seriousness of shirk is seen both as it compares to other sins as well as Allah’s unique response to it.
Its severity is stated this way by one Muslim author,
“Murder, rape, child molesting and genocide. These are all some of the appalling crimes which occur in our world today. Many would think that these are the worst possible offenses which could be committed. But there is something which outweighs all of these crimes put together: It is the crime of shirk.” [i]
The Qur’an is correspondingly very explicit about the results of committing shirk. While all other sins might be forgiven, the sin of shirk is the lone exception. It will not be forgiven under any circumstance. Qur’an 4:48 says,
“ Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases; and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.”
To be clear, Islam teaches that if a Muslim commits shirk, he can still repent, in essence becoming a Muslim for a second time, and thus perhaps be saved. However, unlike other sins, a soul dying in a state of shirk is doomed to hellfire, no exceptions.
So what does any of this have to do with Christianity? Of course, Christians also believe that God has no partners. Yet our job here is delve deeper, so consider the core of what it requires to be saved. In John 3:18 Jesus tells us that we must believe in His name, the only begotten Son of God. We must confess Jesus (Matthew 10:32), and we must truly believe He died and rose again (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:2-4). We also must come to Him in order to receive this life (John 5:40; John 10:9: Acts 2:21). By doing this, from the Muslim point of view, Christians have committed shirk, the unforgivable sin. Believing that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh is exactly the most abominable thought a Muslim could ever have.
Note the connection between how Christians find salvation and the unforgivable sin in Islam. They are one in the same. In other words, the road to true reconciliation with God is that which is portrayed as the worst possible avenue of action a Muslim could take. The simplicity of this reversal is fiendishly constructed. The pathway to true light and forgiveness is marked in Islam as being the only route never to take. There could not be a more antithetical relationship in how each religion depicts the incarnation of Jesus.
People often ask me why I am so interested in Islam. I can guarantee that it is not because of the fascinating theological reversals I write about here. The reason why I love Muslims so much is because I grieve at the traps that have been laid before them. The doorway out of the darkness which is called Islam has a sign on it telling Muslims that is the one and only door they cannot ever dare to step through. Even Christians who understand Islam often just see Muslims as having an incomplete understanding of God, rather than recognizing the devious snares that lie in wait on the path of Muslim seekers. Christians who share the good news do not realize they are asking Muslims to commit the very worst crime imaginable. As traps go, it is one of the most cleverly and insidiously designed ever encountered. In my opinion, this should move all us to indescribable compassion for the Muslims of our world.