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Religion Library: Sunni Islam

Afterlife and Salvation

Written by: Nancy Khalek

Salvation is generally understood to be solely a result of the individual's relationship with God, and includes no concept of an intermediary or redeemer.  Because there is one hadith that describes Muhammad declaring that each prophet will intercede with God on behalf of his community of the Day of Judgment, some Sunnis believe in the efficacy of intercession. 

A central tenet of Sunni belief is that God welcomes repentant sinners and that his compassion far exceeds his punishment. For this reason, there is no sense of a one-to-one account of bad or good deeds; God can forgive anything he wills, in whatever fashion he wishes. For this reason, even the most sinful penitent is admonished, in the Quran and the hadith, never to despair of God's mercy.

In addition to the good deeds and religious obligations performed during one's lifetime, there are other influences on a person's afterlife - namely the supplications of righteous offspring, charitable endowments that continue even after an individual's death (a waqf, or pious endowment), and the religious knowledge one passed on to others during his or her life. In this sense, a soul in the barsakh can still benefit from relationships forged in life.

Study Questions:
     1.    What does Sunnism believe about original sin?
     2.    What happens during barsakh?
     3.    Does salvation depend solely upon the individual? If not, what other factors can affect it?
     4.    Describe the afterlife, as viewed by Sunnism.


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