Have you ever broken a command in sharia law? This is something that none of us want to do, but the reality is that many of us are hiding our failures, hoping that others will not discover our sin and expose our shame. But what if it is discovered, what do you hope for then?
This happened to a young woman during the teaching of the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH). The Injil records it like this.
The woman caught in adultery
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8: 2-11)
We see that this woman had been caught in the very act of adultery and the teachers of the Sharia law of the Prophet Musa (PBUH) wanted her to be stoned, but they took her first to the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) to see what he would say about the matter. Would he uphold the truth of the law they wondered. (Incidentally, according to the law both the man and the woman were subject to stoning, but only the woman was brought forward for punishment.)
The Justice of Allah & sin of mankind
Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not overturn the law – it was the standard given by Allah and reflected perfect justice. But he said that only those who were without any sin could throw the first stone. As the teachers pondered this, the reality of the following statement from the Zabur settled into their minds
The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)
What the Zabur means is that it is not only the unbelievers, the kafirs and the polytheists who sin – even those who believe in Allah and His messengers they also sin. In fact, according to these ayat, when Allah looks on mankind He does not find even ‘one’ who does good.
The Sharia law of Musa (PBUH) was God’s arrangement with mankind based on absolute justice, and those who followed it could obtain righteousness. But the standard was absolute, without even one deviation allowed.
The Mercy of Allah
But since ‘all have become corrupt’, another arrangement was needed. This arrangement would not be justice based on merit – because people could not uphold their lawful obligations – so it had to be based on another character of Allah – mercy. He would extend mercy in place of obligation. This was anticipated in the Law of the prophet Musa (PBUH) when the Passover lamb granted mercy and life to those who painted blood on their doorposts, and with the Cow (which is what Surah 2 – Baqarah – is named after) of Harun (PBUH). It was even anticipated before that in the mercy of clothes to Adam, the sacrifice of Habil (PBUH), and the mercy given to the prophet Noah (PBUH). It was also anticipated in the Zabur when Allah promised that
I will remove the sin of this land in a single day (Zechariah 3: 9)
And now the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) extended it to someone who had no other hope but to receive mercy. It is interesting that no mention or requirement was made of this woman’s religion. We do know that the Prohet Isa al Masih taught in his Sermon on the Mount that
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)
Extend Mercy to receive Mercy
The chance is very high that you and I will both need Mercy extended to us at the Day of Judgment. The Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) was willing to extend it to someone who clearly had violated the commands – who did not deserve it. But what he does require is that we also extend mercy to those around us. According to him, the level of mercy that we extend will be used to determine the mercy that we will receive. It is because we are so quick to judge the sins of others that there is so much conflict around us. It would be wiser for us to extend mercy to those who have hurt us. Let us ask God to help us become people who, like the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH), extended mercy to those who did not deserve it, so that we, undeserving as we are, can also receive Mercy when we will need it. Then we will be ready to understand the Mercy offered to us in the Good news of the Injil.