Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain.....
"Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.
As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
In the very beginning of human history, the issue of good and evil arose.
Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying Allah who commanded them not to eat of the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They ate and lost their innocence, and
then they realized they were naked. To hide their nakedness, Adam and Eve sewed
fig leaves together to cover themselves.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:7
But, the consequences of their sin of rebellion could not be so easily
hidden. The leaves of a fig treeno matter how perfect the leaves of the fig
tree werecould not cover their sin of rebellion before Almighty Allah.
Everything is open and visible before Him. He is the All-Knowing One
(Omniscient). Yet, this is just what we sinners do. We attempt to cover our
nakedness before Allah with the fig leaves of our own self-righteousness. We
want to ignore the fact that we have sinned and that our sin necessitates death.
Adam's sin brought human death into the world, and we die because we have
individually sinned against the Allah's holiness.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death
through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned Romans
Garments of skin
Allah in His graciousness and mercy covered them with the skin of an animal.
Now, Adam and Eve might have thought that their covering of fig leaves was
better than the covering of the skin of a dead animal. To obtain fig leaves does
not require the death of an animal. Fig leaves were something they themselves
could collect and make into an attractive covering. They might have thought that the fur or
fleece of an animal would be sufficient, thinking that an animal's fur or
fleece would not require the death of an animal. But, no Allah provided them
animal skins for clothing, and this provision necessitated the death of an
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21 (NIV)
By this act of covering Adam and Eve with garments of skins, Allah was
teaching them that sin requires the forfeiture of life. In this case, the life
of an animal was forfeited to provide a covering for Adam and Eve. In other
words, after they had sinned, an animal had to have its life sacrificed to
provide a covering for them.
Dying you shall die
But, we don't like to be reminded that sin causes death. We want death and
its consequences removed as far as possible from us. We prefer the
self-sufficiency of our own righteousness. We want Allah to be in debt to us for
our righteous deeds. So, we pray, make pilgrimages, give alms, and do penance to
make Allah feel indebted to us. Tirelessly, we sew together the fig leaves of
our own human righteousness. We are not willing to humble ourselves before
Allah, as sinners, and admit that our own righteousness is not adequate to pay
the penalty for our own personal sins. We do not want to face the fact that our
sins requires our eternal death.
Adam and Eve had been told that, if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, they would die (in Hebrew, literally, it is 'dying you will
die'). Before Adam and Eve disobeyed Allah, they possessed immortal life. After
they disobeyed, they had a mortal life that would slowly grow old and then would
abruptly come to an end in death. This process of aging and death is expressed
accurately in the Hebrew expression, 'dying you will die.'
.... for when you eat of it you will surely die [literally, dying you will
die]." Genesis 2:17 (NIV)
The Biblical Story of Cain and Abel
"Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to
Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a
man." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and
Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of
the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of
the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry,
and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry?
Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to
have you, but you must master it." Now Cain said to his brother Abel,
"Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain
attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain,
"Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied.
"Am I my brother's keeper?" The LORD said, "What have you done?
Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under
a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your
brother's blood from your hand." Genesis 4:1-11 (NIV)
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an
offering to the LORD (v. 3). There is no doubt that Cain brought the very
best of his fruits as a Thank You Offering to Allah. He had worked
diligently to obtain a bountiful crop. Through tender care, he had cultivated
the soil, watered his plants, and pulled the weeds from his fields. As a result,
he was blessed with an abundant harvest of delight fruits. We can surmise that
he had been taught by his parents, Adam and Eve, to be thankful to Allah for all
of His blessings. So, it was only natural that he felt like giving a Thank
You Offering to Allah. There are many who consider the majesty and
blessedness of Allah and who are moved to offer their thanksgiving to Him. So,
why was Cain's sacrifice rejected so sternly?
Cain Ignored His Parents History
Just as Adam and Eve thought that their covering of fig leaves was sufficient
to satisfy Allah's holiness, so Cain thought that his hard efforts to
cultivate good fruits were sufficient to satisfy His holiness too. Cain ignored
the fact that Allah has said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life" Genesis
3:17. Cain was offering the fruits of a cursed ground to Allah. Cain seems to
have forgotten that Allah had provided the skin of an animal to cover his
parents. Allah required Cain to realize that those who approach Allah must
approach Him, recognizing their sinfulness and that the penalty of sin is death.
We cannot ignore the fact that we are sinners who deserve eternal damnation.
Thus, Cain's approach to Allah was based upon his own hard work; and, as a
result, it had to be rejected by Allah. He offered a Thank You Offering
as if he had never sinned. His offering depended upon his self-righteousness and
religious merit. Thus, it was reject, because we must approach Allah in a way
that recognizes our sin and the fact that we deserve death.
Abel went to his flock and selected the firstborn lamb as a Sacrificial
Offering to Allah. No doubt, the firstborn was the choicest of his flock. He
knew he would have to kill his very best to approach Allah. This is very
hard for us. We think that our very best will be acceptable to Allah, and we are
not willing to set it aside in death. We fulfill our daily religious rituals
to please Allah. But, Allah rejects our rituals because we think that these
adequate to please Him. Abel had learned from Adam and Eve that sin had brought
alienation between the human race and Allah. And, because of sin, death
had come upon all their progeny. His parents had taught him that divine
acceptance depends upon a Sacrificial Offering. Abel
submitted to Allah's righteousness and offered the fat of his sacrificial lamb
upon the altar.
"The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering" because Abel
offered in faith an appropriate sacrifice for a sinner. Because of this, the
Lord God accepted Abel and his sacrifice. However, with "Cain and his
offering he did not look with favor," because Cain approached Allah on the
basis of his own efforts and with a sacrifice that ignored his sins.
Naturally, Cain was downcast and disheartened that he and his sacrifice were
rejected. In addition, he thought that, because his sacrifice was rejected, he
would lose the rights of primogeniture, being the firstborn child of Adam and
Eve. Allah extended to him the opportunity to offer a sin offering by which he
would be accepted by Allah. In addition, he was promised that he would retain
the ruling rights of the firstborn child. All would be well, if only he would
offer a sin-offering.
Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at
the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou
rulest over it.' Genesis 4:7 (Young's Literal Translation)
Cain rejected Allah's kind and gracious offer. He felt he was too good to
offer a bloody sin offering. He was not willing to admit that he was a sinner
who deserved death and judgment. If Allah would not accept him on the basis of
his own good works, he would kill Abel and not let him have the rights of the
firstborn, Then, he would flee to a distant land. He carried out his plan, and
he murdered Abel in cold-blood. And scripture records, "So Cain went out
from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden"
(Genesis 4:16). He remained an unrepentant and proud religious sinner who rejected Allah's
mercy and provision of an atoning sin-offering.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was
commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith
he still speaks, even though he is dead. Heb 11:4 (NIV)
First, this verse notices the faith of Abel. He acted in faith when he
offered a sacrificial lamb to Allah. Perhaps, Cain's offering seemed like a
more reasonable sacrifice than Abel's offering. Certainly, Cain's offering
would be less cruel than killing a firstborn lamb. But, Allah had revealed that
sin brought in human forfeiture of life. Since faith is believing Allah's
divine revelation, Abel offered a substitutionary sacrifice that necessitated
the death of his firstborn lamb of his flock.
Next, the verse (Hebrews 11:4) states that Abel offered a better sacrifice
than Cain. From this we see that the focus is upon the merit of the sacrifice.
Dear reader, where does your merit reside? Are you depending upon your own merit
or self-worth? You deserve to die because of your many sins. To be accepted by
Allah, your merit must be in the sacrifice you bring. Are you bringing your own
religious dead works? Abel brought his firstborn sacrificial lamb, and Allah
spoke well of his sacrifice. By bringing his lamb, Abel confessed that he was a
sinner who had sinned against Almighty Allah and deserved eternal judgment. He
was offering the lamb's life as a substitute for his own life. Allah accepted
Abel's faith and sacrifice.
"By faith he was commended as a righteous man." It was on the basis
of faith and sacrifice that Abel was commended as a righteous man. His own
righteousness was not the basis of his commendation. Firstly, Abel had faith in
Allah's divine revelation. Secondly, as an expression of his faith, he offered
a propitiatory sacrifice. As a result of his faith and sacrifice, Abel could be
commended as righteous man. The righteousness he possessed was not based upon
his personal self-worth or merit, but it was grounded in the acceptance of the
sacrificial death of his offering. It is important to note that his offering
would have meant nothing if it had not been offered in true faith and submission
The story of Cain and Abel in the Qur'an makes a grievous error. It claims,
"Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous." It
has the divine lesson 180 degrees backwards. It claims that a person's righteousness is
what makes the sacrifice acceptable to Allah. Just the opposite is the case, as
a sinner, Abel offered an appropriate substitutionary sacrifice in faith; and,
because he did this, he was commended as righteous. Abel knew he was unrighteous
and sinful, so he offered a substitutionary sacrifice. Cain believed he was righteous
and believed his righteousness could earn his favor with Allah, so he offered a sacrifice that had showed
the results of his own work. Therefore, his sacrifice had to be rejected.
Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they
each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from
the other. Said the latter: "Be sure I will slay thee."
"Surely," said the former, "Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of
those who are righteous. Al-Ma'idah 5:27 (Yusufali's Translation, emphasis
Cain was told to offer the correct sacrifice; and, if he did, he would be
accepted by Allah (Genesis 4:7). Allah would not have told him to offer an
appropriate offering, if he were unrighteous and the offering's merit depended
upon his righteousness. But, since the merit of the sacrifice depended upon the
sacrifice itself, Allah instructed him to offer a sin-offering. If Cain had
offered a sin offering, he would have been equally blessed with Abel. So, it
absolutely clear that the personal righteousness of neither Cain nor Abel was the issue. The issue was coming to Allah as a sinner on the basis of faith and a
sin-offering. Cain was too proud to come to Allah as a sinner. He was
disappointed that Allah would not accept him on the basis of his own
righteousness. Thus, Al-Ma'idah 5:27 offers false hope to religious sinners. In
fact, it teaches the Way of Cain.
Abel Still Speaks
"And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead (Hebrews 11:4).
From the very beginning of world history, the example of Abel's sacrifice has
spoken loudly that sinners must approach Allah on the basis of a sin sacrifice. Has
the voice of Abel spoken to you? Are you willing to turn from your own works and
self-righteousness and confess your sins to Allah and accept His Way of
Salvation? The world may not like the voice of Abel, because it reminds them of
their lost and helpless condition as sinners before Allah.
The Way of Cain
The Way of Cain approaches Allah without faith in a propitiatory
substitutionary sacrifice. It offers to Allah human merit and personal
sacrifice. It ignores our sin that deserved death and judgment and attempts to
come to Allah on the basis of human well-doing. But, Holy Scripture says,
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain.... Jude 1:11 (NIV)
Millions have taken the Way of Cain. Millions of Hindus follow the Way
of Cain and bring their beautiful offerings of fruits, flowers, and grain to
their gods. We do not question that they are sincere and well-meaning. Other
individuals don't bring fruits to idols, but they think that Allah will accept
them if they are religious and carefully do all the prescribed religious
rituals. The reject the divine message
that "and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Jesus Christ said,
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees
and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:20 (NIV)
The Pharisees and teachers of the law were the most religious people on the
face of the earth. Still, their righteousness was not sufficient to enter the
kingdom of heaven. They did not eat religiously unclean foods; they did not
associate with sinners or tax collectors; they paid alms; they kept religious
holidays; they studied the Torah in its original language; they kept the
all the minute details of Jewish legalistic system; they did pilgrimages to
Jerusalem, at least, three times a year; the populace admired them for their religious
devotions; etc. The list could go on and on. They were seeking to establish
their own righteousness by keeping all the Jewish laws and traditions
But, they had forgotten that they were still sinners before Allah's
holiness. They did not remember that sin requires death and that they needed a substitutionary
sacrifice for their sins. They were rejecting Allah's
righteousness while seeking to establish their own righteousness. They were
following the Way of Cain.
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to
establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Romans 10:3 (NIV)
In conclusion, Abel was an unrighteous sinner who offered a lamb in faith to Allah; and, as
a result, was counted righteous by Allah, because, by faith, he saw his need of
sacrificial atonement for his sins to obtain Allah's mercy, salvation, and
righteousness. Cain sought favor with Allah on the basis of his own efforts. He
did not see his personal sinfulness and failure before Allah. Because he did not
think he was a sinner, he did not believe that he deserved death. As a result,
he felt he could approach Allah on his own goodness and religious merit.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus
told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax
collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like
other men-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week
and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even
look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you
that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts
himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God's grace Eph 1:7 (NIV)
December 30, 2000
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