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Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain..... 
Jude 1:11

"Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.
Al-Ma'idah 5:27

As it is written: 
"There is no one righteous, not even one; 
Romans 3:10

Summary: Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to Allah, but their sacrifices signified opposite approaches to Allah. Abel killed his firstborn lamb and offered it upon an altar to Allah. He knew that he was a sinner who was under the curse of death, so he offered a substitutionary sacrifice for his sins and acceptance. Cain offered his cultivated fruits in thanks to Allah for his abundant harvest. He did not recognize that he was a sinner who deserved death and judgment. He thought that Allah would accept his Thank You Offering on the basis of his own righteousness and diligent good works. But this is the wrong basis to approach Allah, so his sacrifice was rejected. Allah asked Cain to offer a sin offering, but he rejected Allah's gracious words and murdered his brother. 
Ever since the beginning of human history, people have sought to approach Allah one of these two opposing ways.  There are many religions whose followers come to Allah believing that Allah will accept them if they try to be righteous and fulfill their various religious rituals.  In contrast, the Old and New Testament prophets and apostles teach us that approach to Allah must be on the basis of substitutionary sacrifice.  By this approach we recognize that we are sinners who are unacceptable in our own righteousness.  We need the righteousness that comes from Allah alone by faith.  This is the teaching of the true prophets of Allah.

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.

Fig leaves

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 (NIV)

But, the consequences of their sin of rebellion could not be so easily hidden. The leaves of a fig tree—no matter how perfect the leaves of the fig tree were—could 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 5:12 (NIV)

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 animal.

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)

Cain's Sacrifice

"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's Sacrifice

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 rituals are 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.

Cain's Opportunity

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

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.

Better Sacrifice

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.

Righteous Man

"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 to Allah.

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 added)

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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