Islam Versus Different Schools: Liberalism and Pluralism
Shahid Mutahhari argues that salvation is not a matter of an arbitrary decision by God, but is the natural result of one's life. It is not conventional (qarardadi), but ontological (takwini). He also emphasizes that both salvation and damnation come in various degrees, and that the latter is not always eternal. Likewise, Islam itself comes in degrees from the innate desire for truth and goodness found at least latently in all human beings to the faith and righteousness of the special friends of Allah, the awliya. No one is locked out of heaven because they fail to subscribe to the right creed; but solve incorrect beliefs can prevent one from effectively purifying oneself, and thus, indirectly, lead to wretchedness. Thus, in Islam we find a rationale for insistence on right belief as that which guides one toward felicity, while at the same time there need not be any rigid exclusivism based on creed.
To understand how it is possible to reach ultimate felicity even for those who do not follow the right path, the path made obligatory for all mankind in the present age, it should be recalled that what invalidates the previously ordained religions is not that they contain no truth. God revealed the previous religions with the capacity to guide man toward perfection and salvation. That inherent capacity is not destroyed with the arrival of a new covenant, yet one who clings stubbornly to the old after the revelation of the new is surely wretched, for in this case the failure to accept the new covenant becomes rebellion against God.
According to non-reductive pluralism, correct faith is required but not necessary for salvation. Correct faith is required in the sense that it is made obligatory by the command of God. Correct faith is not necessary in the sense that it is possible for a person to be saved by the grace of God even though this obligation is not fulfilled. Different degrees of non-reductive pluralism will allow for more or less variance from correct belief. At the time of the Prophet of Islam, may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be with him and with his folk, Jews and Christians were considered to have incorrect beliefs, yet despite such incorrect beliefs God will not deny them their appropriate rewards. In two verses of the Qur'an, reward is even promised to the Sabeans, who many commentators agree were star worshippers, provided they believe in Allah and the Last Day and do good:
Verily, those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabeans, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward front their Lord, and there shall be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (Al-Quran, 2: 62)