Sin and Human Nature in Islam, Judaism and Christianity | Inter-Religious Symposia

The second IRS meeting of 2021 saw the discussion on ‘Sin & Human Nature in the Abrahamic traditions’ being discussed amongst Christian, Muslim and Jewish Scholars. Professor Esther Reed, Shaykh Ali Khakhi and Rabbi Jeff Berger delivered presentations on aspects of the theological discourses on “sin and human nature” in their respective religious traditions.


A Christian Perspective

Professor Reed presented some of the historical debates in Christianity on the nature of “the fall”, its impact and the extent to which sin pervades human nature, including some of the theological debates between “western” and “eastern” Christianity. She also briefly discussed the challenge of global inequalities from the perspective “sin” as understood by the schools of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine, beginning with the following religious questions: “Is inequality sinful?” and “When does inequality become sinful?”

Professor Reed is a professor of theology and religion at the University of Exeter. Currently, she is the President of the UK Society for the Study of Christian Ethics. She is the author of several publications including The Limit of Responsibility: Engaging Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a Globalizing Era (2018), Theology for International Law (2013), Good Work (2010), and The Ethics of Human Rights: Contested Doctrinal and Moral Problems (2007).

An Islamic Perspective

Shaykh Ali presented a scriptural understanding of “sin”, primarily referencing the Qurʾān. He discussed the different terms employed in the Qurʾān for “sin”, including their respective etymologies and significations, and the nature of “sin”. He then provided the Qurʾānic account of the interaction between Adam and Satan resulting in “the fall”, and Adam’s subsequent “tawba” (Return to God). He concluded the presentation with an overview of the Qurʾān’s view of human nature as being simultaneously earthly and divine.

Shaykh Ali is the coordinator for the Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies and a lecturer at Al-Mahdi Institute where he teaches Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh. He has completed his seminary studies at the institute and post-graduate studies at the University of Birmingham in Islamic Studies.


A Judaic Perspective

Rabbi Jeff’s presentation defined “sin” as per the Jewish Tradition. This included an overview of the principle of “free-will” and its centrality in the tradition and to the discourse on “sin and human nature”. He also outlined the practice of “Teshuvah” (Return to God), and the different types of sin and their remedies. He then  provided the first three accounts of sin in the Torah, namely “the eating of the forbidden fruit” and the subsequent shame experienced by Adam and Eve, the killing of Abel by Cain and the latter’s denial of committing any sin, and Lamech’s murder followed by his boasting of his sin. These accounts were part of Rabbi Jeff’s final discussions in his presentation on the different types or models of divine response to human sin.

Rabbi Jeff is a Professor at the Judith Lady Montefiore College Semikha Programme where he teaches hermeneutics and rabbinic practice. Jeff holds advanced degrees in Asian Studies and Business Administration. In 2019, Jeff was appointed Interfaith Adviser at Mitzvah Day UK – the largest faith-driven social action day in the country. He also serves as a Chaplain for the Hertfordshire Constabulary. Since 2018, he has been involved with Interfaith outreach and efforts to build bridges of understanding and compassion between and among Faith Leaders in the UK and further afield.


View the last IRS meeting on “Creation and the Environment in Islam, Judaism and Christianity