Update: Oct. 31, 2015. No longer there, as Paul Williams has deleted his blogs twice. He is now on his third blog. www.bloggingtheology.net
Paul Williams wrote: (quoting Hamza Yusuf)
We must remember that if a person has done wrong his spiritual path is not severed. There is recourse. One seeks repentance with God. One should not confess or broadcast what one has done. If God has veiled one’s wrongdoing, do not tear the veil down.
There is a hadith in which a man came to the Prophet (upon whom be peace) and said “I committed a sin,” and he meant adultery. “So punish me.” But the Prophet (pbuh) turned and walked away. The man pursued the Prophet (pbuh) and told him again that he wanted to be punished for his sin. The Prophet (pbuh) finally looked at him and asked him if he made ablution and prayed. He was telling him that Islam purifies. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever does indecency, let him veil his acts with the veiling of God and let him make repentance.” He also said, “Whoever comes to our faces and admits them, then we will punish them.”
As of January 26, 2012, I am still waiting for the Hadith reference on this. (see the combox, as of Jan. 26)
This, the cultural tendency for Muslims to hide their sins, because of Islam and the external honor is more important than internal change and humility and confession of sins; is something I have noticed in 27 years of dealing with Muslims in evangelism, church planting, and discipling new believers. Muslim culture seems to teach Muslims to cover and hide their sins. This Hadith reference seems to confirm this for me as to where it comes from. But it would be nice to get the exact reference.
In contrast, Christians are taught to confess their sins to God – I John 1:9, Psalm 51:1 ff, 32:1 ff, 38:1 ff; James 5:16, Proverbs 28:13
If one has sinned against a person, they must go to them and confess their wrongdoing and make restitution (for example, pay back what was stolen, etc.) and seek reconciliation if possible. (James 5:16; Matthew 5:23-26; Matthew 18:15-20)
Yes, formal Islam does teach somewhere else that they must confess their sins to Allah; but it seems to be a general cultural tendency for Muslims to hide their embarrassing sins, and this Hadith seems to give foundation for that cultural norm. It is a human trait in other cultures also to hide one’s sin, just look at how Bill Clinton lied about his adultery and sex with Monica Lewinsky. So, I am not saying that other cultures don’t naturally hide their sins; I am just saying that Islam seems to provide religious justification for it, whereas Christianity does not.
The Bible teaches more clearly than Islam that the problems with the world are the human hearts of men, pride, selfishness, anger, lust, deception, jealousy, greed, hatred – the inner hidden motives and attitudes are the problem. Islam emphasizes the external rules and rituals and obeying authorities in society, but not the sinful attitudes in the heart. Islam’s Sharia (law) emphasizes externals and obedience and has harsh punishments and executions for certain sins. The problem with adultery is internal lust, not women not covering up enough. Granted the west has violated biblical norms of modesty and has gone too far the other way. You cannot clean your heart of pride and lust and anger and hatred by washing your hands or face or feet before you pray and then reciting a memorized prayer. God sees the heart, and the God of the Bible diagnoses the problems with the world more accurately than Islam does. Islam talks about internal sins, but not very much; it is not an emphasis. Islam takes a human trait of pride and honor and embarrassment over sin, shame (see Genesis 3 – the response of Adam and Eve to their sin, guilt, and shame) and takes that human tendency and institutionalizes covering up the problems and not dealing with internal sins. Islam lessens and denigrates the holiness of God, and makes light of it, when it boasts that man can clean up his life and work and do rituals correctly and somehow make themselves acceptable to God.
That is one reason why Sufism had to arise; because they recognized that external religion that emphasized cleaning the outside creates hypocrisy and dead rituals and internal corruption.
But there is no power of the Holy Spirit on the inside in the heart in the Islamic religion to change people’s nature. Sinners need a new heart, not a new set of rules and rituals to follow, thinking they can earn their way to get God’s acceptance, which is the height and depth of pride. (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:1-10)
Diagnosis of Man’s problem in the hearts – internal root sins.
I Samuel 16:7
The whole eastern and Muslim "honor and shame" cultural tendency comes from evil human arrogance and pride deep in the heart.
"whoever is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord" - Proverbs 16:5