Q. We live in this world for such a short period of time being warned of an everlasting torment or promised an everlasting paradise. How can such a negligible part of a person’s existence be used to sentence him for eternity? Wouldn’t it be more compassionate to punish someone for let’s say if I live for 80 years, then I can be punished for 80 years then be re-tried?
A. This world is one which we have been sent to, in order to prove our beliefs, submission and obedience to Allah. If a person believes in Allah as his Creator, and believes in His Prophets, and does not join partners with Allah, then he will receive the blessings of Allah in this world and the next. Whatever sins are committed, then this person will be either punished to that extent, or may be forgiven by Allah on account of His mercy.
However, if a man denies Allah or joins partners with Him, then he has become ungrateful to his lord, and has failed to accept his creator and maker. Man has been given sufficient intelligence to know that he has a God, who feeds and nourishes him, and has given him the gift of life. If man does not acknowledge these visible favours, and turn ingratitude to his maker, then he has become an open rebel and an enemy of his creator. This deserves the everlasting punishment in the hereafter on account of the graveness and severity of his actions. Like our earthly life, there are crimes that bring about a temporary punishment, others may be overlooked, and some bring about a long-lasting punishment and even the death sentence.
For example, in this world a man may sometimes live 60 years of his life in goodness, however, after having lived for so long, he uses only one hour of a day to commit a murder. Do you think he will be sentenced only for one hour, seeing that he committed a crime to the duration of only one hour? No, he may either be given the death penalty or sentenced for life by the court. Can this man say that he should be punished to the extent that he took in committing the crime? Can he accuse the court of being harsh, and not compassionate in dealing with him? The answer to these questions is No! Nobody in his senses would view the punishment to be awarded in this manner. Instead, they will look at the grave nature of the crime and then award a punishment.
In almost all the prisons in the world, the prisoners are serving years for crimes which they have committed in a very short period of their lives. In fact they lived for years in goodness, and were then caught while committing a crime in a day, a week, a month or maybe a year. Howbeit, notwithstanding the short time taken to do the crime, many of them are imprisoned for many years of their lives.
So, punishment is awarded based on the nature of the crime and not on the time taken to commit the crime. Based on this, in the hereafter, there will be different types of punishment, different places for the punishments, and a different duration for punishments. All of these are based on the nature of the sins and crimes which were committed on the face of the earth. Not everybody will be sent to Hell forever. Only those who died on the state of disbelief (kufr and shirk) will suffer the eternal punishment. As for the believers, they will eventually go to paradise, however, some may have to face the punishment (light or heavy) for sins, wrongdoings and acts of transgressions which they did in their earthly lives, and others will be fortunate to enter paradise immediately without having to face any punishment. The state of every person will be based, first of all on the mercy, compassion and fairness of Allah, and upon the good and bad deeds of an individual.
This world is a place for doing actions, and the life hereafter is a place of being compensated. Prophets were sent, and scriptures were revealed continuously by Allah, to inform man that the earthly life is short and temporary, and the life hereafter is one which will last forever. Man has been reminded through the ages to believe and do good deeds. They have been told about the rewards and consequences for good and bad deeds.
Allah Has been very kind and generous to man by giving him every type of comfort, luxury and amenity in his life. He Has given him the intelligence and reasoning to distinguish the right from the wrong, and Has shown him many miracles through the hands of the prophets as a proof for the truth. Allah Has shown man what guidance is, and what is misguidance, and then ordered man to adopt the path of guidance and to shun the misguided path.
From among men, there were those who believed in the prophets and the message which came to them. They did what was right and shun what was wrong. They lived their lives knowing fully well that this life is short-lived, and the hereafter is everlasting. They had the firm belief that good deeds will bring rewards in the hereafter while sins and bad deeds will bring punishments.
Although, these believers were mocked at, persecuted and tortured for their beliefs, they remained constant in their faith with the hope that good will definitely come to them. But besides them, there were other people who thought that religion was a joke. They made fun with it, rejected Allah and denied the prophets. They openly condemned the concept of life after death, and believed that it was falsehood. They had no belief about the hereafter, and thought that there was no god, or that there were many gods. Their rejection was intentional, they took pleasure in ridiculing the believers. They hated the prophets to the extent that they persecuted them and even killed many. These individuals lived their lives in total freedom, committing every type of sin, without fearing anyone, and with this, they thought that they were on the path of goodness. It is such individuals who rebelled against their creator, and rejected His religion. Hence, what good can these people expect (to receive) in the hereafter? They have rejected, criticized, condemned and mocked the giver of good. From whom can they get goodness in the hereafter? Will they expect to receive rewards from One whom they denied on the face of the earth? Allah will ask them to go to those objects and persons they worshipped, for help and assistance.
For their behaviour, the only destination is that of the hell fire.
It is true that man’s time on the face of the earth is negligible in comparison to the hereafter. However, it is this negligible part of a person’s life which is the deciding factor for his destination in the hereafter.
Man has already been told about the matters and the two abodes of the hereafter. It is therefore, upon him to make a choice as to where he wants to go.
Allah Has been extremely compassionate to man in many ways. He Has given man everything he needs, to live a comfortable life in this world, and He does not punish him for every sin be commits in this world. Instead, He grants him respite that he may learn different lessons. Today, we see many people who are disbelievers, yet, they are able to live in great luxury and wealth. This is from Allah’s compassion, and He does not seize His favours from them. However, He does not like ingratitude, and as such, He will take them to task severely, for their ingratitude which they have shown by rejecting Him.
So, Allah is indeed very compassionate to man, but it is man who is ungrateful and inconsiderate. Allah’s knowledge is perfect and so, when he makes a decision, it is based on perfect knowledge, and does not contain doubts in it. Hence, when Allah makes a decision in the hereafter about a person to be punished, it will be upon fairness and justice, and Allah’s perfect knowledge about the individual and his deeds. As such, the need for a re-trial does not even arise.
As I said before, not everyone will be sent to be punished forever. It is only the unbelievers who will be in the fire of Hell. As for the believers, they will all be sent to paradise. However, based upon the sins committed by a person, he may have to spend a short period in the punishment, before entry into paradise. There will be many others who will not face any punishment.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan