Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Are all of the people who lived between Prophets saved? Or only those who did not commit shirk? How about those who did worship idols but only because they knew no better?
I pray you are well.
Ahl al Fatra
The people who lived in times where no Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them), nor any sound version of their messages were present will be granted an amnesty in the Akhira, and will be not be punished for not believing. This is the dominant position of the Ash’ari school of Sunna Orthodoxy (Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama’a).
The term for these people is “Ahl al Fatra.” “Fatra” refers to the tapering off of the continued succession of Prophets, so there were times and places where there was no Prophet to teach Allah’s message, and there was no sound version of that message.
Allah stated in the Qur’an, “We certainly do not punish until we have sent a messenger.“ [Quran, 17:15] The point is that Allah Himself stated that punishment for misguided beliefs and actions does not occur unless He has sent a messenger to a people. The purpose of the Messengers (peace and blessings be on them all) was to teach people about right and wrong, so people could choose their actions.
At a time when there are no Messengers (peace and blessing be on them all), nor access to their teachings in a pristine state, people are not able to choose their actions based on sound knowledge, so – by Allah’s mercy – they are not punished. [Bajuri, Tuhfa al Murid)]
This is an important issue, but not a central one. It’s best to learn the soundest position and then move on to focus on matters that will lead to salvation: knowing how to worship Allah properly, and embodying the teachings of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani