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How Can Allah Punish Disbelievers If He Is the One Who Veils Them From the Truth?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan

Question: Assalamu’alaikum Wa RahmatUllahi Wa Barakatuhu

I pray this reaches you in the best of health.

My question is regarding the whole aspect of how the disbelievers’ hearts are veiled from the truth. If they are veiled from the truth, meaning that they could never find Islam, then is it fair for them to be punished for not believing in something they would never be able to believe in? My lack of knowledge of the truth behind this is making me see a conflict between this and the understanding that Allah is the most fair. Please help clarify this.

JazakAllahu Khair
Wassalamualaikum Wa RahmatUllah

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.

The Phenomenon in Question

The basic idea is the concept known as feedback—if a person sincerely turns to Allah, Allah will relent unto him and open the doors of proximity to the Divine. Worship becomes easier, and he tastes the fruits of his efforts to serve Allah.

If a person turns away from Allah, Allah facilitates for him disobedience. The doors of closeness to the Divine close and the doors of remoteness from the Divine open.

As he gets further from Allah, his heart becomes more and more veiled. Remembrance of Allah and gratitude to Allah become ever difficult for such a person.

In the case of a disbeliever, he eventually becomes so steeped in rejection and disbelief that the light of truth does not penetrate his heart. It becomes completely sealed, to the extent that only Allah can intervene and unveil his heart, if He chooses to do so. Without that intervention however, the person is lost forever. Yet Allah did not oppress him whatsoever; rather, as the idiom goes in English, he only reaped what he sowed.

A Qur’anic Verse with Commentary

The Qur’an clearly expresses that such remoteness results from the person’s own willful choice, or what he earns (kasb), as Allah Most High states, “Nay, rather, a rust is upon their hearts based on that which they earned” (83:14).

Imam Baydawi comments: “That is, their love of disobedience overcame them such that they drowned in sin, to the extent that it resulted in a rust upon their hearts, which blinded them from discerning truth from falsehood. For indeed, repetitive acts lead to entrenched qualities.” [Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil]

The most extreme case of this phenomenon is with disbelievers engrossed in their rejection, yet as our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained, it can occur at a lesser level with believers as well, as he said, “When the believer commits a sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents, stops, and seeks forgiveness, his heart becomes polished. If, however, he continues [in sin], the black spot grows until it overwhelms his entire heart. That is the rust that Allah Mighty and Majestic mentions in the Qur’an, ‘Nay, rather, a rust is upon their hearts based on that which they earned.’” (Musnad Ahmad)

We ask Allah for certainty, well-being, and protection, for us and our families, and for the umma at large. May He make us of the people of sincere repentance. Amin.

And Allah alone gives success.


Faraz A. Khan

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This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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