Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: How do we understand/reconcile these two verses:
“Surely, Allah does not forgive that a partner is ascribed to Him, and forgives ANYTHING short of that for WHOMSOEVER He Wills” (4:116).
and “Whoever kills a believer deliberately, his reward is Jahannam: he shall remain FOREVER therein, and Allah will be furious with him and will curse him, and will prepare for him a wretched torment” (4:93).
I pray this finds you in the best of health states.
The Sunni Position on Pardoning Sins
Based on the verse of forgiveness that you cite (4:116), along with several other Qur’anic verses and prophetic reports, the position of Sunni orthodoxy is as follows:
– Based on His pre-eternal decision and decree, Allah Most High will not forgive a person who dies in a state of disbelief (kufr). According to the Ash`ari school, this is assuming the person received the message of Islam in his lifetime and understood it clearly, yet chose to reject it. Allah has revealed to us that such a person will dwell in the Fire forever.
– With respect to all other sins, if the person dies before repentance from that sin, Allah Most High may choose to pardon him, or may choose to punish him in accordance with the sin. Yet this punishment is not eternal, since the person died as a Muslim. If the person is punished for the sin, he will subsequently be taken out of the Fire and enter Paradise.
– With respect to both disbelief and all other sins, if a person sincerely repents from a sin before death, Allah Most High will surely accept his repentance and forgive him.
All of this is clear from the Qur’an and Noble Sunna.
Understanding Verse 4:93
As for the phrase “he shall remain forever therein” (khalidan fiha) in the cited verse of deliberate murder, it is understood as either:
(a) Literal, in which case it refers to one who not only commits murder, but also deems it permissible, and who dies while believing in its permissibility. Such a belief would effectively render the person a disbeliever, since the unlawfulness of deliberate murder is established by decisive texts of the Qur’an and sunna, and has also been transmitted to us unequivocally and incontestably. Or,
(b) Metaphorical, meaning a very long time, in which case it refers to a Muslim who commits murder (while believing in his heart that it is unlawful). According to this interpretation, the word “forever” was used instead of “a very long time” as a type of strong emphasis (mubalagha) of the utter severity of this enormous crime.
[Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil; Abu Suud, Irshad al-Aql al-Salim]
The Severity of Murder in Islam
The second interpretation is supported by the divine threats in the rest of the verse, as Allah Most High gives further emphatic condemnation of murder, stating “Allah will be furious with him and will curse him, and will prepare for him a wretched torment.”
There are also many prophetic reports that severely emphasize this crime, such as:
“The destruction of the entire universe is less significant to Allah than the unjust killing of a single believer.” [Sunan Ibn Maja]
And the divine threat includes even one who indirectly helps someone kill a believer, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said:
“Whoever aids someone in killing a believer, even if with merely one word, he shall meet Allah Mighty and Glorious on the Day of Resurrection with the following phrase inscribed on his forehead, ‘In complete despair of Allah’s mercy‘.” [Sunan Bayhaqi]
On a practical note then, in light of the horrific and senseless killing of Muslims taking place throughout the world, we as believers must keep the above in mind and remember that no single life is killed in vain or is forgotten by Allah. As much as it pains us, we know that He takes every act into reckoning, and He is swift indeed in punishment. Every murderer and every accomplice will be dealt with by His majesty, unless they sincerely repent and make amends.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The believer will have some leeway [on the Day of Arising, despite his sins and enormities], as long as he never spilled unsanctioned blood of a single soul.” [Sahih Bukhari]
And Allah knows best.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani