Category: Beliefs and Practices (Aqeedah)
Fatwa#: 38033
Asked Country: United Kingdom

Answered Date: Apr 19,2017

Title: Why will a disbeliever go to Hell forever?

Question

Question from a non-muslim.

Assalamu Alaykum,

Recently a non-muslim asked me a question and I don't know how to answer to it. Please can you answer the question below.

"So let's imagine that I spend virtually all the decades of my life as a non-Muslim, and that I'm the most selfish, evil, atrocious person imaginable. I deliberately set out to cause as much pain to as many human beings as possible. I lie, I cheat, I manipulate, I steal, I vandalise, I punch old ladies bloody and run off laughing with the few pounds from their purse, I'm a one-person crime wave, and as well as perpetrating actual physical violence on a large number of people, I cause immense emotional damage as well. I get intense pleasure out of hurting people physically and emotionally. As I get older, my crimes get worse. I murder people. I rape them (I'm a woman but let's imagine I commit large numbers of rapes). I chain people up in my basement and torture them endlessly for my own gratification. I torture children in front of their parents and laugh at their screams of agony.


For many decades, I cause unimaginable harm to many thousands of people, without a second of guilt or remorse. Then near the end of my life Allah guides me to The Truth, and I take my shahada with genuine conviction and for the last few weeks of my life become a devout Muslim. So, when I die, Allah rewards me with eternal bliss, all my 'major sins' forgiven, all my many years of rape, murder, torture, theft and lies forgiven in an instant. I attain Jannah, I get absolutely everything I ever wanted, for all eternity. Meanwhile, all my victims, all the people I killed and maimed and hurt, will be burnt forever by merciful Allah because they died in a state of disbelief in Islam. Have I got this right?"

 

Jazakh'Allah 

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

Before answering your inquiry, it is important to note first of all that Allah is the Most Just, All Knowing and the Supreme Judge. He decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.

Allah does not enter anyone into Hell unless the proof is established against them and they become deserving of the punishment of the Fire.

Logic of The Inquiry

You have outlined a hypothetical scenario here and are under the assumption that someone who committed such heinous crimes would so easily embrace Islam. In addition, he was    able to pick the perfect timing as well – meaning right before he dies he embraced Islam.

Your question assumes that this person knows exactly when he is going to die and knows that Islam is the truth and then waits for the last few weeks of his life to to embrace Islam in an apparent bid to wipe out all the wrongs he committed and the pain he inflicted on others.

What changed in that person that he would now willingly follow the dictates of Sacred Law while as you have stated this person experienced “no guilt or remorse”? If the crimes and sins he committed did not torment his soul, then why did he experience this sudden turn of events from evil to good and from darkness to light? 

The underlying logic behind the inquiry erroneously assumes that this man embraces Islam all of a sudden one day without having taken any steps towards good – and without having any good whatsoever in him.

The truth is that it is not as simple as is assumed in the hypothetical scenario given in the inquiry. We can provide two examples to prove this.

Abu Talib

The first example is the uncle of the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), Abu Talib who was aware that his nephew always told the truth. Since Abu Talib had taken care of the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) since he was eight years old, he was acquainted with him very closely.

In fact, Abu Talib, himself had acknowledged in one of his poems that they asked the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) to pray for rain thus proving that he always knew the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was very special.

On one occasion, Abu Talib even personally communicated to the tribe of Quraysh that the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) had informed him that the decree that the Quraysh had hung inside the Ka'bah (House of Allah) which mandated cutting off ties with the clans of Banu Hashim and Banu Al-Muttalib was eaten away by termites, save for the name of Allah.

Abu Talib gave the news of this miracle to Quraysh, and said he was ready to give up the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) if the information given was not true. When the document was sent for, it was found to be exactly as the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) had informed Abu Talib (only the part that Bismika Allahumma – In your Name, O Allah was left) and as a result the decree was rescinded.

When Abu Talib the uncle was on his death bed, his nephew - the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) - whom he loved and cared so much for and for whom he had gone to great lengths asked him to embrace Islam.

The Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) asked his uncle, Abu Talib to just say one statement of faith so the former could intercede for him before Allah. However, Abu Talib refused and died stating that he was on the religion of his forefathers.

In this example we see Abu Talib's love, unflinching support and sacrifice for the Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) coupled with the fact that he knew that his nephew always spoke the truth but all of this did not translate into eternal bliss for Abu Talib since he passed away without faith.

Fir'aun (Pharaoh)

The second example is Fir'aun (Pharaoh), the tyrant ruler of Egypt, who during the prophethood of Musa (alayhi al-salam) saw many miracles and knew the latter intimately because Musa (alayhi al-salam) had grown up in his household.

In spite of this Fir'aun (Pharaoh) did not believe, and when he was drowning, he finally cried out the testimony of faith – but it was too late:

“And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers

pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him,

he said: 'I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe,

and I am of the Muslims.' Now? And you had disobeyed [Him] before and were of the corrupters?” [10:90-91]

 

So, here is an example of a person who committed oppression, killed infants, enslaved an entire people, and his “attempt to time” the embracing of faith in the last moments of his life was unsuccessful.

 

Inward State Is Known To Allah

So the situation is not as simplistic and straightforward as implied in the hypothetical scenario mentioned in your inquiry. One cannot game one's way into Paradise and eternal bliss.

Why then do certain people genuinely embrace Islam in the later stages of their life? This is because Allah's knowledge includes all of the actions of His servants and none of the servants' actions are concealed from Him.

Allah being thus aware of the inward state of each person, knows about each and every person and what is hidden from us.

As such, if a person were to genuinely embrace Islam as his final assertive act, then that is because his inward state had some genuine hidden goodness which came to the forefront and overpowered the evil that was apparent to humans and that resulted in him embracing Islam.

 

No doubt, faith after a life of sin is accompanied by an outpouring of remorse and guilt. You understand that as humans, with all our limitations, we cannot be the judge of a person's true remorse or lack thereof because we are not aware of their inward state and what their true intentions are.

 

Why Does Disbelief Result In Eternal Punishment?

Your question also assumes that the time-frame of punishment meted out for a crime should be equivalent to the crime committed.

The inquiry questions the logic behind a believer enjoying “eternal bliss” and a disbeliever enjoying “eternal punishment” while the time of their belief or disbelief was limited and further, the disbeliever might have been the victim of many crimes.

Let's assume for example that a thief holds up a store and takes the customers hostage and steals their money and all of this takes two hours. Eventually he is apprehended and taken to jail. In court, if this thief is sentenced to only two hours in jail for the crime he committed, then this punishment would be seen as unjust and wrong by everyone. Two hours of a crime spree don't translate to two hours of jail time.

Similarly, it would be unjust and wrong for a rapist to be sentenced for only the time it took him to commit the rape. Every sane, intelligent person will agree that such a ruling is unfair, completely unacceptable and full of injustice.

From this, you understand that the aspect of the punishment fitting the crime does not mean that the time-frame for both be the same. Rather, the punishment is given according to the seriousness and gravity of the crime committed.

So how serious is the crime of disbelief in the One Who created, nurtures and sustains you?

The following two points will illustrate this:

1.) The punishment of disbelief is in essence, the servant's (creation's) negligence of the rights of Allah (Creator). Since the rights of the Creator are eternal and never-ending – the punishment is eternal. On the other hand, recognizing the Creator, leads the believer to eternal rewards because of the same reason – the rights of the Creator are eternal and never-ending.

2.) Secondly, if you look at the penal codes of the nations of the world, you will see that they differentiate between an accident and negligence – because the criminal justice system takes into account if there was a criminal intent or negligence behind that act.

For example, if the weather is severe (high winds, slick roads, debris, etc) and there is an accident due to the weather, the driver is not seen as negligent. On the other hand, a careless driver or a drunk driver whose driving results in the death of someone is held as negligent because his actions betray his intention – the disregard of the safety of others. The law treats an accidental death in severe weather differently from criminal intent or negligence.

In a similar way, you can understand that in the case of disbelief, the intention of the disbeliever was that he will continue to commit disbelief, and thus being negligent of the rights of Allah for as long as this disbeliever is alive. This intention is an admission of purposeful neglect with regards to the rights of the Creator by denying His existence or attributing partners to Him.

This means, if the disbeliever were to live forever he would have continued and persisted in his state of disbelief forever. As a result, his punishment is eternal – because his intention betrays his motive, which is to disbelieve for as long as he lives – and Allah knows this inward state of his.

 

Conclusion

To summarize our answer then, regarding disbelief, the Quran states: “Surely Allah does not forgive idolatry, but He forgives anything less of whomever He pleases” [4:48]

This is because those who deny Him, have committed an eternal sin because they have neglected the Rights of Allah which are eternal and because He knows that they would have persisted in their disbelief had they lived forever. In this regard, Allah is the Supreme Judge of who is a disbeliever.

The hypothetical scenario stated in the inquiry oversimplifies many things and ignores the fact that remorse and guilt over one's past is a bridge to faith. One just doesn't wake up one day and become a believer after years of wrongdoing for no reason. There is something there – that is not necessarily apparent to us – that warrants that change and sudden turn of events.

In the end, it is important to know that belief in Allah entails that since everything belongs to Him alone, we are bound to accept His laws, since, “He is not questioned about what He does – it is they who will be questioned.” [21:23]. [i][ii][iii][iv]

 

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best,

Mufti Sohail ibn Arif,
Assistant Mufti, Darul Iftaa
Chicago, USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

___________________

 

وقوله ( فيما يبدو للناس ) إشارة إلى أن باطن الأمر يكون بخلاف ذلك ، وأن خاتمة السوء تكون بسبب [i]

 دسيسة باطنة للعبد ، لا يطلع عليها الناس ، إما من جهة عمل سييء ، ونحو ذلك ، فتلك الخصلة الخفية توجب سوء الخاتمة عند الموت ، وكذلك قد يعمل الرجل عمل أهل النار وفي باطنه خصلة خفية من خصال الخير ، فتغلب عليه تلك الخصلة في آخر عمره ، فتوجب له حسن الخاتمة
جامع العلوم والحكم، ص. ١٥١ دار ابن كثير

محاسن الإسلام، مولانا اشرف علي تهانوى، ص. ٢٠ - ٢١ مالك كتب خانة اشرفية دهلي [ii]

العقيدة الطحاوية [iii]

إنعام الباري، ٤/ ٢١٢ مكتبة الحراء [iv]

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