بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
One of the more controversial ideas, in some circles, is that God will punish wrong-doers with eternal damnation in Hell. In this blog post, I will first explain why it is Allah’s right to reward and punish, and we are in no position to question His judgement. I will then talk about the Islamic theory of salvation and how to attain it. Finally, I’ll answer the question: why will good people who were non-believers in God go to Hell?
Preface: Hell, does it even exist?
Obviously, a sizable number of people do not believe that Hell even exists. The purpose of this post is not to prove or disprove the existence of Heaven/Hell because the post would become too long in that case. I’m just talking about whether or not it is just. Long story short: yes, Hell is real; if you want to discuss this further just leave a comment below.
Those who claim that Hell is unjust are making a claim about justice. But who gets to decide what justice even is? Humans have come up with innumerable definitions of justice throughout the millennia, and will continue to do so. In any case, a human-made definition of justice cannot be used to “judge” God, which is what people who claim Hell is unjust do. It’s unjust according to their particular set of beliefs. Which are man-made and probably false anyway.
However, there are certain aspects of morality that humans share across cultural and temporal lines. One of them is the idea of reciprocity. You go to work, you get paid. You do a favor for someone, you get thanked. Et cetera. Most humans would agree that if you do a favor for someone and they don’t even say “Thank you,” then that’s pretty rude on the part of that person.
Compensation for God’s Favors
Allah said in the Qur’an: “If you should count the favors of Allah, you cannot enumerate them” (14.34 and 16.18). In other words, Allah’s blessings on us are literally infinite. Every molecule of air you have breathed your whole life is a blessing; every beat of your heart is a blessing; every cell in your body is a blessing; everything bad that could have happened to you but didn’t is a blessing; and the list goes on and on and on. Yes, it’s literally infinite.
We can only thank God for a finite number of these favors. An infinite number minus a finite number is still an infinite one. Even if we were to be recompensed a very, very small amount of Hellfire for not thanking and praising God for each one of these, it would still entail an eternity in Hell.
You might be thinking: doesn’t this mean everyone should go to hell? Theoretically, yes. If Allah (SWT) were to throw all of humanity into Hellfire, it would be 100% justified. It’s only through His mercy that He kept the door of salvation open.
Salvation in Islam
I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but there are two prerequisites for salvation in Islam: iman (faith) and good deeds. Those who have both will enter Paradise, In Sha Allah (God willing). Those with iman but too few good deeds, or too many evil deeds, may go to Hellfire for some time. Those who have no iman at all, regardless of their deeds, may end up in Hellfire indefinitely. And Allah knows best.
One question that frequently comes up is: what about people who have no iman, but do good deeds? For example: a polytheist who gives a lot to charity, or an atheist who strives for justice?
My answer to this: everyone is judged according to their intentions. People, Muslims included, should constantly be asking themselves: with what intention am I doing what I’m doing? The true believer will always work for the sake of Allah. If they’re feeding a poor person, they’re doing it for God, not the poor person. This is how Allah described them in the Qur’an:
And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive; (saying) “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude. Indeed, We fear from our Lord a Day austere and distressful.” So Allah will protect them from the evil of that Day and give them radiance and happiness. [76.8-11]
Only work done solely for the sake of God will benefit us on the Day of Judgement. The people who we help today will not be able to help us on that Day. This also applies to Muslims who commit riyaa – doing acts of worship for other than the sake of Allah.
Some people might still not be satisfied, saying that the punishment described in the Qur’an is “too harsh” or “excessive.” What I would say to them is this: listen, you can sit here and complain about how “harsh” it is all day if you want. That won’t change anything. Allah has described everything that might happen to us, in exact detail, if we don’t follow what He has revealed. And He also calls Himself the “Most Merciful, Most Compassionate,” and has told us what will happen if we follow His religion. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to be a grateful servant and dedicate your life to the sake of God.
10 June 2015
Update: I’ve learned some new information that I have been reflecting upon, so I decided to update the post.
Almost everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, considers themselves to be a good person. But every single one of us has an utter disregard for other life forms. Consider the following: on average, the human body breathes in 860,000 micro-organisms every day, many of which are murdered by the body’s immune system. We’re all killers
The difference in power and intelligence between the human being and a microbe is smaller than the difference between the human being and God, the creator of the universe. So if God is unjust for putting people in Hell, or allowing suffering to happen on Earth, then remember this next time you take a breath: you’re committing a genocide.
17 June 2015