Punishment in the Afterlife
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine
Question: Why do Muslims believe that there is severe punishment in the life after? If God is so merciful – as Islam claims – why did He create hellfire punishment?
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-'ālameen. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Allāh’s mercy is granted to all of His creatures. He created them and provides for all of their needs, even though some of them deny His existence and work against those who believe and worship Him!
Allāh has given us life, knowledge and everything we need to sustain and enjoy, to the utmost degree possible. He has given us a free will and a choice of paths to follow. Those who follow His guidance, which in itself is a mercy from Him, will lead happy lives, but those who reject His guidance will remain astray.
Allāh is the Most Knowledgeable, Who created our “very selves” and who knows what benefits and harms us, to the minutest detail.
Allāh has reserved a special mercy for those who believe in Him and struggled to stay on the path of righteousness throughout their lives. Those who were patient with the trials of life and its difficulties, along with those whose faith was not shaken easily, will receive a reward without limits.
Allāh has sent many signs to remind us and help us understand the truth. He has shown us the problems that result from following the path of evil in this life and the hereafter, as He has shown us the benefits of following the path of righteousness.
He asks nothing from us in return except that we believe in Him alone and worship none other than Him. Major sins are truly harmful to others and ourselves around us. Indulging in alcohol, illicit sex, lying, cheating, fitnah, stealing, corruptions, killing etc. inflict tremendous damage on our societies and God alone knows the full consequences and ramifications of our actions.
Following Allāh’s path ensures that we will live in peace and prosperity in this life and receive a great reward in the next. He commands us only to do what is beneficial for us. Yet, even after falling into numerous mistakes and shortcomings, we find that Allāh is Most Merciful and Most Forgiving with those who turn to Him in sincere repentance.
There is one thing, however, that Allāh has told us He will not forgive, that is to associate partners with Him in his Sovereignty and Majesty. Those who die in this state of belief have truly gone astray and have not given Allāh His due.
So, after receiving countless messages, bounties, blessings and warnings, we still refuse to follow good advice out of our own free will, what should be the result? Would a person not have resigned his or her own fate to eternal misery, having refused to strive towards paradise? Were there no reward for good, what would encourage us to do good? Was there no punishment for evil, what would discourage us from doing evil things?
If Allāh were to treat the evil and the good in the same manner, there would be no justice. Even in this worldly life, we must differentiate between the two. This is in order to maintain a peaceful and just society.
Evil and good are not the same for them to be afforded the same treatment by us and certainly Allāh is more Just than we can ever be. Where would justice be in rewarding someone with paradise, while he did nothing to deserve it?
Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Excerpted with minor modification from Q&A published in Islam Online(Ask About Islam), 18 Dec 2002.]