Eternal punishment for the disbelievers is part of the wisdom of Allaah
Fatwa No: 292144

Question

My question is the following: Why will Allaah burn the disbelievers eternaly if humans are unjust and have a finite life and knowledge and many built-in temptaions? I agree that some believed also, yet why not make the disbelievers rocks or any other non-living thing instead of burning them in fire "eternally". I do believe in punishing for a limited time, be it severe, but eternally would be something that makes the God of the heavens and earth, The Most Merciful, kind of sadistic. Eternity in paradise coincides with mercy as well as justice, but I do not think that of hell. Secondly, I do not worship because of paradise or hell but because God deserves it. Thirdly, Allaah gave us the covenant after mountains and heavens refused it, and Allaah said that this is because humankind is unjust to their own self, so we took it because we were injust, but our God gave it to us knowing that we are unjust, so justice would not be an eternal agonistic punishment. A punishment that turns humans into nothing after a limited time in hell would still be reasonable and coincide with justice as well as mercy... Please answer me.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Firstly, we alert that the Muslim must beware of misconceptions; if such a misconception or doubt comes to his heart, he should repel it so that it would not develop into a false belief that would incur his own destruction, especially if such misconceptions are related to the divine essence of Allaah, The Exalted, and His actions.

Secondly, it is incumbent on every Muslim to believe that Allaah, The Exalted, is Just and never wrongs any of His creation in the slightest. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {...And your Lord does injustice to no one.} [Quran 18:49] Moreover, the Qudsi hadeeth reads, "Oh! My servants, I have made injustice unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit injustice against one another." [Muslim]

If Allaah Almighty punished the residents of the heavens and earth, He would not be doing them any injustice. It is impermissible for the Muslim to render his belief in the perfect justice of Allaah conditioned on knowing the wisdom behind His actions. Instead, one should submissively believe in His perfect justice regardless of whether he knows the wisdom behind His actions or not. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you [O Muhammad] judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.} [Quran 4:65] There is no harm in seeking to find out the wisdom afterwards so as to enhance the reassurance and certainty within one's heart.

Thirdly, establishing justice entails giving each his due (which means rewarding the good doers and punishing the evildoers); the disbelievers deserve the punishment of Allaah eternally because of their disbelief. Scholars underlined that the intent and resolve (in wrongdoing) entails the punishment in the Hereafter. This is evidenced by the hadeeth in which the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said, "If two Muslims confront each other with swords and one of them kills the other, then the killer and the slain will both be in Hellfire." A man said, "O Messenger of Allaah, we understand about the killer, but what about the slain?" He said, "He was keen on killing the other." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, "This hadeeth indicates that the correct view that is adopted by the majority of the scholars is that whoever harbors the intention of committing an evil deed and resolved to commit it bears a sin even if he does not commit it nor disclosed his evil intention..."

Hence, the disbelievers shall be punished permanently in the Hellfire because of their resolve and persistence in holding on to disbelief throughout their lives; had they lived perpetually, they would have determinedly retained their disbelief. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {But what they concealed before has [now] appeared to them. And even if they were returned, they would return to that which they were forbidden; and indeed, they are liars.} [Quran 6:28]

Abu Bakr Al-Hisni  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"There is no doubt that the punishment in the Hereafter shall be enduring given the permanency of its cause; that is harboring the intention to hold on to disbelief. There is no doubt that had the disbelievers lived forever, they would have held on to disbelief. Similarly, the believer deserves to abide in Paradise eternally for the same reason; this is what is meant by the hadeeth that reads, 'The intention of the believer is better than his action.'" [End of quote]

The claim that rendering the punishment of the disbelievers eternal indicates that Allaah, The Lord of the heavens and earth, is sadistic is a grave and serious matter and constitutes disbelief. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {What would Allaah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allaah Appreciative and Knowing.} [Quran 4:147]

Fourthly, it is clear now that it is impermissible to ascribe injustice to Allaah by claiming that justice entails not punishing the disbelievers permanently for their disbelief and that they should be punished for a limited time and then be caused to fall into non-existence instead (of eternal punishment in Hellfire). Someone else may argue that Allaah, The Exalted, does not have the right to punish them in the first place, and another might ask why Allaah created them if He intends to punish them, - endless misconceptions would be raised in this regard. Hence, it is incumbent on the Muslim to rely on the religious texts in the Quran and the Sunnah instead of following such misconceptions.

Fifthly, the worldly life is the abode of trials and tribulations; Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {[He] Who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed - and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.} [Quran 67:2] Allaah, The Exalted, inculcated the faculties of understanding in man - the hearing, sight, and mind; He emphasized His grace that He bestowed upon man, as He says (what means): {And it is He Who produced for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful.} [Quran 23:78] Allaah, The Exalted, offered man the freedom of choice, either to abide by the religious assignments or not; He says (what means): {Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful.} [Quran 76:3]

The fact that the human beings tend to be unjust and ignorant (by nature) does not entail forcing them into treading the path of disbelief or committing sins.

Sixthly, the Muslim who has been guided to the Truth and has known the final destination of the disbelievers and the fact that they shall abide in Hellfire eternally should translate his concern and worry for their fate into fruitful efforts that benefit him and them; he should strive in calling them to Allaah and edify them on the beauty of Islam, the Hereafter and the rewards and punishment, informing them that embracing Islam is the path to attain salvation and relish bliss in the worldly life and the Hereafter and escape punishment. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said in relation to the Jew who embraced Islam, "Praise be to Allaah, Who saved him from Hellfire through me." [Ahmad and Abu Daawood - Saheeh (sound)]

Seventhly, saying that one worships Allaah not fearing His punishment or hoping for His rewards is contrary to the practice of the Prophets of Allaah and the pious among His slaves, which is to worship Allaah, fearing His punishment and hoping for His reward. Such an approach has no grounds. Ibn Baadees  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"Hence, it is clear that worship intertwined with fear and hope is the correct approach to worship ... We could not find any verse in the Quran or evidence in the Sunnah stating the legitimacy of worship without them (fear and hope), let alone being more perfect than  worship with them (fear and hope) ... Worship that is void of fear and hope is contrary to the perfect celebration of the beauty and majesty of Allaah and constitutes going against the way of the Prophets and Messengers of Allaah and the pious. There is no religious text supportive of such an approach to worship ... Hence, it cannot be declared as prescribed in Islam, let alone declaring it perfect or rather more perfect (than worship with fear and hope), That is because the permissibility of a given act is established only by means of explicit and authentic evidence." [End of quote]

Lastly, we would like to stress that the Muslim should submissively adhere to the commands of his Lord if he wishes to attain salvation and preserve his religiosity; he should not allow the Devil to lure him by means of such misconceptions to follow in his evil footsteps. The disbelievers of the pre-Islamic era argued with the Muslims by saying, "So, what Allaah has slaughtered with a gold knife (the dead animal) is unlawful and what you have slaughtered with a metal knife is lawful?" Therefore, Allaah revealed the verse that reads (what means): {And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allaah has not been mentioned, for indeed, it is grave disobedience. And indeed do the devils inspire their allies [among men] to dispute with you. And if you were to obey them, indeed, you would be associators [of others with Him].} [Quran 6:121]

Allaah Knows best.

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