41-60: Questions and Answers
41- Why aren't unbelievers repaid with immediate destruction for their disbelief?
Since this world is a testing place, Allah lets everyone live long enough to pay heed and to correct their behaviour. Until this specified time expires, the punishment of unbelievers in the Hereafter is deferred, so that they won't have any excuse to offer when they enter the Fire. Those who are resolute in their disbelief are given opportunities to reveal their evil as much as possible. Thus enough evidence is gathered for them to meet the reprisal in Hell for what they have earned.
Those who disbelieve should not imagine that the extra time We grant to them is good for them. We only allow them more time so they will increase in evildoing. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surah Al 'Imran, 178)
42- What end awaits unbelievers in this world?
Allah has made ready for the unbelievers a painful punishment in the Hereafter which is everlasting. Yet besides this, there are various punishments for unbelievers in this world too. These are a sort of preliminary to the endless punishment that they will receive later. They also come in the nature of a warning from Allah to lead them to regret, to pay heed and to reorient themselves to the right path. Allah announces the punishment He will give in the world and the reason for it as follows:
We will give them a taste of lesser punishment before the greater punishment, so that hopefully they will turn back. (Surat as-Sajda, 21)
The most significant reason for the disbelief of unbelievers is their passionate attachment to the life of this world and the fact that they repudiate the truth. The punishment that Allah has made ready for the unbelievers in this world deprives them of all worldly blessings. Some of these punishments mentioned in the Qur'an are as follows:
-On a nation of unbelievers animals such as locusts, lice and frogs are sent down. (Surat al-A'raf, 133)
-Unbelievers are seized with drought and scarcity of fruits, with trouble in economics. (Surat al-A'raf, 130, Surat an-Nahl, 112)
-Unbelievers are made the most miserable. (Surat al-A'la, 11-12)
-They live filled with false hopes. (Surat an-Nisa, 120)
-Allah makes their breast narrow and constricted; He defiles them. (Surat al-An'am, 125)
43- Who will enter the Fire?
In many verses of the Qur'an those who will enter Hell are classified with certain characteristics. Some of the characteristics of these people can be listed as follows: those who disbelieve in Allah; who associate others with Allah; those who take other gods together with Allah; those who claim to be god (Surely Allah is beyond that); those who take others as false gods, saviours or guides instead of Allah; those who hinder men from the path of Allah; those who look for crookedness in the path of Allah; those who conceal any of the revelations of the Book of Allah; those who prevent His name from being celebrated; those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully; those who do wrong to people; those who devour usury; those who slayed the prophets unjustly; those who slay those among men who enjoin justice; those who oppose the messengers of Allah; those who kill men deliberately; those who devour the property of men by false means; those who treat their religion as a game and a diversion; those who make a mockery of Allah's Signs and of His messengers; those who do not believe that they will be raised up and do not believe in the Hereafter; those who do not believe that they will be gathered to Allah; those who are pleased with the life of this world and are content with it; those who do not strive to perform the prayers that Allah ordains for them without any acceptable excuse; those who do not fear Allah in the way they should fear Him; those who do not establish regular prayer; those who devise evil plots; those who cause corruption; those who seek discord; who deny Allah's Signs; those who are too proud to worship Allah; those who slander believers; those who spread fornication; those who conceal the truth and are liars; those who do not preserve the limits of Allah; those who consume forbidden foods; those who do not give full measure and full weight with justice; those who are arrogant, tight-fisted, coarse, selfish, ungrateful, treacherous, boastful, indecent and obdurate...
Allah has announced that every unbeliever who possesses these attributes and remains so until death will enter Hell and will be repaid with painful punishment for what he used to do. It is stated in Surah Qaf as follows:
Hurl into Hell every obdurate disbeliever, impeder of good, doubt-causing aggressor, who set up another god together with Allah. Hurl him into the terrible punishment. (Surah Qaf, 24-26)
44- Will remorse in Hell be of any benefit?
Allah informs all mankind through His messengers and His revelations about what they should do. He does not destroy any city without giving it prior warning as a reminder (Surat ash-Shu'ara, 24) Everyone lives long enough to take heed and to learn what to do. People who persist in their unbelief despite being cognisant of everything they have to do and having enough time to be mindful, thus, deserve to stay in Hell forever. However, having entered Hell, these people will feel a deep regret for what they did in the world, which cannot possibly be compensated for. Begging to return to the world in order to compensate for the things they did will be of no help to the unbelievers, for they refused to grasp the opportunity they were given before and will have missed their chance forever. Allah relates the helplessness of these unbelievers in the Qur'an as follows:
They will shout out in it, "Our Lord! Take us out! We will act rightly, differently from the way we used to act!" Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed? And did not the warner come to you? Taste it then! There is no helper for the wrongdoers. (Surah Fatir, 37)
45- Are there any other punishments in Hell apart from the Fire?
Allah informs us in the Qur'an that unbelievers will be flung into Hellfire, and will have garments of fire and tar. (Surat al-Hajj, 19) Yet the punishment of Hell is not limited to fire:
- There are cudgels made of iron (Surat al-Hajj, 21),
- people will be yoked together in chains (Surah Ibrahim, 49),
- they will be dragged along and will have shackles and chains around their necks (Surah Ghafir, 71),
- the punishment of boiling water will be poured on their heads (Surat ad-Dukhan, 48),
- they will wear shirts of tar (Surah Ibrahim, 50),
- they will be flung into a narrow place in it, shackled together in chains (Surat al-Furqan, 13),
- they will be firewood and fuel for Hellfire (Surat al-Jinn, 15, Surah Al 'Imran, 10)
What is listed here is in fact only a small portion of the types of punishment of Hell. In Hell there are punishments that are so painful that no one on earth can ever imagine. Besides the regret they feel, the spiritual pain that Allah inflicts on the companions of the Fire will everlastingly burn their hearts. Allah draws attention to this spiritual pain in the Qur'an as follows:
And what will convey to you what the Shatterer is? The kindled Fire of Allah reaching right into the heart. (Surat al-Humaza, 5-7)
46- What will the unbelievers be given as food and drink in Hell?
The companions of Hell, who are removed from the mercy and grace of Allah on account of their excesses in the world, will not be given any blessing in the Hereafter. Unbelievers who will meet only the punishment of Hell will call out to believers, begging them to throw down some of the blessings that are endlessly bestowed on them (Surat al-A'raf: 50). Nevertheless, instead of these blessings which are forbidden to them, the unbelievers will be given food which chokes, causes pain, and in no way satisfies hunger, and drinks which intensify their thirst. What is more, although they are of no good to them, they will long for this agonising food and drink.
Descriptions in the Qur'an of the food and drink that are prepared for unbelievers in Hell convey the indescribable punishment and the sickening horror of their situation:
The tree of Az-Zaqqum (Surat ad-Dukhan: 43-46) and bitter thorny bush (Surat al-Ghashiyya: 6-7) are among the food of Hell. Scalding water (Surat al-Waqi'a: 54-55), pus to drink (Surah Ibrahim: 16-17) and exuding pus (Surat al-Haqqa: 36) are among the drinks of Hell.
47- Is Hell divided into ranks?
In Hell, everyone will be repaid in full for what they did. Certainly people will be ranked according to the intensity of their disbelief, the confusion they stirred up concerning the believers and Allah's religion, and according to the seriousness of the wrongdoing they used to commit in the world. For example, it is declared in the Qur'an that hypocrites, the main enemies of believers against whom they hatch secret plans, will be in the lowest level of the Fire (Surat an-Nisa': 145). Likewise, it is stated in the verse below that all unbelievers will certainly enter the Fire and, with the justice of Allah, will be paid in full for what they did:
Those are people of whom the statement about the nations, both of jinn and men, who passed away before them, has also proved true; truly they were the lost. Everyone will be ranked according to what they did. We will pay them in full for their actions and they will not be wronged. (Surat al-Ahqaf, 18-19)
Besides this, unless Allah wills otherwise, people will not be forgiven and released from Hell after a given period of punishment for their wrong actions. Every unbeliever who enters Hell will remain in it for eternity, forever (Surat al-Baqara: 80-81).
48- Do the people of Paradise and the people of Hell see each other?
Allah mentions in the Qur'an that the people of Paradise and the people of the Fire will see each other and narrates the dialogues between them. Seeing each other brings a great increase in gratitude for those in Paradise, while for those in Hell it increases their yearning and regret. It is stated in the Qur'an that the people of Paradise see those in Hell. A part of the dialogue between them is narrated as follows:
One of them will say, "I used to have a friend who would say to me, 'Are you one of those who say that it is true: that when we have died and are turned to dust and bones, we will face a Reckoning?'" [And] he will add, "Would you like to look [and see him]?" So he will look down and see him in the midst of the Blazing Fire and say, "By Allah, you almost ruined me! If it were not for the blessing of my Lord, I would surely be [now] among those who are given over [to suffering]." (Surat as-Saffat, 51-57)
The Companions of the Fire will call out to the Companions of the Garden, "Throw down some water to us or some of what Allah has given you as provision." They will say, "Allah has forbidden them to the disbelievers." (Surat al-A'raf, 50)
49- What will life in Paradise be like?
Descriptions of Paradise in the Qur'an use terms that are familiar to us from the world we live in. Residences in Paradise are described, magnificent furniture and dazzlingly beautiful goods are mentioned. Besides these, descriptions are given of the jewellery and the garments worn in Paradise, and of the food and drink provided there. Great emphasis is placed on the surpassing beauty and incomparable magnificence of what the believers will enjoy. It is also declared that, in Paradise, man will be given anything that he may think of and beauties that he cannot even imagine. The biggest difference between the life of this world and the life of Paradise is undoubtedly the fact that none of the imperfection of this world exists in the Garden. Some of the delicacies and wonders of Paradise are mentioned as follows:
- A great and magnificent kingdom,
- Lofty chambers and residences,
- Raised couches,
- Finest garments made of silk and brocade,
- Bracelets made of gold and silver; jewels and pearls,
- Gardens with rivers flowing under them,
- Cool, refreshing shade,
- Platters and cups of gold,
- Couches lined with rich brocade,
- Green quilts and exquisite rugs,
- Rivers of milk whose taste will never change, rivers of honey of undiluted purity,
- Vessels of crystalline silver and many others…
Paradise is evidently a place of extraordinary perfection where man can find the greatest of pleasures. Allah relates in a verse of Qur'an the splendour of Paradise as follows:
Wherever you look, you will see pleasure and great dominion. (Surat al-Insan, 20)
50- What will the spiritual environment of Paradise be like?
Paradise is a blessing that Allah bestows on believers in return for their good behaviour and good actions which they performed in the world. It is stated in the Qur'an that in Paradise, where all kinds of beauty are presented, there is nothing at all to disturb people:
- There is complete security,
- There is no rancour or hatred,
- There is no chatter or lies,
- There is no tiredness or weariness,
- There is no fear or sadness,
- There are sweet and lovely people,
- There is no growing old, everybody is of the same age,
- Paradise is a place where people will be surrounded by the greatest pleasures.
What is listed here is certainly only a few examples which illustrate the security and peace of Paradise. Allah declares that whereas unbelievers will suffer indescribable torment, believers will be in a great physical and spiritual comfort and peace:
You will see the wrongdoers afraid of what they have earned, when it is about to land right on top of them, whereas those who believe and do right actions will be in the lush Meadows of the Gardens. They will have whatever they wish for with their Lord. That is the great favour. (Surat ash-Shura, 22)
51- How does one take one's self as one's god?
One who unwisely takes his self to be his god is one who considers his self-interests and his comfort more important than the common interests of the religion, whereas a truly and sincerely devout person takes only Allah as his god and acts only in ways that would please Him. This applies to all conditions. Such a person would never ignore the benefits of the religion and the limits of Allah even when he is sick, or suffering hardship or even if his self-interests would be completely ruined.
However, if a person cannot make even a minor self-sacrifice for the sake of religion, or if he prefers what appears fine to his self leaving the religion aside when he faces a difficulty, then this person is seeking to please his self and thus has taken his self as a false deity. Allah describes those who, in deviance, take their own selves to be their god in the Qur'an as follows:
Have you seen him who takes his whims and desires to be his god—whom Allah has misguided knowingly, sealing up his hearing and his heart and placing a blindfold over his eyes? Who then will guide him after Allah? So will you not pay heed? (Surat al-Jathiyya, 23)
52- Is satan continuously trying to misguide man?
Satan is endlessly occupied in trying to misguide man from the path of Allah. He does not cease from it even for a single moment and tries all kinds of methods. He approaches man via his weaknesses, trying to make him behave the way he wants him to. It is related in the Qur'an that satan will actively strive to delude mankind:
… Satan wants to misguide them far away. (Surat an-Nisa, 60)
He [i.e., satan] said [to Allah], "By Your misguidance of me, I will lie in ambush for them on your straight path. Then I will come at them, from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." He [Allah] said, "Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those of them who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you." (Surat al-A'raf, 16-18)
Satan is the greatest enemy of mankind. He strives to keep mankind away from Islamic morals by means of whisperings and presenting right as wrong and wrong as right. As stated in the above verse, he seeks to prevent people from being thankful to Allah. Those who follow satan, however, as declared in the Qur'an, will certainly be the losers. That is why people should be alert to the sly ambushes of satan and studiously avoid obeying him.
It should be remembered that satan can influence only those who do not have sincere faith. People who have certain faith in Allah, have certainty about the Hereafter and the Day of Reckoning and are not affected by satan's attempts to influence them. If ever they feel such an effect, they immediately take refuge in Allah. Allah states that Satan is extremely weak against believers:
As for those who guard against evil, when they are bothered by visitors from satan, they remember and immediately see clearly. (Surat al-A'raf, 201)
Satan himself, admits that he would not have a misguiding power over believers who are sincerely devoted to Allah. This fact is stated in the Qur'an as follows:
He said, "My Lord, because You misled me, I will make things on the earth seem good to them and I will mislead them all, every one of them, except Your servants among them who are sincere." (Surat al-Hijr, 39-40)
53- Is everything I think about known to Allah?
Allah knows about everything, including what one is thinking about because one of the attributes of Allah is "Al Habir" (All-Aware), which means that Allah knows the inside truth and concealed aspects of everything. One can hide one's thoughts from the people who surround one but not from Allah. As stated in the verse, "Allah—Him from Whom nothing is hidden, either on earth or in heaven." (Surah Al 'Imran, 5) In another verse it is stated as follows:
He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth. He knows what you keep secret and what you make public and He knows what you earn. (Surat al-An'am, 3)
Man is dependent on time and space, whereas Allah is exalted above all these deficiencies. It is Allah Who creates time, space, all mankind and all the events that people see occurring. He alone determines the fate of everyone and everything. Therefore, Allah knows man inside out, including all our thoughts. As stated in the Qur'an, "…He knows what the heart contains." (Surat al-Mulk, 13)
54- Is it enough for one to have a chaste heart and to be benevolent in order to enter Paradise?
Every person or every society has its own understanding of "goodness" and "kindness". It is "goodness" for some people to raise children to a high educational standard, or to be a member of a charity for some others, or to work for an animal-rights movement for others.
Deceiving themselves in this way, people try to escape their true responsibility. In fact, everyone well knows that on the Day of Reckoning he will be judged according to whether he followed the Qur'an or not. However, as he avoids following the commands of Allah, he pretends to be ignorant of this fact. One who does not run away from this responsibility and who accepts the reality that he is accountable according to Qur'anic criteria knows that the real meaning of "goodness" can only be found in the Qur'an since the Qur'an contains the commands of our Creator Allah. "Having a chaste heart" is not what one essentially needs in order to gain Paradise, but to strictly follow the Book which contains the commands of Allah. In other words, living in one's own world, without causing any harm or being covetous of the property, wealth or honour of others does not qualify one for Paradise. In addition to these things, one also needs to possess other good traits and attributes that Allah has specified in the Qur'an.
Allah informs us what real goodness is and who the real Muslims are in a verse as follows:
It is not a virtue to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, the truly virtuous are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who establish prayer and pay alms; those who honour their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true. They are the people who guard against evil. (Surat al-Baqara, 177)
The measure of goodness in the sight of Allah is explained with an example in another verse as follows:
Do you make the giving of water to the pilgrims and looking after the Masjid al-Haram the same as believing in Allah and the Last Day and striving in the Way of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah. Allah does not guide wrongdoing people. (Surat at-Tawba, 19)
Those who believe and emigrate and strive in the Way of Allah with their wealth and themselves have a higher rank with Allah. They are the ones who are victorious. (Surat at-Tawba, 20)
55- How does one emigrate to Allah?
To emigrate to Allah means to turn only to Allah and live in the way He wills, leaving all past wrongdoing, wrong thoughts or habits, in short, leaving behind everything that does not accord with a proper understanding of Allah and His Book.
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was a Muslim who emigrated to Allah, quitting the life style of his people once he saw the truth. The Prophet Lut (pbuh) is another messenger who turned towards Allah, showing a virtuous character like the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh). This conduct of the Prophet Lut (pbuh) is related in the Qur'an as follows:
And Lut believed in him [Ibrahim]. He said, "I will emigrate to [the service of] my Lord. He is the Almighty, the All Wise." (Surat al-'Ankabut, 26)
56- What does the phrase "the religion of our fathers" mean in the Qur'an?
The commands of Islam and how a believer should behave are thoroughly defined in the Qur'an. The phrase "religion of fathers" means a made-up religion based on past habits, traditions or hearsay, acting by many rules that have nothing to do with the commands of the Qur'an. It is this "religion of fathers" which is the source of superstitious beliefs and practices that are not mentioned anywhere in the Qur'an and in the hadiths.
People who live by the "superstitious religion of fathers" are found in great numbers within ignorant societies. People who live in these societies follow various prayers and rituals without questioning why they do it, or examining the way they have been inherited from their forefathers, and simply assume that they are performing satisfactory and acceptable religious acts. Quite clearly, their purpose is not to gain the good pleasure of Allah, but instead to preserve the corrupt inheritance they have received from previous generations. The example of the people of the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) given in the Qur'an relates to this subject:
Recite to them the story of Ibrahim when he said to his father and his people, "What do you worship?" They said, "We worship idols and will continue to cling to them." He said, "Do they hear you when you call or do they help you or do you harm?" They said, "No, but this is what we found our fathers doing." He said, "Have you really thought about what you worship, you and your fathers who came before? They are all my enemies—except for the Lord of all the worlds: He Who created me and guides me; He Who gives me food and gives me drink; and when I am ill, it is He Who heals me; He Who will cause my death, then give me life; He Who I sincerely hope will forgive my mistakes on the Day of Reckoning." (Surat ash-Shu'ara, 69-82)
As seen in the above verses, the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) departed from the false religion of his people, turned only to Allah and communicated to his people that Allah is the only God and the only religion to follow is His religion.
Many messengers have been accused by their people of rejecting the religion of their fathers and of aiming to destroy the religion of that time, and have been threatened by its followers. The following Qur'anic verses relate to this theme:
They said, "Have you come to us to turn us from what we found our fathers doing, and to gain greatness in the land? We do not believe you." (Surah Yunus, 78)
When they are told: "Follow what Allah has sent down", they say, "No, we will follow what we found our fathers doing." What! Even if satan is calling them to the punishment of the Blazing Fire? (Surah Luqman, 21)
No, in fact they say, "We found our fathers following a religion and we are simply guided in their footsteps." (Surat az-Zukhruf, 22)
57- Are man and woman equals in Islam?
In the Qur'an, Allah refers to believers who have faith and do deeds of righteousness. In the sight of Allah the measure of value and superiority is not being a man or a woman, but to have faith and to perform good deeds. Everyone, with no exception, is responsible for their own fulfilment of Allah's commands and the precepts of Islam. It is stated in the Qur'an that the reward for people's good actions, whether male or female, will be paid on equal terms:
Anyone, male or female, who does right actions and is a believer, will enter Paradise. They will not be wronged by so much as the tiniest speck. (Surat an-Nisa, 124)
Besides this, Allah has informed us in other verses that a person's heedfulness (taqwa) is the important thing; not their gender. In other words, fearing Allah, protecting the self from all kinds of sin, disobedience, corruption and deviation, and avoiding all kinds of evil which will lead to destruction in the Hereafter are of the real issues of importance:
Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah's sight is the one who best performs his duty. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Surat al-Hujurat, 13)
58- How can the heart and eyes of a person be sealed?
The commands of Allah are clear in the Qur'an and anyone who is aware of them should fulfil these commands. If a person does not behave as he should in spite of being aware of Allah's guidance in the matter, then it means that he does not pay heed to his conscience. Therefore, his heart becomes hardened, his reason and conscience decline and after a while he can no longer see right from wrong. He cannot understand what is described in the Book of Allah and cannot see the truth. He cannot even perceive the end that awaits him.
Allah, in His verses, states that the hearts, ears and eyes of those who prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter, who use fallacious arguments to deny Allah's Signs, who fabricate lies against Allah, who only obey their lower selves, who become disbelievers after believing, who prefer to stay behind at the time of battle and who do not want to spend their wealth in the way of Allah although they are rich, will be sealed up and there will be heaviness on them. The Qur'an also states that these people are the people of Hell:
Allah has sealed up their hearts and hearing and over their eyes is a blindfold. They will have a terrible punishment. (Surat al-Baqara, 7)
Those are the people whose hearts, hearing and sight Allah has sealed up. They are the unaware. There is no doubt that in the Hereafter they will be the losers. (Surat an-Nahl, 108-109)
59- What does corruption mean in the Qur'an?
Many examples are given in the Qur'an of corrupt people and their characteristics. Yet the basic attribute of a corrupt person is that they oppose Allah, His messengers and His books, attempt to set up obstacles to the religion and Muslims according to their own vile minds, and reject the limits of Allah. The attributes common to such people are described in the following verse:
As for those who disbelieved and barred access to the way of Allah, We will heap punishment on top of their punishment because of the corruption they brought about. (Surat an-Nahl, 88)
It is mentioned in the Qur'an that these people, who try to prevent others from the way of Allah, disturb peace and harmony on earth, stir up trouble, undermine the commands and prohibitions of Allah, and give short weights and measures. Allah repays these people both in the world and in the Hereafter. He punishes them in many ways as declared in the above verse, and with His endless justice, repays with the punishment due to them everyone who tries to bring corruption.
60- Who are the hypocrites?
Hypocrites are defined in the Qur'an as people who pretend to believe, when in fact they don't, and who hope to take advantage of the believers among whom they live. Allah has informed us that hypocrites are corrupt people, who attempt to cause dissension among believers. In other words, they secretly aim to disturb the peace and harmony of believers. On account of this trait of theirs, they are described as "hypocrites" (munafiqun), meaning those who bring dissension and corruption (nifaq).
Another significant attribute of the hypocrites is that their real character only shows itself when the believers are facing difficulties, but at no other time do they reveal themselves. These people, who think that they are deceiving the believers are, in fact, themselves deceived. In the verse below Allah mentions the mistake that the hypocrites make:
Among the people there are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day", when they are not believers. They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and Allah has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. (Surat al-Baqara, 8-10)
Allah has promised them the most painful punishment since they have demonstrated how vile they are. Out of arrogance and for the sake of some worldly benefit, they rejected faith after accepting it, even though full knowledge about religion and the Hereafter had been conveyed to them and even though they knew the messenger and lived together with believers. Their punishment is also because they attempted to cause dissension, were hostile to the messenger and to the believers, and provoked the unbelievers into acting against the believers:
The hypocrites are in the lowest level of the Fire. You will not find anyone to help them. (Surat an-Nisa, 145)