As salam alaykum!
Hi Brother Green!
I've got a question from a non-muslim who is interested in Islam. Can you please answer his question. If you could please spare a few minutes, jazakallah khair.
His mail to me as follows:
Regarding Islam and the day of judgement and the afterlife, I read with interest in the "Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam" pages 50 & 51 that in short, anyone not a Muslim or not believing that there is no true God but God, will lose Paradise forever and will be sent to Hellfire.
This I find somewhat radical when we consider people of other faiths have devoted their lives to the study, worship and practice of their respective religions. They have lived their lives by similar principles to Islam of good over evil and the ultimate respect for life and the wonders of this earth e.g. Mother Teresa of Calcutta who spent her life devoted to working and assisting the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. She was not a Muslim but a Christian. She lived her life by the grace of others, in poverty as a missionary devoted to helping others. By my literal reading from the extract quoted in the Qur'an 3.85 (And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him and he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter.), we can therefore conclude that Mother Teresa seems to have been doomed to hellfire for not being a Muslim, irrespective of all the good she has done while on this earth and the sacrifice and pain she endured. This I find harsh and hard to believe.
Furthermore, if we take say the population of China being around 1.3Billion, and the respective religions found therein (Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism), am I to believe that they are all doomed to hell. If so, why did God not send another prophet to China, Japan etc to relay the word of God with their own respective "copy" of the holy book?
Apologies if the above comes across somewhat intense. In my little understanding of Islam, I just seem to find it somewhat inflexible to other faiths. God, as we read in the various scriptures and holy books available, is all wise, all caring, all compassionate..... I therefore feel that compassion should extend outwith the realm of Islam irrespective of one's own faith, colour or believes, as long as we live honourably respecting each other, God and life itself.
I would be very interested to hear your views to this regard.
Many thanks and best wishes
Thank you asking these questions and raising these issues. I’m happy to able to try and clarify these matters for you. As a Muslim, or someone who has surrendered his will to the will of God, we can only answer truthfully and explain to you what God has taught us. He knows himself the best. He decides what do with His creatures, whom to punish and whom to forgive and reward. This is of course what the religion of Islam is based upon. God is all Knowing and Most Wise and He has revealed from His perfect knowledge guidance for us.
I think that the purpose of the booklet, although far from comprehensive, is to illuminate some reasons why Muslims are convinced, and also to indicate to others how they can be convinced that Islam and the Quran is from God. Once one is convinced of that, then one needs to understand that what is contained in the Quran is guidance from the Creator about how we should live our lives, and what are the benefits that we get from doing that and what are the consequences for those who fail to do that. Once one has realised this fact, then there is nothing left for an intelligent person except to follow Gods’ guidance and wisdom.
I think your first question can be answered very easily. In fact I’m sure you could answer it yourself!
Similar does not mean the same. In fact one simple, yet fundamental matter, can make a huge difference. You might take the example of two soldiers. Both carry guns, both shoot people, both wear uniforms, both march and call the commander of their unit sergeant., but one belongs to an army that is invading, with the intent to conquer and plunder and in the process massacres civilians, the other is defending his land and fights only those that fight him. Surely that simple difference is in fact fundamental, and makes the two soldiers quite unlike each other!
At the deepest level, the very basis of everything that one does are one’s beliefs. It is what we believe that fundamentally dictates what we do and how we behave and in fact how we judge others and ultimately how we are judged by God. In Islam it is what we believe rather than what we do that is at the heart of everything. If our beliefs are wrong and corrupt, they make everything wrong and corrupt. If the intentions that drive the person are evil and the cause is evil then the “good” we do can even reach the stage of “working to promote evil”.
Let us take your example. It may seem that Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or many other Christians, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus share common values and practices and attitudes to Muslims, and of course they do. In the case of Mother Teresa we should have no doubt that her life was spent propagating, calling to, and trying to convert people to the Catholic faith. This was the basis of her work, not the grace of others as you have claimed. She took people who were dying on the street with the express purpose and intent of “saving their souls” and bringing them to Christianity before they died. You may wonder what is wrong with that. What is wrong is the basis.
The Quran makes it clear that what God wants from us is that we recognise Him and obey His commands. A person who knowingly turns away from this rejects God and has no right to claim His Mercy and Reward. A person who chooses to insult and disobey God can, and should, expect nothing except His punishment.
Let us give some simple analogies.
You have a business and employ a person paying them a good salary to do a simple job. Then you discover this person is in fact taking your money and all the while was working for someone else during the hours they should have been working for you. There is no doubt that this is a great type of wrong from that employed person, who deserves nothing except disgrace. This is the example of those who worship others along with God, although they should worship Him alone, and He alone is worthy of it. This includes, for example, worshipping Jesus. Islam teaches, and we believe all the Prophets, including Jesus himself taught that we should worship only God. To worship something along with God is in fact the greatest sin a person can commit as far a God is concerned. To claim that some human, that breaths God’s air and eats His food and who is just a small creature, on a tiny planet in a universe that is in fact itself no more than a spec compared to God’s Throne is in fact the same as and equal to God, is not only an absurdity but in fact it the gravest of insults and the greatest of injustices!
Or take another example. You employ a person to do some specific work, say to paint your house white, and they paint it red. When you ask “Why did you do that?, the person replies that they thought it was better. Does this person deserve reward or punishment? This is the example of a person who worships only God, but thinks they can do it in anyway they please, and imagines they don’t have to follow Gods commands.
Take another example. You as the boss and manager of growing company decide that the firm is need of new directives for its continued smooth running. So you send out new directives essential for the smooth future running of the company, but half the employees purposefully and continually ignore these directives and continue along the old pattern. Are such employees of any use to you? This is example of those who reject Prophet Mohammed and the guidance given to him by God, claiming they are following the previous message.
Let is take one final example.
You have in your business a voluntary pension scheme. So your employees can invest a small sum throughout their working life and reap huge returns when they retire, or they can keep the money, but have then they can have no claim to the pension.
This is the example who good deeds purely for Allah’s pleasure, seeking reward in the afterlife. They sacrifice a little in this life and reap the rewards in the next. As for those who refused the scheme are like those who worshipped Allah alone in the right way, but looked only for worldly benefit. So that is all they got. What right do they have to claim or expect more?
Is any of this really radical or harsh?
It is incidental as to how charming and polite and friendly and helpful such individuals were to those around them. In fact in many ways if they are like that it makes their crime even more appalling. In fact this very mannerism may encourage others to follow their example in disregarding the manager’s directives, doing the wrong work and not investing in the pension scheme. This is what I mean that their “goodness” can in fact become a call to evil.
Recently my parents agreed to let a friend of theirs do some building work for them. They even paid him above the going rate. He had many of the characteristics I just mentioned. He then swindled my parents, did a shoddy job, used rotten wood, and much of the work in fact had to be redone by someone else. Would it be “radical” or harsh to take this man to court, for him to be fined or put in jail?
I think, therefore, that there is nothing “radical” or harsh about what the Quran teaches at all. In fact it makes perfect sense. What is radical is thinking that a person can do what they like, insult and reject God and His guidance and oppose His Messengers and none of that matters just as long as they are “nice” to others? To treat such people in the same way as those who have truly obeyed God, accepted His Messenger and tried to follow His commands, now that would be unfair and unjust.
This brings us onto the matter of God’s justice. They maybe many people in the world to whom God’s message has not yet reached, and Allah does not punish a people until He has sent them a Messenger. No one goes to Hell by mistake. People go there because they chose to take that path, and rejected the path to Paradise. This is what is meant by:
“…whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him and he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter”
Allah’s Message comes to people when and where He wills, according to His knowledge and wisdom. For those who have not received it then Allah will judge them justly.
At the end of the day we cannot make any judgements upon individuals. God alone knows the inner condition of the hearts. We can only go on what is apparent to us. Islam means willing submission to God and that is the way of living that Allah has revealed from His wisdom and Knowledge. How could any right minded person seek to live according to anything else?