|Kitab-ul-Taqdeer (Book of Destiny)|
‘He Forgives or Punishes Whoever He Wants’
Parts of some verses in the Quran contain phrases like the following:
يغفر لمن يشاء ويعذب من يشاء (3/128) which are traditionally translated as, ‘Allah forgives whoever He wishes and punishes whoever He wishes’. Such interpretation can only, and has, led to a concept of God who is whimsical, unpredictable, unsystematic and moody. This divine behavior is much like that of earthly absolute monarchs of ‘royal disposition’ in the words of the famous Persian poet Saadi Shirazi. This is quite contrary to the Quranic concept of Allah. Let us have a look at it.
Punishment (عذاب) is usually taken to be eternal fortune in Hell. But, the Quranic use of the term عذاب encompasses much more. Consequences of all wrong human actions – realizable both Here and in the Hereafter --- is عذاب in Quranic terms. So much so that a sentence from a court of law is also عذاب .
Maghfara (مغفرة ) does not mean ‘forgiveness’. Linguistically, it means to arrange for protection. Please refer to chapter 4 where we saw that there is a period of wait between an action and its result. If someone uses this period accordingly, the probable bad consequences of an action can be averted. That is مغفرة protection (1).
Let us now see who deserves عذاب and how. Sura Maaeda talks about the sins committed by the Jews and says: “Very bad it is what they have sent on for themselves. They deserve divine punishment and shall be punished
(1) I have dealt at length with this subject in my work ‘Jahan-e-Farda’ (Tomorrow’s World), dealing with the Hereafter.
accordingly” (5/80). Sura Aal-e-Imran, after having talked about sins by the Jews – rejecting the Divine Law, murdering their prophets and social reformers – says: “Tell them, O Messenger, of the (impending) torturous punishment” (3/20).
A little further on, the Sura says: “Those who reject the divine laws are punished severely (with عذاب ) in this world and also in the Hereafter” (3/55). Also: “Those who reject Allah’s laws get عذاب in Here and in the Hereafter and can never buy themselves out of it, even if they spend all the money in the world!” (5/36). Sura An’aam says: “Those who deny Our guidance, shall be subjected to punishment (عذاب ) because of their transgression” (6/49). Sura Tauba: “The opponents of the Muslims are under the erroneous arrogance because of their wealth and numbers. This very misconception shall lead them in the battlefield!” (9/52, 9/85). Sura Hood: “These people neither think nor care, nor listen to anyone, nor see where they are going. How can they escape punishment?” (11/18-24, 2/7).
Some verses use ‘rahma’ as an antonym to ‘azaab’. Sura Aal-e-Imran says: “O the Convinced! Take care and not behave like those who, after having had clear guidance from Allah, began squabbling and split up in factions. They are the ones who will get a big punishment when the consequences of all actions will be realized. On that occasion, some faces will come alight (as a result of their good deeds) while others will go dark because they had reverted to rejection of Allah’s laws after having adopted them. They will be told to have the taste of the punishment ‘for your rejection’. The bright faced people, at the same time, shall be under Allah’s ‘rahma’ (safety of protection) – (3/104 – 106).
It is obvious from all the above that punishment comes to men because of their own actions (Law of Returns or the Law of Allah’s Will). The verses
Interpretation of من يشاء
where the subject of من يشآء is Allah (whosover
He wants) refer to Allah’s Will. Sura A’raaf reports Moses praying to Allah: “O Allah, bestow on us the niceties of Here and the Hereafter!” Allah replied: “(If you wish to avoid My punishment, be informed that) My punishment befalls according to (the Law of) My Will (under systematic rules, not whimsical decisions), As to My ‘rahma’ (Safety of Protection), it covers the entire universe but it is destined only for those among men who abide by Our laws, establish a universal system of sustenance and are fully convinced of the validity of Our laws; also for those who will follow Our illiterate Messenger, mentioned in the Torah and the Bible, who will enact the good and prohibit the bad ….. “ (7/155-156).
Sure Beni Israel: “O Messenger! Tell My adherents to converse nicely among themselves & be fair in their dealings because the Devil wants to split you up in warring factions. Don’t follow him as he is your sworn enemy. Allah knows what you do! If (your deeds are) according to Allah’s will, you will deserve His ‘rahma’ (Safety of Protection); otherwise, punishment (azaab) will befall you. It is entirely upto them to chose between Allah’s ‘rahma’ and ‘azaab’. O Messenger! You have not been appointed to force them to make the right choice! (17/54).
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Let us now examine ‘maghfara’.
It can have two applications: 1) In an epidemic, people with a greater power of resistance escape it --- in the Quranic set-up, this type of ‘maghfara’ comes
Two Applications of ‘maghfara’
with precautionary measures men may
take against calamities. 2) The epidemic victimizes one who survives but is left very weak and recovers fully when properly treated – in the Quranic setup, this type of ‘maghfara’ comes with ‘tauba’ (repentance). The Quranic concept of ‘tauba’ may be illustrated by the example of a wayfarer who, taking a wrong turning, goes away from the intended destination. As soon as he realizes the mistake, he turns back and returns to the spot where the wrong turning was taken. This return is known as ‘tauba’ But obviously, returning to the spot of mistake is not enough. One must resume the journey on the right path. That is ‘good deeds’ in the Quranic terms. This concept is elaborated in Sura Nisa: “To Allah ‘tauba’ is for those who happen to make an error due to ignorance but return as soon as they realize it; in that case Allah (His Law) also returns to them .. “ (4/17). Subsequent to this first step, “and then if the returnee does good deeds out of conviction, only then shall he be among the successful” (28/67).
The other application of ‘maghfara’ is based upon the principle:
Good Deeds Neutralize Bad One
“Ctertainly, good deeds push away the
bad ones” (11/114). All this should clarify the verse (3/128) at head of this chapter. That is, whoever stubbornly refuses to learn from mistakes, gets
Punishment & Forgiveness
‘azzab’; but one who amends one’s
mistakes will escape it. It is illustrated in Sura Maaeda where a thief’s punishment is mentioned. The verse goes on to say: “and whoever returns after his wrong deed, and does good, Allah shall return to him. Surely, Allah is the provider of ‘maghfara’ (safety of protection) and ‘rahma’ (niceness)”. But, why should ‘maghfara’ and ‘azaab’ go hand in hand? It is because the Quran wanted to create a realistic balance between the two extremes of the Jewish (all punishment, no forgiveness) and the Christian (all mercy, no punishment) value-systems. The Quran says: “Don’t they know that it is Allah who controls supreme over all universe? He does it through His Laws. Similar divine laws have been suggested for human societies so that the application of punishment (عذاب) and safety of protection (مغفرة) is done according to laws & principles given by Allah” (5/38-40).
It follows, therefore, that a culprit should be punished only if he / she persists in criminal activity. Repentance and reformation must result in forgiveness. “Whether you expose or conceal whatever is in your hearts, Allah takes it all into account. Then, punishment or forgiveness is decided according to His laws – and Allah has set laws for everything” (2/284). Elsewhere: “Whosoever so wishes may get (through one’s actions) punishment (عذاب) or niceness (رحمة) “ (29/21).
Sura Maaeda refers to the Jews and the Christians claiming to be
Allah Has No Favorite Offspring
God’s favored children which exempted
them from punishment. The Quran replied by asking: “Punishment in the Hereafter aside, why does Allah punish you in Here? Allah has no children, favorite or otherwise. He punishes or protects people according to His laws as to Him alone is the control of the entire universe” (5/18)
The same sura explains: “Allah has promised safety or protection and great rewards to those who are convinced of His laws and then do good deeds accordingly” (5/9). In Sura Fath, after having spoken of the worthy attributes of ‘Mohammed, the Messenger of Allah, and the people with, him says: “Allah has promised safety of protection and great reward to the Convinced who do good deeds” – (48/29). Sura Hood gives safety of protection and great reward as the return of good deeds and steadfastness” – (11/11). This is repeated in (33/35). Sura Ahzaab, after having listed the attributes of Muslim men and women, says: “Allah has for them ready the safety of protection and a great reward” – (33/35).
Contrarily; ‘polytheism’ cannot get safety of protection (4/48; 4/116); “people who commit rejection of Allah’s laws and are unfair, and persist, cannot get ‘maghfara’ “ – (4/168).
The basic principle of reward and punishment is so beautifully given in the following verse:
“Why would Allah punish you if you are convinced of the validity of His laws and use his bounties properly?” (4/147).
Another important aspect of the Quranic system of punishment and forgiveness is the individual circumstances of the accused involved. For example, two
Punishment according to Circumstances
culprits of the same crime
should not have a similar sentence if their individual circumstances differ in background, i.e., upbringing, education, awareness etc. That is why, the Quran proposes that women of possession (1) be given half the normal sentence (4/25), whereas ladies of the Messenger’s family were to be sentenced TWICE of the usual! (33/30-32),
In addition to the individual, collective situation of a society must also be taken into consideration because ‘when vices spread widely in a society, Evil takes over (76/7), sparing no one from its effect. Therefore, the Convinced
must safeguard against such a situation: “and
take care of such an evil as it does not confine itself only to the wrong-doers” .… (8/25). For example, a broken dam floods not only the areas of bad workmen
Individual are Bound by Society
guilty of a faulty job but also those
completely detached from the situation. That is why the Quran emphasizes reformation of society as a whole which will automatically affect individuals. ‘Al-Deen’ is a social system which brings peace to its members. This was the point made by Omar ibn Al-Khatab, the second Caliph, when he punished the employer whose mistreatment drove some of his employees to stealing food! In another instance, Omar suspended the punishment for stealing food (just enough to quench hunger) during famine.
The misconception that salvation and forgiveness is not dependent upon Man’s deeds but on Allah’s whims and moods has sent Muslims down the
Requests for Forgiveness
deepest pits of destruction as a nation. This
(1) At the advent of Islam, buying, selling and possessing women for concubinage and other purposes, was part of life. The Quran refers to them as ‘those possess by your right hands’. That was to be temporary for all practical purposes. Subsequently, the Quran outlawed the practice.
erroneous idea has led them to beliefs and practices such as this: No matter how many wrong or bad deeds one commits, Allah will forgive one if one recites 33 times the chant of ‘Please Allah, forgive’ after every prayer. The Quranic truth, however, is: “This is the Paradise you are inherited with because of your deeds!” (43/72) Today, Muslims believe that they will enter Paradise only because of Allah’s benevolent mood and momentary sweet will. The fact of the matter is that the Quran has said:
“Do you think you will enter Paradise easily? Nay, you haven’t yet gone through the harsh stages like peoples of by-gone ages – so harsh that the earth shook under their feet and the messenger and his companions wondered when Allah’s help would come! Allah consoled them by glad tidings of the imminent divine support” (2/214).
Mohammed, the Messenger of Allah, is reported to have said: “Paradise exists under the shade of swords!”
Sadly, that is not the end of the story. Incredible as it may appear, the fact is that one of the two most authentic works of Hadith (the Messenger’s
Pride in Sins
tradition), MUSLIM, reports the following from Mohammed:
Sin or Allah will perish you
“By the One who possesses my self, if you
don’t sin at all, Allah will remove you and replace you with those who will indulge in sins and then seek Allah’s forgiveness”.
No wonder the crime and sin rates are unabated in most Muslim societies!
Adherents to the mystical tradition, sufis, have reported fantastic stories
to make the point. One particular episode: “A devotee, after
having worshipped Allah for twelve years in a jungle, heard the divine: Say what you want? Searching for a reply, he noticed a sage (actually, the Devil) appeared and suggested asking for justice. His request for justice was replied by: ‘OK. You sat and worshipped on a stone for twelve years. Justice demands that this stone sits atop you for twelve years! After those painful twelve years, Allah inquired of his request once again. This time, the mystic, having learned his lesson the hard way, asked for Allah’s benevolence. He was rewarded by appointment to the rank of ‘Qutub’ (a high ranking in the traditional mystic hierarchy), with the admonition:
‘Remember, justice is demanded by the devilish. Muslims always seek Our Benevolence!’
The source of such ideas appears to be the Christian dogmas invented by St. Paul. In one of his letters in the New Testament, he writes: ‘Your have
St. Paul’s Influence
been salvaged because of belief. It is not because of
your deeds. It is God’s gift’ – (Afseeoon, 2/8,9). Elsewhere: ‘Therefore, we conclude that Man is considered righteous because of belief, not because of deeds of religion’ --- (To the Romans: 3/28).
This established the Christian dogma of ‘God is Mercy’. Such concepts found their way into Muslim philosophy, supported by fabricated traditions like: ‘No one among you shall enter Paradise because of deeds!’ – (from Taj al Uroos).