Probably one of the biggest philosophical issues I’ve been dealing with this past year is understanding the balance of Rahmah (Mercy) and Punishment as is found in the Quran and Sunnah. It was easy to understand that there are punishments and hellfire, and that people will be punished for what they have done, but as I realised that I have a major weakness in understanding Allah is Rahman, and that He is the infinitely most compassionate and caring, it became harder to integrate that concept in my mind and heart.
Anyways, with all the crises I’ve dealt with in trying to understand this concept, I found it crucial and relieving to finally go to a scholar who truly understands what Rahmah is. And someone who truly understands the religion and whose character and knowledge reflects that fact. It is none other than Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Shinqeeti. A world famous scholar teaching in Saudi Arabia.
I approached him even though it was extremely difficult with him being surrounded with people drilling him with questions every available second he’s around. And him being surrounded and bum rushed from all sides as he’s walking outside of the masjid.
But I just wanted to hear his response to this question, from someone who truly understands Rahmah.
Below is an english rendering of how our conversation went last night:
You have to learn to separate the Rahmah and Azhab. the Azhab and Rahmah are clearly distinct from one another with no mixing up of the two. There could be a mixing up of these two concepts so it’s important two clearly separate the two. The Azhab is applied in specific circumstances, only to those who specifically deserve it. And no doubt that azhab is severe to those who deserve it. And at the same time, Nothing is wider, and more expansive, and more encompassing than the Rahmah of Allah. The issue is when we look to the creation it could get confusing. Because when we see somebody who is heart hearted and harsh, that person cannot be Raheem. They are mutually exclusive. But with the case of Allah, that’s not the case. Allah, only to someone who completely and totally deserves a punishment will be dealt that punishment. But Allah is the أرحم الراحمين. (The Most compassionate of those who are compassionate) So separate completely those who have truly deserve to be punished. To only them is applied the عذاب شديد (severe punishment)
Have you read the Quran? (I say yes), Okay, let’s take an example of some ayat of punishment. النار يعرضون عليها غدوا و عشيا و يوم تقوم الساعة أدخلوا آل فرعون أشد العذاب . “The fire, they will be exposed to it, morning and night. and on the Day of Judgement, enter the pharohs to the most severe punishment.” Look who this ayah is referring to. It’s referring to Fir’on, the tyrant. The one who denied Allah exists and created him. The One who after given so many signs to believe, rejected them all and instead said, أرجه وأخاه وابعث في المدائن حاشرين يأتوك بكل سحار عليم . They said: “Keep him and his brother in suspense, and dispatch to the Cities heralds gathering “they will come with all (our) knowledgeable sorcerers.” The one to whom Allah sent Musa to call him back to his Rabb. Instead He says, أنا ربكم الأعلى. (I am the Rabb, most high) The One who يذبحون ابناءهم و يستحيون نساءهم . (Slaughtering baby boys, and keeping alive baby girls.) Doesn’t somebody like this deserve a severe punishment? Tell me, what do you think?
Let’s take an example because examples can help us understand and conceptualise concepts. Now suppose that you have someone, you showed them so much ihsan, and did so much good for them, took care of them, and raised them, taught them valuable life lessons. And then when you approached them, they put you down, denying you ever did anything good for them or to them. Denied that you ever cared for them, and told you that you never did anything good for me. What would you say about this person? Would you say that person deserves to be punished? What would you want to do if you had the power and control to do what you like with him? Punish him, of course.
Do you understand now?……… (I not wanting to prolong the convo say, I’ll try.) No, don’t say, “I’ll try”, let’s understand this point right now.
(When I was applying punishment to somebody who doesn’t deserve it) the Sheikh caught it, and said,
“See, that’s a mistake. That’s an error, stemming from your faulty understanding. Now I’m not trying to blame you at all, I’m simply trying to show you that this understanding is incorrect and it needs to be reevaluated in your mind.
So back to Fir’on after everything that he has done, and claimed and denied, Allah tells Musa to go to him and قولا له قولا لينا لعله يتذكر أو يخشى .. (Tell him a gentle word so perhaps he will remember or have khashiyah.) Going to this tyrant and talking to him gently, hoping that he will come around and have khashyah and humility? The worst of the worst is being treated with and dealt with in such a compassionate manner? After all that he has done? Now you tell me, what more Rahmah above this do you want? What more Rahmah could you ask for than this?
(I mention the hadith of عذبت امرأة بهرة)
Very good you bringing this up. now look at the context of this hadith. This woman she locked up the innocent cat, and prevented it from eating or drinking, or even trying to lick the floor even though the cat was in her vicinity asking and meowing for help. She kept on insisting on being cruel to this cat. And so she was punished for it. But you have to understand the word عذبت in it’s proper understanding. does this mean that she was thrown in hellfire for eternity for this one action? that’s not what it says. The only word used is عذبت . That is, she was punished only for the amount of torture that she intentionally gave to that cat. Nothing more or less than that. It was only because she was deserving of that. So remember that the punishment is only applied to those who clearly deserve it, and it’s not mixed with the extremely vast Rahmah of Allah. These aspects are completely exclusive from one another.
So do you understand now? Are the confusions gone from your mind? (I say yes it’s better now)
He playfully hits my chest as he leaves, and says, ثبت الله جناحك . (May Allah stabalize what’s inside you)