In my early years of schooling, my mother used to teach me all my subjects and monitored my homework/exam preparations etc. A delightful woman who otherwise always used to spoil my habits by giving in my routine stubbornness, was not so lenient when it came to my education. I used to spend hours studying and sitting in homemade examinations with her as examination controller cum paper checker. And all this time, she used to give me threats that if I do not do better in my next one, she would take my heart out, break my legs or permanently damage my face.
Well, all that never happened of course. What did happen was that I used to regularly get punishments at home while studying. Obviously I never believed any of the things but I knew there would ‘other’ reactions.
They say God loves a person more than 70 times of a mother. Somehow the idea comes under doubt when the whole talk burning for eternity starts circulating up. But than I remember the threats of my mother and that they never came true. It would most probably come under ‘blasphemy’ if I say or think that the word of God will not come true.
“And when it was said that the promise of Allah was true, and that the hour- there was no doubt about its (coming), ye used to say, ‘We know not what is the hour: we only think it is an idea, and we have no firm assurance.'”
( سورة الجاثية , Al-Jathiya, Chapter #45, Verse #32)
“Then will appear to them the evil (fruits) of what they did, and they will be completely encircled by that which they used to mock at!”
( سورة الجاثية , Al-Jathiya, Chapter #45, Verse #33)
But still does the balance of justice weighs correctly if eternal hell fire awaits sinners and disbelievers? Well, that depends on what kind of God one actually believes in. If the pre-requisite to belief in God is that God is Just, than He would never punish anyone in any way which is greater than his/her crime. And that is the fact that somehow at times is not understood by the disbelievers and in some cases even believers. The very conscious of humans itself is an evidence to the fact of existing God. The natural conclusion of the world we see and our own inner self leads towards God.
And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed and made them testify as to themselves : “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes! We testify,” lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “Verily, we have been unaware of this.”
Al Araf 172
Can humans be accounted to some promise they made which they do not remember? I can not say for any body else, but I certainly do not remember anyone asking me this question. So coming back to the part of Just God, I can not held accountable for the promise I do not remember. That is why urafa have interpreted the verse as the knowledge of God with in our soul and consciousness. And as long as one adheres of this conscious fact, he/she needs not to worry about the fire in question.
Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the christians and the sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #62)
Much of the warnings of Quran which many do not realize is regarding those who mock His signs. It is one thing to be a skeptic and another to be downright arrogant. It is this very arrogance and pride which has been discouraged in Quran. Whether it is in form of ruku and sujood towards Allah, acting humble with fellow human beings, the very walking style on Earth or the word ‘Islam’ itself which means submission of will. It is only trait of an humble human being that he would listen to the voice of his conscious, or believe that he will one day have to reap what he sew. It is at this point where religion has helped many lives and in fact changed them in many ways and its greatest strength. Whether that is the belief of karma or the judgment day, it adds to one’s sense of carefulness in terms of his deeds towards other human beings. That is the reason Baqarah verse guarantees reward for the acknowledgment of existence of God, good deeds and the belief of judgment of our actions.
Many skeptics have jumped on the very idea of judgment and in a way used it against the notion of God which is not limited to debate about justice of eternal hellfire. Personally I have no idea what would be the nature of the fire specially when we have already been told that we would be resurrected in a form unknown to us. So I do not know how the fire, virgins or milk will have anything to with our new found form. I like to think of heaven as a place to attain eternal salvation close to God and his signs, while the fire for the unbelievers would be the very jealousy that they could not attain such peace in which they will remain so. But that is besides the point. The point remains however that whatever end we may meet, we will face it justly. Because if He exists, ought to treat fairly. And if not, than He is not God and we do not need to worry.
While skeptics would constantly remind the believers of how it seems that God is willing to monitor every small detail of humans and punish them for small daily routine sins, they forget the fact how God has many times mentioned mercy and paradise for very small good deeds as well. At the end of the day it is our deeds and the conscious of answering about them will lead us to rewards. And since God, like a mother wants us on the receiving end, that is the reason of such threats. Imam Jaffer Sadiq a.s said: “Do not loose hope to an extent that you think you can not attain God’s mercy. Do not become so arrogant that you see no fear in committing a sin.” (more or less meaning of actual quote). And this we need to remember all the time. It would be impossible to remain perfect goodie goodies all the time, but it will not hurt to always remind ourselves that there is an accountability for it. The skeptics or the hardcore extremists who apparently are each other enemies, at least are joined in one aspect i.e they vision God who is ready to punish every itsy bitsy deeds of humans with blazing hot fires or God knows what. The difference that the former loose the faith in God because they are unable to envision such God, while the later lynch to faith based only on their fear or the hatred inside for the other not-so-faithful people. While later’s hearts and minds are already filled with hatred, the skeptics steadily start filling their hearts with similar rage and hate and they ridicule faiths. So in the end when they finally will stand in front of God, would it not be just that they face what they had already been saying about God all along? On the other hand, the one who was never in doubt of the mercy of his Lord should be more comfortable as long as he was not downright arrogant in his crimes. To prove my whole hypothesis I would in the end share two examples of the people of the book as described in Quran.
In some cases people of the book are describes as:
“They are not all alike. Among the people of the Book there is a group of men who have stood (by their covenant with God); they recite the Word of God in the hours of night and prostrate themselves before Him. They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin good and forbid evil, and hasten to vie with one another in good works. And these are among the righteous.” (3:113)
And there are, certainly, among the people of the book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah. They will not sell the Signs of Allah for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account.
( سورة آل عمران , Aal-e-Imran, Chapter #3, Verse #199)
While in other cases:
Even if thou wert to bring to the people of the book all the Signs (together), they would not follow Thy Qibla; nor art thou going to follow their Qibla; nor indeed will they follow each other’s Qibla. If thou after the knowledge hath reached thee, Wert to follow their (vain) desires,-then wert thou Indeed (clearly) in the wrong.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #145)
The people of the book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #146)
[Yusufali 6:20] Those to whom We have given the Book know this as they know their own sons. Those who have lost their own souls refuse therefore to believe.
The thing to reflect in above verses in praise or discouragement regarding the people of the book is that they are talking of those people of the book who recognized Prophet SAW and his message. The difference being that second set of verses are for those who were stubborn in rejecting Muhammad SAW even after knowing due to their arrogance. While the first set of verses refer to those who did not reject him and they knew his message was true. Point of focus here is that they still remained people of the book otherwise Quran would not be addressing them as people of the book had they converted. Which it seems they did not but still Quran is praising them for they are humble and will not sell or ridicule signs of Allah when it is plain in front of them. If they honor His signs, the ways of their prayer will not matter as all heavens and the Earth belongs to God and whether one prostrates in east or the west, the face of Allah.
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or west; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #177)
Above is the guideline for the believers. Whoever they may be, which ever way they follow. And just like, the example of different people of the book suggested in Quran indicates, it is about honoring the signs of Allah and not ridiculing them out of ignorance. Otherwise, one can not get too much surprised if in the end they end up facing what they had been dreading all along and meet God the way they perceived them. I for one, percieve God like a parent, who loves me and will probably punish me in way parents do and threatens the same way as well. But despite all that, I remember when ever I needed my mother, she hugged me no matter what. And I know my Lord will take me one day and I will dwell in His house forever. Unless I was too arrogant to never appreciate this.