The Fire of God’s Mercy

Atheists often advance the argument that God’s Mercy is canceled out by virtue of eternal Hellfire. However, I’ve always found this objection wanting and more an evidence of the vacuity of those proposing it. How so? Because such an argument seems to redefine the concept of mercy entirely; twisting it into a juvenile trait uncharacteristic of any moral standard.

Allow me to explain.

Prior to getting into the notion of eternal punishment, let’s discuss what ‘mercy’ actually is. The concept of mercy today — when applied to those who have committed some sort of wrong — has come to be construed as a selfless act of forgiveness towards the wrongdoer, without any necessary reciprocating factor. Meaning, to be defined as ‘merciful’, one is obligated to release a criminal from punishment without any strings attached.

But this isn’t mercy. To forgive a criminal who refuses to repent for their crimes is not forgiveness, but stupidity. Without the reciprocity of remorse and guarantee of reform, such “mercy” ultimately becomes a means of supporting criminal behavior and completely invalidates every ideal of justice ever conceived. Thus, the type of mercy that many atheists seem to have in mind is really no different than that of a child’s; one who seeks to evade reproach every time he’s caught with his hands in the cookie jar. In other words, It is an irrational plea for moral agents to sanction immorality. But how can a moral agent complicit and still be considered moral? Is that not a contradiction?

But the atheist(s) reading this post may retort that I’ve strawmanned their understanding of mercy. But have I really? Because when examining their reactions to the Islamic version of Hellfire, it seems that I’m right on point. You see, in Islam, people don’t go to Hell for eternity because of one single finite criminal act, nor does God force them to remain in Hell arbitrarily. Rather, the punishment is eternal because the offense is eternally committed. This is stated in the Qur’an itself in numerous places, including the following:

If you could but see when they are made to stand before the Fire and will say, “Oh, would that we could be returned [to life on earth] and not deny the signs of our Lord and be among the believers.” But what they concealed before has [now] appeared to them. And even if they were returned, they would return to that which they were forbidden; and indeed, they are liars. (Al-Qur’an, 6:27-28)

Here, Allah states clearly that those who are being punished in Hell will never get a chance to leave, because He Knows they’re insincere in their remorse and desire to reform. They are far too arrogant to admit they were wrong in any meaningful way. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes that Hell is for the “arrogant” (4:36-37, 4:137, 40:76, 7:36, 34:31-33, etc.).

Thus, because these people refuse to accept God’s Mercy, it cannot be argued that God lacks mercy. It would be fallacious to state otherwise.

That said, I expect a subsequent retort from atheists, such that it reveals yet again the vacuity of their objections. No doubt the following argument will be given: “Why doesn’t god just not create people he knows will go to hell? Or why not just make these people cease to exist?”

And the answer is simple: because both these options would be a contradiction to God’s attribute of Mercy. By denying people their free will to make the choice to rebel against God for all of eternity — whether by refusing to create them or having them cease to exists — God therefore destroys any potential for Him to give His Mercy eternally. Remember, mercy requires the potential for reciprocity. And if there are no people willing to violate the rules and be given mercy, then such mercy ultimately becomes meaningless. In other words, claims that God “lacks mercy” also become meaningless, because this objection rules out the eternal potential for mercy to be given. In summary, there can be no mercy without justice — and no justice without punishment.

But really, is this so hard to grasp? Or are atheists just projecting their own failure to comprehend what a Divine Being should be like? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to believe in atheists’ juvenile version of an “ideal god”.

I’d much rather prefer to believe in an All-Merciful God where the word ‘mercy’ actually means something.

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12 Comments on “The Fire of God’s Mercy

  1. Great article, you explained it in a clear way.

    • This is, to put it mildly, rather confused thinking. Your entire post rests on the assumption that atheists and nonbelievers are clearly and willingly denying the palpable signs of the truth of Islam. This is indeed not the case because we, living in the 21st century with languages quite removed from classical Arabic, have not been given any good signs or arguments to begin with. I could sincerely pray to God right now for anything like a vision or a dream to verify his existence and at least give me a reason to be obedient to his will, as laid out in the Quran and Sunnah, but this God has not revealed any thing to me. Instead, when I read the Quran and the earliest Islamic biographies of Muhammad, I find that both are awash with inaccurate information and statements that are only plausibly false. Nevertheless, what’s worse is the unjustified assertion that, even upon entering hellfire, nonbelievers would be denied the opportunity to reform themselves and be obedient to God will. Surely the more merciful and just approach would be to give the inhabitants of hell – those with the audacity to be agnostic about whether god exists or not – a limited time in hell with the opportunity to worship and follow God in another way. If eternal hellfire is all that awaits non-Muslims then God cannot be considered merciful or perfectly just for that matter. God would only reserve eternal hellfire for those who know of his existence but have given themselves to the darker spiritual forces of the world.

      • People who’ll end up in Hell are the ones who know that Islam is the truth but deny it. As for your claim that God didn’t reveal anything to you is false. The Quran has information nobody could know of back then, such as the mentioning of big bang, etc. only bad people will lie about these things, because they know that the Quran is true, and bad people hate the truth.

      • I don’t find your arguments convincing at all. It’s actually quite childish. Let’s take a look:

        “I could sincerely pray to God right now for anything like a vision or a dream to verify his existence and at least give me a reason to be obedient to his will, as laid out in the Quran and Sunnah, but this God has not revealed any thing to me.”

        Sincerity is not an option or something you pull out whenever you feel like it. Either you have it or you don’t. Those who sincerely with a pure heart reach out to God will find Him God-Willing and the truth. But they must first WANT to be guided, they must WANT to seek the truth. Your whole post is screaming insincerity. There is nothing you have said that makes me think that you actually WANT to be guided. Secondly, in the very beginning of the Qur’an God makes quite clear that the believers are those who believe in the unseen. They don’t require visions. That’s the point. It’s part of the test. You think billions have seen visions affirming God’s existence. No, it’s rational to believe in God. It’s in our fitrah. The creation and the meticulous design within it is SCREAMING His existence yet the atheists are blind to it.

        Lastly, there are numerous verses where God tells us that how people in the past used to demand from the prophets visions and miracles or even to witness God with their very own eyes. You’re not making any new revolutionary claim/demand. It’s an ancient one.

        “Surely the more merciful and just approach would be to give the inhabitants of hell – those with the audacity to be agnostic about whether god exists or not – a limited time in hell with the opportunity to worship and follow God in another way.”

        Completely flawed understanding of Islamic theology. Those who end up in Hell for eternity deserved it and Abdullah as already explained beautifully in this post why. Islam views God as a Being who has eternal knowledge and knows the past, present, future, and things that are not but if they were what the result would be. He has absolute knowledge of what is and what is not. Those deserving to be in Hell eternally would never change. God knows them. He is their Creator and knows them fully. These are people who have made up their minds to oppose God and reject Him. This is not that difficult of a point to comprehend yet you seem aloof to it.

        Secondly, I haven’t seen a single good argument for doubting the existence of a Creator. So far every atheist/agnostic that I can recall to have met does so due to environment and the need to worship their desires. They build rational arguments around it to justify their lust for indulging in worldly life but behave as if they are being rational, but it’s really just about adopting to their God-less environment and following desires.

        “If eternal hellfire is all that awaits non-Muslims then God cannot be considered merciful or perfectly just for that matter.”

        Again an ignorant comment due to unfamiliarity with the Islamic theology. Muslims never say all non-Muslims will definitely go to Hell. We speak in general terms and not specific because we don’t know how God will judge individuals. We say, “In general, not following Islam will lead you to the hellfire but specifically we reserve judgement.” So we don’t judge every Jennifer, Mike, and Kumar to hellfire. Perhaps some people may have a valid excuse before God. At the end, it is up to God, the ultimate judge, the Most Just, the Most Merciful. In numerous places in the Qur’an, God talks about different faiths and then at the end says, “And He will judge between that in which you used to differ.” In chapter 5 of the Qur’an, Jesus is reported to address God on the day of judgement regarding his followers who started to worship him and his mother instead of God: “If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise” [Qu’ran 5:118].

        I suggest you actually learn our beliefs before making comments, otherwise, no one here is going to take your criticism seriously because it sounds ignorant.

        Recommend reading and a video for you:

        https://muslimmatters.org/2014/04/11/salvific-exclusivity-i-shaykh-yasir-qadhi/

  2. The Qur’an is not a scientific book and did not predict anything. Even all of the most prominent Islamic apologists have abandoned this claim because it is false. The Qur’an makes no scientific claims but is full of many inaccuarcies and straight up falsehoods.

    • This article (nor any of my other articles) make any claim that the Qur’an is a “scientific book”.

      So I have no idea why you’re making such an irrelevant point.

      • I was trying to reply to Gamebotx1’s point but it seems that it went up as a general comment. I’m sure you agree however that the scientific argument is bogus.

    • The Quran is not a science book (i.e things explained in detail) but the big bang, etc. are referenced. Like I said, bad people hate the truth.

    • Also, the Quran challenges non Muslims to come up with something like it. Nobody succeeded, even one Surah with 3 verses.

      • When anyone comes out with something like it you will come with an argument as this isn’t as eloquent as Quran. This challenge is meaningless. It was only meaningful when the prophet was still alive and the competition would be between Allah and humans

  3. I like to believe in a God who is truly merciful

    I can’t but see contradictions in this blog. I’m not a philosopher but this makes no sense and I wish to be corrected if I’m wrong

    I don’t think anyone is calling for no punishment as you say. Punishment can be a mercy if it will really have a better effect or educate the punished a good lesson but this is untrue when it comes to the concept of eternal hell as it will be a punishment for the sake of punishment. I don’t know what kind of a crime deserves to get burned again and again and again for basically nothing because sooner or later the pain will be more than the crime. There are many problems actually for earth Islam has punishments that seem to be just when it comes to the crimes like the killer gets killed or robbers gets his hand cut; I myself don’t agree with them but the severity of punishments when thinking of those crimes but what I know about the hereafter is that all crimes will be punished by being in hell which means fire according to what I know it’s fire for everyone. Hell isn’t eternal for Muslims only (or basically any believers of whatever religion with the concept of hell) which also makes me wonder if we assumed that Hitler was Muslim how would it be fair that Hitler sooner or later will come out of hell but a young teen who turned atheist because of doubts and died while he was still in his teens would be burning forever

    The verse you mentioned makes sense but not every disbeliever is intentionally ignoring. What about those who are born Christian or atheists. Why Muslims has so much advantage by being born in Islam while most of humanity isn’t and how is that fair? How is it fair that we need to believe without seeing any miracles and scriptures with scientific mistakes and weird things that are hardly believable at such an era; this sounds like me crying and yeah I’m letting myself be emotional but I do believe that this hell would include basically all the common people who are just followers of followers who which would be most of the humanity

    lastly, God/Allah declares multiple times that he wants us to believe in him but what kind of believe does God want is it a belief driven by fear or the wishes for greater gifts. How many Muslims really follow God because they know him and really believes in him?

    Allah gives us free will to choose between eternal hell and eternal heaven but he wanted us to believe in him what it feels to me that people are believing in hell and heaven more than god if they do even care.

    I myself is commenting because I am doubting and I don’t wanna my ignorance take control of me but my biggest motivation is the chance of the existence of hell not the belief of God

    • *corrections* still wishing for an answer

      I like to believe in a God who is truly merciful

      I can’t but see contradictions in this blog. I’m not a philosopher but this makes no sense and I wish to be corrected if I’m wrong

      I don’t think anyone is calling for no punishment as you say. Punishment can be a mercy if it will really have a better effect on or educate the punished; it will be like a lesson but this is untrue when it comes to the concept of eternal hell as it will be a punishment for the sake of punishment. I don’t know what kind of a crime makes it worthy for the criminal/sinner to get burned again and again and again for basically nothing because sooner or later the pain will be greater than the crime. Islam has punishments that seem to be just when it comes to the crimes like the killer gets killed or the robber gets his hand cut; I myself don’t agree with them but the severity of the punishments could be (arguably) fair when considering the crimes but what I know about the hereafter is that all crimes will be punished by being in hell which means fire according to what I know it’s fire for every sinner. Hell isn’t eternal for only Muslims (or basically any believers of whatever religion with the concept of hell) which also makes me wonder if we assumed that Hitler was Muslim how would it be fair that Hitler sooner or later will come out of hell but a young teen who turned atheist because of doubts and died while he was still in his teenage would be burning forever

      The verse you mentioned makes sense but not every disbeliever is intentionally ignoring. What about those who are born Christian or atheists. Why Muslims has so much advantage by being born in Islam while most of humanity isn’t and how is that fair? How is it fair that we need to believe without seeing any miracles and dealing with scriptures with scientific mistakes and weird things that are hardly believable at such an era; this sounds like me crying/overreacting and yeah I’m letting myself be emotional but I do believe that this hell would include basically all the common people who are just followers of followers who would be most of humanity

      lastly, God/Allah declares multiple times that he wants us to believe in him but what kind of believe does God want? is it a belief driven by fears or the wishes for greater gifts? How many Muslims really follow God because they know him and really believe in him?

      Allah gives us free will to choose between eternal hell and eternal heaven but he wanted us to believe in him. Why does it seem that the main goal gets missed in all of this?
      it feels to me that people are believing in hell and heaven more than god if they do even care.

      I myself is commenting because I am doubting and I don’t wanna my ignorance take control of me but my biggest motivation is the chance of the existence of hell not the belief of God which contradicts the whole point that God created us for in my opinion

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