How do the compassion and benevolence of God imply the existence of an afterlife? In particular, how do they imply the existence of hell?
When we observe the world around us, it is clear that its Creator must have incredible benevolence and compassion (see Pessimism and Calamities and Worldly Life and Calamities Through the Lens of Believers). With that in mind, the existence of heaven becomes evident. (see Belief in God Leads to Belief in an Afterlife). But what about the existence of hell? How do the compassion and benevolence of God imply the existence of hell?
Imagine a cargo ship carrying thousands of products by various sellers to a certain destination. Everybody involved completes their tasks properly: the products are made with care, packaged appropriately, and sent to the cargo ship. Employees on the ship also pay attention to their tasks so that everything goes as planned. The captain, however, decides for whatever reason to direct the ship to a wrong destination. Then, somebody finds out about the captain’s intentions and informs the rest. Angry at the captain, all the sellers and employees on the ship take the matter to their ruler. The captain’s decision to sail the ship somewhere other than what planned is a huge insult to everybody involved. (see The Thirteenth Flash, Third Indication)
Consider a construction project to build a skyscraper involving hundreds of employees from engineers to architects, to plumbers, to bricklayers, and so on. Suppose everybody completes their duties as necessary with the exception of one individual whose job is to inspect the construction and make sure that everything is safe. As a result of carelessness and negligence, the inspector fails to notice certain flaws in the construction and the skyscraper ends up collapsing. The inspector’s negligence is a huge insult to the tremendous work and effort of the other workers.
Question: How would a compassionate and benevolent ruler handle these situations?
There are two options: forgiveness or punishment.
In the former case, he will be forgiving and compassionate towards the captain (resp. inspector) but at the same time he will be cruel to the hundreds of people who wasted so much of their money, time, and energy in preparing the products and maintaining the ship (resp. constructing the skyscraper). One the other hand, if he punishes the captain (resp. inspector), he will be just – not cruel – towards the captain (resp. inspector) and compassionate to the hundreds of people who worked with diligence.
Which is more compassionate and benevolent: one compassion along with a hundred of times of cruelty or one justice along with a hundred of times of compassion?
How does this relate to nonbelievers going to hell?
As discussed in “Humans: Fruits of This Universe”, humans are the primary reason why this universe was created…and thanking, loving, praising, and worshiping God are the primary reasons why the human being was created. Thus, the entire universe with all its various beings works towards this goal: the goal for humans to thank, love, praise, and worship God (of course, this is not the only reason for the universe’s existence, but it is a major one).
Thus, among all of creation, human beings are considered the most valuable due to their major role in accomplishing the purpose of existence. Indeed, every human being is a miniature sample of this entire universe and has a potential value which is incomparable to the rest of the beings.
For example, the great variety of plants and animals are each given their unique sustenance. Plants are provided with water and sunlight, cows with grass, squirrels with nuts, and so on. Each one of them teaches us that God is The Provider who provides each of His creatures with its own means of survival.
Also, massive beings such as mountains, planets, and waterfalls tell us that their Creator must be Almighty.
Mothers in nearly all species tell us how Merciful and Compassionate our Creator is.
And so on.
Every being teaches us about our Creator, allowing us to know Him better and as a result to worship Him better.
Basically, all these creatures play a major role and contribute to humans reaching their full potential, thus attaining the purpose of this universe’s existence. When compared with the analogies above, every human being’s potential is like a skyscraper or like a ship sailing to a certain destination. The entire universe works towards building the human’s potential. If the human fails to believe in God and rejects the truth, the entire skyscraper collapses or the ship fails to reach its destination, in a sense rendering everybody else’s efforts useless and vain. Furthermore, they accuse all these beings of lying by rejecting the names of God which they manifest (eg. Mountains in a sense tell us how Great and Almighty its Creator is and a nonbeliever in a sense accuses this mountain of lying). Lastly, they insult and reduce the exalted statuses of other beings to a very shallow position. In the case of mountains, for instance, they reduce the status of a mountain from being a servant of God who teaches us about His greatness to a meaningless cluster of rocks that serves nothing besides this transient world.
Just as the inspector in the skyscraper example or captain in the cargo ship example, a nonbeliever also deserves punishment. If neglecting one’s duty to construct a skyscraper or preventing a cargo ship from reaching its destination – which is nothing compared to the entire universe and its purpose – leads to punishment, then rejecting the truth deserves much worse. The magnitude of the punishment is obviously incomparably greater than those in the analogies above.
Finally, there is no reason to pity these individuals because they reject the truth knowing that they will go to hell. Indeed, the noble Qur’an tells us that God will only punish people after they have been informed about the truth that disbelief leads to hell.
مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا – 17:15
Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We sent a messenger. (Surah Isra’, verse 15)
OK… So in this post, we saw how the existence of hell is a mercy for all the victims of a nonbeliever. Yet, while hell serves as a punishment to the nonbelievers, it is also in a sense considered a mercy to them. How so? We will see that next time.
RELEVANT PASSAGE FROM THE TENTH WORD
The Tenth Word, The Second Truth