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Is the issue of eternal punishment compatible with justice of God?

We know that the Holy Quran directly speaks of the eternal punishment to be given to the kufar. That is, it speaks about eternity.

“Allah has promised the hypocrites, men and women, and the faithless, the Fire of hell, to remain in it [forever]. That suffices them. Allah has cursed them, and there is a lasting punishment for them.” [1]

Just as in the following verse, the Quran promises the believing men and the believing women gardens in Paradise forever.

Allah has promised the faithful, men and women, gardens with streams running in them, to remain in them [forever], and good dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. Yet Allah’s pleasure is greater [than all these]; that is the great success. [2]

This question then arises and that is, how can one accept that in one’s lifetime of eighty or one hundred years, one commits evil deeds and then for eternity – millions of years – is punished.

Of course, this is not important as to rewards because the ocean of God’s Mercy is very great and however much greater is the reward, it shows greater virtue and mercy but as to evil deeds, they are punished for eternity because of limited sins. How can this be reconciled with God’s justice? Should a balance not exist between punishment and reward?

Answer

In order to reach a final solution to this discussion, several points need to be noted:

a. Punishments on the Day of Resurrection do not resemble punishments in this world. For instance, a person is found guilty of aggression and plunder and he spends some time in prison whereas the punishment at the Judgment day takes the form of efforts of one’s deeds and the particularities of a person’s acts.

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In clearer terms, the difficulties which one bears in the other world are the direct result of his deeds. The Holy Quran explains this very clearly where it says,

So today no soul will be wronged at all, and you will not be recompensed except for what you used to do. [3]

With one simple example, we can visualize this truth that a person who goes after narcotics and alcoholic drinks and no matter how much one explains that these things will ruin him, and sicken his heart and destroy his nerves, he does not listen. He spends several weeks or months drowned in these killing pleasures and gradually develops ulcers, heart disease, nerve disease and then he spends tens of years until the end of his life suffering because of this and he groans night and day.

Can one object here why does a person who only sinned for several weeks or months have to suffer for tens of years?

It is readily stated in response that this is the result of his own actions. Even if he were to live longer than the Prophet Noah and were to live for tens of thousands of years and we were to continuously see him in pain and anguish, we would say that this is something he brought upon himself with his deeds.

Punishment on the Day of Judgment is like this. Thus, no one can object to the justice of the situation.

b. This is wrong that some people assume that the time limit of the punishment must be the same extent as the sin because the relation between a sin and punishment is not a temporal one. It depends upon the result and quality of the sin.

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For instance, it is possible that a person in one second kills an innocent person and according to the laws of some countries, he is given life imprisonment. Here we see that the time of the sin was one quickly passing second, whereas the punishment is for tens of years. No one considers this to be oppressive. Why? Because the question here is not one of days or weeks or months or years. It depends upon the quality of the sin and its result.

c. Eternity in hell and eternal punishment only belongs to those people who have closed all doors to salvation for themselves and they have drowned themselves in corruption, licentiousness, kufr and hypocrisy so that the darkness of sin takes over their entire being and, as a result, that person takes on the color of sin and kufr.The Holy Quran says,

Why, they who have earned the wages of sin and are enclosed in error, are people of Hell, where they will abide for ever. [4]

These kinds of individuals have completely cut off their connection with God and have closed all doors to their salvation and well-being.

These kinds of individuals are like birds which purposefully break their own wings, pull out their feathers, are obliged to walk forever upon the earth and are deprived of flying through the skies.
Noticing the three points given above clarifies the issue that eternal punishment which belongs to a particular group of hypocrites or kufar does not oppose the principle of justice. This is the ominous result of their deeds themselves. The Divine Prophets had previously told them that their deeds would have these results.

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It is clear that if individuals are ignorant and the invitation of the prophets are not known to them and if they commit evil deeds out of ignorance, they will not receive such a difficult punishment.

It is also necessary to point out that verses of the Holy Quran and Islamic Traditions mention that the ocean of Divine Mercy is so great and extensive that a large group of transgressors are included. Some by means of intercession; some by means of forgiveness and some because of small, good deeds which they performed. God, in His greatness, gives great reward for those small, good deeds

And another group, after they have been punished for a time in hell, and have been purified, they will return because of Divine Mercy. The only group remaining is the one which has enmity towards the truth and commit oppression, corruption and hypocrisy so that their whole being is covered in oppression, kufr and faithlessness.

1. (9:68)
{و عد الله المنافقين و المنافقات و الکفار نار جهنم خالدين فيها}
2. (9:72)
{وعد الله المومنين و المومنات جنات تجري من تحتها النهار خالدين فيها}
3. (36:54)
{فاليوم لا تظلم نفس شيئاو لا تجزون الا ما کنتم تعلمون}
4. (2:81)
{بلي من کسب سيئه و احاطت به خطيئته فاولئک اصحاب النار هم فيها خالدون}

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