Short Answer: Allah is the most merciful and the most just. He decides, and He alone, who will enter Paradise, but He will only hold people accountable who have received the message of Islam. By that logic, someone living among Muslims would have had a very easy path to learn about Islam, and they could have accepted Islam in private if they were afraid of persecution. Being a good person doesn’t save someone from Hellfire any more than being a good friend to your boss or colleagues could save you from being fired from your job if you didn’t do the work.
Salam Alaykum, dear questioner,
Thank you so much for sending us your question.
It is good you mentioned Allah’s Mercy; this is a crucial element in this discussion.
Allah Is Most Merciful
No one will have more mercy on people than their own Creator, The Source of Mercy, Allah Almighty Himself.
Allah’s Messenger was with the companions when they saw a mother looking for her child, and when she found him, she brought him lovingly to her chest and started feeding him. Allah’s Messenger said:
Do you think this woman would ever afford to throw her child in the Fire? We said: ‘By Allah, so far as it lies in her power, she would never throw the child in Fire.’ Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: ‘Allah is more kind to His servants than this woman is to her child.‘ [Sahih Muslim]
So, Allah will never punish someone unfairly or unjustly.
Allah’s Mercy continues to reach all His slaves, even those who live day and night denying Him, rejecting Him and mocking His path and the believers.
Allah continues to send them signs and messages as long as they’re alive.
…And never would We punish until We sent a messenger. (Qur’an 17:15)
Destiny of non-Muslims
If someone has never heard of Islam and died upon this state, then Allah will test them on the Day of Judgment, and their destiny will be determined by the outcome of this test.
But in this day and age, it is very easy for anyone to learn about Islam, read the entire Qur’an (usually in their own language) and find the truth about the last and final Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him).
Anyone who hears that there is a final messenger should be intrigued to investigate the truth of this claim; and if they research, they’ll easily find the Qur’an and all needed information at their fingertips.
If they’re sincere and honest about wanting to find the truth, Allah will facilitate everything for them.
But, if they reject the truth, then this is their choice.
This is especially the case for those living among Muslims.
They are constantly reminded of the message daily upon hearing the call to prayer and dealing with Muslims.
Accepting Islam Doesn’t Have to Be Public & Loud
If someone wants to become a Muslim, but fears the circumstances, they could easily utter the Shahada (testimony of faith) privately; this way they enter into Islam and they are Muslims in the sight of Allah.
Simply believing in your heart then uttering the Shahada between you and Allah, makes you a Muslim.
They can then pray privately in their room or where no one can see them.
They can continue to do that until they can leave their place/travel…etc. to a safer area.
But what they should know is that Allah is more powerful than anyone they fear, and that Allah WILL always help them.
Allah Brings Ease from Hardship
There are countless stories of those who accepted Islam despite challenges, and eventually Allah almighty turned everything in their favor.
Even the prophet and early companions faced unmatched difficulty and persecution at first, and then later Allah empowered them.
Allah does not charge a soul except [according to] what He has given it. Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease. (Qur’an 65: 7)
Most importantly, anyone who accepts Islam despite difficulty, their reward will actually be higher than Muslims who haven’t been into any difficulty.
Every prayer, every moment of fear, every unpleasant word they hear, every second they spend struggling for the sake of Allah—all are acts of worship they get heavily rewarded for.
So, they endure some hardship, but Allah eventually helps them in this life and rewards them beyond account for eternity.
Nice with everyone, except the Creator?
Regarding what you said about someone being nice, while rejecting the Truth, let’s think about this.
If you’re the owner of a company, for example, imagine there is one employee you hired and you issue a monthly salary for, and this employee is very nice with everyone, except you!
He does so many nice things… except the job he was hired for.
Is this acceptable?
Will you still keep him while he doesn’t recognize you as the manager, doesn’t respond to you, and doesn’t do his job, just because he’s polite to others in the office?
Of course not!
Allah created us for a purpose, if we don’t recognize Him and live this purpose; we’ll be in a state of loss.
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (Quran 51:56)
This means to know, connect with, rely on and worship Allah.
If we do that with someone else but we deny Allah completely, we miss the whole point of our existence.
No One Is More Powerful Than Allah!
Despite difficulties, the good thing is, Allah is more powerful than anyone, and Allah will always give victory for those who strive for His sake.
O My servants who have believed, indeed My earth is spacious, so worship only Me. Every soul will taste death. Then to Us will you be returned. And those who have believed and done righteous deeds – We will surely assign to them of Paradise [elevated] chambers beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. Excellent is the reward of the [righteous] workers who have been patient and upon their Lord rely. (Quran 29: 56-59)
Whoever wants to accept Islam, they should rejoice for finding the truth, trust Allah and go for it, step by step.
This will literally be the greatest act they’ve done in their life, and they’ll continue to be rewarded for it eternally.