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Is Allah a Punishing God?

Abdul Rahman Khan and Ingrid Mattson Answer

“Why is the God of Islam considered by some to be a punishing God, but the God of Christianity is considered to be loving?”

It’s only one God.

There’s no God of Christianity and God of Islam. There’s only one God. Your God is one.

Allah begins the very first sentence that you read in the Quran in the name of Allah “Bismillah (in the name of Allah), al-Rahman (the Most Compassionate) al-Raheem (the Most Merciful)”.

Al-Rahman and al-Raheem are two very interesting words, because they stem from the same root word of rahema, which means to show mercy.

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Both of them show continuity of mercy of God Almighty at different levels. And so we begin by alhamdulellahi rab al-alamin (praise be to Allah the Lord of all worlds), al-Rahman (the Most Compassionate) al-Raheem (the Most Merciful).

Again in the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful, those are loose translations, (All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, the Beneficent the Merciful). So where is this punishment, when Allah says “My mercy encompasses everything”?

Yes there is God in His infinite wisdom, that part of His wisdom is to say that if you disobey Him after guidance has come to you, if you deny truth after truth is made clear to you, then be prepared- He doesn’t say that you will be punished- that a punishment is awaiting you.

If we look in our lives as a child, in school, in university, there’s always two sides to something. If there is love in school always, no failure, no homework, you can imagine our kids will be jumping for joy and will learn nothing. But it’s always “you better don’t come and give me wrong excuses tomorrow for your homework, if not you will have to stand in the corner or stay back in the afternoon”.

There is not punishment if you want to call it of doing something that is not correct, and you have to fear that there is a consequence. If you fail your exams, if you fail your tests you may not get into college. If you don’t have a proper GPA, no college would want to accept you. If you fail your courses, you will not be walking down the isles receiving your certificate.

So all of this is in our lives. If you don’t cook good food, nobody is going to eat it. There’s always two sides; the side of love and hope, and there is the side of consequences if you don’t do the things that are correct.

First, it’s important to understand that you can go to Heaven as a Muslim and enjoy all the delights of Heaven, including pure companions, dying in your bed at 75 years old with a full stomach, surrounded by your friends if you obeyed and worshiped God and you had faith and you did a little good. There’s no need to sacrifice yourself to enjoy Paradise.

And if we look at the greatest Muslims in all times; look at Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), he died of an illness in his bed. Look at our scholars, the names that we remember throughout history. These are people who sacrificed through knowledge, piety, prayer, worship, study, teaching, and lived abstentious lives. These are the ones we honor.

Yes like on this memorial day when we honor people who sacrificed their lives for their country; for the people of their country, for the values of their country, we do honor these people who were willing to put their lives and their bodies on the line for the sake of defending the community and innocent people.

Islam is not a pacifist religion. We believe that sometimes you have to go and put yourself in danger, but that’s not terrorism. Terrorism is something different. Terrorism is a crime against the individuals that you attack and against society at large. This is why it has the most severe punishment. The most severe earthly punishment is for terrorism.

So don’t confuse terrorists with people who have a legitimate interest in protecting their community. And even John Brennan, who is a national security advisor, said this week that “We are not even at war with Jihadists because true Jihad is a holy struggle”.

So we don’t shy away from the fact that Jihad, that is sacrifice and struggle for the sake of innocent people who are suffering and dying, we support that as Muslims, we should never be apologetic about that. But what these people are doing is not that.

What normal person would want to blow himself up and kill himself?

And here don’t look at what Muslims are saying, look at what psychologists are saying. Experts who are studying these people, and they show that they are people who are in a very disturbed psychological state.

They are taken away by people who are of cultish fashion. They are cut off from their families. They are cut off from their imams. They are cut off from the Masjid. They are cut off from anyone who can advise them, and brainwashed. And many of them have existing psychological problems, like people who commit suicide. They have come into a sense of hopelessness.

And one other thing, I remember when I was at the University of Chicago, and we got the news that a Muslim girl has thrown herself in front of a train and killed herself. When I heard that I said “What has happened to this girl that she would want to destroy her body so completely?” because you know that most females when they are in a state of depression they might attempt to commit suicide by taking pills or something, so what happened to her that she wanted to destroy her body?

No one knew but we found out later that she had been abducted a few weeks earlier and raped and then left. So she had this sense of just like she wanted to destroy the evidence.

And if you look at some of these people who have done this, they have been harassed, abused or tortured. Their bodies themselves have been the object of constant abuse, humiliation, torture and they want to get rid of it.

Yes we have to condemn the ideological people who are behind this saying it’s justified and good for Islam, and that you are doing a good thing. That’s the ideological distortion and it’s important to talk about it.

But we also have to be more sophisticated and understand that there’s a complicated psychological, political, social situation that needs to be addressed or else there will always be people who are vulnerable to this kind of excuse for them to give up because they have given up on themselves.