(Draft Article) Claim: “If God punishes people only for not worshipping Him, He can go ahead and punish me, I do not care”

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By MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

We have come across certain people who say that they want to have nothing to do with a Being who punishes people who refuse to worship Him. Since this is the case with Allah, who punishes those who refuse to worship Him properly after the message has been delivered to them, such people say that they want to have nothing to do with Islam or with “our God”. They also sometimes say something along the lines that “if Allah is like this, then He can go ahead and punish me, I will not give in to such demands of an egomaniacal Being”.

Before we begin the answer as such, we need to remember that the Arab idolaters also taunted the Prophet and the Muslims in this manner. The Qur’an records that the idolaters said:

وَإِذْ قَالُوا اللَّـهُمَّ إِن كَانَ هَـٰذَا هُوَ الْحَقَّ مِنْ عِندِكَ فَأَمْطِرْ عَلَيْنَا حِجَارَةً مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ أَوِ ائْتِنَا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ ﴿٣٢﴾ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّـهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنتَ فِيهِمْ

And when they said: O Allah! If this be indeed the truth from Thee, then rain down stones on us or bring on us some painful doom! But Allah would not punish them while thou wast with them (Qur’an 8:32-33)

Thus, instead of being humble and asking Allah to open up the way so that they would follow the truth if the Islamic religion was indeed the true way, they rebelled even in the face of the possibility in their minds that Islam was the truth, and prayed to Allah imploring Him to destroy them totally if Islam is the truth – since in reality they were so averse to Muhammad’s call that they would prefer eternal punishment and destruction to following the Prophet. Allah the Exalted mentions that He, out of His Wisdom, Mercy, and as an honor to the Prophet did not hasten to answer their supplication, since the idolaters were not supplicating while in a sober and thoughtful state, but in their anger and rage said they preferred stubbornness and rejection even if it meant eternal doom for them. So all of us Muslims should remember that such people have existed and will always exist among the human beings, and we can only pray to Allah that their predispositions change and their hearts are opened to the truth.

Now, coming to the answer itself, there are a number of very incorrect assumptions made while presenting the statement as our opponent presents it. To begin with, the a priori assumption is made that the human being and Allah the Exalted have an ontological similarity in their Existence and Attributes. But this is wrong from the outset, since only Allah is the Self-Subsisting and Necessary Existent, while every other being only has relative existence, conditioned upon the Will and Power of Allah. If Allah does not will for something or someone to exist in the next instant, then that thing or person will simply not come into being and will not be there in the next instant, since Allah’s Will and Power necessarily bring things into and out of existence without any effective intervention for any other factors.

The second assumption is that Allah’s ordering people to worship Him is simply out of the bounds. This supposition is in fact connected to the first one, with the added hypothesis that punishing people for failure to worship is “out of the bounds” for Allah the Exalted. However, this added assumption is again unfounded, since among the possibilities that Allah may have brought into existence is that He creates human beings (or more generally entities with “free wills”), creates a Paradise and a Hellfire, and ties the entry of human beings into either of them to certain deeds they perform and beliefs they hold.

Anyone who considers the matter soberly will see that such things are indeed logical possibilities and are thus not “out of the bounds” for Allah to bring about. Of course, the verification that such a situation is indeed the case comes about through the Divine Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad , and the route for demonstrating the certainty of this is a field in its own right. But since the opponent was mentioning that Allah’s punishing people is not even a logical possibility, then we respond saying that through reasoning alone his position is untenable.

A third supposition is made plain when the objector considers Allah’s order to be worshipped as the demands of an egomaniacal Being. Here the person is thinking that Allah is hurt when people do not worship Him, and that his withholding of worship is a way of showing that he, as an individual person, still retains some influence over the Divinity and His Workings – a kind of a bargaining chip to toy around with Allah the Exalted. But in here, the same overall conceptual mistakes are being committed: The questioner thinks that he has a fully independent decision as to how, when, and where he will worship Allah, if that is what he chooses to do at all. But as before, what this person does not realize is that all of his actions and feelings, down to the euphoria he feels at thinking that he is withholding something precious from Allah by not worshipping Him, has in fact been created and brought into existence by Allah the Exalted. Everyone should come to the realization that Allah will be hurt at all if absolutely no one worships Him, nor will there be anything added to His Majesty is everyone worships Him with the greatest humility possible.

[As an addition to the above, there is a lot to deduce from the fact that most of the people who bring up such types of objections are either agnostics or atheists, since such people think in terms of the homogeneous nature of all existence, and that there are no existents other than those of the same general type as human beings themselves[1], and that given this assumption, there can be no intrinsic superiority of one being above another, certainly not to the point of one existent humbling himself and worshipping another. But we can see from the discussion above that it is very incorrect to project this initial supposition and skew the overall discussion, since we have certainly not agreed with such agnostics/atheists upon the central theme of the existence of Allah. Such assumptions and their corollaries must be kept to the side until the central point of contention is resolved.]        

We also remind such people that the human should act in accordance with the realities of the situation they are placed in, and that the actions done in consideration with such realities are held to be a reasonable type of behavior. Indeed, what we generally see is that even in his day-to-day activities, any given person generally acts in accordance with what the situation in front of him is in truth, and not based on what he would have wished for the situation to have been. For example, if he loses something for good, then he acknowledges this loss, and tries to model his life around this new reality.

As an extreme example of this concept, if someone’s loved relative passes away, he may accept that this loss has occurred and move on with his life. Or, he may protest as to why is the Universe such that events only move forward in time, and that he refuses to accept the existence of such a Universe, but will instead withdraw into his own “parallel Universe” where his loved one exists, or wait until he finds a means to bring back his loved one from the dead. If this person, out of despair at his loss, says that “the current Universe and its processes can do whatever they want to do with me, I will not follow its rules”, then such a situation will only be seen as foolishness from his side, since he will continue to follow the rules of the Universe, and he can continue to protest until he dies, and no one will remember him except by way of mockery.

These examples are brought up only for us to have a very general idea about the situation before us in relation to Allah the Exalted. It is important to point out that the reality of Allah’s punishment for the rebellious ones is even more certain to occur than the hypothetical person’s loved one remaining dead in this world or of the processes of the Universe remaining the same [since we can hypothetically imagine the dead coming back to life in this world, but we cannot even hypothetically say that Allah’s Promises can be broken, since they are tied to His Eternal and Perfect Knowledge, but this is a discussion for a later time].

So we have to remember that all of us are, after all, totally under the Will, Power, and Creative Action of Allah. The human beings do have a choice as to what actions they want to take once they gauge the reality of the situation. However, they should never forget that their existence is relational and temporal, and that they will undoubtedly be brought to Allah one day. It is up to them to decide whether they wish for this meeting to be realized while they were humble of the true relationship between themselves and Allah, or whether they wish to meet Allah while they thought themselves to be of an equal or similar status to that of Allah the Exalted, a thinking that is necessarily incorrect and could not have possibly led to any good for them.

With these words we conclude our discussion of this objection, hoping that Allah will guide those who sincerely seek the true path and keep the believers safe from all temptations. And our success is only through Allah.

[1] That is, existing with the Universe and its contingent dimensions.