Objection: ‘So your God creates people to later send them to Hellfire?’

Answered by the MuslimAnswers.net Team, with changes and additions by Mawlana Zameelur Rahman

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

In the course of the various discussions Muslims have with non-Muslims, one of the questions presented before us goes something like this: “So let me get this straight. You Muslims say that your God creates people and their actions, and then He sends them to Hellfire? Do you know how silly that sounds?”

We are not going to comment on the sarcastic tone of comments such as this one because it is a squandering of our time, but we will get right to the central objection: The non-Muslim has understood the Islamic position that Allah creates every being and event with its dimensional delimitations, but he does not want to accept part of what this entails, which is that Allah may very well and indeed does place certain creatures in Hellfire and creates the specifications for them to remain in Hellfire forever.

The lack of a spiritual acceptance from such non-Muslims once they have gained mental understanding of this matter is a really lamentable situation[1]. The realization that Allah has full control over every matter of Creation should be an occasion to humble one’s self before Allah, to acknowledge His Majesty, and to beg for His Mercy and Forgiveness, not to question as to why Allah creates beings with a certain set of specifications as opposed to another one. This is really a strange state of affairs, since with a little thought, the objector would realize that even his objection is totally created and brought into existence by Allah, so what is the use of showing this sense of arrogance and pride in front of Allah?

Now, intertwined within this question is a matter that is brought up again and again, which is the assumption that Allah’s placing certain people in Hellfire is an injustice of some sort, or an “evil” act that He should have never brought into being.

With respect to the injustice angle, this has been discussed before a number of times, especially in this article. As a quick summary, the answer is that injustice means for one being/person to dispense of affairs in someone else’s territory or sphere of influence without having received permission from this latter person. But, with respect to Creation, the created existents have no effective power for creation, and it is impossible that any being apart from Allah would be the Creator of whatever can possibly be created. So this is Allah’s realm alone, and there is no question of Allah “receiving permission” from this or that creature to create them in a certain way to the exclusion of other possible ways – thus, the issue of injustice is inapplicable.

And likewise, the question of this being an “evil act” has no relevance. This is because “good” and “evil” in the context under discussion are subjective descriptions relevant only to the realm of created things. Additionally, saying that Allah “must do good instead of evil” in relation to His creation would imply that Allah must create creation with only a set of specific dimensions and delimitations to the exclusion of others, while this is impossible to attribute to Allah the Exalted, as it is against the divine nature to be compelled to act against His own freewill in outcomes that are possible. There is an additional response provided by the Muslim scholars, which is that “evil” and “good” are moral qualifications in need of a judge to establish them and an agent to enforce them, but the placement of judges and enforcers over Allah is something logically incoherent and invalid.

So coming back to the main topic of the question, we can present the situation with respect to the theology of Islam as it is. And in this case, it seems the Muslim side presented the position properly, but certain non-Muslims took objection to some of the truths derived from this, such as the fact that Allah creates some people for Heaven but some for Hellfire. But as we had mentioned above, this is an occasion for humility to be shown before Allah, for an overflowing of gratitude from our side, in that He made it possible for us to have an understanding of this reality while many others are unable to comprehend this truth or to follow this mental realization with practical action. It is also an occasion to supplicate for Allah’s Favors and to ask Allah to keep us away from anything that might spoil our faith or our deeds, since we have come to realize that all of this is only under His control.

As an extension, there is also a related question[2], as to how – in Islamic belief – the slave becomes “culpable” of punishment. An objection may be presented, how can a Wise God speak of “accountability” and “culpability” in the absence of choice and volition?

“Choice” (ikhtiyār) and “capability” (qudra) are established for accountable human beings in Sunnī belief, in opposition to the heterodox Jabariyyah (negators of human choice). When we speak of choice and capability with respect to creation, however, it does not entail any ījād (bringing into existence) on the part of the person, as ījād is a unique attribute of the Creator. Rather, human choice and capability are descriptive features of God’s creation. In other words, with the right specifications in His handiwork, an emergent property is realized, referred to as “choice” and “capability,” which according to the normal way in which God operates, immediately precedes His creation of the action ‘intended’ by the human choice and capability. It is because of this descriptive and relational quality of “human volition” that the actions are ascribed to him and its consequences are borne by him. This is why some of the scholars stated that the action itself (asl al-fi’l) is a product of God’s ījād, but the quality of the action (wasf al-fi’l) is the servant’s doing.

In other words, Sunnīs affirm both Allah’s unique creative capacity and the volition of human beings. As Imām al-Tahāwī (239 – 321 H) mentioned while listing Sunnī belief: “Heaven and hell have been created. They will never come to an end, nor perish. Verily, Allāh (Most Exalted) created Heaven and Hell before [other] creations and created occupants for them. Whoever of them He wills [are destined] to Heaven as a bounty from Him, and whoever of them He wills [are destined] to Hell as justice from Him. Each [of them] acts on what was destined for him and goes towards that for which he was created. Good and evil were both destined for the slaves. The capacity by which the action is established – from the category of granting accordance which the creation cannot be ascribed with – is simultaneous with the action. As for the capacity in terms of health, capability, possibility and the soundness of the limbs, it precedes the action, and the address connects to that[3], which is as He (Most Exalted) said: ‘Allāh does not take a soul to task except to its capacity.’ And the actions of the slaves are by the creation of Allah and by acquisition [of their consequences] from the slaves.”

This is a brief explanation about the relationship between the person’s intention and volition, and Allah’s creation of his actions. The discussion can be extended for much longer than what has been presented here. The general advice, however, is for all of us to humbly praise Allah and to carry out His Normative Orders as revealed in the pure Islamic religion. May Allah grant us the ability to become steadfast and remain steadfast in His Path. Ameen.

[1] It could be that the question is posed as a sort of premature posturing, but the situation from the spiritual point of view seems to be the same for the non-Muslim in this case, whether he has fully understood our position, or whether he is presenting a premature objection.

[2] The below has been written by Mawlana Zameelur Rahmaan (of darulmaarif.com) and included on the basis of his recommendation.

[3] That is, the imposition of the Laws of the Shariah connects to the capacity of the person in terms of health, capability, etc.