MAGAZINE: EDITION JANUARY 2021
The Nature of God

Punishment in This World

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Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi

The Promised Messiah (as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic.

The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. Here, the Promised Messiah (as) describes way in which God Almighty exacts punishment in the lifetime of those who incur His displeasure.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 367-379.

It is the eternal way of God that until a disbeliever or a denier of truth becomes so bold and daring as to create the causes of his ruin with his own hands, God Almighty does not destroy him by way of punishment. When the time of punishment approaches, He generates causes on account of which the decree of his destruction is recorded. This alone is the eternal law of the punishment from God and this is the way of God and the unchangeable law laid down in the Book of God.

—Anwar-ul-Islam, Ruhani Khaza’in , vol. 9, p. 3

The Holy Qur’an and other divine scriptures disclose that the ruin and destruction imposed in this life on people as punishment are not afflicted because those people follow a wrong doctrine, for instance, because they worship idols, or planets, or fire, or some other created things or person; inasmuch as accounting for religious errors is postponed till the Judgement Day and no one is punished in this life merely on account of doctrinal errors or disbelief. The punishment for such defaults is postponed till the hereafter. Indeed this world is a paradise for the disbelievers and it is mostly the believers who suffer pain and torment in this world.

الدُّنْيَا جَنَّةُ الْكَافِرِ وَسِجْنُ الْمُؤْمِنِ [1]

Therefore, it is naturally asked that if this world is the paradise of the disbelievers, and indeed observation testifies that the disbelievers are richly endowed with wealth and the bounties of this world, and the Holy Qur’an repeatedly announces that the disbelievers are endowed with every worldly bounty, then how is it that some disbelieving people were afflicted with torment in this world and God Almighty destroyed them with stones and storms and plagues?

Why some Disbelievers are Punished in this World

The answer is that these torments were not inflicted merely on account of disbelief, but because those people who were so afflicted and ruined had transgressed grievously in their denial of divine messengers and their mockery, jesting and persecution; and in the estimation of God Almighty, their mischief, wickedness, cruelty and persecution had reached extreme limits and thus they themselves created the causes of their ruin. Thereupon God’s wrath was roused and they were destroyed through diverse types of chastisement. This shows that disbelief is not the cause of punishment in this world; its cause is extreme wickedness and arrogance. Such a one, even if he is a believer, when he transgresses the limits in wrongdoing, persecution and arrogance, and forgets altogether the majesty of God, would draw upon himself divine chastisement. On the other hand when a disbeliever is meek and is fearful, he would not be chastised in this world though he would be condemned to hell on account of his misguidance. This is the ancient and confirmed philosophy behind chastisement in this world and this is the way of Allah to which all divine books bear testimony. As the Glorious God says in the Holy Qur’an:

وَإِذَآ أَرَدۡنَآ أَن نُّهۡلِكَ قَرۡيَةً أَمَرۡنَا مُتۡرَفِيهَا فَفَسَقُواْ فِيهَا فَحَقَّ عَلَيۡهَا ٱلۡقَوۡلُ فَدَمَّرۡنَٰهَا تَدۡمِيرٗا [2]

When We decide to destroy the people of a township, We warn those of its dwellers who indulge in luxurious living because they transgress the limits in wickedness. Thereupon, the divine law in respect of them is fulfilled in that their wrongdoing arrives at its climax. Then We destroy them with a severe destruction. In another verse it is said:

وَمَا كُنَّا مُهۡلِكِي ٱلۡقُرَىٰٓ إِلَّا وَأَهۡلُهَا ظَٰلِمُونَ [3]

We have never destroyed a habitation except when its people are determined upon wrongdoing.

It should be kept in mind that though association of anything with God is also not only a wrong but an enormity, in this context by wrongdoing is meant such disobedience and misconduct as transgress the limit. For mere association of others with God which is not accompanied by persecution, arrogance, disorder, attacks upon the preachers of other religions, plans for their killing, and such extreme sinfulness whereby the fear of God is totally excluded from the hearts, the punishment is promised in the hereafter. Chastisement in this life is inflicted only at the time of extreme transgression, as it is said in another verse:

وَلَقَدِ ٱسۡتُهۡزِئَ بِرُسُلٍ مِّن قَبۡلِكَ فَأَمۡلَيۡتُ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ ثُمَّ أَخَذۡتُهُمۡۖ فَكَيۡفَ كَانَ عِقَابِ [4]

Messengers before thee were also subjected to ridicule, but We gave respite to the disbelievers who mocked, and when they reached the limits in their mockery, We seized them and people witnessed how Our chastisement overtook them.

Again it is said:

وَمَكَرُواْ مَكۡرًا وَمَكَرۡنَا مَكۡرًا وَهُمۡ لَا يَشۡعُرُونَ [5]

The disbelievers devised a plan for wiping out Islam, and We also devised a plan. That is to say, We let them go forward with their plans till they reached a stage of wrongdoing which, according to the way of Allah, attracts His chastisement…

All these verses show that divine chastisement is inflicted in this world only when a person transgresses the extreme limits in mischief, wrongdoing, arrogance, haughtiness and exaggeration. It does not happen that a disbeliever is inflicted with the lightning of divine chastisement who is fearful in the extreme, or that a polytheist may be stoned who is terrified to death on account of his fear. God Almighty is Merciful and Compassionate to the highest degree. He seizes with punishment in this world only those who provide with their own hands the cause for such punishment.

—Anwar-ul-Islam, Ruhani Khaza’in , vol. 9, pp. 14-16, footnote I

How Wrongdoers are Punished

God Almighty deals with offenders in two ways, and offenders are of two types. First, there are those offenders who do not transgress the limits, and though out of extreme bigotry they persist in their effort yet they do not carry their persecution to the extreme limit. These will be punished in the hereafter. God, the All-Knowing, does not seize them in this world inasmuch as their attitude is not one of severe hostility. For the punishment of sins, the appointed day is the Day of Judgement.

Secondly, there are those offenders who transgress the limits in their wrongdoing and persecution and desire to rend the Messenger of God and the righteous like wild beasts and to wipe them out altogether, and to consume them like a blazing fire. With regard to such offenders who carry their wrath to the limit, the way of Allah is that His wrath is roused against them and they are punished in this world in addition to their chastisement in the hereafter. In the idiom of the Qur’an they are designated the maghdubi-‘alaihim.[6]

—Tohfah Golarviah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 17, pp. 213-214

It should be kept in mind that for being delivered from afflictions it is not necessary that people should become Muslims, inasmuch as the Day of Judgement is appointed for calling people to account for their religious errors. It is, however, necessary that people should refrain from every type of misconduct and should not revile the holy prophets of God, nor oppress the poor, and should spend freely in charity and should ascribe no equal to God, neither stone, nor fire, nor man, nor water, nor sun, nor moon and should discard the ways of arrogance and mischief.

—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, p. 404

Muslims should remember that though according to God’s knowledge a person’s end is to be in disbelief, it has ever been the way of God that in consequence of such a one’s humble and fearful supplications his punishment is postponed. That is why the Ahl-e-Sunnah hold that a divine warning of punishment is subject to change, but a divine promise of blessing is not so subject, as, for instance, the punishment of the people of Jonah though fixed for a definite date was remitted in consequence of their humble submission. The Bible and the Holy Qur’an are agreed that on Pharaoh’s promise that he would believe, his chastisement was repeatedly postponed, though God Almighty knew that he would die a disbeliever. What is the secret behind the fact that God’s design of chastisement varied in certain cases, though such variation seems inconsistent with God’s warning?

The answer is that chastisement is not an integral part of divine will. His four basic attributes are all expressive of His bounty and beneficence. These are the four names mentioned in the first three verses of Surah al-Fatihah, namely, Rabb-ul-‘Alamin, Rahman, Rahim, and Malik-i-Yaum-id-Din, that is, Master of the Day of Judgement.

All of these four attributes show the will of Allah to grant nothing but favours to mankind. That is to say, to create and nourish which is called Rububiyyat, to provide out of His pure mercy without any action on man’s part which is Rahmaniyyat; to provide security for man against suffering and affliction in return for righteousness, fear of God and faith in Him which is Rahimiyyat; and to bestow upon His servants the abode of eternal bliss and tranquillity and happiness in consequence of righteous action like worship, fasting, salat, sympathy for fellow beings, alms-giving and sacrifice, etc., which is known as reward by the Master of the Day of Judgement. No one of these four attributes comprises a design which would harm man; they are all designed for his good. But in the case of a person who, through his misconduct and extravagant behaviour, puts himself outside the operation of these attributes, they begin to operate to his harm. For instance, Rububiyyat takes on the aspect of destruction and annihilation, and Rahmaniyyat is manifested in the shape of wrath and anger, and Rahimiyyat is manifested in the shape of revenge and harshness, and the design of good recompense takes on the terrifying aspect of punishment and torment.

This change in the expressions of divine attributes is brought about in consequence of a change in man’s own condition. Thus punishment, and warning of punishment, are not comprised in the basic attributes of God, inasmuch as God’s warning of punishment is not absolute so long as the person warned is alive and has the capacity to carry out a change in himself. Therefore, a change in respect of the promised chastisement is not a breach of promise. Every warning of chastisement is conditional though no condition may be expressly mentioned, except when the warning is expressed in absolute terms in which case it becomes an absolute decree and is not subject to change. This is a grand and valued principle relating to the comprehension of divine attributes which is inherent in the Surah al-Fatihah.

—Anjam-e-Atham, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 11, pp. 7-10 footnote

Punishment Follows upon Misconduct

It is worthy of note that the Makkans had not merely rejected the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Simple rejection based on naivety does not entail punishment in this life. But when a disbeliever transgresses beyond the limits of humanity and good behaviour and has recourse to shamelessness and abuse and designs every kind of persecution and carries it to the limit, the jealousy of God Almighty is roused and He destroys the wrongdoer out of regard for His messenger, as He destroyed the people of Noah, and the people of Lot. Such chastisement is inflicted only on account of the persecution and cruelties to which God’s messengers and their followers are subjected. Mere rejection is not punished in this life. God has reserved another world for such punishment. Chastisement in this life follows upon such rejection as is accompanied with mockery, jesting and persecution.

If a person confines himself to the position that he is unable to accept as he has not yet fully understood the matter, such denial does not attract punishment because it results from simplicity and lack of understanding. I affirm truly that if the objection of the people of Noah had been presented in a decent manner God Almighty would not have seized them. People are punished on account of their misbehaviour. God Almighty has directed that those of the enemy who should come to listen to the Holy Qur’an should be thereafter conveyed to their place of security. There is no compulsion or coercion in Islam, as it is said:

لَآ إِكۡرَاهَ فِي ٱلدِّينِۖ [7]

But if anyone resorts to killing or conspiring to kill, or embarks upon mischief and persecution, he is bound to be chastised.

—Malfuzat, vol. III, pp. 162-163

Imposture is Punished in this World

The Holy Qur’an repeatedly proclaims that God Almighty does not spare one who fabricates a lie against Allah. He punishes such a one in this very life and destroys him; Allah the Exalted refers to it in the verse:

قَدۡ خَابَ مَنِ ٱفۡتَرَىٰ [8]

That is, he who fabricates a lie shall perish. At another place it is said:

وَمَنۡ أَظۡلَمُ مِمَّنِ ٱفۡتَرَىٰ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَوۡ كَذَّبَ بِـَٔايَٰتِهِۦٓۚ [9]

Who is guilty of greater wrong than one who fabricates a lie against God or gives the lie to His signs?

It is thus clear that those who gave the lie to the word of God on the occasion of the advent of God’s Prophets were not spared by God and were destroyed by diverse types of torments. Observe what was the end of the people of Noah and of ‘Ad and Thamud and the people of Lot and of Pharaoh and the Makkan enemies of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

Thus when those who rejected the truth were chastised in this world, how can he escape who fabricates a lie against Allah and who is mentioned in the first place in the verse just cited. Would God treat the righteous and the false alike and is there no punishment in this life from God Almighty for impostors?

مَا لَكُمۡ كَيۡفَ تَحۡكُمُونَ [10]

At another place God Almighty has said:

إِن يَكُ كَٰذِبًا فَعَلَيۡهِ كَذِبُهُۥۖ وَإِن يَكُ صَادِقًا يُصِبۡكُم بَعۡضُ ٱلَّذِي يَعِدُكُمۡۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهۡدِي مَنۡ هُوَ مُسۡرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ[11]

If this Prophet is an impostor, he will perish because of his imposture, but if he is truthful, then it is a must that you too will taste some punishment, because the transgressors, whether they are guilty of imposture or rejection, shall receive no help from Allah.

What could be more explicit than the fact that in the Holy Qur’an God Almighty warns again and again that an impostor is bound to perish in this very world.

—Arba‘in, No. 4, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 17, pp. 433-434

Our opposing maulwis [religious clerics] are well aware that God Almighty has expressed in the Holy Qur’an His disgust of one who fabricates lies against God, so much so that He has said concerning the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) that if he had fabricated any lies against Him, He would have severed his large artery.[12]

In short, to claim as an impostor that a person is the recipient of revelation is so heinous a sin that it incurs not only the penalty of hell but according to the conclusive verdict of the Holy Qur’an it is punished speedily in this life also. The Mighty and Jealous God never leaves an impostor in peace. His jealousy soon crushes him and destroys him.

If the hearts of these maulwis had the slightest shade of righteousness and were they aware in the least of the ways and practice of God Almighty, they would have known that ever since the beginning of the world there has been no single instance in which an impostor had continued with his imposture for such a long period and had added to it daily but instead of being punished, greater and greater honour among people was bestowed upon him by God Almighty, with increasing acceptance by the people, and with his tongue serving as a fountain of verities and comprehensions. It is a pity that these hypocritical maulwis do not honour the commandments and warnings of God Almighty. Can they cite a single instance from the Holy Qur’an or from the Ahadith of an ill-natured impostor who goes on fabricating lies against God and puts himself forward as one greatly loved by God; who presents his satanic compositions deliberately as divine revelation and proclaims that it is the divine command that people should follow him; who falsely claims that God has revealed to him that he is the chief of the believers in this age and who falsely claims that God has told him that He has appointed him the Promised Messiah who is sent to break the cross; who claims that God has told him that his standing with God is like the Unity of God and that the people are unaware of his close relationship with Him; while all the time God knows that he is an impostor and curses him and counts him among the rejected and the humiliated? Is it then the way of God Almighty to grant a respite extending over more than twenty years to such a lying and daring impostor?

Who can reconcile himself to the fact that the Holy One, the flame of Whose wrath has always consumed impostors like lightning, should grant respite to a false one over a period of which there has been no other instance in the whole world? God, the Glorious, has said:

وَمَنۡ أَظۡلَمُ مِمَّنِ ٱفۡتَرَىٰ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ كَذِبًا[13]

Who is guilty of greater wrong than one who fabricates lies against God? Without doubt, an impostor is under the curse of God and is soon destroyed.

It is enough proof for a righteous person that God has not destroyed me like an impostor and has bestowed numberless bounties on my body and my soul. I was young when I claimed that I was a recipient of divine revelation and now I am old and more than twenty years have passed since I put forward my claim. Many of my friends and dear ones who were younger than me have died, but He has bestowed a long life on me and has been my Helper in every difficult situation. Are these the insignia of those who fabricate lies against God?

—Anjam-e-Atham, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 11, pp. 49-51

False Prophets are not Granted Respite

It is a divine law that God does not grant respite to a false prophet. Such a one is soon seized and suffers his punishment. In view of this we shall honour and accept as true all those who claimed to be prophets at any time, whose claim was established and whose religion became widespread and was established and flourished over a long period. If we should discover mistakes in the scriptures of their religions or should observe the misconduct of their followers we should not attribute these defaults and shortcomings to the founders of those religions, inasmuch as the perversion of scriptures is possible and it is possible that mistakes of interpretation might find their way into the commentaries, but it is not  at all possible that a person should fabricate lies against God and should claim to be a prophet and should put forward his own compositions as the word of God falsely and yet God should grant him respite like the righteous and should bestow upon him wide acceptance by people.

—Tohfah Qaisariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 12, p. 258

Has an impostor ever been granted respite for the propagation of his lies as God Almighty grants to the true recipients of His revelation? Has God not affirmed that false claimants of revelation and impostors would be seized? The Torah affirms that a false prophet shall be slain and the Gospel sets out that an impostor would soon perish and his followers would be scattered. Is there a single instance that a false claimant of revelation should have been granted respite over a period which has been granted to me since the publication of my claim of being the recipient of divine revelation? If there is any such instance then let it be put forward. I claim emphatically that there has been no single instance of it since the beginning of the world. Is there anyone who should fear God Almighty and derive benefit from this firm and conclusive reasoning? I do not claim that an idol worshipper or an atheist or a claimant of Godhood is not granted long life, because these errors and such misguidance would be punished in the hereafter. But I do affirm that he who falsely poses as the recipient of divine revelation is soon seized and his life is cut short. The Torah, the Gospel and the Holy Qur’an bear witness to this and so does reason. An opponent cannot set forth a single instance to the contrary from history.

—Ayyam-us-Sulh, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 14, pp. 267-268


ENDNOTES

[1] ‘This world is the paradise of the disbeliever and the prison of the believer.’ –Jami’ al-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 2324

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 17:17.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 28:60.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 13:33.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 27:51.

[6] ‘Those who have incurred displeasure.’

[7] ‘There should be no compulsion in religion.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 2:257.

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 20:62.

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 6:22.

[10] ‘What is the matter with you? How judge ye!’ – The Holy Qur’an, 68:37.

[11] The Holy Qur’an, 40:29.

[12] This reference is to the Holy Qur’an, 69:45-47.

[13] The Holy Qur’an, 6:22.

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