Question: Will the good deeds or discoveries of those disbelievers (kuffar) who render great services to humanity bring any return in the Hereafter ? Or will such disbelievers be tarred with the same brush as those disbelievers who perpetrate brutal cruelty to human beings?
No, they will not be tarred with the same brush as those tyrannical disbelievers. There are eight Paradises (Jannah) and seven Hells (Jahannam). The degrees of the inhabitants of Paradise will vary depending on their ikhlas (sincerity, doing everything for the sake of Allahu taala) and deeds in worldly life. The degrees of prophets and of martyrs will not be the same as the degree of an ordinary Muslim. So is the case with the levels and ranks of disbelievers in Hell. The level of a tyrant like Pharaoh, who claimed divinity and cut newly born, innocent infants, will be different from that of a disbeliever (kafir) who has not harmed anyone other than himself/herself and who has rendered many and various services to society.
Hell consists of seven levels. The torment inflicted in each level is severer than the torment inflicted in the level above it. (Faraid-ul-Fawaid)
The first level: Its name is Jahannam, which is the least severe in torment. Sinful Muslims will be inflicted torment there.
The second level: Its name is Sa'ir, whose fire and torment is severer. Jews will suffer torment there.
The third level: Its name is Saqar, which is much severer in torment. Christians will suffer torment there.
The fourth level: Its name is Jahim, where those who worship the Sun and stars will be inflicted torment.
The fifth level: Its name is Hutamah, where Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and Brahmans will be inflicted torment.
The sixth level: Its name is Lazy, where atheists, polytheists, and heathens will be inflicted torment.
The seventh level: Its name is Hawiyah, which is the severest in torment. Hypocrites and apostates (murtads) will be inflicted torment there.
There will be variations in the amount of torment inflicted on disbelievers in the same level. Accordingly, the torment inflicted on a generous disbeliever and a cruel one who dwell in the same level of Hell will not be the same. Each disbeliever will be subjected to a different torment on the basis of the extent of his/her cruelty. Though they will be abiding in the same level of Hell, they will be affected by varying degrees of torment. Tyrannical disbelievers, for example, will feel torment more intensely compared with other disbelievers.
Similarly, the case is the same with blessings of Paradise. The one with a higher degree and level will benefit much more. Hadrat Imam-i Rabbani explains this:
Those who have attained only the surat [outward appearance] of Islam in the world will attain and enjoy only the surat of Paradise in the Hereafter. People who have attained the haqiqat [reality, essence] of Islam in the world will also attain the haqiqat of Paradise in the Hereafter. Those who attain only the surat and [those who attain] only the haqiqat of Paradise will be relishing different flavors although they will be eating the same fruit in its Garden. Allahs Messengers blessed wives are Believers' mothers, and they will be with the Messenger of Allah in Paradise. They will eat the same fruit, yet the flavors and tastes they will be enjoying will differ. If the flavor they will be relishing were the same, they would necessarily be higher than all other people [even prophets] (Vol. 2, Letter 50).
Escaping torment of Hell is something that applies only to Muslims. The good deeds of disbelievers, no matter how many they are, cannot save them from Hell nor lighten their torment. Now, let us refer to the Quran al-karim:
(Say: "Shall we inform you of the greatest losers? They are those whose endeavors go to waste while they suppose they do good deeds in worldly life. Such are those who reject the ayahs of their Lord and the meeting [the Resurrection, Reckoning, punishment and reward] with Him and whose deeds, therefore, go to waste. We will not set up any balances for them on the Day of Resurrection [We will not weigh their good and evil deeds because their deeds have gone to waste. They have nothing worthy to be weighed].") [Al-Kahf 103-105]
(The good deeds of disbelievers are like a mirage seen in vast deserts. A thirsty person thinks from a distance that it is water. But when he comes up to it, he cannot find what he expects.) [An-Nur 39]
The torments inflicted on disbelievers will not be lightened:
(Disbelievers will not be killed, so that they should die. Nor will the torment of Hell ever be reduced for them.) [Fatir 36]
(They will say to the keepers of Hell, "Call on your Lord to lighten our torment just for one day at least." But the plea of disbelievers is of no avail.) [Al-Mu'min 49, 50]
Good and useful deeds done by disbelievers in the world will not remove their torment. As it will be explained below, they will only help them enter one of the levels of Hell lighter in torment.
Some scholars of Islam explained the verse (that means) "The torment of disbelievers will not be lightened" as follows:
Their torment will not be lightened in terms of time; they will be subjected to torment eternally. However, the torment of some disbelievers will be lightened owing to their good deeds in worldly life," and these scholars put forth the following verses:
(We will set up scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection. No one will be wronged [evil deeds will be requited with justice]. Whoever does good as much as the weight of a mustard seed will be requited for it.) [Al-Anbiya' 47]
(Whoever does an atom's weight of good will see the reward for it, and whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see the punishment for it.) [Az-Zilzal 7, 8]
The torment for disbelievers will be eternal and will not be lessened, but among them there may be those whose torment will be lighter. There may also be those who will not suffer torment for a day every month or every year. Some pertinent hadith-i sharifs are as follows:
(It is makruh to perform salat at zawal time [when the Sun is at its meridian] except on Friday because Hell is not heated on Friday. Hellfire is made severer the other days.) [Abu Dawud, Bayhaqi, Ibn Adiy]
(Hell is much severer at zawal time.) [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai]
(In Hell, the lightest torment will be inflicted on Abu Talib. His brain will boil because of two slippers made of fire.) [Muslim]
(In a hadith-i sharif written in Mukhtasar al-Qurtubi, it is stated that Abu Talib was brought to life again after his death, and he believed and became a Muslim.)
The Messenger of Allah declared that the good deeds of disbelievers they did in worldly life would not save them from the eternal torment of Hell but that they would help them feel the torment less severely compared with cruel disbelievers. Then he said the Qur'anic verse (which means), "Put Pharaoh's family into the severest torment." [Al-Mu'min 46] (Hakim)
Abu Lahab freed Suwaiba, his concubine, out of his joy when she gave him the good news of the birth of the Messenger of Allah. Therefore, his torture is lessened on the 12th night of the month of Rabi' al-awwal every year. He feels relieved by sucking the cool water issuing between his two fingers.
To sum up, disbelievers (kuffar) will remain in Hell eternally. However, there may be those among them whose torment will be lightened once a week or a month or a year. These cases are only exceptions to the rule.
Will disbelievers not enter Hell?
Question: A friend of mine says that all disbelievers who serve their communities will not enter Hell. Is it not wrong?
It is Allahu ta'ala who has stated that all non-Muslims, that is, all disbelievers, will enter Hell. Let us explain this with daily life examples: For instance, if a Turkistani Turk comes to Turkey, he cannot benefit from the rights given to Turkish citizens, be him a professor or a scientist like Edison, unless he is admitted to Turkish citizenship. For example, he cannot vote or be a deputy as he is not a citizen of the Republic of Turkey. Those who are not its citizens cannot have these rights. Likewise, Allahu ta'ala has made being a Believer a precondition to be able to enter Paradise.
If a Turk comes to a civil servant in a government office and helps him for days, that Turk will not be paid a penny at the end of the month. However, if any one from the personnel of that office works a little or even if he is on leave, he receives his salary at the end of the month because he is registered in that office. Other people's working there is not taken into account because they are not registered in that office. In the same way, even if Believers commit offenses or sins, they will go to Paradise as they have registration of faith. Disbelievers, who do not have registration of faith, will go to Hell even if they do useful deeds.
When one goes on a pilgrimage or goes to some countries, one is required to have a passport. If one does not have a passport, one is not admitted to those countries. Similarly, those who do not have the passport of faith [those who are not Muslims] will not receive any reward for their good deeds and cannot enter Paradise, even if they are Nobel laureates or design the electric light bulb or have roads, fountains and mosques built everywhere in the world.
The owner of Paradise is Allahu ta'ala. In order to enter Paradise, He made it a precondition that one must, first of all, be a Muslim, not that one must do useful deeds. If one is not a Muslim, one's good deeds are of no use. But if a Muslim has many sins, nay, if he/she is killed with oppression and cruelty while sinning, he/she becomes a martyr. (Fatawa-i Khayriyya, Vol. 1, p. 16; Radd-ul-mukhtar, Vol. 2, p. 253)
No reward (thawab) is given for any of the good deeds of non-Muslims. Hadrat Imam-i Rabbani states:
Escaping Hell in the next world is peculiar only to those who adapt themselves to Muhammad 'alaihis-salam. All the good deeds and discoveries done in this world will avail in the next world on the condition that one has followed his way. Otherwise, every good deed done by those who do not follow him will remain in this world, causing their next world to be destroyed. (Vol. 1, Letter 184)
One must have a correct faith so that one can receive thawab in return for one's good deeds and acts of worship. Even bida' holders, though being Muslims, cannot receive thawab for their acts of worship. Then in this case, would it ever be possible for non-Muslims to receive thawab in return for their good deeds and to enter Paradise?
If a professor renders many useful services to humanity but at the same time kills various innocent people and commits theft, he is punished according to the laws of his state without his good works being taken into consideration. Allahu ta'ala has stated that He, if He wills, will forgive the sins other than disbelief but He will never forgive disbelief, that is, being a non-Muslim. Any person who is not a Muslim is a non-Muslim, i.e,, a disbeliever (kafir). None of the good deeds of disbelievers has any value in the sight of Allah. Moreover, if they have mosques and fountains built, perform salat, and observe fast, they will not have any value. Only a Muslim believes Allahu ta'ala's word. The Qur'an al-karim says (what means):
(Allah does not forgive shirk [any kind of disbelief].) [An-Nisa' 48]
(The deeds of those who die disbelievers will go to waste in this world and in the Hereafter.) [Al-Baqarah 217]
(All [good] deeds of disbelievers will go to waste on the Day of Resurrection.) [At-Tawbah 17]
(The deed of anyone without faith goes to waste.) [Al-Ma'idah 5]
(For disbelievers, there is nothing in the Hereafter but Hell. Their efforts will come to naught.) [Hud 16]
Only a Muslim believes the sayings of our Master the Messenger of Allah. It is declared in hadith-i sharifs:
(Only a Muslim will enter Paradise.) [Bukhari]
(He who is without faith will not enter Paradise.) [Tirmidhi]
(Jews and Christians who have heard of me but have not believed will certainly enter Hell.) [Hakim]
An atom's weight of good
Question: A hadith-i sharif says, "In the Hereafter, Allah will not disgrace a person who has done an atom's weight of good." Does this hadith not imply that all disbelievers who do good will go to Paradise?
Generally, hadith-i sharifs are said without laying down any conditions. When they are uttered without conditions, it is understood that they contain some conditions. Secondly, it is wrong to attempt to interpret hadith-i sharifs. Instead, they should be read with the explanations given by qualified scholars.
The person referred to in the above-mentioned hadith-i sharif is a Muslim with a correct faith because one will certainly go to Hell if one is lacking in these two qualities. None of the good deeds of a non-Muslim has any value. A Qur'anic verse says (what means):
(The useful and good deeds of disbelievers are like ashes that the wind blows on a stormy day. Those deeds will not provide any benefits at all in the next world.) [Ibrahim 18]
This means to say that it is a condition to be a Muslim and to have a correct faith. An atom's weight of good deed of a Believer who has these qualities will not be wasted. He or she will attain great blessings owing to his or her that good deed. A hadith-i sharif says (what means):
(He who remembers Allahu ta'ala or fears Him once in his lifetime will get out of Hell.) [Tirmidhi]
This hadith-i sharif, too, contains the condition that one has died a Believer.
Question: Will the torment of generous disbelievers be lightened?
Though there are times when the torment of disbelievers is stopped, their usual torment is not lightened. A Qur'anic verse says:
(Disbelievers' torment will not be lightened at all.) [Al-Baqarah 86]
As for the torment of generous disbelievers, it will be lighter compared to the torment of other disbelievers. A hadith-i sharif states:
(Allahu ta'ala says to the gatekeeper of Hell about a generous disbeliever, "Put him into a place with a lighter torment in accordance with the degree of his generosity.") [Daylami, Abu ash-Shaikh]
Even the lightest torment in Hell is very severe. It is many times more vehement than the fire in the world. A hadith-i sharif states:
(The person with the lightest torment in Hell will be he who will wear two slippers made of fire, which will boil his brain. Some will be tormented as being immersed into the Fire up to their heels, some up to their knees, some up to their chests, some up to their noses, and some others completely.) [Hakim]
There are times when the torment is stopped for all of the people in Hell, not only for generous ones. For example, it is not inflicted on Fridays and on the Day of Mawlid. It is a different matter. The torment of disbelievers will not be reduced in the least even if they are generous. Accordingly, since Abu Lahab, when his concubine gave the good news of Allah's Messenger's birth, freed her out of his joy, his torment is reduced on that night every year. Such events do not show that the chastisement of disbelievers is lightened. Rather, reminded of this event every year and seeing this light torment, he may say, "If I had believed, I would not have been subjected to any torment," which may, in turn, increase his regrets.