Is Eternal Punishment for Finite Sins Justified?

hell4God is Just, and He will reward the doers of good with paradise and the doers of bad with Hell in the hereafter, some of whom will remain in it ‘forever’. However some people question the concept of eternal punishment in hell fire. They claim that an eternal punishment for finite number of sins is not justified.

Although there is a minority opinion among muslim scholars who claim that the punishment in hell fire will end for all and the ‘forever’ is used in the context of the life of the hereafter and not eternity , the vast majority of scholars take it literally, understanding that the punishment in hell will last forever for the rejectors of truth, and will not end as per text of Quran and Sahih Hadith.

So now the question arises, as to how can God punish someone forever for a finite number of sins committed by the person. Is this justified?

In order to answer this question, let us answer a more basic question first – Who will enter hell fire? The question of everlasting hell fire is problematic for those who answer this question incorrectly, as they think that according to Islam all non-muslims will enter hell fire. However this is not true. God clearly says in the Quran

And never would We punish until We sent a messenger [Quran 17:15]

So the punishment of hell fire is only for those to whom the message of Islam has been conveyed clearly, along with its evidences and the warning of eternal hell fire has also been conveyed to them. Yet, after realizing the truth of Islam, if they still reject it out of arrogance or for material gain, then the punishment of hell fire is completely justified as they have willingly taken the punishment on themselves out of their arrogance for some immediate material pleasures.

As for those to whom the message has not been delivered, they will be tested for their obedience by God Himself. Those who obey God will enter paradise. As for those to disobey God, while they hear His command directly, will have chosen the hell fire for themselves. The following narration by the prophet is the evidence for it.

Anas said: the Messenger of God (PBUH) said: “Four (kinds of people) will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection: the infant, the insane, the one who died during the period between two prophets (indicating the message did not reach them) and the very old man. All of them will speak in their own defence, then the Lord, may He be blessed and exalted, will say to a neck of Hell, ‘Come forth!’ and He will say to them, ‘I used to send Messengers to My slaves from amongst themselves. Now I am the Messenger of Myself to you. Enter this (i.e., the Fire).’ Those who are decreed to be among the doomed will say, ‘O Lord, how could we enter it when we are trying to escape it?’ And those who are decreed to be among the blessed will rush to enter it. And God will say: ‘You would have been more disobedient towards My Messengers.’ So those will enter Paradise and those will enter Hell.” Narrated by Abu Ya’laa, 4224. There are corroborating reports which were mentioned by Ibn Katheer in al-Tafseer, 3/29-31.


About Kashif Zuberi

Student of Knowledge

8 comments on “Is Eternal Punishment for Finite Sins Justified?

  1. You really didn’t answer your own question, sir. Even if a person is guilty of rejecting God to his face, how could it be just to torture such a person for all eternity for momentary or even lifelong sin?

    • The justification comes from the fact that the person being punished was informed of the consequences of his rejection and even after recognising the truth, he/she did not accept it because of arrogance or some material gain

    • @SpiritualSavant. There is a authentic hadith of Prophet(PBUH), that while the people who are verdicted to hell fire are sent, at 1 point or other, GOD will order the angels to go find in hell fire, the sinners who had atleast mustard size of Faith or any thing lesser than that in their hearts & when those people are identified, they would have charred in hell’s scorching heat, they will be washed in the river of Life & sent to paradise, for they have paid for their sins. some Scholars have interpreted this hadith to mean only to muslims, while others interpret this to mean both muslims & non muslims since mustard size of monotheistic faith is something which almost all of mankind would have, irrespective of their religion, even those who have chosen to reject the message of truth would 1 minute atleast have the faith in his heart. So eternal hell is mostly not for all sinners & most of them at some point or other may get released(GOD Willing). So eternal hell for a sinner by slip is really not the case. Its only the matter of how long, depends on the amt of rebellion & that long is the punishment. It may be long time. yrs, centuries or even eons, but i think you will agree even a single second of hell is something we shd all aim to avoid. STILL, eternal hell is not ruled out for some, people with highest rebellion deserve eternal hell, coz even if they had lived eternally they would only cause destruction. Like the quran says in one verse, those in eternal hell would beg to be returned back for living a righteous life, but GOD says they are liars, & had they left back they would still rebel. So it is only those who would ever sin no matter what, are eternally gonna stay , & they themselves would agree that they deserve it as the quran states they would never call it an unjust judgement. Ex-Take the US president who bombed Hiroshima & Nagasaki. After seeing all the millions of lifes destroyed in Hiroshima, they yet again dropped atomic bomb in nagasaki killing yet another millions. So are you saying those tyrants dont deserve eternal hell. If those presidents live for millions yrs in power, will they not keep on destroying millions of lifes, when they can destroy the 2nd time, even after seeing 1st destruction. So whats wrong for eternal punishment for such sinners or people like hitler or Bush. In reality it would be unjust only if they are released from hell at any point. Coz they deserve suffering of millions of lifes. Even if the are burned millions of times to pay for the suffering of millions of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, they will end up being in hell for millions of yrs. So if anyone say this punishment for those sinners are unjust, then they are the most unjust. Another Ex-take St.Paul who corrupted the true religion of Jesus Christ(PBUH) by bringing the false concept of redemption of sin in Christ’s blood, which goes contrary to true teaching of Christ, the latter focuses on moral responsibility for actions. It is because of paul’s corrupted concept that billions of christians today dont bother abt morality, which is preached by the gospels. Now we can see high crime rate, high suicide rates, high decline in morality in Pauline Christian dominated countries. So doesnt St.Paul who spiritually killed billions of Christian souls from the right path, deserve eternall Hell? On the day of Judgement if you ask the christians that here is the man who misguided you billions from true religion of christ, they would all want to punish him for sure. Even if each person wants to burn him once, St paul would end up being for billion yrs in hell which is eternal. We can keep on giving many examples like these.

      Again, eternal here does not mean infinite time, it only means may be amazingly long time say about a 1000’s of centuries or more, people even in eternal hell after long long time would cease to exist coz only GOD is eternal. Even for such sinners forgiveness is still open in this world until they die where they can sincerely repent & decide to save millions of lives, but it is they who chose to die with that sin. So when forgiveness is still open in this world even for worse sinners, thats the most mercy one can ever expect. For those who have not received the msg of Islam, salvation is still possible. As the quran states in 1 verse Christians, Jews & Sabians, who ever believes in 1 GOD & in here after & leads a righteous life shall have salvation. So even in the remote corners of earth where tribal negros or Eskimos who haven’t even heard of Quran.., their intention to live a modest life keeping the human basic instinct of 1 GOD concept in mind, itself may be sufficient for their salvation & for such a life what ever religion one may call them by, they are indeed submitters to true GOD meaning they are Muslims in arabic. And amazingly, if you analyse, most of the indigenous tribal religions in Africa or elsewhere are highly monotheistic in base. But, the moment any1 receives the msg of Islam-the truth, then is the real test for them to accept it or reject. Its their own self choosing the path. When you are asking so much abt people choosing hell fire, when the truth of Islam is presented to you whats making you still not accept it? So aren’t you not yourself choosing eternal damnation by not opening your eyes. You have no reasons to reject Islam when it can be proved absolutely true by all means to a well educated person like you, so if you are still rejecting it, & you yourself chose to deny the truth, you end up breaking all the divine basic commandments, like charity, avoid usury, avoid intoxicants, bring up your generation with modesty, by not contributing to immodest elements like movies, tyrant rulers, etc etc etc etc ..which are necessary to avoid destruction in society. So when you chose not to be a submitter which means you would break all the above & many other divine commandments, aren’t you not contributing to some destruction of the society. So with this can any 1 expect paradise by not living per the divine law. You may ask what abt muslim who doesn’t follows divine commandments. A muslim not following the law would be subject to more punishment indeed. You may even say that you would not accept islam but stil chose to be a nice person, but without divine commandments, who decides whats right or whats wrong. Usury, immodest clothing, intoxicant, materialism which was always considered bad, is all now accepted by society as absolutely moral. Coz the it’s the society which decides whats right & wrong. And the society always is controlled by the media which can change the masses however they want. So atleast at this time, no one can really be moral even if he wishes to, without taking the divine commandments. Hope this long note opens your eyes towards islam.

  2. Some people ask: Why is it that the unbelievers are punished in hell forever while they were not disobedient to Allah forever? Similarly, why will the believers be rewarded with heaven forever while they were obedient to Allah for only a short time in this life?

    The answer is that the unbelievers had the intention to disobey Allah forever while the believers had the intention to obey Allah forever. Thereby, they are rewarded according to their intentions.

    As al-Qaari pointed out, entrance into Paradise is due to faith, the levels of Paradise are due to the deeds performed and remaining therein forever is due to the intention that the person had to obey Allah as long as he could have lived. Similarly, entrance into Hell is due to disbelief, its levels are due to the evil deeds that the person performed and its eternity is due to the intention the unbeliever had to forever disobey Allah.

    The disbelievers may do some deeds that seem to be good because they bring positive results for others, such as humanitarian acts. However, that does not mean that such acts are good for the person himself. Ibn Rajab stated,

    Ordering good is a type of charity. Bringing about reconciliation and peace between two is a good deed, even if it is not done for the sake of Allah, due to the benefit that it brings for others. The people receive goodness and good. However, as for the one who brought it about, if he did that for the sake of Allah and seeking His pleasure, then it is good for him and he shall be rewarded. If that was not his intent, it is actually not good for him nor shall he be rewarded for it.

    The problem with the deeds of all the disbelievers- in general- is that none of them, no matter how utilitarian or humanitarian they seem, are for the sake of Allah. They perform deeds for the sake of the false, claimed gods, such as Jesus. Or they perform deeds to make their own egos feel good. Sometimes- many times- they do acts to impress others. Hence, their deeds are never really for the sake of Allah and therefore, they are not deserving of reward from Allah in the Hereafter. They claim to be doing good while at the same time they are refusing to submit to Allah. Hence, there can truly be no good in them. They are as those described in the Qur’an,

    “Say (O Muhammad): Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought they were acquiring good by their deeds? Those are they who deny the signs of their Lord and the meeting with Him [in the Hereafter]. So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall not give them any weight. That shall be their recompense – Hell, because they disbelieved and took My signs and My Messengers by way of jest and mockery.” (al-Kahf, 18/103-106)

    However, Allah may reward them for their deeds in this world. Allah has stated, as was mentioned earlier,

    “Whosever desires the life of this world and its glitter, to them We shall pay in full (the wages of) their deeds they did therein, and they will have no diminution therein. They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but Fire; and vain are the deeds they did therein. And of no effect is that which they used to do.” (Hood, 11/15-16)

  3. JazakALlahu khayr indeed hell awaits the arrogant.The ones who deny God’s *right* to be worshipped and are thus,transgressors.

  4. @spiritualsavant Since they were informed of the consequences of their rejection, and enough evidence of the truth was provided to them, yet they continued to reject it, (out of arrogance, or for material gain), so Yes, in a way, they did chose the punishment of eternity for themselves.

  5. because, deny existence of Allah (shirk) is extraordinary crime in the universe or multiverse.

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