I tried to organize my thoughts but I failed miserably so I hope you won't find my writing style too disorienting. Also, I hope you'd read all what I wrote before you respond.
This post is meant to discuss Eternal Damnation in Hell. Many people object to threats of torment in Hell for the following reasons:
1- God shouldn't be so small as to *need* our worship.
2- If God is infinitely merciful then this should prevent Him from torturing kind loving humans for the trivial sin of disbelief.
3- It seems awfully suspicious that these threats of Hell are meant to control the masses by religious leaders. I. Introduction: God and the Human Language
First I would like to discuss a few things that might seem irrelevant to our main discussion. I would like to begin by quoting billy (out of context):
The universe is an incomprehensible creation of such vastness that if we were ever to comprehend its infinite size and variety, it would crush our minds - it is beyond imagining, beyond numbers, beyond all that can be conceived of - even on this planet Earth alone resides trillions upon trillions upon trillions upon trillions of moments, lives, thoughts, beings, in just one second of existence.
So our billy clearly believes the universe, that we humans are already in touch with, is incomprehensible... it's beyond understanding in the fullest sense.
So how about the Creator who created this known universe and beyond? He is infinitely greater and infinitely beyond comprehension. No words can describe Him. No book can define Him (18:109; 31:27).
Yet men of different faiths claim He communicated with us through His earthly agents: prophets. Is that a contradiction? Not if we understand that God chose to communicate to us to within our severly limited ability to understand. He used the imperfect human language as a vehicle to convey His message to us: He is God, the Creator of the universe and everything and everyone is His slave.
But that's not the only thing the Quran says. It also says things like: God gets angry, He exacts vengence and He has enemies and allies. These words sound all too human, and so they should
, as they address humans and God uses whatever language they use to get the message across. Oftentimes people get so hung up on the language and forget that it is the message, these words carry, is what they should be concerned about.
The other issue is that the message itself is in the eye of the beholder. By that I mean people studying the same text tend to read different messages, influenced by bias. Of course, context is essential to reading the correct message but sometimes, understanding the context requires careful reading of the entire book. Examples:
1- Some people read 51:56 and think God created us because He *needs* our worship. And when they read elsewhere that He actually does NOT need our worship (e.g. 14:8; 31:12) they go "Ah! a contradiction!" But reading all verses togeather simply means that God in 51:56 tells us what is our job to do. In fact, this Universal Law is clarified in more than one verse, for example: 22:18; 17:44; 16:48-49; 13:13; 24:41; 38:18. A creator, by deafault, creates and all his creations are owned by him. Worshipping God, can thus be thought of as us realizing this ownership, our being His creations, His slaves.
2- God orders the believers to fight in His cause those who fight them (2:190) and yet somewhere else (e.g. 29:6) He says He does not need their fighting, as fighting is for their own sake. Another contradiction? Like I said, it's all in the eye of the beholder.
3- God describes giving charity as lending Him money (2:245; 57:11), and yet elsewhere He says He does not need our money (e.g. 57:24). This, to some, means a contradiction and to others it means that it's just meant to convey the greatness of charity. (Of course there are those who think God should feed the hungry Himself (36:47). More on this below.)
Even understanding the intended message correctly does not give us all the truth. The message we understand is merely a limited projection of the entire truth that is beyond our understanding, in the first place.
For example, why does God order us to feed the hungry when He wouldn't feed them Himself (36:47)? Does this mean that He expects us to be more merciful than Himself? Can we outdo the All-Merciful God? In fact, why do a lot of good people suffer in this world? These are all reasonable questions and the only thing I can think of to try to understand this is thinking of this life as an infinitely short trip compared to an eternity in our final destination.
Although we weren't given all the answers and in fact we wouldn't have been able to grasp the entire message had it been revealed to us in full, what I believe is that we have already been given what is necessary to believe. Scripture is meant to only *approximate* the infinite God to within our limited understanding,
for no book can truly explain God (18:109; 31:27). I know you disagree, Hassan, but that's what I honestly believe. II. Pride-Based DisobedienceFirst, I hope you don't misunderstand me when I use the word: pride. From experience, I can attest to the fact that Atheists are among the most decent, nicest, loving people one can ever meet. By pride I mean when someone realizes that they are one of the creations of the Almighty God and yet chooses to disobey Him or reject His authority. Or when someone finds the truth and yet rejects it.
Some atheists, who claim that they don't believe God even exists, assert that even if He exists, they would still not recognize their being His slaves... Now, if you don't call this pride (towards God), I don't know what else you might call it. If God is the creator of the whole vast known universe within which we're merely specks of dust and yet we wouldn't recognize our being slaves of the Creator, then this is nothing but shear arrogance (towards God).
Now, I'm not sure if you object to the concept of Hell as a whole or Eternal Damnation specifically. But we both know that not all people who go to Hell spend eternity in Hell.
But what constitutes eternal damnation? Only if man disobeys God out of pride/arrogance/stubborness, then will he receive eternal damnation. Pride is the cardinal sin... Satan's only sin is pride (he believed in God but insisted on disobeying him and rejecting His authority out of sheer pride).
Just to give an example, imagine an isolated island today where generations upon generations of people worshipped idols... being isolated from the rest of the world, they couldn't have received any religious message. Such people cannot go to Hell for non-belief in a message they know absolutely nothing about.
The Quran mentions the Heights, a place situated between Hell and Paradise. It can be inferred from the Quran that this place is reserved for those men whose lack of pure submission to the One Creator God is NOT based on pride/arrogance/stuborness (7:48).
Of course we have no idea how these men will be judged, but clearly they were not proud towards God. For the ultimate salvation, pure submision to God (3:64) without any pride/arrogance/stubborness (towards Him) is all that is needed. In fact, there are many many verses which associate Hell with pride, for example:
7:48 (The Men of the Heights calling Hell dwellers proud, implying that they themselves did not committ this sin).
39: 59-60; 39:72; 40:76 (Hell is the abode for the proud).
40: 56 (the proud argues about signs with limited knowledge).
32:15 (only the humble believes).
See also, for example: 37:35; 4:173; 7:36; 16:29; 25:21; 7:75-76; 7:88; 7:133; 16:22-23; 6:93; 40:60; 71:7; 50:24; 74:16, among many.III. The Purpose of Hell
So why does the infinite God *need?* to torture forever people who, out of pride, disobey/reject His authority?
The fact is God does NOT need to torture people. He simply does *NOT* care to save the proud (against Him). He disregards them (32:14; 45:34) and assigns them no weight in the hereafter (18:105).
In other words, since God created humanity destined to Hell (19:71), only those who are humble get God's infinite mercy and are saved. If someone's arrogant towards God then there's no reason for God to save them from their fate.
Why did God create us destined to Hell? Perhaps because, unlike glorious majestic angels, man was created imperfect and thus destined to Hell?
But why did God create man imperfect in the first place? In fact, the angels asked God this question and He replied that He knows what they don't (2:30). Unlike perfect, ever obedient angels, however, the imperfect man was given the ability to choose to humbly submit to God. But what's the point of all of this? I don't know, again, like I said even angels weren't given the answer to this question. But someone once suggested to me that by creating man, God thus created devotion, in its truest sense
, out of imperfection. Of course, these are only speculations. No one knows why God created man imperfect (with the ability to choose) when He already had perfect creations (angels).
Moreover, the threats of Hell are meant to serve two purposes: 1- Assert that Hell is a literal place. 2- speak to simple-minded people who can only understand the concept of reward and punishment. Such people would be at a great disadvantage if they weren't repeatedly warned against Hell.. but I don't think that all those who submit, do so simply because they fear Hell. I, for example, submit because I believe in the existence of the infinite Creator God who created me and this automatically makes me His slave. My worshipping Him is really only acknowledging the fact that I am His slave (His creation) just like all other creations acknowledge this (the Universal Law). Why should I deny my being His slave, when a creation, by default, is owned by its creator?
Another way to understand the threats of Hell is as follows.
1- The human soul IS eternal (7:172; 40:11)... consienceness isn't. Conscienceness can be distrupted by sleep, a coma or death, but the soul is eternal.
2- The first abode for our souls was our bodies in this infinitely short life.
3- We regain conscienceness in the after life to live our eternal lives in our eternal bodies... but there's one of two abodes: either Hell or paradise.So if you look at the three points above, it's not a matter of reward and punishment as much as it is a question of which final abode shall one live in (39:59-60; 39:72; 40:76). Now, why would an infinitely small creation (human), who is arrogant and defiant towards God be given the good place as his final abode?
Again, the fact is God does NOT need to torture people. He simply does *NOT* care to save the proud (against Him). He disregards them (32:14; 45:34) and assigns them no weight in the hereafter (18:105). And since the soul is eternal, an eternal abode is a necessity. We are all no more than specks of dust to Him (even lower than that). Throwing us all in Hell is simply nothing to Him. He does not care, except His infinite mercy makes Him care for those of us who chose to acknowledge the Universal Law (worship is acknowledging our being His slaves).To recap:> Creator ---> creates --> creation exists --> creation is a slave to its creator (the Universal Law)
> Pure worship and submission to the Creator can be viewed as acknowledging our being His creation (slaves).
> Human soul is eternal --> eternal abode is a must.
If humble --> paradise.
If arrogant --> Hell.
> Why not create man perfect like angels? --> Because God would have created more angels.
> But why create imperfection when angels are already perfect? --> Angels asked the same question and received no answer... but it could be that out of imperfection devotion in its truest sense is born.IV. I Did Not Ask to Be Created!
Finally, some argue that they didn't ask to be created in the first place, least of all be created imperfect (with the ability to choose).
Aside from the fact that God creates whatever/whomever He wants, the fact is before we existed we were not able to object to our future existence (assuming we were even given the choice to object). And now that we exist we tend to hold onto our lives which really means that we appreciate our being created so there's no point of objecting to this.
Also, I believe 33:72 could metaphorically mean that the ability to choose to obey/disobey God was man's choice. 33:72
We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man assumed it. Lo! he was indeed unjust and foolish.
Could this simply mean that, given the ability to choose (the trust to obey the Universal Law voluntarily) was offered to all creation and even the mightiest among creations (heavens, earth and mountains) refused to handle this trust but it was man who so foolishly accepted it? In fact, check out the next verse: 7:172
And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their backs, their descendants, and made them bear witness against their own souls: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes! we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of resurrection: Surely we were heedless of this.
Is this verse saying that the ability to accept the truth is ingrained in all of us?
The bottom line is: we really know very little (17:85), but what we already know should be enough to accept submission to God.
PS. Some Muslim theologans actually seemed to have a problem with Eternal Damnation since the 8th century. One of the most famous Sunni scholars, Ibn Taymiyyah, believes the Hell fire will perish (no eternal damnation) adopting the view of Mutaziltes and depending on a weird Hadith which does state that Hell is perishable, contradicting the entire Quran. (I guess you already know all of that).http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=13876437
So yes, apparently even past Muslim theologians adopted unorthodox views on Hell because they clearly had a problem with eternal damnation...But as far as I'm concerned, I believe I'm infinitely insignificant EXCEPT by God's infinite mercy.