Allaah SWT has created, founded and built the whole universe on the principle of balance, justice, equity and equilibrium. One of His outstanding attributes is that He is the establisher of justice, balance and equilibrium. He bestowed us Islam also for the purpose that we can establish justice, balance and moderation in our lives and our society. Rather, Islam wants and encourages its adherents to do better than justice and strive for excellence in all their conduct and dealings -- one form of that excellence being mercy, kindness and magnanimity.
When it comes to treating people according to their conduct, Allaah SWT Himself treats people both with justice and mercy, whereby mercy is His prevailing theme for treating people. At a minimum, he treats everyone with justice – whether a person is a believer or a disbeliever (1). Although all human beings enjoy a multitude of His mercies, His mercy towards people from the perspective of judging their performance on earth, however, is dedicated to believers only; and there are no limits to His mercy. Like Him, His mercy is also infinite.
1 People may face many injustices, exploitations and abuses in their lives at the hands of other human beings, that is not the topic of the discussion at the moment. We are talking here about how Allaah Himself treats people. As for injustices committed by people to others, they will be judged on the Day of Judgment. In fact the existence of the Day of Judgment is in itself a great mercy of Allaah SWT because that day every victim of a crime will get his/ her full and just compensation for every injustice they suffered in this world.
The following paragraphs provide an overview of the basic aspects of Allaah’s justice and mercy in this world and Hereafter.
Justice in This World
Every human action in this world has its natural consequence. That natural consequence is, in fact, the natural justice. Hard work brings success. Lethargy or wastage of time and resources causes failure. Whoever tills and sows and tends his crop, reaps the good harvest. Whoever studies well, gets good grades. Everyone who consumes poison suffers. Anyone who does not practice good hygiene is prone to infections (2).
2 Sometimes chance occurrences may negate the natural outcomes such as hard work being destroyed by some accident or natural disaster. Such issues have been discussed in the earlier article.
This law of natural justice extends to moral practices as well. Honesty and truthfulness establish credibility and good reputation, which brings its social and economic rewards. Kindness is compensated by gratitude and goodwill. Charitable acts are rewarded through praise, respect, recognition and influence in the society. If a person is unjust or unfair to another person, their mutual relationship is negatively affected and the perpetrator loses his social capital as well as respect and trust of the victim. The concept of social reciprocity is also an example of such natural consequences.
Thus, whether a person is a believer in Allaah or a disbeliever, all are treated equally and justly in terms of bearing the natural consequences of their actions. That is the pre-programmed justice for human actions in the world. That is Allaah’s justice in the world.
However, there may be some special situations that warrant commentary. If human dealings are not done exactly on the basis of justice to each other, there is naturally a party who is short changed or abused. If such a person did not get compensated in the world, Allaah SWT will do justice in the Hereafter between the two, even if the victim did not know or realize that he/she was short-changed or treated unfairly. This will be done by transferring balances from one’s account to another. If the perpetrator has credits, those credits will be transferred to the victim to the tune of the injustice done. If the perpetrator does not have enough credits, the victim’s debits will be transferred to the perpetrator to the tune of the injustice done.
If someone commits huge crimes for which he does not receive an equivalent condemnation and just punishment in this world, Allaah SWT will do full justice in the Hereafter to ensure that such crimes are justly punished and victims are justly compensated. On the other hand, if someone performed extraordinarily selfless service to humanity for which he or she did not get duly compensated in this world, they will be compensated in the Hereafter.
Allah's Mercy in This World
There are innumerable mercies of Allaah SWT in the way He has created us and provided for our needs. They are too many to count or list; and they are not the topic for this writing. Here we are covering only the justice and mercy of Allaah as it directly relates to human actions and behaviour. From that perspective, there are two aspects of His mercy:
- When people commit crimes, Allaah SWT does not punish them immediately, rather they are left to the Day of Judgment. This affords them an opportunity to repent and reform (3).
- Those who rebel against Him or refuse to believe in Him, He does not deprive them of their sustenance, the natural results of their efforts or use of His resources.
3 Every moment that people are alive is an opportunity for them to do good and/or to repent /reform and to be forgiven by Allaah. This holds true until the moment of death at which point it will be too late to repent.
Justice in the Hereafter
Allaah SWT is the Creator, Owner, Lord and Sovereign of the whole universe. Human life and everything people use in life is His, bestowed by Him. He wants people to live according to the teachings of Islam. Thus, they who:
- Do not believe in God or associate partners or equate others with Him (commit Shirk) or in obeying Him commit the crime of high treason for which they will be punished;
- Do not believe in Him the way He has told people to believe in Him are guilty of sacrilege against Him, for which they will be punished; and
- Do not accept Islam as their Deen (a complete system of life), are guilty of disobedience of His commands for which they will be punished.
These are the most heinous and the gravest capital crimes in the eyes of Allaah SWT that call for the severest eternal punishment possible. It should be remembered that these people got their justice in the world through the natural consequences of their actions. That matter was finished in the world. This punishment is for their disbelief and the efforts they put in for practising, promoting and preaching their disbelief, instead of practising, preaching and promoting belief in Allaah and Islam. People often ask about some exceptionally kind and charitable disbelievers. The fact of the matter is that the just punishment for these crimes of disbelief is so huge, that even the compensation for any amount of good deeds done for people cannot balance the punishment for these crimes against the Creator. Allaah SWT may reduce the intensity of their punishment for their extraordinary service to humanity, but they will still be punished throughout their eternal life. One example is that of Aboo Ŧaalib, the Prophet’s uncle, who supported and protected the Prophet as long as he lived. He will be given the lightest punishment of all disbelievers for his refusal to accept Islam.
As for those who believe in Allaah as the One and Unique God and the Creator and in His Deen Islam but do not live their lives according to the teachings of Islam are guilty of disobedience of His commands for which they will be punished.
Allah's Mercy in the Hereafter
As mentioned earlier, Allaah’s mercy in the Hereafter is only for those who believed in Him and in the Hereafter according to the Islamic standards. Also, the mercies of Allaah that will be bestowed upon the people of Jannah (Garden) in the Hereafter are numerous and even beyond our imagination. Here we are covering only the mercy of Allaah as it directly relates to the accountability of human beings for their actions and behaviour. From that perspective, His mercy takes many forms:
- As soon as someone believes in Allaah as His Lord, He accepts the person and forgives all of his or her sins immediately;
- Whenever a believer repents, He accepts his or her repentance and forgives the repented sins;
- If a believer does good things purely seeking His pleasure, He rewards them for their pure intention, even though they received the just compensation in the form of the natural consequence of those good deeds in their worldly life.
- Those who strive in His way and stand for Truth and Justice and are not compensated in this world for their efforts and sacrifices, will be graciously rewarded in the Hereafter. Although they did what they should have done as the slaves of Allaah SWT, He will still reward them abundantly and graciously;
- Depending on the purity of intention and hardships suffered for good deeds, He rewards them many times beyond the value of what any of their actions may deserve;
- He judges the believers according to their overall performance, instead of holding people accountable for every infraction they committed; and
- He rewards the believers according to the best of their performance at any time in their lives, instead of their average performance over their adult life or their least performance.
Thus, all the rewards the believers will get in the Hereafter are because of the mercy and grace of Allaah SWT. That is why it is said that people will enter paradise only because of the mercy and grace of Allaah SWT.