The following words of Jesus in the Quran are the starting point of this research:
“If You punish them, they are Your subjects and if You forgive them, You are the Aziz (Dignified), the Hakeem (Wise).” 5:118
Who was Jesus speaking about when he said “If you punish them”?
He can only be referring to those who deserved a punishment, and if we read 5:116 we understand that the ones spoken of in 5:118 are the ones who set up Jesus and his mother as gods besides God, and who were the subject of God’s question to Jesus in 5:116.
Now why did Jesus say:
“If You forgive them, You are the Dignified, the Wise.”?
The normal words to address God with when seeking God’s forgiveness would have been:
“If You forgive them, You are the Ghafoor (Forgiver), the Raheem (Merciful).”
So why did Jesus say: “the Dignified, the Wise” instead?
1- First reason is because Jesus does not know what God will do, for as Jesus says in 5:116: “You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts.”
Nor does Jesus know the future, again Jesus says in 5:116:
“You are the One who knows the ‘ghuyoob’ (the future and all that is hidden).”
2- The second reason why Jesus used those specific words actually shows great wisdom on the part of Jesus. Jesus does not know if God will forgive them or not, thus if Jesus used the words: “If You forgive them, You are the Forgiver, the Merciful”, this would imply that if God did not forgive them, then God is not Forgiver nor Merciful!
In contrast, the use of the words: “If You forgive them, You are the Dignified, the Wise” would not imply that in the case of God not forgiving them that He would not be Dignified or Wise, this is because any decision taken by God (to forgive or not forgive) is a dignified decision and one that is taken with great wisdom.
The true significance of this choice of words by Jesus will be seen when we review other glorious Quranic words which will follow.
Let us now look at the following verse:
“God will surely reward the truthful for their truthfulness, and will either punish the hypocrites in accordance to His will, or ‘yatoob alayhim’ (pardon them). God is Forgiver, Merciful.” 33:24
1- To fully understand the significance of the above words, we must first be reminded that nothing in the Quran is coincidental. Every word in the Quran is placed to signify a deliberate meaning.
2- In 33:24 God speaks about two groups of people, the truthful and also the hypocrites.
3- For the truthful, we read of only one outcome, they shall be rewarded. As for the hypocrites, God speaks of two options: they will either be punished or they will be pardoned, all in accordance to God’s will.
4- A key word used in this verse is “yatoob” which means to pardon, it is different from the word “yaghfir” which is also used in the Quran, but which means to forgive.
Someone who is forgiven would not incur any punishment, or in other words his sins are wiped out as if he never sinned. But someone who is pardoned means, he was punished for a while, then pardoned.
The example of that is of someone who goes to jail for a number of years then is pardoned by the King. This is different from someone who is forgiven and thus would never go to jail.
The first inquiry is that if the hypocrites are destined to only one possible fate (eternal doom in hell), then why does God speak of two possible options in 33:24?
5- Of more significance are the words which follow in 33:24: “God is Forgiver, Merciful”.
Why does God, after giving the two options, end this verse with these words?
In 5:118 (above) we have read how Jesus did not use the words (Forgiver, Merciful) because he was not sure what God would do.
In contrast, God knows for certain what He will do, and God chose to use the words: “God is Forgiver, Merciful”.
God used these words in full knowledge that if He would not pardon them then there would be a question as to whether He is truly Forgiver, Merciful. But with all authority God declares Himself to be “Forgiver, Merciful”.
Is God telling us that He will choose the second option, and that even the hypocrites will eventually be pardoned after they have initially received some kind of punishment?
6- We must also note the significance of the deliberate use of the word “hypocrites” in 33:24 rather than the word “disbelievers”. We are told in the Quran that the hypocrites are the worst of all disbelievers. The reason is because they are both disbelievers and also liars. As a result, they will be destined to the worst of all punishments:
“The hypocrites will be committed to the lowest pit of Hell, and you will find no one to help them.” 4:145
As a result, it can be said that if the worst of all disbelievers (the hypocrites) may be pardoned at some stage, then ipso facto all other sinners may also be pardoned.
We have further evidence, along the same lines of 33:24, to confirm that the disbelievers may be pardoned after being punished for a while:
“Then God sent down contentment upon His messenger and upon the believers. And He sent down invisible soldiers; He thus punished those who disbelieved. This is the requital for the disbelievers.
Then God pardons whomever He wills. God is Forgiver, Merciful.” 9:26-27
Once again we read in 9:26 about the punishment which awaits the disbelievers,
but once again this is immediately followed with the words:
“Then God pardons whomever He wills.”
This is then followed with the same names of God which we see at the end of 33:24 and they are:
“God is Forgiver, Merciful.”
The following glorious words have further amazing clues:
“The day it comes to pass, no one will speak except in accordance with His will. Some will be miserable, and some will be happy.”
As for the miserable ones, they will be in Hell, wherein they sigh and wail.
Eternally they abide therein, for as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except for what your Lord wills. Your Lord is doer of whatever He wills.” 11:105-107
In 11:105 God speaks of the Hereafter and about two groups, those who will be miserable (due to their idolatry 11:101) and those who will be happy (the believers):
In 11:107 we are told of the miserable ones in hell. We read that “eternally they abide therein”. This is followed with the words:“as long as the heavens and the earth endure”, but this is then followed with the words: “except for what your Lord wills”. The inclusion of these words gives the understanding that if God should will, they will not eternally abide in Hell. Then to confirm this right which God reserves for Himself, God ends the verse with the words: “Your Lord is doer of whatever He wills” which again confirms that the disbelievers may not necessarily abide in hell forever, if God decrees otherwise.
Initially, this may not seem significant enough, but it will be when we read the following:
“As for the fortunate ones, they will be in Paradise. Eternally they abide therein, for as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except for what your Lord wills, an everlasting reward.” 11:108
In the above words, which describe the fate of the believers, we read the same sequence. They will be in Paradise, and once again “eternally they abide therein”, then again “as long as the heavens and the earth endure”, then once again “except for what your Lord wills”. But then we read the glorious words “an everlasting reward”! These glorious words confirm that “what your Lord wills” deems that their fate in Paradise will indeed be eternal.
The difference in the ending of 11:107, which speaks of the fate of the disbelievers, as opposed to the ending of 11:108, which speaks of the fate of the believers is truly remarkable and it is not coincidental.
It then remains to explain why did God say in a number of verses that the disbelievers will remain in hell forever, when in fact God may eventually pardon them all? The following is such an example of such verses:
“Those who disbelieved, neither their money nor their children can avail them against God. They are the companions of Hellfire, wherein they abide forever.” 3:116.
The same is said about the hypocrites in 9:68.
In addition, in 2:165 we read about those who set rivals to God, and in 2:167 we also read that they will never exit Hell.
In view of all the above, we are left with what seems like a contradiction! On one hand we read that the wicked will never exit Hell, yet on the other hand, the verses previewed above seem to indicate that God will (at some stage) pardon them all!
To analyse this issue, it would be justified to accept 3:116, 9:68 and 2:167 to represent the general rule. It follows that if God pardons any disbelievers or any hypocrite then, by definition, God would have broken His Own rule in 3:116, 9:68 and 2:167.
This is where we get a glimpse of God’s infinite mercy by reading the following glorious words:
“Your Lord has decreed mercy upon Himself.” 6:54
It is easy to gloss over these words without paying attention to their true significance! These words carry a great weight and their implications are truly profound. First, we note that nowhere else in the Quran does God make such an enforced commitment on Himself. God does not say in 6:54 that His mercy is great or that He is the Most Merciful, but that He decreedmercy upon Himself! What this actually tells us is that God has imposed a mandatory law upon Himself. The outcome of this self-imposed law means that, at a time deemed right by God, His Mercy will prevail over all other considerations, and over all other rules which would have been set by God Himself in the first place.
In this case, the breaking of a rule set by God would not be a sign of weakness nor a sign of indecision; it would be a sign of godly supremacy and divine compassion.
God does not expect us humans to understand this awesome mercy, for the nature of the human being is full of bitterness and eagerness for revenge, thus God tells us:
“Say, “If you possessed my Lord’s treasures of mercy, you would have withheld them, fearing over spending. The human being is stingy.” 17:100
To conclude, we must never doubt God’s mercy, in fact the only matter which remains in great doubt is whether we, the human race, are worthy of this infinite divine mercy?
Researched by A. Muhammad