Why did Allah create paradise and hell?
In order to get to the bottom of this, let us consider and appreciate the whole of God’s creation and what His plan appears to be. Perhaps, if we reflect upon the creation of the universe and indeed of our own self, we may find wisdom beneath it. Could the answer be there with us the whole time, waiting for us to wipe off the dust in order to discover it piercing brightly through?
Consider firstly, the following verses:
Surely, those who dispute about the signs of God without any authority having come to them (i.e. without having any right or good reason for doing so) – there is nothing in their hearts but an arrogant feeling of self-importance, which they will never be able to satisfy: seek you, then, refuge with God – for, surely, He alone is all-hearing, all-seeing!
Verily, the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man: yet most men do not know. But the blind and the seeing are not equal; and neither are they who believe and do good works and the evil doers. How rarely do you keep this in mind! Verily, the Last Hour is sure to come: of this there is no doubt; yet most men will not believe. But your Sustainer says: “Call unto Me, I shall respond to you! Verily, they who are too proud to worship Me will enter hell, humiliated!”
It is God who has made the night for you, so that you might rest therein, and the day, to help you see. Indeed, God is limitless in His bounty unto man – but most men are ungrateful. Such is God, your Sustainer, the Creator of all that exists: there is no god besides Him. How then, are you turned away! Thus too were turned away those who knowingly rejected God’s signs.
It is God who has made the earth a resting place for you and the sky a canopy, and has formed you – and formed you so well – and provided you with good things. Such is God, your Sustainer: Blessed, then, is God, the Sustainer of all the worlds! He is the Ever-Living; there is no god besides Him: call, then, unto Him (alone), sincere in your faith in Him. All praise is due to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds! – Al Ghafir 40:56-65
Now let us think. Do you ever wonder about what insignificant little creatures we appear to be when compared to this vast universe of ours? We are so small in comparison that we are barely anything at all. It is truly as He said that “Verily, the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man”. Yet, we do not need to be much to be special and worthy in the sight of God. Just because we can seem insignificant in this vast universe does not mean that the Almighty is careless about us. Actually, the very functioning of the universe which preserves life on this planet suggests that He does care for us and that He has chosen us for a special purpose.
It is God who makes us special. He did not have to create us but He did. He provided this opportunity especially for us. He loves us and wanted us through expressing our gratitude and extolling His greatness, to be successful and to earn for ourselves a special place in a blissful abode forever. Thus, it is as though in demonstration of His love and kindness toward us that He made such a vast, awesome and magnificent universe to work in such a way as to serve and benefit our feeble little selves. Pondering over such a most superb and startling gift should strike awe in our hearts and create a most sincere humility in us before our Gracious Lord. In this way we would be following the natural make up and working of the whole of creation and it is this that God has pleased for us. Nevertheless, He has for the purpose of the test in which we are placed, given us the ability to disregard all this and to act arrogantly instead of being humbled and grateful. However, when acting thus, we are in head on collision with what we are meant to be, and contradicting our very own nature cannot be for the good.
We are told in the Qur’an that life on earth is a test and that the outcome depends on our deeds (e.g. Hood 11:7 &Al Mulk 67:2). The result of the test quite logically is that the good shall be rewarded for their goodness and the evil be recompensed for their wickedness. Paradise and Hell takes care of that. We are also told that we were given a choice whether or not to accept this test and each of us humans accepted it (Al Ahzab 33:72). Though knowledge of this has been almost completely erased from our minds in order to make this test possible, we will one day be reminded of this decision of ours.
When we look around in our environment, we cannot help but be fascinated. There seems real purpose in the world around us and all that surrounds our planet allowing and even aiding it to function perfectly for us. How life was brought into existence and able to survive in this planet is amazing. How everything works in harmony with everything else in order that this life is preserved here is just as amazing, perhaps much more. Even the tinniest of our cells, the functioning that it has and the complexity of it is just about ineffable. There are so many sign posts and they all point us toward the truth, the reality. Now all we need is the intellect in order for us to put two and two together. Guess what? We happen to have that too!
I feel that in the very questions that we frequently ask ourselves, such as: “why are we here”, “how did we get here” and “what is the meaning of it” we actually have the answers also. It is upon us to use our brain and scratch through this silver surface in order to discover the gold that lies beneath. Out of all the living creatures on this planet we happen to be the only ones to raise such an enquiry and we also turn out to be the most successful. Is this success of ours because we are the most powerful among the living creatures, the fastest, the biggest or smallest? No, it is because we have the amazing gift of the intellect. It is also this very gift that allows us to ask these nagging questions and to search to discover their answers.
From the very fact that the answer is not served to us on a golden plate and that we are not spoon fed with it, I feel it is an indicator that we are being tested. The purpose is for us to put in our effort so that we find. Most other things in this planet also are about putting in the required effort. This makes the result all the more rewarding and attractive. Such an achievement elevates us to a lofty position and makes us feel great about ourselves while the discovery of this treasure humbles us at the same time. This is the beautiful light that removes darkness. The person with such a diamond in his heart lights up the whole of his or her surroundings. It is Allah Who takes us “out of the darkness into the light” (Al Baqarah 2:257); “Allah is the light” (Al Noor 24:35), He is “the truth” (Taha20:114).
The harmony between revelation and our inherent nature can only make us marvel. When reading the Qur’an one can really feel it vibrating on the exact same wavelength as the inner voice, the feelings in the heart and the thoughts of the mind. It is as though the voice of God unites with the voice of God; the voice of the revelation with the voice of your deep inner self. The result should be nothing but productive as long as we allow it to be so.
The Gracious Lord Who has blessed us with so much — much more than we can ever appreciate — has also blessed us with an inner voice, a conscience. It pricks at us when we act wrongly. It takes delight when we do what is right. We inherently know good from bad (Al Shams 91:8). Imagine we had not known! How much more difficult would our test have been? Yet not only that, God even sent revelation to reinforce this inner voice and inner goodness of ours. However, it comes with a price. If we abuse the privilege by continuously ignoring and transgressing against this inner voice — our own nature — then it can die out and be silenced. But what is all this? Perhaps this inherent knowledge of ours is a glimpse of a reminder that remains in us concerning how we placed ourselves in this test upon which the outcome depends (Al Ahzab 33:72). Perhaps it is reminding us of what is yet to come; a reward for the good and a punishment for the bad (e.g. Al Qiyyamah 75:22-25, Al A`la 87:14-19, Al Ghashiya 88:1-16, Al Fajr 89:21-30 etc). Hence, we naturally feel good when we do something good and bad when we engage in something bad. Thus, the Almighty also presents “the reproaching conscience as a witness” (Al Qiyyamah 75:2) of the day of judgement when justice shall be meted out to all.
Revelation reminds us of the above yet further, telling us that our Gracious Creator is wise and just and that He will thus never allow the good and the bad to end up in the same location (Al Kahf 18:7, Al Mu’minoon 23:115, Al Qiyyamah 75:36-40 etc). He will give us what we deserve and strove for. What would be the point of all this, if in the end we just died and were left forever? Nay, God does not play games like that; He has created it all for a wise end. Yes, and every moment that unfolds, unravels this master plan ever more, until finally the veil is removed and the sight is clear about what it sees.
This, according to my understanding of Islam, is the purpose of Paradise and Hell. It is the implementation of God’s justice, His reward, His mercy, His punishment and His word.
May God bless you and may He forgive us our errors, both the intentional and unintentional.
Please, keep us in your prayers,
July 12, 2005