I have been having this confusion for last so many days regarding the divison/segreagtion of the new borns in to believers and nonbelievers. to put my question appropriately i would say that as mentioned in Holy Quran Chapter al-A’raaf, (7):172, God informed that man existed in the spiritual form before the creation of the physical world. Chapter al-A’raaf, (7):172, God informed that man existed in the spiritual form before the creation of the physical world.
How these spirits are assigned to be sent to the houses of believers and nonbelievers. I would like to know the concept or Islamic point of view. Alhamdolillah I am a Muslim but I feel sympathies for those who are born as nonbelievers and have to face much hardship in finding the right path and to change the religion afterwards. You know, the family pressures, the surroundings, friends and so forth. Its not easy to progress in life and to search for the truth as well. Allah never burden anybody more than his strength, but I feel if you are born in an unbeliever family obviously life is very difficult.
But accordingly, if their case will be treated specially by Allah then obviously it will be unjust for us that we were thrown in a test from the day we are born and these unbelievers will get everything after spending all their life in idolatry, bad habits etc but just one time agreeing on tauheed they will be granted heaven.
I hope you can understand my confusion.
I need a specific answer, because I’m tired of searching here and there even I’ve read tafseer of Qur’an as well but didn’t find the sufficient answer as yet.
Before trying to answer your question I need to explain a more general point here:
There are some well-known questions that religious scholars/researchers/students have always been asked throughout history and I cannot deny that often the answers given are not seen as completely convincing by the one who has asked them. Among these questions are the ones about freewill and predestination. Among these questions are questions similar to what you have asked.
The reason the answers given are sometimes considered to be not completely convincing is that the subject that the question is referring to is a God-related subject and both the one who asks the question and the one who tries to answer it are looking at the subject from the extremely limited, weak and handicapped human perspective.
Your question too (quite understandably) is based on the same perspective. If you look at your question carefully you will find that (like other similar questions in this category) your question is trying to understand the way God does things from a human perspective. This is fundamentally wrong. The content of your question contains two dimensions of Time and Location (souls being there before, then being sent to houses of believers and non-believers).
Please note that, obviously, God is not restricted (like us) in these dimensions (or any other dimensions). Hence it is totally impossible for us to understand God or that how, in detail, does one of his attributes (like, for instance, Justice) works.
How would you explain a social issue for a kid that is only 4 years old? If your kid asks you questions about social issues you only give him answers that fit with his limited perspective. If he comes back later asking you more questions you will probably tell him “you will know when you become older”.
What I am going to discuss throughout the rest of this answer is obviously and inevitably going to be only from my perspective that is the perspective of a human being (like that kid). I cannot guarantee that you will find what I am going to write one hundred percent convincing but Insha’Allah we will both come to see the whole picture when we become older and reach the hereafter. Till that day, we have no options but to look at this ocean (creation of God and his justice) from a very limited window (human perspective) that is available for us. Only God knows what are the things that we are missing from our perspective.
So here is my humanly answer to your humanly question about a subject that is beyond the reach of human beings:
When a rational and fair human being wants to judge about the behavior of some one, he will consider the specific circumstances surrounding the person in an attempt to be fair to him. No one but God Almighty has put this instinct of fairness in human beings. How is it possible that God himself is not at least as fair as one of his creations? In fact he is the best example of fairness, a fairness that is accompanied by his extreme mercy and kindness.
You have asked:
How these spirits are assigned to be sent to the houses of believers and nonbelievers.
My answer is: I don’t know.
As the Qur’an says, we only have a limited knowledge:
… and from knowledge it is only a little that is given to you. (17:85)
The Qur’an has not informed us about the way God takes decision in this respect. In view of this lack of information provided by the Qur’an, no one is in a position to give an answer to this question. However, what we can say in this respect is that like all of God’s decisions, this decision too is based on His absolute knowledge, mercy and wisdom. The selection of the time and place of the birth of each person is decided by God and this decision is obviously based on His complete knowledge of all the aspects that would effect that individual as well as his environment.
However, the way the souls are (as you said) assigned is not an issue for us. The main point is that no matter how the souls are assigned, God’s justice is served in a perfect and complete way; please let me explain this by proceeding to the rest of your question:
Your concern (as I understand) is about two relevant points:
God’s fairness about those who are not born in a religious (or Muslim) family, in terms of the struggle they need to go through.
God’s fairness about those who are born Muslims, in terms of being equally treated like those who later become Muslims (thus have not done as much as born Muslims)
I think your first concern is in a way an answer to your second concern and vice versa. I will explain what I mean later but first let me address each of these concerns separately:
As for the first concern you have said:
I feel sympathies for those who are born as non-believers and have to face much hardship in finding the right path and to change the religion afterwards.
I try to explain my understanding by a couple of points:
To my understanding, changing the religion is not the issue here. The main issue is to be keen and desperate to find the truth. On this, all human being (including Muslims) are the same. We are asking God at least 17 times a day to direct us to the straight path. This indicates that the struggle for being in the right path never ends for any one.
I agree that for a non-believer to believe, the struggle could be tough, however you should also bear in mind that for a believer to act upon his belief the struggle could be equally tough. The struggle is always there, it is only the content or subject of the struggle that is different for each person (based on his circumstances and state of mind and belief).
As the Qur’an says:
O man, you are ever toiling on towards your lord, painfully toiling, so you will meet him. 84:6
It is for appreciating this tough struggle that God has promised to forgive all the sins of those who achieve the target in this struggle and to (out of his invincible mercy) reward them with outmost generosity:
Those who believe and work righteous deeds, from them shall we remit their (evil) deeds, and we shall reward them according to best of what they have done. 29:7
The next point I want to make is that no one will be held responsible for his wrong belief if one is not in a situation that one could see the truth clearly.
God says in the Qur’an:
“On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear.” 2:286
The Qur’an asserts very strongly on the importance of Hujjat (clear reason) as the key to guidance. Those who have not seen the Hujjat are not held responsible for their belief. It is also followed from here that those who are convinced about the truth are held responsible for their behavior and are expected to act according to what they found to be the truth. Based on the above verse, no one is held responsible for what is beyond his potential capacity (that is what he is able to satisfactorily achieve).
God’s justice is served by the balance that is made between one’s Capacity and one’s Responsibility.
To complete what I have referred to so far, I would like to quote from Moiz Amjad here:
There are two basic qualities that will be judged:
Whether one really searched for the truth; and
Whether one submitted to what he believed was true.
On the other hand, two qualities are bound to doom a person:
His carelessness and arrogance in his search for the truth; and
His arrogance in submitting to the truth.
Now, my friend, you can surely see that from this perspective, Muslims and non-Muslims stand on the same grounds. We, as Muslims do not have any advantage, besides the one, which puts a heavy responsibility on our shoulders. While the non-Muslims do not have any disadvantage, besides the one, for which they may be given a lot of allowance.
As for your second concern you have said:
if their case will be treated specially by Allah then obviously it will be unjust for us that we were thrown in a test from the day we are born and these unbelievers will get everything after spending all their life in idolatry, bad habits etc but just one time agreeing on tauheed they will be granted heaven.”
Dear brother, firstly I am not sure if we can say just one time agreeing on Tohid (believe in oneness of God) a person will be granted heaven. Tohid is not a contract that some one simply decides to agree with it. Tohid is a firm and strong belief that should change a person (who have arrived on that belief) drastically and will affect his way of life in most (if not all) aspects. Even after accepting Tohid one is held responsible for his deeds and behavior (that will occur after him accepting Tohid). It is not as if accepting Tohid is a direct ticket to heaven. It is the thorough and deep establishment of Tohid in a heart that can guarantee heaven and this is because of the natural result of such establishment in the behavior, deeds and way of life of the person.
I also disagree that all unbelievers are necessarily spending their life in bad habits. I know many unbelievers who have less bad habits than many believers.
As for justice to those who spent their whole life in Tohid, again this is the matter of balance between capacity and responsibility. The certain rule is that no good deed of one who believes in one God will be ignored in the hereafter:
“As to those who believe and work righteousness, verily we shall not suffer to perish the reward of any who do a (single) righteous deed.” 18:30
Please bear in mind that entering heaven is one thing, earning a higher degree in heaven is another thing. The Qur’an is very clear that there are different levels in heaven and that the stronger the belief of a person (and as a result the better the deeds of a person) the higher will be his degree in heaven.
What time in one’s life, one has accepted the true religion of God is not relevant here. The point is, how much one manages to strengthen one’s belief and act according to it. There are plenty of examples through out history and also around us, people who came to see the true religion of God in mid or late ages but managed to get very strong in their religious belief in a way that they surpassed many of those who were born and raised in the context of religion. There are also many examples that worked the other way round. It is entirely upon God Almighty to judge who deserves a better position in the hereafter and he will do this with his perfect justice and extreme mercy.
It is now appropriate to explain why I said that your first concern was in a way an answer to your second concern and vice versa. Let me illustrate this for you:
A born Muslim:
Advantage: He does not need to struggle to find the truth (truth here meaning the oneness of God and the fact that Muhammad was the last Prophet).
Difficulty: Because he already knows the truth, he will be held responsible to act according to what he found to be truth (this is related to your second concern).
A born non-Muslim:
Advantage: Because he is in a situation that usually hinders him from seeing the truth, he is not held responsible for not believing in truth and not acting according to it.
Difficulties: If at any time he was shown an evidence or a clue that could reasonably motivate him in searching for truth, then it will be his responsibility to search for it and to accept it if he found it (related to your first concern).
I hope you can see the balance and fairness here and hope this helps.
In need of your prayers.
March 16, 2004