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He forgives whomever He wills and punishes whomever He wills

Introduction

The Arabic phrase (transliteration), yagh’firu li-man ya’shaa’u wa-man yu’adh’dhibu man ya’shaa’u means “He forgives whomever He wills and He punishes whomever He wills” is repeated in the Quran in several verses (see below). The meaning of the phrase is clear to some while it is unclear to many. If we just apply our common sense, we may have clear understanding that we have to attain forgiveness from God on our earthly life otherwise we will suffer in the Hereafter. But the common misunderstanding around this statement is that God has not shared His will with humans, which implies that His forgiveness and punishment would be a random selection on the Day of Judgment. In other words, judgment will take place without set laws and systems. Thus, God’s will is a mystery to them or they find darkness in His will. Let us review the relevant verses of the Quran to confirm whether there is any mystery in His will of forgiveness or punishment.

[Quran 2:284] To God belongs everything in the heavens and the earth. Whether you declare your innermost thoughts, or keep them hidden, God holds you responsible for them. He forgives whomever He wills, and punishes whomever He wills. God is Omnipotent.
[Quran 3:129] To God belongs everything in the heavens and the earth. He forgives whomever He wills, and punishes whomever He wills. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[Quran 5:18] The Jews and the Christians said, “We are God’s children and His beloved.” Say, “Why then does He punish you for your sins? You are just humans like the other humans He created.” He forgives whomever He wills and punishes whomever He wills. To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, and everything between them, and to Him is the final destiny.
[Quran 5:40] Do you not know that God possesses the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth? He punishes whomever He wills, and forgives whomever He wills. God is Omnipotent.
[Quran 48:14] To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He forgives whomever He wills, and punishes whomever He wills. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

It is interesting to note that of the above 5 verses 2 are ended with God is Omnipotent, 2 are with God is Forgiver, Most Merciful and 1 is with to Him is the final destiny. The attributes that God has given Himself is a clear indication that He has sophisticated system, and judgment will take place according to His established laws and systems. He will forgive those who earn righteousness but He will punish those who commit sins.

[Quran 6:59] With Him are the keys to all secrets; none knows them except He. He knows everything on land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls without His knowledge. Nor is there a grain in the depths of the soil. Nor is there anything wet or dry, that is not recorded in a profound record.
[Quran 28:84] Whoever works righteousness receives a far better reward. As for those who commit sins, the retribution for their sins is precisely equivalent to their works.
[Quran 35:7] Those who disbelieve have incurred a severe retribution, and those who believe and lead a righteous life have deserved forgiveness and a great recompense.

Equitable Judgment

The Quran has not only confirmed the Day of Judgment followed by the end of the world but has also ensured equitable judgment. God will be Master of the Day of Judgment (1:4) and He will establish the scales of justice so that no soul suffers least injustice. All decisions will belong to Him and no apology or intercession will be accepted from anyone. Even, after the judgment is over, the praising of God will be continued.

[Quran 16:111] The day will come when every soul will serve as its own advocate, and every soul will be paid fully for whatever it had done, without the least injustice.
[Quran 21:47] We will establish the scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection. No soul will suffer the least injustice. Even the equivalent of a mustard seed will be accounted for. We are the most efficient reckoners.
[Quran 22:10] This is what your hands have sent ahead for you. God is never unjust towards the people.
[Quran 34:3] Those who disbelieve have said, “The Hour will never come to pass!” Say, “Absolutely – by my Lord – it will most certainly come to you. He is the Knower of the future. Not even the equivalent of an atom’s weight is hidden from Him, be it in the heavens or the earth. Not even smaller than that, or larger (is hidden). All are in a profound record.”
[Quran 40:17] On that day, every soul will be requited for whatever it had earned. There will be no injustice on that day. God is most efficient in reckoning.
[Quran 53:38] No soul bears the sins of another soul.
[Quran 82:19] That is the day when no soul can help another soul, and all decisions, on that day, will belong to God.
[Quran 99:6-8] On that day, the people will issue from every direction, to be shown their works. Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.
[Quran 39:75] You will see the angels floating around the throne, glorifying and praising their Lord. After the equitable judgment is issued to all, it will be proclaimed: “Praise be to God, Lord of the universe.”

Forgiveness

God is the source of righteousness as well as forgiveness and none can take heed against His will (74:56). So when He says He forgives whomever He wills, he explains what His will is to forgive.

The first criterion of God’s will of forgiveness is that those who believe, lead a righteous life and race towards forgiveness from their Lord, He will shower them with His grace.

[Quran 2:62] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in God, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
[Quran 4:161] As for those who believe and lead a righteous life, He will fully recompense them, and shower them with His grace.
[Quran 57:21] Therefore, you shall race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a Paradise whose width encompasses the heaven and the earth. It awaits those who believed in God and His messengers. Such is God’s grace that He bestows upon whomever He wills. God is Possessor of Infinite Grace.

The second criterion of God’s will of forgiveness is that those who disbelieved, committed all sorts of sins ,exceeded all sorts of limits, then decide to return to God with a firm repentance, and implore Him for forgiveness, lead a righteous life and die as righteous believers, they also deserve His forgiveness.

[Quran 2:160] As for those who repent, reform, and proclaim, “I redeem them. I am the Redeemer, Most Merciful.”
[Quran 4:110] Anyone who commits evil, or wrongs his soul, then implores God for forgiveness, will find God Forgiving, Most Merciful.
[Quran 6:54] …..Your Lord has decreed that mercy is His attribute. Thus, anyone among you who commits a transgression out of ignorance, and repents thereafter and reforms, then He is Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
[Quran 19:60] Only those who repent, believe, and lead a righteous life will enter Paradise, without the least injustice.
[Quran 25:70] Exempted are those who repent, believe, and lead a righteous life. God transforms their sins into credits. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[Quran 25:71] Those who repent and lead a righteous life, God redeems them; a complete redemption.
[Quran 39:53] Proclaim: “O My servants who exceeded the limits, never despair of God’s mercy. For God forgives all sins. He is the Forgiver, Most Merciful.”
[Quran 66:8] O you who believe, you shall repent to God a firm repentance. Your Lord will then remit your sins and admit you into gardens with flowing streams…..

Even those who deserve forgiveness from their Lord will receive their recompense in accordance their ranks attained at God. Some of them will be granted higher Heaven while others will be granted lower Heaven. The believing men and women who will be radiating their lights ahead of them enter higher Heaven while the believing men and women who will be radiating their lights to their right enter lower Heaven.

[Quran 4:49] Have you noted those who exalt themselves? Instead, God is the One who exalts whomever He wills, without the least injustice.
[Quran 46:19] They all attain the ranks they have deserved, in accordance with their works. He will pay them for their works, without the least injustice.
[Quran 57:12] The day will come when you see the believing men and women with their lights radiating ahead of them and to their right. Good news is yours that, on that day, you will have gardens with flowing streams. You will abide therein forever. This is the great triumph.
[Quran 66:8] …On that day, God will not disappoint the prophet and those who believed with him. Their light will radiate in front of them and to their right….

Punishment

God is not only merciful but He is also strict in enforcing punishment. He has promised a terrible and everlasting retribution for those who have committed sins based on clearly specified criterion.

The first criterion of God’s will of punishment is about those He clearly explained, He has prepared a shameful retribution for those who have disbelieved in God and His revelations as well as have transgressed His laws. They are disbelievers, hypocrites and atheists including those who have committed murder, adultery, suicides and illicit gains of properties.

[Quran 4:10] Those who consume the orphans’ properties unjustly, eat fire into their bellies, and will suffer in Hell.
[Quran 4:14] As for the one who disobeys God and His messenger, and transgresses His laws, He will admit him into Hell, wherein he abides forever. He has incurred a shameful retribution.
[Quran 4:29–30] O you who believe, do not consume each other’s properties illicitly – only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. God is Merciful towards you.Anyone who commits these transgressions, maliciously and deliberately, we will condemn him to Hell. This is easy for God to do.
[Quran 4:93] Anyone who kills a believer on purpose, his retribution is Hell, wherein he abides forever, God is angry with him, and condemns him, and has prepared for him a terrible retribution.
[Quran 4:138] Inform the hypocrites that they have incurred painful retribution.
[Quran 5:36] Certainly, those who disbelieved, if they possessed everything on earth, even twice as much, and offered it as ransom to spare them the retribution on the Day of Resurrection, it would not be accepted from them; they have incurred a painful retribution.
[Quran 6:49] As for those who reject our revelations, they incur the retribution for their wickedness.
[Quran 7:147] Those who reject our revelations and the meeting of the Hereafter, their works are nullified. Are they requited only for what they committed?
[Quran 16:88] Those who disbelieve and repel from the path of God, we augment their retribution by adding more retribution, due to their transgressions.
[Quran 17:32] You shall not commit adultery; it is a gross sin, and an evil behavior.
[Quran 18:87] He said, “As for those who transgress, we will punish them, then, when they return to their Lord, He will commit them to more retribution.
[Quran 22:57] While those who disbelieved and rejected our revelations have incurred a shameful retribution.
[Quran 31:7] And when our revelations are recited to the one of them, he turns away in arrogance as if he never heard them, as if his ears are deaf. Promise him a painful retribution.
[Quran 72:17] We will surely test them all. As for him who disregards the message of his Lord, He will direct him to ever increasing retribution.

The second criterion of God’s will of punishment is about those He clearly explained, He will never forgive or accept the repentance from those who persist in committing sins until death, keep on earning sins without attempting of repentance to delete them and die with such sins surrounding them (3:91). No last minute repentance or apology (when death is approaching) would be accepted from anyone (4:18). Also last minute belief (when death is approaching)would be nil (10:90-91) since the chance to validate our intentions by righteous deeds that would grow our souls was wasted (5:69, 6:158). Those who expect that Hell will not touch them except for a number of days would be deprived of His forgiveness (2:80-81).

[Quran 3:91] Those who disbelieve and die as disbelievers, an earthfull of gold will not be accepted from any of them, even if such a ransom were possible. They have incurred painful retribution; they will have no helpers.
[Quran 4:18] Not acceptable is the repentance of those who commit sins until death comes to them, then say, “Now I repent.” Nor is it acceptable from those who die as disbelievers. For these, we have prepared a painful retribution.
[Quran 10:90] We delivered the Children of Israel across the sea. Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, aggressively and sinfully. When drowning became a reality for him, he said, “I believe that there is no god except the One in whom the Children of Israel have believed; I am a submitter.”
[Quran 10:91] “Too late!* For you have rebelled already, and chose to be a transgressor.
[Quran 5:69] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who (1) believe in God and (2) believe in the Last Day, and (3) lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
[Quran 6:158] Are they waiting for the angels to come to them, or your Lord, or some physical manifestations of your Lord? The day this happens, no soul will benefit from believing if it did not believe before that, and did not reap the benefits of belief by leading a righteous life.* Say, “Keep on waiting; we too are waiting.”
[Quran 2:80] Some have said, “Hell will not touch us, except for a limited number of days.” Say, “Have you taken such a pledge from God – God never breaks His pledge – or, are you saying about God what you do not know?”
[Quran 2:81] Indeed, those who earn sins and become surrounded by their evil work will be the dwellers of Hell; they abide in it forever.

The third criterion, God teaches us that irrespective of how righteous we are, we are not going to be forgiven or redeemed if we die in a state of disbelief (3:90), idol worship (4:48, 4:116) or concealing the truth from God in His scripture (2:159, 2:174).

[Quran 3:90] Those who disbelieve after believing, then plunge deeper into disbelief, their repentance will not be accepted from them; they are the real strayers.
[Quran 4:48] God does not forgive idolatry,* but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside God, has forged a horrendous offense.
[Quran 4:116] God does not forgive idol worship (if maintained until death),* and He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol beside God has strayed far astray.
[Quran 2:159] Those who conceal our revelations and guidance, after proclaiming them for the people in the scripture, are condemned by God; they are condemned by all the condemners.
[Quran 2:174] Those who conceal God’s revelations in the scripture, in exchange for a cheap material gain, eat but fire into their bellies. God will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. They have incurred a painful retribution.

Those who have incurred Hell will suffer a painful and everlasting retribution precisely equivalent to their sins. The Hell will have seven gates and each one will be committed to enter the Hell through the gate assigned him to suffer a specific share of his retribution in it.

[Quran 99:7-8] Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it
[Quran 28:84] As for those who commit sins, the retribution for their sins is precisely equivalent to their works.
[Quran 4:145] The hypocrites will be committed to the lowest pit of Hell, and you will find no one to help them.
[Quran 15:42-43] ….”You (Satan) only have power over the strayers who follow you. And Hell awaits them all.”
[Quran 15:44] It will have seven gates. Each gate will get a specific share of them.”

Conclusion

We do not see God but He does exist in the hearts of the righteous believers through His attributes and creations. Laws and systems do exist from a supreme intelligence and an omnipotent source to establish them. Like all God’s systems explained in the Quran, His forgiveness and punishment are bound by certain criteria that are consistent and fully compatible with His supreme justice. It is His will that He has fully explained in the Quran that He has specified certain select souls with His forgiveness while other select souls for His punishment with His knowledge but there is no mystery or darkness in His decreed will of forgiveness and punishment. What He has said are nothing but consistent laws and systems, and just and truthful fulfillment of all of His divine promises.

Those who believe and lead a righteous life as well as those who sincerely repent, reform and lead a righteous life will be eligible for His forgiveness while those who disbelieve as well as those who are not forgiven by their Lord because of persistently committing sins have incurred a painful retribution. However, over and over, it is His will to forgive all sins if we repent and reform sincerely, and lead a righteous life (5:98). Hence, the expression in the Quran, “He forgives whomever He wills, and He punishes whomever He wills” is simply a distinction between those who deserve His forgiveness and those who deserve His punishment on the Day of Judgment. In other words, when we enter the Hereafter followed by death, we enter either being eligible for His forgiveness or with His due punishment (17:13). In accordance with their works, He has also precisely defined compensation for the righteous believers and the retribution for the disbelievers, idol worshipers, hypocrites or atheists as well. Who would have done this supreme justice with such precision to compensate us for our works except God! If anyone still sees any mystery in such decreed will of God, he is none but a disbeliever.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.
Tafazzal (2/13/2015)