I realize it might sound strange, but I worry a great deal about the ultimate fate of those that I love, and even those I do not know. Not for some selfish reason of wanting to spend my afterlife with them, but so that when they reach the end of their lives, they are not thrown into the pit, as it were, for eternity – in which a septillion years of endless suffering would not bring a person any closer to the end of it.
Regarding God burdening no soul more than it can bear: I have been told this same sentiment word-for-word by some Christians as well, and while it is a sentiment I wish to embrace with open arms, it is a great challenge. I have watched parts of myself crumble away as my illness has taken its toll, especially in the last few years, and in my deep isolation it has become difficult for me to see God at all. It is presumably true, as Muslims and Christians alike have told me, that the darkness that has left me feeling “separated” from God is the work of the adversary, of Satan. I have watched myself, especially over the last few months, turn bitter and sometimes even hateful. For someone who has spent their whole life trying to live a life of boundless compassion and equanimity, this has been a painful fate.
Thank you again for corresponding with me, despite my long-windedness. I am more grateful than I can put into words.– former WhyIslam.org visitor
In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Worrying about one’s friends and family is normal and commendable. It is precisely for this reason that every Prophet has been the primary advocate to his community. It is this urgency that activates the believer and makes him or her yearn to pass on what he or she knows of the truth to those around them. Rest assured that God does not punish anyone unjustly. Those who did not receive any prophet or follower of a prophet will have their own special test on Judgment Day by God Himself.
God Burdens No Soul More Than It Can Bear
I totally understand your point, and I admit it seems clichéd. However, we have the following verses in the Qur’an that I often cite when I talk to people about this: And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient. Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided. (2:155-157)
Here is how I look at it: Life can be painful sometimes. For some people, the pain is occasional and for some people the pain is the norm. How can we reconcile this with God and His Benevolence? It is a variation on the Problem of Evil that atheists and philosophers have been arguing for centuries. How can a person believe in God with all the suffering that exists? The suffering is real. How can we maintain faith? My response usually starts with the intellectual angle: God did not create this world and put us on it so we could eat, drink, and be merry. No. God clearly states in the Qur’an in many places that this earth is just a proving ground. It is a place of tests and trials to see who will be “best in deeds.” When the conversation turns more personal, I usually ask the person “So what is the alternative?” If the pain is real, then either the atheists are right and there is no God who cares up there and life is nothing more than a brutal existence of pain and loss punctuated with occasional pleasures. . . or maybe there is a rhyme and reason behind it all.
It is in fact a very basic part of faith, whether you look at Islam or Christianity or Buddhism or other religions. Religions all say there is some larger pattern beyond what is immediately perceived by our normal senses. Here is another Qur’an quote: No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah , is easy. In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful. (57:22-23)
The Prophet also said, “..Be mindful of Allah, you will find Him before you. Get to know Allah in prosperity and He will know you in adversity. Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you; and that what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.”
This faith is what keeps a Muslim going in times of hardship and calamity. So this is the Qur’an’s claim to truth: that there is pain and suffering and God is aware of it and allows it. In fact, He created this world precisely to test His creatures (human beings) with pain and suffering as well as with pleasures and bounties. The question is whether we accept this “reality of life” or whether we try to find some other alternative theory of what life is really all about.
And God knows best.