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Allah (ﷻ) said only "Shirk" is unforgivable. If only Shirk is unforgivable, does that by default mean that any non-Muslim who doesn't commit Shirk can be forgiven and enter Jannah (Paradise)? Not all Kuffar (unbelievers) commit Shirk.

Please, some other things to think about as this question is answered:

  1. If we say they "can" be interchangeable, why in this verse was the more specific term ("Shirk") used instead of the all-inclusive term "Kufr"? And how do we know they are being used interchangeably here?

  2. There are also verses which say that disbelievers will abide in Hell forever. But there is also a verse that says the same regarding Riba. If the latter is explained as meaning "for a very long time" then in light of the verse on 'unforgivable Shirk' could the same ("very long time") not apply to the verses on disbelievers abiding?

What is the view of Ahl Al Sunnah regarding this issue? Do All Kuffar stay in Hell forever or do only the Shirk committing Kuffar stay in Hell forever? Please do quote scholars but definitely do post their evidences.

JazakAllah Khair to whoever can clear away my confusions.

  • "But there is also a verse that says the same regarding Riba." - Can you cite that verse? I'm not aware of it. Other than that, this answer might have a few useful pointers, especially "Who are the disbelievers" by Hamza Yusuf. – G. Bach Aug 5 '17 at 16:24
  • Verse 2:275 says in the last part: "whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein". – Muslimah يا رب العالمين Aug 5 '17 at 20:00
  • This is a non consensual issue. Mr tariq ramadan for instance is partisan of the "finite time in hell" theory. – user5751924 Aug 5 '17 at 22:28
  • The vast majority of Islamic scholars, overwhelmingly, all agree that Hell will exist eternally and people will be there eternally.. because the verse on Shirk makes this clear. Tariq Ramadan is in a very small, insignificant minority if he thinks that. But my question isn't about whether Hell exists eternally (as I acknowledge that it does) but rather about who stays there forever.. per the views of Ahl Al Sunnah – Muslimah يا رب العالمين Aug 5 '17 at 23:30
  • @Insight01 In the answer I linked you, I reference "faysal at-tafriqa" by al-Ghazali; he's pretty explicit that any kafir (in the "major kufr" sense) and any mushrik will remain in hell to be tortured eternally. I expect any work on aqida should outline this completely fundamental doctrine. Have you checked any and found them vague on this point? – G. Bach Aug 6 '17 at 0:02
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Kuffar (disbelievers) remain in Hell forever. This is expressed in the Quran in multiple places in multiple ways e.g:

إن تستغفر لهم سبعين مرة فلن يغفر الله لهم ذلك بأنهم كفروا بالله ورسوله

If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times - never will Allah forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger.

Quran 9:80, also see 47:34 and 4:168

والذين كفروا لهم نار جهنم لا يقضى عليهم فيموتوا ولا يخفف عنهم من عذابها كذلك نجزي كل كفور

And for those who disbelieve will be the fire of Hell. [Death] is not decreed for them so they may die, nor will its torment be lightened for them. Thus do we recompense every ungrateful one.

Quran 35:36

إن الذين كفروا لو أن لهم ما في الأرض جميعا ومثله معه ليفتدوا به من عذاب يوم القيامة ما تقبل منهم ولهم عذاب أليم يريدون أن يخرجوا من النار وما هم بخارجين منها ولهم عذاب مقيم

Indeed, those who disbelieve - if they should have all that is in the earth and the like of it with it by which to ransom themselves from the punishment of the Day of Resurrection, it will not be accepted from them, and for them is a painful punishment. They will wish to get out of the Fire, but never are they to emerge therefrom, and for them is an enduring punishment.

Quran 5:36-37

إن الله لعن الكافرين وأعد لهم سعيراً خالدين فيها أبداً لا يجدون ولياً ولا نصيراً

Indeed, Allah has cursed the disbelievers and prepared for them a Blaze. Abiding therein forever, they will not find a protector or a helper.

Quran 33:64-65

إن الذين كفروا وماتوا وهم كفار أولئك عليهم لعنة الله والملائكة والناس أجمعين خالدين فيها لا يخفف عنهم العذاب ولا هم ينظرون

Indeed, those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers - upon them will be the curse of Allah and of the angels and the people, all together. Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved.

Quran 2:161-162

وعد الله ... والكفار نار جهنم خالدين فيها هي حسبهم ولعنهم الله ولهم عذاب مقيم

Allah has promised ... and the disbelievers the fire of Hell, wherein they will abide eternally. It is sufficient for them. And Allah has cursed them, and for them is an enduring punishment.

Quran 9:68

إن الذين كذبوا بآياتنا واستكبروا عنها لا تفتح لهم أبواب السماء ولا يدخلون الجنة حتى يلج الجمل في سم الخياط وكذلك نجزي المجرمين

Indeed, those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them - the gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needle. And thus do We recompense the criminals.

Quran 7:40

Now regarding Muslims who commit major sins ( أهل الكبائر ) the aqeedah of the Mutazilah and Khawarij was that they also remain in hell forever. And they used evidences like the verse on Riba which you referred to [2:275] and others which would probably be too broad to cover here.

The aqeedah of the Ahle Sunnah (as well as the Imamiyah), however, is that if a person dies a Muslim he will eventually enter paradise, provided that his sin was a mistake due to weakness and not a rejection of the divine command. He may be forgiven through Allah's mercy, through intercession, by virtue of his other good deeds etc. And if he is punished then he will atone for his sins for a finite time and then be admitted to paradise.

The evidence of the Ahle Sunnah includes 4:48 and 4:116 where Allah says that he may forgive whatever is less than shirk i.e kufr and mutawatir hadith to the effect:

يخرج من النار من قال لا إله إلا الله وفي قلبه وزن شعيرة من خير

Whoever said "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of a barley grain will be taken out of Hell.

Bukhari, Narrated by Anas

ثم يقول الله تعالى أخرجوا من كان فى قلبه مثقال حبة من خردل من إيمان

Allah will order those who have had faith equal to the weight of a grain of mustard seed to be taken out from Hell.

Bukhari, Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri

أتاني جبريل فبشرني أنه من مات لا يشرك بالله شيئا دخل الجنة قلت وإن سرق وإن زنى قال وإن سرق وإن زنى

Gabriel came to me and gave me the glad tidings that anyone who died without worshipping anything besides Allah, would enter Paradise. I asked (Gabriel), 'Even if he committed theft, and even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse?' He said, '(Yes), even if he committed theft, and even if he Committed illegal sexual intercourse."

Bukhari, Narrated Abu Dharr , also by Abdullah bin Masud and Jabir bin Abdullah

The Ahle Sunnah provide several answers to resolve 2:275:

  • The words interpreted to mean "abiding eternally" is خَالِدُونَ ; there is no other expression used anywhere that conveys the same meaning (unlike the eternal punishment for Kufr as detailed at the top). خلود by itself does not always mean absolute eternity. Nor does it negate Allah's will to remove people from hell fire:

    خالدين فيها ما دامت السماوات والأرض إلا ما شاء ربك إن ربك فعال لما يريد

    [They will be] abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except what your Lord should will. Indeed, your Lord is an effecter of what He intends.

    Quran 11:107

    قال النار مثواكم خالدين فيها إلا ما شاء الله

    He will say, "The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide [eternally], except for what Allah wills.

    Quran 6:128

  • These verses mention the full recompense ( جزاء ). It is upon Allah to forgive and be lenient to whom He wills, there is no indication in the Quran that Allah will never forgive one who indulges in Riba, unlike Kufr and Shirk.

    لله ما في السماوات وما في الأرض وإن تبدوا ما في أنفسكم أو تخفوه يحاسبكم به الله فيغفر لمن يشاء ويعذب من يشاء والله على كل شيء قدير

    To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and whether you disclose what is in your ownselves or conceal it, Allah will call you to account for it. Then he forgives whom he wills and punishes whom he wills. And Allah is Able to do all things.

    Quran 2:284

  • The subject of these verse (مَنْ whoever) are a specific group and not literally everyone who indulges in Riba.

    ومن عاد فأولئك أصحاب النار هم فيها خالدون

    But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.

    The subject are only those people who indulge in it while considering it lawful and say that Riba is like trade, which is Kufr. مَنْ is limited to a specific scope and not categorical.

    Examples to illustrate this from the Quran include:

    ومن يقتل مؤمنا متعمدا فجزاؤه جهنم

    But whoever kills a believer intentionally - his recompense is Hell

    Quran 4:93

    It is obvious that "whoever" is not all-inclusive, e.g. it does not include those who are charged to execute people for Zina, Qisas, Irtidad, Hirabah etc.

    ومن يكفر به من الأحزاب فالنار موعده

    But whoever disbelieves in it from the [various] factions - the Fire is his promised destination.

    Quran 11:17

    Again, "whoever" is not all-inclusive of everyone who ever disbelieved, but only applies to those who died on disbelief.

    Similarly, the warning of 2:275 is not all-inclusive of all those who engage in Riba, but those who consider it lawful.

  • What about munafiqun? What could their end be? – Fahad Uddin Jul 3 at 11:16
  • @FahadUddin There are two types of Nifaq. The greater Nifaq,which is the one that is mentioned in the Quran, is a subtype of Kufr, a munafiq is really a disbeliever at heart but only acts like a Muslim in order to deceive people. These would remain in hell forever and the above verse 9:68 mentions that explicitly and 9:80 is also about such a Munafiq. For details see e.g. islamqa.info/en/answers/153691/… – UmH Jul 3 at 12:36
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❶ - Just to be clear and in regards to what Henna said and to refute her statement, the same word for eternity was used in the following ayah (nothing to do with her huqb analysis of a random unrelated ayah and unrelated word as per this discussion):

وَمَا جَعَلْنَا لِبَشَرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ الْخُلْدَ ۖ أَفَإِن مِّتَّ فَهُمُ الْخَالِدُونَ - "And We granted not to any human being immortality before you (O Muhammad), then if you die, would they live forever?" (21:34)

This is a significant ayah to understand this whole issue. Briefly, as a context, in this ayah 'Allah is consoling the Prophet that if he were to die, the disbelievers also would one day die, and be brought to account. They would not live forever to continue their disbelief without facing justice and having to answer for the truth they rejected which was brought by the Prophet. So even if you were to die, it does not mean they have been victorious. Indeed, they will also die one day, sooner or later, and be questioned for their rejection of truth. We should also remember many of the disbelievers were waiting for difficulties to come to the Prophet, and were also trying to kill him, thinking that will end the message and truth he brought, but Allah informs them and us through this ayah that the death of the Prophet will not mean the disbelievers have escaped the punishment that is to come'. It is important to understand this context as it relates to the issue on hand: eternity.

Highlighted in bold text indicates the translations used. But regardless of the translations, the context of the ayah indicates eternal life, as Allah is contrasting the death of the Prophet and saying "will the disbelievers not die? Will your death save them...." etc. Now looking at the verse on riba:

وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ... - "...But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein." (2:275)

Taking both these verses indicates eternity, similar to the verses on disbelievers being eternally in Hell-fire. And likewise are others mentioned similarly as being in Hell-fire to abide therein. One example just so we are all up to speed and clear:

إِنَّ الْمُجْرِمِينَ فِي عَذَابِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدُونَ - "Verily, the Mujrimûn (criminals, sinners, disbelievers, etc.) will be in the torment of Hell to abide therein forever." (43:74)

❷ - So, now we are rightly faced with a problem, which is the whole reason of your question. Riba is a sin which is not shirk and not kufr, and so can criminality be (not shirk or kufr, although it can also indicate the criminality of shirk and kufr). Yet, we have eternity in Hell being mentioned, so to clear this confusion, we go to the sources of tafseer to seek an explanation. The first and highest means of tafseer is to use the Qur'an to explain the Qur'an, and when we scan the whole of the Qur'an (and the Sunnah), we find one explicit and clear and repeatedly mentioned reason for the eternal punishment of Hell, and that is shirk. One example:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا - "Verily, Allâh forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases, and whoever sets up partners with Allâh in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin." (4:48)

❸ - Following on from the above, and this is why people confuse such issues because it is built on a structure which you have to understand before going to the next, we have a situation where the only way to interpret the ayat on eternal Hell is in the context of shirk, whether that shirk is mentioned explicitly or not. Eg, those criminals who will be eternally in Hell must be there because they committed shirk (NOT that all criminals are mushrik but those who are mushrik, will be in Hell eternally). Same for those in riba (if they have committed shirk while consuming riba, eg they have legislated in their minds that shirk is halal as opposed to accepting it as a sin, such will be eternally in Hell). All this is on account of the shirk they committed, not the sin of criminality or riba as such.

❹ - Now we come to the real question upon which all the above is based:

"If only Shirk is unforgivable, does that by default mean that any non-Muslim who doesn't commit Shirk can be forgiven and enter Jannah (Paradise)? Not all Kuffar (unbelievers) commit Shirk."

I will not discuss this due to the fitnah it can cause, and also because I am only a student of the Deen. However, what is to be investigated in this regard is what really is shirk, how it is caused, and further, the hidden causes of shirk and even minor shirk (which some scholars have stated will be treated as major shirk, on account of the Qur'an and Sunnah never indicating separate/different punishments for minor and major shirk, as per their understanding). Once we understand the real nature of shirk, we will be better able to see whether there are kuffar who might be outside of the scope of shirk or not, and in what levels. Perhaps due to the complexity of this issue and that there are derivations needed, and being a very sensitive issue with profound implications, the scholars have not made a blueprint on exact point by point calculations. Instead, many seem to have said kufr and shirk is interchangeable, and in many cases, it might be the case. As for specifics, it may be that we have not been given complete knowledge over it. I have my own views, which like I said I won't share here in the open due to the fitnah it may cause.

  • sorry read it wrong so deleted it and we aren't here to refute each other... – henna_ Jan 14 '18 at 19:40

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