There is a whole lot of hellfire in the Quran.  A whole lot more than this slightly post-modern evangelical Christian is used to.  I have hashed and rehashed this topic many times on this blog, so I am not going back down this road here again today.  The question when you read a passage like today’s surah is whether Allah is forgiving. 

In the midst of rehearsing how Allah has always sent messengers to people (like Pharaoh), how inclined people are to reject, and how punishment is therefore merited and assured, is a resounding “YES!” 

This Scripture is sent down from God, the Almighty, the All Knowing, Forgiver of sins and Accepter of repentance. (40:2-3)

Three more times in the surah the word “forgive” appears in some form or another:

  • Angels “beg forgiveness for the believers” (40:7-8)
  • Later, Allah is called the “Forgiving One” (40:42)
  • Muhammad is encouraged to ask forgiveness for his sins as well (40:55)
  • Oh, and the very name of this surah is “The Forgiver.”

Is Allah forgiving?  For sure.  Those who ask for forgiveness, those who show great repentance, those who turn from their evil ways can be assured of Allah’s mercy. 

There is another interesting tidbit in this surah, in this ayah here:

They [dead disbelievers] will say, “Our Lord, twice You have caused us to be lifeless and twice you have brought us to life. . . .” (40:11)

It would appear this is a line that would be spoken by an unbeliever at the point of Judgment.  When are the two periods of lifelessness before Judgment?  Translator Haleem offers a “generally accepted view” that this is referring to the point before physical birth and after physical death.  Then the two points when a person is “brought to life” are physical birth and the resurrection of the soul for Judgment.  This certainly makes sense. 

This is an interesting question that many religions ask: what kinds of consciousness have/do/will we have and when?  If Haleem is correct in saying this is a commonly held Islamic belief, then it would appear many Muslims believe there is a period after physical death and before the future Last Judgment in which the soul is “dead” or at least unconscious.

Many Christians like the comfort of the thought that the moment grandma dies she is whisked by angels straight to the side of God.  So, we can say with confidence and joy at the funeral days later, “Today, Grandma is smiling down at us today from Heaven.” 

I am not so sure the Bible is as clear on that idea as we might like.  It certainly seems the timeline the Quranic passage sketches out makes more sense if one believes there is a future day of Judgment.  For Grandma to be with Jesus, wouldn’t she have had to have been judged already?  Of course, I hope dearly that Grandma will be in Heaven, but that would mean there has to be billions of individual Judgment Days each time a person dies.  That is possible, of course.  Or maybe there is a future Resurrection and a future Judgment, as the Quran talks about it (and maybe the Bible, too?). 

I’ll tell you when I get there.

I just have a few notable passages from today’s reading.

He [Allah] makes Satan’s insinuations a temptation only for the sick at heart and those whose hearts are hardened — the evildoers are profoundly opposed [to the Truth] — and He causes those given knowledge to realize that this Revelation is your Lord’s Truth, so that they may believe in it and humble their hearts to Him: God guides the faithful to the straight path.  (22:53-54)

According to these ayahs, unbelief is due to spiritual weakness and stubbornness.  If you want to believe, you can. 

He [Allah] will give a generous provision to those who migrated in God’s way and were killed or died: He is the Best Provider.  He will admit them to a place that will please them.  (22:58-59)

Dying for Allah brings great reward.  Of course, we all know that some have done ugly things with verses like these. 

It is He [Allah] who gave you [people] life, will cause you to die, then will give you life again.  (22:66)

Creation–De-creation–Re-creation: this is the same cycle that is foundational to the biblical story, and it goes way beyond a literal life, death, and resurrection.

[Prophet], you can see the hostility on the faces of the disbelievers when Our messages are recited clearly to them: it is almost as if they are going to attack those who recite Our messages to them.  Say, “Shall I tell you what is far worse than what you feel now?  The Fire that God has promised the disbelievers!  What a dismal end!”  (22:72)

People find the message of God unpleasant right now.  It might mean change or risk.  But the punishment of Hell that will come later is way worse.  Think long-term. 

You people [idolaters], here is an illustration, so listen carefully: those you call on beside God could not, even if they combined all their forces, create a fly, and if a fly took something away from them, they would not be able to retrieve it.  How feeble are the petitioners and how feeble are those they petition! (22:73)


Best quote I’ve heard all day: “The only death I’ll celebrate is the death of my Savior.”