We continue our discussion of surah 19:71 by addressing a Muslims response to the initial article on this passage. Moiz Amjad published a response to Jochen Katzs analysis of whether or not the Quran teaches that all Muslims will enter hell. Mr. Amjads response, even though intended to refute our argument, actually serves to reinforce the points made in Part 1 as we shall shortly see here.
Mr. Amjad begins:
In one of his articles Mr. Jochen Katz has pointed out a contradiction in Aal Imraan 3: 157 -- 158, 169, Al-Taubah 9: 111 and Maryam 19: 71.
Elaborating upon the contradiction in the stated verses, Mr. Katz writes:
According to Sura 19:71 every Muslim will go to Hell (for at least some time), while another passage states that those who die in Jihad will go to Paradise immediately.
Before analyzing the stated contradiction, I would first like to inform my readers that it is not merely the martyrs in the way of God, who have been promised complete immunity from hellfire, but, in fact, all the God-fearing believers have been promised to be kept in protection from the slightest of evil. Al-Zumar 39: 60 -- 61 declares:
And on the Day of Resurrection, you will see those, who blasphemed against God, their faces turned black -- Is not in the hellfire [a most suitable] abode for the arrogant? And God shall deliver the righteous with salvation, no harm shall [even] touch them, nor shall they grieve.
According to Al-Anbiyaa 21: 98 -- 103 the pious shall not only be saved from all evil, but shall be kept so far away from the burning fire that they shall not even hear the horrifying sounds of the growling fires. The verses read as:
You and whatever you worship except God shall be the fuel of hellfire, to which, all of you shall surely come -- had these truly been gods, they would not have reached this [end] -- all [burning] in it, forever. In it, for them shall be painful groans of anguish and in they shall be bereft of hearing. Indeed, those, for whom We have already promised the good, they shall be kept away from this [hellfire]. They shall not even hear the slightest sound of the growling fire; and they shall be among all that their souls shall desire, forever. They shall not be grieved by the great terror. And the angels shall receive them [saying]: 'This is the day, of which you were promised'.
It is clearly stated in the aforementioned verses that all pious, God-fearing and righteous people shall not be even touched or brought close to the encompassing flames of the hellfire. Thus, it is not merely the martyrs, but all those, who do not deserve to be thrown in the burning fires of hell, who shall remain completely immune from even the slightest of pains and tortures of hellfire.
Mr. Amjad, by mentioning these passages, has only compounded the problem. We showed in the first part of our paper that the contextual evidence points to everyone, including Muslims, entering hell. Even the Muslim commentators admitted that the majority of Muslims held this view. Hence, Mr. Amjads appeal to passages that deny that Muslims will suffer in hell only reinforces Mr. Katzs claim that the Quran is contradicting itself. In one place it says ALL shall enter hell, in other places it says that believers will be kept from even hearing the sound of the growling fire, a blatant contradiction.
Furthermore, as was also noted in the first part, surah 21:98 provides evidence for understanding the Arabic word wurood in surah 19:71 as implying a literal entrance into hell. Even Mr. Amjad realizes this fact. More on this later.
Mr. Amjad continues:
Keeping the foregoing clarification in perspective, now let us take a close look at the relevant verses of Surah Maryam. The verses cited by Mr. Katz (verses 71 -- 72), with a few of its preceding verses are reproduced below:
And [yet, disregarding the power of God,] this [rejecting] man says: 'When I am dead, would I really be raised again?' Does this man not remember that before this, We created him, while he was nothing? Thus, by [the providence of] your Lord, indeed We shall gather them as well as [all] the devils and then We shall bring them forth, around the hellfire, squatting. Then, of each group, We shall separate the one, who was most obstinate in his rebellion against the Most Merciful. And We are indeed aware of those, who are most deserving of burning in it. And each one of you, shall surely come to this [fire]. This is a promise of your Lord, that must come to pass. Then, we shall save the righteous [from all suffering] and We shall abandon the wrong-doers in it, squatting.
In the context of the verse, it is quite clear that the words "Each one of you..." are addressed to the rejecters of the Prophet's call. The addressees of this verse are, in fact, the same people who are being warned and admonished in the immediately preceding verses. Thus, seen in the correct perspective, the referred verses of Surah Maryam are, more or less, similar in meaning to the cited verses of Surah Al-Anbiyaa. Thus, Al-Raaziy has also mentioned the foregoing opinion about the referred verse in his commentary. He writes:
Some of them are of the opinion that the addressees in this verse are the same rejecters, who are mentioned in the preceding verses. They are first addressed in the third person and then admonished in the second person. The adherents of this opinion say: 'It is not correct to assume that the believers shall enter hellfire, on the basis of the following: Firstly, the Qur'an has declared in Al-Anbiyaa 21: 101 that "Indeed, those, for whom We have already promised the good, they shall be kept away from this hellfire", being 'kept away' from hellfire cannot be spoken for those who shall enter it. Secondly, the Qur'an says: "They shall not hear its slightest sound". Were they to enter the hellfire, the believers would then most certainly hear its sounds. And thirdly, the Qur'an says: "They [i.e. the believers] shall that day be secure from all panic".
As should be clear from the foregoing explanation, the Qur'an does not, at any instance, declare that the true believers shall be made to enter hellfire. Such an end is promised only for those whose arrogance and pride drove them to reject the truth even after having clearly recognized it.
Mr. Amjad presumes that his proposed interpretation that 19:71 refers to Muhammads rejecters is "quite clear", whereas this isnt necessarily the case. First, notice that ar-Razi doesnt give any contextual reasons from surah 19 to deny that every one will enter hell. Instead, ar-Razi simply mentions some Muslims who denied that believers would enter hell on the basis of other Quranic verses! But this is precisely the problem we had raised, namely, that the Quran is contradicting itself on the fate of Muslims. One cant simply quote verses that deny that believers will go to hell and somehow assume that this solves the problem, since the only thing these other passages show is that there is a substantial error within the Quran.
Second, a careful look at the overall context of the passage demonstrates that several different groups are in view:
And says man, `What! when I am dead, shall I be brought forth alive?' Does not man remember that WE created him before, when he was nothing? And, by thy Lord, WE shall assuredly gather them together, and the satans too; then shall WE bring them on their knees around Hell. Then shall WE certainly pick out, from every group, those of them who were most stubborn in rebellion against the Gracious God. And surely, WE know best those deserving to be burnt therein. And there is not one of YOU but will come to it. This is an absolute decree of thy Lord. S. 19:66-71 Sher Ali
Note carefully the shift in referents. The passage speaks of the unbelievers by referring to them in a collective sense ("man", "them"), then to the satans, and then changes from third person usage to second person plural (YOU). Now a change in address doesnt necessarily imply that there is a change in referent. But when the passage mentions and interjects a different group within the discussion, namely satans, then a case can be made that more than one entity is being addressed. It is quite easy to see three groups here, specifically unbelievers, satans and believers. The text is therefore implying that:
It may even be that "man" (singular) refers to the disbelief that all the pagan Arabs in Mecca initially had regarding the resurrection, whether believers or unbelievers. The text then moves on from there to distinguish between those who choose to believe from those who remain doubtful about the possibility of an actual general resurrection of the dead. The text would therefore be understood to mean that:
Third, as we had mentioned in Part 1, the majority of Muslims agreed and settled on the interpretation that surah 19:71 is not limited to those who rejected Muhammad, but believed that everyone would enter hell. That they believed that everyone will enter hell, whether believer or unbeliever, righteous or unrighteous, shows that even these Muslims didnt think that the group entering hell was limited to only those that rejected Muhammads call. They saw nothing in the context which limited the discussion to unbelievers.
Even Mr. Amjads own source, ar-Razi, implies that many other Muslims agreed that 19:71 refers to every person entering hell. Do note ar-Razis comments carefully:
SOME OF THEM are of the opinion that the addressees in this verse are the same rejecters, who are mentioned in the preceding verses
Ar-Razis SOME OF THEM implies that not all shared the same opinion, but that there were other Muslims who held to a different view from the one proposed by Mr. Amjad. We are currently working on translating ar-Razis comments and will post them here for all to read.
Fourth, Mr. Amjads attempt of trying to connect the passage with the verses that mention those who rejected the message introduces additional problems. The verse right after 71 says:
Then We shall rescue those who kept from evil, and leave the evil-doers crouching there. Pickthall
Thus, according to 19:72, Allah will take out of hell those who were righteous, which implies that if Mr. Amjads understanding is correct then:
Yet this last point contradicts the following passage:
The forgiveness is not for those who do ill-deeds until, when death attendeth upon one of them, he saith: Lo! I repent now; nor yet for those who die while they are disbelievers. For such We have prepared a painful doom. S. 4:18 Pickthall
Mr. Amjad cannot avoid accepting the above conclusions since they are the natural result of both the context of the passage and of his preferred interpretation. Note how Mr. Amjad himself renders the text:
Then, we shall save the righteous [from all suffering] and We shall abandon the wrong-doers in IT, squatting.
Mr. Amjads own interpretation of the verse doesnt disprove that believers will enter hell, but rather proves our position; it proves that believers WILL ENTER hell, even though Mr. Amjads rendering implies that they will be spared any suffering while there. To put it in another way, Mr. Amjads rendering implies that the righteous, or those who kept themselves from doing evil, will not experience any suffering while in hell, but they will still enter in hell nonetheless, precisely what some Muslims of the past believed. See Part 1 for the details. Hence, irrespective of whether believers suffer pain or not, this point is still clear: Mr. Amjads own proposed translation inevitably leads to the fact that Muslims will definitely enter hell.
Mr. Amjads preferred translation even proves our point that the Arabic word translated "shall surely come to this" (wariduha from wurood), implies a literal entrance into hell. Note, again, how he rendered 19:71:
And each one of you, shall surely come to this [fire]
Mr. Amjad understands the text to be saying that people will come to the fire, demonstrating our case that the passage does refer to a literal entrance into hell. Realizing this, Mr. Amjad is then forced to find a way of differentiating between those who come to it from the righteous who are saved. His translation therefore implies that there are two groups in view, not one. We already saw why his reconciliation causes him more problems than solutions.
Be that as it may, Mr. Amjad acknowledges that the text does speak of people actually entering INTO hell, and not simply passing over it as some suggest. Thus, even his own exegesis lends further support to what we have been saying. It demonstrates that the natural reading of the text points in the direction of everyone having to go down into hell, which means that every Muslim must spend some time there as well. Mr. Amjad has been trying hard to deny this last fact, but to no avail.
Contradictions in the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page