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"…But the guilty will not be asked about their sins" (Quran 28:78)

 

 "…But the guilty will not be asked about their sins" (Quran 28:78)

Was published in Arabic in August 14, 2015

Translated by Ahmed Fathy

 

He said to me: God says in the Quran: "…But the guilty will not be asked about their sins" (28:78). Is this not contradictory to the torment of sinners in Hell in the Afterlife in the following verse "The guilty will be recognized by their marks; they will be taken by the forelocks and the feet." (55:41)?

I said to him: 28:78 tackles the questioning and reckoning in the Day of Judgment, whereas 55:41 tackles afterlife punishment in Hell.

He said: Is there a contradiction? I say that sinners' punishment in the Afterlife entails their submission to judgment and reckoning first; what about "And the sinners will see the Fire, and will realize that they will tumble into it. They will find no deliverance from it." (18:53)?

I said: As for 28:78, it deals with questioning the sinners in this life, not in the Day of Judgment, when every human being will be judged for sure before the Almighty.

He said: I agree to that view concerning 28:78, but is not that unjust? How come sinners in this life will not be questioned, whereas the exact opposite happens to the innocent and the weak?

I said: In 28:78, we find no legislation; i.e., no divine command is to be found here. This is mere description to injustice recurrent in this transient life. This injustice is refused of course in the Quran. God orders us to adhere to justice, charity, and good deeds and to eschew evildoing, wrongdoing, injustice, and sins. Hence, in 28:78, we find the context tackling the story of Quaroon.

He said: Even so, is not there a contradiction between 28:78 and the punishment Quaroon received as per the Quranic text? We find in the Quran: "So We caused the earth to cave in on him and his mansion. He had no company to save him from God, and he could not defend himself." (28:81). God has punished Moses' Pharaoh and his people and all who had imitated them: "Like the behavior of Pharaoh's people and those before them. They rejected Our signs, so God seized them for their sins. God is Strict in retribution." (3:11). "Like the behavior of the people of Pharaoh, and those before them. They rejected the signs of God, so God seized them for their sins. God is Powerful, Severe in punishment. That is because God would never change a blessing He has bestowed on a people unless they change what is within themselves, and because God is Hearing and Knowing. Such was the case with the people of Pharaoh, and those before them. They denied the signs of their Lord, so We annihilated them for their wrongs, and We drowned the people of Pharaoh-they were all evildoers." (8:52-54). God has punished people in times before Moses' Pharaoh as well: "Have they not considered how many generations We destroyed before them? We had established them on earth more firmly than We established you, and We sent the clouds pouring down abundant rain on them, and We made rivers flow beneath them. But We destroyed them for their sins, and established other civilizations after them." (6:6) and "Is it not guidance for those who inherit the land after its inhabitants, that if We willed, We could strike them for their sins? And seal up their hearts, so that they would not hear?" (7:100).

I said: I see that you are mixing the questioning in this life and punishment in both this life and the next.

He said: But all people in these verses are sinners: "If only there were, among the generations before you, people with wisdom, who spoke against corruption on earth-except for the few whom We saved. But the wrongdoers pursued the luxuries they were indulged in, and thus became guilty." (11:116), "Are they better, or the people of Tubba and those before them? We annihilated them. They were evildoers." (44:37), and "He said, "So what is your business, O envoys?" They said, "We were sent to a sinful people." "Except for the family of Lot; we will save them all."" (15:57-59).

I said: I repeat: you are mixing the questioning in this life and punishment in this life and in the Afterlife. Questioning in this life differs from punishment; both are different stages. Unjust sinners in tyranny and power cannot be questioned by humans around them at the first stage, and then come the second stage of punishment. Do not mix the two steps.

He said: OK; in the stage of tyranny, sinners cannot be questioned, but how their punishment is exacted despite such tyranny?

I said: The punishment has come every time by God, as with the cases of Moses' Pharaoh and Quaroon, in the examples you have mentioned. This has been complete destruction for unjust sinners. After the era of Moses' Pharaoh, partial destruction has been the norm; God leaves the unjust tyrants struggle against one another and destroy one another. We are warned against this: "Say, "He is Able to send upon you an affliction, from above you, or from under your feet. Or He can divide you into factions, and make you taste the violence of one another. Note how We explain the revelations, so that they may understand." But your people rejected it, though it is the truth. Say, "I am not responsible for you." For every happening is a finality, and you will surely know." (6:65-67). Otherwise, fighting is ordered to stop the tyranny of the unjust.

He said: Is this the meaning of "…Were it not that God repels people by means of others …" (22:40)?

I said: Yes. We read in the Quran: "Those who were unjustly evicted from their homes, merely for saying, "Our Lord is God." Were it not that God repels people by means of others: monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques-where the name of God is mentioned much-would have been demolished. God supports whoever supports Him. God is Strong and Mighty." (22:40) and "And they defeated them by God's leave, and David killed Goliath, and God gave him sovereignty and wisdom, and taught him as He willed. Were it not for God restraining the people, some by means of others, the earth would have gone to ruin. But God is gracious towards mankind." (2:251). This is why fighting is imposed to stop the unjust tyrants who sin against their people.

He said: What is your meaning then to 28:78 in everyday realities?

I said: IT describes aptly the unjust sinners and tyrants of nowadays.

He said: How? Explain your point further, please.

I said: Imagine yourself in a prison cell being tortured. Can you possibly question your tormentors? Questioning here entails your being in a position of power and authority to judge, question, and punish the wrongdoer.

He said: Impossible. In that case, I have nothing to do but to scream and plead for mercy.

I said: Tyrants of the Middle East like Nasser, Saddam, Kaddafi, the KSA kings, and many others could not be questioned about their dealings with their peoples and their rule system, right?

He said: Yes; anyone who dared to question them would be accused of treason and be killed or imprisoned. Mere advice softened with linguistic hedges addressed to the KSA king is considered a crime punishable by death. In the KSA, they are used to saying that old men, sheikhs, and clergymen know best; they are not to be advised at all.

I said: They are the sinning unjust tyrants of our age, like Moses' Pharaoh. In every age, there are tyrants who imitate Moses' Pharaoh.

He said: I see that you are always attacking and criticizing tyrants of the Middle East, right?

I said: This is because of our bitter experience when we have called for peaceful reform suing the Quran as the yard stick in all issues, asserting that Islam is the religion of complete religious freedom to every citizen, democracy for all nations, mercy, and human rights. Tyrants of the Middle East claim being Muslims, but with their tyranny reject Islam and punish Quranists who show clearly facts of real Islam; i.e. the Quran alone. The reason: facts of real Islam expose tyrants who cannot be questioned during their lifetimes.

He said: What about tyrants of the West?

I said: They met their punishment/fate already; as the case with Hitler, Mussolini, and other European tyrants. The West waged World War I and II to being an end to tyranny and injustice. A president in the West countries is just the head of the executive authority in a given country; he and his administration employees are civil servants to their nations, not high unquestionable figures of absolute power. A president in the West can be questioned, impeached, and sued. This happened in the USA; remember Nixon and the Water Gate scandal. He tendered his resignation to escape the accusation of treason before the Congress. Remember Clinton and the Monica Lewinski scandal; he had a narrow escape, despite his good administration as a president.

He said: Do you mean to tell me that in your opinion, they are faultless angels?!

I said: No, but we mean that they can be impeached, sued, and questioned by the representatives of the nation (e.g., the Congress); thus, they are innocent until proved guilty of crimes and/or corruption. Let us pose this question to you: can you imagine a People's Assembly/Congress in Egypt or any other Arab Middle-Eastern country that have the power to question, impeach, punish, and remove a president from his post?

He said: This would happen only in our reveries.     


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