The Infinitely Merciful and the Question of Hellfire
Allah must be more merciful than all since He is the One who endowed His creation with the aptitude for mercy in the first place
Belonging to Allah are one hundred [portions of] mercy, of which He sent down a single mercy [and divided it] among the jinn, humans, animals, and insects. Because of it, they are compassionate with one another; and because of it, they are merciful with one another; and because of it, a beast is compassionate with her child - to the point that a horse lifts its hoof in fear of hurting its newborn...6
A mother’s mercy is but a fraction of Allah’s universal mercy which every human being enjoys in this life
On the day when Allah created mercy, He created mercy to be one hundred [portions]. He retained with Him ninety-nine [portions of] mercy, and divided amidst His entire creation a single mercy. If the disbeliever were to realize all the mercy that is with Allah, he would never despair of [entering] Paradise. And if the believer were to realize all the punishment that is with Allah, he would never feel secure from Hellfire.7
Allah has reserved an even greater mercy for the believers in the afterlife
Though the mercy of Allah is without limits, Allah is not limited by His mercy
Allah's sending His messengers and scriptures to mankind and inspiring people to recognize and embody guidance is the greatest mercy of all
It was from His universal mercy to send the messengers and grant respite to the sinners. But when the disbeliever rejects Him, he exits to the station of stubborn rebellion, and thereby is no longer eligible for mercy. As for His special mercy, this is for His believing slaves; He is delicate with them in hardships and ease, beyond the delicate care of a mother with her child.”24
There are four [who will protest to Allah] on the Day of Resurrection: the deaf man who could not hear anything, the insane man, the decrepit old man, and the man who died in the interval [between Jesus and Muhammad]. As for the deaf man, he will say, ‘O Lord, Islam came but I could not hear anything!’ As for the insane man, he will say, ‘O Lord, Islam came while the children were pelting me with dung!’ As for the decrepit old man, he will say, ‘O Lord, Islam came but I could not understand anything.’ As for the one who died in the interval, he will say, ‘O Lord, no messenger of Yours came to me.’ Their promises to obey Him will then be taken, and then word will be sent to them to enter the Fire. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, if they enter it, it will be cool and safe for them [and they will be entered into Paradise].25
Punishment in the Hellfire contains multiple layers of mercy
The Hellfire was created to frighten the believers and to purify the sinners and criminals. It serves as a means of purification from the filth which the soul contracted in this world. Had it purified itself here through genuine repentance, good deeds which erase [sins], and calamities which atone [for sins], it would not have needed to be purified there…
Allah, the Exalted, has no desire to punish His slaves without reason, as the Most High said, ‘What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing.’29 However, the wretched continued to alter their natural state and displace it from [the purity] it was created upon to its opposite, until the corruption became firmly rooted. So they were in need of removing this, and required another change and purification which transfers them back to health – since neither the recited and created signs of God, nor the pleasing and painful decrees He destined, reformed them in this world. It was for that reason that He provided them with more signs, experiences, and punishments that were superior to those in this worldly life – in order to uproot that evil and impurity which only fire can eliminate. And once the cause and reason for punishment vanishes, so does the punishment, and the reason for mercy then remains without opposition…30
The wisdom of Allah necessitated that He appoint an appropriate remedy for every disease, and remedying the misguided requires the most difficult remedies [to endure]. A compassionate doctor may cauterize the sick person, searing him with fire over and over again, in order to remove from him the foul elements that sabotaged his natural state of health. And if [this doctor] sees that amputating the limb is better for the sick person, he severs it, causing him by that the most severe pain. This is the fate which Allah destined for eliminating extraneous elements which undermine good health against a person’s will, so what about when the person willfully chooses to admit toxic elements upon his pure soul? When the intelligent person reflects on the laws of Allah (the Blessed and Exalted), His destined decree in this world, and His reward and punishment in the hereafter, he finds them perfectly suitable, appropriate, and interconnected. This is because it is all sourced in perfect knowledge, impeccable wisdom, and showering mercy. And indeed, He – the Glorified – is the True Supreme King, and His kingship is one of mercy, graciousness, and justice.31
And they will approach one another, inquiring of each other. A speaker among them will say, ‘Indeed, I had a companion [on earth] who would say, ‘Are you indeed of those who believe that when we have died and become dust and bones, we will indeed be recompensed?’’ He will say, ‘Would you [care to] look?’ And he will look and see him in the midst of the Hellfire. He will say, ‘By Allah, you almost ruined me. If not for the favor of my Lord, I would have been of those brought in [to Hell]. Then, are we not to die, except for our first death, and we will not be punished?’ Indeed, this is the great attainment. For the like of this, let the workers [on earth] work.32
2 Surat al-A‘rāf (7): 151, Surat Yūsuf (12): 64, Surat Yūsuf (12): 93, and Surat al-Anbiyā’ (21): 83.
3 Surat al-A‘rāf (7): 156; Sahih International Translation.
4 Majmū’ al-Fatāwā (16/448) by Ibn Taymiyya.
5 Collected by al-Bukhāri (1284) and Muslim (923).
6 Collected by Muslim (6908), Ibn Mājah (4293), and Ahmad (9607).
7 Collected by al-Bukhāri (6000, 6469).
8 At-Tadhkira (1/797) by al-Qurtubi.
9 Siyar A‘lām an-Nubalā’ (7/445) by adh-Dhahabi.
10 Collected by al-Hākim from Anas (rA), and by al-Albāni in Sahīh al-Jāmi‘ (7095).
11 Allah (the Most High) said, “But if they [stubbornly] turn away – then indeed, Allah does not love the disbelievers.” Surat Āl-‘Imrān (3): 32.
12 Surat al-Jāthiya (45): 21.
13 Surat Sād (38): 28.
14 Surat al-Qalam (68): 35-36.
15 Surat al-A‘rāf (7): 156.
16 Surat al-A‘rāf (7): 56.
17 Collected by al-Bukhāri (1284) and Muslim (923).
18 Surat aṣ-Ṣāffāt (37): 87.
19 Surat Yūnus (10): 58.
20 Collected by al-Bukhāri (5349) and Muslim (7042).
21 Collected by Abu Dāwud (4699) and Ahmad (21589).
22 Collected by al-Bukhāri (7416) and Muslim (2760).
23 Collected by Muslim (5671, 5672).
24 Kashf al-Mushkil (1/94).
25 Collected by Ahmad (15866).
26 See: Ahkām Ahl adh-Dhimma (2/1139) by Ibn al-Qayyim & Sahīh al-Jāmi‘ (883) by al-Albāni.
27 Collected by al-Bukhāri (1180) and Muslim (94).
28 Collected by al-Bukhāri (770).
29 Surat an-Nisā’ (4): 147.
30 See: Ḥādi al-Arwāḥ (p. 756-761) by Ibn al-Qayyim.
32 Surat aṣ-Ṣāffāt (37): 50-61.
33 Surat al-Baqara (2): 50.
34 Collected by al-Bukhāri (7554).
35 Surat Yūnus (10): 44.