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Last Updated: 2007/02/19
Summary of question
Is it not possible for someone who is a good person and not Muslim (a Christian) to enter into paradise? Why?
question
I heard that anyone who is not Muslim goes to hell. Is this true? And if so, then why? Is it not possible for someone to be a good person and not be Muslim or to perhaps not have had knowledge of Islam? If that person were to die, why would they not go to heaven? My parents are not Muslim but they are very good Christian people and I do not understand why according to what I have understood about Islam, that they will not go to heaven?
Concise answer

The basis of entering heaven is measured by two values; good deeds and faith. Muslims and Shias will enter into heaven so long as they have acted upon the principles which being Muslim or Shia necessitate, and they have invested in their hereafter in order to be able to receive intercession. Those who followed any divine religion before the coming of the next [divine] religion – so long as they have followed that divine religion properly, then they will also enter heaven. However, after the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), the only acceptable religion in God’s eyes is true Islam which has been manifested in the Ithna Ashari Shia (Shias who follow the twelve Imams).

 

From Quran and hadith it is gathered that a mustazaf[i] is someone who does not have the ability or access to a guide [to help him to learn the truth] nor is he able to migrate to another country [in search of the truth]; nonetheless if he lives his life according to the innate disposition of man (his fitrat), then he will be granted divine mercy.[ii]

Therefore, only those people who stubbornly do not accept what they have realized is the truth or those who are guilty of being indolent in recognizing the truth will not be saved. However the majority of mankind who are not qasir[iii] will reach salvation through divine mercy.



[i] One who is oppressed in the religion; who does not have knowledge of Islam

[ii] Related Topic: Hell and Non-Muslims

[iii]Qasir: Guilty and blameworthy but not by one’s own free will or choice; i.e. someone who is guilty of murder but had no choice in the matter, and also had no shortcomings in setting the stage for such an incident; they had no control of the event or circumstances.

Detailed Answer

Entering into heaven is not dependent upon a title or claim, rather upon the two pillars of ‘Faith’ and ‘Good deeds’[1]. Therefore anyone who has these two constituents in this world, will have paved the way for themselves to be able to enter into heaven in the hereafter, and if not then they will cross the threshold into the hellfire, unless of course they are mustazaf, and they take delivery of Allah’s vast mercy, or if an intercessor intercedes for them and averts their chastisement. In reference to this subject the Holy Quran says: Except the abased among men, women and children, who have neither access to any means nor are guided to any way.[2] This verse shows that in addition to having the title of “Jew”, “Christian” etc., is not enough, and it emphasizes on the criterion for entering into heaven; faith and good deeds. Being a follower of any religion is contingent upon the next prophet and next religion not abrogating that religion. Following Hazrat Musa (Moses) (P.B.U.H.) was legitimate until the time that Hazrat Isa (Jesus) (P.B.U.H.) reached prophethood; and likewise Isa (P.B.U.H.) until the time that the Prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H.) reached prophethood.

Moreover, merely the claim of “following” [a religion] does not suffice either, rather faith is necessary. And faith without undertaking to the stipulations of faith, action and morals is not true faith. Therefore the condition of belief in Hazrat Musa (P.B.U.H.) is following the prophet or prophets who came after him. And the condition for following Isa (P.B.U.H.) is accepting the prophethood of the promised final prophet (P.B.U.H.). And naturally, the condition for faith and belief in the noble Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is complete surrender to his recommendations for guidance and commands; and from amongst his recommendations is accepting the Wilayah (Islamic Authority) of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (P.B.U.H) and his eleven offspring, one after another. Until this complete belief and obedience is obtained then one has not completely become a follower of the true divine religion, and will not be permitted to enter into heaven.[3]

In other words: after the prophethood of the prophet, the only lawful and acceptable religion is the religion of Islam,[4] and even Islam without Wilayah is not true Islam or complete faith in Allah and the Messenger of Allah and it will not be considered so on the Day of Judgment. Therefore the only seamless way to enter into paradise is Shia’ism; with emphasis on the fact that merely having the title of Shia is not enough, and only by being a true believing Shia and having good actions can one enter into heaven or have the potential to receive intercession.

However, the mustazafeen[5] (those who are qasir, children, those who are insane, etc.), will be an exception to this rule.[6] Those who are not able to be guided to the truth will await divine judgment and will be given God’s mercy.

 

Of course there are some valuable points which should be mentioned here:

 

  1. Qasir is someone who has not reached the truth and who has not had any inadequacies in trying (meaning he has failed to reach the truth but has had no shortcoming). In that case this person has not committed a sin, because divine proof has not been attained for him, and until divine proof is attained then it is not possible for The Most High to penalize him.[7] There are three groups of qasir:

  • One whose living conditions are in such a way that the truth does not reach them.

  • The mentally oppressed (mustazaful fikri); meaning people who do not have the ability to comprehend the truth.

  • Those who live in a state of compound ignorance, and are sure that “A” equals “B”, and this belief is the result of their utmost effort while in reality A does not equal B.

  1. Muqasir[8] is one who will incur the wrath of god because he is someone who is informed and has knowledge of the truth, and he intentionally disregards it; or he has ability to attain [knowledge of] the truth, but he intentionally fails to do so.

  2. If someone were to abstain [from seeking the truth], without having any evil character or falling under the influence of political organizational or social parties, (or anything which is against common sense and intellect); and at the same time put forth the effort to realize the truth of existence. If he does not become certain of God’s existence or of the certainty of a true religion or faith and even if god forbid, the conclusion that he reaches is blasphemous; such a person, based upon divine justice will not face chastisement.

 

Of course, this is based on rational argument; nonetheless, the Noble Quran has guaranteed that if one puts forth serious effort in the way of God, then he will be guided and doors will be shown to him.[9]



[1] Sura Buruj – Verse 85

[2] Sura Baqareh – Verse 62; Sura Ma’edeh –Verse 69; Sura Hajj – Verse17; Also see: Al-Mizan – Volume 1, Page 192 - 196

[3] Related Topic: Shia and Heaven

[4] Sura Ale Emran – Verse 81- 91

[5] Plural of mustazaf

[6] Sura Nisa – Verse 97 - 99

[7]َSura Isra – Verse 15: مَا کُنَّا مُعَذِّبِینَ حَتىَ‏ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولا (We do not punish] any community [until We have sent] it an apostle.) Of course, what is meant by sending prophets is not only just to send them, rather a connection needs to be made, meaning if a message is sent, but it does not reach the people then divine proof has still not yet been established and the result of [abiding by or not abiding by] laws (i.e. reward or punishment) will not take place.

[8] Muqasir: Guilty and blameworthy by ones own free will and choice; i.e. someone who is guilty of murder because they willingly set out to harm or murder someone, and or they played a role in the shortcomings which led up to the murder of an individual (for example murder in the result of reckless driving).

[9] Sura Ankebut – Verse 69: As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways.  وَ الَّذِینَ جَاهَدُواْ فِینَا لَنهَْدِیَنهَُّمْ سُبُلَنَا

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