On 24th February 1990 Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad Khalifatul Masih IV (may the mercy of Allah be upon him) gave an address at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. This address has since been published as a book entitled Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues. After the address the audience was invited to ask any questions they wished. Presented below are some of the questions that were raised in this session and answers given by Huzoor. Compiled by Amatul Hadi Ahmad.
Questioner: How is personal sin dealt with in Islam? If God is All Merciful and Forgiving then why not sin so that God may be even more merciful? Where is the line drawn between those who go to Paradise and those who go to Hell?
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Sin and forgiveness have a relationship between man and God very similar to the relationship that exists between man and man. In daily experiences you find that your children ‘sin’ against you and against the discipline of the house. In what sense is this so? It is so in the sense that you know better than they do. You understand that ultimately their misdeeds are wrong for them and it so happens that sometimes they are forgiven and sometimes they are not forgiven. It so happens that at times it is the ‘sin’ itself that automatically ‘contains’ the ‘punishment’ [through the chain of cause and effect]. For instance, if a child, attracted by the dazzle of fire, mistakenly puts his hand in the fire before the mother can prevent him, his hand would burn.
Hence, this is the nature of ‘sin’ and punishment which sometimes is directly and immediately related to sin. If one observes the history of permissiveness in some advanced societies of the world, one would be amazed to learn that every time a wave of permissiveness captured the imagination of society, it was followed by a wave of ‘natural punishment’. Long ago there was gonorrhoea, syphilis, sex-related herpes, and then there is AIDS.
In short, how can you say that God is not forgiving because He has created a system of cause and effect? So sin must not be understood in a narrower term as if it is only in relation to God. Sin is misbehaviour of all types in any situation. Sometimes it is punished and sometimes it is not immediately and directly punished. It depends on the detection and sometimes it is forgiven because forgiveness promotes reformation and sometimes it is not forgiven because forgiveness promotes crime. More importantly, by forgiving some you would be usurping the rights of others. This is the fundamental philosophy of forgiveness and punishment that has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an which states that to forgive is better provided it causes reformation. In a society where murder has become the order of the day, the removal of capital punishment from the legal system of a country, is a form of forgiveness that is bound to encourage murder in that society.
I have been studying the data of crime in European countries and you will also share my opinion because I am talking of facts, that the more the governments grew lenient regarding some crimes , the more they flourished. The Holy Qur’an states that only those people will be rewarded by God, who forgive on the condition that their forgiveness promotes reformation and not crime. This is so also in your homes when, suppose, a child is disposed to hurting others, or hurting other children of the same family, would you go on forgiving such a child limitlessly, for all times to come? That is an impossible scenario but suppose it happened. In that case the outcome would be that you were being kind to the ‘criminal’ and unkind to the other innocent children. You would be responsible for the sufferings caused by such a child to its siblings.
You should try to understand the philosophy of sin through your own personal experience and your inner wisdom would declare that is exactly how it should be in relation to God. There is no other philosophy that can govern this relationship.