|b. Punishing the Disbelievers (Kuffar)
According to the Qur’an, denying a Messenger of God in spite of being convinced about his veracity is something which deserves severe punishment both in this world and in the Hereafter since this is tantamount to deliberately denying the Almighty Himself. The worldly punishment of the Disbelievers (Kuffar) was carried out by the Almighty in two ways: Either He directly destroyed them Himself through disasters and calamities or by His Messengers and their Companions (rta) -- who in this exercise were no more than agents of His retribution. In the second case, the Messengers and their Companions (rta) just replaced the weapons of destruction as the role of earthquakes, storms, cyclones and lightning was assumed by them.
Referring to the first form of punishment, the Qur’an says:
While explaining this verse, the celebrated Muslim authority, Shah Wali Ullah, writes:
In other words, what needs to be understood is that it was the Almighty who took matters in His own hands and punished the Kuffar in this world in the time of His Messengers. It is precisely for this reason that in this particular sphere, the Prophet Muhammad (sws) is not a role model for Muslims. What mankind needs to learn from this whole exercise is to be mindful of a reality that it tends to forget: reward and punishment in the Hereafter on the basis of a person’s deeds. This reward and punishment which is to take place in the Hereafter is substantiated visually by the Almighty through the agency of His Messengers so that mankind may always remain heedful to this reality. The court of justice which will be set up for every person on the Day of Judgement was set up for the nations of Messengers in this world so that the latter could become a visual testimony to the former. The Qur’an at numerous instances has used this argument to substantiate the reward and punishment in the Hereafter. In Surah Haqqah, for example, it says:
The justification of the retribution carried out by the Messengers on the Kuffar is that through divine help, the basic truths7 become manifest in their personalities to the extent that no one is left with any excuse to deny it. In the words of the Qur’an, this is called Shahadah ‘ala al-nas (bearing witness to the truth before other peoples). The Almighty has referred to this aspect in the following words:
In other words, what authorizes a Messenger to punish the Kuffar is that it can be ascertained in this very world that they are guilty of denying the basic truths in spite of being convinced about them. Good and evil are elucidated with ultimate clarity and people who accept evil do so not because of any confusion but because of their own stubbornness.
So it can be concluded that since a Messenger reveals the basic truths in their ultimate form and those who deny it do so because of their stubbornness and even confess their sins, a Messenger has the perfect justification to punish his people after they have denied him.
|6. Shah Wali Ullah, Hujjatullahi
al-Balighah, 1st ed., vol. 2, (Lahore: al-Maktabah al-Salafiyyah,
1975), p. 171
7. It is evident from 2:62 that these basic truths are:
i. Belief in the One and Only God.