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Torture within Quranist Viewpoint (11): The Differences between Life-Tests and the Infliction of Torment


Torture within Quranist Viewpoint (11): The Differences between Life-Tests and the Infliction of Torment

Published in October 5, 2017

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy


 We briefly mention these differences in the following points.

Firstly: infliction of torment by God is retribution in this world and the next imposed only on the disbelievers, as we infer from these examples:

1- Smiting and annihilating ancient nations: "Before you, We sent messengers to their people. They came to them with clear proofs. Then We took revenge on those criminals who sinned. It is incumbent on Us to help the believers." (30:47). Thus, those sinning criminals deserved God's smiting of them because of their sins and crimes, while believers were spared. The same applies to the affluent ones among the sinners of the ancient nations: "So We wreaked vengeance upon them. Behold, then, what was the fate of those who deny." (43:25); "The people of the Woods were also unjust ones. So We took revenge upon them..." (15:78-79). This applies to Moses' Pharaoh and his people as well: "So We took vengeance on them, and drowned them in the sea-because they rejected Our signs, and paid no heed to them." (7:136); "And when they provoked Our wrath, We took retribution from them, and We drowned them all." (43:55).

2- The partial torment inflicted upon the Qorayish tribe: they were twice punished and tormented by God: firstly, during Muhammad's lifetime, when they drove Muhammad out of Mecca, and God has said the following to Muhammad: "Even if We take you away, We will wreak vengeance upon them. Or show you what We have promised them; for We have absolute power over them. So adhere to what is revealed to you. You are upon a Straight Path. It is a message for you, and for your people; and you will be questioned." (43:41-44); "Yet they play around in doubt. So watch out for the Day when the sky produces a visible smoke. Enveloping the people; this is a painful torment. "Our Lord, lift the torment from us, we are believers." But how can they be reminded? An enlightening messenger has already come to them. But they turned away from him, and said, "A crazy teacher!"" (44:9-14). Secondly, the torment inflicted on the Qorayish tribe (and all disbelieving Arabs) after the death of Muhammad was the Arab civil war, because they had returned to disbelief and aggression; this has been the Great Assault mentioned in the verse 44:16 within this Quranic context: "We will ease the torment a little, but you will revert. The Day when We launch the Great Assault-We will avenge." (44:15-16). 

3- This divine retribution of inflicting torment by God befalls these categories of people we mention in the points below.

3/1: Those who deny and reject the Quran: "Who is more wrong than he, who, when reminded of his Lord's verses, turns away from them? We will certainly wreak vengeance upon the criminals." (32:22).

3/2: Those who violate the sanctuary of the Sacred Kaaba Mosque by hunting or by having the desire or willingness to commit injustices and sacrileges there: "O you who believe! do not kill game while you are in pilgrim sanctity. Whoever of you kills any intentionally, its penalty shall be a domestic animal comparable to what he killed, as determined by two honest persons among you-an offering delivered to the Kaaba. Or he may atone by feeding the needy, or its equivalent in fasting, so that he may taste the consequences of his conduct. God forgives what is past. But whoever repeats, God will take revenge on him. God is Almighty, Avenger." (5:95); "As for those who disbelieve and repel from God's path and from the Sacred Mosque-which We have designated for all mankind equally, whether residing therein or passing through-and seek to commit sacrilege therein-We will make him taste of a painful torment." (22:25).

4- This is in addition to the divine retribution in the Last Day: "...Those who have rejected God's verses will have a severe torment. God is Mighty, Able to take revenge." (3:4); "Do not ever think that God will break His promise to His messengers. God is Strong, Able to Avenge.On the Day when the earth is changed into another earth, and the heavens, and they will emerge before God, the One, the Irresistible." (14:47-48).


Secondly: life-tests of ordeals/calamities bounties/blessings are for all people during their lifetimes on Earth:

1- God's torment is confine to disbelievers and sinners; in contrast, the test of life (calamities + bounties) are for each individual among the human beings, in order to sift them to see the good ones and the bad ones: "We made what is upon the earth an ornament for it, to test them as to which of them is best in conduct." (18:7).

2- The Quranic term "man" refers only to disbelievers who fail the test of life: "As for man, whenever his Lord tests him, and honors him, and prospers him, he says, "My Lord has honored me." But whenever He tests him, and restricts his livelihood for him, he says, "My Lord has insulted me."" (89:15-16).

3- Ordeals and calamities as part of Fate and tests of life befall sinners; e.g., the Israelite men who violated the Sabbath: "Ask them about the town by the sea, when they violated the Sabbath. When they observed the Sabbath, their fish would come to them abundantly. But when they violated the Sabbath, their fish would not come to them. Thus We tried them because they disobeyed." (7:163).

4- Ordeals and calamities as part of Fate and tests of life befall believers as well to test their faith to see if it is a true or a false one: "Have the people supposed that they will be left alone to say, "We believe," without being put to the test? We have tested those before them. God will surely know the truthful, and He will surely know the liars." (29:2-3). Some tests show weak or fake faith in some people: "And among the people is he who worships God on edge. When something good comes his way, he is content with it. But when an ordeal strikes him, he makes a turnaround. He loses this world and the next. That is the obvious loss." (22:11).

5- Striving for God's sake (or jihad) with money and soul is the biggest test of true believers: "We will certainly test you, until We know those among you who strive, and those who are steadfast, and We will test your reactions." (47:31).


Thirdly: the infliction of torment by God is extreme pain for sinners, whereas life-tests of ordeals/calamities and bounties/bliss occur to all people (good or bad, (non)believers, etc.) as ordained also by God; God says in the Quran: "...We burden you with adversity and prosperity-a test. And to Us you will be returned." (21:35).


Fourthly: the torment inflicted by God in this world is severe pain, while ordeals/calamities as part of fate comes to all people during their lifetimes:

 These ordeals might be loss in money/assets or people, and the patient, steadfast ones will be rewarded. Those who got killed while striving for God's sake will be richly and greatly rewarded as per these verses: "And do not say of those who are killed in the cause of God, "Dead." Rather, they are alive, but you do not perceive. We will certainly test you with some fear and hunger, and some loss of possessions and lives and crops. But give good news to the steadfast. Those who, when a calamity afflicts them, say, "To God we belong, and to Him we will return." Upon these are blessings and mercy from their Lord. These are the guided ones." (2:154-157). Other ordeals include anxiety/fear, hunger, loss of money and possessions, and loss of dear ones by death, and the winners within such tests are those patient, steadfast believers and God will grant them His mercy.   


Fifthly: tests of life also include harm/persecution inflicted by disbelievers on believers:

  God tells us in the Quran that all prophets/messengers said the following to their peoples/nations: "...We will persevere in the face of your persecution/harm. And upon God the reliant should rely."" (14:12); this indicates that they withstood harm done to them within patience. The harm of the Meccan disbelievers done to Muhammad was verbal abuse and slander, and he was hurt and sad because of it; God has told him the following: "We are aware that your heart is strained by what they say." (15:97); "We know that what they say grieves you. It is not you they reject, but it is God's verses that the unjust ones deny. Other messengers before you were rejected, but they endured rejection and persecution until Our help came to them. There can be no change to God's words. News of the messengers has already reached you." (6:33-34). 


Sixthly: tests of life and harm caused by others are sometimes combined together:

1-  The harm (inflicted on Muhammad and early believers) of verbal abuse and slander by Arab disbelievers and disbelieving ones among the People of the Book in Arabia was combined with life tests ordained by God to all human beings: "You will be tested through your possessions and your persons; and you will hear from those who received the Scripture before you, and from the idol worshipers, much abuse. But if you persevere and lead a righteous life-that indeed is a mark of great determination." (3:186).

2- Real believers will be granted victory from God when they engage into self-defense fighting if their faith is true, and they will only be harmed (by verbal insults and slanders) by the disbelieving aggressors: "They will do you no harm, beyond insulting you. And if they fight you, they will turn around and flee, then they will not be helped." (3:111).

3- Those who pass the tests of life successfully (ordeals, jihad, immigration, bearing patiently with verbal abuse, pains, losses, and persecution, etc.) will be richly rewarded by God: "...For those who emigrated, and were expelled from their homes, and were persecuted because of Me, and fought and were killed-I will remit for them their sins, and will admit them into gardens beneath which rivers flow-a reward from God. With God is the ultimate reward."" (3:195).


Seventhly: the definition of (harm) in the Quran in contrast to that of (torment):

1- The word (harm) is mentioned to denote slight pain because of skin ailment or insects in the head/hair, within pilgrimage rituals of shaving one's hair and being exempted from having to shave: "...Whoever of you is sick, or has any harm within the head, then redemption of fasting, or charity, or worship..." (2:196).

2- Menstruation of women is described as harm: "And they ask you about menstruation: say, "It is harm..." (2:222).

3- Insulting others after giving them charity money is described as harm: "Those who spend their wealth in the way of God, and then do not follow up what they spent with reminders of their generosity or harming with insults, will have their reward with their Lord-they have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve. Kind words and forgiveness are better than charity followed by insults. God is Rich and Clement. O you who believe! Do not nullify your charitable deeds with reminders and harmful words..." (2:262-264).

4- Heavy rain is described as harm: "...You commit no error, if you are harmed by rain or are sick, by putting down your weapons; but take precautions..." (4:102).

5- The penalty for fornicators is described as torment: "The adulteress and the adulterer-whip each one of them a hundred lashes, and let no pity towards them overcome you regarding God's Law, if you believe in God and the Last Day. And let a group of believers witness their torment." (24:2). In contrast, the penalty for homosexuals is merely harming hem by public insults and severe rebuke: "If two men among you commit it, harm them both verbally. But if they repent and reform, leave them alone. God is Redeemer, Full of Mercy." (4:16). 



1- Torment inflicted by God as divine retribution is severe pain and death ordained in this world only for aggressive, tyrannical disbelievers because of their sins, crimes of aggression, and bad deeds. This is apart from their being tormented in Hell forever in the Hereafter after the Day of Judgment. This torment in this life may be total and whole (smiting, uprooting, and annihilating the ancient nations) or partial after the era of the revelation of the Quran (as suffered by the Qorayish tribe). Some types of partial torment do not result in death; they were warnings so that people may repent and be spared Hell in the Hereafter: "We will make them taste the lesser torment, prior to the greater torment, so that they may return." (32:21). 

2- Tests of life (calamities or bounties) are ordained for all people in all eras and locations, and calamities/ordeals of it are less painful and less severe in comparison to torment inflicted by God to sinners, and they include harm of verbal abuse and persecution inflicted by disbelievers on believers. Such tests sift through people to differentiate between true believers and those who have little or fake faith. 

3- Both tests of life and torments have one source: God. This is a fact, of course, even if they both occur via human intervention.

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