The Condition of People who Doesn’t Know About Islam
Is a Person who doesn’t know about Islam considered as a disbeliever?
Assalamu’alaikum Warohmatullahi Wabarakatuh
I’ve got a question from a friend as such:
“We’re lucky to be born as muslim, since coincidentally our parents are muslim too. My question is, about people who are destined to be born in the remotest area of the world, say, the remotest end of Indonesia, for example like Wamena (West Papua), which we don’t understand the language of Wamena, they are still wearing the koteka (penis gourds) and do not know about Islam until they die. Should we label them as disbeliever?”
Please give me an explanation for that question of my friend. Thank you. Wassalamu’alaikum Warohmatullahi Wabarokatuh
Wa’alaikumussalam Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh
Many of the muslims confused about how to counter such question, and not infrequently we found that some of them eventually were doubting Islam and considered that all religions are true. Whereas if they tried a little bit more to learn about Islam correctly, they would find that our scholars have explained such matter with an exhausting answer. Below we include a good explanation by Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdillah Al Wuhaibi in his book, “Nawaqidhul Iman Wa Dhawabitut Takfir ‘Indas Salaf” (1/294):
The difference in opinions regarding this matter is about the ruling in the Hereafter, and not the ruling in this world. None of the scholars said that people who never heard about Islam were muslims, or they were treated as muslims in this world. Al Imam Ibn Al Qayyim -may Allah have mercy on him- said, “It is compulsory for everyone to believe that every human being who didn’t embrace Islam was a disbeliever. But it is also compulsory to believe that in the Hereafter, Allah the Exalted will not torture a person who hasn’t received the necessary argumentation about Islam. This is a global ruling. As for personal verdict, the knowledge belongs to Allah alone, if it is regarding their rewards and punishment in the Hereafter. Whereas the ruling for them in this world, it should be based on what appeared from them. Therefore, the young children of the disbelievers and the madman were treated as disbelievers in this world.” (Refer to: “Thariqul Hijratain”, page 384).
The discussion regarding the fate of those who haven’t heard about Islam later in the Hereafter was considered as a matter of personal interpretation which was widely discussed by the scholars. But it was not considered as a main point of the religion and there was no specific agreement (ijma’) about it. Thus, it was not discussed in majority of the well-known books of creed. There were several opinions of the scholar concerning this matter:
The first opinion: People who died without ever hearing about Islam will enter the Paradise.
As Suyuthi -may Allah have mercy on him- said, “The imams of Asy’ariya, who were among the experts in philosophy and ushul, and the experts of jurisprudence of madzhab Ash Shafi’i reckoned that a person who died without ever hearing about Islam, he’ll enter the Paradise.” (See: “Al Haawi Lil Fatawa”, 2/202). Some of the scholars also stated that the young children of the polytheists will enter the Paradise, as the opinion of Ibn Hazm. He said, “Majority of the scholars reckoned that the young children of the polytheists will enter the Paradise, and I reckon it too.” (See: “Al Fashl”, 4/73). And so did Imam An Nawawi in “Syarh Shahih Muslim”, 16/208 and Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani also stated that this opinion was the choice of Al Bukhari (see: “Fathul Baari”, 3/246, and Imam Al Qurthubi (see: “At Tadzkirah”, 612) and Imam Ibn Al Jauzi (See: “Majmu’ Fatawa Syaikhil Islam”, 24/372).
The second opinion: People who died without ever hearing about Islam, will enter the Hell.
Imam Ibn al Qayyim -may Allah have mercy on him- said, “This is the opinion of some scholars of philosophy, Qur’an interpretation, and one of the opinions of the students of Imam Ahmad. Al Qadhi brought a narration from Imam Ahmad regarding this matter, but it has been rebutted by our teacher (Sheikh al Islam Ibn Taimiyya). ” (See:”Thariqul Hijratain”, 362). This opinion was also adopted by some of the students of Abu Hanifa (See: “Jam’ul Jawami’ Imam As Subki, 1/62).
The third opinion: Abstain (from deciding the ruling of it), and said that their fate is up to Allah’s wish.
This was the opinion of Al Hamidain, Ibn al Mubarak, and Ishaq Ibnu Rahawaih. Ibn Abdil Barr said, “Their fate will be up to the verdict of Al Malik (Allah), and regarding this matter, there were no indication explaining about it, except some narrations from the companions that explained that the young children of muslims will enter the Paradise and young children of the disbelievers’ fate will be up to Allah’s verdict.” (See: “At Tamhid”, 18/111-112).
The Fourth opinion: They will be tested in front of the gate of Hell.
Allah will order them to enter it. If they obey Him, they will feel cool and they will be safe. But if they refuse to enter, it means that they have rebelled against Allah the Exalted and will be plunged into the Hell.
This was the opinion of majority of the scholars of the predecessors, as revealed by Abu al Hasan Al Asy’ari (See: “Al Ibanah”, 33). This opinion were chosen by Muhammad Ibn Nashir Al Marwazi, Al Baihaqi, Sheikh al Islam Ibn Taimiyya and his students, Ibn Qayyim Al Jauziyah, and Ibn Katsir. Sheikh al Islam said, “People who haven’t received necessary argumentation about Islam, such as children, madmen, those who lived at the time when there were no prophet sent, their fate – as revealed in many narrations- is that, they will be tested in the Hereafter. There will be a person sent to order them to do good. If they obey him, they will enter the Paradise. If they refuse to obey, they will be punished with Hell.” Imam Ibn Al Qayyim, after he explained about the different opinions and its argumentations, said, “The eighth opinion, they believed that the young children of the disbelievers will be tested on a plain later in the Hereafter. For each of them, there will be a messenger. One who obey the messenger will enter the Paradise, and one who rebel will enter the Hell. In another word, some Of them will enter the Paradise, and some will enter the Hell. This is the opinion that encompassed the present indications, and supporter by many of the hadith.” (See: “Thariqul Hijratain”, 369). Then Ibn al Qayyim explained about the indications that supported this opinion and said, “These hadith are strengthening one another. It is also supported by the ushul and principle of shari’a. And the opinion that appropriated these hadith is the madzhab of the noble of predecessors, as cited by Al ‘Asy’ari -may Allah have mercy on hima ” (See: Thariqul Hijratain, 371)
Al Hafidz Ibn Katsir -may Allah have mercy on him- said, “The past and current scholars held different opinions regarding the status of small kids who died as disbelievers? Likewise, the madmen, the deaf, the forgetful elderly, and people of fatra who haven’t heard about the calling to Islam. There are several hadith that discuss about their status. With the aid and guidance from Allah, I’ll tell it to you.” Then he brought the hadith, and explained about the existed opinions, and chose the opinion that stated that they will be tested later in the Hereafter. He said, “This is the opinion that encompasses all of the existed indications. And the hadith that I’ve mentioned earlier also confirmed it and strengthened one another.” (See: Tafseer of Ibn Katsir, 3/30).
Sheikh Muhammad Al Amin Asy Syinqithi, after his statement that he chose this opinion, said, “The scholars have agreed that as long as it is possible, it is a must to combine the existed indications. Because doing two indications is better than doing just one of it. And there are no other opinions that could encompass all of the indications except this one, that is, they will be excused, then tested.” (See: “Adhwa’ul Bayan”, 3/440).
The key indications that became the basis of this opinion were:
1. Indications from the Qur’an
The scholars who held this last opinion argued with the generality of the verses that stated that there will be no punishment before the settlement of necessary argument. For example, Allah’s decree:
كُلَّمَا أُلْقِيَ فِيهَا فَوْجٌ سَأَلَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَذِيرٌ. قَالُوا بَلَى قَدْ جَاءَنَا نَذِيرٌ فَكَذَّبْنَا
“as though it will burst with rage. Every time a multitude is cast into it, its keepers will ask them: “Did no warner come to you?”. They will say: “Yes, a warner came to us, but we gave the lie to him and said: ‘Allah has revealed nothing. You are surely in huge error.'” (QS. Al Mulk/ The Kingdom : 8-9)
And His decree:
وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً
“And never do We punish any people until We send a Messenger (to make the Truth distinct from falsehood).” (QS. Al Isra/The Night Journey: 15)
And other verses that showed that there was an excuse for the people of fatra, because the messenger who should convey to them the warning hadn’t came to them. (For other indications from the Qur’an, refer to “Adhwa’ul Bayan”, 3/429-433). Sheikh Abdurrahman As Sa’dy -may Allah have mercy on him- interpreted this verse, saying: “Allah the Exalted is The Most Just. Allah would never punish a person unless the argumentation have reached and been established on him, and he defied it. Whereas for those whom the argumentation haven’t reached yet, they would not be punished. This verse becomes an indication that the people of fatra and the young children of the disbelievers will not be punished, until a messenger been sent to them. Because it is impossible for Allah to do (even the slightest, -ed) oppression.” (Refer to: “Tafsir As Sa’di”, 4/266)
2. Indications from the hadith
The scholars who held this opinion argued using the hadith that firmly indicated that those who haven’t received the argumentations will be tested later in the Hereafter. The most famous hadith regarding this matter is the hadith that was narrated by Al Aswad bin Sari’, that the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- said:
يكون يوم القيامة رجل أصم لا يسمع شيئاً، ورجل أحمق، ورجل هرم ورجل مات في فترة فأما الأصم فيقول: رب لقد جاء الإسلام وما أسمع شيئاً، وأما الأحمق فيقول: رب لقد جاء الإسلام والصبيان يحذفونني بالبعر، وأما الهرم فيقول: رب لقد جاء الإسلام وما أعقل شيئاً، وأما الذي مات في الفترة فيقول: رب ما أتاني لك رسول، فيأخذ مواثيقهم ليطيعنه، فيرسل إليهم أن ادخلوا النار، قال: فوالذي نفس محمد بيده لو دخلوها لكانت عليهم برداً وسلاماً
“” In the Day of Resurrection, there would be a deaf man, who couldn’t hear anything, an idiot, a senile man, and a person who died during the time of fatra. The deaf one said, “O Lord, at the time when Islam came I was deaf, and didn’t hear about Islam at all.” The idiot said, “O Lord, when Islam came, I was tied by the brats inside a well.” The senile man said, “O Lord, when Islam came, I was losing my intelligence.” The person who died during the time of fatra said, “O Lord, there were no messengers who enjoin me to Islam.” Then they were tested according to the nature of their hearts towards obedience. A messenger was sent to order them to enter the Hell. The Prophet said, by Allah, if they entered it, they would find it cool and they would be saved.” (Narrated by Ahmad, no. 16344, Thabrani 2/79. Classified as valid hadith by Al Albani in his work, “Silsilah Ash Shahihah” no. 1434).
There was also a similar hadith narrated by Abu Huraira but the last sentences were:
فمن دخلها كانت عليه برداً وسلاماً، ومن لم يدخلها سحب إليها
“Among them, those who obeyed and entered the Hell would feel the coolness of it and eventually be saved. Whereas those who hesitated to enter it, instead would be dragged into it.” (Narrated by Ahmad no. 16345).
“The opinion that was based on this hadith was an opinion that encompassed all of the indications, as excerpted from the imams. Sheikh al Islam said, “With the explanation of this hadith, then the debate is over, that is, the debate that took form of lengthy conversation that eventually led to a debate. Since for those who said that they all will enter the Hell, there are indications that negate it. And for those who said that they all will enter the Paradise, there are also indications that negate it.” (See: “Dar’ut Ta’arudh”, 8/401). Sheikh Asy Syinqithi -may Allah have mercy on him-, after choosing this opinion said, “This hadith is a valid one from the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-. And the validity of this hadith is the solution for the debate. Thus, there is no more aspect that could be debated upon with the existence of this hadith.” (See: Adhwa’ul Bayan, 3/438).
Some of the scholars rebutted this opinion, such as Ibn Abdil Barr, Al Qurthubi and Al Hulaimi; in summary, they stated that the hadith regarding this matter were not valid and it was against the main principle that the Hereafter is not a place where men are tested anymore.” (See: At Tadzkirah, 611-612, At Tamhiid, 18/130).
But this rebuttal could be answered by two points of explanation:
1. The hadith regarding this matter were valid and narrated from many ways of narration. And we’ve explained a bit about it.
2. Sheikh al Islam Ibn Taimiyya said, “The burden of shari’a ended in the realm of rewards, that would be either the Hell or the Paradise. Whereas those who would be tested in the Hereafter were as the questions of the realm of grave. That is, they would be asked, “Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who is your prophet. And Allah the Exalted decreed:
يَوْمَ يُكْشَفُ عَن سَاقٍ وَيُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى السُّجُودِ فَلا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ خَاشِعَةً أَبْصَارُهُمْ تَرْهَقُهُمْ ذِلَّةٌ وَقَدْ كَانُوا يُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى السُّجُودِ وَهُمْ سَالِمُونَ
“On the Day when the dreadful calamity will unfold, when people will be summoned to prostrate themselves, and yet they will not be able to prostrate. Their eyes shall be downcast and ignominy shall overwhelm them. For when they were safe and sound, they were summoned to prostrate themselves, (and they refused).” (QS. Al Qalam/The Pen: 42-43)
Ath Thibbi said, “Don’t establish that the world is the place of trials and the hereafter is the place of reward and punishment, because there is no such specialization. The proof is that in the realm of grave, which is the gate to the hereafter, there are trials and hardships due to the questions (in it,-ed).” (See: Fathul Baari, 11/451). Ibn Al Qayyim also had made a brief study to deny this rebuttal, he said, “If there’s a person saying that the hereafter is the place of reward and punishment and there should be no more burden (of questions, trials, etc-ed), then how can they be tested in the Hereafter? The answer is the burdening will stop once they have entered dar al qarar (paradise and hell). Whereas in the realm of the grave and in the hereafter, the burdening has not stopped yet. It could be understood easily even without researching, by the questions of the angels in the realm of the grave and it is a form of takliif (burdening). Whereas in the hereafter, Allah the Exalted decreed:
يَوْمَ يُكْشَفُ عَن سَاقٍ وَيُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى السُّجُودِ فَلا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ
And it is very clear. Because Allah the Exalted will order His creations to prostrate later in hereafter and at that time, He will prevent the disbelievers thus they can’t prostrate.” (See: Thariqul Hijratain, 373).
And there are many hadith that mention about the burdening in the Hereafter, as the ones mentioned by Ibn al Qayyim and Ibn Katsir and other scholars. (This is the end of our citation of the book “Nawaqidhul Iman Wa Dhawabitut Takfir ‘Indas Salaf” (1/294)].
As a conclusion, in this world, they were considered as disbelievers. When they died, they weren’t bathed, nor a janaza prayer be performed for them, and they weren’t buried at the muslim cemetery. But regarding their fate in the Hereafter, the strongest opinion about it is that they will be tested. If they manage to pass the test, they will enter the Paradise, and will not enter the Hell, as we’ve explained earlier.
Hopefully this explanation is comprehensible. May Allah strengthen our hearts on His path.
Answered by: Ustadz Yulian Purnama