Can a child born in Mecca and a child born somewhere in the world unaware of Islam be regarded equal in terms of religious responsibility?
The history has recorded many people who did not believe in Allah (SWT), even treated Him as an enemy though they were born in Mecca. For example, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, Omayya bin Halaf and such other did not have faith in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), although they were born in Mecca, even they saw him personally, and witnessed his miracles. Again, one must not forget that Noahs son perished in the storm though his father was a prophet; Lots wife was a polytheist though his husband was a prophet. On the other hand, are there not any Muslims, who converted to Islam later in their lives, and endured every sort of torture for the sake of their religion although they were born in Russia or China? Therefore, a servant who seeks his Lord is able to reach the light of faith even if he is in the palace of Pharaoh. People who turn a blind eye to the Truth cannot reach the bounty of faith even if they become the son of a prophet, the wife of a prophet, or the father of a prophet.
Besides faith is a matter of truthfulness through the way of Allah and a blessing of Allah Almighty. Just as Allah Almighty gives wealth whomever He wishes, He also grants truthfulness, the way of His to whomever He wishes. However, Allah (SWT) does not wish His servants to engage in disbelief. Therefore, He sent prophets to invite his servants to have belief in Him, and announced that the consequence of disbelief and sin is Hell and the fruit of faith and obedience is Paradise. Besides, by bestowing a bounty such as mind, He has made it possible for His servants to discover their creator.
The ability in man to be able to recognize his creator is like the creation of ears to be able to hear voices and of eyes to be able to see the outside world. Wherever he is born, even if someone has never heard of the name Allah (SWT), however, he can sense there is One who created Himself. According to Imam Maturidi, a person who is born in such a desolate place is only responsible for knowing and believing in Him. He is not obligated to perform prayer, to fast, and similar worship. According to Imam Ashari, he is not obligated to believe in Allah (SWT) as well since test is made only if a prophet is sent to a particular place. We never punish until We have sent a messenger. (Al-Israa Surah, 17:15) These people shall have their rewards if they obey, but not tortured if not.
Another point is that people born in a country where religion is condemned or to whom the Prophet (PBUH) is told deliberately falsely will not be held responsible. Imam Khazali says that one who has been misinformed about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) will be equal with the one who has never heard of his name and they will be saved from hell-fire. He further adds:
Because these people heard of the name of the Prophet (PBUH) with the opposites of his qualities he has, this would not lead them into contemplation and research to find out the truth.
In our age although the broadcasting is widespread such as television, radio, and newspapers, it is possible that there are some people included by the explanation above. According to Islam, just as a person who is deprived of reasoning is not to be held responsible, in the same way, a person who has been misinformed about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is not to be held responsible either.
We must not forget that Allah Almighty is very much merciful and more compassionate than anyone can be towards his servants. Trying to be to more compassionate than Allah (SWT) is an improper thing to do.
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