What is the state of a person who has not heard about Islam?

The state of a person who is born in a non-Muslim country and who does not know about Islam?

One of the most frequently asked questions whose answer people want to know the most about qadar is this: What will the state of a person who was born in a remote place and who did not hear anything about Islam be like? Is the fact that they have not heard about Islam a valid excuse for them? Or, are they obliged to believe in Allah, to perform worshipping like performing daily prayers, and performing fasting that are ordered by Islam? Before giving the answer to this question, we want to investigate the reason why this question keeps minds busy. We think this investigation is more important than the answer to that question. Why does a person worry about someone whom he does not know, who is not a relative, who is not an acquaintance, whom he has never seen so much? If you say, “it may be the compassion he feels toward them”, we do not think it is true. His next door neighbor, who does not try to find, a solution to the problems of his neighbor, who does not even think about him, who does not help the victims of an accident that he sees while driving, who does not take an injured person to hospital in his car lest his car should get dirty, who is even so merciless as to send his own parents to old people’s home when they are old, will not be worried about a person whom he does not know, whom he has not seen, whose name and personality he does not know, just because of the compassion he feels toward them.

What is more interesting for him than worrying about the end of a person who lives unaware of Islam is this: He will not make an effort to find the answer to that question, which is available in almost any creed book. The only thing he does is to ask people who have no knowledge about the issue and, so to speak, to drive them into corner and to feel relieved after it. The state of such a person is similar to a person who does not perform prayers in the world but asks about how to determine the qiblah in the moon and how to perform prayers there. The reason why he asks about the determination of the qiblah is not the thought,  “If I go to the moon one day, I do not want to miss my prayer.”For he does not pray in the world. Besides, he will not go to the moon. He has not been assigned the duty of teaching the people who will go to the moon how to determine the qiblah. He does not ask that question on behalf of the humanity. Then, what makes him ask that question? In fact, the answer to that question, to which he thinks there is no answer, is very easy: the qiblah on the moon is the world. A person who will perform a prayer on the moon needs to turn toward the world and to perform his prayer like that. However, we want to ask this question again:

What makes this person, who does not pray in this world, wonder about the prayer on the moon? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question, “What makes him wonder about the end of the people whom he does not know?”In our opinion, that is the question whose answer needs to be found first. The answer to that question is as follows: Due to not knowing Allah properly, doubting about His justice and mercy, and the worst of all, remembering Hell due to not fulfilling the orders of Allah, and in order to get rid of the pain caused by this remembering, he wants to cherish the idea, “Maybe, there is a doubt about the religion.” Through questions to which he thinks there are no answers, he wishes deeply the non-existence of Hell. This person, who does not search any books in order to find the answer to the question which he has been wondering about for years, will confirm us if he checks this diagnosis justly, in his inner world. Now we will quote a story from the Quran which will confirm our view to you:

 "Allah said to Moses and Aaron, 'So go ye both to him, and say: ‘Verily we are messengers sent by thy Lord; send forth, therefore, the Children of Israel with us and afflict them not! With a sign, indeed, have we come from thy Lord! And peace to all who follow Guidance!'" (Taha: 47)

"Verily it has been revealed to us that the Penalty (awaits) those who reject and turn away." (Taha: 48)

"The Pharaoh said: ‘Who then, O Moses, is the Lord of you two?’He said: ‘Our Lord is He who gave to each (created) thing its form and nature and further gave (it) guidance.'" (Taha: 49, 50)

"The Pharaoh said, ‘What then is the condition of previous generations?’ Moses replied: ‘The knowledge of that is with my Lord duly recorded: my Lord never errs nor forgets.'"(Taha: 51, 52)

As it is seen in the verse, the Pharaoh asks Moses, who invites him to the Truth, about the condition of the previous generations and those who did not hear about the call of Moses. Is what makes the Pharaoh ask that question the compassion he feels toward those people? Definitely not; because he did not show compassion even toward his own people. He killed thousands of people with the hope of finding Moses. What makes the Pharaoh ask that question is the desire of overcoming Moses with a question that cannot be answered. On the other hand, Moses does not answer that question. He says, “The knowledge of that is with my Lord duly recorded; my Lord never errs, nor forgets.”He refers it to Allah. The reason why Moses refers the answer to Allah is not because of not knowing the condition of the people of interregnum who did not hear about the call of the prophet but because of wishing to surrender to Allah’s justice and mercy.

Moses was in such a degree of belief that he had no doubt that no matter what Allah did He would do it with compassion and mercy. By saying, “My Lord never errs, nor forgets”, he showed his surrendering to the judgment of Allah like that.

The fact that the Pharaoh asked Moses about the condition of the previous generations when Moses invited him to accept the Truth and that Moses referred the condition of the previous generations to Allah prove that the issue is not wishing to find the answer to the question but is a question of belief.

People who have perfect belief do not even think about such questions. They have surrendered to Allah. They believe that no matter what Allah does it is just and fair. According to the people who reached this degree of belief, even if Allah puts all people to Hell,  He is still merciful and just. Then, the first thing to do, before we find the answer to the question, is to read the books that will make our belief perfect and to raise our belief from the degree of imitative belief to the degree of investigative belief thanks to them. When we do it, we will reach the rank of surrendering and you will see that many questions whose answers you wonder about will not even come to your mind. After that, we will learn the answers to those questions in order to tell them to the people who wonder about their answers.

Now, let us answer the question, “What is the state of a person who is born in a non-Muslim country and who does not know about Islam?”

Time and place have a negative or positive effect on man in terms of belief and Islam; however, the elements of time and place do not determine the result on their own. They are two factors that make people start the test with an advantage or disadvantage. A person who is born in an Islamic country starts the test with an advantage and a person who is born in a non-Islamic country starts the test with a disadvantage.

However, there are so many incidents when the one with the advantage failed the test and when the one with the disadvantage passed the test that you cannot imagine.

For instance, the fact that Noah’s son died as an unbeliever though his father was a prophet and that Lot’s wife died as an unbeliever though her husband was a prophet prove it. Yes, Noah’s son and Lot’s wife started the test with a great advantage. One of them had a father who was a prophet; the other had a husband who was a prophet. However, they failed to complete the test successfully.

Another example is as follows: Moses was brought up in the palace of the Pharaoh and he was the adopted child of the Pharaoh. However, the Pharaoh could not benefit from Moses and died as an unbeliever.

However, the Pharaoh’s wife, Asiya, who lived in the same palace, was a believer and the following prayer of hers exists in the Quran: “O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee a mansion in the Garden and save me from the Pharaoh and his doings and save me from those that do wrong.” (Tahrim: 11)

That is, one of the two people living in the same palace dies as an unbeliever and is cited as an enemy of Allah in the Quran but his wife dies as a believer. The uncles of the Prophet Abu Talib and Abu Lahab lived very near the Prophet and heard the Truth from him and they witnessed several miracles of the Prophet but they died as unbelievers. On the other hand, Uways al-Qarani, who did not see the Prophet, loved the Prophet and Allah so much that his love was recorded in the pages of the history.

That is, what matters is not being born in an Islamic country. There is no need to give examples from distant countries; it will be enough to have a look at the situation in Turkey. Our country is a Muslim country; 99% of the people are Muslims; however, there are more pubs than mosques in our country; The fact that mosques, which are fewer than pubs, are empty and that pubs, which are more than mosques, are full prove that onlybeing born in an Islamic country is not a factor that affects the result.

Yes, the people that fill the pubs were born in an Islamic country and have the blessing of hearing the adhan five times a day; moreover, they have heard many issues about Islam since they were children. However, none of them made those people close to Allah. They lead a life without prayers, without remembering Allah and meditating; and they disobey Allah.

That is, what matters is not starting the test with an advantage. Our community is full of people who cannot benefit from the advantage they have. With the explanations we have made so far, we want to say this: A person who is born in a non-Muslim country may just as well be informed about Islam and can become a very good Muslim. History is full of examples like that.

After the explanations, now it is time to deal with the fatwa aspect of the issue.

The period between the periods of two prophets: The period starting from the point when the religion brought by the previous prophet was forgotten to the point when the next prophet came is called the “period of interregnum”; and the people who lived in that period and who did not live in the same time as either prophet are called people interregnum. They are given this name because the religious of the previous prophet was forgotten and the next prophet did not emerge yet. The people of interregnum are not responsible for worshipping like, prayers, fasting and zakah and the other orders of the religion. There is unanimous agreement about it. In the hereafter, they will not be accounted or punished for not performing worshipping. For a prophet is necessary to know them. However, those people did not meet a prophet. Therefore, they are not obliged to worship and obey the orders. Nevertheless, it is disputable whether they are obliged to believe in Allah or not.

According to Imam Maturidi, the people of interregnum are not obliged to worship and to obey orders but they are obliged to believe in Allah. For, God Almighty gave them the mind and He filled this world with innumerable creatures that will function as proofs for His existence and oneness. Man who knows that every needle must have its manufacturer and craftsman, that every letter must be written by someone that a country must have an owner, must find Allah, who is the artisan of the works of art in this world. And he must believe in Him. The mind has the ability to do it even if it does not hear the call of a prophet. Therefore, if people who lived in the period of interregnum died without believing in Allah, they are regarded to have died as unbelievers.

Imam Ashari holds the view that the people of interregnum are not obliged to believe in Allah because, according to Imam Ashari, Allah, who invites people to believe through His prophets, did not invite the people of interregnum since he did not send them a prophet. Therefore, they are not held responsible. For, mind and thought are not enough to know Allah. Therefore, according to Imam Ashari, the people of interregnum will not go to Hell due to unbelief.

As for the state of the people who lived after the emergence of our Prophet, Imam Ghazali makes a classification about them; it provides an answer for those who wonder about the state and the end of the Christians and Jews living today. Imam Ghazali says, after our Prophet was sent, people who do not believe are divided into three categories:

1st category: Those who did not hear the call of the Prophet and who were not informed about the Prophet. This group will definitely go to Paradise.

2nd category: The people who saw the state of the miracles shown by the Prophet and heard about his high ethics but who did not believe. This group will definitely go to Hell.

3rd category: It is the group between those two groups. They heard about the name of the Prophet but they did not hear about his characteristics. More precisely, they had known our Prophet since they were young, as - God forbid - an impostor whose name was Muhammad and who claimed to be a prophet. They heard nothing but negative propaganda about the Prophet; just like our children who heard about “Musaylama al-Kadhdhab” as an impostor who claimed to be a prophet.

Imam Ghazali does not make a definite judgment about them but he adds the following.  In my opinion, their state is like that of the first category; That is, like those who did not hear about our Prophet because they heard the name of our Prophet with the attributes that are opposite to his characteristics. This does not lead a person to think about it and to investigate it.

Today, in the world of the Christians, Jews and in other countries, it is possible to find people who belong to the three categories described by Imam Ghazali. No matter how much technology develops, it is known that there are primitive tribes living in the virgin forests of Africa. They have neither seen a television nor used a telephone. Therefore, they are included in the category that did not hear the name of our Prophet in the classification of Imam Ghazali; so, according to Imam Ghazali, they are people of Paradise.

There are many people who belong to the 2nd category both in our country and in many places in the world. They have heard about the attributes of our Prophet, regarding prophethood but they have not believed. In fact, with the development of the technology and the ease of having access to knowledge, they form the biggest category. They are people of Hell as it is expressed by many verses of the Quran. For, Islam abrogated all of the religions before it and made them invalid.

However, there are some people who belong to the 3rd category according to the classification of Imam Ghazali. There may be some people in the Christian or Jewish world living in a distant part of the country away from the social life and who had been informed about the Prophet in a negative way since they were children. Imam Ghazali does not make a definite judgment about those people but he says they resemble the people of Paradise in the first category. Allah knows the best.

We end this issue by the words of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, who is a great scholar of our age, and we refer the voice of the truth to the knowledge of our Lord, who never errs or forgets.

"All scholars agree unanimously that people of interregnum will not be punished due to their mistakes regarding the details of the religion. In fact, according to Imam Shafii and Imam Ashari, they will not be held responsible even if they do not believe.

People become responsible only when a prophet is sent. Besides, it is necessary to know that a prophet was sent and to know the nature of the duty of the prophet for the responsibility to be valid. If what the prophet brought is not known due to some causes like the passing of time or heedlessness, those who do not know them are regarded as the people of interregnum and they are not punished for it."

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