Are there any sins that cause man to remain in Hell forever?

The Details of the Question

- It is stated in the following verses of the Quran that those who commit certain sins will remain in Hell forever: al-Furqan, 25/68, 69; al-Baqara, 2/275; al-Muminun, 23/103. Accordingly, do some sins necessitate eternal punishment?

- We knew that no sin except polytheism (shirk; associating partners with Allah) necessitated eternal punishment.

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

- According to the view of Ahl as-Sunnah scholars based on various verses of the Quran and hadiths, all kinds of denying including polytheism necessitate eternal punishment. That fact is expressed as follows briefly: “Those who die without belief remain in Hell forever”. No sin that does not cause lack of belief necessitates eternal punishment.

- The translation of the verses mentioned in the question are as follows based on their order in the Quran:

a) “Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: "Trade is like usury," but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (The offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).” (al-Baqara, 2/275)

The following verse can also be included:

b) “If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (For ever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.” (an-Nisa, 4/93)

c) “But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide.” (al-Muminun, 23/103)

d) “Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; - and any that does this (not only) meets punishment. (But) the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy.” (al-Furqan, 25/68-69)

We will explain the verses one by one in the order above:

a) Those who will remain in Hell forever related to usury (interest) are unbelievers because they say, “Trade is like riba (usury/interest)” as it is stated in the verse. That is, they deny that riba is haram. As it is known, it is unbelief to regard what is halal as haram and to regard what is haram as halal. The reason why they will remain in Hell forever is not devouring usury but regarding usury halal. (see Razi, Baydawi, Nasafi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

According to some scholars, the statement meaning “They will abide therein (for ever)” at the end of the verse can be explained in two ways: in literal and metaphorical sense. 

When it is considered in literal sense, those who devour usury will remain in Hell forever because they say, “Trade is like riba (usury)” and they become unbelievers.

When it is considered metaphorically, the phrase “remaining in Hell forever” in the verse means remaining there for a very long time. The sentence starting with the phrase “Those who after receiving direction from their Lord…” in the verse makes that meaning possible. (see Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the verse in question)

b) There are different interpretations of scholars about the decree of the following verse: “If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (for ever).” However, they agree unanimously that those who die as believers will not remain in Hell forever. Therefore, their interpretations are similar to that thought. (see Razi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

However, we think the following interpretations are important:

1) That Allah states that the recompense/penalty of the crime of “a man who kills a believer intentionally” is eternal Hell shows the terror of that crime and the penalty that man deserves. However, the execution of that penalty depends on Allah’s will. He can make the unbelievers who commit that crime remain in Hell forever and He can forgive the believers or make them remain in Hell for a long time and then remove them from Hell. That view, which Razi does not adopt, belongs to Qaffal (cf. Razi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

2) The decree of the verse is based on the literal meaning of the verse but when Allah’s forgiveness is involved, the decree may change. As a matter of fact, according to the majority of scholars, when the killer repents sincerely, he may be forgiven. It is unthinkable that the killer’s repentance will not be accepted since the repentance of even an unbeliever can be accepted.

“Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth.” (an-Nisa, 4/48)

The verse above supports that view. (see Razi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

3) According to some scholars, the verse may be about - as it is mentioned in some narrations - Makis b. Dababa or the unbelievers who exited the religion of Islam by regarding killing as legitimate (halal). Therefore, it means the decree based on the literal meaning of the verse is about unbelievers. Or the word “forever” in the verse is metaphorical and means a very long time. (see Baydawi, Nasafi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

c) In verses 102 and 103 of the chapter of al-Muminun, the balance of belief and unbelief is dealt with rather than sins and thawabs (rewards). Therefore, the position of those whose belief and righteous deeds outweigh are stated in the following verse: “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy,- they will attain salvation.”

The unbelievers and those who commit evil deeds are mentioned in the following verse: “But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide.” (cf. Razi, Baydawi, Abus-Suud, the interpretation of the verses in question)

d) The clause “Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god” in the verse “Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; - and any that does this (not only) meets punishment” adds belief to the issue too. Accordingly, the phrase “and any that does this...” in the verse includes the following too: “any that worships anyone/anything but Allah”. It is clear unbelief.

Those mentioned in the verse are unbelievers/polytheists. Generally, unbelievers commit the evil deeds mentioned in the verse. Therefore, they are mentioned along with unbelief/polytheism. (see Abus-Suud, Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the verse in question)

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