How can the statement of Ghazali that some sins can cause man to die without belief be explained? What can be done to die as a believer?

The Details of the Question

- Is it appropriate in terms justice and wisdom for a person who lives as a Muslim to die without belief?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

First of all, we should say that the statements of Ghazali and similar scholars about bad ending and dying without belief aim to advise people to have a balance of fear and hope, with fear overweighing a bit. What they say expresses is a possibility, not certainty.  

It is wrong to regard the things that are possible to happen as things that are certain to happen. Therefore, if one side is overestimated while trying to maintain a balance of hope and fear, it can cause a chaos that is difficult to compensate.

There are serious warnings in the Quran that both those who are not afraid of Allah and those who abandon hope of His mercy may face the danger of going out of the boundaries of the religion.

1. Any sin, especially major sins, that shakes the belief of a person with continuity and persistence may lead man to a bad ending and dying as an unbeliever – if he does not repent. No matter what the sin is, if it is done thoughtlessly and recklessly, it damages man's consciousness of belief, causes the love and respect of Allah in his conscience to be lost and he may face the risk of a bad ending if he dies immediately after that.

As a matter of fact, The following is stated in a hadith:

“A sin that is repented will get smaller even if it is big. On the other hand, a minor sin that is committed continuously will not remain as a minor sin and will get bigger.”

As it is understood from the statement above, what matters is not to lose one’s respect and love to Allah and to take refuge in His mercy immediately if he commits a sin by obeying his soul and Satan.  

It is understood from the explanations above that it is not possible to say “This or that sin leads man to unbelief” in principle. However, there is a way that leads man to unbelief in every sin. In that case, it is a requirement of belief to change one’s way without walking on that road very much.  

Imam Ghazali also points out that there are views stating that “those who claim that they are saints by lying can face such a danger.” (see Ihya, 1/130)

2. If a person who enters the grave without belief though he seems to have done good deeds, it is definitely because of his insincerity. It is definite that nobody will go to Hell if he has not deserved it.  Allah’s endless mercy and justice will not allow such injustice. Since there are definite statements in tens of verses that “Allah is never unjust in the least degree”, it will be a very bad thought about Allah – God forbid – and it is a mistake that does not comply with belief.

3. It is essential to strengthen belief a little more every day, to try to do good deeds regularly, to try to refrain with might and main from prohibitions, to repent and ask for forgiveness immediately if one happens to commit a sin in order to enter the grave with more confident steps.

As a matter of fact, according to Imam Ghazali, it is a very rare thing if a person who has obeyed the orders and prohibitions of the Islamic religion throughout his life goes to the grave as an unbeliever. This is probably because Allah has seen his insincerity. For Allah’s promise that “Allah will not be unfair to anybody” exists in several verses n the Quran. It does not fit Allah not to keep His promise and He does not need it at all.

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states that there are two strong ways to enter the grave with belief as follows:

"First Sign: People of discovery and research have decreed that as investigative belief approaches from the knowledge of certainty to the reality of certainty, it will not be removed and state the following: At the time of death, Satan can cause delusions only in the mind by suggesting it some doubts and causing it to hesitate. This kind of investigative belief is not only in the mind. It spreads to the heart, spirit and the faculties so extensively that Satan cannot reach those places; the belief of such people is protected from being removed. It is a way that becomes a means of attaining investigative belief and means to attain the truth by discovering and witnessing through perfect sainthood. This way is peculiar to the selected of the most selected people; it means witnessing belief."

"The Second Way: To approve the realities of belief with the knowledge of certainty that is at the level of necessity and clarity with the harmony of the intellect and the heart in an evidential and Quranic way with the blessing of revelation in terms of belief in what is unseen..." (see Kastamonu Lahikası, Envar, p.18-19)

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