If Allah is Halim (forbearing), why does He punish quickly?

The Details of the Question

- Is there a contradiction between Allah's attributes – God forbid?

- The attribute "Halim" used for Allah in many places in the Quran is used in the sense of forbearing, lenient with people, not punishing immediately, etc. However, the following is stated in the last verse of the chapter of al-Anam: "... for, thy Lord is quick in punishment..." 

- Is Allah quick in punishment or is he forbearing and lenient? How can we solve this ostensible contradiction?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The meaning of the verse in question is as follows:

“It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (al-Anam, 6/165)

The phrase “sari’ul-iqab” translated as “quick in punishment” used for Lord can be interpreted differently:

a) The word “quick” used in order to warn deniers indicates that Doomsday is soon. For, “Everything that will come is soon.” (see Razi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

b) What is meant by “quick punishment” is the penalty given to those who deserve urgent punishment in this world; for example, the nations destroyed in history. (Mawardi, the relevant place)

c) To punish is dependent on Allah’s will. When Allah wants to punish, it happens; nobody can prevent it. The phrase “your Lord is quick in punishment” in the verse indicates the divine wish and will, on which penalty is dependent. That is, when Allah wants to punish somebody, He does not need any tools. His will is enough. For, when He says “be” to something, it “happens” at once. (see al-Mawardi, al-Biqai, the relevant place)

d) What is meant by punishment being quick is the punishment on the day of Judgement being quick. That is, when Allah punishes the people He will punish, He will not hesitate and He does not need anything; He punishes immediately. (see Ibn Ashur, the relevant place)

Thus, there is no contradiction between Allah’s names.

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