Meaning of Quran 11:15-16
Fatwa No: 190597

Question

Assalamu Alaikum, In the Quran (11: 15,16) the verse states that those desire only this world will get all their rewards in this world and in hereafter they will be in hellfire. Also there are ahadith which says the same concept. Many disbelievers want all their needs to be fulfilled in this world and they are not worried about the Akhirah but still they are poor. What is the meaning of the verse?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The two verses mean that if a person performs an act of obedience while only intending from it this worldly life, then he will get whatever Allaah wills from this world, but in the Hereafter he will be punished with Hellfire because of not making his intention pure for Allaah Alone while performing his action. This is not specific to the non-Muslims only; rather, a Muslim who does an act of goodness while only seeking the reward of this worldly life is also threatened by it [Hellfire].

At-Tabari narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said about the interpretation of this verse: “If a person does good while seeking the recompense of this worldly life, and he does not do that action except to get the reward of this life, then Allaah would say about him: “I will give him the reward that he had sought in this life, and invalidate his action which he did while only seeking the reward of this life, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.

However, as reported by An-Nahhaas from Ibn ‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him this verse is restricted by the other verse which means: {Whoever should desire the immediate — We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished.} [Quran 17:18] So, the matter depends on the Will of Allaah.

As regards whoever strives hard in this worldly life from among the disbelievers in order to earn his living through normal ways of earning, then he is not meant by the verse, and his earning is not considered among the righteous acts; rather, he utilizes the possible means and he may succeed and he may fail in his earning. Indeed, Allaah predestined with His absolute wisdom that some disbelievers be poor so that the Muslims would not be deceived by their condition, as Allaah Says (what means): {And if it were not that the people would become one community [of disbelievers], We would have made for those who disbelieve in the Most Merciful — for their houses — ceilings and stairways of silver upon which to mount. And for their houses — doors and couches [of silver] upon which to recline. And gold ornament. But all that is not but the enjoyment of worldly life. And the Hereafter with your Lord is for the righteous.} [Quran 43: 33-35]

Nevertheless, it is as if the disbelievers are in Paradise in all cases if their situation in this worldly life is compared to the punishment that they are promised in the Hereafter, as the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: ''This worldly life is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the disbeliever.” [Muslim]

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said when interpreting this Hadeeth: “It is for this reason that this worldly life with all that it involves of embitterment, distress, worries and troubles is for the disbeliever as Paradise as he will move from it to the punishment of Hellfire – we seek refuge in Allaah from it – so this worldly life for him is like Paradise. It is reported that Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him the author of Fat'h Al-Baari who was the Supreme Judge in Egypt at his time, used to pass in the market on a carriage in a procession, and one day a Jew stopped him and said to him: Your Prophet says: ’This worldly life is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the disbeliever’, how can this be possible while you enjoy such luxury and honor – and I am in severe poverty and humiliation, so how come this happens? So, Ibn Hajar  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said to him:I – though you see me honored and surrounded by servants, this for me, in comparison to what a believer will get from the pleasures of Paradise, is like prison; while you, with your condition of poverty and humiliation, in comparison to what a disbeliever will find in Hellfire, is like Paradise. So, the Jew approved this statement and he embraced Islam, declaring the testimony of truth: “I bear witness that None has the right to be worshipped except Allaah and that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger.

Allaah Knows best.

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