Islam's Response to Atheists - Part 1

Infinite Mercy vs. Infinite Justice

There are many arguments posed by atheists and other confused people about the nature of God’s attributes. An example of such an argument includes: God does not exist because God cannot be both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. They say, if God is infinitely merciful, then people would not suffer from disease. If God is infinitely just, then tyrants would be punished immediately. To be infinitely merciful means that God would not punish anyone, while to be infinitely just would require God to hold everyone accountable for exactly what they do.  

The arguments in this category come down to confusing the difference between the perfection of an attribute and the infinite nature of an attribute. For example, if a person was “infinitely giving,” they would give even if it was harmful to the person receiving. They would also give equally to causes that worked against each other. Any attribute taken to the infinite level actually produces a deficiency. In the Quran, God never claims to have an infinite attribute. Rather, the claim is that God’s attributes are at the state of perfection. Understanding the perfect state of any attribute requires understanding it in relation to all of God’s other attributes.

Regarding the specific question posed: Mercy is to give when the person receiving is not owed anything as a matter of right. It is not an act of mercy for a person to pay money to sustain and support their own children. It is an act of mercy to volunteer support for someone else’s children.

Some people erroneously think that we are like God’s children. Therefore, they think God owes us something as a matter of right, and they get angry at God when they don’t receive what they think they are owed. According to the Quran, we are not God’s children. We are God’s property. As property, God owes us nothing, and we owe Him everything. So everything we receive from God, including God’s justice is actually an aspect of God’s mercy. We are not entitled to just treatment, and we are in no position to demand it.

God does not owe any of His creation a healthy, happy, and comfortable life. God could have created all of us to live a permanent life of severe suffering. Out of His mercy, God created for us this temporary world, and determined that our behavior in it affects which permanent existence we will go to in the next world. Whether God’s granting or withdrawing comforts in this temporary life is a reward or a punishment depends on our response to them. When we respond to hardship with patient acceptance and ease with thankful humility, what we really received was a mercy and a reward from God. Because out of God’s mercy, God has determined that such a response from us in this temporary life results in a reward in the permanent life to come.

Justice of a ruler involves correcting the injustices committed between subjects, and the injustices committed by the subjects towards the rights of the ruler. God’s justice with respect to the first is completed on the Day of Judgment. On that day, people will be forced to compensate others for the harm done to them by giving them from their good deeds. When their good deeds run out, they will take bad deed from those whom they harmed. Then God rewards and punishes accordingly. Thus, perfect justice will be imposed between God’s subjects.

Some question why God’s justice is not imposed in this life, or why it is not imposed faster on tyrants and evil people. In part, the answer is that it is an aspect of both God’s mercy, and the perfection of God’s justice that He gives people a chance to voluntarily repent and correct the harm that they do.

With respect to justice between us and the rights of God, it is an aspect of God’s mercy, and the perfection of God’s justice that God does not impose complete justice in this area. How could weak and deficient creatures such as us ever appropriately fulfill the rights of a perfect Creator? If God were to impose complete justice for the deficiencies committed by people towards the rights of God, we would all go to Hell.

Some may question why the basis of holding us accountable with respect to the rights to our Creator is mercy, but with respect to the rights of creation it is justice? The answer is that the perfection of the attribute of justice is to be forgiving and merciful with respect to your own rights, not the rights of others.

Mercy is extended at the discretion of the one extending the mercy. If a person chooses to be merciful and gives to support one poor child, it does not create a duty to extend the same mercy to all poor children. Out of God’s mercy, He chose to be consistent in dispensing His mercy when holding us accountable for our deficiencies in fulfilling our duties towards Him.

Then, out of God’s mercy, He chose to inform us of the standard He will use in dispensing His mercy. According to the Quran, God will reward with Heaven those who are sincere in believing in Him and the totality of His message. God will only accept good deeds performed with the pure intention of obeying only Him, and only when they are done in the way God commanded them to be performed. So God does not accept “good deeds” done with the wrong intention. God also will not accept acts done with a good intention but contrary to His commands. Then it is out of God’s perfect justice that God will consistently apply this standard for dispensing His mercy when He judges us on the Day of Judgment.


Note: According to the Quran, the proper name of “God” which combines and includes all of His perfect attributes is “Allah”.

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1- The Opening / Al-Fatihah

2-The Cow - Part 1
2-The Cow - Part 2
2-The Cow - Part 3
2-The Cow - Part 4
2-The Cow - Part 5
2-The Cow - Part 6
2-The Cow - Part 7
18-The Cave / Al-Kahf
19-Mary Mother of Jesus / Maryam
24-The Light 35-40
29-The Spider
67-God's Kingdom / Al-Mulk
68-The Pen / Al-Qalam

69-Day of Accountability / Al-Haqqah
70-The Levels / Al-Ma'arij:
71- Noah / Nuh
72- The Jinn / Al-Jinn
73-Wrapped with Responsibility / Al-Muzzammil

74-Get out of Bed / Al-Muddaththir

75-Day of Resurrection / Al-Qiyamah

76-Humanity / Al-Insan

77-What I send / Mursalat

78-The News / An-Naba

79-The Angels Who Pull Out Your Souls / An-Naziat

80-He Frowned / Abasa

81-When the Sun Collapses and Dies / At-Takwir

82-The Tearing / Al-Infitar

83-The Cheaters / Al-Mutaffifin

84-Ripped Open / Al-Inshiqaq
85-The Constellations / Al-Buruj

86-The Brilliant Stars / At-Tariq
87-The Most High / Al-A'la
88-The Overhelming Day / Al-Ghashiyah
89-The Dawn / Al-Fajr
90-The Sacred Land of Makkah / Al-Balad
91-The Sun / Ash-Shams
92-The Night / Al-Lail
93-Morning / Ad-Duha
94-Insight and Understanding / Ash-Sharh
95-The Fig / At-Teen
96-The Clot / Al-Alaq
97-The Night of Destiny / Al-Qadr
98-Clear Evidence / Al-Bayyinah

99-The Earthquake / Al-Zalzalah
100-Running Horses /Al-Adiyat
101-Terrifying / Al-Qariah
102-Collecting Things / Al-Takathur
103-Time / Asr
104-Backbiting / Al-Humazah
105-The Elephant / Al-Feel
106-The Tribe of Quraish / Quraish
107-Small Assistance / Al-Ma'un
108-A River in Paradise Called Kauthar / Al-Kauthar
109-Those Who Reject the Truth
110-My Support / Al-Nasr
111-Twisted Braided Rope / Al-Masad
112-Pure Intention / Al-Ikhlas
113-Daybreak / Al-Falaq
114-People / Al-Nas