Difference between Divine Reminders and Divine Wrath
God and Monotheism
Question asked by .
Answered by Jhangeer Hanif

Could you comment on the following verse and its exposition? I was always of the opinion that divine wrath was inflicted on the unjust and the disbelievers and that a Rasūl’s (Messenger) presence and teaching is a pre-requisite. Actually this emerges from a debate on attributing present Muslim ills on divine wrath or to socio-economic factors. The verse is:

And fear chastisement which cannot fall exclusively on those of you who do wrong, and know that Allah is severe in punishment. (8:25)


You have rightly said that divine wrath only befalls disbelievers after the truth has been unveiled to them in its ultimate form by a special representative, called a Rasūl of Allah. Because the disbelievers deny the message of their Rasūl in spite of being literally convinced about its veracity, their matter is decided in this very world and is not deferred to the Hereafter. Once decided, they are wiped out from the face of this earth and find no further chance to repent or mend their ways. This is what is specific to the era of a Rasūl and this punishment is what should be taken as divine wrath.

In contrast to this, there is another type of punishment that also befalls wrongdoers in a period devoid of a Rasūl. This may be more appropriately termed as ‘Divine Reminder’. Allah does not leave the wrongdoers unchecked even when there is no Messenger among them. Although in this case, no court of justice is established in this world, divine reminders do descend upon the wrong doers, all the way through, to make them mend their ways. With every misfortune that strikes them, they still have a chance to repent and change the course of their lives. Those who take heed and thereby surrender are forgiven. The Holy Qur’ān reads:

Whatever of misfortune strikes you, it is what your right hands have earned and He forgives many. (42:30)

The verse that you have quoted actually alludes to the stark reality that an individual is indeed part of a collectivity. He has many people around him for whom he should not play the role of just a spectator. He has been obligated to not only follow the right path himself but also guide and exhort others to the same. After professing faith and carrying out righteous deeds, he is further required to show the right path to others; to enjoin what is good and to forbid what is wrong.

Believing men and believing women are friends to each other. They enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong. (9:71)

Thus, ‘enjoining what is good and forbidding what is wrong’ is our duty that we are obligated to perform in the circle of our friends and relations. The context of the verse quoted by you shows that a warning is sounded to the ‘righteous’ who wish to sit within their cocoons and, fearing that their friends and relations might get angry, would not ask them to give up their ill ways. Since they have taken up a wrong attitude, the divine reminders will not leave them unharmed once they descend upon the wrong doers. Not only do the wrong doers need to change their ways, the apparently righteous should also mend their ways. If they won’t, they had better be prepared for the punishment that would not differentiate between those who do wrong and those who remain unconcerned regarding violation of Allah’s commandments. This is what, I believe, is the purport of the verse.

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