What Happens to Regular Non-Muslims?

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan


I’ve always struggled with understanding what happens to all the non-Muslims. I go about my day and see neighbours and families, regular people, living what seems to be normal lives. They have good points and faults as we all do. I also look at the extraordinary amount of people that continually are born and then die again just living everyday life. What happens to them? 

Living in a non-Muslim country, it is difficult to understand why Allah would have all these people born only to be sent to hellfire. Is there a better way to approach these questions?


Thank you for your question.

Allah created all human beings for a purpose. He, the Most High, said, “Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” The purpose of our existence is established in the following words of Allah, the Most High, “[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving”.  He confirmed the way He will test which of us is best in deed by saying, “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” 

Accordingly, the purpose of our creation is to test which of us is best in action, in worshipping Him, and in obeying Him. Thereafter, Allah sent Messengers (blessings and peace be upon them) to convey this purpose to mankind. Our Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the last and final Messenger. In addition, Allah favoured man with intellect. Sound intellect confirms that created things around us testify to the existence of the Creator. Consequently, we find philosophers speaking of a supreme being whose existence is necessary or compulsory. This sound intellect should create an urge within man to search for his Creator. 

Thereafter, those who come to learn of the true Religion of Islam and accept it will succeed in this test and be saved. Those who come to learn of Islam and reject it will receive their recompense. They will receive the reward for their good in this world, and be held accountable for their disbelief in the hereafter. 

However, those who do not hear about the true Religion of Islam or come to know about a distorted version of Islam will be shown mercy. Imam Ghazali stated in his Faysal al-Tafriqah, “Most of the Roman and Turkestan Christians will be covered in mercy if Allah Wills. I mean by these Christians, those who live on the outskirts of these countries, whom the call (to Islam) has not reached.” Furthermore, he stated that those who have received the call to Islam in a distorted way will also be shown mercy. He gave the following example of a distorted way: those who only hear the name Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and do not know about his description or qualities, and who believe he was an imposter claiming Prophethood, have not truly heard the message of Islam. Since only a distorted version of Islam has reached them, they will be shown mercy. Note that there is not necessarily consensus about this view of Ghazali. 

In addition, it is Allah’s decree that most people throughout history will not take heed and prefer a life of disbelief. He said, “Indeed, the Hour is coming – no doubt about it – but most of the people do not believe.” 

Finally, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was concerned about how the whole of humanity may be saved from Allah’s wrath. Therefore, when we observe humanity living their lives in a state of heedlessness, we should carry our Prophet’s concern within us, and try our utmost to convey Islam by our actions, character and words. 

And Allah knows best 

[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.