Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
What happens if someone didn’t know about Islam all their life, then someone told them about it, but they died straight after it was revealed without being able to do anything?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
Except for those who are explicitly declared in the Quran and the Prophetic narrations as being from the people of Paradise or Hellfire, we cannot make any definitive statements regarding anyone.
In reality, only Allah (Most High) knows the exact state upon which anyone passes. As for us, we act based on what is apparent to us: whether they were Muslim or not.
If someone appears to have passed away as a Muslim, we apply the rulings of Islam to that person: we bury them in the Muslim cemetery; we wash, shroud, and pray over them; their inheritance will be given out according to the Islamic injunctions; and we will pray for their forgiveness. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
As for those who appear to have passed away in a state of unbelief, we do not apply the aforementioned rulings of Islam to them.
In either case, we leave their affair to Allah Most High.
The scholars have determined that a person is only morally responsible for accepting the religion of Islam if they meet the following conditions:
- They are sane;
- They are mature (i.e., have reached puberty);
- They have the ability to hear and/or see;
- The message of Islam has reached them clearly and without distortion. [Laqqani, Jawharat al-Tawhid]
Anyone who does meet these conditions is not considered to have disbelieved in Islam. According to most scholars, such a person is saved on the Day of Judgment and will be among the people of Paradise. [Ibid.]
True Disbelief (Kufr)
If a person fulfills these conditions but yet doesn’t embrace Islam, he or she is a disbeliever.
Again, we can only judge another person’s belief or lack thereof based on what they show to the outside world and what they say about themselves. Apart from that, we leave the reality of their affairs to Allah Most High.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch teaches Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he completed four years at the Darul Uloom Seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences.
He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he studied for three years in Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most outstanding scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib.
In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.