Question: Why do Muslims believe that there is sever punishment in the life after? If God is so merciful – as Islam claims – why did He create hellfire punishment?Answer:Salam Dear Brother, Thank you for this very important question and for contacting Ask About Islam. God’s mercy is granted to all of His creatures. He created them and provides for all of their needs, even though some of them deny His existence and work against those who believe and worship Him! God has given us life, knowledge and everything we need to sustain and enjoy, to the utmost degree possible. He has given us a free will and a choice of paths to follow. Those who follow His guidance, which in itself is a mercy from Him, will lead happy lives, but those who reject His guidance will remain astray. Allah is the Most Knowledgeable, Who created our “very selves” and Who knows what benefits and harms us, to the minutest detail… God has reserved a special mercy for those who believe in Him and struggled to stay on the path of righteousness throughout their lives. Those who were patient with the trials of life and its difficulties, along with those whose faith was not shaken easily, will receive a reward without limits.[Spiritual snippets: God as one’s ear, eye, tongue, and hand]God has sent many signs to remind us and help us understand the truth. He has shown us the problems that result from following the path of evil in this life and the hereafter, as He has shown us the benefits of following the path of righteousness. He asks nothing from us in return except that we believe in Him alone and worship none other than Him. Major sins are truly harmful to others and ourselves around us. Indulging in alcohol, illicit sex, lying, stealing, etc. inflict tremendous damage on our societies and God alone knows the full consequences and ramifications of our actions. Following God’s path ensures that we will live in peace and prosperity in this life and receive a great reward in the next. He commands us only to do what is beneficial for us. Yet, even after falling into numerous mistakes and shortcomings, we find that Allah is Most Merciful and Most Forgiving with those who turn to Him in sincere repentance. There is one thing, however, that God has told us He will not forgive, that is to associate partners with Him in His Sovereignty and Majesty. Those who die in this state of belief have truly gone astray and have not given God His due. So, after receiving countless messages, bounties, blessings and warnings, we still refuse to follow good advice out of our own free will, what should be the result? Would a person not have resigned his / her own fate to eternal misery, having refused to strive towards paradise? Were there no reward for good, what would encourage us to do good? Were there no punishment for evil, what would discourage us from doing evil things? If God were to treat the evil and the good in the same manner, there would be no justice. Even in this worldly life, we must differentiate between the two. This is in order to maintain a peaceful and just society. Evil and good are not the same for them to be afforded the same treatment by us and certainly God is more Just than we can ever be. Where would justice be in rewarding someone with paradise, while he did nothing to deserve it? I hope this has clarified matters and I ask God to guide us all to what pleases Him. Salam and please keep in touch.This Q & A originally appeared on OnIslam. net