Is Allah forgiving or vengeful?

The Qur’an says that Allah is merciful and that He gives severe punishment. So is He forgiving or is He vengeful?

The Qur’an mentions many times that God is the Most Merciful. In fact, all except one of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an begin with Bismillaahir-Rahmaanir-Raheem, which means, “I begin with the name of God, the Entirely Merciful and the Especially Merciful”. These two descriptions of God are sometimes translated as “The Compassionate, the Merciful”; however in Arabic grammar, both names are an intensive form of the word “merciful”. Rahmaan means merciful to all creation, and justice is part of this mercy. Raheem means merciful especially to the believers and forgiveness is part of this mercy. A complimentary and comprehensive meaning is intended by the use of both of them together. In addition, Allah speaks of His forgiveness throughout the Qur’an. In fact, God’s mercy and forgiveness have been mentioned together more than 70 times in the Qur’an. Allah repeatedly reminds us saying: And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful

But He also gives severe punishment to those who deserve it. Allah told Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him):

Inform My slaves that it is I Who am the Forgiving, the Merciful, and that it is My punishment which is the [most] painful punishment. [15:49-50]

Allah is just, and His justice necessitates that He reward those who obey and serve Him and punish those who disobey and rebel against Him. If Allah did not punish the sinful, wicked and evil people who deserve to be punished, it would not be justice. When punishment for wrongdoing is certain, it serves to deter potential offenders. In contrast, if Allah forgave everyone and punished no one, there would be no reason for legislation, ethics or even morality. Life on earth would be chaotic and nothing short of anarchy. True justice, with its true rewards and just penalties can only be found with Allah, and that is what He has promised in the Qur’an:

We shall place the scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so no soul will be dealt with unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We to take account. [21:47]

Allah forgives all those who repent and correct themselves at any stage in their lives, and He has invited all people to His abundant forgiveness and mercy:

Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. And return [in repentance] to your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes upon you; then you will not be helped. And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment comes upon you suddenly, while you do not perceive. [39:53-5]

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