Due to a slight misunderstanding, many people see this as an unresolvable contradiction. This question has troubled them to the point of driving them away from religion altogether. The misunderstanding begins with the assumption that God loves everyone, even sinners. Then it becomes difficult to explain why God would punish sinners. Some people attempt to explain their way around this by saying that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. This explanation would have been good enough if God would punish the sin and save the sinner. Instead, God will punish the sinner, so the problem remains.
To survey the problem a little further, consider the following quote from Matthew's Gospel: You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies . . . (Matthew 5:43-44).
Now, this passage indicates that it is a good thing to love one's enemies. It follows, then, that God, being infinitely good, must love His enemies too. But then, why would He punish them? Why, for example, would God torment some of His creatures day and night for ever and ever in a lake of burning sulphur if He loves them? (see Revelation 20:10)
The Qur'an resolves this problem by indicating quite clearly that although God is full of loving kindness He does not love sinners who refuse to change. We know from the Qur'an that Allah does not like the following categories of people:
• mischief makers
• treacherous ingrates
• proud people
• rejecters of God's message.
It presents, therefore, no difficulty in the mind of a Muslim if God punishes such people. On the other hand, it makes more sense that God will not treat the good and bad in the same manner. Therefore we must all try our best to do what pleases God, and seek His forgiveness for our failings. The Qur'an tells us that Allah loves the following categories of people:
• those who do good
• those who repent for their sins
• those who keep themselves clean
• those who fulfil their pledges and are conscious of Allah
• those who are steadfast on the right path
• those who trust in Allah.
Let us therefore ask God to make us deserving of His infinite love.