In one of his articles,*Mr Jochen Katz has raised a question regarding the position of Jesus (sws), according to the Qur'an, in the Hereafter. Mr Katz, in his introduction to the article, writes:
Jesus is raised to Allah (4:158), near stationed with him (3:45), worshiped by millions of Christians, yet 21:98 says, that all that are worshiped by men besides Allah will burn in Hell together with those who worship them.
There is no doubt about the fact that, according to the Qur'an, Jesus (sws), like the other prophets of God shall be blessed with the most elevated of ranks among those who are successful in the Hereafter. Thus, I agree, to a great extent, with Mr Katz's interpretation of those verses, which expressly state that Jesus (sws) shall be among the people of the highest of ranks in the Hereafter.
However, Mr Katz feels that 21:98 is contradictory to the aforementioned belief regarding the elevated position of Jesus (sws) in the Hereafter. The verse states:
You and whatever you worship shall, surely, be the fuel of hellfire. You shall all, indeed, come to it. (21:98)
Mr Katz writes:
The logic is clear, Jesus is not God (5:75), millions of Christians are worshipping Jesus (sws) today and even the Qur'an acknowledges this (5:119); therefore Jesus will be fuel for the Hell fire (21:98) together with the Christians. This clearly contradicts the verses on Jesus' special place near to Allah (3:45; 4:158 and other verses).
Although, it apparently seems that 21:98 implies that those, who worship others besides God and the stones as well as the personalities – which these stones denote – that are worshipped besides God, shall all be thrown in the fires of Hell; however, a close analysis of the referred verse, in the light of the concept of justice as well as the general principles of accountability given in the Qur'an raises a few questions regarding this interpretation of the verse. For instance, the Qur'an clearly states that on the Day of Judgment, a person shall only be rewarded or punished for his own good or bad deeds, respectively. For example:
Has he not been informed about what was in the scriptures of Moses and of Abraham, who fulfilled his covenant, that [on the Day of Judgment,] no one shall bear the burden of another and that [on that day], man shall have only what he strived for. (53:36-9)
According to the aforementioned as well as a number of other verses of the Qur'an, on the Day of Judgment, one shall neither be made to bear the burden of the sins of another person nor shall he be rewarded for the deeds of another person. Keeping this general principle regarding the accountability and the reward and punishment of the Hereafter in perspective and then reconsidering the implication of 21:98, one feels that if a person is falsely worshipped and is wrongfully elevated to the position of a god by his followers, the wrongfulness lies in the actions and beliefs of the followers, not in that of the person, who is so elevated. The only exception, of course, would be if the person is worshiped by his followers, in accordance with his own teachings. In such a case, the wrongfulness of the act of worshipping a false god, would be shared by the worshippers as well as the worshipped. Under the circumstances, one is obviously faced with the question as to why, according to 21:98, would both the worshippers as well as the worshiped be thrown in Hellfire. In other words: 'Why should the worshipped be punished for the acts of the worshippers.'
This, in my opinion, is precisely the question, which has led Mr Katz to consider 21:98 to be contradictory to the other verses referred to in his article as well as the general concept of justice stipulated by the Qur'an, with reference to the accountability of the Hereafter.
However, the stated question easily finds an answer if we interpret 21:98 in the light of the basic principle given in 53:36-9 (cited above). Thus, a Muslim mind restricts the warning mentioned in 21:98 to those false deities, who were worshiped by their followers, in accordance with their own teachings. This would imply that if the false gods mentioned in the verse had actually urged their followers to worship them, then they would (and should) share with their followers the painful punishment of the Hereafter. On the contrary, if these false gods had not preached falsehood and had no part or contribution in being made false gods then, obviously, they would not deserve (and, therefore, would not be made) to share the painful punishment with their followers, Thus, the Qur'an has, in fact, clarified that on the Day of Judgment, it would be ascertained whether or not a particular personality, that was worshipped by his/her followers, did actually preach this false worship or not. The Qur'an says:
And on that Day, We shall gather them [all] and whatever they worship besides God, then He [i.e. God] will say [to those that were falsely worshipped]: 'Did you lead these of my people astray or did they stray from the right path themselves?' They shall say: 'You are indeed clear of all wrong. It was not our right to [teach others to] take any guardians besides You. And [thus, it was not our teachings, which led them astray, but] actually you blessed them and their forefathers with so much comfort [in life] that they disregarded Your reminders [of the Hereafter] and [thus] became a people [bound to be] destroyed.' Now [to the worshippers of false deities, God will say:] 'They have denied what you say [regarding their leading you astray]. Now, you shall neither be able to avert your doom nor shall you be helped [by anyone]. And those of you who have committed this grave injustice, We shall cause him to taste an extreme punishment.' (25:17-9)
A similar dialogue is also reported to take place between God and Jesus (sws):
And God shall say: 'O Jesus son of Mary, did you teach people: "Take me and my mother to be two gods besides the One God?" He would reply: 'You are absolutely clear of all wrong. I could never have claimed what I had no right to. Had I said so, You would have known it. You know even that, which resides in my heart, while I do not know what resides in Your heart. Indeed, You are the one, who knows all that is hidden [from others]. I did not say anything to them except that which You directed me to [say, which was]: "Worship the One God, my Lord and your Lord." I bore witness upon them [of this fact] as long as I remained with them. Then, when you finished my term. You were the one watching over them. And You are indeed a witness on all things.' (5:116-7)
Thus, after their innocence is made known to their followers, all such false deities shall get the great rewards awaiting them, if they deserve to. While, on the other hand, all the worshippers of such false deities; the followers of falsehood shall be led to meet their ultimate doom.
The Qur'an also tells us that with these idolaters, the stone images and idols that they held as their gods shall also be thrown into Hell, adding insult to their injury:
And if you cannot do so – and surely, you shall never be able to do so – then fear the [great] fire, of which these [rejecting] men and these [worshipped] stones shall provide the fuel. [The fire] that is [specially] prepared for these rejecters. (2:24)
Believers, save yourselves and your families from a great fire, the fuel of which shall be these [rejecting] people and these [worshipped] stones. (66:6)
Seen in the light of the foregoing explanation, it should be clear that 'whatever you worship' referred to in 21:98, who shall be thrown in the great fire of hell, are:
1. Those who falsely preached their followers to worship them and, therefore, deserve to be punished; and
2. The stones and wooden images, which were falsely worshipped by people. This, as should be clear, would not be to punish these stone and wooden images, but to add insult to the injury of the worshippers.
Moreover, Jesus (sws), in the company of the other prophets of God, shall most certainly be in the everlasting bliss of Paradise.
I would ask Mr Katz to kindly point out any inconsistency in the foregoing explanation of the referred verses.
Courtesy: Understanding-Islam( http://www.understanding-islam.com/articles/responses/tpojith.htm)