Alleged Contradictions in the Qur'an answer
Is the Punishment and Mercy of Allah Arbitrary?
The "pleasure" of Allah? Is God's action of punishment or mercy and guidance or misguidance arbitrary? Verse 29:21 states that God punishes and shows mercy as He pleases, and verse 14:4 states the same about His guidance and misguidance.
Verses in question:
29:21 He punishes whomever He wills, and bestows His mercy on whomever He wills; and unto Him you shall be made to return.
14:4 And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them. Then Allah lets go astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.
1. First, there is no 'contradiction' in these verses at all, and we can only wonder why the critic has chosen to label it as such. As for the interpretation of these verses, they are all explained within the Qur'an itself. With regards to the punishment and mercy of Allah, they are delivered with complete justice to whomever deserves it. Indeed, Allah has the power and strength to punish whomever He pleases, but in His justice His punishment does not befall any except those deserved it. When describing the punishment that befell previous disbelieving nations, the Qur'an states:
9:70, 29:40, 30:9. It was not Allah Who wronged them, but they wronged their own souls.
And in another location, Allah mentions:
43:76 And We wronged them not, but they have been the wrong-doers themselves.
Thus, it is clear that Allah punishes those who are sinful, who reject His signs and continue to oppress His creation on earth. His punishment is given to those who deserve it. The same is true for His mercy:
3:132 And obey Allah and the Messenger so that ye may obtain mercy.
24:56 So establish regular Prayer and give regular Charity; and obey the Messenger so that ye may receive mercy.
49:10 The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy
Just like His Punishment, it is evident that Allah's mercy is given for a purpose, to those who enjoin right and forbid wrong and perform righteous deeds, worshipping Allah with sincerity.
2. We can use the same method to determine the reasons behind Allah's guidance and His allowance of someone to go astray. With regards to guidance, we have already mentioned the verse, [Allah] guides whom He wills. The question is - who does Allah will to be guided? The answer is given in the Qur'an:
42:13 The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah - the which We have sent by inspiration to thee - and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).
7:158... So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.
Thus, Allah guides those who turn to Him in prayer and seek His guidance. . Those who turn to their creator and fulfil their duty will receive further guidance. While those who are cruel to God's creation, who reject His blessings with ingratitude, they will be punished and are not worthy of guidance. They will only be allowed to stray even further. Allah clarifies who is allowed to go astray:
2:26-27. But He causes not to be misguided except the iniquitous. Those who break Allah's Covenant after ratifying it, and sever what Allâh has ordered to be joined, and spread corruption on earth, it is they who are the losers.
45:23 Have you seen him who takes his own lust (vain desires) as his god, and Allah knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allâh? Will you not then remember?
3:86 ...but Allah guides not a people unjust.
The above discussion should make it clear that the mercy, guidance, punishment and misguidance delivered by Allah are not arbritary at all. Rather, there is divine wisdom behind all of these and Allah is not unjust in His decisions.