In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms
One source on the Internet opines that since Jinns also are created from fire, Jinns might like being in Hell. Really?
All creatures are flesh and blood, but it is doubtful that one fish likes to be swallowed by another or that one person likes to be trammeled by another (except maybe the masochist; and there is a point when even the masochist gets sore being beaten).
Ignorance of the law is no excuse! How often have we heard that one. People knowing the punishment for breaking the law take care to avoid overstepping boundaries, or to avoid detection in overstepping. Allāh being graphic about the sufferings in Hell is a favor/ blessing to man. There is no speculating or wondering. Those who are brazen enough to transgress limits, fully cognizant of the severity of the treatment involved, have no justification in balking at Magistracy. It is only a reaction to one’s action! Unless Allāh forgives him/her.
Allah is neither a tyrant nor a vengeful God.
The suffering in hell are from mainly two causes (1) injustice to others, e.g. oppression, robbery, murder, aggression (2) injustice to self, e.g. disbelief in Allah God, joining partners with God, illicit relations even though of mutual consent, hypocrisy and evil plots.
Hell, in Islam, is not a torture chamber of a vengeful God. Hell is a reformatory for the sinners to condition them for suitability into the higher plane of life. If earthly man in order to survive on distant planets must equip himself with specialized equipment, then similarly, man, to exist in the spiritual realm must possess certain spiritual qualities.
To live in a cold climate we need a certain kind of clothing; to live in a hot climate we need another kind of garment; space-travelers require special clothing to function in space; likewise, to live in the Hereafter –the spiritual world– we need spiritual clothing. When we prepare to go to a cold or hot climate we can either take these protective garments with us, or we can acquire them when we reach these destinations. However, we already possess this spiritual garment that is needed for the Hereafter –this spiritual garment is the soul. Since the Hereafter is a place of purity, we need to purify this garment/soul. We can purify our soul in this world or we can do so when we get to the Hereafter.
The soul is purified in this world through belief in Allah God, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage to Makkah. (Those who died before Islam and those who died without knowing about Islam and followed their respective prophets/ Scriptures have purified their souls).
If we refuse to, or neglect to purify our soul in this world, it becomes inevitable that we must undergo the process of purifying it in the Hereafter. This cleansing process is called Hell.
The suffering we go through during this purifying process in Hell is not punishment from God. It is rather suffering resulting from the cleansing process–like the pain suffered from the injection to cure rabies or from undergoing chemotherapy. It is not the specialist who inflicts the pain. The specialist only applies the remedy. The suffering is the result of the healing process.
The sins of atheism and joining partners with God are not forgiven: they must be cleansed in hell. Sins committed by an atheist or believer in God against others may or may not be forgiven, if Allah God pleases.
Jesus also taught about Hell. Jesus says that the sinful shall receive the “greater damnation” of “hell;” and that in the “furnace of fire” there shall be “wailing and gnashing of teeth”–(Matt. 23:14, 33; 13:42). Jesus spoke of “everlasting fire” that “never shall be quenched”–(Matt. 18:8; Mark 9:43).
Jude 1:7 speaks about “the vengeance of eternal fire.”
Jesus also says that they that have done good shall raise up “unto the resurrection of life” and those who have done evil shall raise up “unto the resurrection of damnation”–(John 5:29). And that “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire”–(Matt. 5:22).
This “hell” referred to by Jesus cannot be the Gehenna, the valley near Jerusalem, which was originally a place of child sacrifice and later became a pit for burning garbage. It would be erroneous to take Jesus’ speaking of “everlasting fire” and of the “furnace of fire” and of “eternal fire” to mean the valley outside Jerusalem, when this Gehenna outside of Jerusalem is no longer in existence and when it could not be “everlasting.”
The belief of some that the eternal punishment for the wicked is that after the judgment they will be cast into eternal death, goes against the teaching of Jesus. As already noted, Jesus himself told the sinful that they shall receive the “greater damnation” of “hell” and that in the “furnace of fire” there shall be “wailing and gnashing of teeth” –(Matt. 23:14, 33; 13:42).
There could not be a “greater” damnation (punishment) and “wailing and gnashing of teeth” if sinners will be cast into eternal death, because the dead knows nothing, has no feeling, and cannot experience any suffering–(Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10).
(Since the dead knows nothing, Jesus could not have descended into hell for three days and undergone suffering. Neither can it be said that there is no hell or that by hell it is meant the hole/grave the dead is put into, when the Apostles’ Creed states that Jesus was “buried” AND “descended” to hell. According to this Creed Jesus was subjected to TWO conditions –“buried” and “descended.”
As to why Lazarus said nothing about Hell after Jesus resurrected him see Jesus-soul & hell).
If sinners were all put to a final death as punishment then a minor criminal would be subjected to the same fate as the major criminal. This would not be justice. Even in the human justice a criminal is punished only according to the severity of the crime.
As for those individuals who do not care to be in heaven/ paradise, and would commit any crime and lewdness to have a lordly life, they would not suffer any consequences for their evil actions. But to this, Jesus rightly says in John 5:29 that they that have done good shall raise up “unto the resurrection of life” and those who have done evil shall raise up “unto the resurrection of damnation.” And “damnation” means “sending to hell, eternal punishment”–(The Oxford Paperback Thesaurus).
That sinners will not be put to a final death forever, is evidenced by Jesus who said that the righteous shall go into “life eternal” and the “wicked and slothful servant” shall go away into “everlasting punishment”–(Matt. 25:26, 46). Sinners cannot be subjected to “everlasting punishment” if they are put to death forever.
Further, Jesus (after giving several parables about how people choose the better of things over the inferior), says that similarly at the end of the world the wicked will be separated from the just; and that the angels will cast the wicked “into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”–(Matt. 13: 49-50). it would be pointless for Jesus to speak of “everlasting fire” and of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” if the punishment of the wicked was “death” in which condition they know nothing, has no feeling and therefore cannot experience any suffering.
It would be doubly pointless if this “hell” means the Gehenna near Jerusalem, which is no longer in existence, and when there may be thousands who are to be sent to this “ETERNAL FIRE”; and when only the HEREAFTER is “eternal.”
If sinners will be put to a final death as punishment, it would be pointless to resurrect them from their current death.
Hinduism also teaches the existence of “hell”–(Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, 16:16, 21). And Arjuna says to Lord Krishna that he heard “that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell”–(Ibid. 1:43). If humans were reincarnated into forms according to their good or bad deeds (karma), it would seem needless to have a “hell.”
Regarding the Jewish belief of hell, Allah revealed: “And they say: Fire will not touch us but for a few days. Say: Have you received a promise from Allah? Then Allah will not fail to perform His promise. Or do you speak against Allah, what you know not?–(Qur’an 2:80). Muhammad Ali has quoted Sale on this verse: “It is a received opinion among the Jews at present that no person, be he ever so wicked, or of whatever sect, shall remain in hell above eleven months, or at most a year, except Dathan and Abiram and atheists, who will be tormented there to all eternity” (Sale).”
What needs to be pondered over is whether the eleven months or one year, of the above belief, is in human time or Divine.
Given the estimation that one day of God is equal to 1,000 years of human time–(Qur’an 22:47), one year of God would be 365,000 years. This is a terrifyingly long time to be in hell. Even if the time to be spent in hell is according to human reckoning (365 days) it is no light matter. A cook who has received on the bare skin a splash from a boiling pot may attest to the jolting sensation at the experience. Imagine then, one’s whole person being engulfed by flames or submerged in boiling liquid. (Since the Hereafter is spiritual, it would seem then that time would be in Divine reckoning–365,000 years).
Will sinners “roast forever” in hell?
“Hell,” as Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din states, is “a natural sequence to our evil actions–(Qur’an 21:98), nay, it is a logical necessity; we need it, and cannot avoid it–(30:43). It has been created to meet the needs to which we will become alive as soon as we are resurrected.”(1)
“Fire is admittedly the most cleansing of all purifying factors. It is most natural, therefore, that this house of purgatory should be made of burning, purging fire with a pall of smoke over it (56:43). …If sufferers from nerve-troubles or filthy diseases are ordered by their medical advisers to be placed in a steamed room in a Turkish bath, how can we scoff at the idea of Hell and of us being ordered thither by Nature’s relentless surgeons (66:6), rough in their methods, perhaps, but bound to do as directed? Metals mixed with alloy are usually put in the melting-pot, so that dross is burnt off and the substance purified; so also we shall have to undergo a similar process to rid ourselves of physical dross. For this reason Saqar is one of the names given to Hell. The word means anything that changes the nature of other things by melting them. In a word, distress will come to a sinner from every quarter (14:17) to cleanse him from the evils that surround him from all sides (2:81).
The different names given by the Qur’an to Hell help to explain its nature. Sa’ir, Jahim and Jahannam mean something in the nature of a burning fire, Laza (70:15) explains the nature of its functions meaning anything that stupefies the brain. But Hutamah, its sixth name, is very suggestive. It means remorse, a feeling of shame and disgrace, because abasement (9:63) and intense remorse (2:167) are some of the chastise-ments administered to the denizens of Hell which they may in no wise escape (2:162). It shows that Hell is a mental torture: that its agonies are agonies of the mind (104:7). For, otherwise, why else should our physical body share our troubles if to be nothing but an instrument? The body is a lifeless thing unless it comes under the operation of the mind. It is, as it were, an unconsenting party if it joins with us in our wrong-doings. The principle of justice and equity do not punish a party who is forced to give his consent. Moreover, the verse which explains the nature of Al-Hutamah (104:5) decides the question. Speaking of the fire of Hell the Qur’an says that it will come out of our own hearts. Here in this life we are conscious of the same burning of the heart, when a strong desire, unbecoming in its very nature, goads us to do some wrong. The very idea of shame makes our blood hot and we feel as if we were being driven towards a pit of fire. (The sick has been known to groan and agonize over the fire in his body).
The Qur’an makes mention of some seven gates of Hell meant for different classes of sinners (15:44). The doors would lead to seven spiritual evils.”(2)
Sinners will not be destroyed forever. The time spent in Hell by a sinner will be proportional to his sin–(Qur’an 78:21-26); e.g. (just as metal with small amount of impurities require less severe treatment for purification as against more severely contaminated material). A petty criminal will not be subjected to the same punishment as a mass murderer. It would not be justice to punish them both to the same degree. Allah God is not unjust to any of His servants–(Qur’an 22:10; 41:46; 50:29).
As for those who doubt the Resurrection, Allah says to the skeptics who think that bones and decayed particles cannot be restored to life, that even if they were stones or iron, that He Who created them at first has the power to restore them to life–(Qur’an 17:49-52; 75:1-4, 37-40). If today’s man using a single cell can construct an entire being, Allāh, the Originator and the Creator, can re-create man.
If in order to preserve one’s life the amputating of a cancerous limb is “ethically admirable,” and to subject one to the rigorous torment of radiation to rid him of a cancer is “ethically admirable,” and to forcibly confine one to cure him of addiction is “ethically admirable,” then to purge one of spiritual dross must also be “ethically admirable.”
It is doubtful that one knowing that the cure for his disease lies in his being subjected to severe and unorthodox methods of treatment would choose not to endure it but would prefer death.
(The Toronto Star of Tuesday, March 2, 1999, carried an article titled “Torture-like technique adds inches to dwarf,Bone-breaking operation is rare–and expensive. ”Which reported the story of one “Joanna Vaughn,” whereby “It took three years of having her limbs broken and stretched” so that she now “has grown 12 inches”).
If then, the treatment necessary for man’s spiritual life is considered to be one of “cruelty” and “barbaric torture,” it would seem to prefer cruelty over death, by the examples shown by society.
If an individual is warned that a certain package contains tainted meat, and that eating of this meat will prove poisonous and will require hospitalization and forcible evacuation of the stomach to restore health; and if this individual still eats of this tainted meat, the physician could hardly be charged as being sadistic for pumping the man’s stomach.
Allah cannot be indicted as sanctioning “sadism” for ridding the sinner of spiritual poison. Parents who punish their errant children (with the required punishment), are not guilty of “sadism.” Doctors who strait-jacket patients in their treatment are not guilty of “sadism.”
There are various reasons why a person will go to Hell.The chief reason being, even if he/she does all the good and no evil, because of his/her disavowing his/her belief in Allāh, God, and turning to disbelief –in the human sphere when one party does not honor his contract they usually end up in court where judgment is given against the defaulting party. Before we were sent into the world we made a covenant with Allāh that He is our Lord (and He sent prophets to remind/guide us):
“And when thy Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their descendants, and made them bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes; we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this, Or (lest) you should say: Only our fathers ascribed partners (to Allah) before (us), and we were (their) descendants after them. Wilt Thou destroy us for what liars did?”–(Qur’an 7:172-173. Compare with Jeremiah 1:5 where God told him: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee”).
Muhammad Ali comments on the above verse from Allāh (Qur’an 7:172): “The verse does not mention the bringing forth of descendants from Adam, but from the children of Adam, and this seems clearly to refer to every human being as he comes into existence. The evidence is, therefore, that which human nature itself affords. It is, in fact, the same evidence which is elsewhere spoken of as being afforded by human nature as in “the nature made by Allah in which He has created men” (30:30).”
Hell is not a torture chamber of a vengeful God.
Hell is a favor of Allāh: One critic of Islam, citing Qur’an 55:43-45 where Hell is stated to be a favor to sinners, questions how could Hell be a “favor”?
(This is amusing. He should talk to addicts who were cleaned up).
Imagine yourself in the gutter from addiction. You are put in rehab. You curse and holler and scream and kick and shake and rattle and roll. Afterwards, you emerge like a newly minted shilling. You will be so joyed you might kiss the feet of the doctors and nurses and all else for ridding you of your social dross–for putting you through rehab hell. You will never again want to take another toke or smack or slug.
Ridding one of spiritual dross is a “favor” –yes, Hell is a favor of Allāh.
1. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Introduction to the Study of the Holy Qur’an, p. 97.
2. Ibid; pp. 100-103.