Al-Jannah wal An-Nâr – The Paradise and the Hellfire [1/12]

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Definition and Explanation

Hell is the abode which Allâh (swt) has prepared for those who do not
believe in Him (swt), those who rebel against His (swt) laws and disbelieve
in His Messengers. It is the punishment for His (swt) enemies, the prison
for evildoers.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)

It is the ultimate humiliation and loss; there is nothing worse:

“Our Lord! Verily, whom You admit to the Fire, indeed, You have disgraced
him, and never will the Dhâlimûn [polytheists and wrongdoers] find any
helpers” (3:192)

“Know they not that whoever opposes and shows hostility to Allâh and His
Messenger, certainly for him will be the fire of Hell to abide therein? That
is extreme disgrace”. (9:63)

“The losers are those who will lose themselves and their families on the Day
of Resurrection. Verily, that will be a manifest loss!” (39:15)

How could Hell be other than what we have described, when it is full of utterly
indescribable torment, pain and grief? It is eternal and its inhabitants
will remain there forever. Allâh (swt) has condemned them and their place
in the Fire:

“Evil indeed it [Hell] is as an abode and as a place to dwell” (25:66)

“This is so! And for the Taghîn [transgressors] – will be an evil final
return – Hell! Where they will burn, and worst [indeed] is that place to
rest!” (38:55-6)

Paradise and Hell Have Already Been Created

At-Tahhâwi said, in his book on al-‘Aqîdah al-Salafiyyah (correct belief in
accordance with that of the early generations of Islâm) that is known as
al-‘Aqîdah al-Tahhâwiyyah:

“Paradise and Hell have already been created. They will never come to an end
or cease to exist. Allâh (swt) created Paradise and Hell before the rest of
creation, and He (swt) created inhabitants for each of them. Whoever He
(swt) wishes (will enter) Paradise by His grace and mercy, and whoever He
(swt) wishes (will enter Hell) as a result of His (swt) justice. Every
person will behave according to that for which he was created, and his
destiny will be that for which he was created; good deeds and evil deeds are
foreordained for all men”.

Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abul-‘Izz al-Hanafi remarked, in his commentary on
this text:

“With regard to his saying that Paradise and Hell have already been created,
Ahl as-Sunnah agree that Paradise and Hell have been created and are in
existence at the present moment. Ahlus-Sunnah continued to hold this view,
until some odd ideas of the Mu’tazilah and Qâdariyyah came along, which
denied that. These groups said: “Allâh will create them (ie Paradise and
Hell) on the Day of Resurrection.” They said this because of their false
arguments by means of which they seek to improve regulations on what Allâh
(swt) should do; (they say) it befits Allâh (swt) to do this, or it does not
befit Allâh (swt) to do that. They compare Him to His creation and their
actions. This is a kind of anthropomorphism with regard to deeds; they have
allowed the ideas of Jahmiyyah (a sect of Mu’tazilah named after the deviant,
Jahm ibn Safwan) to creep into their thinking, and have become mu’attalah
(those who deny that Allâh can see). They said, ‘It does not make sense for
Paradise to be created before the time of reward, because it will not be used
or inhabited for a very long time.’ They rejected the âyât and reports that
contradict these false notions they seek to project onto Allâh (swt). They
misinterpreted the texts and accused those who disagreed with them of going
astray and concocting bid’ah”.

Proofs from the Qur’ân and Hadîth in support of this are, for example:

“Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord, and
Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the earth,
prepared for those who believe in Allâh and His Messengers. That is the
Grace of Allâh, which He bestows on whom He is pleased with. And Allâh is
the Owner of Great Bounty”. (57:21)

“…for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for
al-Muttaqun” (3:133)

“And fear the fire, which is prepared for the disbelievers” (3:131)

“And indeed he (Muhammad) saw him (Jibrîl) at a second descent (ie another
time), near Sidrat al-Muntahâ (lote tree of the utmost boundary (beyond
which none can pass), near it is the Paradise of Abode” (53:13-15)

The Prophet ﷺ saw Sidrat al-Muntahâ, a tree in Heaven, and near it,
Paradise, as is mention in al-Bukhâri, and Muslim in the hadîth of Anâs
(ra). At the end of this narrative of al-Isrâ, the Prophet ﷺ said,

“Then Jibrîl brought me to Sidrat al-Muntahâ which was veiled in colours
indescribable. Then I entered Paradise, and its lights were of pearls and
its soil was musk”.

Muslim, Abu Dawud and Imâm Ahmad report from Abu Hurayrah (ra) that the
Messenger ﷺ said,

“When Allâh (swt) created Paradise and Hell, He sent
Jibrîl to Paradise, saying“Go and look at it and at what I have prepared
therein for its inhabitants”.
So he went and looked at it and at what Allâh
had prepared therein for its inhabitants…. then He sent him to Hellfire
saying, “Go and look at it and what I have prepared therein for its
inhabitants”
So he looked at it and saw that it was in layers, one above the
other….”

Muslim reports from Aishah (ra) that there was a solar eclipse in the time of
the Messenger ﷺ and he said,

“Whilst I was standing here I saw everything
that you have been promised, I even saw myself picking some of the fruits of
Paradise, when you saw me stepping forward. And I saw Hellfire, parts of it
consuming other parts, when you saw me stepping backward”.

Al-Bukhâri and Muslim report from Ibn ‘Abbas the same incident,

“I saw
Paradise and I tried to take a bunch of its fruit. If I had managed to do
so, you would have eaten from it until the end of time. And I saw the Fire
of Hell, and I have never seen anything so horrific or terrifying. I saw
that the majority of its inhabitants are women.”

Muslim also reports from Anas that the Prophet ﷺ said,

“By the One in
Whose Hand is my soul, if you had seen what I saw, you would laugh little and
cry much.”

They said, “What did you see, O Messenger of Allâh?”, He said,

“I saw Paradise and Hell”.

The Prophet ﷺ also ascended into jannah on the night of Mi’raj in his
‘Isra (night journey): for example –

“…I saw four rivers flowing out from beneath Sidrat al-Muntahaa, two
visible and two hidden.” (Muslim, Kitâb al-Imân, Bâb al-‘Isrâ, 1/150,
no.164)

“Whilst I was walking in Paradise I saw a river whose banks were domes of
hollow pearls and I asked, “What is this, O Jibreel?” He said, “This is
al-Kawthar which your Rabb has given to you”. (from Anas ibn Mâlik, Sahih
al-Bukhâri, Kitâb ar-Riqâq, Bâb fil-Hawd, Fath al-Bâri, 11/464)

Al-Bukhâri and Muslim report from Jâbir that the Messenger of Allâh said,

“I entered Paradise where I saw ar-Rumaysa, the wife of Abu Talhah. And I
heard footsteps and asked, “Who is that?” He (Jibreel) said, “That is
Bilâl”. And I saw a palace with women in its courtyard. I asked, “Whose is
this?” They said, It is for ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab” (Mishkât al-Masâbih,
3/226)

Imâm Ahmed, Ibn Hibbân and al-Hâkim report from Abu Hurayrah that the
Prophet ﷺ said, “The children of the believers are in Paradise, being
cared for by Ibrâhim (as)
[and in the narration of Abu Nu’aym, ad-Dawylami,
and Ibn Asakir it adds- “and Sarah, until they give them back to their
parents on the day of Resurrection”]

Al-Bukhâri and Muslim also report from ‘Abdullâh ibn ‘Umar (ra) that the
Messenger of Allâh ﷺ said,

“When anyone of you dies, he will be shown
his position morning and evening. If he is one of the people of Paradise
then he will be one of the people of Paradise, and if he is one of the people
of Hell, then he will be one of the people of Hell, and he will be told,
“This is your position, until Allâh (swt) resurrects you on the Day of
Resurrection”.

According to al-Muwatta of Imâm Mâlik and as-Sunân, Abu Dawûd, “Ka’b ibn
Mâlik said the Messenger of Allâh ﷺ said, “Verily the soul of the
believer is a bird hanging on to the trees of Paradise, until Allâh Swt
returns it to its body on the day of Resurrection”

This makes it clear that souls will enter Paradise before the Day of
Resurrection.

As for the specious arguments of those who say that Hell has not been created
yet, they say: If it was already created now, then it would of necessity
have to come to an end of the Day of Resurrection and everyone in it would
have to perish because Allâh says: “Everything will perish save His Face”
(28:88)
and “Everyone shall taste death..” (3:185)

The response to this is: If you mean that Paradise does not exist until the
Trumpet is blown and people are resurrected from their graves, then this is
incorrect and is refuted by the evidence quoted above and other proofs which
we have not mentioned here. If you mean that Allâh (swt) has not yet
completed the creation of everything that He will prepare for the inhabitants
of Paradise and that He is still creating more and more things in it, and
that when the believers enter Paradise, Allâh (swt) will create even more
things in it, then this is true and cannot be refuted, and the evidence that
you give can only mean this, but when you use the ayah – “Everything will
perish save His Face”
– as evidence, your problem is that you misinterpret
this ayah. Using it to prove that Paradise and Hell do not yet exist is like
your colleagues using it to prove that they will both be destroyed and their
inhabitants will all perish! You and your scholars did not understand the
ayah properly; only the leaders (great scholars) of Islâm have understood
it properly. They say that “everything” for which Allâh (swt) has decreed
destruction and oblivion “will perish” but Paradise and Hell have been
created to last forever and never pass away, as has the Throne, which forms
the roof of Paradise.

“It was suggested that it meant that everything would perish except His
dominion, or whatever was done for His sake. Another suggestion was that
when Allâh (swt) revealed the word: “Whatever is on it will perish” – the
angels said, “The people of earth are doomed”, and hoped that they would
remain. Allâh said that the people of heaven and earth would perish and
said, “And invoke not any other ilâh along with Allâh, Lâ ilâha illâ
Huwâ. Everything will perish save His Face” (28:88)
because He is the Living
and does not die. The angels realise that they too were destined to die.
Their words should be taken in the light of and reconciled with other clear
and unambiguous reports that prove that both Paradise and Hell are eternal”.

(Sharh at-Tahâwiyyah, p.479, see also Siddîq Hasan Khan, Yaqadhah ula
al-‘i’tibâr, p. 37 and ‘Aqîdah as-Safarini 2/230)

The Keepers of Hell

Standing over Hell are MIGHTY and STERN angels who never disobey Allâh
subhânahu wa ta’ala Who has created them. They do whatever He commands
them, as Allâh subhânahu wa ta’ala says:

“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel
is men and stones, over which are [appointed] angels stern [and] severe, who
flinch not [from executing] the Commands they receive from Allâh, but do
[precisely what] they are commanded.” (66:6)

Their number is nineteen as Allâh (swt) says:

“Soon I will cast him into Hellfire. And what will explain to you what
Hellfire is? Naught does it permit to endure, and naught does it leave
alone! Darkening and changing the colour of man! Over it are nineteen
[angels as guardians and keepers of Hell]” (74:26-30)

This number was a challenge to the kuffâr who thought that they would easily
overcome such a small number, but they did not realise that one of these
angels has the strength to confront the whole of mankind on his own. For
this reason, Allâh (swt) said in the next âyah:

“And We have set none but angels as guardians of the Fire, and We have fixed
their numbers [19] only as a trial for the disbelievers..” (74:31)

Ibn Rajab said,

“What is known and well-established among the earlier and
later generations (as-Salaf wal-Khalaf) is that the trial came about when the
number of angels was mentioned and the kuffâr thought that it was possible
to kill them. They thought that they would be able to fight and resist them.
They did not know that humankind in its entireity would not be able to
resist even ONE of them.” (at-Takhwîf min an-Nâr, p.174)

These angels are the ones whom Allâh subhânahu wa ta’ala called the
guardians of Hell:

“Those in the Fire will say to the keepers [angels] of Hell: “Call upon your
Rabb to lighten for us the torment for a day!” (40:49)

The Location of Hell

The scholars differ as to where Hell is located at present. Some say that it
is in the lower earth, other say that it is in the heavens, and yet others
refrain from discussing the matter at all. This last group is correct,
because there are no sound and clear reports that define the location of
Hell. One of those who prefer not to discuss the matter at all is al-Hâfidh
as-Suyûti who said,

“Do not discuss Hell, i.e. do not discuss where it is
locacted, for none knows this except Allâh (swt) and I know of no hadîth
that I could rely on with regard to this issue”. (Siddiq Hasan Khan, Yaqazah
uli al-I’tibar, p.47)

Sheikh Waliullâh ad-Dahlawî says in, his ‘Aqîdah,

“There is no clear text
which states their location (of Paradise and Hell). They are wherever Allâh
(swt) wishes them to be, and we cannot comprehend all the universes created
by Allâh (swt)” (ibid, p.47).

Siddîq Hasan Khan says, commenting on these
words,

“I say, that is the best and most cautious of opinions, inshâ’Allâh”
(ibid).

The Vast Extent of Hell

Hell is huge and vast and immensely deep, as is proven by several things:

(1) Those who will enter Hell are innumerable, yet one of them will be so huge that his molars will be as big as Mount Uhud, and the distance between his shoulders will be equivalent to three days walking. Nevertheless, Hell
will accommodate the huge number of Kuffâr and evildoers who have existed
throughout history, in spite of their huge size, and there will still be room
for more, as Allâh says in the Qur’ân:

“On the Day when We will say to Hell: “Are you filled?” It will say: “Are
there any more to come?” (50:30)

The Fire of Hell is like a mill to which are brought thousands upon thousands
of tons of grain, which it grinds tirelessly until it is all done, then waits
for more. In the hadith that describes the debate between Paradise and Hell,
it says that Allâh (swt) said to Hell, “You are My Punishment; I will punish
in you whomsoever I will”.
Both Paradise and Hell will be filled, but Hell
will not be filled until Allâh (swt) places His foot in it and it will say,
“Enough, enough!”. Then it will be filled and its different parts will come
closer to one another. Allâh (swt) will not wrong any one of His Creation.
Reported by al-Bukhâri and Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (ra) (Jâmi’ al-Usûl,
10/544). [See the narration from Anas in al-Bukhâri, Muslim and Mishkât
ul-Masâbîh, 3/109 with a similar meaning].

(2) Another indication of its vast depth is the fact that a stone thrown from the top of Hell takes a very long time to reach the bottom. Muslim
reports that Abu Hurayrah (ra) said:

“We were with the Messenger of Allâh ﷺ and we heard the sound of
something falling. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do you know what that was?” We
said, “Allâh and His Messenger know best”. He said, “That was a stone that
was thrown into Hell seventy years ago and it was falling through Hell until
now”.
(Muslim, Kitâb al-Jannah, Bâb fi shiddat hâr an-nâr, 4/2184 no.
2844)

Hâkim reports from Abu Hurayrah, and Tabarâni from Mu’âdh and Abu Umamah
(ra) that the Prophet ﷺ said,

“If there was a huge stone as big as seven
khalifât stones, and it was thrown from the edge of Hell it would fly
through it for seventy years before it reached the bottom”. (Sahîh
al-Jâmi’ as-Saghîr, 5/58, no. 5124, Its isnâd is sahîh).

(3) The great number of angels who will bring Hell forth on the Day of Resurrection.

The Messenger ﷺ described how Hell will be brought forth on the Day of
Resurrection, concerning which Allâh (swt) said,

“And Hell will be brought near that Day”. (89:23)

The Prophet ﷺ said,

“Hell will be brought forth that Day by means of seventy thousand ropes, each
of which will be held by seventy thousand angels.” (reported by Muslim from
‘Abdullâh ibn Mas’ûd, 4/2184 no.2842)

We can only image the vastness of this terrifying creation that requires such
a huge number of strong and powerful angels whose strength is known only to
Allâh!

(4) Another indication of the vastness of Hell is the fact that two great creations like the sun and moon will be two rolled-up bulls in Hell.
At-Tahhâwî reports, in Mishkil al-Aathâr, that Salamah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman
said, “Abu Hurayrah told us that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“The sun and moon will be two rolled-up bulls in Hell on the Day of
Resurrection”
Bayhaqi also reported this in “al-Ba’th wal-Nushur”, as did
al-Bazzâr, al-Isma’ili and al-Khattâbi, with an isnâd that is sahîh
according to the conditions of al-Bukhâri, who reported in al-Sahîh
al-Mukhtasar, with the wording“The sun and moon will be rolled up in Hell of
the day of Resurrection”.
(Sheikh Nâsir ud-Dîn al-Albâni narrated this
hadîth in Silsilah al-ahadîth as-Sahîhah, 1/32, hadith no:124)

The Levels of Hell

There are variations in the degrees of heat in Hell, and in the levels of
punishment which Allâh (swt) has prepared for its inhabitants; there is not
just one level.

As Allâh says:

“Verily the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths [grade] of the
Fire”(4:145)

It is said that both Paradise and Hell have different levels; the lower the
level in Hell, the greater the intensity of the heat. The hypocrites will
suffer the worst punishment, and so they will be in the lowest level of Hell.

Allâh (swt) refers to the levels of Paradise and Hell in the Qur’ân:

“For all there will be degrees [or ranks] according to what they did” (6:132)

“Is then one who follows [seeks] the good pleasure of Allâh like the one who
draws on himself the Wrath of Allâh? His abode is Hell – and worst, indeed,
is that destination! They are in varying grades with Allâh, and Allâh is
All-Seer of what they do”. (3:162-3)

‘Abdur-Rahmân ibn Zayd ibn Aslam said,

“The levels of paradise go up and the
levels of Hell go down” [Ibn Rajab, at-Takhwîf min an-Nâr, p.5].

It was reported from some of the Salaf that the sinners amongst the monotheists who
enter Hell would be in the first level, the Jews would be in the second
level, the Christians in the third level, the Sabians in the fourth level,
the Magians in the fifth level, the polytheist Arabs in the sixth level and
the hypocrites in the seventh level [(1) ]Some books give names to these
levels: the first is called Jahanam, the second Ladhâ, the third al-Hutamah,
the fourth as-Sa’îr, the fifth Saqar, the sixth al-Jahîm, and the seventh
al-Hawiyah.

There is no proof for this division of the inhabitants of Hell or the names
that have been attributed to the various levels. The truth is that all of
these names – Jahanam, Ladhâ, al-Hutamah, etc – are alternative names by
which Hell in its entirety is known, and they are not applied to one part or
another of it. It is also known that people will be placed in different
levels of Hell according to the extent of their kufr and sins.

 

The Gates of Hell

Allâh has told us that Hell has seven gates, as He (swt) said:

“And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all. It [Hell] has seven
gates, for each of these gates is a [special] class [of sinners] assigned”.
(15:43-44)

Ibn Kathîr commenting on this âyah, said:

“This means that each gate has
been allotted its share of the followers of Iblîs who will enter it, and the
will not be able to avoid it. May Allâh (swt) protect us from it. Each
will enter a gate according to his deeds, and will be assigned to a level of
Hell according to his deeds.”

It was reported from ‘Ali ibn Abi Tâlib (ra) that he said, during a khutbah
(sermon):

“The gates of Hell are such-and-such”.

Abu Harun said,

“They are in layers, one above the other”.

It is reported that he also said,

“The gates of Hell number seven, one above the other. The first will be filled, then the second, then the third, until all of them are filled.” (Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr, 4/162)

When the disbelievers come to Hell, its gates will be opened, and they will
enter it, to remain there forever:

“And those who disbelieved will be driven to Hell in groups, till, when they
reach it, the gates thereof will be opened [suddenly like a prison at the
arrival of the prisoners]. And its keepers will say, “Did not the Messengers
come to you from yourselves – reciting to you the Verses of your Rabb, and
warning you of the Meeting of this Day of yours”. They will say, “Yes” but
the Word of torment has been justified against the disbelievers”. (39:71)

After they are admitted, they will be told:

“Enter you the gates of Hell, to abide therein. And [indeed] what an evil
abode of the arrogant!” (39:72)

These gates will be shut upon the evildoers, and they will have no hope of
ever escaping from them after that, as Allâh (swt) says,

“But those who
reject Our Signs, they are the [unhappy] Companions of the Left Hand. On
them will be Fire vaulted over [all round].” (90:19-20)

Ibn ‘Abbâs said, “vaulted” (literally:“shut over them”) means that the
gates will be locked”.
al-Mujâhid pointed out that the word used (mu’sadah)
is the word used in the dialect of Quraysh to mean “locked” or shut” (Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr 7/298)

In the Qur’ân Allâh (swt) says:

“Woe to every [kind of] scandalmonger and backbiter, who piles up wealth and
lays it by. Thinking that his wealth would make him last forever! By no
means! He will be sure to be thrown into that which Breaks to Pieces. And
what will explain to you that which breaks to pieces? The Fire of [the wrath
of] Allâh, kindled [to a blaze], which mounts [right] to the heart. It
shall be made into a vault over them, in columns outstretched.” (104:1-9)

Allâh (swt) states that the gates of Hell will be locked behind them. Ibn
Abbâs said, “In columns outstretched” means that the gates will be stretched out. ‘Atiyah said, “It is a pillar of iron”.

Muqâtil said,

“The gates will be closed firmly behind them and locked with a bolt of iron, so that the pain and heat will be intensified. The expression “stretched forth” applies to the “pillar”, meaning that the bolts with which the gates are locked will
be very long, because a long bolt is stronger than a short one” (Ibn Rajab,
at-Takhwîf min an-Nâr, p.61)

The gates of Hell may be opened and closed before the Day of Judgement. The
Prophet ﷺ told us that the gates of Hell are locked during the month of
Ramadhan. At-Tirmidhi reported that Abu Hurayrah said the Prophet ﷺ
said:

“When the first night of Ramadhan comes, the Shayâtîn and evil jinns
are chained up. The gates of Hell are closed and not one of them is opened.
The gates of Paradise are opened and not one of them is closed.” (Ibid, p.66)


Footnotes

(1) If this division is based on our understanding of the texts that indicate
the evil of the various groups, then it needs to be revised, for the Magians
who worship fire are no less sinners than the Arab polytheists. It is better
not to engage in speculation about matters that were not discussed in the
nusûs (texts).

 

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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