The Regret Felt in Hell
When it sees them coming from a long way off, they will hear it seething and rasping. (Surat al-Furqan, 12)
The Regret Unbelievers Feel When They See Hell
On the Day of Judgment, once their accounts are taken, people will be gathered and will be driven to hell in "divisions." Amongst this crowd will be everyone who denied the religion and existence of Allah throughout history and those who were arrogant and turned away from the signs of Allah. There will be also those who enjoyed wealth and fame. To their disappointment, however, those things they attached importance to in the world will not save them from eternal punishment. Allah informs us in the Qur'an that all unbelievers will be disgracefully dragged into hell. Before hell's gates, the keepers will make them confess their crimes for a last time and take them in. Upon this, the gates will be closed behind them for all eternity. Allah describes the way unbelievers are driven to hell in the Qur'an as follows:
Those who are unbelievers will be driven to hell in companies and when they arrive there and its gates are opened its custodians will say to them, "Did Messengers from yourselves not come to you, reciting your Lord's Signs to you and warning you of the meeting on this Day of yours?" They will say, "Indeed they did," but the decree of punishment is justly carried out against the unbelievers. They will be told, "Enter the gates of hell and stay there timelessly, for ever. How evil is the abode of the arrogant!" (Surat az-Zumar, 71-72)
"That is because you exulted on the earth, without any right to do so; and strutted about. Enter the gates of hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. How evil is the abode of the arrogant!" (Surah Ghafir, 75-76)
Not a single person among this crowd can come out and say that he was not warned against this day. That is because Allah, Who is the Just, had sent messengers to every individual to remind him about His existence, the Day of Judgment, paradise and hell. Therefore, unbelievers will acknowledge that they deserved the torment in hell.
They remained arrogant although they were warned and knowingly avoided to serve Allah, the One Who created them. Allah informs man that such people will be humiliated in hell in the Qur'an:
Your Lord says, "Call on Me and I will answer you. Those who are too proud to worship Me will enter hell abject." (Surah Ghafir, 60)
Considering themselves to be all-powerful in the world, some of these people insolently rebelled against our Lord. Power, they assumed, would provide deliverance. When they were reminded about the attribute of Allah, the al-Qahhar (The Subduer), the existence of hell and paradise, and were offered guidance to the way favored by Allah, they retorted:
"Why does Allah not punish us for what we say?" Hell will be enough for them! They will roast in it. What an evil destination! (Surat al-Mujadala, 8)
In response to their rebellion, they will be taken in through hell's gates and never again allowed out unless Allah wills otherwise. The moment they see the fire, they will feel an unbearable regret for their wrongs. Allah reveals in the Qur'an that this is the moment they explicitly realize there is no way out of hell:
The evildoers will see the Fire and realize they are going to fall into it and find no way of escaping from it. (Surat al-Kahf, 53)
Comprehension will be very sharp in hell; everything unbelievers feigned ignorance about in the world will appear to be very clear then. They will realize that they spent all their lives on vain purposes and they will ultimately understand that, in exchange for minor and temporary benefits, they must now remain in torment in the afterlife. The few decades they had in the world seemed a long period of time to them and meanwhile they never thought about the hereafter. Rather than a perfect and blissful life where one is not vulnerable to physical weaknesses such as hunger and exhaustion, they preferred this world where one finds himself incurably dissatisfied. No sooner they enter by hell gates than they comprehend that they have no escape. Thus, as a last recourse to avoid torment, they seek salvation by offering a ransom: a ransom of everything they possess in this world. These vain efforts are described as follows:
...But as for those who do not respond to Him, even if they owned everything on the earth and the same again with it, they would offer it as a ransom. They will receive an evil Reckoning. Their shelter will be hell. What an evil resting-place! (Surat ar-Rad, 18)
However, these last efforts displayed upon facing the fact of entering hell will be in vain. Allah informs us that these attempts bring no benefit:
So today no ransom will be accepted from you or from those who were unbelievers. Your refuge is the Fire. It is your master. What an evil destination! (Surat al-Hadid, 15)
There is certainly an important reason why these attempts bring no results. Allah warned them against hell when they were still in the world. Everything was made clear to them; that no man will be able to help another and that no one will be able to offer any ransom. They were further reminded that no ransom will be accepted. A verse Allah revealed to warn people about this fact is as follows:
Have fear of a Day when no self will be able to compensate for another in any way. No intercession will be accepted from it, no ransom taken from it, and they will not be helped. (Surat al-Baqara, 48)
Yet, in spite of all the warnings, they insisted on their denial and they knowingly prepared such an end for themselves. On that day, they will acknowledge one important fact: that their own deeds earned them hell.
This regret -- unless Allah wills otherwise -- will be a great torment they will find no salvation from eternally. That is because they encountered one important fact: had they devoted themselves to earning the favor of Allah instead of striving for vain goals, they would not be at the entrance to hell but to paradise. Due to their failure to comply with the right way, they suffer terrible loss.
As Allah states in the twentieth verse of Surat al-Balad, "above them is a sealed vault of Fire." Once they enter by the gates of hell, they will be locked inside. Behind these gates exists the torment of hellfire with no certain end, which they will suffer for as long as Allah wills. For the unbelievers, there is no possibility to escape from this torment unless Allah wills otherwise. Allah calls this fire "the Shatterer." These verses in Surat al-Humaza read:
And what will convey to you what the Shatterer is? The kindled Fire of Allah reaching right into the heart. It is sealed in above them in towering columns.(Surat al-Humaza, 5-9)
The Torment Unbelievers Confront in Hell
Before proceeding with the regret unbelievers will face in the hereafter, it will be useful to describe the torment in hell. Without being aware of the forms of torment in hell, one might fail to comprehend the dimensions of the regret there.
As mentioned earlier, the regret of unbelievers begins at the very moment they see hell and then continues for all eternity. The conversations among these people upon their arrival in hell are as follows:
Those who reject their Lord will have the punishment of hell. What an evil destination! When they are flung into it they will hear it gasping harshly as it seethes. It all but bursts with rage. Each time a group is flung into it its custodians will question them: "Did no warner come to you?" They will say, "Yes indeed, a warner did come to us but we denied him and said, "Allah has sent nothing down. You are just greatly misguided." They will say, "If only we had really listened and used our intellect, we would not have been Companions of the Blaze." Then they will acknowledge their wrong actions. Away with the Companions of the Blaze! (Surat al-Mulk, 6-11)
As Allah stated in the verses, when they are flung into hell, they hear a terrible noise. Allah describes this noise in the seventh verse of the Surat al-Mulk as "gasping harshly as it seethes." This terrible sound inflicts a dreadful distress and fear on unbelievers. In another verse, Allah describes hellfire as a fire which almost bursts with rage (Surat al-Mulk: 8). The rejecters witnessing this horrible event will feel desperate because they will understand the punishment they will face. And as our Lord stated above, they will talk about their regret for their failure to have had a grasp of all while they were still in the world.
They will be in such relentless distress because they will understand that the penalty they will confront will be extremely horrible and painful. In the verses, it is stated that hell is the worst place to stay in.
... What an evil destination! (Surah Al 'Imran, 162)
... What an evil refuge! (Surat an-Nisa, 115)
... Their shelter will be the Fire. How evil is the abode of the wrongdoers! (Surah Al 'Imran, 151)
Hell, where they will roast. What an evil place to stay! (Surah Ibrahim, 29)
The dwellers of hell will be thrown down into this evil refuge in crowds. In a verse Allah states this as "They will be bundled into it head first, they and the misled" (Surat ash-Shu'ara: 94) From the verse, it is understood that all unbelievers including those who were arrogant, had wealth and were held in esteem, will be thrown into the fire as worthless masses. In reply to their arrogance in the world on that day, they will be humiliated and despised.
In hell, they will never be held in esteem and never will they receive mercy. As the firewood of hell, they will live in pain and grief for all eternity. Allah reveals this fact in the verses as follows:
You and what you worship besides Allah are fuel for hell. You will go down into it.(Surat al-Anbiya, 98)
... They are fuel for the Fire. (Surah Al 'Imran, 10)
Allah informs us in the Qur'an of various forms of punishment in hell. Most of the people will dwell there, as stated in the verse, "for ages." In other words, they will be tormented for as long as Allah wills. We can describe some of these punishments as follows:
In the thirteenth verse of Surat al-Furqan, Allah relates that unbelievers will be cast "into a narrow place in hell shackled together in chains." Being left closed in a narrow space even for a few minutes makes one tense. Even the thought of being surrounded by four walls is often an unbearable thought. The torment of hell, however, is incomparable to the one of the world. Confined in that narrow space, they will also be subjected to fire. Moreover, shackled together in chains, they will even not be able to move, let alone escaping from the fire. Even imagining such a scene is painful.
In another verse, Allah informs that unbelievers will remain in "shades of pitch-black smoke" (Surat al-Waqia: 43). In general, the word "shade" reminds one coolness. However, this is not the case with hell. In hell, Allah informs us that this shade is neither cool nor refreshing.
Another form of punishment in hell is the impossibility of death. Death is way of deliverance. For this reason, Allah will not allow the people of hell to die as He maintains in the verse, "death will come to them from every side, yet they cannot die" (Surah Ibrahim: 17). They will experience every sort of assault which would, under normal conditions, result in death. Despite this, they will not die, but will instead continue to suffer more torment as long as Allah wills in their eternal afterlife.
In this world, severe burns result in death in a short while. One can hardly endure fire. Even if one does not die but is only injured, it takes a long time for the wounds to heal properly. But in hell, the torment of fire will be incomparable to the fire we know in this world. In hell, skins are replaced as they are burned off just to make the condemned taste more anguish. (Surat an-Nisa: 56) In brief, in hell, one would suffer from never-ending pain caused by fire as long as Allah wills.
Allah describes another form of torment caused by fire in the thirteenth verse of Surat adh-Dhariyat where He says that the Companions of the Fire will be tormented by the Fire. It is unlikely to comprehend the pain such a state would cause. Considering the minor pain an ordinary burn gives in this world, one would discern the great pain this torment would give. While all these happen, man will also experience the following:
Then will be bound in a chain... (Surat al-Haqqa, 32)
They will be shackled and chained. (Surat al-Insan, 4)
They will be beaten with cudgels made of iron. (Surat al-Hajj, 21)
Their foreheads, sides and backs are branded with the fire of hell. (Surat at-Tawba, 35)
Boiling water will be poured over their heads, (Surat al-Hajj, 19)
They will have garments of fire cut out for them, and they will be wearing shirts of tar, (Surat Ibrahim, 50)
They will not find a cool, refreshing drink. On that day only boiling water (Surat al-Sad: 57) and blood and pus (Surat al-Haqqa: 36) will be available.
The only nourishment the people of hell have, on the other hand, are the fruits of the bitter thorn and the tree of zaqqum. Allah informs how zaqqum will turn out to be a torment for unbelievers:
The Tree of az-Zaqqum is the food of the wicked, seething in the belly like molten brass, as boiling water bubbles and seethes. "Seize him and drag him bodily into the middle of the Blazing Fire. Then pour the punishment of boiling water on his head." "Taste that! You are the mighty one, the noble one! This is the very thing you used to doubt." (Surat ad-Dukhan, 43-50)
From the descriptions in the Qur'an, we know that food in hell will have a choking effect on people. They will try to sip the drink of fester water in gulps, but to no avail; they will never manage to swallow it. Pus, which is the most disgusting thing in this world with its appearance and odor, will also be among the nourishment of the people in hell. This will inflict great pain on the people of hell but, out of starvation, they will have no other choice but to eat. Nevertheless, what they eat will not satisfy their hunger. They will also suffer the pain of hunger forever.
They have no food but a bitter thorny bush which neither nourishes nor satisfies. (Surat al-Ghashiyya, 6-7)
Allah gives other descriptions in the Qur'an regarding the torment in hell:
There will be sighing for them in it (Surat al-Anbiya, 100)
... (They will be) remaining in it for countless eons... (Surat an-Naba, 23)
...Their punishment will not be lightened... (Surah Al 'Imran, 88)
They will want to get out of the Fire but they will not be able to. (Surat al-Maida, 37)
These torments will inflict indefinable suffering and regret on unbelievers. For salvation, they will plead many times and even consent to their souls being taken. Allah relates the conversations of the people in hell in the Qur'an as follows:
They will call out, "Malik (Master), let your Lord put an end to us!" He will say, "You will stay the way you are. We brought you the truth but most of you hated the truth." (Surat az-Zukhruf, 77-78)
Turning away from the religion (deen) and failing to take heed of the warnings will be to the detriment of these people, as Allah relates in the Qur'an. Allah, in return, will not answer the calls of these people and He will keep them in their torment for as long as He wills.
These are only some of the torments which will be inflicted on those who denied Allah and the hereafter and ignored the warnings about the existence of hell and paradise. In addition, there is another torment, one which will always remain with unbelievers. This is the feeling of regret, one would not be able to forget for a moment. This feeling will even more deepen with the distress caused by the fact that one would be sent to hell, the most horrifying place one could ever see. As stated earlier, every moment unbelievers experience the suffering, they will remember that, had they complied with the right way, none of these would befall them. There is no way to avoid from this regret.
The Regret Unbelievers will Feel in Hell
Having an experience of the severity of the punishment, unbelievers will be seized by the regret of not having faith in Allah while they were still in the world. Yet this regret will not alter the situation. In the world, they were offered many opportunities, which they failed to take. Once they attain comprehension of this fact, they will lament to everyone and everything which distracted them from Allah and the hereafter and made them indulge in worldly affairs. In the Qur'an, the regret unbelievers feel is full of rage, as Allah states in the verse below:
They will say on the Day their faces are rolled over in the Fire, "If only we had obeyed Allah and obeyed the Messenger!" And they will say, "Our Lord, we obeyed our masters and great men and they misguided us from the Way. Our Lord, give them double the punishment and curse them many times over!" (Surat al-Ahzab, 66-68)
So that, when he reaches Us, he says, "If only there was the distance of the two Easts between you and me!" What an evil companion! It will not benefit you today, since you did wrong, that you share equally in the punishment. (Surat az-Zukhruf, 38-39)
As the verses suggest, they hope to save themselves by blaming those who misled them from the right path. However, Allah granted a conscience to everyone so that he could be guided to the right path. Allah also endowed man a will to carry out his pertinent decisions. In this sense, man is provided with both of the two alternatives as well as the knowledge of right and wrong. This being the case, one's choice rests entirely with him. Besides, Allah knows whether one keeps faith or denial deep in his heart. Accordingly, those leading people to hell as well as those adhering to them will be justly punished. That day, nobody will bear responsibility for the sins of another.
While these people tempted one another into committing sins, it probably occurred to them many times that they would give an account of them in the hereafter, yet they chose to treat this matter as if it were an insignificant issue. They encouraged one another in denial of Allah, saying "I will bear responsibility for what you do." Satan, on the other hand, made tempting promises to them and misled them in the wrong way. But Allah, with the verse, "... and he will come to Us all alone." (Surah Maryam: 80), informs us that these promises will be of no help.
That day unbelievers will clearly see that they are all alone. They will understand one important fact themselves: other than Allah, man has neither a friend nor a protector. In hell, their mentors and anybody they considered to be their friends in the world will leave them all alone. Likewise, satan, whom, forsaking Allah, they took as their protector, will be unfaithful to them and address to them in the following way:
When the affair is decided satan will say, "Allah made you a promise, a promise of truth, and I made you a promise but broke my promise. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. Do not, therefore, blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot come to your aid nor you to mine. I reject the way you associated me with Allah before." The wrongdoers will have a painful punishment. (Surah Ibrahim, 22)
Seeing the unfaithfulness of everyone they considered as friends will be another source of regret for unbelievers. Then do they clearly understand that there is no one they can take refuge in other than Allah. Yet seeing that this comprehension provides no relief for them will add to their troubles. On that day, they will quarrel with one another. Meanwhile, they confess their sins. Allah describes this situation in the verses as follows:
Arguing in it with one another, they will say, "By Allah, we were plainly misguided when We equated you with the Lord of all the worlds. It was only the evildoers who misguided us and now we have no one to intercede for us; we do not have a single loyal friend. If only we could have another chance then we would be among the believers!" (Surat ash-Shu'ara, 96-102)
As related in the verses above, in a deep regret, unbelievers wish to return to the world so that they can engage in good deeds which would bring goodness to them in the hereafter. Yet, this is an unacceptable wish. They realize that anything -- wealth, beauty, career, etc -- that they chased after in the world is worthless in the hereafter. Allah describes some of their regretful expressions in the Qur'an:
But as for him who is given his Book in his left hand, he will say, "If only I had not been given my Book and had not known about my Reckoning! If only death had really been the end! My wealth has been of no use to me. My power has vanished." "Seize him and truss him up. Then roast him in the Blazing Fire. Then bind him in a chain which is seventy cubits long. He used not to have faith in Allah the Magnificent, nor did he urge the feeding of the poor. Therefore here today he has no friend." (Surat al-Haqqa, 25-35)
And that Day hell is produced, that Day man will remember; but how will the remembrance help him? He will say, "Oh! If only I had prepared in advance for this life of mine!" (Surat al-Fajr, 23-24)
In addition, witnessing the great joy and happiness of the Companions of the Garden deepens the regret of unbelievers. They see the conspicuous difference between the lives of the Companions of the Garden and that of themselves. Allah draws attention to the difference of the Companions of the Garden and of the Fire.
Allah depicts the appearance of the Companions of the Fire in the Qur'an in the following way: Their eyes will be downcast, darkened by debasement. (Surat al-Qalam: 43) And faces that Day will be glowering. (Surat al-Qiyama: 24) On the other hand, Allah describes the faces of the Companions of the Garden as follows:
That Day some faces will be radiant, laughing, rejoicing. (Surah Abasa, 38-39)
Unbelievers will not find any food other than boiling water, pus, bitter thorn, and the tree of zaqqum. Believers, on the other hand, will be rewarded with rivers of milk and honey, delicious drinks served in cups, all kinds of fruits and anything their souls desire. In a verse, Allah describes the food of the Companions of the Garden as follows:
An image of the Garden which is promised to those who have fear: in it there are rivers of water which will never spoil and rivers of milk whose taste will never change and rivers of wine, delightful to all who drink it, and rivers of honey of undiluted purity; in it they will have fruit of every kind and forgiveness from their Lord. Is that like those who will be in the Fire timelessly, for ever, with boiling water to drink which lacerates their bowels? (Surah Muhammad, 15)
Surely no parallels can be drawn between these favors granted to believers and the food of unbelievers, which by no means satisfy one's hunger and which become an eternal source of torment. They will be exposed to fire there for ages; their skins will be restored as they burn, and they will call for some relief and coolness. They will yearn for the favors granted to the Companions of the Garden resting in shade and they will ask for some for themselves. In the Qur'an, our Lord relates their situation as follows:
The Companions of the Fire will call out to the Companions of the Garden, "Throw down some water to us or some of what Allah has given you as provision." They will say, "Allah has forbidden them to the unbelievers: (Surat al-Araf, 50)
The calls of the unbelievers will never be answered. Allah maintains this in a verse:
... We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire whose billowing walls of smoke will hem them in. If they call for help, they will be helped with water like seething molten brass, frying their faces. What a noxious drink! What an evil repose! (Surat al-Kahf, 29)
Likewise, Allah will present the Companions of the Garden green garments of fine silk and rich brocade and bracelets of gold and silver. Meanwhile, the Companions of the Fire will have garments of tar and fire cut out for them. The believers will dwell in fine dwellings and lofty chambers, reclining on "sumptuous woven couches," exquisite rugs, and couches lined with rich brocade. Unbelievers, on the other hand, will have hell as a resting place and covering layers on top of them.
Allah informs us in the Qur'an that believers will have anything they desire and the Companions of the Garden will be honored with a joyful and peaceful life in the Garden.
They will have whatever they wish for with their Lord. (Surat ash-Shura, 22)
So Allah has safeguarded them from the evil of that Day and has made them meet with radiance and pure joy. (Surat al-Insan, 11)
Had unbelievers assumed a conscientious, sincere and honest attitude in the world and complied with the commands of Allah, they would not be subject to torment in hell on that Day. Thus unbelievers will feel more regret when they think about the Companions of the Garden. Allah defines this torment in hell and the regret they feel as "suffering" and states that each one of their attempts to escape from this suffering will result in yet another punishment:
Every time they want to come out of it, because of their suffering, they will be driven back into it: "Taste the punishment of the Burning!" (Surat al-Hajj, 22)
That is because hell is a place of no return. It is the place, where the feeling of regret brings no benefit to man. Furthermore in hell, the concept of regret is not defined. At the moment unbelievers die, angels will tell them that they will never again experience anything good for all eternity -- unless Allah wills otherwise:
On the Day they see the angels, there will be no good news that Day for the evildoers. They will say, "There is an absolute ban." (Surat al-Furqan, 22)
For this reason, unbelievers find their personal destruction to be the only way of salvation. They will beg for their destruction, but to no avail. This is because they were granted a lifetime, which was long enough to receive admonition, but they willfully favored denial and turned away from the truth. In return for these, Allah will tell them the following:
Do not cry out today for just one destruction, cry out for many destructions! (Surat al-Furqan, 14)
"Roast in it! And bear it patiently or do not bear it patiently. It makes no difference either way. You are simply being repaid for what you did." (Surat at-Tur, 16)
In the fortieth verse of Surat al-Araf, Allah describes the impossibility of unbelievers' leaving hell and entering the Garden, saying that, "they will not enter the Garden until a camel goes through a needle's eye." Furthermore, Allah informs that unbelievers will be disregarded and forgotten since, in the world, they turned away from the right way and ignored their meeting the Day of Judgment. They will not receive any answer or help from Allah:
He will say, "Just as Our Signs came to you and you forgot them, in the same way you too are forgotten today." (Surah Taha, 126)
They will be told, "Today We have forgotten you as you forgot the meeting of this your Day. Your refuge is the Fire and you have no helpers." (Surat al-Jathiyya, 34)
Those who took their religions as a diversion and a game, and were deluded by the life of the world. Today We will forget them just as they forgot the encounter of this Day and denied Our Signs. (Surat al-Araf, 51)
They will implore Allah to be saved from the fire and Allah will answer them in the following way:
He will say, "Slink away into it and do not speak to Me." (Surat al-Muminun, 108)
Unbelievers will receive a terrible punishment. This punishment will be remaining all alone in torment and not receiving any help. Allah will not bestow His mercy on them, will not protect them, and will not forgive their sins and faults. If they had taken refuge in Allah when they were alive, they would have found Allah to be ever Forgiving and Most Merciful towards them. Yet, once they enter hell, these facts occurring to their minds will no longer be of any help.
After all that has been said, one has to ponder over certain facts right now: that Allah is full of mercy and compassion towards His servants and that one needs to make Allah alone one's friend and protector. For once the gates of hell are closed behind one, they will not open as long as Allah wills and there will be no more opportunities granted as in this world. In the Qur'an, Allah describes the way for salvation as follows:
Except those who repent and put things right and hold fast to Allah and dedicate their religion to Allah alone; they are with the believers. Allah will give the believers an immense reward. Why should Allah punish you if you are thankful and have faith? Allah is All-Thankful, All-Knowing. (Surat an-Nisa, 146-147)