3. Hell - The Spiritual Torment in Hell
The unbelievers will experience spiritual torment as well as the physical torment in hell. Regret, hopelessness, humiliation, a feeling of being ill-treated, embarrassment, and disappointment are the feelings aroused by these various torments.
"The Fire Reaching Right into the Heart"
In one way or another, people who do not submit themselves to Allah or who do not believe Him, taste spiritual torment in this world. For instance when such people lose their closest friends, spouse, or children or are deceived by someone in whom they have placed unquestioning trust, their hearts are filled with an inexplicable grief. This grief is, in fact, a special form of torment which Allah implants in a person's heart as a penalty for idolizing someone lost or someone who betrayed him. The individual needs essentially to demonstrate to Allah his feelings of love, appreciation, awe, devotion, trust and friendship. Failing to do this and simply extending these feelings to someone else, who is also created by Allah and thus in need of Him, in other words, associating partners with Allah, causes this penalty. Idolaters taste this grief, so that they may take lessons from it, ask for pardon and turn to Allah before they are caught by death. The being which is idolized is not, necessarily, a human being. People have different things they cannot resist. Possessions, money, fortune, fame, in brief, anything or any concept being worshipped besides Allah may well be idolized.
The pain the loss of these idols inflicts on one's heart in this world is but a glimpse of the great torment one would undergo in hell. In essence, it is a warning. In hell, the real and non-ending form of this pain awaits an idolater. Sometimes, this spiritual torment becomes so intense that, one would prefer physical torture. Even, suicide is considered a salvation. This spiritual aspect of torment in hell is stressed in the Qur'an and described as a "fire reaching right into the heart":
Woe to every faultfinding backbiter who has amassed wealth and hoarded it! He thinks his wealth will make him live forever. No indeed! He will be flung into the Shatterer. 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: 1-9)
Even the severest pain in this world disappears in time. Its traces may remain for a while, but time eventually erases its most hurtful traces. In hell, however, an even more bitter pain penetrates the hearts of unbelievers like a fury and remains there eternally.
Apart from this, the spiritual torment produces a sensation somewhat between hopelessness and humiliation, rage and hatred. No less than physical pain, unbelievers are also subjected to an insufferable spiritual pain.
Humiliation in Hell
Many verses regarding hell inform us that a degrading, humiliating torment awaits unbelievers there. They incur this punishment due to their arrogance and pride.
In this world, one of the main goals of unbelievers is to make others envy them and appreciate their personality and social status. A distinguished career, children, beautiful mansions, cars, and similar other worldly passions mean more to the individual when they become a part of a vain display of himself. Indeed, in the Qur'an, boasting of one's wealth and properties are mentioned as being among the lures of this world.
This passion, namely "boasting", turns in the hereafter to anguish which includes degradation as well as physical pain. That is because, the unbeliever forgot about "Allah, Who is Praiseworthy"(Surat al-Baqara: 267) and "has taken his whims and desires to be his god" (Surat al-Furqan: 43). For this reason, he has mainly busied himself in earning appreciation for himself rather than glorifying and praising Allah. He has built his life upon earning the pleasure of other people rather than earning Allah's approval. That is why he is blighted most when he is humiliated in front of other people.
The most horrible nightmare of an unbeliever is being disgraced and degraded in front of other people. There are even some people who would consider dying only to be appreciated rather than be disgraced. Adversities peculiar to hell have this feature at their core. The dismal state of the dwellers of hell is mainly due to their haughtiness. Never before have they been so utterly degraded. In numerous verses this fact is stated:
On the Day when those who were unbelievers are exposed to the Fire, (it will be said): 'You dissipated the good things you had in your worldly life and enjoyed yourself in so doing. So today you are being repaid with the punishment of humiliation for being arrogant on the earth without any right and for being deviators.' (Surat al-Ahqaf: 20)
Those who are unbelievers should not imagine that the extra time We grant to them is good for them. We only allow them more time so that they will increase their evil-doing. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surah Al 'Imran: 178)
Unbelievers are subjected to thousands of kinds of degrading treatment... even lower than that which animals receive in this world. Iron whips, shackles and collars are available only to humiliate. The faithless are tied to pillars, collared and chained.
In reality, humiliation is the essence of all the torments in hell. For instance, while being cast into the fire, they are degraded. This dreadful treatment starts from the moment the unbeliever is resurrected and chosen to be sent to hell. Among billions of people, the unbeliever is taken by the angels and grabbed by his forelock and feet. As related in the Qur'an, "That Day no man or jinn will be asked about his sin...The evil-doers will be recognized by their mark and seized by their forelocks and their feet." (Surat ar-Rahman: 39-41)
In hell, the unbeliever has to come to terms with a type of treatment even worse than that which animals receive. Seized by his hair, he will be dragged along the ground and then cast into hell. Unable to resist, he will ask for help, but to no avail. A feeling of desperation only increases the torment:
No indeed! If he does not desist, We will grab him by the forelock, his lying, sinful forelock. Let him call his attendants; We will call the Guards of hell! No indeed! Do not obey him, but prostrate yourself and draw near. (Surat al-'Alaq: 15-18)
As stated in the verses, unbelievers will be "shoved roughly into the Fire of hell" (Surat at-Tur: 13-14) and they will be "herded headlong into hell." (Surat al-Furqan: 34)
... those who perform bad actions will be flung head first into the Fire: 'Are you being repaid for anything other than what you did?' (Surat an-Naml: 90)
... On the Day that they are dragged face-first into the Fire. (It will be said): 'Taste the scorching touch of hell!' (Surat al-Qamar: 48)
Degradation becomes even more intense once in hell. Apart from the physical pain, an intense feeling of degradation overwhelms the dwellers of hell:
'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: 47-50)
To humiliate unbelievers, specially created whips, collars and chains are used. This is related in the Qur'an as follows:
'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.' (Surat al-Haqqa: 30-34)
In this world, except for those which are savage, even animals are not chained. And as for human beings, only the untreatable and dangerously mentally retarded are chained. This being the case, those sent to hell are the most inferior of all creatures. That is why, they are bound in "a chain which is seventy cubits long", as stated in the above verse. Other verses also give details of this degrading torment:
...they have shackles and chains around their necks and are dragged along the ground into the boiling water and then are thrown into the Fire! Then they will be asked, 'Where are those besides Allah you associated with Him?' (Surah Ghafir: 71-73)
... If you are surprised at their blindness, what could be more surprising than their words: 'What, when we are turned to dust, shall we then be created all anew?' These are the people who reject their Lord. Such people have iron collars round their necks. Such people are the Companions of the Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surat ar-Ra'd: 5)
...that Day you will see the evil-doers yoked together in chains, wearing shirts of tar, their faces enveloped in the Fire. So that Allah may repay every self for what it earned. Allah is swift at reckoning. (Surah Ibrahim: 49-51)
Those who are unbelievers will have garments of fire cut out for them, and boiling water poured over their heads, which will melt the contents of their bellies as well as their skin, and they will be beaten with cudgels made of iron. (Surat al-Hajj: 19-21)
The dark spirit the degradation accounts for becomes apparent on the faces of the people of hell. In the world too, you can see the serious trouble of people who are disgraced, dishonored and mistreated. The degradation in hell will also affect the appearance of dwellers of hell as stated in the following verse:
Some faces, that Day, will be humiliated. (Surat al-Ghashiyah: 2)
Apart from all the methods of humiliation we have mentioned so far, we have to keep in mind that various other forms of it will be exercised in hell. In the Qur'an, the term "humiliation" is used and a few examples are provided to illustrate it. However, we need to keep in mind that this is a broad term which can by no means be limited to a few examples. All feelings, treatment or events stirring up humiliation in man's soul in this world are included in this concept and they are all available in hell.
An Irrecoverable Regret
By the time he is resurrected, the unbeliever bitterly realizes what he has done wrong. The regret caused by his irreparable wrong gives him a bad shaking up. His desperate situation is exacerbated by this profound regret.
When the unbeliever is confronted with the deeds he engaged in this world, he understands that he has no longer any other opportunity to restore any honor to his life. Yet he still asks for another opportunity. In this spirit, he wants to return to his old life to atone for his wrongdoing. Meanwhile, he never again wants to see his friends and beloved ones with whom he heedlessly enjoyed life. All friendships, all bonds are torn apart. The lifestyle and traditions people adhered to in life, their houses, cars, spouses, children, companies, the ideologies they advocate lose their value and vanish. Quite simply, they are replaced by torment. The spirit caused by the terror of that day is related as follows:
If only you could see them when they are standing before the Fire and saying, 'Oh! If only we could be sent back again, we would not deny the signs of our Lord and we would be among the believers.' Indeed that which they were concealing before has been shown to them; and if they were sent back they would merely return to what they were forbidden to do. Truly, they are liars. They say, 'There is nothing but this life and we will not be raised again.' If only you could see them when they are standing before their Lord. He will say, 'Is this not the Truth?' They will say, 'Yes indeed, by our Lord!' He will say, 'Then taste the punishment for your disbelief.' (Surat al-An'am: 27-30)
The Contention Among the People of Hell
Social status and hierarchical relations, which were assumed to be momentous in this world, lose all their meaning in hell. The state that both the people and their leaders are reduced to is such that they curse one another. This is related in the Qur'an thus:
When those who were followed disown those who followed them, and they see the punishment, and the connection between them is cut, those who followed will say, 'If only we could have another chance, we would disown them just as they have disowned us.' In that way Allah will show them their actions as a cause of anguish and remorse for them. They will never emerge from the Fire. (Surat al-Baqara: 166-167)
They will say on the Day their heads roll about 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 led us away from the right path. Our Lord, give them double the punishment and curse them many times over!' (Surat al-Ahzab: 66-68)
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 evil-doers 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!'
There is certainly a sign in that, yet most of them are not believers. (Surat ash-Shu'ara: 96-103)
Among the people of hell encountering an eternal torment, contentiousness arises. Everyone accuses everyone else. Intimate friends hate one another. The main source of this hate is the friendship they cherished in the world. They tempted one another into committing sins and offered encouragement in denial. All concepts regarding friendship have disappeared in the face of hellfire and all bonds strengthened in this life are broken. In the midst of all this crowd, everyone is alone, cursing all the others:
He will say, 'Enter the Fire together with the nations of jinn and men who have passed away before you.' Each time a nation enters, it will curse its sister nation, until, when they are all gathered together in it, the last of them will say to the first, 'Our Lord, those are the ones who misguided us, so give them a double punishment in the Fire.' He will say, 'Each will receive double. But you do not know it.' (Surat al-A'raf: 38)
Those who are unbelievers say, 'Our Lord, show us those jinn and men who misguided us and we will place them beneath our feet, so that they will be among the lowest of the low.' (Surah Fussilat: 29)
When they are squabbling with one another in the Fire, the weak will say to those deemed great, 'We were your followers, so why do you not ward off from us some of the flames?' But those who deemed themselves great will say, 'All of us are in it. Allah has clearly judged between His servants.' (Surah Ghafir: 47-48)
'Here is a troop rushing headlong with you! There is no welcome for them. They will certainly roast in the Fire.' (And the damned will say to their leaders), 'No, it is you who have no welcome. It is you who brought this upon us. What an evil place to settle!' They will say, 'Our Lord, give him who brought this on us double the punishment in the Fire!' 'But how is it that we do not see some men whom we used to count among the worst of people and whom we turned into figures of fun? Did our eyes miss them?' All this is certainly true - the bickering of the people of the Fire. (Surah Sad: 59-64)
Pleas of Desperation and Hopelessness
The people of hell are in a hopeless state. The torture they undergo is extremely cruel and never-ending. Their only hope is to beg for salvation. They see the people of paradise and beg for water and food. They try to repent and ask forgiveness of Allah. Yet, all these moves are in vain.
They beseech the keepers of hell. They even want them to act as intermediaries between them and Allah and ask for mercy. Their pain is so unbearable that they want to be saved from it even if it is only for a single day:
Those in the Fire will say to the custodians of hell, 'Call on your Lord to make the punishment less for us for just one day.' They will ask, 'Did your Messengers not bring you the clear signs?' They will answer, 'Yes.' Then they (their keepers) will say, 'Offer your prayers!' But the prayers of the unbelievers shall be in vain. (Surah Ghafir: 49-50)
Unbelievers further try to seek forgiveness, but they are strictly turned down:
They will say, 'Our Lord, our miserable destiny overpowered us. We were misguided people. Our Lord, deliver us from hell! Then if we revert to sin, we will definitely be wrongdoers.' He will say, 'Stay here in shame and do not plead with Me. There was a group of My slaves who said, "Our Lord, we have faith, so forgive us and have mercy on us. You are the Best of the Merciful." But you made a mockery of them so that they made you forget to remember Me while you were laughing at them. Today I have rewarded them for being steadfast. They are the ones who are victorious.' (Surat al-Mu'minun: 106-111)
This is actually the last address of Allah to the people of hell. His words "Stay here in shame and do not plead with Me!" are conclusive. From then on, Allah never considers the people of hell. One would not even like to think about this situation.
While the sinners burn in hell, those who attain "happiness and salvation" remain in paradise enjoying the benefit of endless favors. The suffering of the people in hell becomes more intense when they observe the life of believers in paradise. Indeed, while being subjected to unbearable torture, they can "watch" the magnificent blessings of paradise.
Believers, whom unbelievers derided in this world, now lead a full and happy life, living in glorious locations, magnificent houses and savoring delicious food and drinks. The sight of the believers in a state of peace and abundance further aggravates the humiliation of being in hell. These scenes add greater pain and suffering to their grief.
The regret becomes deeper and deeper. Not having followed the commands of Allah in the world makes them feel profound remorse. They turn to the believers in paradise and try to speak to them. They beg for help and sympathy from them. Yet, these are vain efforts. The people of paradise also see them. This exchange between the peoples of hell and paradise is as follows:
In Gardens they will ask the evil-doers: 'What caused you to enter hell?' They will reply, 'We were not among those who prayed and we did not feed the poor. We engaged in vain disputes and denied the Day of Judgment until the inevitable end overtook us.' The pleas of the intercessors will not help them. (Surat al-Muddaththir: 40-48)
The dialogue between the believers and the hypocrites is also related in the Qur'an. Hypocrites are the people who remained with the believers for a certain period of time. Despite having no faith in their hearts, and purely for personal gain, they performed their religious duties as if they were believers. Thus, they earned the appellation of "hypocrites". In hellfire, they implore the believers to give them help. The dialogue between believers and hypocrites is conveyed in the Qur'an as follows:
That Day the hypocrites, both men and women, will say to those who have faith, 'Wait for us, so that we may borrow some of your light.' But they will be told, 'Go back and look for some other light!' And a wall with a gate will be erected between them. Inside there will be mercy, but on the exterior lies punishment. They will call out to them, 'Were we not with you?' They will reply, 'Indeed you were. But you made trouble for yourselves and hung back and doubted, and false hopes deluded you until Allah's command arrived. The Dissembler tricked you about Allah. 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: 13-15)
An Eternal Torment With No Salvation
There is an important aspect of hell which augments the intensity of torment inflicted: it is eternal. In this world, the fact that even the sharpest pain lessens with time gives comfort to man and there is always hope for salvation.
However, there is no such hope in hell and this is what overwhelms the people of hell most. When they are cast into the fire, chained, scalded, whipped, and crammed into narrow places, their hands tied to their necks, they know that it will last for all eternity. Their attempts to escape can never meet with success. This indicates that their torment will continue forever. The anguish they feel is stated in the Qur'an as follows:
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)
Hell is an entirely isolated place. Unbelievers enter it and never re-emerge. There is no way out of hell. The feeling of confinement engulfs unbelievers. They are surrounded with walls and locked doors. This bitter feeling of confinement is described in the Qur'an as follows:
Those who reject Our signs, they are the Companions of the Left. Above them is a sealed vault of Fire. (Surat al-Balad: 19-20)
Say: 'It is the truth from your Lord; so let whoever wishes have faith and whoever wishes be a unbeliever.' 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 showered with water like seething molten brass, which will scald their faces. What a noxious drink! What an evil repose! (Surat al-Kahf: 29)
The shelter of such people will be hell. They will find no way to escape from it. (Surat an-Nisa': 121)
By the time unbelievers see the fire, they fully recognize where they belong. They truly understand that there is no probability whatsoever of getting away from the fire. At this stage, the time concept loses its meaning and an eternal torment begins. The incessant nature of pain is its worst aspect. Even if a hundred years, a thousand years or millions of years pass by, one never draws close to the end. Millions of years is nothing as compared to eternity. The unbeliever dwelling in hell awaits an end, yet to no avail. That is why the eternal nature of hell is stressed:
Allah has promised the hypocrites, both men and women, and the unbelievers the Fire of hell. They shall remain in it timelessly, for ever. It will suffice them. Allah has cursed them. They will have everlasting punishment. (Surat at-Tawba: 68)
If those (the idols) had really been gods, they would not have gone down into it. Each one will be in it timelessly, forever. (Surat al-Anbiya': 99)
As for those who are unbelievers, the Fire of hell awaits them. Death shall not deliver them, nor shall its punishment be lightened for them. That is how We repay every thankless man. (Surah Fatir: 36)
All the pain in this world comes to an end. There is always salvation. One who suffers from pain either dies, or his pain is alleviated. However, in hell, pain is continual and incessant, offering no relief for even a moment.
An Important Reminder to Avoid Torment
In the Qur'an it is related that those who reject the commands of Allah in this world and deny the existence of our Creator will have no salvation in the hereafter and that they will face a terrifying torment in hell and people are warned.
Therefore, without losing any time, each one has to realize his situation in the Presence of Allah and surrender to Him. Otherwise, he will regret it and face a fearsome end:
It may be that those who are unbelievers will wish that they had been Muslims. Leave them to eat and enjoy themselves. Let false hope divert them. They will soon know. (Surat al-Hijr: 2-3)
The way to avoid eternal punishment, win eternal bliss and attain the approval of Allah is apparent:
Before it is too late, have true faith in Allah. Spend your life in doing good deeds to earn His pleasure…