Chapter 3 - Hell
3. Hell - Introduction
...He (the denier) reflected and he schemed. Curse him, how he schemed! Again curse him, how he schemed! Then he looked. Then he frowned and glowered. Then he drew back and was proud. He said, 'This is nothing but magic from the past. This is nothing but the words of a mere mortal!' I will roast him in the Fire. What will convey to you what the Fire is? It does not spare anyone and it does not ease up, ceaselessly scorching the flesh. (Surat al-Muddaththir: 18-29)
Deceptions and Facts
Hell is the place, where unbelievers will remain for all eternity and specially created for them to bear the penalty of their sins.
The unbelievers are guilty. Their guilt is to be ungrateful and rebellious to the Allah, the One Who gives man a soul. Therefore, in the hereafter there is grievous punishment for such a deadly sin. That is the purpose that hell serves. Man is created to be a servant of Allah. If he denies the main purpose of his creation, then he surely receives what he deserves in hell. Allah states the following in one of the verses:
...those who are too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in hell—in humiliation! (Surah Ghafir: 60)
People who do not believe Allah, who do not measure Him with His true measures and do not serve Him will be sent to hell at the end and no one has any guarantee to be saved from it. The biggest threat to man is hell. Therefore nothing can be more important than gaining Allah's approval and saving one's soul from hell.
Despite this, some people on earth live in a state of unawareness. They occupy themselves with other troubles in their daily lives. They work for months, years, even decades for insignificant issues, yet never think of the biggest threat, the gravest danger to their eternal existence. Hell is right next to them; yet, they are too blind to see it. In the Qur'an, the following is said about this group of people who are in a constant state of heedlessness:
Closer and closer to mankind comes their Reckoning: yet they pay no heed and turn away. To each renewed Message from their Lord they listen as in jest: their hearts are set on pleasure. (Surat al-Anbiya': 1-3)
Such people engage in vain effort. These people spend their whole lives on the basis of various distractive objectives they imagine will benefit them in the transitory life of this world. Most of the time, their goals are being promoted in the company, marrying, having a "happy family life", earning a lot of money or being an advocate of a useless ideology. While doing these things, these people are unaware of the big threat ahead of them which will last forever. One catches the insensitive attitude they have towards hell even from their manner of referring to the subject. The "ignorant society" composed of such people frequently utter the word "hell" without having a thorough grasp of its meaning. Now and then, this word becomes the subject of jokes. However, nobody gives as much thought to the subject as it deserves. This is one of the gravest mistakes of these people and For them, hell is an imaginary fiction.
In fact, hell is more real than this world. The world will cease to exist after some time, but hell will remain for all eternity. Allah, the Creator of the universe and the world and all the delicate balances in nature, has likewise created the hereafter, paradise and hell. A grievous punishment is promised to all unbelievers and hypocrites.
Hell, the worst place that can ever be imagined, is a source of the sheerest torture. This torture and pain is not similar to any kind of pain in this world. It is much more intense than any pain or misery one can ever face in this world. It is surely the work of Allah, the Exalted in Wisdom.
A second reality about hell is that, for everyone, this torture is timeless and eternal. The majority of people in this ignorant society have a common misconception about hell: they assume that they will "serve their sentence" in hell for a certain period and then they will be forgiven. This is only wishful thinking.
Such people assume that there is no limit to the extent that they may indulge in worldly pleasures. According to the same belief, they will attain paradise after receiving temporary punishment in hell. However, the end awaiting them is more painful than they expect. Hell is definitely a place of everlasting—unless Allah wills otherwise—torment. In the Qur'an, it is often stated that punishment for unbelievers is constant and everlasting. This is made explicit in the following verse: "They will dwell therein for ages." (Surat an-Naba': 23)
The rationale stating: " I will serve my sentence for a while and then I will be forgiven" is bigoted thinking indulged in by some to comfort themselves. Indeed, Allah draws attention to this in the Qur'an, the same rationale having also been given utterance to by the Jews:
They say, 'The Fire will only touch us for a number of days.' Say, 'Have you made a contract with Allah—then Allah will not break His contract—or are you rather saying about Allah what you do not know?' No indeed! Those who accumulate bad actions and are surrounded by their mistakes, are the Companions of the Fire, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-Baqara: 80-81)
Being ungrateful and rebellious to the Creator Who "gave hearing and sight and intelligence and affections" (Surat an-Nahl: 78) certainly deserves unceasing suffering. The excuses one puts forward will not save one from hell. The verdict given for those who display indifference—or worse, animosity—towards the religion of his Creator is certain and invariable:
When Our signs are recited to them—clear signs—you can detect denial in the faces of those who are unbelievers. They all but assault those who recite Our signs to them! Say: 'Shall I inform you of something worse than that? The Fire which Allah has promised those who are unbelievers. What an evil destination!' (Surat al-Hajj: 72)
Those who remained arrogant to Allah and harbored enmity towards believers will hear the following words on the Day of Judgment:
So enter the gates of hell, to dwell therein. Thus evil indeed is the abode of the arrogant. (Surat an-Nahl: 29)
The most fearsome characteristic of hell is its eternal nature. Once in hell, there will be no return except for the ones Allah saves. The only reality is hell together with many other kinds of torture. Encountering such an eternal torture, a person falls into total despair. He has no further expectations. This state is described in the Qur'an as follows:
As for those who are rebellious and wicked, their abode will be the Fire. Every time they wish to get away from it, they will be forced into it, and they will be told: 'Taste the Penalty of the Fire, which you were wont to reject as false.' (Surat as-Sajda: 20)
… The Fire is your home. You will be in it timelessly, for ever, except as Allah wills. Your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing. (Surat Al-An'am: 128)
… The Fire is your home. You will be in it timelessly, for ever, except as Allah wills. Your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing.They will want to get out of the Fire but they will not be able to. They will have an everlasting punishment. (Surat al-Ma'idah: 37)
In addition, there is the following hadith of our Prophet (saas) as a blessing from Allah:
The Prophet (saas) said: "He with the slightest speck of faith will be saved from the fire." Abu Said says: "Whoever doubts (that he really said this) should read the following verse: "Allah does not wrong anyone by so much as the smallest speck..." (Surat an-Nisa, 40) (Tirmidhi, Sifatu Cehennem 10, (2601)