The Approach to Hell:
Everybody will walk along a path overlooking hell. The speed at which they move along this path will depend how close they are to God and on the abundance of their good deeds. This means, therefore, that those who are in awe of God, and are God-conscious, will have a ‘safe exit’. God the Almighty says: “There is not one of you but shall approach it. That is a, fixed ordinance of the Lord. Then We shall rescue those who kept from evil, and leave the evil-doers crouching; there”(Qur’an;19:71-72); “Nay! Would that you knew through the real knowledge provided to you in this Qur’an and care about your life in the Hereafter. Because on the Day of Judgement when you shall see the hell,”(Qur’an;102:5-6). The above verses refer to two different ‘viewings’ of hell. Those who are God-conscious will have the first viewing, and they will have a safe passage and attain salvation. Those in the second viewing will include people who have followed evil ways and have been unjust; they will fall into the abyss of hell. The first viewing may perhaps be before the reckoning takes place, when everybody will witness the sight of hell.
Paradise and Hell:
The Holy Qur’an presents descriptions of heaven in a style that the human intellect can easily understand. References are made such as: Rivers will run beneath it… Those who reside in it will wear bracelets of gold and pearls, their garments will be of silk… Rivers of wine and rivers of honey will flow in it, and in it will be girls most beautiful of eye like unto pearls hidden in their shells, and immortal youth.
The blissful delights of heaven belong to the realm of the unseen, and God has described them in allegorical language in the Holy Qur’an in a manner easily understood by the human mind. It should therefore be clear to us all that everything in paradise which is referred to is unlike anything in this world That includes the rivers, milk, honey and ‘the girls most beautiful of eye, etc. In this context we can consider the quote from the Holy Qur’an and a saying by our Prophet, peace be upon him. The Holy Qur’an says: “And no human being can imagine what blissful delights as yet hidden, await (in the life to come) as a reward for all that they did”(Qur’an;32:17). And our Prophet (peace be upon him) sys, “”God says, I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard and no heart of man has ever conceived’. This is further proof of the point we made earlier, that the human being is incapable of imagining or comprehending the unseen.
Some commentators on the Holy Qur’an who have expounded on this subject have done so without providing proof for their theories. They tried hard to present a visual image of the life hereafter and compare it to life in this world. But their efforts were similar to those of scholastic theologians who tried to gauge and conceptualize Divine Justice and Divine Attributes on the basis of human justice and attributes: they got tangled in a web of theories and arguments. It would have been wiser for them to take the same stand as that taken by the scholars of early Islam who adhered strictly to the text regarding relevant issues, admitting the incapacity of the human mind to go beyond its limits. One of the empty and fruitless arguments put forward by these scholars pertains to the beautiful girls of paradise. Would cohabitation -with them be similar to the way we live with women in this world? They forgot that part of the role of marriage in this world is to have children and preserve our species. But as there is no such purpose in the life hereafter, those sorts of questions have no meaning. It is far more reasonable to believe everything that has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an instead of going into details and interpreting what has been said in a way which is incompatible with the text.
Admission to Paradise:
Admission to Paradise cannot be achieved merely by a sense of yearning or wishful thinking. It can only be achieved by faith and obedience. The Holy Qur’an says :“The final result will neither be in accordance with your desires nor in accordance with the desires of the People of the Book. He who does evil will be requited with evil: he will find no protector or helper besides Allah”(Qur’an;4:123); “Do you think that you will enter paradise without going through the trial? Allah has not yet tested you to see who among you strive hard for His cause and who show patience for His sake”(Qur’an;3:142). Therefore, a believer who is accepted in the realm of paradise is one who promotes good, who has worked for God’s sake and has sacrificed time, money and power on earth in order to work towards truth. Failing this, he should have avoided getting involved in actions that in the end are harmful to his spiritual development, and have leant to be patient.
Salvation is finally achieved after the reckoning is over and the believer crosses the bridge of Sirat: “Those who were conscious of the Sustainer will be urged on towards Paradise, till when they reach it, they shall find its gates wide-open, and its keeper will say unto them, “Peace be upon you! Well have you done: enter then this (Paradise), herein to abide.” And they will exclaim “All praise is due to God, who has made His promise to us come true, and has bestowed upon us this expanse (of bliss) as our portions so that we may dwell in paradise as we please! And how excellent a reward will it be for those who labored (in God’s way)!” (Qur’an;39:73-74).
Description of Paradise:
In terms of space, paradise is as vast and spacious as the heavens and earth put together. If this is hard to imagine, we must remember that the other world in relation to this is tike this world compared to the mother’s womb. As we mentioned earlier, the fetus thinks of the womb as being its own finite world. And, if you think about it, any house on earth is a million times lager than the world of the fetus. Paradise has been prepared for the righteous and God conscious. So who are these people and what do they do? We may perhaps wish to follow in their footsteps and be blessed by their company. God has described the righteous and God conscious in the following way: “Who spend (in His way) in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and hold in check in their anger, and pardon their fellow men because God loves the doers of good; and who when they have committed a shameful deed or have (otherwise) sinned against themselves, remember God and pray that their sins be forgiven…”(Qur’an;3:134-35) These are some of the qualities of the God fearing and God conscious people. And God will, out of His generosity and benevolence, admit to heaven those who acquire those qualities after practicing the right kind of faith and having sincere belief in the principle of the Oneness of God. Paradise will be divided into different categories, first and foremost is the Garden of Bliss which may not be attained by everyone: “Does every one of them hope to enter a Garden of Bliss?”(Qur’an;70:38). The Garden of Bliss is for those who are: foremost in faith and good works(Qur’an;56:10), They who were (always) drawn close unto God (Qur’an;56:12).
Then there is a part of heaven known as the ‘highest place in heaven’. It is granted to those servants of God referred to the Holy Qur’an in the chapter entitled Al-Furquan (The Criterion). They are the people who possess the following virtues:
1) Humility and patience towards those who are not as spiritually developed as they are.
2) Devotion to God, which keeps them in constant touch with Him.
3) Awareness of the judgement they will receive in the life hereafter.
4) Moderation in spending.
5) Avoidance of treason to God, their fellow creatures and to themselves.
6) Avoidance of falsehood and futility.
7) Paying attention, both in mind and manner, to God’s signs.
8) The desire to bring up their families in righteousness and making them aware of Truth.
The above virtues represent, in a nutshell, a complete code of individual and social ethics, and a ladder of spiritual development, available to everyone. Among other divisions of heaven are: Gardens with trellises and without.(Qur’an;6:141). That is to say, there are both cultivated and uncultivated gardens; Gardens of Abode, Gardens of Eden and the ‘two Gardens’, for those who are God fearing. In these gardens will be set down the record of the truly virtuous in a most lofty model.
Life in Paradise:
The Holy Qur’an states that those who are in paradise will meet their brethren and their kith and kin: “Enter Paradise, you and your spouses, with happiness know therein neither (burning) sun nor cold severe, since its (blissful) shades will come down low over them and low will hang down its clusters of fruit, most easy to reach”(Qur’an;76:12-13). In happiness will they and their spouses on couches recline (Qur’an;36:56). And as for those who have attained to faith and whose offspring will have followed them in faith, we shall unite them with their offspring.(Qur’an;52:21). They will meet in an atmosphere of warmth and purity of heart: We shall have removed whatever unworthy thoughts or feelings may have been (lingering) in their bosoms.(Qur’an;7:42); “. …And (by then) We shall have removed whatever unworthy thoughts or feelings may have been (lingering) in their breasts, (and they shall rest) as brethren, facing one bother (in love) upon thrones of happiness. (Qur’an;15:47). (In such a paradise the blest will dwell) reclining upon carpets lined with rich brocade; and the fruit of both these gardens will be within easy reach(Qur’an;55:55). And they will be waited upon by (immortal) youths, (as if they were children) of their own, (as pure) as if they were pearls hidden in their shells(Qur’an;52:24). In that (paradise) they shall (right fully) claim all the fruits (of their past deeds), resting in security(Qur’an;44:55). A cup will be passed round among them (with a drink) from unsullied springs, clear, delightful to those who drink it: no heartiness will be in it, and they will not get drunk thereon. (Qur’an;37:45-47).
And as for their food and drink, it will be waited upon with trays and goblets of gold(Qur’an;43:71). Immortal youths will wait upon them with goblets, and ewers, and cups filled with water from unsullied springs(Qur’an;56:17). …And with fruit of any kind that they may choose and with the flesh of any fowl that they may desire… amidst fruit-laden lote trees, and acacias flower-clad, and shade extended, and waters gushing and fruit abounding, never-failing and never out of reach, and (they will rest on) couches raised high. (Qur’an;56:19-20; 28-34). Upon their faces thou wilt see the brightness of bliss. (Qur’an;83:24), Some faces will on that Day shine with bliss, well pleased with (the fruit) of their striving (Qur’an;88:8-9). They will be at liberty to go wherever they wish, to meet and talk to whomever they wish: … and they will be welcomed with the greeting? “Peace!” (Qur’an;14:23). They speak nothing but good … for they were (willing to be) guided towards the best of all tenets, and so they were guided onto the way that leads to the One unto whom all praise is due (Qur’an;22:24). And they (who are thus blest) will turn to one another asking each other (about their past lives). They will say, “Behold, aforetime, – when we were (still living) in the midst of kith and kin – we were full of fear (at the thought of God’s displeasure): and so God has graced us with his favour and has warded off from us all suffering through the scorching winds (of frustration)”(Qur’an;52:25-26).
And in gratitude to their Lord they say, “Verily, we did invoke Him (alone) ere this; (and now He has shown us) that He alone is truly benign, a true dispenser of grace.”(Qur’an;52:28). When they talk among themselves, they remember how they spent their time during their life in this world. They also remember matters concerning other people and what became of them: One of them speaks thus, “Behold, I had (on earth) a close companion who was wont to ask (me) “Why, art thou really one of those who believe it to be true (that) after we have died and become mere dust and bones we shall, forsooth, be brought to judgement?” (And) he adds, “Would you like to look (and see him)?” And then he looks and sees that (companion of his) in the midst of the blazing fire and says, “By God! Verily, thou hast almost destroyed me (too, 0 my erstwhile companion) – for bad it not been for my Sustainer’s favour, I would surely be (now) among those who are given over (to suffering)”(Qur’an;37:51-57). Then God will bless them with the company of most beautiful girls: And (in that Paradise) We shall mate them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye(Qur’an;52:20). And (with them will be their) spouses, raised high: for behold, we shall have brought them into being, in a life renewed, having resurrected them as virgins, full of love, well-matched with those who have attained to righteousness(Qur’an;56:34 – 39). In these gardens will be mated of modest gaze, whom neither man nor invisible being will have touched ere them(Qur’an;55:56).
In that state of happiness they will call out, “Limitless art Thou in Thy glory, 0 God!” and will be answered with the greeting, “Peace!” And their call will close with (the words), “All praise is due to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds”(Qur’an;10:10). And they will say, “All praise is due to God, Who has guided us unto this. For we would certainly not have found the right path unless God had guided us! Indeed, our Sustainer’s Apostle has told us the truth!” and (a voice) will call out unto them, “This is the paradise which you have inherited by virtue of your past deeds.”(Qur’an;7:42). No weariness shall ever touch them in this (state of bliss) and never shall they have to forego it (Qur’an;15:48). And neither shall they taste death thereafter having passed through their erstwhile death.(Qur’an;44:56), … and the angels will come unto them from every gate (and will say), “Peace be upon you, because you have persevered!” How excellent then, this fulfillment in the hereafter(Qur’an;13: 23-24). … and there will be found all that the souls might desire, and (all that) the eyes might delight in. (Qur’an;43:71). Verily, this-this indeed-is the triumph supreme. For the like of this, then let them labour, those who labour (in God’s way)(Qur’an;37:61-62).
To that then, let all such aspire as (are willing to) aspire to things of high account. (Qur’an;83:26). Oh Lord, Thy mercy we seek in everything, and thy pardon and forgiveness Verily, You are the One who pardons and forgives. Grant us refuge Oh Lord, from the torture of hell and grant us too a safe entrance into Paradise.
Generally when we think of Hell, the first notion that comes to our mind is that it, too maybe a fire like that of the worldly fire. But although they both belong to the species of fire, there is no comparison between the two. We can notice the vast difference between these two fires when we study carefully the description of it in the Holy Qur’an. If the fire of hell were the same as the fire we know, of this world, it would burn everything and reduce it to coal. In hell, however, there are trees, water and shade, but they are for the purpose of torture and suffering and not for comfort and luxury. If a person falls into a fire in this world, he meets instant death and is thus saved from the resultant pain and suffering. But a person who is condemned to the fire of hell will undergo eternal suffering: No end shall be put to their lives, so that they could die, nor shall aught of the suffering caused by that (fire) be lightened for them.(Qur’an;35 – 36). … and every time their skins are burnt off. We shall replace them with new skins, so that they may taste suffering (in full). (Qur’an;4:56). As for the trees in hell, they are the trees of Zaqqum: the tree of deadly fruit… the (hellish) tree of deadly fruit. Verily, We have caused it to be a trial for evil doers: for behold, it is a tree that grows in the very heart of the blazing fire (of hell), its fruit (as repulsive) as Satan’s heads. (Qur’an;37: 62-64). And the food in hell will be the food of the sinful: like molten lead will it boil in the belly, like the boiling of burning despair. (Qur’an;44:43). And stinking water will be given to those who arrogantly deny the way of truth:… he shall be made to drink the water of most bitter distress, gulping it (unceasingly), little by little, and yet hardly able to swallow it. (Qur’an;14:17). So people in hell will be made to eat deadly fruit and drink stinking water, which they will, due to an insatiable thirst, drink again and again, rather like a camel. That water will boil in their stomachs like molten lead, causing all that is within their bodies, as well as their skins, to melt away. (Qur’an;22:20). And the garments which they will wear in hell will be garments of fire. (Qur’an;22:19). The shade in hell will be clouds of fire will they have above them and (similar) clouds beneath them. (Qur’an;39:16) shadows neither cooling nor soothing. (Qur’an;56:44). 158 Belief in the Day of Judgement This will be the fate of those who place more importance on material values and the pleasures they bring, and the fate of unbelievers who deny that there is an afterlife, For behold, in times gone by they were wont to abandon themselves wholly to the pursuit of pleasures, and would persist in heinous sinning and would say, “What’ After we have died and become mere dust and bones, shall we, forsooth, be raised from the dead?”. (Qur’an;56: 45 – 46); “Now as for those who (by their deeds) will have brought wretchedness upon themselves, (they shall live) in the fire, where they will have (nothing but) moans and sobs (to relieve their pain) therein to abide as long as the heavens and the earth endure unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise: for verily, thy Sustainer is a sovereign doer of whatever He wills. (Qur’an;11:106-107).
Entry into Hell:
When the reckoning is over and judgement has been pronounced on unbelievers regarding their punishment in hell, groups of them will be led there. Hell itself will be ‘furious’ with them for persistent disbelief in God and the messages of the prophets. The keepers of hell will be baffled by the foolishness and arrogance of such people. In this context, the Qur’an states: When they are cast into that (hell), they hear its breath ‘n drawing as it boils up, well-nigh bursting with fury; (and) every time a host (of such sinners) is flung into it, its Lepers will ask them, “Has no warner ever come to you?” that juncture they will confess, “Yes, a warner did indeed come to us, but we gave him the lie and Said ‘Never has God sent down anything (by way of revelation!)’ “Thus the angels will tell them, “You (self-styled warners) are but lost in a great delusion”. So they admit that they turned a deaf ear and refused to exercise their minds and that, had they taken heed of the preachings and contemplated both within themselves and the world around them, they would have found proof of God’s existence and believed in Him, and would have followed the path shown by the prophets, and, as a consequence, would not have been condemned to hell. And they will add, “Had we but listened (to those warnings), or (at least) used our own reason, we would not (now) be among those who are destined for the blazing fire.” (Qur’an;67: 7-10).
Hell as a Prison:
God the Almighty has described hell as abode: with seven gates leading into it, each gate receiving its allotted share of sinners (Qur’an;15:44), and that it will be: a fire kindled by God, which will rise over the (guilty) hearts; verily it will close in upon them in endless columns(Qur’an;104:6-9). Those who have been assigned to hell will be tied together and flung into a tight space, and when they are flung, linked (all) together, into a tight space within, they will pray for extinction there and then! (Qur’an;25: 12 -14). Behold, for those who deny the truth we have readied chains and shackles, a blazing flame(Qur’an;76:4).
Attempts to Escape from Hell:
God gave man the respite of life to spend in this world. He endowed him, at the same time, with reason to choose whichever path he liked. He gave man the volition to select the goal for himself. Some chose the path to Hell and performed deeds which may take them there, but when they reach there they will try to escape from it. Such people may swear that they will live a Godly life, as long as they are given a second chance like a student who has taken an exam, failed it and is sitting for it for a second time. But it may not be such a simple matter. As God the Almighty states in the Qur’an: Verily We have brought them a scripture which we expound with knowledge, a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe. Await they aught save the fulfillment thereof? On the day when the fulfillment thereof cometh, those were before forgetful thereof will say, “The messengers of our Lord did bring the truth! Have we any intercessors that they may intercede for us? Or can we be returned (to life on earth) that we may act otherwise than we used to act?” They have lost their souls, and that which they devised hath failed them(Qur’an;7: 52-53). “He whom Allah let go astray (that wills to go astray) has no protector after Him. When they will face the punishment, you will see the wrongdoers exclaim: “Is there any way back to the world?”(Qur’an;42:44). “Therein they shall cry for help: “Our Lord! Get us out, from now on we shall do good deeds and shall not repeat the ones we used to do”. The response will be: “Did we not give you lives long enough so that he who would, could take a warning? Besides, someone did come to warn you. Now taste the fruit of your deeds, here there is no helper for the wrongdoers.”(Qur’an;35:37).
In desperation, these men seek the help of the keepers of in the hope that they may rescue them: “Also imagine when the dwellers of fire will ask the Keepers of hell: “Pray to your Lord for relieving our punishment at least for one day!” The Keepers of hell will ask: “Did there not come to you Messenger with clear revelations?” “Yes,” they will answer. The Keepers of hell will say: “Then pray yourselves.” But vain shall be the prayer of the disbelievers.(Qur’an;40:49-50). Still in despair they turn again to another source: the angel who rules over hell: “They will cry: “O the keeper of hell! Let your Lord put and end to us.” But he will answer: “Nay! You are going to live forever.”(Qur’an;43:77). Then they consider offering a ransom. And though those who do wrong possess all that is in the earth, and therewith as much again, they verily will seek to ransom themselves therewith on the Day of Resurrection from the awful doom. And there will appear unto them, from their Lord, that wherewith they be never reckoned. And the evils that they earned will appear unto them and that whereat they used to scoff will surround them.(Qur’an;39:47-48). And for them are hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them), “Taste the doom of burning. Lo! God will cause those who believe and do good works to enter gardens underneath which rivers; flow, wherein they will be allowed armlets of gold, and pearls, and their raiment therein will be silk.” (Qur’an;22:21-23).
Harmony and Disharmony:
Those who dwell in heaven will be recognised by their harmonious state of being. They shall be free of unworthy thoughts or lurking sense of injury and they shall rest as brethren, facing one another (in love) upon thrones of happiness(Qur’an;15:47). As for those in hell, they will be forever arguing and quarrelling.
“Allah will say: “Enter the fire and join the nations of Jinns and men who have gone before you.” As each nation will enter hell, it will curse its preceding sister till all are gathered there, the last of them will say about the first one: “Our Lord! These have led us astray; therefore, give them double punishment of the fire.” He will answer: “There will be double for all, although you may not know because of being predecessor or successor in sin and aggression.” Then the first will say to the last: “If we were to blame, you too, were no better than us; now taste the punishment of your misdeeds.”(Qur’an;7:38-39). “Such will it be the reward for the righteous. But for the rebellious there will be an evil resort – hell, that is! In which they will burn – the worst abode. Such will it be the reward for the wrongdoers. So they will taste scalding water, festering blood (pus) and other things of the same sort. It will be said to the ringleaders; “Here are your troops being thrown headlong with you. They are not welcomed here; for they are going to burn in the hellfire. The followers shall say to their miss guided leaders: “But you! There is no welcome for you either! It was you who have brought us to this end. Such an evil abode.” Then they will pray: “Our Lord, inflict on those who brought this fate upon us double punishment in the fire.” Then they will say to one another: “But why do we not see those whom we deemed wicked and whom we use to ridicule? Or have our eyesight failed to notice them?” Surely, this is the very truth: the people in the hellfire will argue just like that”(Qur’an;38:55-64).
The Dialogues-Inmates of Paradise and Hell:
The Holy Qur’an states that the inmates of paradise will be able to see the inmates of hell, and communicate with them. And the dwellers of the Garden cry unto the dwellers of the fire, “We have found that which our Lord promised us (to be) the truth. Have ye (too) found that which your Lord promised the truth?” They say, “Yea, verily”. And a crier in between them cries, “The curse of God is on evil-doers. Who (debar) men from the path of God and would have it crooked, and who are disbelievers in the Last Day.”(Qur’an;7:44-45). “And the dwellers of the fire cry out unto the dwellers of the garden, “Pour on us some water or some of that wherewith God hath provided you.” They say, “Lo! God hath forbidden both to disbelievers (in His guidance). Who took their religion for a sport and pastime, and whom the life of the world beguiled. So this day We have forgotten them even as they forgot the meeting of this their Day and as they used to deny Our tokens”(Qur’an;7:50-51).
The verses coming in the chapter entitled Al-A’raf, indicate that this title denotes a place – a point of transit between heaven and hell, known as the Heights (Limbo). It is said that it will be a halting place for those who do not fit into the category of either heaven or hell. In other words, their good actions do not merit their entry into heaven, yet their bad actions were judged not to be sufficiently bad for them to be condemned to hell. People in Al-A’raf will witness the beauty of paradise and talk with those dwelling there, yearning to enter themselves? They will also witness hell and converse with its inmates. There will be a veil between the inmates of paradise and the inmates of hell. And on the Heights will be men who would know everyone by his marks. They will call out to the companions of the Garden, “Peace on you“. They will not have entered, but they will have an assurance (thereof). When their eyes shall be turned towards the companions of the fire, they will say, “Our Lord! Send us not to the company of the wrong-doers.”(Qur’an;7:46-47). They will see people in hell whom they knew in this world; people who in this world were very mighty and proud of their wealth. The popularity and support they enjoyed through all this made them behave in a proud manner and commit unjust acts. To them the people of Al-A’raf will say, “What has your amassing (of wealth) availed you, and all the false pride of your past?”(Qur’an;7:48). They will realise that their riches are of no avail and will have no influence whatsoever over their agony, and what’s more that they cannot take those riches with them.
When we die, we enter the grave alone, without anyone at all by our side, leaving everyone we knew on earth behind us. We are alone during our resurrection, and we will be alone for the reckoning. But even though we all have to face death, we tend not to think about it. We are unable to envision it physically, through our senses, nor can picture it in our imagination. We should therefore ask God to open our eyes, so that we can see His Divine Truth and be enlightened inour vision, so that we may proceed on the path towards Him. We should pray to be protected from temptations, both seen and hidden, that might harm us. And we must remember to ask for His acceptance, and to be protected from His anger. For in the end, only God can forgive us and save us from our agony.
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