al-Bukhaari and Muslim report that Ibn ‘Umar said, “I saw in a dream that two angels came to me. Each of them was holding a whip of iron in his hand. Then I met (another) angel who was also holding a whip of iron in his hand. They said, “Do not worry, you are a good man; we just wish that you prayed more at night”. They took me to the edge of Hell, which looked like a well with horns: between every two horns stood an angel holding a whip of iron. I saw men hanging upside-down, held with chains, and I recognised some men of Quraysh. Then they led me away, towards the right. I told Hafsah about my dream, and she told the Messenger of Allah (saw) who said, “Abdullaah is a righteous man”. (at-Takhweef min an-Naar, p.51)
Hazrat Ibn Umar (Radiallahu Anhuma) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) as saying, “The believer is not given to cursing.” A version has “It is noy fitting for a believer to be given to cursing.”
Hazrat Samura Bin Jundub (Radiyallahu Anhu) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) as saying, “Do not invoke Allah’s curse, Allah’s curse, Allah’s anger, or Jahannam on one another.” A version has, “or Hell.”
Hazrat Abu Dardaa (Radiyallahu Anhu) told that he heard Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) say, “When a man curses anything the curse goes upto heaven and the gates of heaven are locked against it. Then it comes down to the earth and its gates are locked against it. It then goes right and left ,and if it finds no place of entrance it returns to the thing which was cursed, and if it deserves what was said (it enters it) ; otherwise it returns to the one who uttered it.”
Hazrat Ibn Abbas (Radiyallahu Anhu) told that the wind snatched away a man’s cloak and he cursed it, so Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, “Do not curse it, for it is under command, and if anyone curses a thing undeservedly the curse returns upon him.”
(Tirmizi Sharif,Abu Dawood)
There are variations in the degrees of heat in Hell, and in the levels of punishment which Allah (swt) has prepared for its inhabitants; there is not just one level.
As Allah 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.
Allah (swt) refers to the levels of Paradise and Hell in the Qur’an:
“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 Allah like the one who draws on himself the Wrath of Allah? His abode is Hell – and worst, indeed, is that destination! They are in varying grades with Allah, and Allah is All-Seer of what they do”. (3:162-3)
‘Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Zayd ibn Aslam said, “The levels of paradise go up and the levels of Hell go down” [Ibn Rajab, at-Takhweef min an-Naar, 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 Ladhaa, the third al-Hutamah, the fourth as-Sa’eer, the fifth Saqar, the sixth al-Jaheem, 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, Ladhaa, 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.
[ALLAH’S Quran – 40:6] “Invoke Me,” says Allah, your Creator, “I respond to your invocation.” “Meanwhile those who are too proud to pay reverence to Me and do not display adoration with appropriate acts and rites, shall take up their abode in Hell, plunged into infamy and humiliation.”
Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) has said:
[Muslim, Book #035, Hadith #6595] “Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The supplication of the servant is granted in case he does not supplicate for sin or for severing the ties of blood, or he does not become impatient. It was said: Allah’s Messenger, what does:” If he does not grow impatient” imply? He said: That he should say like this: I supplicated and I supplicated but I did not find it being responded. and then he becomes frustrated and abandons supplication.”
The Qur’an speaks at length of the evil deeds for which those who will abide in the Hell forever deserve their never-ending fate. Here we will mention the most serious of them.
(1) Kufr and Shirk: Allah (swt) tells us that it will be said to those who disbelieved, when they are in the Fire, that Allah’s hatred of them will be greater than their own hatred towards themselves because of their disbelief. Then He explains that their eternal fate in Hell is because of their kufr and shirk:
“The unbelievers will be addressed: “Greater was the aversion of Allah to you than [is] your aversion to yourselves, seeing that you were called to the Faith but you used to refuse. They will say, “Our Rabb! Twice have You made us without life, and twice have You given us life! Now have we recognized our sins: is there any way out [of this]?” [The answer will be]: “This is because, when Allah was invoked as the Only [object of worship] you did reject Faith, but when partners were joined to Him, you believed! The Command is only with Allah, All-High, All-Great!” (40:10-12)
Allah (swt) tells us that the keeper of Hell will ask the kuffaar as they are approaching Hell:
“Did there not come to you your messengers with clear signs?” (40:50)
The response will be that they deserved Hell because they disbelieved in the Messengers and their Message:
“They will say, “Yes indeed; a Warner did come to us, but we rejected him” and said: “Allah never sent down any [Message] you are in nothing but a great error!” (67:9)
Concerning those who disbelieved in the Qur’an, Allah (swt) says:
“for We have sent you a Message from Our own presence. If any do turn away therefrom, verily they will bear a burden on the Day of Judgement. They will abide in this [state] and grievous will that burden be to them on that Day”. (20:99-101)
Many texts indicate the large numbers of the children of Aadam will enter Hell, and the few who will enter Paradise. Allah (swt) says:
“Yet no faith will the greater part of mankind have, however ardently you desire it.” (12:103)
An indication of the large numbers of kuffaar and mushrikeen who rejected the call of the Messengers is the fact that the Prophets will come on the Day of Resurrection some with a small group (of less than ten), others with one or two and some with no followers at all. Muslim reports from Ibn ‘Abbaas that the Prophet (saw) said:
“I was shown the nations and I saw a Prophet accompanied by a small group, another accompanied by one or tow men, and another with no companions at all..” (Saheeh Muslim, 1/198, no.220)
Many texts indicate that nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of the children of Aadam will enter Hell, and only one (in a thousand) will enter Paradise.
al-Bukhaari narrates from Abu Sa’eed that the Prophet (saw) said: Allah will say, “O Aadam!” Aadam will reply, “I respond to Your call, I am obedient to Your commands, and all good is in Your hands.” Then Allah (swt) will say to Aadam, “Send forth the people of the Fire”. Aadam will say, “How many are the people of the Fire?!” Allah (swt) will say, “Out of every thousand, take nine hundred and ninety-nine”. At that time, children’s hair will turn grey and every pregnant female will spontaneously abort and you will see the people looking as if they are drunk, although they are not, but Allah’s punishment will be most severe”. This speech distressed his Companions and the said, “O Messenger of Allah (saw), who amongst us will be that man (one in a thousand)?” He said, “Be of good cheer: the thousand will be from Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog) and the one will be from among you”. Then he said, “By Him in Whose hand is my soul, I hope that you will be one third of the people of Paradise.” We praised and glorified Allah (swt) and then he said, “By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, I hope that you will be half of the people of paradise, as you are among the nations like a white hair on the hide of a black bull or a round hairless spot on the foreleg of a donkey”. (al-Bukhaari, Kitaab ar-Raqaaq, Baab Qawl Allah Azza wa jalla, innaa zalzalat al-Saa’ah, Shay’un ‘Adheem, Fath al-Baari, 11/388; see also Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 4/610, Musnad Ahmad 4/435).
It might be asked: how can we reconcile between these hadith and the report from Abu Hurayrah in Saheeh al-Bukhaari, in which the Prophet (saw) said that Allah (swt) said to Aadam (‘alayhis-salaam) – “Send forth [into Hell] ninety-nine out of every hundred [of your descendants]”. It is obvious that these reports do not contradict the other Saheeh reports that we have quoted above, because these figures are referring to different groups. The hadith that mention a ratio of nine hundred and ninety-nine may be interpreted as referring to all the progeny of Aadam, whilst the hadith of al-Bukhaari that mentions a ratio of ninety-nine may be interpreted as referring to the progeny of Aadam excluding Ya’juj and Ma’juj. This reconciliation is more likely to be correct – as Ibn Hajar suggests – because Ya’juj and Ma’juj are mentioned in the hadith of Abu Sa’eed whereas they are not mentioned in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah. It may be said that the first hadith refers to all of creation, so the ratio of people admitted to Hell when all nations are taken into account is 999 in every thousand. The latter hadith of al-Bukhaari explains the ratio of people who will enter Hell from this ummah alone. Ibn Hajar (said) “This interpretation is supported by the words of the Sahabah in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (ra): “If ninety-nine out of every hundred are taken from us, what will be left of us?” This division of people could happen twice: once involving all the nations, when one in a thousand will enter Paradise, and a second time involving this ummah alone, when ten out of every thousand will enter Paradise”. (Fath al-Baari, 11/390).
(i) Evidence that Paradise has various levels and its inhabitants will be in different categories
Paradise consists of levels, some of which are above others, and its people will be of differing levels and categories according to their position in Paradise. Allah (swt) says:
“Whoever wishes for the quick passing [transitory enjoyment of this world] we readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell, he will burn therein disgraced and rejected, [-far away from Allah’s Mercy]. And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due to it, [ i.e. righteous deeds of obedience to Allah] while he is a believer [in tawheed] then such are the ones whose striving shall be appreciated, thanked and rewarded [by Allah]. To each – these as well as those – We bestow from the bounties of your Rabb. And the bounties of your Rabb can never be forbidden” [17:18-20]
Allah (swt) explains how He gives more of His bounty in this world or the next, as He (swt) wills, and His Bounty is not withheld [forbidden] from either the righteous or the sinful. Then He (swt) says:
“See how We prefer one above another [in this world] and verily, the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preference.” [17:21]
Allah (swt) explains that the differences between people in the Hereafter will be greater than the differences between them in this life, and the difference between the levels or ranks of the Hereafter is greater than the differences here in this life. Allah (swt) also differentiates between His Prophets as He does between the rest of His believing slaves. Allah (swt) says:
“Those Messengers! We preferred some to others; to some of them Allah spoke [directly]; others He raised to degrees of [honour]; and to ‘Eesa the son of Maryam, We gave clear proofs and evidence, and supported him with Ruh al-Quddus [Jibreel]…” [2:253]
and “…And indeed We have preferred some of the Prophets above others..” [17:55]
Muslim reports from Abu Hurayrah (ra) that the Prophet (saw) said “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah (swt) than a weak one although both are good…” and al-Bukhaari and Muslim report from Abu Hurayrah and ‘Amr ibn al-Aas that the Prophet (saw) said, “If a judge seeks to form an independent judgement [ijtihaad] and is correct, he will have two rewards; if he seeks to form an independent judgement and is wrong, he will have one reward.”
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 Kuffaar and evildoers who have existed throughout history, in spite of their huge size, and there will still be room for more, as Allah says in the Qur’an:
“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 Allah (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 Allah (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. Allah (swt) will not wrong any one of His Creation. Reported by al-Bukhaari and Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (ra) (Jaami’ al-Usool, 10/544). [See the narration from Anas in al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Mishkaat ul-Masaabeeh, 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 Allah (saw) and we heard the sound of something falling. The Prophet (saw) said, “Do you know what that was?” We said, “Allah 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, Kitaab al-Jannah, Baab fi shiddat haar an-naar, 4/2184 no. 2844)
Haakim reports from Abu Hurayrah, and Tabaraani from Mu’aadh and Abu Umamah (ra) that the Prophet (Saw) said, “If there was a huge stone as big as seven khalifaat stones, and it was thrown from the edge of Hell it would fly through it for seventy years before it reached the bottom”. (Saheeh al-Jaami’ as-Sagheer, 5/58, no. 5124, Its isnaad is saheeh).
(3) The great number of angels who will bring Hell forth on the Day of Resurrection.
The Messenger (saw) described how Hell will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection, concerning which Allah (swt) said,
“And Hell will be brought near that Day”. (89:23)
The Prophet (saw) 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 ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ud, 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 Allah!
(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-Tahhaawee reports, in Mishkil al-Aathaar, that Salamah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman said, “Abu Hurayrah told us that the Prophet (saw) said:
“The sun and moon will be two rolled-up bulls in Hell on the Day of Resurrection” al-Bayhaqi also reported this in “al-Ba’th wal-Nushur”, as did al-Bazzaar, al-Isma’ili and al-Khattaabi, with an isnaad that is saheeh according to the conditions of al-Bukhaari, who reported in al-Saheeh al-Mukhtasar, with the wording “The sun and moon will be rolled up in Hell of the day of Resurrection”. (Sheikh Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaani narrated this hadeeth in Silsilah al-ahadeeth as-Saheehah, 1/32, hadith no:124)
Alluring to people is the love of women and sons, and mountains of gold and silver and fine horses and cattle and land. These are the glamours of the life of this world. The hereafter is best in ALLAH’s sight. Should I tell you about something which is better than these things? For those who believe and do right, there will be for them gardens of paradise, beneath which rivers will flow. I give you the good news of being there.
ALLAH has made a trade with the believers that in return for their wealth and their own selves, He will give them a home in His paradise, gardens of happiness beneath which rivers flow, to stay in there forever. A repayment from their Lord, for their good deeds. They will have therein pure friends, and ALLAH will make them enter cool shades. The promise of ALLAH is true, and whose word can be truer than ALLAH’s?
Whoever does good deeds whether male or female and is a believer — they will enter a garden whose width is the width of the sky and the earth. An excellent reward for the doers of right. ALLAH will be pleased with them and they will be pleased with ALLAH. ALLAH will remove whatever of ill-feeling that is in their hearts, and they will be as brethren, facing each other. They will say: O ALLAH! All Glory and thanks be to You, for guiding us to this. We would not have found the way had it not been that You had guided us. It will be said to them: This is the garden of which you are made heirs in return for what you did. Enter there in peace and comfort. Their greetings in it will be: Peace; and they will say: Praise be to ALLAH, the LORD OF THE WORLDS. They will enter there along with those who did good from their parents, spouses and children. The angels will come to them from every gate. They will stay in there by their Lord’s permission. They will be wearing bracelets of gold and pearls, and their clothes therein will be of silk. I give you the good news of entering there.
It has been reported by Abu Sa’id, AbdALLAH, and Omar b. Muhammad (May ALLAH be pleased with them) that ALLAH’s Messenger ( May peace and blessings be upon him ) had said: On the day of resurrection death would be brought in the form of a white colored ram, and placed between hell and heaven. Then it would be slaughtered, and it would be said : O people of paradise, no death for you. O people of hell, no death for you. (The people would stay in their dwelling places forever). This would increase the delight of the people of paradise, and increase the grief of the people of hell. ( Muslim – May ALLAH have mercy on him).
The kuffaar and mushikreen will be in Hell, no doubt about it, but the Qur’an and hadith also mention specific people who will be in the Fire. One of them is the Pharaoh who ruled at the time of Musa (as):
“He [Pharaoh] will go before his people on the Day of Judgement, and will lead them into the Fire..” (11:98)
Also included are the wives of Nuh (as) and Lut (as):
“Allah sets forth for an example to the unbelievers, the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut. They were [respectively] under two of Our righteous slaves, but they were false to their [husbands] and they profited nothing before Allah on their account, but were told: “Enter the Fire, along with those who enter!” (66:10)
Abu Lahab and his wife are also among those mentioned specifically:
“Perish the hands of the Father of Flame [Abu Lahab]! Perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth and all his gains! Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of blazing flames! His wife shall carry the [crackling] wood, as fuel! A twisted rope of palm fibre round her [own] neck!” (111:1-5)
Another of them is ‘Amr ibn ‘Aamir al-Khuzaa’i, whom the Prophet (saw) being disembowelled in Hell (sahih hadith narrated by al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Ahmad); and the one who killed ‘Ammar and plundered his possessions. A report with a Saheeh isnaad quoted in Mu’jam at-Tabaraani from ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas, and his son states that the Prophet (saw) said, “The one who killed ‘Ammaar and plundered his possessions will be in Hell”. (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4/110, #4170)