At-Tahhaawi said, in his book on al-‘Aqeedah al-Salafiyyah (correct belief in accordance with that of the early generations of Islam) that is known as al-‘Aqeedah al-Tahhaawiyyah.
“Paradise and Hell have already been created. They will never come to an end or cease to exist. Allah (swt) created Paradise and Hell before the rest of creation, and He (swt) created inhabitants for each of them. Whoever He (swt) wishes (will enter) Paradise by His grace and mercy, and whoever He (swt) wishes (will enter Hell) as a result of His (swt) justice. Every person will behave according to that for which he was created, and his destiny will be that for which he was created; good deeds and evil deeds are foreordained for all men”.
Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abul-‘Izz al-Hanafi remarked, in his commentary on
“With regard to his saying that Paradise and Hell have already been created, Ahl as-Sunnah agree that Paradise and Hell have been created and are in existence at the present moment. Ahlus-Sunnah continued to hold this view, until some odd ideas of the Mu’tazilah and Qaadariyyah came along, which denied that. These groups said: “Allah will create them (ie Paradise and Hell) on the Day of Resurrection.” They said this because of their false arguments by means of which they seek to improve regulations on what Allah (swt) should do; (they say) it befits Allah (swt) to do this, or it does not befit Allah (swt) to do that. They compare Him to His creation and their actions. This is a kind of anthropomorphism with regard to deeds; they have allowed the ideas of Jahmiyyah (a sect of Mu’tazilah named after the deviant, Jahm ibn Safwan) to creep into their thinking, and have become mu’attalah (those who deny that Allah can see). They said, “It does not make sense for Paradise to be created before the time of reward, because it will not be used or inhabited for a very long time. They rejected the aayaat and reports that contradict these false notions they seek to project onto Allah (swt). They misinterpreted the texts and accused those who disagreed with them of going astray and concocting bid’ah”.
Proofs from the Qur’an and Hadeeth in support of this are, for example:
“Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord, and Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is the Grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He is pleased with. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty”. (57:21)
“…for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for al-Muttaqun” (3:133)
“And fear the fire, which is prepared for the disbelievers” (3:131)
“And indeed he (Muhammad) saw him (Jibreel) at a second descent (ie another time), near Sidrat al-Muntahaa (lote tree of the utmost boundary (beyond which none can pass), near it is the Paradise of Abode” (53:13-15)
The Prophet (saw) saw Sidrat al-Muntahaa, a tree in Heaven, and near it, Paradise, as is mention in al-Bukhaari, and Muslim in the hadith of Anas (ra). At the end of this narrative of al-Israa, the Prophet (saw) said, “Then Jibreel brought me to Sidrat al-Muntahaa which was veiled in colours indescribable. Then I entered Paradise, and its lights were of pearls and its soil was musk”.
Muslim, Abu Dawud and Imaam Ahmad report from Abu Hurayrah (ra) that the Messenger (saw) said, “When Allah (swt) created Paradise and Hell, He sent Jibreel to Paradise, saying “Go and look at it and at what I have prepared therein for its inhabitants”. So he went and looked at it and at what Allah had prepared therein for its inhabitants…. then He sent him to Hellfire saying, “Go and look at it and what I have prepared therein for its inhabitants” So he looked at it and saw that it was in layers, one above the other….”
Muslim reports from Aishah (ra) that there was a solar eclipse in the time of the Messenger (saw) and he said, “Whilst I was standing here I saw everything that you have been promised, I even saw myself picking some of the fruits of Paradise, when you saw me stepping forward. And I saw Hellfire, parts of it consuming other parts, when you saw me stepping backward”.
al-Bukhaari and Muslim report from Ibn ‘Abbas the same incident, “I saw Paradise and I tried to take a bunch of its fruit. If I had managed to do so, you would have eaten from it until the end of time. And I saw the Fire of Hell, and I have never seen anything so horrific or terrifying. I saw that the majority of its inhabitants are women.”
Muslim also reports from Anas that the Prophet (Saw) said, “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, if you had seen what I saw, you would laugh little and cry much.” They said, “What did you see, O Messenger of Allah?”, He said, “I saw Paradise and Hell”.
The Prophet (saw) also ascended into jannah on the night of Mi’raj in his ‘Isra (night journey): for example
* “…I saw four rivers flowing out from beneath Sidrat al-Muntahaa, two visible and two hidden.” (Muslim, Kitaab al-Imaan, Baab al-‘Israa, 1/150, no.164) * “Whilst I was walking in Paradise I saw a river whose banks were domes of hollow pearls and I asked, “What is this, O Jibreel?” He said, “This is al-Kawthar which your Rabb has given to you”. (from Anas ibn Maalik, Sahih al-Bukhaari, Kitaab ar-Riqaaq, Baab fil-Hawd, Fath al-Baari, 11/464)
* al-Bukhaari and Muslim report from Jaabir that the Messenger of Allah said, “I entered Paradise where I saw ar-Rumaysa, the wife of Abu Talhah. And I heard footsteps and asked, “Who is that?” He (Jibreel) said, “That is Bilaal”. And I saw a palace with women in its courtyard. I asked, “Whose is this?” They said, It is for ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab” (Mishkaat al-Masaabih, 3/226)
Imaam Ahmed, Ibn Hibbaan and al-Haakim report from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (saw) said, “The children of the believers are in Paradise, being cared for by Ibraahim (as) [and in the narration of Abu Nu’aym, ad-Dawylami, and Ibn Asakir it adds- “and Sarah, until they give them back to their parents on the day of Resurrection”]
al-Bukhaari and Muslim also report from ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “When anyone of you dies, he will be shown his position morning and evening. If he is one of the people of Paradise then he will be one of the people of Paradise, and if he is one of the people of Hell, then he will be one of the people of Hell, and he will be told, “This is your position, until Allah (swt) resurrects you on the Day of Resurrection”.
According to al-Muwatta of Imaam Maalik and as-Sunaan, Abu Dawood, “Ka’b ibn Maalik said the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “Verily the soul of the believer is a bird hanging on to the trees of Paradise, until Allah Swt returns it to its body on the day of Resurrection”
This makes it clear that souls will enter Paradise before the Day of Resurrection.
As for the specious arguments of those who say that Hell has not been created yet, they say: If it was already created now, then it would of necessity have to come to an end of the Day of Resurrection and everyone in it would have to perish because Allah says: “Everything will perish save His Face” (28:88) and “Everyone shall taste death..” (3:185) The response to this is: If you mean that Paradise does not exist until the Trumpet is blown and people are resurrected from their graves, then this is incorrect and is refuted by the evidence quoted above and other proofs which we have not mentioned here. If you mean that Allah (swt) has not yet completed the creation of everything that He will prepare for the inhabitants of Paradise and that He is still creating more and more things in it, and that when the believers enter Paradise, Allah (swt) will create even more things in it, then this is true and cannot be refuted, and the evidence that you give can only mean this, but when you use the aayah – “Everything will perish save His Face” – as evidence, your problem is that you misinterpret this aayah. Using it to prove that Paradise and Hell do not yet exist is like your colleagues using it to prove that they will both be destroyed and their inhabitants will all perish! You and your scholars did not understand the aayah properly; only the leaders (great scholars) of Islaam have understood it properly. They say that “everything” for which Allah (swt) has decreed destruction and oblivion “will perish” but Paradise and Hell have been created to last forever and never pass away, as has the Throne, which forms the roof of Paradise.
“It was suggested that it meant that everything would perish except His dominion, or whatever was done for His sake. Another suggestion was that when Allah (swt) revealed the word: “Whatever is on it will perish” – the angels said, “The people of earth are doomed”, and hoped that they would remain. Allah said that the people of heaven and earth would perish and said, “And invoke not any other ilaah along with Allah, Laa ilaaha illaa Huwaa. Everything will perish save His Face” (28:88) because He is the Living and does not die. The angels realise that they too were destined to die. Their words should be taken in the light of and reconciled with other clear and unambiguous reports that prove that both Paradise and Hell are eternal”.
(Sharh at-Tahaawiyyah, p.479, see also Siddeeq Hasan Khan, Yaqadhah ula al-‘i’tibaar, p. 37 and ‘Aqeedah as-Safarini 2/230)