( What does the Quran say about hell fire? / What is hell in Quran? / Lowest punishment in Jahannam )
The other day, I was conversing with a friend and the topic of hell (jahannum) came up. She stated that the detailed tortures mentioned in the Quran scares her and that enduring it for few years would be tough. I was surprised at her declaration. ‘Why do you think that you would have to endure it?’ I asked. ‘I don’t pray the 5 daily prayers and I can’t restrain from all things that are forbidden.’ She answered. She was involved in ‘give and take’ of some form of interest (riba) and though she knew it was ‘haraam’ refused to give up on it.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around this situation, where someone has made up their mind to endure the punishment of hellfire because they are unable to refrain from sinning. How can someone, anyone be ready for hell? How can anyone convince themself that a few days in hell is bearable? How can a sin be more pleasing than ever lasting bliss in heaven?
Is Paradise better as an abode or the tree of zaqūm? Indeed, We have made it a torment for the wrongdoers. Indeed, it is a tree issuing from the bottom of the Hellfire, its emerging fruit as if it was heads of the devils. And, indeed, they will eat from it and fill with it their bellies. Then, indeed, they will have after it a mixture of scalding water. Then, indeed, their return will be to the Hellfire. (Surah As-Saffat, Verse 62-68)
Heaven and hell, both are explicitly described in Quran. Allah (subhan wa’taala) has made it so evident that one needs to choose the everlasting bliss over the eternal torment. To add to that, He has also disclosed that heaven has several levels. If one thinks that they are unable to maintain a high level of faith and rid themself of every negativity till death comes to them, they can atleast refrain from the major / minor sins. They can atleast opt for the lower levels of ‘jannah’. Allah (swt) has made easy the path of ‘jannah’ for us. Then why is it so difficult to pray 5 times a day, fast during Ramadan, and merely be good to others.
Practising only the obligatory deeds might not guarantee a place close to Allah (swt), and it is not enough to achieve highest places in ‘jannah’ (like Jannatul Firdous or Al–Firdous Al A’la). However, it is enough to save oneself from hell fire and to have an eternity of bliss. And it is well known that a day in ‘jannah’ is better than an entire life of pleasure on earth. All this by doing the bare minimum. Off course, this is not meant for everybody. Some people dedicate their lives to pleasing Allah (swt). They remember Him sitting, standing and lying down and they are definitely aiming for higher levels of ‘jannah’.
Our beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The Fire says: ‘Master, some of me eats other parts, so grant me a breath (respite).’ Thus (the Fire) was granted a breath in the summer and a breath in the winter. So whatever you find of bitter cold (Zamhareer), thus it is from a breath of ‘Jahannum’, and whatever you find of heat (Haruur), thus it is from a breath of Jahannum”. (Muslim)
Another concept that people seem to be taking for granted is that hell might not be an everlasting place. I remember conversing with people who think that Allah (swt) with His infinite mercy will put an end to the misery of every person after punishing them for a period of time. When they will complete their years of punishment, they will be erased and will cease to exist. ‘How is it possible that a person who has sinned for, let’s say 50 years, will be punished for eternity?’ suggested yet another person who has traded his hereafter for the minimum enjoyment of this life.
What such people fail to see is that, Allah (swt) has created us and honoured us in doing so. He expects us to pass this test that He has set up for us. Unfortunately, people fail to value themselves and lower their self-worth by continuing in evil acts and habits. They assume that years of painful torment in hell is practical and ultimately being scrapped for as a result of being unfruitful is entirely fine. Isn’t it sensible to atleast try and save ourself from all of it? Isn’t it sensible to atleast strive to be the second last person to enter ‘jannah’ (because even the last person to enter will witness ‘jahannum’).
The choice is up to us. Do we want to see the horrors of ‘jahannum’? Do we want to burn for years before we are removed from it ? Do we want to be dragged on our faces, our skins roasted, eat thorny plants that tear our insides, wear clothes made of fire and do we want boiling water poured over our heads? If the answer is no, then it is important that some sacrifices be made. When Allah loves us unconditionally and sends countless reminders our way, why are we not ready to change and save ourselves. Why don’t we love ourselves enough to save us from this horrific punishment?
How are we sure that if we aim to spend some time in hell we won’t end up in it forever? It is possible that if we aim so low we might not even make it out. Just like a student who aims to acquire passing grades in an exam, and ends up failing it as a result of aiming so low. Had the student aimed to achieve atleast fifty percent of the total grade, he would have made it. By aiming low people tend to keep the doors of sin open and allow ‘shaitan’ to direct their life. And ‘shaitan’ most certainly wants an eternity of punishment for the children of Adam (AS).
Sufyan ibn Uyaynah said that Ibrahim at-Taymee said: “I imagined myself in the Hellfire with its iron chains and blazing fire eating from Zaqqoom (a tree in hell with exceedingly bitter fruit), and drinking from its Zamhareer (a bitterly cold drink), so I said “O my soul what do you long for?” It replied “To return to the world and perform a righteous action by which I will be saved form this punishment”. I also imagined myself in Paradise with its hur dressed in silken garments (of Paradise) with gold embroidery. I said “O my soul! What do you long for?” It said “To return to the world and perform a righteous action by which this reward will increase.” So I said to myself “You are in the world and (surrounded by) aspirations”.
رَبَّنَآ إِنَّنَآ ءَامَنَّا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
“Our Lord! We have indeed believed, so forgive us our sins and save us from the punishment of the Fire.”
(Surah Al Imran, Verse 16)
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