Al Jannah wa an Naar
In The Light of the Qur'aan and Sunnah
Based on the Book by Dr. Umar Sulaiman al-Ashqar


Definition and Explanation

Hell is the abode which Allaah (swt) has prepared for those who do not
believe in Him (swt), those who rebel against His (swt) laws and disbelieve in His Messengers.  It is the punishment for His (swt) enemies, the prison for evildoers.

It is the ultimate humiliation and loss; there is nothing worse:

"Our Lord! Verily, whom You admit to the Fire, indeed, You have disgraced him, and never will the Dhaalimoon [polytheists and wrongdoers] find any helpers" (3:192)

"Know they not that whoever opposes and shows hostility to Allaah and His Messenger, certainly for him will be the fire of Hell to abide therein?  That is extreme disgrace".  (9:63)

"The losers are those who will lose themselves and their families on the Day of Resurrection.  Verily, that will be a manifest loss!"  (39:15)

How could Hell be other than we have described, when it is full of utterly indescribable torment, pain and grief?  It is eternal and its inhabitants will remain there forever.  Allaah (swt) has condemned them and their place in the Fire:

"Evil indeed it [Hell] is as an abode and as a place to dwell"  (25:66)

"This is so! And for the Tagheen [transgressors] - will be an evil final return - Hell! Where they will burn, and worst [indeed] is that place to rest!" (38:55-6)


Paradise and Hell Have Already Been Created

at-Tahhaawi said, in his book on al-'Aqeedah al-Salafiyyah (correct belief in accordance with that of the early generations of Islaam) 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.  Allaah (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 this text:

"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: "Allaah 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 Allaah (swt) should do; (they say) it befits Allaah (swt) to do this, or it does not befit Allaah (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 Allaah 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 Allaah (swt).

They misinterpreted the texts and accused those who disagreed with them of going astray and concocting bid'ah".              

Proofs from the Qur'aan 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 Allaah and His Messengers.  That is the Grace of Allaah, which He bestows on whom He is pleased with.  And Allaah 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 Allaah (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 Allaah 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 Allaah?", 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 Allaah 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 Allaah (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 Allaah (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 Allaah (saw) said, "Verily the soul of the believer is a bird hanging on to the trees of Paradise, until Allaah 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 Allaah 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 Allaah (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, Allaah (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 Allaah (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 Allaah (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.  Allaah said that the people of heaven and earth would perish and said, "And invoke not any other ilaah along with Allaah, 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)

The Keepers of Hell

Standing over Hell are MIGHTY and STERN angels who never disobey Allaah subhaanahu wa ta'ala Who has created them.  They do whatever He commands them, as Allaah subhaanahu wa ta'ala says:

"O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are [appointed] angels stern [and] severe, who flinch not [from executing] the Commands they receive from Allaah, but do precisely what] they are commanded."  (66:6)

Their number is nineteen as Allaah (swt) says:"Soon I will cast him into Hellfire. And what will explain to you what Hellfire is?  Naught does it permit to endure, and naught does it leave alone!  Darkening and changing the colour of man!  Over it are nineteen [angels as guardians and keepers of Hell]" (74:26-30)

This number was a challenge to the kuffaar who thought that they would easily overcome such a small number, but they did not realise that one of these angels has the strength to confront the whole of mankind on his own.  For this reason, Allaah (swt) said in the next aayah:

"And We have set none but angels as guardians of the Fire, and We have fixed their numbers [19] only as a trial for the disbelievers.." (74:31)

Ibn Rajab said, "What is known and well-established among the earlier and later generations (as-Salaf wal-Khalaf) is that the trial came about when the number of angels was mentioned and the kuffaar thought that it was possible to kill them.  They thought that they would be able to fight and resist them. They did not know that humankind in its entireity would not be able to resist even ONE of them." (at-Takhweef min an-Naar, p.174)

These angels are the ones whom Allaah subhaanahu wa ta'ala called the guardians of Hell:"Those in the Fire will say to the keepers [angels] of Hell: "Call upon your Rabb to lighten for us the torment for a day!" (40:49)


The Location of Hell

The scholars differ as to where Hell is located at present.  Some say that it is in the lower earth, other say that it is in the heavens, and yet others refrain from discussing the matter at all.  This last group is correct, because there are no sound and clear reports that define the location of Hell.  One of those who prefer not to discuss the matter at all is al-Haafidh

as-Suyuti who said, "Do not discuss Hell, i.e. do not discuss where it is locaetd, for none knows this except Allaah (swt) and I know of no hadeeth that I could rely on with regard to this issue".  (Siddiq Hasan Khan, Yaqazah uli al-I'tibar, p.47)

Sheikh Waliullaah ad-Dahlawee says in, his 'Aqeedah, "There is no clear text which states their location (of Paradise and Hell). They are wherever Allaah (swt) wishes them to be, and we cannot comprehend all the universes created by Allaah (swt)" (ibid, p.47).  Siddeeq Hasan Khan says, commenting on these words, "I say, that is the best and most cautious of opinions, inshaa'Allaah" (ibid).

The Vast Extent of Hell

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 Allaah says in the Qur'aan:

"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 Allaah (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 Allaah (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. Allaah (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 Allaah (saw) and we heard the sound of something falling.  The Prophet (saw) said, "Do you know what that was?"  We said, "Allaah 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 Allaah (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 Allaah!

(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"  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)


The Levels of Hell

There are variations in the degrees of heat in Hell, and in the levels of punishment which Allaah (swt) has prepared for its inhabitants; there is not just one level. 

As Allaah 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.

Allaah (swt) refers to the levels of Paradise and Hell in the Qur'aan:

"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 Allaah like the one who draws on himself the Wrath of Allaah?  His abode is Hell - and worst, indeed, is that destination! They are in varying grades with Allaah, and Allaah 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.


(1) If this division is based on our understanding of the texts that indicate the evil of the various groups, then it needs to be revised, for the Magians who worship fire are no less sinners than the Arab polytheists.  It is better not to engage in speculation about matters that were not discussed in the nusoos (texts).

In the Jannah, sure, there are levels and classes according to the Hadith which was narrated by Imam Ahmad: " The prophet PBUH said, There are 100 levels for the Jannah. If the whole creations are gathered in one level it will host them"

The highest level is Al-Firdaus, according to the hadith which was narrated by Bukhari: "The Prophet PBUH said, when you ask Him then ask for the Firdaus. It is in the middle and the top of the Jannah and above it the thrown of Allah from which the rivers of the Jannah come". The Firdaus is a name used sometimes for the whole Jannah and also for the top and best of it since the top deserves such name more than other levels.

There isn't a fixed name for each level of the Jannah. However, in the holy Quran the Jannah was mentioned under different names such as:
1- Firdaus
2- Jannah
3- Daru-Ssalam
4- Darul-Khuld
5- Darul-Muqamah
6- Jannatul-Mawa
7- Jannatu-Adan
8- Darul-Hayawan
9- Muqam-Ameen
10- Jannatu-Naeem
11- Maqadu-Sidq
12- Qadamu-Sidq

And here we shouldn't forget that the Highest and the best level in the Jannah is the level where the Prophet Muhammad PBUH will enter which is called Al-Waseelah. According to the Hadith of Muslim: "The Prophet PBUH said, when you here the Muezzin, say like him and then end it with prayer for me, for those who do one prayer for me Allah will pray ten for them, after that ask Allah the Waseelah for me. It is a rank in the Jannah (the highest rank) which will be granted only for one man and I hope I am that man. For those who ask the waseelah for me, my intercession will be granted.

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