A Description of Hellfire (parts 1 – 3)
A Description of Hellfire (part 1 of 5): An Introduction
Description: The Names of Hell, its presence and eternalness, and its guardians.
Islam teaches that Hell is a real place prepared by God for those who do not believe in Him, rebel against His laws, and reject His messengers. Hell is an actual place, not a mere state of mind or a spiritual entity. The horrors, pain, anguish, and punishment are all real, but different in nature than their earthly counterparts. Hell is the ultimate humiliation and loss, and nothing is worse than it:
“Our Lord! Surely, whom You admit to the Fire, indeed You have disgraced him, and never will the wrongdoers find any helpers.” (Quran 3:192)
“Know they not that whoever opposes God and His Messenger (Muhammad), certainly for him will be the Fire of Hell to abide therein? That is the extreme disgrace.” (Quran 9:63)
The Names of Hell
Hell Fire has different names in Islamic texts. Each name gives a separate description. Some of its names are:
Jaheem – fire – because of its blazing fire.
Jahannam – Hell – because of the depth of its pit.
Ladthaa – blazing fire – because of its flames.
Sa’eer – blazing flame – because it is kindled and ignited.
Saqar – because of the intensity of its heat.
Hatamah – broken pieces or debris – because it breaks and crushes everything that is thrown into it.
Haawiyah – chasm or abyss – because the one who is thrown into it is thrown from top to bottom
Paradise and Hell Presently Exist and are Eternal
Hell exists at the present time and will continue to exist forever. It will never die down, and its inhabitants will remain in it forever. No one will come out of Hell except sinful believers who believed in the Oneness of God in this life and believed in the specific prophet sent to them (before the coming of Muhammad). The polytheists and unbelievers will reside in it forever. This belief has been held from classical times and is based on clear verses of the Quran and confirmed reports from the Prophet of Islam. The Quran speaks of Hell in the past tense and states that it has already been created:
“And fear the Fire which is prepared for the disbelievers.” (Quran 3:131)
The Prophet of Islam said:
“When any of you dies, he is shown his position (in the Hereafter) morning and evening. If he is one of the people of Paradise, he is shown the place of the people of Paradise. If he is one of the people of Hell, he is shown the place of people of Hell. He is told, ‘this is your position, until God resurrects you on the Day of Resurrection.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
In another report, the Prophet said:
“Surely, the soul of a believer is a bird hanging on the trees of Paradise, until God returns it to his body on the Day of Resurrection.” (Muwatta of Malik)
These texts make it clear that Hell and Paradise exist, and that souls may enter them before the Day of Resurrection. Speaking of Hell’s eternity, God says:
“They will long to leave the Fire, but never will they leave there from; and theirs will be a lasting torment.” (Quran 5:37)
“…And they will never leave of the Fire.” (Quran 2:167)
“Surely, those who disbelieve and did wrong; God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them to any way except the way of Hell, to dwell therein forever.” (Quran 4:168-169)
“Surely, God has cursed the disbelievers, and has prepared for them a flaming Fire wherein they will abide for ever.” (Quran 33:64)
“And whosoever disobeys God and His Messenger, then surely, for him is the fire of Hell, he shall dwell therein forever.” (Quran 72:23)
The Keepers of Hell
Mighty and stern angels stand over Hell who never disobey God. They do precisely as ordered. God 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 God, but do (precisely what) they are commanded.” (Quran 66:6)
They are nineteen keepers of Hell as God says:
“Soon I will cast him into Hell Fire. And what will explain to you what is Hellfire? Nothing does it allow to endure, and nothing does it leave alone! Darkening and changing the color of man! Over it are nineteen (angels as keepers of Hell).” (Quran 74:26-30)
One should not think that the inhabitants of Hell will be able to overcome the keepers of Hell because there are just nineteen of them. Everyone of them has the strength to subdue all humanity by himself. These angels are called the Guards of Hell by God in the Quran:
“And those in the Fire will say to the Guards of Hell, ‘Call upon your Lord to lighten for us the torment for a day!’” (Quran 40:49)
The name of the chief angel guarding over Hell is Malik, as mentioned in the Quran:
“Surely, the disbelievers will be in the torment of Hell to abide therein forever. (The torment) will not be lightened for them, and they will be plunged into destruction with deep regrets, sorrows and in despair therein. We wronged them not, but they were the wrongdoers. And they will cry: ‘O Malik! Let your Lord make an end of us’ He will say: ‘Surely, you shall abide forever.’ Indeed We have brought the truth to you, but most of you have a hatred for the truth” (Quran 43:74-78)
A Description of Hellfire (part 2 of 5): Its Appearance
Description: The location, size, levels, gates and fuel of Hell, as well as the clothing of its inhabitants.
There is no exact mention from the Quran or the sayings of Prophet Muhammad which pinpoint the location of Hell. No one knows its exact place except God. Due to some linguistic evidence and context of certain hadeeth, some scholars have stated that Hell is in the heavens, yet others say it is in the lower earth.
Hell is huge and immensely deep. We know this through several ways.
First, innumerable people will enter Hell, each, as described in a hadeeth, with the molar teeth as large as Uhud (a mountain in Medina) The distance between the shoulders of its inhabitants has also been described as being equivalent to three days of walking. Hell will house all the unbelievers and sinners from the beginning of time and there will still be room for more. God says:
“On the Day when We will say to Hell: ‘Are you filled?’ It will say, ‘Are there any more (to come)?’” (Quran 50:30)
The Fire of Hell is likened to a mill that grinds thousands and thousands of tons of grain and then waits for more to come.
Second, a stone thrown from the top of Hell will take a very long time to reach the bottom. One of the companions of the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, describes how they were sitting with the Prophet and heard the sound of something falling. The Prophet inquired if they knew what it was. When they expressed their lack of knowledge, he said:
“That was a stone thrown into Hell seventy years ago and it is yet in the way (the other side) of Hell until now.”
Another report states:
“If a stone as big as seven pregnant camels was thrown from the edge of Hell, it would fly through it for seventy years, and yet it would not reach the bottom.”
Third, a great many angels will bring Hell on the Day of Resurrection. God speaks of it:
“And Hell will be brought near that Day…” (Quran 89:23)
The Prophet said:
“Hell will be brought forth that Day by means of seventy thousand ropes, each of which will be held by seventy thousand angels.”
Fourth, another report that indicates the vast size of Hell is that the sun and moon will be rolled up in Hell on the Day of Resurrection.
Hell has various levels of heat and punishment, each is reserved according to the extent of their disbelief and sins of those being punished. God says:
“Surely, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths (grade) of the Fire.” (Quran 4:145)
The lower the level of Hell, the greater is the intensity of heat. Since the hypocrites will suffer the worst punishment, so will they be in the lowest part of Hell.
God refers to the levels of Hell in the Quran:
“For all will be (ranked) by degrees according to what they did.” (Quran 6:132)
“Is one who seeks the good pleasure of God then like the one who draws on himself the wrath of God? His abode is Hell – and worst, indeed, is that destination! They are in varying grades with God, and God is All-Seer of what they do.” (Quran 3:162-163)
The Gates of Hell
God speaks of seven Gates of Hell in the Quran:
“And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all. It has seven gates, for each of these gates is a class of sinners assigned.” (Quran 15:43-44)
Each gate has an allotted share of the damned who will enter through it. Each will enter according to his deeds and assigned a level of Hell accordingly. When the unbelievers are brought to Hell, its gates will open, they will enter it, and stay in it forever:
“And those who disbelieved will be driven to Hell in groups until, when they reach it, its gates are opened and its keepers will say, ‘Did there not come to you messengers from yourselves, reciting to you the verses of your Lord and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?’ They will say, ‘Yes, but the word (meaning the decree) of punishment has come into effect upon the disbelievers.’” (Quran 35:71)
They will be told after admission:
“Enter the gates of Hell to abide eternally therein, and wretched is the residence of the arrogant.” (Quran 39:72)
The gates will be shut and there will be no hope of escape as God says:
“But those who reject Our signs, they are the companions of the left hand. On them will be Fire vaulted over (meaning the gates will be locked).” (Quran 90:19-20)
Furthermore, God says in the Quran:
“Woe to every scorner and mocker, who collects wealth and (continuously) counts it. He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal. No! He will surely be thrown into the Crusher. And what can make you know what is the Crushers? It is the fire of God, (eternally) fueled, Which mounts directed at the hearts. Indeed, it (Hellfire) will be closed down upon them in extended columns.” (Quran 104:1-9)
The gates of Hell are also closed before the Day of Judgment. The Prophet of Islam spoke of them closing in the month of Ramadan.
Stones and stubborn unbelievers make the fuel of Hell as God says:
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones…” (Quran 66:6)
“…then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.” (Quran 2:24)
Another source of fuel for Hell will be the pagan gods that were worshipped besides God:
“Indeed, you (disbelievers) and what you worship other than God are the firewood of Hell. You will be coming to (enter) it. Had these (false deities) been (actual) gods, they would not have come to it, but all are eternal therein.” (Quran 21:98-99)
The Clothing of its Inhabitants
God tells us that the dress of the people of Hell will be garments of fire tailored for them:
“…But those who disbelieved will have cut out for them garments of fire. Poured upon their heads will be scalding water.” (Quran 22:19)
“And you will see the criminals that Day bound together in shackles, their garments of liquid pitch (melted copper) and their faces covered by the Fire.” (Quran 14:49-50)
Tahawi in Mushkal al-Aathaar, Bazzar, Baihaqi, and others.
Based on the explanation of Ibn Abbas (‘Tafsir Ibn Kathir’).
A Description of Hellfire (part 3 of 5): Its Food and Drink
Description: The heat of Hell, and the food and drink prepared for its inhabitants.
The intense heat, food, and drink of the people of Hell is described in Islamic religious sources.
“And the companions of the left – what are the companions of the left? (They will be) in scorching fire and scalding water and a shade of black smoke, neither cool nor beneficial.” (Quran 56:41-44)
Everything people use to cool down in this world – air, water, shade – will be useless in Hell. The air of Hell will be hot wind and the water will be boiling. The shade will not be comforting or cooling, the shade in Hell will be the shadow of black smoke as mentioned in the verse:
“And shadow of black smoke.” (Quran 56:43)
In another passage, God says:
“But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be light, will have his home in a (bottomless) pit. And what will explain to you what this is? (It is) a Fire blazing fiercely.” (Quran 101:8-11)
God describes how the shade of Hell’s smoke will rise above the Fire. The smoke that rises from Hell will be divided into three columns. Its shade will neither cool nor offer any protection from the raging Fire. The flying sparks will be like huge castles similar to string of marching yellow camels:
“Proceed to a shadow (of smoke) having three columns (but having) no cool shade and availing not against the flame. Indeed, it throws sparks (as huge) as a fortress, as if they were yellow camels (marching swiftly).” (Quran 77:30-33)
The Fire consumes everything, leaving nothing untouched. It burns skin reaching all the way to the bones, melting the contents of the stomach, leaping up to the hearts, and exposing the vital organs. God speaks of the intensity and affect of the Fire:
“I will drive him into Hellfire. And what can make you know what is Hellfire? It lets nothing remain and leaves nothing (unburned), altering the skins.” (Quran 74:26-29)
The Prophet of Islam said:
“Fire as we know it is one seventieth part of the Fire of Hell. Someone said, ‘O Messenger of God, it is enough as it is!’ He said, ‘It is as if sixty-nine equal portions were added to fire as we know it.’” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The Fire never extinguishes:
“So taste you (the results of your evil deeds). No increase shall We give you except in torment.” (Quran 78:30)
“…Whenever it abates, We shall increase for them the fierceness of the Fire.” (Quran 17:97)
The torment will never be reduced and the unbelievers will not have any break:
“…Their torment shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped.” (Quran 2:86)
The Food of its Inhabitants
The food of the people of Hell is described in the Quran. God says:
“No food will there be for them except from a bitter, thorny plant which neither nourishes nor avails against hunger.” (Quran 88:6-7)
The food will neither nourish nor taste good. It will only serve as a punishment to the people of Hell. In other passages, God describes the tree ofzaqqum, a special food of Hell. Zaqqum is a repulsive tree, its roots go deep into the bottom of Hell, its branches stretching all over. Its ugly fruit is like the heads of the devils. He says:
“Indeed, the tree of zaqqum is food for the sinful, like murky oil, it boils within bellies, like the boiling of scalding water.” (Quran 44:43-46)
“Is that (Paradise) better as hospitality or the tree ofzaqqum? 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.” (Quran 37:62-68)
“Then indeed you, O those astray (who are) deniers, will be eating from trees of zaqqum and filling with it your bellies, and drinking on top of it from scalding water, and will drink as the drinking of thirsty camels. That is their hospitality on the Day of Recompense.” (Quran 56:51-56)
People of Hell will get so hungry that they will eat from the obnoxious tree of zaqqum. When they will fill their bellies with it, it will start to churn like boiling oil causing immense suffering. At that point they will rush to drink extremely hot water. They will drink it like thirsty camels, yet it will never quench their thirst. Rather their internals will be torn. God says:
“…They will be given to drink boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces).” (Quran 47:15)
The thorny bushes and zaqqum will choke them and stick in their throats because of their foulness:
“Surely, with us are fetters (to bind them) and a ranging Fire (to burn them), and a food that chokes and a penalty grievous.” (Quran 73:12-13)
The Prophet of Islam said:
“If a drop from zaqqum were to land in this world, the people of earth and all their means of sustenance would rot. So how must it be for one who must eat it?” (Tirmidhi)
Another food served to the people of Hell will be festering puss that oozes out of their skin, the discharge that flows from the private parts of adulterers and the decaying skin and flesh of those being burnt. It is the “juice” of the people of Hell. God says:
“So no friend has he here this Day, nor has he any food except filth from the washing of wounds which none do eat but those in sin.” (Quran 69:35-37)
“This – so let them taste it – is scalding water and (foul) purulence. And other (punishments) of its type (in various) kinds.” (Quran 38:57-58)
Lastly, some sinners will be fed fire from Hell as a punishment. God says:
“Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire.” (Quran 4:10)
“Indeed, they who conceal what God has sent down of the Book and exchange it for a small price – those consume not into their bellies except the Fire.” (Quran 2:174)
God tells in the Quran about the drink of people of Hell:
“They will be given to drink boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces).” (Quran 47:15)
“…And if they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like murky oil, which scalds (their) faces. Wretched is the drink, and evil is the resting place.” (Quran 18:29)
“Before him is Hell, and he will be given a drink of purulent water. He will gulp it but will hardly (be able to) swallow it. And death will come to him from everywhere, but he is not to die. And before him is a massive punishment.” (Quran 14:16-17)
“A boiling fluid and fluid dark, murky, intensely cold.” (Quran 38:57)
The types of drink people of Hell will get to drink are as follows:
· Extremely hot water as God says:
“They will go around between it and scalding water, heated (to the utmost degree).” (Quran 55:44)
“They will be given drink from a boiling spring.” (Quran 88:5)
· Flowing puss from the flesh and skin of an unbeliever. The Prophet said:
“Anyone who drinks intoxicants will be made to drink the mud of khabal. They asked, ‘O Messenger of God, what is the mud of khabal?’ He said, ‘The sweat of the people of Hell’ or the ‘juice of the people of Hell.’” (Saheeh Muslim)
· A drink like boiling oil described by the Prophet as:
“It is like boiling oil, when it is brought near a person’s face, the skin of the face falls off into it.” (Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi)