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How Jahannam (Hell-fire) is depicted in the Quran and Sunnah

How Jahannam (Hell-fire) is depicted in the Quran and Sunnah

Jahannam is the term used in Islam for hell-fire, the place where wrongdoers will be punished in the afterlife. The levels of punishment have been described extensively in the Quran, and are certainly dependent on a person’s deeds. The more evil that a person commits, undoubtedly the more intense the punishment will be. Allah says in Surah aal-Imran that this world is like a temporary abode with some enjoyment for the evildoers, but their final destination is the burning fire.

Jahannam is a real place, and it exists, like Jannah (Paradise). Some Muslims who claim that Jahannam is a spiritual place, rather than a real, actual location, are misguided. Allah has described the various gates to the hell-fire in the Quran. He has also provided several names for the Hell-fire.

Hell has many different levels, as detailed in the Quran. Allah says in Surah an-Nisa that the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the fire. Amongst the gravest sins is the association of partners with Allah, for which He outlines the worst punishment.

Allah has determined different periods of punishment for people based on how He sees fit, with all His wisdom. Some people will have to endure the punishment forever, while others may be sent in it for a short period.

In contrast – to learn about the pleasures of Paradise, click here.

The angels that watch over Jahannam

In Surah at-Tahrim, Allah describes the angels who watch over hell as harsh and severe, which is to be expected.

In Surah al-Muddaththir, Allah tells us that the angels looking after the hell-fire will be 19 in number.

Allah refers to the angels as keepers or guards of hell in Surah Ghafir. This shows the amount of strength they have, if just 19 of them can look after the whole of hell-fire.

The vastness of Jahannam

In a Hadith in Sahih Muslim, Abu Huraira narrated a story that showed how massive the Hell-fire is. He said that the companions were with the Prophet (PBUH) when they heard a ‘terrible’ sound. Muhammad (PBUH) said that the sound was that of a stone that was thrown in hell 70 years earlier. It had only now reached the base of Jahannam, where it made the sound.

From this piece of evidence, we can reasonably ascertain that hell is going to be particularly massive. If we consider the number of human beings on Earth and how they keep increasing and sinning, we will realize that this is indeed no surprise. And, once the hell-fire’s inhabitants are all sent there, it will still have space for more.

The gates of Jahannam

The hell-fire has seven different gates (as described in Surah al-Hijr), through which people will enter it, based on their sins.

Allah describes in Surah az-Zumar that the disbelievers will be driven towards the hell-fire in assemblies until they reach the gates. The gates will be opened when the to-be inhabitants arrive. The keepers of the gate will ask them about messengers who warned them about this meeting.

The heat of Jahannam

Given these points, there will be no source of comfort for the people of the fire. In Surah al-Waqiah, Allah describes how the inhabitants of the fire will be in a massive, burning fire and extremely hot water.

All of the hell-fire has also been described as extremely hot in Surah al-Qariah.

Altogether, the hell-fire spares no one and nothing. It basically burns everything. It unquestionably blackens the skin as well, as described in Surah al-Muddaththir.

The fire of hell is beyond anything humans will ever experience in this life. Its strength goes well beyond the worldly fire. In a Hadith recorded in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) said that the fire that humans burn on earth has only 1/70th of the strength of the fire of Jahannam.

Allah states in Surah al-Baqarah that for the inhabitants of the fire, there will be no relief and no lightening of the punishment.

Food and drink in Jahannam

Allah describes the terrible punishment that awaits the people of hell-fire in terms of food. In Surah Al-Ghashiyah, it’s described how they will be fed a poisonous plant with thorns that will not satisfy their hunger.

Also outlined in the Quran is the tree of Zaqqum, a special food for the inhabitants of the fire. In Surah ad-Dukhan, it is explicitly described as a murky oil which will boil within the evildoers’ bellies.

Regarding this tree, the Prophet (PBUH) specifically stated (Sunan ibn Majah) that a drop of Zaqqum on earth would destroy the livelihood of all of mankind.

The people of hell will evidently be given various forms of boiling liquids to drink. Allah describes these people in Surah Muhammad as the ones who will, without a doubt, be in the fire forever. They are given boiling water to drink which will destroy their intestines.

Allah also described a murky oil as being amongst the drinks of hell-fire in Surah al-Kahf, which is described as a wretched drink for the evildoers.

Another drink that is mentioned for the people of hell is that which contains pus. Allah says in Surah Ibrahim that the wrongdoer will be given the drink, which he will gulp but he will barely be able to drink it.

The least punishment in Jahannam

The smallest punishment in hell, which’s description we have been provided with, is one that is beyond anyone’s imagination in this life.

In a Hadith recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) said that the least-punished person will be the one under whose feet will be glowing coals. Due to this, the person’s brain will boil like a vessel with boiling water in it.

The punishment of the roasting skin

Allah describes a penalty that evidently never ends in Surah an-Nisa. This entails the burning of the skins of the inhabitants of the fire. But, the skins are replaced so that the punishment resumes.

The punishment of melting and striking

Allah says in Surah al-Haj that disbelievers will be given clothes of fire. Boiling water will be poured over their bodies which would melt the skin. They would be hit by sticks or iron. These are further punishments that will continue to recur.

The Prophet (PBUH) elaborated on this punishment as well. In a Hadith in Jami at-Tirmidhi, he said that Hamim would be poured on their heads which will go burn through to the insides of their bodies. Then, the insides will fall out and melt away, before the evildoer is once again restored to his original state.

The punishment of the dragging

In Surah al-Qamar, it’s described how the inhabitants of the fire will be dragged on their faces. They will be told to touch the fire. It is also described in Surah Ghafir that they would have chains around their necks, then they would be dragged in boiling water, then fire.

This is one of the most painful of the punishments outlined in the Quran. It will disfigure the faces of the inhabitants of hell-fire in the most frightful manner.

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How should Muslims feel about Jahannam?

The hell-fire is very much real and is something that wrongdoers will have to suffer in, in the hereafter. Many of the verses regarding Jahannam were revealed during the early days of Prophethood in Makkah. They were meant to give out a warning to the disbelievers, that their days of opposing Allah were coming to an end.

For Muslims, fearing and loving Allah are two sides of the same coin. Muslims must be aware of the punishments of the hell-fire. Allah says in Surah aal-Imran to proclaim to the disbelievers that they will be gathered together in the hell-fire in a wretched resting place. At the same time, they should not excessively focus on the hell-fire. Focusing too much on the reality of the hell-fire can make a Muslim forget Allah’s mercy.

Accordingly, this causes a dangerous situation wherein a person loses hope. As a result, he may think there is no point in doing good deeds as he is destined for Jahannam. So, we must view the reality of Jahannam as a warning for us, and obey Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) and refrain from committing evil deeds.

However, we must always remember that Allah is the Ultimate Being, capable of forgiving any sins, besides shirk. Hence, we must continually repent for any evil deeds we have committed and strive to do good. Allah is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful. Nothing is beyond Him. If we sincerely repent and change ourselves, there is every chance that Allah will forgive our sins and save us from the Hell-fire.