We’ll go over the concept of Hell in some detail before discussing why God would create Hell, knowing that some people will be condemned. Life is a test, with the test ending at death. Every atom of good and evil that one performs in their lifetime is recorded in their book of deeds, a book to be presented on the Day of Judgment–when every soul will be held accountable for their actions. While in the grave, the deceased souls that deserve to go to Hell will experience suffering, whereas those bound for Paradise will experience peace while awaiting the Day of Resurrection.
God is the Arbitrator who will judge, recompense, reward, or punish His creation. When the hour comes, God will raise every deceased person, including the Jinn (supernatural creatures), to judge them according to their deeds in life. Whereas God is Most-Forgiving, He is also Just. If one’s good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, they will enter Paradise and join the successful. By contrast, the individuals whose bad deeds outweigh their good deeds will suffer Hellfire. Standing among Islam’s most fundamental aspects dictates that life’s purpose is to save oneself from the punishment of Hellfire and enter Paradise eternally.
“Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your full compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained his desire. And what is the life of this world except for the enjoyment of delusion” (Quran 3:185)
Believing and accepting the reality of the Last Day, Judgment Day, Paradise, and Hellfire is a component of the Six Pillars of Iman (Faith) that every Muslim must believe and accept. Many references to Hellfire are listed throughout the Holy Quran and in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
The finite human mind cannot imagine the pain, horrors, anguish, hardship, humiliation, restlessness, and all forms of punishment of Hellfire. Not everyone lingering in Hell will suffer in the same manner. Those in Hellfire will suffer tremendously, both physically and spiritually. The gravity of one’s sins will distinguish and dictate the severity of the suffering.
Allah, the Exalted, prepares and reserves Hellfire for those who do not believe in Him, believe in gods other than Allah, rebel against God’s Religion and Laws, and reject God’s Message and Messengers. Hellfire is for sinners, criminals, murderers, tyrants, hypocrites, the proud and the arrogant, stubborn, unjust, and evil people.
“Do they not know that whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger – that for him is the Fire of Hell, wherein he will abide eternally? That is the great disgrace” (Quran 9:63)
Islam states that salvation is based on faith in Allah, His Messenger, good deeds, and God’s Mercy. It is the nature of God to treat no one unjustly or unfairly. As part of the Justice of God, the Almighty, He punishes no one person or no group of people unless and until He has sent them a messenger relaying his Message.
“…And never would We punish until We sent a messenger” (Quran 17:15)
Among the most severe cause of suffering that unbelievers and evildoers will face on the Day of Judgment is the realization that they did not follow God’s Message nor His Guidance and have failed in life, thus earning God’s Wrath. Many dwellers of Hellfire will instantly regret the choices they have made in their lives and beg for another chance. The Quran states:
And those who followed would say: ‘If only We had one more chance, we would clear ourselves of them, as they have cleared themselves of us’ Thus, will Allah show them the fruits of their deeds as nothing but regrets. Nor will there be a way for them out of the Fire” (Quran 2:167)
The Holy Quran shares a dialogue that will take place between the dwellers of Hellfire and the Angel Gatekeeper of Hell on the Day of Judgment.
“It almost explodes in rage. Whenever a group is thrown into it, its keepers will ask them, ‘Did there not come to you a warner?’ They will reply: ‘Yes indeed; a Warner did come to us, but we rejected him and said, ‘Allah never sent down any Message: You are but lost in a great delusion!’ ‘And they will add: ‘Had we but listened to those warnings, or at least used our own reason, we would not now be among those who are destined for the blazing flame!’ They will then confess their sins: but far will be Forgiveness from the Companions of the Blazing Fire!” (Quran 67:8-10)
However, no matter how sinners beg for forgiveness, it will be too late to receive this boon. The intensity of the Fire will be so terrifying that people will disown the closest and most beloved in their lives on the Day of Judgment and flee from them on this great Day.
“But when there comes the Deafening Blast. On the Day a man will flee from his brother. And his mother and his father. And his wife and his children. For every man, that Day, will be a matter adequate for him.” (Quran 33-37)
Man will surrender all he holds dear to save himself from Hellfire.
They will be shown each other. The criminal will wish he could be ransomed from the punishment of that Day by his children. And his wife and his brother. And his nearest kindred who shelter him. And whoever is on Earth entirely so then it could save him” (Quran 70:14)
A quick flash of Hellfire will cause a person to forget in an instant all of the pleasures they enjoyed in their lifetime. Our Prophet PBUH narrated: One of the people of Hell who found the most pleasure in the life of this world will be brought forth on the Day of Resurrection and dipped into the Fire of Hell. Then he will be asked, ‘O son of Adam, have you ever seen anything good?’ Have you ever enjoyed any pleasure?’ He will say, ‘No, by God, O Lord.’ (Sahih Muslim)
Whereas a minority of Islamic scholars state that people will not burn in Hellfire eternally, most express the notion that the polytheist and unbelievers will reside in Hellfire forever. Hellfire is eternal for the many that enter this dreaded realm.
“Indeed, Allah has cursed the disbelievers and prepared for them a Blaze. Abiding therein forever, they will not find a protector or a helper” (Quran 33:64-65)
God, the Almighty, created Hellfire and Paradise before humanity. Hellfire is black and as dark as night. Hell knows such depths that if one were to drop a stone into this realm, seventy years would pass before that stone hit bottom.
Hellfire holds various levels of severity and punishment according to the extent of disbelief and the severity of sins suffered by those punished. The lower the level of the Fire, the greater the intensity and punishment one suffers. Our Prophet PBUH narrated that the lightest punishment of Hellfire would involve placing one’s feet on a smoldering ember, and his brains would boil as a result of this treatment. The most severe punishment in Hellfire will be assigned to the hypocrites, as God states in His Book:
“Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper”
Hellfire has Seven Gates through which new inhabitants will enter. Each gate is reserved for a specific group or category of sinners, containing different varieties of torture and punishments. The distance between each gate is equal to the length of seventy years. Before the inhabitants of Hell enter, they will stand before the gate, feeling the heat in terror. They will be shoved and piled through the first gate until it fills; then, the rest will be stacked and pushed into the second gate until it too loads to capacity, and so on.
Hellfire is staffed by nineteen Angels, led by the chief keeper of Hellfire named Angel Malik, who never has smiled since the time of his creation. Angel Malik and the Angels of Hellfire are severe, harsh, and stern and never disobey God’s commandments.
After the inhabitants of Hellfire enter this realm, the gates will be shut with no hope of escape for dwellers. They will beg and plead to Angel Malik to release them, and he will respond, “Be quiet, surely; you shall abide forever!” The Angels of Hellfire bear whips made of iron to whip the inhabitants within. The dwellers of Hellfire will take animosity and hate toward other inhabitants of Hellfire.
“Indeed, the criminals will be in the punishment of Hell, abiding eternally. The torment will not be lightened for them, and they will be plunged into destruction with deep regrets, sorrows and in despair therein. And We did not wrong them, but it was they who were the wrongdoers. And they will call, ‘O Malik, let your Lord put an end to us!’ He will say, ‘Indeed, you will remain. We had certainly brought you the truth, but most of you, to the truth, were averse.’ (Quran 43:-74-78)
In regards to those believers who practiced Tawheed (monotheism) and who believed in the Prophet sent to them from God but lived a sinful life, they will be punished in Hellfire for a length commensurate with the level of their sins. Some will be taken from Hellfire due to the Prophets’ intercession, some by righteous individuals’ intercession, and some will be released solely by the Mercy of God, the Most Merciful. After they are freed, eventually, they are sent to Paradise.
The Fire that exists and burns in our world is 1/70th of the severity and intensity of Hellfire that burns in the Hereafter. The Fire kindled by the Almighty will burn the skin of its inhabitants; every time their skin gets roasted, it will melt to their feet, and God the Almighty will replace this burnt skin with a new one to be burnt yet again. The process will repeat to allow for more punishment. Other forms of punishment include the application of excessively heated burring oil, which will be poured onto their heads to melt away and liquefy their internal organs. The inhabitants of Hellfire will wear chains and shackles, which will be tied around their necks and feet.
“Indeed, We have prepared for the disbelievers chains and shackles and a blaze” (Quran 76:4)
Those who ask why a beneficent God would create Hellfire should realize that this question is irrelevant in determining whether God exists. The fact that God created Hellfire does not negate His existence. And why are you attempting to rationalize something you do not believe in the first place? Or do you believe deep inside and struggle to submit to your Creator?
God does not need your permission to create or throw you into Hellfire. The more important question to consider is what you are doing to save yourself from Hellfire. Are you actively trying to find God, the truth of His religion, while trying to obey Him? Are you verifying that your beliefs are true? Are you pondering Islam and the concept of God in Islam, reflecting on whether it makes sense to you?
“He cannot be questioned about what He does,but they will all be questioned” (Quran 21:23)
God the Almighty, the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate, did not create Hellfire for the joy of throwing people into it, nor does he want to do so. God asks a rhetorical question in the Holy Quran, stating:
“What can Allah gain by your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing” (Quran 4:147)
God will gain nothing from punishing anyone and seeks every good reason not to condemn. God states in the Holy Quran that He created humanity and Jinn to worship Him, glorify Him, and exalt Him, as He is the Only One worthy of worship. He states in another verse that from his end, He created humanity to show them His Mercy:
“Except whom your Lord has given mercy, and for that He created them….” (Quran 11:119)
One must realize that God is All-knowing, All-Wise, Most-Merciful, and Just. If God tells us He completed an action, we cannot question as to why He did it, nor if it is appropriate to do. We are not in a place to assume that the act of God throwing certain people into Hellfire is unjust and wrong when the action extends beyond our limited human scope.
The believer must realize that he is a slave and God is his Master. One cannot question Him or His authority, nor do they have any right to do so. A Master can be just and kind or unjust and unkind. Allah, the Exalted, is a Merciful Master. If one accepts that they are Allah’s slave and submits to Him fully, they will find God is the most Beneficent and Merciful. Only when one surrenders to His Master does one find that his life is easier and better.
Why would God want to punish an individual when He created them with love and mercy in the first place? God wants to warn his servants about Hell now, so they can fix themselves and avoid it to the best of their ability. It is best to be informed about Hellfire now and recognize its severity, harshness, and gruesome punishment rather than to come across it unprepared in the Hereafter. That is Mercy, as God the Almighty could have chosen not to warn one of the consequences of one’s actions. While God is Most-Merciful, He is also All-Just. He states in the Quran:
“Indeed, Allah does not do injustice, even as much as an atom’s weight…” (Quran 4:40)
One needs to note that God is Most Merciful. Muslims do not attest that God is All-Merciful, as Christians do. An All-Merciful God would show mercy to everyone unconditionally, even though those who don’t deserve it, such as serial killers and rapists. God is Most Merciful and All-Just and shows Mercy to those who deserve it. If God showered mercy on everyone unconditionally and forgave everyone for every sin, he would not be serving justice to victims oppressed by the people who wronged them.
God is also All-Just. Hence, evildoers and sinners must be held accountable for their actions. If one commits murder or oppresses another individual, God may punish that person to serve justice to the one killed or oppressed—or to serve justice to the victim’s family members. God states that every soul shall receive total compensation for their good and evil deeds on the Day of Judgment.
God is Righteous and Fair. If He didn’t punish evil, He would allow that evil to exist without consequences, encouraging people to oppress and commit evil, spreading corruption even further. The fear of punishment prevents people from committing evil. Since God cannot permit this evil to transpire, His justice requires that a proper punishment be incurred and executed for evil sins. God also states that he will forgive any soul that repents from their sin, as He is Extremely Forgiving and Extremely Loving. Although Allah is not answerable to anyone, He has promised to be Just and Fair to everyone.
Humans are motivated by reward and punishment. Some need consequences or punishment to empower them to stop their sinning. Hellfire is a deterrent for those who disbelieve, disobey God, and commit evil. Hellfire exists for those who need serious deterrents to turn them from evil, and Paradise is there to motivate those who need a reward to do good. What better than Paradise as a reward for those who believe in God and obey Him?
Those who ask why God throws “good people” into Hellfire need to realize that they cannot fully judge the difference between good deeds and bad deeds, and they cannot classify what constitutes a “good person” from a “bad person.” One might appear to be good, doing some good deeds, but at the same time might mistreat their parents at home, or are perhaps too stubborn to submit, worship, and obey their Creator despite recognizing God’s existence and the truth–thus making them a bad person. No one on the Day of Judgment would feel they had been meted injustice, whether they go to Paradise or Hell. Only God can make such a judgment; you and I cannot, so we should make no assumptions without seeing the complete picture, without possessing the full knowledge that God has.
Only those who deserve to be thrown into Hellfire will be condemned; those who disbelieved and disobeyed God and wasted time despite having time on Earth to ponder and repent for their actions. God will throw no one into Hellfire unless they have been given a fair opportunity to gain Paradise. God tells us that we agreed through our covenant with Him to take a test of life on Earth through the free will that gives us a chance to earn Paradise – or Hellfire if we disbelieve and disobey.
It would have been unjust for God to create humans and throw them into Hellfire without testing them in this world. So, God tests everyone on this Earth for some time before entering Paradise or Hellfire. God says in the Holy Book that those who will be thrown into Hellfire will accept God’s judgment but still beg for another chance to live on Earth and live righteously; however, God states that if He did send them back to this world, they would have forgotten and chosen the path of evil once again, with the same destiny awaiting them afterward.
Certain individuals want to blame God for Hell because they do not want to fix their acts, face reality, or be held accountable for their actions. It’s essential to realize that whether you believe, like, and accept God and Hellfire or not, it will not change the fact that God and Hellfire do exist—just as if you dislike or do not believe in the presence of heavy traffic outside on the roads, it wouldn’t mean that you won’t encounter traffic when you go outside to drive.
“O, you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones….” (Quran 66:6)
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