Judgment, Hell and Paradise

Judgment, Hell and Paradise

Like the Bible, the Qur’an talks about life after death. The last day, or the Day of Judgment, figures prominently in the pages of it. It is also known as the Day of Resurrection (Sura 75:1ff; 81:1-19; 83:4-21). Muhammad said, on this day the sun and moon will be folded up.[5] The day and the hour is a secret, but signs, both major and smaller, signal its approach. All people will then be raised from the dead. The books kept by the recording angels will be opened.

On the surface it seems that in Islam, everyone is his or her own redeemer. To be safe from the punishment of that Day, Islam presents a credit – debit system. Bad deeds can be wiped away by doing good deeds (Sura 11:114). On Judgment Day, God will weigh both the good and bad. Thus, paradise or hell will be granted by the measure of good deeds over bad (Sura 21:47; 23:102-103). 

Based on the Qur’anic references (Sura 36:66; 37:23-24) there exists the idea of a bridge, which everyone will cross on that Day. Traditions state that Muhammad said, “I shall be the first amongst the Apostles to cross [the bridge] with my followers.” [6]  This bridge is said to be finer than a hair and sharper than a sword. People with good deeds will cross it with the swiftness of lightning; others will creep along in a crawl. Those with evil deeds will loose their steps and fall into the fire beneath. The infidels and the wicked will be tormented in the fires of hell.

The Muslim scholar Abul ‘Ala Mawdudi in his book, ‘What Islam stands for’, describes the scene in this way:

"Man will stand by himself helpless and alone and render his account, and await the pronouncement of the judgment, which shall be in the power of God alone. The judgment will rest on one question: Did man conduct himself, in submission to God, in strict conformity with the truth revealed to the Prophets, and with the conviction that he will be held responsible for his conduct in life on the Day of Judgment? If the answer is in the affirmative, the reward will be Paradise, and if in the negative, Hell will be the punishment."[7]

According to the Qur’an, hell is a place where unbelievers will be “dragged through the Fire on their faces” (Sura 54:48) and “by their scalps” (Sura 70:16). Their faces will be ‘blackened’ (Sura 39:60). They will have manacles, chains, and yokes placed upon them (Sura 34:33; 40:71; 76:4). The Qur’an even declares that the wife of Abu Lahab (one of Muhammad’s bitter opponents) will have “a twisted rope of palm-leaf fiber round her (own) neck” (Sura 111:5) — apparently a fireproof palm fiber.

Elsewhere according to the Qur’an, hell is a place of raging, fiercely blazing fire (Sura 73:12; 92:14; 101:11) with leaping, piercing, burning flames (Sura 4:10; 17:97; 25:11; 37:10; 48:13; 77:30-31; 85:10; 104:6-7), in which people “neither die nor live” (Sura 87:12-13). In addition to flames, hell also contains scorching winds, black smoke (Sura 56:42-43), and boiling hot water through which the unbelievers will be dragged (Sura 40:71-72; 55:44). In fact, unbelievers will both drink and be drenched with boiling water (Sura 18:29; 22:19-22, cf. 6:70; 10:4; 37:67; 44:48; 56:54,93).

On the other hand, Paradise in the Qur’an is repeatedly represented in materialistic and sensual terms. God will reward those who enter paradise with garments of silk attire. They will recline on soft couches and rich rugs, quaffing goblets of drink handed to them by huris, or maidens of paradise. The Qur’an states, “They are untouched by men or spirits (jinn, Sura 55:74). In the same context the Qur’an describes them as “virgin-pure and undefiled, with big lustrous eyes” (Sura 56:8-38).  Paradise also will include golden trays or dishes (Sura 43:71), flowering meadows (Sura 42:22), a pure wine (non-intoxicating— Sura 56:19) sealed with musk and mixed with water from the heavenly spring of Tasnim (Sura 83:25-27). There are multiple storied halls or mansions (Sura 29:58; 34:37; 39:20), fowl flesh (56:21), thorn-less lote-trees (56:28), and clustered plantains (Sura 56:29).

The emphasis on sensual and material rewards in Paradise verses horrific punishment in hell is compared and repeated time and again in the Qur’an. How much is a Muslim confident of paradise? Not much. He does not know the measurement as to if he has enough good deeds or conduct required to save him from hell.  The Qur’an states, “Allah punishes whom he pleases and grants mercy to whom he pleases” (Sura 2:284, cf. 3:129; 5:18). The doctrine of kismet, the concept of fate, runs through Islamic teaching. Both good and evil proceed from Allah’s will (laqad khair wa shar minal-laah). Thus even the promise that “the blessed shall dwell in paradise” is balanced by further words, “unless your Lord ordains otherwise” (Sura 11:108).

According to Muhammad, Paradise and Hell argued, and Hell said, “I have been given the privilege of receiving the arrogant and the tyrants.”  Paradise complained to Allah, “What is the matter with me? Why do only the weak and the humble among the people will enter me?” On that, Allah said to Paradise, “You are my mercy which I bestow on whoever I wish of my servants.”  Then Allah said to the Hell, “You are my (means of) punishment by which I punish whoever I wish of my slaves. And each of you will have its fill.”[8]

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Notes:

[5] Sahih Bukhari, vol. 4, Book 54, Number 422.

[6] Sahih Bukhari, vol. 1, Book 12, Number 770.

[7] http://www.islambasics.com/view.php?bkID=0&chapter=7

[8] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 373.