Imagine that you knew the angel of death was coming to you in a few hours. What would your first thought be?
For most of us, it would be: What have I prepared for the next life?!
Doctors today speak of how people are living longer than ever before. In some countries, people live well beyond 90 years of age. Some of us may delay doing good deeds because we think we have a long life ahead of us. But, when Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) speaks of the Day of Judgment, He (swt) tells us that people will feel that they’ve only stayed in the dunya (this life) for a day or part of a day or even an hour. While 90 years is a long time to live, it does not compare to eternity. People will only realize that the next life is truly everlasting when they are standing in front of Allah (swt) and are seeing it with their own eyes. This is why the strongest motivation for a believer to do good deeds and stay away from sins, after seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt), is to remember death and the hereafter.
As humans, we are prone to forget and we are quickly distracted by the glitter of this world. To keep this reminder constantly in our minds, Allah (swt) mentions the hereafter on every page in the Qur’an.
Yet even though we are constantly reminded of Hell-Fire and Paradise in the Qur’an, we do not truly comprehend their nature because we do not understand their descriptions and meanings in the Qur’an and Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him). If we truly understood the nature of the Fire, we would fear it as it should be feared. And if we understood the real nature of Paradise, we would yearn for it as it deserves to be yearned for.
Allah (swt) discusses both Hell and Paradise equally in the Qur’an, displaying the balance of our religion. The two wings of a believer are fear and hope, and just as a bird cannot fly without balanced wings, the believer cannot either. Insha’Allah (God willing) we will be following this example for our series; posting one topic about Hell-Fire and the next about Paradise to balance our hope and fear in Allah (swt). Each week, we will learn about a new aspect of Hell or Paradise including:
- The Names and Descriptions of Paradise and Hell
- The Entrance into Paradise and Hell
- The Food and Clothing of Paradise and Hell
- The Entertainment of Paradise and Hell
- The Conversations of the Inhabitants of Paradise and Hell
- The Supplications of those in Paradise and Hell
The first part we will cover are the Names and Descriptions of Paradise and Hell. By learning their names and descriptions, we will be able to comprehend the true nature of jannah (Paradise) and nar (Hell-Fire). Names and descriptions allow us to understand different aspects of each, as each name and description gives us a new perspective on these final abodes.
Understanding the Fire
When we think of Hell-Fire, we compare it to the fire that we have in this world. We think of our stove or fireplace; yet the Fire of Hell is more intense and severe. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Your [ordinary] fire is one of 70 parts of the (Hell) Fire.” Someone said, “O Allah’s Apostle, this [ordinary] fire would have been sufficient (as a punishment)!” Allah’s Apostle ﷺ said, “The (Hell) Fire has 69 parts more than the ordinary [worldly] fire, each part is as hot as this [worldly] fire.” (Bukhari)
In another well-known narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, Hell-Fire will be brought forth on the Day of Judgment with 70,000 zimaam each pulled by 70,000 Angels,” (Muslim). The word zimaam is usually translated as “chains” but a more fitting translation is “leashes”. What do leashes restrain? They restrain animals. Hell-Fire is a living, breathing monster. To put this into perspective, let us remember the magnificent creation of the Angels. The Prophet ﷺ described the Angels who hold Allah’s Throne saying, “The distance between his ear-lobes and his shoulders is equivalent to a seven-hundred-year journey,” (Abu Dawud). The Angels are not a small creation, and they will be pulling and restraining this monster.
Allah (swt) describes the animalistic nature of the Fire in the Qur’an:
إِذَا رَأَتْهُمْ مِنْ مَكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ سَمِعُوا لَهَا تَغَيُّظًا وَزَفِير
“When the Hellfire sees them from a distant place, they will hear its fury and roaring,” (Qur’an 25:12).
Before the inhabitants of the Fire even see it, they will hear its anger and rage from far away. How far? Imam Al-Suddi says the distance of 100-years’ travel.
Allah (swt) uses a human emotion to describe the Fire, gaydh, which means a furious anger and rage. Why is the Fire angry? The scholars say that it is angry at peoples’ disbelief and disobedience to Allah (swt)!
Allah (swt) tells us how the Fire will roar:
إِذَآ أُلْقُواْ فِيهَا سَمِعُواْ لَهَا شَهِيقًا وَهِىَ تَفُورُ تَكَادُ تَمَيَّزُ مِنَ الغَيْظِ
“When they are thrown into it, they hear from it a (dreadful) inhaling while it boils up. It almost bursts with rage […]” (Qur’an 67:7-8).
Jahannam, Jaheem, and Hutumah
Among the names of Hell-Fire is jahannam. Jahannam (جهنم) appears in the Qur’an 77 times, and is one of the more well-known names of Hell-Fire. Allah (swt) says:
وَلِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ
“And for those who disbelieved in their Lord is the punishment of jahannam […]” (Qur’an 67:6).
Jahannam has several meanings:
- The literal meaning is to meet with a frowning face and to have a stern look. When you look at a person who has jahm, you become fearful.
- Darkness. Jahm is used for the darkest part of the night. One of the biggest fears people have is being in complete darkness. Jahannam is a dark place where you don’t want to be alone.
- A waterless cloud. A cloud without water brings disappointment and does not provide any comfort.
Put these meanings together and jahannam is a place that looks scary, is completely dark, and provides no comfort.
Another name of Hell-Fire is jaheem. Allah (swt) says:
وَبُرِّزَتِ الْجَحِيمُ لِلْغَاوِينَ
“And Hellfire will be brought forth for the deviators,” (Qur’an 26:91).
Al-Jaheem (الجحيم) appears 23 times in the Qur’an. These are among the meanings of this name:
- The literal meaning is to light and stir up a fire–you add fuel and ensure it keeps burning.
- The word jahama means to stare with sharp eyes, and refers to the way a lion stares at its prey.
- The word ajham, from the same root, means someone who has red eyes.
- Jaheem is also used for a pit with blazing fire–and not just any fire, but an extremely hot, intense, and fiercely-burning fire.
Next time Shaytan (the devil) whispers to you and you are inclined to commit a sin, remember this description of Hell-Fire, like a lion staring at its prey, waiting to pounce on it:
إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا
“Indeed, Hell has been lying in wait,” (Qur’an 78:21).
Another name of Hell-Fire is al-hutamah. Allah (swt) says about the one who slanders and backbites:
لَيُنبَذَنَّ فِي الْحُطَمَةِ
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحُطَمَةُ
نَارُ اللَّهِ الْمُوقَدَةُ
“No! He will surely be thrown into al hutamah. And what can make you know what is al hutamah? It is the fire of Allah, [eternally] fueled,” (Qur’an 104:4-6).
Hutamah is one of the descriptive names of the Hell-Fire and it is from the word hatama which means to crush something to pieces. Hutamah is also used to describe a person who eats a lot and is never satisfied. When we eat, we must chew our food first, and then we are able to digest it. Similarly, the Hell-Fire will crush everything as it consumes. It will crush and mash everything thrown into it. Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Qaaf (Chapter of the letter ‘Qaaf’) that Hell-Fire will say: hal min mazeed? “Is there any more (to consume)?” (Qur’an 50:30)
Allah (swt) describes al-hutamah further by saying it is: naar allahil mooqadah: it is the fire of Allah, kindled.
This Fire is attributed to Allah (swt) and when the idaafah (possession) of something is to Allah (swt), it gives great importance to that thing. Hell is such a great fire that only Allah (swt) can light a fire of this nature.
It is al-mooqadah: the one that is kindled. It is already burning right now; it has been lit and set ablaze. It is not going to be started on the Day of Judgment.
Futhermore Allah (swt) says:
الَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى الْأَفْئِدَةِ
“Which mounts directed at the hearts,” (Qur’an 104:7).
This fire will not be limited to the external body, rather it is going to consume the body and reach the core. It will penetrate through the body. This hutamah will be such a great consumer that it will consume all the way to the hearts.
This is Hell-Fire: a fierce Fire that is the crusher of bones, bursting with rage and fury and brought forth before us with leashes pulled by 70,000 angels.
O Allah, we beg You to protect us from this abode!