Hell-Fire is filled with torments and punishments beyond our imagination, but the main characteristic of Hell is fire. Many of the various names of Hell show us different aspects of this Fire, giving us a complete picture of how terrible and terrifying it really is.
Of these names is Sa’eer, Allah (swt) commands the Prophet ﷺ, “and warn of the Day of Assembly, about which there is no doubt. A party will be in Paradise and a party in al-Sa’eer.” (Qur’an, 42:7)
Sa’eer comes from a word which means to set something ablaze. It means to make a fire bigger and to keep it burning. Sa’eer refers to a fire that has been set ablaze, it is not dying out or almost finishing. It is not an ordinary fire that is set on the stove; it is fierce, it is furious and severe in its flames.
Allah (swt) depicts to us the situation of the Companions of the Fire: “Their refuge is Hell; every time it subsides We increase them in blazing fire (sa’eer).” (Qur’an, 17:97) There is nothing in life that is permanent; even the pain of a wound will diminish one day. The Fire of Hell, however, will never diminish.
Whenever the Fire is about to die out, Allah (swt) says He will increase them in their burning and the Fire will never be extinguished. Each time the punishment lessens because their skins are completely burned, their skins will be replaced and their ability to burn will be renewed. When those in Hell-Fire think they have a break from this punishment, they will be increased in it.
Not only will they be increased in this punishment, but they will never be removed from it, nor will they receive any assistance: “Abiding therein forever, they will not find a protector or a helper.” (Qur’an, 33:65) They will not find anyone to help them in the task of trying to get out of the Fire, nor any defender to come and save them from the punishment.
Allah (swt) says the inhabitants of Hell will be, “In samoom and boiling water.” (Qur’an, 56:42)
Samoom is another name of Hell-Fire which describes the fierce, flame-like wind of Hell-Fire. Samoom literally means poison, and it is used to describe a wind that is scorching and extremely hot; as if the heat is penetrating inside you. It is also the name of a hot sandstorm. Samoom carries three meanings:
1- Extreme heat
2- That which can kill the other
3- Smokeless fire
Samoom is a heat storm that is poisonous in its effect and goes through the pores of a person, burning their skins. Have you ever been in a sandstorm? Or In extreme scorching wind? How does it feel?
The believers will specifically thank Allah (swt) for protecting them from the punishment of Samoom; as they feared it in the dunya (world): They will say: “Before, we were afraid (of the punishment of Allah) in the midst of our families. So Allah has been gracious to us, and has saved us from the torment of the Samoom (Scorching Fire and Wind).” (Qur’an, 52:26-27)
While the fires we see now have an orange color, the Fire of Hell will be dark and gloomy, and the flames will not give off light. The Prophet ﷺ said, “The Fire of Hell was burned for 1000 years until it became red. It was then burned for 1000 years till it became white. It was then burned for 1000 years till it became black. It is now intense black in color.” (At- Tirmidhi)
Allah (swt) tells us that the disbelievers will never be removed from the Fire, “Every time they want to get out of Hellfire from anguish, they will be returned to it, and [it will be said], “Taste the punishment of the Burning Fire!” (Qur’an, 22:22) Fudayl ibn Ayyadh also said about this ayah, “I swear by Allah they will not escape from the Fire; their feet are chained, their hands fettered and the flames will raise them up while the hooks (of Hell) lower them down again.”
The name of Hell-Fire, Saqar, also illustrates for us another horrifying aspect of this Fire.
Allah (swt) says about the state of the criminals on the Day of Judgment: “The Day they will be dragged on their faces into the Fire (it will be said to them): “Taste the touch of Saqar!” (Qur’an, 54:48) The criminals will be humiliated by being dragged on their faces–the most honorable part of our bodies and it will be said to them: ‘taste the touch of saqar!’ When we think of ‘taste’, it gives us the connotation of experiencing something slowly. So those in Hell will taste the Fire: they will endure it bit by bit, slowly and painfully.
Imagine the difference of feeling the heat of an oven, and opening the door and experiencing the heat directly on your face. The criminals will feel the Fire directly; they will receive this torment firsthand in a slow and penetrating manner.
Saqar, which means to burn, appears four times in the Qur’an. The root meaning of Saqar means to injure and change the form of something by heat and to scorch something. Other root meanings include:
- Extreme heat of the sun which causes the appearance to change.
- An intensely hot day
- Violent strokes of the sun
The use of saqar gives two meanings: Firstly, extreme heat that will cause alteration in the complexion and skin. (Have you ever received a sun burn?). Secondly, extreme heat that will cause pain. (Have you ever received a headache after a long day in the heat?)
From this literal definition, we learn that Saqar is extreme heat that melts, changes the nature and appearance of something, and in particular, changes the skin and surface; as well as extreme heat that causes pain and discomfort.
Allah (swt) asks us in Surah Muddaththir,
“And what will make you know (exactly) what Saqar is?” (Qur’an, 74:27)
Then He gives us the definition of Saqar:
“It spares not, nor does it leave!” (Qur’an,74:28)
Saqar does not let anything remain: Everything that goes into this fire will be burned.
And it does not leave behind: This fire will affect everyone and no part of them will be left untouched by the fire.
Furthermore it is: “Burning and blackening the skins!” (Qur’an, 74:29)
This Saqar is lawwaahah: laaha is when skin darkens due to exposure to heat, fire, and also from hard work and thirst. This Fire will have a terrible effect on the skin of human beings, leaving their skins crisp and black. The structure of this word shows us the continuous effect of the Saqar, it not only burns once, but it continues to burn the skins again and again.
As if this description was not enough to strike fear into our hearts, Allah (swt) ends these ayaat (verses) with a reminder:
“Over it are nineteen.” (Qur’an, 74:30)
Upon it are 19 angels, stern and strong, who do not disobey the command of Allah (swt).
Who then, can escape from Saqar?
- Tafsir ibn Kathir
- Lisan al-Arab dictionary
- Al-Huda Institute’s Ta’leem al-Qur’an course