Jahannam (Arabic: جهنم, borrowing from Hebrew: גיהנום "Gehennom", from גַּיא בֶּן הִנֹּם "Ge ben Hinnom" or “Valley of Hinnom”) is the Islamic concept of Hell. It is also mentioned in the Quran as: "That which Breaks to Pieces", '"Blazing Fire" and "The Abyss".
- 1 Description
- 2 Jahannam in Islamic discourse and literature
- 3 See also
- 4 References
Jahannam is described as having seven gates, each for a specific group of sinners; the sinners have degrees (or ranks) based on their deeds and hypocrites are in the lowest of the depths of Jahannam.
Jahannam is also known under different Arabic names as cited in the Quran:
- Al Athab
Sinners are the fuel for the fire of Jahannam along with disbelieving Jinn  and stones. The fire burns their skins, changing their colour to black due to its intensity. Jahannam has a shadow of smoke ascending in three columns, which yields no shade of coolness against the fierce blaze. Its sparks are described to be as "huge as a palace." Jahannam is described to have nineteen angels, who will punish wrongdoers. The leader of these angels, as stated in the Quran, is Maalik. Hell is perceived to be so deep that if a stone were thrown into it, it would fall for 70 years – assuming Earth gravity, an Earth-like atmosphere, and an 89.5 m/s terminal velocity, a distance of about 197,708,364,000 meters, or about the average diameter of the orbit of the planet Venus – before reaching the bottom. The breadth of each of Hell's walls is equivalent to a distance covered by a walking journey of 40 years. According to Muhammad, Maalik is an angel, very severe and harsh, and he will listen to condemned persons' requests for remission of their punishments after 1000 years but then deny those requests as well.
The food of Jahannam described in Hadith and the Quran includes a bitter thorn plant, Dhari[disambiguation needed], which does not nourish sinners, along with a tree named Zaqqum. Zaqqum is described in the Quran as a tree that springs out of the bottom of hellfire; the shoots of its fruit-stalks are like the "heads of devils" and eating it is similar to eating molten brass that will boil their insides "like scalding water". Sinners drink boiling water that will cut their bowels when they consume it. If they call for relief, they shall be given water described as being like molten brass, which will scald their faces. Hell is also filled with venomous snakes/scorpions and if they were to bite a person, the person would suffer for 40 years. The residents of Jahannam wear garments of fire that will scorch them. Along with the physical pain, certain sinners in hell will be mentally tortured by the guardian of hell, who will remind them of their misdeeds on earth.
The Book of Revelation describes a "lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death". Most Christians believe that this is a description of Hell (Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists, however, believe that it is a symbol of everlasting destruction, and point out that "death" will be thrown into this fire, i.e. death will no longer exist). Like Jahannam, Christians view Hell as a place without time, as those in hell will never leave. The largest difference between Jahannam and Hell in Christianity is the idea of different levels. Christians view Hell as a "bottomless pit", whereas Jahannam is believed to have seven levels, each for different sins. Note that Dante's Inferno and other non-Biblical writings speak of hell as being divided into multiple "circles". Some Jewish sources such as Jerahmeel provide descriptive detail of hell-like places, divided into multiple levels; usually sheol, which is translated as a grave or pit, is the place where humans descend upon death. As in Jahannam, the humans are cut off from God, and persist in a dark, shadowy state of existence; the dead are variously understood as being conscious or unconscious in all three Abrahamic religions.
The Day of Judgment is an emotional experience for all Muslims. The purpose of this day is for God to judge the soul on its record of deeds. This judgment is essential to give the individual soul the afterlife it deserves. Good and bad deeds are quantified through the actions and decisions made in a Muslim's lifetime. God holds each individual accountable for the good and bad deeds acquired in their entire lifetime. God weighs good and bad deeds on a scale based upon the intention of the deed itself. On the scale, good deeds weigh more than bad deeds. When the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds the individual enters Jannah (heaven), and when the bad deeds outweigh the good deeds the sinner enters Jahannam (hell). God has complete authority over the weighing process and ultimately makes the final decision. The gates to heaven and the entry to hell will not open without his approval. Uncertainty of the weighing process is needed by God and his believers to constantly remind them of how important the weighing process and the Day of Judgement are.
Events leading up to Jahannam as final destination
There is a very long, brutal process leading into the afterlife following the tortures and pain of death and the grave. It is important to understand this sequence of events in order to comprehend how one ends up in hell. This time period of the separation of the human body and soul is known as barzakh. For sinners and those destined for the fire, this process lasts much longer and is more painful.
The sequence of events starts with the second trumpet blast which revives and wakes everyone up from the grave. Second comes the Perspiration and the Day of the Arising which is when all created beings, including men, angels, jinn, demons and animals gather and sweat with no shade to hide in. Some will say "O my Lord! Grant me release from this suffering and this anticipation, even should it be to Hell!". Those who did not fulfill the needs of a Muslim and sweat for God in their lifetime will suffer and sweat longer on this day. Some will even sweat up to their heads. This day lasts for 50000 years which is the questioning that every person will go through. There are no excuses and everything will be examined no matter how small. Then comes the presentation of the scales which is where the good and bad deeds will be weighed out for every individual. Lastly comes the passage over the traverse, also known as the bridge of sirat. This is the bridge over the fire that every individual has to try to cross. For sinners, the bridge appears as thin as a hair and as sharp as the sharpest knife or sword. Sinners will fall into the fire below and arrive at their final destination place, Jahannam.
Gates of Jahannam
According to Allama Ibn Kathir, Jahannam has seven gates. According to Muslim scholars, they are:
- 1. Hawia: This is for the hypocrite, the Pharoah and his associates.
- 2. Jahim: This is above Hawia. It is for the pagans and the polytheists.
- 3. Saqar:: This is above Jahim. It is for the atheists.
- 4. Nati: This is above Saqar. It is for Shaytan and his associates.
- 5. Hatma: This is above Nati. It is for the Jews.
- 6. Sa'ah: This is above Hatma. This is for the Christians.
- 7. Jahannam: This is the seventh and the uppermost which is for the Muslims whose bad deeds outweighed good deeds.
According to Muslim belief, all people will visit Hell at a point in time, but God will save the pious from it. God groups humans into three distinct groups and states that the people that end up in Hell will be the companions of the left hand. These are the people that will experience the fierce blast of fire, the boiling water and find themselves in shades of black smoke. Various groups of people described as being in Jahannam include: disbelievers, hypocrites, polytheists, the People of the Book who reject the truth, arrogant rejectors of truth, sinners and criminals, tyrants, the unjust, transgressors, concealers of God's revelations, persecutors of believers, people who commit suicide, and murderers (of believers). Other people mentioned in Hadith include, but are not limited to, the arrogant, the proud and the haughty. Some prominent people mentioned in the Hadith and Quran are: Fir'awn, the wives of Nuh and Lut, Abu Lahab and his wife.
It is believed that out of every one thousand people entering into the afterlife that nine hundred and ninety-nine of them will end up in the fire. Life is a test for human beings. Those people who are only focused on their current life and on this world will end up in hell. Those who are obsessed with money, fame, power and materialistic goods in this world are distracted from what matters most. Not being accepting of death when the time comes and not thinking of death constantly and how to better one's future place in the afterworld, and rather planning something such as children or a wedding in this life, are the reasons for the majority of the inhabitants of hell.
According to Muslim belief, all inhabitants of the fire are there to be punished for their failure to please Allah during their lifetime. There is only individual suffering and punishment in Jahannam. Every person is punished forever and each time it feels new, since inhabitants are given new skin so as to suffer from the start again.
Some Muslim sects believe that unfaithful Muslims not true to their religion will be punished in Jahannam; other sects believe that Muslim souls are saved from its punishment. Most Sunni Muslims believe in the punishment of the unfaithful Muslims, but they also believe that they will eventually be forgiven. All Muslims believe that a disbeliever or non-Muslim who knew Islam and its beliefs may remain there in Jahannam for eternity for not believing while they were living in the 'Dunia' (literally meaning the lower one but translates as the world, or the first life) — each person is judged according to their own circumstances. However, those who commit shirk will be condemned to the worst punishments in Jahannam for eternity. The Quran states that God may choose to make the punishment of hell temporary if he wills it according to his wisdom and knowledge.
The Quran and Hadith offer detailed descriptions of the methods of punishment in Jahannam. The Quran states the punishments will be: the burning of skin, only to be replaced for reburning; garments of fire to be worn, and boiling water that will scald the skin and internal organs; faces on fire; lips burnt off; backs on fire; roasting from side to side; faces dragged along fire; bound in yokes then dragged through boiling water and fire. The Hadiths introduce punishments, reasons and revelations not mentioned in the Quran — the least-suffering person in Jahannam will have his/her brain boiling from standing on hot embers; and a Hadith also relates that a person who committed suicide will be punished on the Day of Judgment by the very means he/she used to end his/her life, as well as in Jahannam.
Those who misbehave in hell will be punished more severely. Hypocrites are found in the lowest of depths of the fire. Those who spread corruption, on top of having already hindered the path of Allah, will experience harsher punishments. All of the torture and punishment in hell serve the purpose of making life miserable for sinners who failed to follow the path of Allah.
Jahannam in Islamic discourse and literature
Jahannam in the Qur'an
The Qur'an constructed most of how Muslims picture and think about Jahannam, as according to scholar Einar Thomassen there are nearly 500 references to it altogether, and the rest of the elaboration came from the Hadith. The idea of the 7 gates of Jahannam came from verse 15:44 of the Qur'an, a verse which also elaborated how each level of Jahannam would be for a different class of sinner. The idea of heaven being physically above hell has been interpreted out of verse 7:50, which stated “The companions of the Fire will call to the Companions of the Garden: ‘Pour down to us water or anything that God doth provide’”. The infamous Tree of Zaqqum, the food source of Jahannam was described in verses 37:62-68 and again in verse 44:43. The description of Jahannam as a place of blazing fire appears in almost every verse in the Qur’an describing hell; however, the concept that the fire “whose fuel is Men and Stones” comes from verse 2:24. The breath of Jahannam was mentioned in verse 67:7, and the voice of Jahannam in 50:30, where God asks Jahannam on Judgment Day if it is full and Jahannam answers: “Are there any more (to come)?”
Some commentators have claimed that verses 19:67-72 imply that all mankind will be brought to Jahannam and that God will save the believers. Others think this idea contradicts verse 21:101, in which those who have earned Paradise are "kept far away from it (Hell)" and that a consistent and logical reading of the Quran makes it clear that only those who have earned Hell are being referred to in verses 19:67-72, and that the idea (derived from non-Quranic sources) that all mankind, even the ones who have earned Paradise will be brought to face Hell, is incorrect. The Qur'an designated the occupants of Jahannam in several verses, none of which mention any future inhabitants of Paradise. The Qur'an states that hypocrites and disbelievers will all be in hell in verse 4:140: "surely Allah will gather together the hypocrites and the unbelievers all in hell." Hypocrites are commonly perceived as the worst class of sinners in Islam, and that idea has been traced to verse 4:145 which stated “The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire”. Verse 98:6 mentions the disbelievers of the people of the book as well as polytheists as among the occupants of Jahannam: "Surely those who disbelieve from among the followers of the Book and the polytheists shall be in the fire of hell, abiding therein; they are the worst of men."
The punishments of Jahannam have been outlined extensively in numerous verses in the Qur'an. The punishment of inhabitants having their skin burned and then renewed only to be burned again for all eternity originated from verse 4:56 and is mentioned again in 22:20. Verse 18:28 was where the idea of drinking “water like melted brass, that will scald their faces”, and is also detailed in verse 22:19. 22:19 also mentioned the “garment of fire” that the dwellers will wear in Jahannam. In the Quran, the punishments of Jahannam are always followed with contrary protection of the Garden. For example, after the burning punishment is revealed, the Garden's shade is mentioned. The contrast between fire and shade is continuously revealed in the Quran. Verse 22:21 revealed the punishment of “maces of iron (to punish) them”. The notion that its dwellers will suffer in Jahannam for eternity originated from verse 11:107; “They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth”.
Jahannam in Hadith
Al-Bukhari in book 72:834 added to the list of dwellers in Jahannam by stating “The people who will receive the severest punishment from Allah will be the picture makers”. In book 87 Hadith 155, "Interpretation of Dreams", al-Bukhari talked of angels with “a mace of iron” who guarded hell, and then expanded on the Qur'an’s discourse describing Jahannam by recounting it as a place that “was built inside like a well and it had side posts like those of a well, and beside each post there was an angel carrying an iron mace. I saw therein many people hanging upside down with iron chains, and I recognized therein some men from the Quraish”. Sahih Muslim also expanded on the dwellers of Jahannam by including suicides whom he claimed would reside there forever, and also that women were the majority population in Jahannam.
Imam Malik reaffirmed the Qur'an’s position on hypocrites dwelling in hell in "Speech" hadith number 56, where he said “Truly a man utters words to which he attaches no importance, and by them he falls into the fire of Jahannam”. He also claimed that those who used utensils of precious metals would be in Jahannam by saying “A person who drinks from a silver vessel brings the fire of Jahannam into his belly”. Malik in Hadith also gave physical imagery of Jahannam by claiming that the fire of Jahannam was seventy times greater than fire on earth in chapter 57, Jahannam, hadith number 1. He also described that fire as “blacker than tar”.
Jahannam in theological academic discourse
Al Ghazali, an influential Muslim theologian of the 9th century, wrote in his book, The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife, of a Jahannam through which all people must pass upon entrance into the afterlife. Of hell he says, “This is a fixed ordinance of the Lord. Then shall We deliver those that were Godfearing, and leave the wrongdoers therein crouching.” This discourse concerns itself with the description of the “wrongdoer” and graphic, sometimes violent scenes of Jahannam.
Thirteenth-century Muslim scholar Al-Qurtubi personifies hell in his discourse, Paradise and Hell-fire in Imam al Qurtubi, as a violent being. He writes, “On the Day of Judgment, hell will be brought with seventy thousand reins. A single rein will be held by seventy thousand angels…” Al Qurtubi also provides in-depth explanations of specific Quranic scriptures on Jahannam.
In his discourse, The Soul’s Journey After Death, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, a theologian in the 14th century, writes explicitly of the individual punishments one may face in Jahannam. These punishments, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah writes, are directly related to the wrongdoer’s earthly transgressions.
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