HELL. The place of torment is most frequently spoken of in the Qur’an and Traditions as an-Nar, “the fire,” but the word Jahannam occurs about thirty times. It is said to have seven portals or divisions. Surah xv. 44: “Verily, hell (juhannam) is promised to all together (who follow Satan). It has seven portals, and at every door there is a separate party of them.”
The Persian word used for hell in books of theology is dozakh. The seven divisions of hell are given by Muslim commentators as follows: –
1. Jahannam جهنم, the purgatorial hell for all Muslims. For according to the Qur’an, all Muslims will pass through the regions of hell. Surah xix. 72: “There is not one of you who will not go down to it (hell), that is settled and decided by the Lord.”
2. Laza لظىSurah xcvii. 5: “For Laza dragging by the scalp, shall calim him who turned his back and went away, and amassed and hearded.”
3. Al-Hutamah الحطمة. Surah civ. 4:- “Nay! For verily he shall be flung into al-Hutamah;
And who shall teach thee what al-Hutamah is?
It is God’s kindled fire,
Which shall mount above the hearts of the damned;
It shall verily rise over them like a vault,
On outstretched columns.”
4. Sa’ir سعيرSurah iv. 11: “Those who devour the property of orphans unjustly, only devour into their bellies fire, and they broil in sa’ir.”
(The word occurs in fourteen other places.)
5. Saqar سقر. Surah liv. 47: “The sinners are in error and excitement. On the day when they shall be dragged into the fire on their faces! Taste ye the touch of saqar!”
Surah xxiv. 44: “What drove you into saqar?”
6. Al-Jahim الجحيم. Surah ii. 113: “Thou shalt not be questioned as to the fellows of al-Jahim” (Ashabu ‘l-Jahim.)
(The word occurs in twenty other places.)
7. Hawiyah هاوية. Surah ci. 8: “As for him whose balance is light, his dwelling shall be Hawiyah.”
The Muslim commentators, with the utter recklessness which so characterizes their writings, distribute these seven stations as follows (see al-Baghawi, al-Baizawi, and others): (1) Jahannam, the purgatorial hell for Muslims. (2) Laza, a blazing fire for Christians. (3) Al-Hutamah, an intense fire for the Jews. (4) Sa’ir, a flaming fire for the Sabians. (5) Saqar, a scorching fire for the Magi. (6) Al-Jahim, a huge hot fire for idolaters. (7) Hawiyah, bottomless pit for the hypocrites. A reference to the Qur’an will prove that there is not the least reason for assigning these to their respective tenants beyond the sentence already quoted: “At each portal a separate party.”
The teaching of the Qur’an (which is chiefly confined to those Surahs which, chronologically arranged, are the earliest), is as follows:-
Surah xxiv. 26-34 (generally held to be the second Surah composed by Muhammad, and relating to al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah, a person of note amongst the unbelieving Makkans):-
“We will surely cast him into Saqar.
And who shall teach thee what Saqar is)
It leaveth nought, it spareth not.
Blackening the skin.
Over it are nineteen angels.
None but the angels have we made guardians of the fire (ashabu ‘n-nar): nor have we made this to be their number but to perplex the unbelievers and that they who possess the Scriptures may be certain of the Truth, and that they who believe may increase their faith;
And that they to whom the Scriptures have been given, and the believers, may not doubt;
And that the infirm of heart and the unbelievers may say, What meaneth God by this parables?
Thus God misleadeth whom He will, and whom He will He doth guide aright; and none knoweth the armies of thy Lord but Himself; and this is no other than a warning to mankind”
Surah lxxxviii. 1-7:-
“Hath the tidings of the day that shall overshadow reached thee?
Downcast on that day shall be the countenances of some;
Travailing and worn,
Burnt at the scorching fire,
Made to drink from a fountain fiercely boiling.
No food shall they have but the fruit of zari’ (a bitter thorn),
Which shall not fatten nor appease their hunger.”
Surah xxviii. 21-30:-
“Hell (Jahannam) truly shall be a place of snares,
The home of transgressors,
To abide therein ages;
No coolness shall they taste therein nor any drink.
Save boiling water and running sores;
For they looked not forward to their account;
And they gave the lie to our signs charging them with falsehood;
But we noted and wrote down all;
‘Taste this then: and we will give you increase of nought but torment.'”
The above are all Madinah Surahs composed in the earlier stage of Muhammad’s mission. The allusions to heal in the Makkan Surahs are brief and are in every case directed against unbelievers in the Prophet’s mission, and not against sin e.g. Surah ix. 69, “God hath promised to the hypocrites (i.e. dissemblers as far as Islam was concerned), men and women, and unto the unbelievers hell-fire to dwell therein for ever.”
The teaching of Muhammad in the Traditions is much more specific, but it is impossible to assign a date for these traditions, even assuming them to be authentic. They are given on the authority of al-Bukhari and Muslim (Mishkat, book xxiii. ch. xv.):-
“‘The fire of the world is one part of seventy parts of hell fire.’ It was said, ‘O Prophet of God! Verily the fire of the world would be sufficient for punishing. The Pro- phet replied, ‘Hell-fire has been made more than the fire of the world by sixty-nine parts, every part of which is like the fire of the world.'”
“Verily, the easiest of the infernals in punishment, is he who shall have both his shoes and thongs of them of fire, by which the brains of his head boil, like the boiling of a copper furnace; and he will not suppose that anyone is more severely punished than himself; whilst verily, he is the least so.”
“On the Day of Resurrection, the most luxurious of the world will be brought, and dipped once in the fire; after that it will be said, ‘O child of Adam, did you ever see any good, or did comfort ever pass by you in the world?’ He will say, ‘I swear by God I never saw any good, nor did comfort ever come near me.’ And a man of the severest distresses and troubles in the world will be brought into paradise; and it will be said to him, ‘O son of Adam, did you ever see any trouble, and did distress ever come to you in the world?’ And he will say, I swear by God, O my Lord, I never suffered troubles in the world, nor did I ever see hardship.'”
“There are some of the infernals that will be taken by the fire up to their ankles, and some up to their knees, and some up to their waist, and some up to their necks.”
“Hell-fire burnt a thousand years so that it became red, and burnt another thousand years till it became black; then hell-fire is black and dark, and never has any light.”
“Verily, hot water will be poured upon the heads of the infernals, and will penetrate into their bellies, and will cut to pieces everything within them; so that they will come out at their feet; and this is the meaning of the word of God, ‘Boiling water shall be poured on their heads, and everything in their bellies shall be dissolved thereby’, after that, they will be made as they were.”
“The infernals shall be drenched with yellow water, draught after draught, and it will be brought to their mouths and they will be disgusted at it; and when very near, it will scorch their faces, and when they drink it it will tear their entrails to pieces. God says, ‘They who must dwell for ever in hell-fire, will have the boiling water given them to drink which shall burst their bowels’; and God will say, ‘If the infidels complain of thirst, they shall be assisted with water like molten copper, which will fry their faces; it will be a shocking beverage.'”
For most of these circumstances relating to hell and the state of the damned, Muhammad was in all probability indebted to the Jews, and in part, to the Magians, both of whom agree in making seven distinct apartments in hell. (Nishmat hayim f. 32; Gemar. Arubin f. 19; Zohar ad. Exod. xxvi 2 & c. And Hyde de Rel. Vet. Pers., p. 245), though they vary in other particulars.
The former place an angel as a guard over each of these infernal apartments, and suppose he will intercede for the miserable wretches there imprisoned, who will openly acknowledge the justice of God in their condemnation. (Midrash, Yalkut Shemeni, pt. 11, f. 116.) They also teach that the wicked will suffer a diversity of punishments, and that by intolerable cold (Zohar, ad. Exod. xix.) as well as heat, and that their faces shall become black (Yalkut Shemeni, ubi sup f. 86); and believe those of their own religion shall also be punished in hell here-after according to their crimes (for they hold that few or none will be found exactly righteous as to deserve no punishment at all,) but will soon be delivered thence, when they shall be sufficiently purged from their sins by their father Abraham, or at the intercessation of him or some other of the prophets. (Nishmat hayim, f. 82; Gemar. Arubin, f. 19.)
The Magians allow but one angel to preside over all the seven hells, who is named by them Vanand Yezad, and, as they teach, assigns punishments proportionate to each person’s crimes, restraining also the tyranny and excessive cruelty of the devil, who would, it left to himself, torment the damned beyond their sentence. (Hyde, de Rei. Vet. Pers., p. 182.) Those of this religion do also mention and describe various kinds of torments wherewith the wicked will be punished in the next life; among which, though they reckon extreme cold to be one, yet they do not admit fire, out of respect, as it seems, to that element, which they take to be the representation of the divine nature, and therefore they rather choose to describe the damned souls as suffering by other kinds of punishment, such as an intolerable stink, the stinging and biting of serpents, and wild beasts, the cutting and tearing of the flesh by the devils, excessive hunger and thirst, and the like. (See Eundem, ibid., p. 399; Sale’s Pre. Dis.
The author of the Sharhu ‘l-Muwaqif, p. 586, also says: “It is agreed amongst all orthodox Muslims that all unbelievers, without exception, will be consigned to the fire for ever, and that they will never be free from torment.” “But,” he adds, “there are certain heretics, who call themselves Muslims, who deny the eternity of the torments, the fire. For, they say, it is an essential property of all things fleshly that they come to an end. And, moreover, it is not possible for a thing to exist which goes on burning for ever. But to this we reply that God is all powerful and can do as He likes.”
The sect called as-Samamiyah, founded by Samamah ibn Ashras an-Numairi, say: “The Jews, and Christians, and Majusi, and Zanadiqah, will, after the Day of Judgement, return to dust, just as the animals and the little children of unbelievers do.” (Sharhu ‘l-Muwaqif, p. 633.)
The same writer says (p. 687): “Besides those who are unbelievers, all those (Muslims) who are sinners and have committed great sins (kaba’ir), will go to hell; but they will not remain there always, for it has been said in the Qur’an (Surah xcix. 7), “He who does an atom of good shall see its reward.”
With reference to the verse in the Qur’an, which distinctly states that all Muslims shall enter hell (Surah xix 78., “There is not one of you that shall not go down to it”), al-Kamalan, the commentators say, that according to extant traditions, all Muslims will enter hell, but it will be cool and pleasant to those who have not committed great sins; or, according to some writers, they will simply pass along the bridge Sirat, which is over the infernal regions.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam