As a secular society we all accept the concept of individual accountability for our actions; as a spiritual community we see that many people do not believe in punishment for sins and heedlessness.  When we read the Qur’an and Sunnah, we see that God is not guaranteeing anyone heaven as a result of their being labeled ‘Muslim’. Similarly, no one is guaranteed Hell for being labeled a Christian, Jew or otherwise. The fifth pillar of faith is that one believes in the individual accountability of everyone for their chosen faith and actions and that the decisive factor in this is our state upon death. This should motivate believers to live “one day at a time,” treating everyday as the day we might meet our Maker.

The fact is we were created by the Creator who has given us innate spiritual and intellectual awareness. He then sent chosen men supported by miracles and divine law to guide us. The test of life is about who shows gratitude to their Creator and use their inherent faculties of spirituality and intellect to seek out the divine and live according to His will. Some will choose to pass this test and become metaphorically one with their Creator in this life and then physically be in the presence of God for eternity. Others, who are sadly the majority, will choose to reject God’s blessing and see life as a pointless enjoyment of one’s desires.

Regarding this test and the eventual result of reward or punishment, I would like to cite a famous hadith,

“When God created heaven and hell, He sent Gabriel to heaven and then said, “Look at what I have prepared for its inhabitants.” So he went and saw what God had prepared for its inhabitants. He then returned to God and said, “I swear by Your Honor and Might that anyone who hears of it (heaven) will enter it.” Then God commanded heaven to be surrounded by undesirable things and hardship. Gabriel said, “I fear that no one will enter it.” God then commanded Gabriel to go to hell and see what he has prepared for its inhabitants. He returned and said, “I swear by Your Honor and Might that anyone who heard about it would not go there.” Then God ordered hell to be surrounded by desirable things. After Gabriel saw this he then said, “I swear by Your Honor and Might, I fear that no one would be saved from it.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)

The true servants of the Merciful are those who know what life is all about; they realize the meaning of the aforementioned hadith, thus they fear the possibility of being subject to God’s ultimate justice for their sin and transgression. They cry to their Lord,

“…Avert from us the punishment of hell. Indeed, its punishment is ever adhering. Indeed it is evil as a settlement and residence.” (Qur’an, 25:65-66)

The fact that God described hell so vividly in the Qur’an and Sunnah is a manifestation of His Mercy. As mentioned in the hadith, anyone who knows about the punishment in hell should change their lifestyle to put them as far away from it as possible. The test of life is in disciplining ourselves to go against our egos and humanly desires and become spiritual beings living in preparation for ultimate death and meeting our Creator. One method of support in that process of discipline is in knowing what punishments are waiting for those who are rebellious and heedless of their responsibility to their Lord. The following are some of the punishments of Hell as mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Of course first and foremost, hellfire will be burning; people will be running around trying to escape the flames but wherever they go there will be more. While they are away from the flames their feet are burning so bad that their brains are boiling. Once their bodies are completely burnt off, the body is made anew.

They will also have Hameem حميم or boiling water constantly poured over their heads.

Other people in hell will be chained and shackled and dragged on their faces through burning hot floors.

The people of Hell will get hungry even more than we do on earth but they cannot satiate themselves. The most common type of food will be filthy trees called Zaqqoom الزقوم. These trees are rooted in the depths of hell; it has filthy rotten fruits that look like the heads of devils. The people of hell will have no other choice than to eat this disgusting rotten tree. It will sicken them but they will try to fill their stomachs because they will be suffering from extreme hunger and there will be nothing else to eat. While doing this, they will choke on it. Then once it reaches their stomachs, the zaqqoom will boil like oil in a frying pan, burning their insides. There is a hadith about the Zaqqoom tree which says if one drop of the Zaqqoom was brought to the Earth, it would spoil the livelihood of everyone on earth. (Tirmidhi)

There will also be Daree’ ضريع for them to eat which is a dry thorny plant which has no nutrient and has a foul taste. The people of hell are so hungry they try to eat this and it cuts their mouth up and gets stuck in their throat.

After reaching a horrible level of pain and torment, they see some water called Hameem and they pick it up; when they try to drink it, they find out  it is a boiling, steaming liquid that burns their throats and stomachs.

According to Imam al-Qurtubi, the juice of hellfire is called Ghasaaq or Ghisleen. This consists of the blood, puss and melted skin of the people of Hellfire. It is also narrated that it consists of the filth which flows from the privates of the fornicators and adulterers. In many cases people will not find anything but Ghassaq to try and satiate their extreme hunger and thirst.

There is also something else to drink called Sadeed صديد. This is the nasty, smelly sweat pouring from the people of hell before their skin burns off and becomes Ghassaaq.

There are other specific punishments for certain sins, but I think this should suffice as an aversion from hell. If you are like me, you became seriously frightened and disgusted at the descriptions of hell. Do we even want to gamble with spending one second in Hell to pay for our heedlessness? In light of the hadith mentioned in the beginning, we must do everything we can to control our egos and desires and discipline ourselves  toward a lifestyle filled with obedience, worship and sincere repentance. That does not mean we cannot have fun or entertainment. It just means the focus should be on the hereafter and regulating our desires through lawful means.

This is the month of Ramadan and a great opportunity for us to begin a life where we pray all our prayers on time with meaning and khushoo’, mark our calendars and pay our Zakat, repent from the ill treatments of our parents and family. We must control our tongues and the evil they bring forth. We must stop drinking alcohol, smoking, and sexual transgressions. It is time to get involved in the local Mosque or organized da`wah. It is time to read some tafseer or seerah or buy a CD set to build our spirituality rather than the things we watch and listen to that break our spirituality down. We must be sincere and go to an Islamic convention for the purpose of learning and true brotherhood. We must part with friends who keep our spirituality down. We need to learn the supplications of the Prophet and keep up with them daily. We pray Allah (swt) avert us from the worst of places and experiences which is without a doubt the hellfire.

by John (Yahya) Ederer