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Jahannam (Arabic: جهنم‎ (etymologically related to Hebrew גיהנום Gehennom and Greek: γέεννα) refers to an afterlife place of punishment for evildoers. The punishments are carried in accordance with the degree of evil one has done during his life.[1] In Quran, Jahannam is also referred as al-Nar النار‬ ("The Fire"),[2] Jaheem جحيم‬ ("Blazing Fire"[3]), Hatamah حطم‬ ("That which Breaks to Pieces" [4]), Haawiyah هاوية‬ ("The Abyss"[5]), Ladthaa لظى‬, Sa’eer سعير‬ ("The Blaze"[6]), Saqar سقر‬.[7][8] and also the names of different gates to hell. [9]



Most of how Muslims picture and think about Jahannam comes from the Qur'an, according to scholar Einar Thomassen, who found nearly 500 references to Jahannam/hell (using a variety of names) in the Qur'an.[10]

The Hadiths (the corpus of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) introduce punishments, reasons and revelations not mentioned in the Quran. In both Quranic verses and hadiths, "the Fire" (Jahannam) is "a gruesome place of punishment that is always contrasted with Jannah, "the Garden" (paradise). Whatever characteristic "the Garden offered, the Fire usually offered the opposite conditions."[11] Several hadith describes a part of hell that is extremely cold rather than hot, known as Zamhareer.[12]

Eschatological manualsEdit

In addition to the Quran and hadith are "Eschatological manuals". These were written after the other two sources and developed descriptions of Jahannam "in more deliberate ways".[13] While the Quran and hadith tend to describe punishments that unbelievers are forced to give themselves, the manuals illustrate external and more dramatic punishment, through devils, scorpions, and snakes.[14]

Manuals dedicated solely to the subject of Jahannam include Ibn Abi al-Dunya's Sifat al-nar, and al-Maqdisi's Dhikr al-nar. Other manuals—such as texts by al-Ghazali and the 12th century scholar Qadi Ayyad -- "dramatise life in the Fire", and present "new punishments, different types of sinners, and the appearance of a multitude of devils," to exhort the faithful to piety.[9] His hell has a structure with a specific place for each type of sinners.[14]

Al Ghazali, in his book The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife, describes and discusses the "wrongdoer" and graphic, sometimes violent scenes of Jahannam.[15]

According to theologian Al-Ghazali, Afterlife will start with the "Day of the Arising" and a trumpet blast[16] which will wake the dead from their graves. "The Perspiration"[17][18] —when all created beings, including men, angels, jinn, devils and animals gather and sweat unshaded from the sun—will follow.[19] Sinners and unbelievers will suffer and sweat longer on this day, which lasts for "50,000 years". God will judge each soul,[20] accept no excuses, and examine every act and intention—no matter how small.[21] It is believed those whose good deeds outweigh the bad will be assigned to Jannah (heaven), and those whose bad deeds outweigh the good to Jahannam.[22][23] Finally the souls will traverse over hellfire[24] via the bridge of sirat. For sinners, it is believed the bridge will be thinner than hair and sharper than the sharpest sword, impossible to walk on without falling below to arrive at their destination.[25]

According to Leor Halevi, between the moment of death and the time of their burial ceremony, "the spirit of a deceased Muslim takes a quick journey to Heaven and Hell, where it beholds visions of the bliss and torture awaiting humanity at the end of days".[26]

In 'The Soul’s Journey After Death, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, a theologian in the 14th century, writes explicitly of punishments faced by sinners and unbelievers in Jahannam. These are directly related to the wrongdoer’s earthly transgressions.[27]

Concepts of JahannamEdit

The Islamic prophet Idris is shown the afterlife places by an angel. In hell, the inmates are tormented by a demon.

Jahhanam is depicted as an abyss with scorching winds and the As-Sirat bridge above. Its gates are guardianed by Maalik and his subordinated angels. From the depth of Jahannam grows Zaqqum a tree with fruits looking like the heads of demons. Sinners will be tormented by the Zabaniyya. Quran 4:168 and Quran 37:23 talk of a road that leads to hell.[28] [6]

Sunni concept of JahannamEdit

The Ulama were not in agreement on whether abodes in hell last forever or not. Quran (10:107) suggested, that Jahannam will be destroyed some day.[29] The inhabitants may either be rehabilitated or cease to exist. At least two verses in the Quran (6:128[30] and 11:107[31]) emphasise that consignment to hell is horrible and eternal, with the caveat "except as God (or your Lord) wills it", while the part "except as God (or your Lord) wills it" is considered as a possible end of the eternity of hell.[32] However a common belief holds, the duration in hell always ends for Muslim,[33] but its exclusivity is disputed. Thus the concept of Jahannam includes both hell and purgatory[34] depending on exegesis. Some scholars like al-Ghazali and the thirteenth-century Muslim scholar Al-Qurtubi describes hell as a gigantic sentient being, rather than a place. In Paradise and Hell-fire in Imam al Qurtubi, Qurtubi writes, "On the Day of Judgment, hell will be brought with seventy thousand reins. A single rein will be held by seventy thousand angels…".[35] Based on verse 67:7 and verse 50:30 Jahannam inhales and has "breaths". According to a hadith, God will ask Jahannam, if it is full and Jahannam answers: "Are there any more (to come)?"[36]

Sunnism traditionally divides Jahannam (analogue to heaven) into seven stages. According to one common tradition the layers of hell are:

  • 1) A fire for sinners among the Muslims
  • 2) Inferno interim for the sinner among the Christians
  • 3) Provisional destination for sinners among the Jewish
  • 4) The burning fire for renegades
  • 5) A place for witches and fortunetellers
  • 6) Furnace for the disbelievers
  • 7) A bottomless abyss for hypocrites, like the Pharaoh and people who disbelieves after Isa's table or Muslims who are outwardly believers but inwardly infidels.[37]

Another common tradition divides hell into the following:

  • 1) A dim (surface), inhabited by mankind and jinn.
  • 2) Basit (plain), the prison of winds, from where the winds come from.
  • 3) Thaqil (region of distress), the antechamber of hell, in which dwell men with the mouth of a dog, the ears of a goat and the cloven hoof of an ox.
  • 4) Batih (place of torrents), a valley through which flows a stream of boiling sulphur to torment the wicked. The dweller in this valley have no eyes and in place of feet, have wings.
  • 5) Hayn (region of adversity), in which serpents of enormous size devour the infidels.
  • 6) Masika/Sijjin (store or dungeon), the office where sins are recorded and where souls are tormented by scorpions of the size of mules.
  • 7) As-Saqar (place of burning) and Athara (place of damp and great cold) the home of Iblis, who is chained in the midst of the rebel angels, his hand fastened one in front of and the other behind him, except when set free by God to chastise his demons.[38]

Mystic concept of JahannamEdit

Muslim mystics, just like non-mystics, take Jahannam to be a place where sinners in this world will be punished, but they have provided various characterizations of the notion of the Jahannam. Historically speaking, Sufi views develop from the fear of God to the love of God; they emphasize the interior of the sharia as well as its exterior. Sufism was finally developed into the theoretical mysticism which cultivated in the theories of ibn 'Arabi and his followers.

According to ibn 'Arabi, the Hell and the Heaven refer, in fact, to distance from, and proximity to, God, respectively. The Hell which is home to wrong-doers is their conception of their distance from God, and the painful punishment and humility is that of distance. Such a distance is caused by one's indulgence in their natural desires and the illusion of things other than God as existent. But such a distance is only illusory, since everything is a form of the degrees of the Divine Existence, and thus, everything other than God is but illusion. According to ibn 'Arabi, the Hell and the Heaven are psychological states of the soul manifestated after its separation from the body.[39] In later centuries, Sufis did not even find it acceptable for one to ask for the Heaven in the hope of meeting God or to do good in fear of hell.

Ahmadiyya concept of JahannamEdit

According to Ahmadiyya Islam, afterlife places are images of man's own spiritual life during lifetime, the fire a manifestation of his sins. The main purpose on Jahannam is therefore regarded to purge man from his evil deeds. Punishment therefore exists for perpetual spiritual advancement of human. Muslims and Non-Muslims both may enter or avoid hell depending on their deeds.[40][41]


Hadith literature give expanded details and descriptions of Jahannam. For example Jahannam is perceived to be so deep that if a stone were thrown into it, it would fall for 70 years before reaching the bottom.[42] (According to one calculation this would make it over 190,000,000 km deep, a far greater distance than the diameter of Earth.)[Note 1] The breadth of each of Hell's walls is equivalent to a distance covered by a walking journey of 40 years.[42] Malik in Hadith quotes Mohammed as saying that the fire of Jahannam was seventy times greater than fire on earth.[43] He also described that fire as "blacker than tar".[44]

In book 87 Hadith 155, "Interpretation of Dreams" of Sahih al-Bukhari, Muhammad talked of angels each 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".[45]

Some prominent people in, or destined to arrive in, hell mentioned in the Hadith and Quran are: Fir'awn (viz., the pharaoh of The Exodus, mentioned in Surah Yunus (specifically Q10:90-92), the wives of Nuh and Lut (mentioned in Surah At-Tahrim, specifically Q:66-10), and Abu Lahab and his wife (who were contemporaries and enemies of Muhammad and mentioned in Surah Al-Masadd, specifically Q:111).[citation needed]

Other people mentioned in Hadith include, but are not limited to, the mighty, the proud and the haughty.[46]

According to one hadith, out of every one thousand people entering into the afterlife, nine hundred and ninety-nine of them will end up in the fire.[47][48][49]

Sahih Muslim quotes Muhammad as saying that suicides would reside in Jahannam forever.[50] According to Hadith collector Muwatta Imam Malik (Imam Malik), Muhammad said: "Truly a man utters words to which he attaches no importance, and by them he falls into the fire of Jahannam."[51]

Al-Bukhari in book 72:834 added to the list of dwellers in Jahannam: "The people who will receive the severest punishment from Allah will be the picture makers".[52][53] Use of utensils made of precious metals could also land its users in Jahannam: "A person who drinks from a silver vessel brings the fire of Jahannam into his belly".[54] As could starving a cat to death: "A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger."[55] [56]

At least one hadith indicates the importance of faith in avoiding hell, stating: "... no one will enter Hell in whose heart is an atom’s weight of faith.”[Note 2]

Religious comparisonEdit


Unlike the hell often depicted in Christian culture,[Note 3] Jahannam is not the seat of the devil (Iblis), but simply a place created by God to punish and purify sinners and to imprison demons during Ramadan,[59][60]although the devil governs hell until the Day of Judgment. Meanwhile, the devil is released to chastises his fiends or passes over to the mortal world to promote evil.[61][62][63]

The Book of Revelation describes a "lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death",[64] which most Christians believe to be a description of Hell. While the Quran describes Jahannam as having seven levels, each for different sins, the Bible (as regards the issue of levels), speaks of the "lowest Hell (Sheol)".[65][66] It also refers to a "bottomless pit",[67] though it does not say this is Hell, while Dante's Inferno and other non-Biblical Christian-based 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.

Judeo-Islamic sourcesEdit

Arabic texts written by Jews in Judeo-Arabic script (particularly those which are identified with the Isra'iliyyat genre in the study of hadith) also feature descriptions of Jahannam (or Jahannahum). These seem to have been strongly influenced by the Islamic environment in which they were composed, and may be considered as holding many of the same concepts as those today identified with Islamic eschatology. A Judeo-Arabic version of a popular narrative known as The Story of the Skull (whose earliest version is attributed to Ka'ab al-Ahbar) offers a detailed picture of the concept of Jahannam.[68] Here, Malak al-Mawt (the Angel of Death) and a number of sixty angels seize the soul of the dead and begin torturing him with fire and iron hooks. Two black angels named Nākir and Nakīr (identified with Munkar and Nakir in Islamic eschatology) strike the dead with a whip of fire and take him to the lowest level of Jahannam. Then, they order the Earth to swallow and crush the dead inside its womb, saying: "Seize him and take revenge, because he has stolen Allāh’s wealth and worshipped others than Him".[68] Following this, the dead is brought before the dais of God where a herald calls for throwing the dead into Jahannam. There he is put in shackles sixty cubits long and into a leather sackcloth full of snakes and scorpions.

The Judeo-Arabic legend in question explains that the dead is set free from the painful perogatory after twenty-four years. In a final quote alluding to Isaiah 58.8, the narrative states that "nothing will help Man on the last day except good and loving actions, deeds of giving charity to widows, orphans, the poor and the unfortunate."[68]


Like Zoroastrianism, Muslims believe that on Judgement Day all souls will pass over a bridge over hell (As-Sirāt in Islam, Chinvat Bridge in Zorastrianism) which those destined for hell will find too narrow and fall below into their new abode.[69]


In case of a finite hell, as a circulation of beginning and reset, the cosmology resembles to a hinduistic notion of an eternal cosmic process of generation, decay and destruction.[70]


Some descriptions of Jahannam resemble buddhist descriptions of Naraka from Mahayana sutras in regard of destroying inhabitants of hell physically, while their consciousness still remains and after once the body is destroyed, it will regenerate again, thus the punishment will repeat.[71] However according to Buddhism belief, the inhabitants are able to gain good Karma and in certain circumstances leave hell again.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ hadith At-Tirmidhi (1999), Abu Dawood (4091) and Ibn Maajah (59) narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “No one will enter Paradise in whose heart is an atom’s weight of arrogance and no one will enter Hell in whose heart is an atom’s weight of faith.”[57]
  3. ^ The Christian Bible itself makes no mention of hell being the home of the devil.[58]


  1. ^ Tom Fulks Heresy? the Five Lost Commandments Strategic Book Publishing 2010 ISBN 978-1-609-11406-0 page74
  2. ^ "Islamic Terminology". Retrieved 23 December 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ Quran 2:119
  4. ^ Quran 104:4
  5. ^ Quran 101:9
  6. ^ a b Quran 67:5
  7. ^ "A Description of Hellfire (part 1 of 5): An Introduction". Religion of Islam. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "The Names of Hell-Fire". Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Rustomji, Nerina (2009). The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture. Columbia University Press. pp. 118–9. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Thomassen, Einar (2009). "Islamic Hell". Numen: International Review for the History of Religions. 56 (2/3). 
  11. ^ Rustomji, The Garden and the Fire, 2009: p.117-8
  12. ^ "The Coldness of Zamhareer". Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Rustomji, Nerina (2009). The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 117. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Rustomji, Nerina (2009). The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 121. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad (1989). On the Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. Cambridge, U.K.: Islamic Texts Society. 
  16. ^ Al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. pp. 173–177. 
  17. ^ Al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. pp. 180–181. 
  18. ^ Al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. pp. 182–188. 
  19. ^ Al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. p. 181. 
  20. ^ Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Quran. 99:6. 
  21. ^ Al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. pp. 195–197. 
  22. ^ Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Quran. 102:4-8. 
  23. ^ Yusuf Ali, Abudllah. Quran. 67:1. p. 1576. 
  24. ^ Al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. pp. 205–210. 
  25. ^ Leviton, Richard. The Mertowney Mountain Interviews. iUniverse. p. 59. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  26. ^ Halevi, Leor (4 May 2007). "The torture of the grave Islam and the afterlife". New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  27. ^ Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah; Layla Mabrouk (1987). The Soul's Journey after Death. Dar Al-Taqwa. 
  28. ^ Kaltner, John, ed. (2011). Introducing the Qur'an: For Today's Reader. Fortress Press. pp. 228–9. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  29. ^ F. E. Peters The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume II: The Words and Will of God Princeton University Press 2009 ISBN 978-1-400-82571-4 page 145
  30. ^ Quran 6:128
  31. ^ Quran 11:107
  32. ^ Mouhanad Khorchide, Sarah Hartmann Islam is Mercy: Essential Features of a Modern Religion Verlag Herder GmbH 2014 ISBN 978-3-451-80286-7 page chapter 2.5
  33. ^ A F Klein Religion Of Islam Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-136-09954-0 page 92
  34. ^ John Renard The Handy Islam Answer Book Visible Ink Press 2015 ISBN 978-1-578-59544-0
  35. ^ Ford, Khadija; Reda Bedeir (1425). Paradise and Hell-fire in Imâm Al-Qurtubî. El-Mansoura Egypt: Dar Al-Manarah. 
  36. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (2001). The Qur'an. Elmhurst, New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc. p. 1415. 
  37. ^ A F Klein Religion Of Islam Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-136-09954-0 page 92
  38. ^ Miguel Asin Palacios Islam and the Divine Comedy Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-134-53650-4 page 88-89
  39. ^ Rom Landau The Philosophy of Ibn 'Arabi Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-135-02969-2
  40. ^
  41. ^ Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Teachings of Islam: A discussion on the philosophy of spiritual development in Islam Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore USA 2011 ISBN 978-1-934-27117-9
  42. ^ a b Elias, Afzal Hoosen. "Conditions and Stages of Jahannam (Hell)" (PDF). Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  43. ^ Imam Malik. "Chapter 57 Hadith number 1". 
  44. ^ Imam Malik. "Chapter 57 Hadith 2". 
  45. ^ al-Bukhari. "87:155". 
  46. ^ "Hadith Qudsi 39". Forty Hadith Qudsi. 
  47. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:55:567 (Volume 4, Book 55, Hadith number 567)
  48. ^ Quran 56:39-55
  49. ^ al-Ghazali (1989). The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. The Islamic Text Society. 
  50. ^ Sahih Muslim. "001:199". 
  51. ^ Imam Malik. "Chapter 56 Hadith 6". 
  52. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:72:834
  53. ^ al-Bukhari. "72:834". 
  54. ^ Imam Malik. "Chapter 49 Hadith 11". 
  55. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:40:323
  56. ^ Parshall, Phil (1989). "8. Hell and Heaven". The Cross and the Crescent Understanding the Muslim Mind and Heart (PDF). Global Mapping International. p. 132. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  57. ^ Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid (2013-10-13). "170526: Commentary on the hadeeth, "No one who has an atom's weight of faith in his heart will enter Hell"". Islam Question and Answer. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  58. ^ "Hell Is Not Satan's Home". The Bible Says. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  59. ^ Tobias Nünlist Dämonenglaube im Islam Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG 2015 ISBN 978-3-110-33168-4 page 229 (german)
  60. ^ Yahiya Emerick The Complete Idiot's Guide to Islam, 3rd Edition Penguin 2011 ISBN 978-1-101-55881-2
  61. ^ name="Robert Lebling ">Robert Lebling Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar I.B.Tauris 2010 ISBN 978-0-857-73063-3
  62. ^ Gordon Newby A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam Oneworld Publications 2013 ISBN 978-1-780-74477-3
  63. ^ Miguel Asin Palacios Islam and the Divine Comedy Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-134-53643-6 page 89
  64. ^ King James Bible. Revelation 21:8. 
  65. ^ King James Bible. Deuteronomy 32:22. 
  66. ^ King James Bible. Psalms 86:13. 
  67. ^ King James Bible. Revelation 9:2. 
  68. ^ a b c Ørum, Olav G. (2017). ᵓUṣṣit il-Gumguma or 'The Story of the Skull' With Parallel Versions, Translation and Linguistic Analysis of Three 19th-century Judeo-Arabic Manuscripts from Egypt. Supplemented with Arabic Transliteration. Leiden: Brill. pp. 22–73; 130–181. ISBN 9789004345621. 
  69. ^ Encyclopedia of World Religions. Encyclopædia Britannica Store. p. 421. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  70. ^ Jean Holm, John Bowker Sacred Place Bloomsbury Publishing 2001 ISBN 978-1-623-56623-4 page 112
  71. ^ Rulu Teachings of the Buddha AuthorHouse 2012 ISBN 978-1-468-50903-8 page 147

Books and journal articlesEdit