Jahannam (Part 3 of 4)

The Keepers of Hell 

Standing over Hell are MIGHTY and STERN angels who never disobey Allaah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala, Who has created them.  They do whatever He commands them, as Allaah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala says:

“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are [appointed] angels stern [and] severe, who flinch not [from executing] the Commands they receive from Allaah, but do [precisely what] they are commanded.”  (66:6)

Their number is nineteen as Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) says:

“Soon I will cast him into Hellfire. And what will explain to you what Hellfire is?  Naught does it permit to endure, and naught does it leave alone!  Darkening and changing the colour of man!  Over it are nineteen [angels as guardians and keepers of Hell]” (74:26-30)

This number was a challenge to the kuffaar who thought that they would easily overcome such a small number, but they did not realise that one of these angels has the strength to confront the whole of mankind on his own.  For this reason, Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) said in the next aayah:

“And We have set none but angels as guardians of the Fire, and We have fixed their numbers [19] only as a trial for the disbelievers..” (74:31)

Ibn Rajab said, “What is known and well-established among the earlier and later generations (as-Salaf wal-Khalaf) is that the trial came about when the number of angels was mentioned and the kuffaar thought that it was possible to kill them.  They thought that they would be able to fight and resist them.  They did not know that humankind in its entireity would not be able to resist even ONE of them.” (at-Takhweef min an-Naar, p.174)

These angels are the ones whom Allaah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala called the guardians of Hell:

“Those in the Fire will say to the keepers [angels] of Hell: “Call upon your Rabb to lighten for us the torment for a day!” (40:49)

The Gates of Hell

Allaah has told us that Hell has seven gates, as He (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) said:

“And surely, Hell is the promised place for them all. It [Hell] has seven gates, for each of these gates is a [special] class [of sinners] assigned”. (15:43-44)

Ibn Katheer commenting on this aayah, said: “This means that each gate has been allotted its share of the followers of Iblees who will enter it, and the will not be able to avoid it. May Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) protect us from it. Each will enter a gate according to his deeds, and will be assigned to a level of Hell according to his deeds.”

When the disbelievers come to Hell, its gates will be opened, and they will enter it, to remain there forever:

“And those who disbelieved will be driven to Hell in groups, till, when they reach it, the gates thereof will be opened [suddenly like a prison at the arrival of the prisoners]. And its keepers will say, “Did not the Messengers come to you from yourselves – reciting to you the Verses of your Rabb, and warning you of the Meeting of this Day of yours”. They will say, “Yes” but the Word of torment has been justified against the disbelievers”. (39:71)

After they are admitted, they will be told:

“Enter you the gates of Hell, to abide therein. And [indeed] what an evil abode of the arrogant!” (39:72)

These gates will be shut upon the evildoers, and they will have no hope of ever escaping from them after that, as Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) says,

“But those who reject Our Signs, they are the [unhappy] Companions of the Left Hand. On them will be Fire vaulted over [all round].” (90:19-20)

Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “vaulted” (literally: “shut over them”) means that the gates will be locked”. al-Mujaahid pointed out that the word used (mu’sadah) is the word used in the dialect of Quraysh to mean “locked” or shut” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer 7/298)

In the Qur’aan Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) says:

“Woe to every [kind of] scandalmonger and backbiter, who piles up wealth and lays it by. Thinking that his wealth would make him last forever! By no means! He will be sure to be thrown into that which Breaks to Pieces. And what will explain to you that which breaks to pieces? The Fire of [the wrath of] Allaah, kindled [to a blaze], which mounts [right] to the heart. It shall be made into a vault over them, in columns outstretched.” (104:1-9)

Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) states that the gates of Hell will be locked behind them. Ibn Abbaas said, “In columns outstretched” means that the gates will be stretched out”. ‘Atiyah said, “It is a pillar of iron“. Muqaatil said, “The gates will be closed firmly behind them and locked with a bolt of iron, so that the pain and heat will be intensified. The expression “stretched forth” applies to the “pillar”, meaning that the bolts with which the gates are locked will be very long, because a long bolt is stronger than a short one” (Ibn Rajab, at-Takhweef min an-Naar, p.61)

 

The Intensity of Its Heat and the Vastness of Its Smoke and Sparks

Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) says:

“And those on the left hand – who will be those on the Left Hand? In fierce hot wind and boiling water. And shadow of black smoke, [that shadow] neither cool, nor [even] good”. (56:41-44)

This aayah includes all of the things that people avail themselves of in this world when it is too hot; these three things are: water, air and shade. But the aayah states that these three things will be of no help whatsoever to the people of Hell. The air of Hell is al-Sumoom, which is an intensely hot wind; its water is al-Hameem, boiling water; its shade is al-Yahmoom, which is a part of the smoke of Hell. (at-Takhweef min an-Naar, p.85)

Just as this aayah emphasises the horrifying position of those on the Left Hand, who are the people of Hell, another aayah emphasises the horror of Hell itself. Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) says:

“But he whose balance [of good deeds] will be [found] light, will have his home in a [bottomless] pit. And what will explain to you what this is? [It is] a Fire blazing fiercely!” (101:8-11)

The shade referred to in the aayah

“and the shadow of black smoke” (56:43)

 is the shade cast by the smoke of Hell. Shade usually makes one feel cool and comfortable, and people love to feel it, but this shade [in Hell] will neither be cool nor pleasant; it is the shadow of black smoke.

The Qur’aan tells us that this shade is the smoke of Hell which rises above the Fire:

“Depart you to a shadow [of smoke ascending] in three columns, [which yields] no shade of coolness and is of no use against the Fierce Blaze”. Indeed! It [Hell] throws about sparks [huge] as forts, as if there were [a string of] yellow camels [marching swiftly].” (77:30-33)

This aayah states that the smoke that rises from Hell is so great that it is divided into three columns. It gives shade, but it is not cooling and it offers no protection from the Raging Fire. The sparks that fly from this Fire are like huge castles, and they are likened to yellow or black camels.

Allaah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) explained how strong this Fire is, and how it affects the tormented:

“Soon I will cast him into Hellfire. And what will explain to you exactly what Hellfire is? Naught does it permit to endure, and naught does it leave alone! Darkening and changing the colour of man!” (74:26-29)

The Fire consumes all, destroying everything and leaving nothing untouched. It burns skin, reaching to the bone, melting the contents of the stomach and exposing what is innermost.

The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Salaam) told us: “Fire as we know it is one-seventieth part of the Fire of Hell.” Someone said, “O Messenger of Allaah (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Salaam), it is enough as it is!” He said, “It [the fire of Hell] is as if sixty nine equal portions were added to the fire as we know it. (al-Bukhaari)

This Fire never dies down, no matter how much time passes:

“So taste you [the results of your evil actions]; no increase shall We give you, except in torment”. (78:30)

“…whenever it abates, We shall increase for them the fierceness of the Fire”. (17:97)

The disbelievers will not taste the luxury of respite, and the torment will not be lessened for them no matter how long it lasts:

“Their torment shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped”. (2:86)

The Fire is rekindled every day as is stated in the hadith reported by Muslim from ‘Amr ibn ‘Absah (Radiyallahu Anhu) who said:

“The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Salaam) said, “Pray salaat as-subh (the early morning prayer) then stop praying when the sun is rising until it is fully up, for it rises between the horns of Shaytaan and the disbelievers prostrate to the sun at that time. Then pray, for the prayer is witnessed (by the angels) until the shadow becomes the length of a lance. Then cease prayer, for at that time Hell is heated up. Then when the shadow moves forward, pray..”

al-Bukhaari and Muslim report from Abu Hurayrah (Radiyallahu Anhu) that the Prophet said, “When it becomes very hot, wait until it cools down to pray, because the intense heat is a breeze from Hell”.

The Fire of Hell will be further refuelled on the Day of Resurrection when it receives its inhabitants:

“And when Hellfire shall be kindled to a fierce blaze, and when Paradise shall be brought near”. (81:12-13)

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