Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Creation and Purpose of Hell Pt. 1

A Muslim Perspective

Sam Shamoun

The Quran expressly teaches that Allah purposely created men (as well as genies [jinns]) to be fuel for the fire, for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell:

And if ye do it not - and ye can never do it - then guard yourselves against the Fire prepared for disbelievers, whose fuel is of men and stones. S. 2:24 Pickthall

Whomsoever Allah guides, he is the guided one, and whomsoever He sends astray, those! They are the losers. And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones. S. 7:178-179 Hilali-Khan

IF thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom thy Lord hath bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them: and the Word of thy Lord shall be fulfilled: "I will fill Hell with jinns and men all together." S. 11:118-119 Y. Ali

IF We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true, "I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together." S. 32:13 Y. Ali

Allah has even decreed that everyone must necessarily enter into hell itself, with only those whom he deems to be pious being taken out from there:

There shall be none of you but shall descend into the same [hell]: [This] is an established decree upon thy Lord. Afterwards we will deliver those who shall have been pious, but we will leave the ungodly therein on their knees. S. 19:71-72 Sale

What this implies is that Allah has already predestined the fate of every single creature, having already decided beforehand whether he will lead a person to salvation or mislead an individual to follow a path which will result in his/her eternal destruction, which is precisely what the Quran says in several passages:

What is the matter with you that you are divided into two parties regarding the Hypocrites? And ALLAH has overthrown them because of what they earned. Desire ye to guide him whom ALLAH has caused to perish? And for him whom ALLAH causes to perish thou shalt not find a way. S. 4:88 Sher Ali

And We did not send any apostle but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly; then Allah makes whom He pleases err and He guides whom He pleases and He is the Mighty, the Wise. S. 14:4 Shakir

This explains why the Quran expressly states that no one can choose to believe or do what is right unless this has been something which Allah has decided and willed for the person:

Verily, this is a Reminder. So whoever wishes, may take a way unto his Lord. But you cannot so wish unless ALLAH so wills. Verily, ALLAH is All-Knowing, Wise. HE admits into HIS mercy whom HE pleases and for the wrongdoers HE has prepared a painful punishment. S. 76:29-31 Sher Ali

Verily, this (the Qur'an) is no less than a Reminder to (all) the 'Alamin (mankind and jinns). To whomsoever among you who wills to walk straight, And you will not, unless (it be) that Allah wills, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). S. 81:27-29 Hilali-Khan

The ahadith bring out the point of Allah having already arbitrarily chosen whom he will save and whom he will destroy more explicitly. Note, for instance, the narrations that Muhsin-Khan cite in their exegesis of Q. 7:179:

(1)  (V.7 :179)…

Narrated ‘Abdullah (bin Mas’ud): “(The matter of the creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down HIS (i.e., the new creature’s) DEEDS, his livelihood, his (date) of death, AND WHETHER HE WILL BE BLESSED OR WRETCHED (IN THE HEREAFTER). Then the soul is breathed into him. So, a man amongst you may do (good) deeds till there is only a cubit between him and Paradise AND THEN WHAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN FOR HIM DECIDES HIS BEHAVIOUR and he starts doing (evil) deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire. And similarly a man amongst you may do (evil) deeds till there is only a cubit between him and the (Hell) Fire, AND THEN WHAT IS WRITTEN FOR HIM DECIDES HIS BEHAVIOUR, and he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 4/3208 (O .P .430)]…

Narrated Ali: While we were sitting with the Prophet who had a stick with which he was scraping the earth, he lowered his head and said, “There is none of you but has his place assigned either in the (Hell) Fire or in Paradise.” Thereupon a man from the people said, “Shall we not depend upon this, O Allah’s Messenger?”*. The Prophet said, “No, but carry on and do your deeds, for everybody finds it easy to do such deeds (as will lead him to his place).” The Prophet then recited the Verse: 

“As for him who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah…” (92 :5) [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 8/6605 (O .P .602)].

* He meant: Shall we abandon our deeds since the fate of everybody HAS ALREADY BEEN DECIDED? (Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an In the English Language, by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Lahore, Houston, New York, First edition: January 2000], Part 2: From Surah 6 to 9, pp. 239-240; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And here, also, is what they wrote in regards to Q. 23:60, a text which speaks of the fear and uncertainty that believing Muslims struggle since they can never know for certain that Allah will be pleased with their deeds:

(1)  (V.23 :60)…

(36) CHAPTER. (What is said regarding) the fear of a believer that his good deeds may be annulled (lost) without his knowledge.

And Ibrahim At-Taimi said, “When I compare my talks with my deeds (then I find that my deeds are deficient compared with my talks), I am afraid, my deeds deny what I talk.” And Ibn Abi Mulaika said, “I met thirty Companions of the Prophet and each of them was afraid of becoming a hypocrite and none of them said that he was as strong in belief as the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) or Mikael (Michael).” And Al-Hasan (Al-Basri) said, “It is only a faithful believer who dreads hypocrisy and only a hypocrite who considers himself safe (is not afraid of hypocrisy).”

And one should be afraid, not to persist in hypocrisy and disobedience of Allah (by committing sins) without repenting to Allah immediately, as is referred to in the Statement of Allah: “And (they) do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know.” (V.3 :135)…  

Narrated ‘Aishah (the wife of the Prophet), I asked Allah’s Messenger about this (following verse): “And those who give that (their charity) which they give (and also do other good deeds) with their hearts full of fear…” (V.23 :60).

She added: “Are these who drink alcoholic drinks and steal?” Allah’s Messenger replied: “No! O the daughter of As-Siddiq, but they are those who fast, pray, and practise charity, and they are afraid that (their good) deeds may not be accepted (by Allah) from them. ‘It is these who hasten in goods.’” (Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, 3225)(Tafsir al-Qurtubi)… 

Narrated Sahl (bin Sa'd): There was a man who fought most bravely of all the Muslims on behalf of the Muslims in a battle (Ghazwa) in the company of the Prophet. The Prophet looked at him and said. "If anyone would like to see a man from the people of the Fire, let him look at this (man)." On that, a man from the people (Muslims) followed him, and he was in that state i.e., fighting fiercely against Al-Mushrikun [polytheists, pagans, idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad] till he was wounded, and then he hastened to end his life by placing his sword between his breasts (and pressed it with great force) till it came out between his shoulders. Then the man (who was watching that person) went quickly to the Prophet and said, "I testify that you are Allah's Messenger!" The Prophet asked him, "Why do you say that?" He said, "You said about so-and-so, 'If anyone would like to see a man from the people of the Fire, he should look at him,' that fought most bravely of all of us on behalf of the Muslims and I knew that he would not die as a Muslim (martyr). So when he got wounded, he hastened to die and committed suicide." Thereupon the Prophet said, "A man may do the deeds of the people of the Fire, while in fact he is one of the people of Paradise, and he may do the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact he belongs to the people of Fire, and verily, (the rewards of) the deeds are decided by the last actions (deeds)”. [Sahih al-Bukhari, 8/6607 (O.P.604)].

(1) (V.23 :61):

(2) CHAPTER. (What is said regarding) the pen has become dry (i.e., after the writing has been completed), with Allah’s Knowledge.

And Allah’s Statement…

“…And Allah knowing (him as such) left him astray…” (V.45 :23)

And Abu Hurairah said: The Prophet said to me, “The pen has dried after writing what you will surely encounter.”

And Ibn ‘Abbas said: “…They are foremost in them (in good deeds, e.g., prayers, Zakat, fasts, Hajj, etc.)…” (V.23 :61) means that happiness has already been foreordained for them.

Narrated Imran bin Husain: A man said, "O Allah's Apostle! Can the people of Paradise be known (differentiated) from the people of the (Hell) Fire?” The Prophet replied, "Yes." The man said, "Why do people (try to) do (good) deeds?" The Prophet said, "Everyone will do the deeds for which he has been created to do or he will do those deeds which will be made easy for him to do (i.e., everybody will find easy to do such deeds as will lead him to his destined place for which he has been created).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 8/6596 (O.P.595)]. (Ibid., Part 5: From Surah 21 to 28, pp. 195-199; bold and underline emphasis ours)   

Muhammad’s reported words are crystal clear. The faithful are constantly fearful of Allah since they can never know whether their righteous deeds will be accepted seeing that they do not know if they are of the people whom Allah has predestined for paradise or hell.

Such a teaching that Allah has deliberately created people for the sole purpose of sending them to hell should trouble any individual, especially those who have been accustomed to reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible. In fact, this doctrine of Allah purposely deceiving or misleading people proved to be troubling even to the Christians living at the time of Muhammad’s companions:

388. Muhammad said, “Abu Hanifah informed us from ‘Abd al-A’la at-Taymi from his father that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said while delivering the khutbah to people at al-Jabiyah when he said in his khutbah, ‘Allah misleads whomever He wills and guides whomever He wills.’ One of those priests said, ‘What does the Amir al-Mu’minun say?’ They said, ‘He says, “Allah misleads whomever He wills and guides whomever He wills.”’ He said, ‘THAT IS UPSIDE-DOWN! ALLAH IS TOO JUST TO MISLEAD ANYONE!’ That saying of his reached ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and he said, ‘On the contrary, ALLAH HAS MISLED YOU. By Allah! if it were not for your covenant I WOULD HAVE STRUCK OFF YOUR HEAD.’” (The Kitab al-Athar of Imam Abu Hanifah: The Narration of Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Ash-Shaybani [Turath Publishing, London, 2007], IMAN, 113. Affirmation of the Decree, p. 223; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Instead of correcting the priest by telling him that he has misunderstood the meaning of Allah misleading people, Umar instead informed the man that Allah had also misled him and even threatened to behead him for daring to question Allah’s (in)justice in choosing whomever he so pleases to lead astray!

With the foregoing in view we now proceed to the second part of our discussion to see what the Holy Bible says concerning this very issue.