The Fires of Hell

The continuity and development of the concept of hell in Bible and Qur’an can be understood from the underlying Greek word ‘Gehenna’, used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible to refer to the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, where children were sacrificed to the heathen god Moloch. The practice was outlawed by Josiah, but Jeremiah still had to warn the people of Judah to refrain from burning their children in Hinnom valley. God can destroy with fire, but in the Hebrew Bible, this refers to world of the living. The idea of hellfire as a punishment after death, as mentioned in the New Testament and elaborated in the Qur’an, is foreign to the Hebrew Bible. In the New Testament the word ‘Gehenna’ acquires the broader meaning of the fiery place where the evildoers are punished after death. It is translated below as hell.

The same word, Jahannam in Arabic, is also translated as hell. The Qur’anic version of hell is far more detailed than that of the New Testament and is described in many surahs.

Iblis, the Devil or Satan, and his demons lead people astray until they finally join them in hell’s flames. It is the sinister (Latin for left) ones who go to hell. The Qur’an speaks of the seven gates of hell, each for a different class of sins. It specifies killing oneself in injustice as a direct way to hell. Other sins relate to wealth. Usurping an orphan’s wealth as well as cheating in trade and refraining from a good investment in the way of God lead to hell. Money that is buried produces the heat of hell. According to Jesus, he who refuses to help others deserves hellish punishment. Verbal aggression is also rewarded by fire.

Simply proclaiming one’s faith is not enough to keep out of hell. Both books relegate hypocrites to the flames. Unbelievers also deserve hell. What does it take to belong to this category? In the Qur’an, the word ‘unbeliever’ has a strong ethical meaning. Satan/Iblis was the first and foremost ‘unbeliever’. He does not deny the existence of God; he even talks to him. However, he disobeys God and strives against divine justice. Satan/Iblis is the enemy of humankind. He tempts people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and leads them to hell. In Revelation, Satan and his followers are thrown into the pit of fire. In the Qur’an, the devil and his friends undergo the same fate.

According to the Qur’an, on the other hand, Jews and Christians can escape from hell if they act in accordance with the Law of Moses and the Gospel. That is, if they take their own monotheism seriously. The New Testament holds up the Good Samaritan, a non-Jew, as an example to his fellow Jews, far surpassing the priests in his charity. So believer/unbeliever is not a black and white category in either book.

The Qur’an indicates that the oppressed who have not been shown the true way can hope for forgiveness.

Both the New Testament and the Qur’an present the threat of hell to the wrongdoer and an escape through forgiveness. Only one blasphemy is exempt from forgiveness: in the New Testament, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in the Qur’an, the setting up of partner gods besides Allah. In all other cases, man can repent and God forgives. In the Hebrew Bible and in the Qur’an, God’s forgiveness is a recurring theme In the New Testament, redemption comes through the Son.


Hinnom Valley and Hell
And (the King Josiah ed.)…defiled Topheth…in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech. 2 Kings: 23:10

“For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight,” says the Lord. “…they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.” Jeremiah 7:30-31
(The Lord said ed.) “For a fire is kindled in My anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Deuteronomy 32:22
Fear Him who…has power to cast into hell; Luke 12:5

…Jesus said: “…if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.

It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire… And the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9: 39, 47-48

Everlasting fire for the devil
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25: 41

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan …and he cast him into the bottomless pit… Revelation 20: 1-3
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…Revelation 20:1

Those on the left cursed
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Revelation 21: 8

Then He (Jesus ed.) will also say to those on the left hand,

‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

Matthew 25: 41-43

(Jesus said ed.)…whoever is angry with his brother without a cause…shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5: 22

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue…is set on fire by hell. James 3:6

Their punishment will be eternal destruction, and they will be kept far from the presence of our Lord and his glorious strength.

2 Thessalonians, 1:9

Hypocrites deserve hell

Then Jesus spoke…saying: “Woe

to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

Matthew 23:1-2, 29, 33

Unbelievers, Jews, Samaritans

But the…unbelieving… shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire…Revelation 21: 8

A certain man… fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

…a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

…a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds… and took care of him.Luke 10:30-31, 33-34

Forgiveness and its limits

O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously…” Hosea 14:1-2

I…confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5

…all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation. Mark 3:28-29

…the Father…has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14


Jahannam, the blazing hell
In order that Allah may separate the impure from the pure, put the impure, one on another, heap them together, and cast them into Hell. 8 The Spoils of War, 37
(They will be) in the midst of a fierce Blast of Fire and in Boiling Water, and in the shades of Black Smoke. 56 The Inevitable Event, 42-43
Those who are wretched shall be in the Fire: there will be for them therein (nothing but) the heaving of sighs and sobs. 11 Hud,106
And you will see the Sinners that day bound together in fetters- Their garments of liquid pitch, and their faces covered with Fire; That Allah may requite each soul according to its deserts; and verily Allah is swift in calling to account. 14 Ibrahim, 49-51
…their abode will be Hell: every time it shows abatement, We shall increase from them the fierceness of the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through.

We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty…17 The Israelites,97; 4 The Women,56

Fire for the hosts of Iblis
“…for those who resist Allah, is the penalty of the Fire…they will be thrown headlong into the (Fire) – they and those straying in Evil, And the whole hosts of Iblis together.”

8 The Spoils of War, 14; 26 The Poets,94-95

Whoever, forsaking Allah, takes Satan for a friend, of a surety has suffered a loss that is manifest. Satan makes them promises, and creates in them false desires; but Satan’s promises are nothing but deception. They (his dupes) will have their dwelling in Hell, and from it they will find no way of escape.4 The Women, 119-121

The left-hand: the wrong-doers
The Companions of the Left Hand…in the midst of a fierce Blast of Fire…such is our requital for those who do wrong.

56 The Inevitable Event, 41, 7 The Heights, 41

To it (Hell ed.) are seven Gates: for each of those Gates is a (special) class (of sinners) assigned.

15 The Rocky Tract,44

…nor kill… yourselves… If any do that in rancor and injustice – soon shall We cast them into the Fire:

Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a Fire into their own bodies…
Do not eat up your property among yourselves in vanities…4 The Women, 29-30; 10; 29

And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the Way of Allah…heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell…9 Repentance, 34-35

Faith no guarantee

There are…many among the priests…who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the Way of Allah. The Hypocrites…enjoin evil, and forbid what is just… Allah has promised the Hypocrites men and women…the fire of Hell.

9 Repentance, 34, 67-68

Unbelievers People of the Book

The Unbelievers spend their wealth to hinder (men) from the path of Allah…they will be gathered together to Hell. 8 The Spoils of War, 36

And indeed Hell surrounds the Unbelievers (on all sides). 9 Repentance 49

They do blaspheme who say: ”God is Christ the son of Mary.” But Christ said: ”O Children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah, – Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help.

5 The Table spread, 72

Those…who follow the Jewish (scriptures),… and the Christians – any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness – on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 5 The Table Spreads, 69

Limits of forgiveness

Our Lord!…forgive us, then, our sins, and save us from the agony of the Fire.”- 3 Al-‘Imran,16

”We have wronged our own souls: if You do not forgive us and do not bestow upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” 7 The Heights, 23

Do they not know that Allah accepts repentance…? For Allah blots out sins and forgives again and again. 9 Repentance,104; 4 The Women, 43

Allah does not forgive that partners should be set up with Him… to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed… But He forgives whom He pleases other sins than this… 4 The Women,48, 116

…For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful 3 Al-‘Imran, 89