Where There is No Fire Escape: Fear of the Hellfire in Islam

by Dr. Ali Shehata

27:24 (We have made their deeds fair seeming to them, barred them from Allah’s Way…)

Swallowed lies of popular culture and lost a great deal of Imaan. Good euphemism for bad things are given.

“I hope they serve beer in hell:” People think Hell is like being at the poolside in Miami.

Images seen in popular culture. All your friends are there, everyone is high-fiving. Unfortunately this is how we see it.

And here is heaven. You can sit on a cloud in big long clothes and talk to people. Boring. This is the concept that people are getting unfortunately. I have heard people say to me that hell looks like the fun place to be.

Right now, if I was to ask you to write me three pages about what you know of the hellfire, you would not be able to write me more than fluff. Details. We don’t know very much about the hellfire at all. Because we are sucked into things like this.

When I prepare programs, I am the first recipient.

When the fact of the matter is, we don’t like to say fear Allah, why is fear a bad word? In the dawah sense we don’t like to use it. This wrath, vengeful. We are competing with Jesus is loooove. Then we’re like, Fear Allah, whoa there is a big contrast there. We need to change our marketing strategy. Nobody likes to use that word anymore. granted, taqwa does not mean fear Allah.

The commandment to fear Hell is a command.

2:24. Then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones – which is prepared for those who reject Faith.

Allah is trying to scare you. This is intended. Allah is instilling fear into the hearts of his servants. Have fear, have taqwa. This is a serious issue. Not relax and you have another day. Believers are characterized by fear. This is praising them, not censoring them. The torment is that which before no one can feel secure.

I don’t care when the Christians say, I have a guarantee. Yeah right. We’ll see on the Day of Judgement where that guarantee will take you. We have no idea in which condition we will die. This is a characteristic of the believers that we are encouraged to have.

One of the great scholars of Islam passed by her house and heard her say the verses 52: 27 – 28. “They will say: “Before, we used to be in fear among our families. Yet Allah has been good to us, and has delivered us from the Penalty of the Scorching Wind.”

He went to the market, at least an hour, maybe two. She is still reciting these ayat and crying. This is Aisha (RA). The wife of the Prophet. Guaranteed Jannah. So why is she sitting there crying? This is the behavior of the ones who attained Jannah.

This is a very foreign concept. I sit there and I recite something two or three times, I get tired, I get bored. I can’t see myself praying one salaah for two hours, why is she crying, how is she crying? This is something I hope we can do to reach this level.

Ibrahim at-Taimee used to say, “It is a must for those who aren’t distressed that they be afraid that they will be consigned to Hell, for the people of Paradise will say, ‘Praise be to Allah, that One that relieved us from our distress.’ 35:43

When we think about meeting Allah, we have nothing going on. I am the same, I am struggling too. This heart is completely empty. There is no distress. It is an uncomfortable thought for us.

Praise be to Allah, we didn’t know that Allah was going to accept us or not. We were in such a state of distress internally. Are we distressed at all. We are. We are very distressed. But not about this. We are distressed about who we are going to marry. We are distressed about dunya. We stay up late at night. I know you guys send me emails at 2 or 3 AM. I hope you are praying.

We are distressed, not about higher concerns. Ijma’aa al-Himma (sp?) Combine your concerns and make them one. And that concern is what? What Allah thinks about you. I have a great job and great family, what does it matter if Allah is not happy with me.

Everyone looks good here. We are showered and fed. The one who brought you into that condition, why do you worry about that? Why do you worry about tomorrow so much. I am not telling you forget it. But our higher concern, the linking concern is Allah’s opinion of us. How is our relationship with him. This should be the distress. This is that you make your concern higher.

Most of the stuff that gets us down, problems, disagreements, are petty things. And this is the shaytaan being happy with us.

“We used to be in fear among our families,” 52:26 This is the speech of the people of Jannah. They were always worried.

Let’s make a balance here. Is it Islam to go about depressed and frowning? So you should be thankful, have contentment when it comes to the dunya. I want you guys to tell me about the Prophet SAW. He was smiling a lot. There is a balance. We are living in this dunya so we have responsibilities to this dunya.

One companion was distressed that his eman went down when he was not around the Prophet. When he felt that, he felt that he was a hypocrite. He was completely blinded by that. He walked like a person going insane. They went to the Prophet SAW about this issue. He replied if you felt like that all the time, the angels would shake your hands in the streets. They would be giving you salaam. That is not the way it works. Sa’atun wa sa’aa. An hour for this, and an hour for that. There are times that we have to be cheerful and we have to be happy. There has to be this time when we are part of life. It is alright. But we have to balance that on the other end with the other hour. We spend that time making dhikr, weeping over our sins. This type of balance. We are very imbalanced. We have the problem that we are full of the dunya. We want 23.7 hours of dunya.

This is  a serious reminder. Nu’maan ibn Basheer once stated that he heard the Messenger of Allah SAW in a khutbah saying, “I warn you concerning the Fire! I warn you concerning the Fire!” He said this so loud that a person in the market could hear him. (Ahmad – Sahih)

We have this concept that the markets came closer together. Some people have markets on their computer. At the time of the Prophet SAW, there was a souq. That was the only market that there was. IT was such a distance, that Uthmaan RA did what? He did something unique. He did two adhans. The first adhan was made in the market. When people are buying and selling, they forget. I got a good deal here. So one in the market, and one in the masjid.

So giving two adhans in the masjid is bid’ah. You do them separate. Calling the same group of people who are sitting there anyway doesn’t make sense.

I am warning you from Hell – Prophet SAW. IT is a very serious matter. He himself feared it. If that is not enough for you to say wake up, there is nothing else I can say.

Adi ibn Hatim reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW made a mention of the Fire. He turned his face aside and diverted his attention and then said: Guard yourselves against the Fire. He turned his face and diverted his attention till we thought as if he were actually seeing it and then said: Protect yourselves against the Fire even if it is with half a date, and he who does not find it, (then he should do so) with pleasant words. (Bukhari and Muslim)

When was the last time someone greeted you with a big smile and hug. If you want to give charity, as much as you give you will have a shade to rest under it. Not everyone has a lot of money to give. We see how valuable it is. For some people it is as if they have to pay to smile. The Prophet smiled. This is the characteristic of the believers.

This fear that they had was enough to affect their sleep. Fajr does not affect our sleep. These people could not sleep at all, some. We sleep really peacefully.

Narrated Abu Hurairah and Anas that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “I have not seen one who wishes to escape the Hellfire sleep restfully, nor could he sleep well the one who truly seeks Paradise.” – Tirmidhi.

They feel like, “Ah, I shouldn’t sleep right now.” He gave it to us both ways. Maybe you aren’t thinking about the hellfire, you are thinking about Jannah. If I told you there was a big pot of money here, what would you do during the break? Take a nap? What about this prize? The people who want the prize, they can’t sleep.

When was the last time it was time to go to bed, and you prayed two raka’at? Two raka’ah in the middle of the two light, you finish them in four minutes. two raka’at in the middle of the night awake, is better than the whole world and everything in it.

Let me recite Quran, I have been online for two hours, let me give some sadaqah to an orphan fund. Purify the time I have been wasting on the computer. What is stopping us from going to bed? Facebook, video games. That TV marathon. THese ideas happen all the time. So what are you going to give as evidence? What is the evidence. That I stayed up watching LoTR or Harry Potter? The high score on Halo?

Or are we going to say my evidence was, I prayed two raka’ats. When I found myself wasting my life on the computer, I gave sadaqah.

The Prayer of Ibn ‘Umar

Whoever witnessed Abdullah ibn umar in prayer would have seen his as he swayed, leaned and moaned, such that he who didn’t know him would have assumed he was afflicted with something. Yet this was only a result of his reflection upon ayaat that mentioned the Hellfire like,

“And when they are cast, bound together into a constricted place therein, they will plead for destruction there and then! “This day plead not for a single destruction: plead for destruction oft-repeated!” 25:13-14

Allah end us, we don’t want to exist anymore, they will say. They will want that Allah destroy them and they disintegrate. Don’t pray for one, pray for many. You are going to be destroyed again and again. Many times. Is our heart not affected when we hear that? We don’t have a guarantee that we will not be among them. These are our lessons. When was the last time the salaah affected us? Most of us get affected, something happens, just reciting, the stars align, and you cry. And you don’t know why.

When did we cry because we didn’t know if this would be us? We all live in very challenging circumstances. It happens all the time. Brothers disappear into the nightclub. What makes you secure?

When you are by yourself, this is when the temptation is there. Who said you are ever going to come back from that. That you are going to see the way back. Those sins come and your heart becomes veiled. This happens to people all the time.

This is why I care so much about you as young people. It happens all the time. We have a lot of young Muslims doing drugs, they slowly slip away. We can easily be these people. That could be me.

Among the Word of the Ulama:

Abu al-Jawzaa’ used to say, “If I ever was given the chance to govern the people in any capacity, I would place two people upon a minaret on the roadside and have them call out to the passers, ‘The Fire! The Fire!”

Yazid ibnu Hawshab said, I never say two people more afraid of Hell than al-Hassan al Basri and Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz. It was like the Fire was created only for them.

We act like the fire was created for everyone else BUT us. al-Hassan: I fear that tomorrow Allah will throw me in Hell.

We need to develop this fear. it is critical. It is part of the Sunnah. In our culture, our Islamic culture, fear is not used. There has to be balanced, but we are very imbalanced.

Mystical or Misguided? certain “saints” say they worship Allah only out of love. Should we worship only out of fear of torment?

It is an easy answer. The Prophet SAW looked at Hell and he was afraid. Did the Prophet ask protection from the hellfire? Yes? Rabbana aatina fid dunya hasanata wa bil akhirati hasanata waqeena adhaban naar.

The Prophet SAW interacted with the ayaat. A lot of the things that we see, the easiest thing for us to go back to is see what the Prophet SAW did.

Could this be a compelling argument? Yes! It’s mystical, kinda zen. Just worship Allah. Ok, so you can feel good and do some deep breathing. But where are you from the sunnah? Does it make sense? Just go back to what is said in the Sunnah.

A slave-girl came to the Prophet and he wanted to determine if she was a believer. He asked her where was Allah. She pointed up. Case closed.

It is very simple. Just go back to the sunnah. This religion is not just for phDs. Not everyone knows what they are talking about.

Whoever worships Allah with hope for mercy alone is a Murji’. They were people who said that Allah, all he wants from us is eman in the heart. There is no connection with action. This is like the taxicab driver who says, eman is here, I don’t have time to pray. This is very similar to Christians. You want to go drink do drugs, as long as Jesus is your savior as you are smoking your crack, you’re good.

What about only out of fear? The khariji. There is no repentance, a major sin consigned a person to Hell forever. This took out repentance. They did a lot of takfeer, we know because they fought the companions of the Prophet over a misunderstanding. Abdullah ibn Abbas explained it to them, and they made takfeer on them.

Whoever worships out of love alone is a heretic. You are denying parts of the Quran itself. People who did this went on the road to heresy.

Whoever did this all three combined is on the sunnah.

Love for Allah is more noble and honorable than fearing Allah. It is like a bird, the body is love. One wing is worshipping out of fear, and the other is hope for Allah’s mercy. It cannot fly without either component.

One should not be given precedence over the other. Out of a desire to be close to Him, please Him, thank Him.

al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah reports that the Prophet SAW at times used to stand so long in his prayer at night that his feet would swell up. It was said to him, “Allah has forgiven all of your previous sins and future sins (so why do you do this?).” He replied, “Should I not be a grateful servant?” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Should I not thank Him? Should be worship be also to thank Him? Can that be the case? that was the case. We should not also abandon worshipping for those reasons. Because we love Allah truly.

Beautiful

83: 15 – 16, What is fear? The most complete sense of fear is not the chains and boiling water we are going to drink. That is a big deal but what is greater than that? That you are not going to be able to see him. (I am so afraid that He is going to throw me in Hell and not care)

We want to be close to Him, the way we love our families. When they are ignoring us it hurts. What are some of the characteristics of those people? The ones who drag their clothes out of arrogance? Qaddafi, he is so arrogant he can drag his clothes around and waste his clothes.

This dragging, this arrogance, this competing with Allah azza wa jaal. Not look at them, not speak to them. If you really love someone, and you love to see them and you love to spend time with them. They send you a letter and say they don’t want to see you again and don’t call me? What if he is completely removed from me and removes me from Him?

As a result, the greatest joy, the greatest gift is seeing Allah azza wa jaal.

The fear of Hell itself is an important feeling, but that compared to the fear of being seperated from Allah, that is like a drop in a big sea. The rest is the fear of being separated from Allah SWT.

The ultimate pleasure of Jannah is to be with Allah azza wa jaal. At that moment, nothing else matters. All the things we hear about and read about, it doesn’t matter. Nothing could compare it. Can you imagine that some people in this room won’t get it? That Allah won’t talk to you?

So what is the right type of fear. The required degree of fear is that which propels the person to act. Obey his commands.

Taqwa is very simple. Obeying Allah with what intention. The word for shield. What does the shield do? It protects you from that which you are afraid of. You put that shield in front of you. Put it between you and what is in front of you. You are afraid of Allah’s punishment. That is taqwa and obeying him. Those other phrases are very challenging. Allah says don’t do it. Can you obey him for other reasons. That is where your worship becomes more and more complete. Be among the grateful be among the thankful.

A lot of people don’t know how to thank Allah. Use what he gave you in a way which pleases Him.

If you don’t sleep, you are not going to function. You need energy to worship Allah.

The people who want Jannah don’t waste time. shaytaan loves for you to keep on sleeping. You are not doing anything. Power off stage. But you’re not sinning.

People who are aware of their time.

Looking down on yourself, and fear of Allah. That is the key.

Someone received a cold glass of water in the desert, he feared maybe this was his reward. Do you ever think maybe this was it? Our cars, refrigerators, houses. Maybe this is it.

I don’t worship Allah the right way, the way that He deserves from His majesty. He gives me blessings and I don’t worship Him right. There are better people than me. Is this a healthy attitude? very very healthy. The true foundations of worship. They were always humble they never thought they did enough.

What about the people who prayed 300 times? read 600 pages of Quran? When he read these ayat, he saw himself. The burning and the torture and the separation and the torment. How do you want me to feel when I see myself with my hands chained to my neck. It is very important for us to recognize that.

Indeed the servant may say something so evil and blameworthy that as a result of it, he sinks into the hellfire equal to the distance between the east and the west.

The hellfire is a dark place. You hear horrible things. This is a place where people are tormented. This starts with the Day of Judgement. The believers will have light from what? Wudhu. Prostration.

Darkness without comfort, like black tar. The fire of this world is a source of light and can be a source of comfort.

The hellfire wants to devour. It began to devour itself. It complained to Allah, saying parts of me are devouring the others. Allah allowed Hellfire to breathe twice to relieve the pressure. The 1/70 of the hellfire that is on earth had to be doused twice by the sea. Ibn Kathir, authentic narration

If the people of Hell were to enter this housefire, they would fall asleep.

Zamhareer: relief from heat, sent intense cold, so they would wish for heat again.

When the hellfire sees them from far off, they will hear its raging sigh.

The sound that will rip into the hearts of people, even the Prophets will fall over shaking, nafsi nafsi! O Lord, I do not ask You for salvation this Day except for myself.

50,000 years: how long the people must wait before the Judgement will start.

It has reached me that there is in Hellfire a valley from which Hell itself seeks refuge from Allah 400 times a day for fear that it will be released upon it and devour it. Allah has prepared it for those who show off among the reciters of the Quran.

The most lightly punished person in Hell will have two sandals and laces of fire as a result of which, his brains will boil like a cauldron. That will be the lightest punishment and he will think he is being punished the most severely.

The drink of hell: al-Muhl. thick water like blood and pus. heated to the ultimate temperature. blood and pus doesn’t evaporate it just gets more disgusting. al-Muhl includes all of these unpleasant characteristics.

If a drop of Zaqqoom were to fall in this world, it would destroy the living quality of the people of this world, so how about the one whose food it is? – Tirmidhi S

If in this masjid there were 100,000 people, and there was among them a man from the people of Hell and he breathed out and his breath touched them, the mosque and everyone in it would be burned.” al-Bazzaar

No relief, no recourse,

Enter it, whether you are patient of it or impatient of it, it is all the same. 52:16

How do people get through things? Patience with the knowledge that things will get better, hope. In Jahannam, there is no hope for relief. So your reaction does not matter.

And they will cry: ‘O Malik! Let your Lord make an end of us.’ 43: 76 – 77, meaning, let Him destroy our souls and give us some respite from our predicament.

He will say: ‘Verily, you shall abide forever’ meaning you will have no way out from it and no refuge.

Imagine how bad your life is when you say I just want to cease to exist. This hideous angel that you call out to. Maybe the hope that Allah will destroy us. Destroys that hope of a way out, of refuge.

Protecting ourselves from the Hellfire and final thoughts

This life is fleeting

The man from among the people of Hell who lived the most luxurious life in this world will be brought and dipped in the Fire, then it will be said to him, ‘O son of Adam, have you ever seen anything good, have you ever enjoyed any pleasure?’ and he will say, ‘No, by Allah, O Lord.'” (Muslim)

3:191 – 192 Those who remember Allah; standing sitting and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the wonders of creation in the heavens and the earth, saying: “Our Lord! Not in vain have you created all this! How perfect you are! give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire. “Our Lord! Anyone You admit to the Fire, indeed You cover with shame, and never will wrong-doers find any helpers!

We have to be begging to Allah, are we asking Allah really with sincere hearts? If you do, you are going to follow with actions.

Oh Allah, give us the good in this world and the next, and shield us from the Fire.

Taqwa: The Best Protection

Those for whom the record from Us has gone before, will be removed far therefrom. Not the slightest sound will they hear of Hell, what their souls desired, in that will they dwell. 21:101 – 102

When Allah mentions the people of Hell and their punishment for their associating others in worship with Allah, He follows that with a description of the blessed who believed in Allah and His Messengers. These are the ones for whom the blessing has preceded from Allah, and they did righteous deeds in the world.

Compare yourself to the winners. This tough environment, I am going to show You that I can finish the Quran every single week. This is more important to me than wasting my time on Facebook. You are more important to me. It is not enough just to make 5 salaah. I want, I want, I want. Challenge yourself to be the best that you can be. This is the best competition. Compete with your family members. If he can finish the Quran in a week, I can do in 6. I want to be better than everyone else.

So I manage my time. What are you doing. Literally, we need action. There has to be something coming out of it insha Allah.

The Prophet (Saw) said, “Dust from the path of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never co-exist inside the body (lungs) of a Muslim servant.” Ibn Maajah.

You can’t wait. Do good while you have the chance. Do it when the chance comes. Days will come when you are busy. When you are trapped and you can’t move. When you’re sick and you can’t get up. There are a whole bunch of things you can do locally. Get up and do it. Stop being paralyzed by all these distractions.

Jannah is surrounded by disagreeable things. Jahannam is surrounded by pleasurable things.

Don’t walk out of here laughing and joking and ruining this experience. Take what you have learned and apply it.

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