Is Damnation Permanent?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The Qur’an and ahadits are explicit that there is Hell, that it is indeed filled with fire with flames the size of castles and of such heat that a rider 70,000 years horse journey would feel its heat.  It has both a literal and metaphorical meaning.

On the issue of damnation, there are several opinions of the scholars.  Many scholars, including Imam Ash’ari (r.a.) himself, say that there are those who are Sent to the Fire without hope of Salvation.  And there are opinions that state that the disbelievers, the hypocrites and the polytheists abide in forever.

There are verses in the Qur’an that may be read such.  The words “ila al-abad” is translated as “forever”.  However, it may also be understood as a very long time, beyond human reckoning.  Also, we must also consider the following verses, the Shaykh ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali (r.a.) translation:

Those who are wretched shall be in the Fire: there will be for them therein (nothing but) the heaving of sighs and sobs: They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord Willeth: for thy Lord is the (sure) Accomplisher of what He Planneth.  And those who are Blessed shall be in the Garden: they will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord Willeth: a gift without break. (Surah Hud:106-108)

We must understand that Allah (s.w.t.) only Promised a gift without end for the dwellers of Paradise.  He has Promised that those in Paradise will not be Removed except to a better place.  And we understand that with regards the hadits that speak of those who see the Face of God, those in the Divine Presence.  Those, the Elect, are in Union with the Divine.

There is an atsar on the authority of Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.), one of the few places that it is mentioned is in Kashf al-Mahjub of Imam ‘Ali ibn ‘Utsman al-Hujwiri (q.s.).  In it, Abu Bakr asw-Swiddiq (r.a.) said that there will come a time, when the gates of Hell will be hanging on their hinges and Hell will be like a wheat field that has been mown, empty.  It references the hadits of when the Prophet (s.a.w.) spoke after the Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj, where he explained his shafa’at.

In that hadits, the Prophet (s.a.w.) described the different categories of people who are Removed from the Fire through the intercession of the Prophet (s.a.w.), the other prophets, the pious, the parents, the children, the single dzurrat of faith until there remains those in the Fire who have not even that, not even a moment where they remembered God.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said that there would still be multitudes in the Fire.  And then Allah (s.w.t.) will Decree, “Remove from the Fire those which the Hand of God can Hold.”  And that is understood to mean that all are Removed.  By then, the fires would have burned to embers and these souls will be like ashes.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said that these souls will be Thrown into the River Ridhwan and there they will reform again.  And Allah (s.w.t.) will Ask the same Question that was Posed to us when he Drew Forth and Assembled the Children of Adam in ‘Alam Alastu bi Rabbikum: “Am I not your Rabb?”  And they will finally acknowledge.

When thy Lord Drew forth from the Children of Adam ― from their loins ― their descendants, and Made them testify concerning themselves, (Saying), “Am I not your Lord (Who Cherishes and Sustains you)?” ― They said, "Yea!  We do testify!"  (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment, "Of this we were never mindful." (Surah al-A’araf:172)

This hadits also explains our entire purpose of Creation.  We are here to be ‘abdullah all the time; we are to acknowledge in all states, that He is Indeed God, our Nourisher, our Creator and our Sustainer.  We were always Created to Return to Him. Even Heaven will eventually pass away for only Allah (s.w.t.) can Exist Eternally.  We are drops of water in the rivers of time and we must eventually return to the Ocean of Unity, Bahr at-Tawhid.


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