Orland Park Prayer Center

The Prayer Center of Orland Park

The description of paradise and hell fire is unique in Quran. It is interesting to note that the description of paradise is by far more detailed and extensive compared to that of hell fire. Take for example Surah “Al-Rahman” you find two long passages about paradise while only two short verses are dedicated for the description of hell fire. “This is the hell which the sinners deny: In its midst and in the midst of boiling hot water they will wonder around.” [55:43-44]

The detailed description of paradise in Quran makes it very vivid and lively, present in the life of the believers as if they see it physically before their naked eyes. This life with all its luxuries will appear nothing compared to it. Paradise in the hereafter becomes the motive to make the quality of this life another paradise and not something that comes between them and the eternal paradise in the hereafter. The continuity between the two lives is evident in this verse. “But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is gardens of paradise, beneath which rivers flow, every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say: this is what we were fed with before. For they are given things in similitude.” [2:25]  

Surah “Al-Rahman” is also a good example to demonstrate that retribution in the form of reward or punishment takes place within the system and the scheme of mercy. The reward for paradise is clearly the manifestation of Allah’s mercy. This paradise is high and lofty but it is still within the reach of human beings. “In a garden so high, the fruits whereof are low and near.” [69:22-23]

Also, punishment in the environment of mercy can be simply avoided. Out of His infinite and encompassing mercy, Allah has provided us with all the capacities and the mechanisms to shield ourselves from the punishment in hell fire. “He who is moved away and saved far from hell fire has attained success.” [3:185]

In this regard we must ask the question: What brings us closer to paradise, and what protects us from hell fire? These questions open before us very helpful skills and techniques in our approach to Quran. The description of the winners and dwellers of paradise must provide us with the list of actions and attributes that we need to adopt and actualize in this life in order to win the pleasure of Allah and consequently His paradise:

The winners of paradise have taqwa (تَقْوَى), the inner torch that enlightens their path, the inner compass by which they navigate among the challenges and temptations of life, and the inner deterrent and policing mechanism. “Verily, for the righteous are gardens of delight in the presence of their Lord.” [68:34]

They have acquired the attribute and abode of ihsan (إِحْسَان) i.e. they always do more than what is expected from them. “And for this their prayer Allah has rewarded them with gardens, with rivers flowing underneath- their eternal home. Such is the reward of mohsineen.” [5:85]

They feel the responsibility towards their families and friends whom they love and value. “They will say: Before, we were not without fear for the sake of our people. But Allah has been good to us, and has delivered us from the penalty of the scorching wind.” [52:26-27]

Their hearts are pure and cleansed of all bad feelings and heartaches. “And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury- beneath them rivers will be flowing.” [7:43]

In other words, paradise will be preserved to those who worked hard to control their emotions and clear their hearts from hard feelings towards their brothers and sisters in this life in order to meet Allah with pure hearts. There is no place for vanity in paradise which is preserved for those who strive in this life to avoid trivial and vain talk. “In a garden so high, where they shall hear no word of vanity” [88:10-11] “The believers must win through- those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk.” [23:1-3]

Those who are unfortunate to win the pleasure of Allah and His paradise have indeed committed what amounts to be considered a crime. “In the gardens of paradise, they will question each other about the criminals: What led you into hell fire.” [74:40-42]

When we read the answers, we know what put them on the path of hell fire. “They will say: we were not of those who prayed; nor we were of those who fed the indigent; but we used to talk vanities with vain talkers; and we used to deny the Day of Judgment.” [74:43-46]

The language of Quran and its unique Arabic give a deeper insight about the subject of eschatology- the science of consequences. Quran calls paradise “hosna” (حُسْنى) just as the deeds needed to earn it are collectively referred to as “hosna.”

“To those who continuously do Good is a goodly reward- yes and more.” [10:26]

“Is there any reward for Good other than Good?” [55:60]

On the other hand, hell fire is described as “hutama” (حُطَمَة), “moa’sada” (مُؤْصَدَة ) , and “sijjeen” (سِجِّين ). If this life is transformed into a prison whose walls are made up of lusts, uncontrolled desires and creaturely things, no doubt the outcome will be an imprisoning record and a destructive and besieging hell fire.

“And what will explain to you that which break to pieces? It is fire of Allah kindled to a blaze, which mounts to the hearts: It shall be made into a vault over them, in columns outstretched.” [104:5-9]

“Surely the record of the wicked is preserved in sijjeen.” [83:7]

Paradise and hell fire are not mere locations but also reflect the state of human minds and hearts. Human beings are given the time, the divine guidance, and the faculties to win paradise and avoid hell fire. We need to pay more attention to the attributes of paradise and its candidate winners and work to actualize them in our everyday life; and at the same time monitor the attributes of hell fire and its inhabitants and work on avoiding them.

By Dr. Walid Khayr


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