Salvation, Heaven, and Hell: The Qur’anic Viewpoint

by Navid Zaidi

Heaven and Hell are not places. They are states, or conditions of the soul’s existence, in the life after death. Their descriptions in the Qur’an are visual representations of an inner fact, i.e., their character.

Hell, in the words of the Qur’an, is ‘God’s kindled fire which rises above the hearts’ (Al-Humazah 104:6-7). In other words, this ‘fire’ originates in a person’s inner consciousness. This clearly alludes to the spiritual nature of the ‘fire’ in a person’s belated realization of wrongdoing. It is a painful realization of one’s failure as a person that arises within one’s own consciousness, not imposed by an external agency.

According to the teachings of the Qur’an, the re-emergence of the soul brings it a ‘sharp sight’ (Qaf 50:22). This newly awakened self-consciousness and reason in a person will plead that he/she had always been more or less conscious, and perhaps even critical, of the urges and appetites that drove him/her to evildoing. However, this belated and, therefore, morally ineffective rational cognition will not diminish but rather enhance the burden of self-realization.

Imagine this painful condition of soul’s existence with utter loneliness and bitter desolation, the torment of unceasing frustration, the darkness and despair intensified beyond anything imaginable in this world and you will know, however vaguely, what is meant by ‘Hell’.

There is no such thing as eternal damnation in Islam. The word ‘eternity’ used in certain verses in the Qur’an relating to Hell, is explained by the Qur’an itself to mean only a period of time (An-Naba 78:23).

The Qur’an suggests an undiminished survival of the individual personality and consciousness in the life after death. In the Qur’anic view of the life to come, death and resurrection are continuous stages in the career of each human soul.

The life of the soul is one and continuous. However, time cannot be totally irrelevant to the development of personality. A person’s character tends to become permanent. Its reshaping must require time.

Hell, therefore, as conceived by the Qur’an, is not a pit of everlasting torture inflicted by a revengeful God. It is a metaphor for a corrective experience which may make a hardened soul once more sensitive to the cool breeze of Divine Grace.

This concept is explained by the Qur’an where it speaks of the fire of Hell as a person’s friend (mawla), i.e., the only process by which the soul may be purified and redeemed (Al-Hadeed 57:15). However, this process is not imposed by an external agency. It arises from within a person’s own consciousness.

The soul will continue to march onwards from state to state (Al-Inshiqaq 84:16-19) to receive ever-fresh illuminations so that there will be further opportunities for the soul to create new situations during its endless career in the hereafter.

Heaven is a metaphor for the joy of victory over the forces of disintegration. It is the existence of the soul in an inner state of unimaginable happiness in the afterlife. Imagine the most joyous sensations, beauty, love, consciousness of fulfillment, perfect peace and harmony and you have, however vague, the idea of what is meant by ‘Heaven’.

In a nutshell, this is beautifully mentioned in the Qur’an in the expression ‘the human being who has attained to inner peace’ (nafs-e-mutmainnah) (Al-Fajr 89:27-30).

Since Heaven and Hell are not localities, they cannot be the sole property of one group or another.

With a remarkable breadth of vision, the Qur’an repeatedly stresses the fundamental idea that salvation is open to all human beings equally (Al-Baqarah 2:62). This is a very important point and must be properly understood in order to get a clear insight into the Islamic theory of salvation.

It is with the irreplaceable singleness of its individuality that the human soul will approach God and see for itself the consequences of its past action and to judge the possibilities of its future (Maryam 19:93-95).

Therefore, it is a person’s duty to purify his/her soul and save it from corruption during this earthly life (Ash-Shams 91:7-10). In other words, Heaven is not ours as of right; it is to be achieved by personal effort. We are only a candidate for it.

And how to make the soul grow? By good deed.

It is the deed that prepares the soul for dissolution, or disciplines it for a future career. The fundamental principle of a good deed is to respect your own soul as well as that of others.

And how to corrupt the soul? By narrow-mindedness. In many ways narrow-mindedness degrades the whole person and may eventually demolish the structure of the human personality. This is often fueled by an underlying feeling of discontentment.

Now, the Muslims may feel that Islam is the ‘best religion’ and might think that it would be a good thing if all of humanity became Muslim. On the contrary, as explained by the Qur’an, that is not the will of God (Al-Maidah 5:48, Al-Baqarah 2:148).

So often we find that when one leaves his/her own country it brings a chance to come into contact with other religious traditions and learn about them. This should naturally result in getting closer to reality, realizing that among humanity there are so many different dispositions.

It is only through closer contact with other traditions that we realize the positive things about them. This naturally creates a mutually comfortable feeling to arise. Then, as expressed by the Dalai Lama, it is like going to a restaurant. We can all sit at one table, order different dishes according to our own taste, but nobody argues about it!

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4 Responses to Salvation, Heaven, and Hell: The Qur’anic Viewpoint

  1. Julie says:

    masha’Allah.

  2. Afraz Ali says:

    Beautiful! I was following nearly the same philosophy as this. Thank you for confirming my thoughts. May be Peace be upon you.

  3. Uvais Cassim says:

    THE ETERNAL SELF

    Satan was created from fire and Angels from light. There’s no light without a fire. So logically speaking Ibliss was created first and Gabriel second. They are the first created diverse spiritual beings. Satan being the embodiment of both Truth and Falsehood has the freedom of the wild ass and “poor” Gabriel being the embodiment of Truth, is a prisoner with no free will, destined to a life of service (Ibadha) till the end of time. Simply put, Gabriel is nothing but a vegetable. Satan being knowledgable and knowledge being power, has a superiority complex. Since Gabriel was subservient to Satan and had no axe to grind, life in the heavens was harmonious.

    After a lengthy period, the Creator, due to a loftier reason (which cannot be divulged at this time) than Service/Ibadha, decided to create the material being Adam who will represent both Truth and Falsehood from clay, much to the objections of the Angels. The Creator vetoed the objections and created Adam (the material counterpart of Satan) and commanded the spiritual beings to bow down in submission to him. All the Angels bowed (submitted) except Ibliss due to his superiority complex. This disobedience caused his condemnation till the end of time. Reprieval to punish disobedience and the power to misguide Adam was granted to him. Satan vowed to take with him to hell as many beings as possible, both material and spiritual. Ever since, the proxy war between the Creator and the created continues.

    Iblis’ failure to submit to his material counterpart Adam, caused the Creator to create Eve, the material counterpart of Gabriel. Thus was born the first material diversity. The man and woman or the Man and the Other or the Self and the Other or the I and the You. The I represents Adam/Satan and the You represents Eve/Gabriel. “Poor” Eve got seduced and got herself and hubby landed in the hell-hole we now call Earth.

    The proxy war between Secularism (Satan/Adam/I/Majority) and Religion (Gabriel/Eve/You/Minority) goes on and Satan seems to be winning because the embodiment of Satan has occupied the White House.

    Peace between Satan and Gabriel is an absolute necessity for us to live till the end of time. All those who believe in PEACE and have no issues in submitting to peace are the true soldiers of the Party of Gabriel (Muslims or not). Refusal to bow to the other belongs to the Party of Satan (Muslims or not).

    It doesn’t really matter if you are an evolutionist or a creationist. What matters is peace on earth. All those who believe that it’s best Satan didn’t bow to Adam are likely to be men like me. I don’t like to be commanded by anybody to bow down to my darling wife. I like to do it voluntarily, which I do. My voluntary submission (bow) to my wife/others means I have succeeded in forcing Satan to bow to Adam symbolically, which was the Creator’s Original Command.

    Be true to your own self and be the other. Don’t become the other. Be your wife; don’t become your wife. Be a man; don’t become a woman. Love, respect and serve your wives but don’t integrate with them. Truth should not integrate with Falsehood and Falsehood should not integrate with Truth. Both Truth and Falsehood are same but not equal. If one integrates with the other, both will die.

    Be God but don’t become God. Love, respect and serve God. Don’t integrate with God. If you do, you will die. Worshipping is integrating. So please don’t worship God. SERVE HIM. Ibadha is Service & not Worship. God Serves us continously. He is not idling. If He idles, we’ll die of starvation like the Yemenis and the Rohingyas.

    Love, respect and serve Satan and the non-Muslims. Don’t you Muslims EVER integrate with them. Integration is worship. If we worship the other both will die. Be the other; don’t become the other. Please DO NOT INTEGRATE with each other. Love all and hate none. We can make this hell-hole heaven on earth.

    Are there anybody out there to fulfil the Creator’s Original Command symbolically?

    Please make haste. The planet Earth is dying due to our arrogance and greed.

    M Uvais Cassim
    Colombo

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