Is hell eternal?
May God forgive me and guide me regarding any sign that would have been misinterpreted in this study and elsewhere. May He always guide us to a better understanding of His profound scripture so we can purify ourselves and increase our knowledge.
This topic will at first seem very shocking for most Muslims and Christians. This will seem even more shocking after reading the following verse:
(2:80) Some have said, "hell will not touch us, except for a limited number of days." Say, "Have you taken such a pledge from GOD - GOD never breaks His pledge - or, are you saying about GOD what you do not know?"
- Behind the topic of the article lies an important issue: is God's Mercy really infinite or did He decide that hell would be eternal?
The following verse, in my opinion, very simply proves that hell is not eternal.
(7:40) Surely, those who reject our revelations and are too arrogant to uphold them, the gates of the sky will never open for them, nor will they enter Paradise until the camel passes through the needle's eye. We thus requite the guilty.
- My understanding is that people who go to hell will stay in hell until it ceases to exist, which may last well over a billion years if we rely on what astronomers witnessed studying our own solar system and others, God alone knows. I see hell as part of a new solar system created after the Day of Judgment, which will have a definite life span. People who refuse to submit to God and believe they will only stay a limited number of days in hell, or don't believe in the hereafter, are going to be shocked. Hell will last so long, and will be so horrible, that it will seem like an eternity. God is the Most Gracious, Most merciful, and 7:40 illustrates His infinite love and Mercy. He will eventually forgive and allow everyone in paradise, even the worst criminals. God proclaims that the guilty ("those who rejected His revelations") will exit hell once, and only once, the camel passes through the needle's eye. God never utters any nonsense: If God says the camel will go through the needle's eye, there is nothing we can do except to submit and believe it.
- Verse 7:40 is clearly one of the endless scientific miracles of the Quran, and proves that gravitational collapse (the inward fall of a massive body under the influence of the force of gravity) is a reality in the universe. The way I see things is that hell will eventually be absorbed, most likely by a black hole, forcing "all matter and radiation to fall inward": the allegory of the camel passing through the needle's eye will then be fulfilled.
- Interestingly, the allegory of the camel passing through the needle's eye is also mentioned in the Gospels, and this will, God willing, draw the attention of Christians, as well:
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)
- This parable shows that Jesus was given knowledge of the future and the laws of universe. Like in the Quran, and in a hidden manner very typical to parables, we see in the verse the connection between the inhabitants of Hell and paradise. That connection is the needle's eye, Matthew 19:24 shows that Jesus already knew that the inhabitants of hell (the camel) will first have to go to the needle's eye before they enter paradise. Therefore, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God". This also illustrates how devastating greed and stinginess can be in our lives. Gravitational collapse is therefore also part of the scientific miracles of the Bible.
- Hell in the parables (Gospel and Quran) was interpreted and translated as the "camel". But, are the translations really accurate? A famous Muslim translator (Muhammad Asad) offered a completely different interpretation of verse 7:40:
(7:40) Verily, unto those who give the lie to Our messages and scorn them in their pride, the gates of heaven shall not be opened; and they shall not enter paradise any more than a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye: for thus do We requite such as are lost in sin. (translation Muhammad Asad)
Muhammad Asad still mistranslated the verse in my opinion because he failed to render the meaning of "hatta" ("until") in "they shall not enter paradise any more than (حتى, "until", not "any more than") a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye", therefore it should be rendered "they shall not enter paradise until a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye".
Muhammad Asad wrote the following commentary on the verse:
"...As for the word jamal occurring in this sentence, there is hardly any doubt that its translation, in this context, as "camel" is erroneous. As pointed out by Zamakhshari' (and confirmed by other classical commentators, including Razi), Ibn `Abbas used to read the word in the spelling jummal, which signifies "a thick rope" or "a twisted cable"; and the same reading is attributed to 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (Taj al-'Arus). It is to be noted that there are also several other dialectical spellings of this word, namely, jumal, juml, jumul and, finally, jamal (as in the generally-accepted version of the Qur'an) - all of them signifying "a thick, twisted rope" (Jawhari, and all of them used in this sense by some of the Prophet's Companions or their immediate successors (tabi'un). Ibn `Abbas is also quoted by Zamakhshari as having said that God could not have coined so inappropriate a metaphor as "a camel passing through a needle's eye"-meaning that there is no relationship whatsoever between a camel and a needle's eye whereas, on the other hand, there is a definite relationship between the latter and a rope (which, after all, is but an extremely thick thread). On all accounts, therefore, the rendering of jamal as "a twisted rope" is, in this context, infinitely preferable to that of "a camel....".
- Therefore, we can better understand 7:40 in the following manner:
(7:40) Surely, those who reject our revelations and are too arrogant to uphold them, the gates of the sky will never open for them, nor will they enter Paradise until (حتى) a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye. We thus requite the guilty.
ان الذين كذبوا بايتنا واستكبروا عنها لا تفتح لهم ابوب السماء ولا يدخلون الجنة حتى يلج الجمل فى سم الخياط وكذلك نجزى المجرمين
- A rope is by definition twisted, and it provides the idea of the same "rotation" that we witness when stars and galaxies approach and go through a black hole. This even strengthens the idea that hell will indeed pass through the eye of a needle just like solar systems are absorbed by black holes. Only "gravitational collapse" can physically explain how a very thick rope can pass through a needle's eye. This idea will only seem impossible to people who ignore (whether they actually don't know or do not want to know...) the laws of the universe, and ignore God's allegorical language. God is Omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him.
- It is interesting to note that if hell clearly does have a lifespan, Paradise seems to be eternal. It existed before our universe and planet were created. After the day of judgment, the purgatory (7:46-49) and much later Hell (7:40) will be merged into it.
The Gospels and Quran tell us, that, in the very long course of the universe, everyone will eventually be forgiven. Such is God's mercy: Infinite.
God's infinite Mercy is more than obviously directly related to His Most beautiful attributes, reserved for Him alone: "The Most Gracious, Most Merciful".
May God Almighty guide and spare us the agony of the hellfire.
(3:16) They say, "Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us our sins, and spare us the agony of the hellfire."
(25:65) And they say, "Our Lord, spare us the agony of Hell; its retribution is horrendous.