PARADISE AND HELLFIRE
The Qur’an describes Paradise and Hellfire in such metaphors and allegories that can be understood by different people according to their intellectual levels. While the body dies the ‘self’ lives on and its destiny, whether Anguish or bliss, is a logical consequence and a built-in recompense of its doings.
A ‘self’ that has actualized or primed itself by leading a life upright, respecting the Permanent Values, and thus being a useful member of society, belongs to Paradise. This process of self-actualization is facilitated by a benevolent society. The development of a primed or actualized ‘self’ goes on in the Hereafter in blissful Immortality.
However, a ‘self’ that has stunted itself by succumbing to selfish desires, fails to prime itself for further development. It merely survives in the ‘Hell’ of Anguish as opposed to the blissful Immortality of Paradise. In this sense, stagnation is Hell, and progress is Paradise.
So, we can understand the Qur’anic description of Hell and Paradise to some but sufficient extent for our intellectual needs. To put it very briefly, here is my humble understanding:
PARADISE: Men, women and children are brought into a new being in exponentially higher physical and mental forms. Aging, pain, illness, death, grief, fear, fatigue, negative emotions have no place in that blissful Realm. It is perpetual
Delight with ongoing growth of the ‘self’. [84:19]
The new human forms have intensely advanced capacities to do things they want, even see a replay of their earthly lives and the entire world history. They instantly get all they desire, and more! They get to meet with their families and friends and any personalities that lived before or after them. They are provided all they need and want without the least bit of toil.
HELLFIRE: A life where the resurrected humans in the new higher physical and mental forms have a life of Anguish. They are in a state of neither living nor dying since their personalities make no progress. Yet, they see the truth more clearly. Jaheem (the Insurmountable Barrier) keeps them from advancing. They are in a relentless state of Regret that they should have done works to become worthy of Paradise.
The Qur’an categorically states, "The Hellfire originates in and engulfs the hearts." In that light, Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal correctly notes that 'people carry their fire to Hell'. God does not punish anyone. Reward & Punishment are logical consequences of our deeds.
So, the understanding we get of the life Hereafter, although described metaphorically in the Qur’an and not exactly comparable to what we know in this life, is sufficiently clear for our mental and emotional needs. An important note must be made here that the Hell or Paradise of a person begins right here in this life.
Furthermore, the Divine System (in Biblical terms, the Kingdom of God) established in a society ensures the earthly Paradise, whereas an individual or a collective life that is lived contrary to Divine laws only builds a Hell in this world as well. In that sense, tomorrow is the Hereafter of today.
The following verses are just a few among those that will support my humble submission: 2:119, 3:11, 3:132, 5:86, 8:36, 9:49, 13:35, 18:100, 26:91, 29:55, 32:13-17, 35:36, 36:53-67, 36:78-79, 47:15, 57:21, 74:30, 78:26.
Historically: The word JAHANNAM derives from an old valley south of Jerusalem. Jahannam comes from the Hebrew "ge-hinnom" which means "Valley of Hinnom." People, especially children, used to be sacrificed there to idols. Later, the Valley was used as an execution ground for criminals. Bodies and clothing of those dying of a contagious disease, were burned there. In Jesus' time it was still used for burning the rubbish and garbage of Jerusalem. This in itself gives the idea that Jahannam is a metaphor for a state of a stagnant existence with no development.
A lifelong student