PARADISE AND HELLFIRE
The Qur’an describes Paradise and Hellfire in such metaphors and allegories that can be understood by 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 progress. It merely survives in the ‘Fire’ of Regret or 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.
The Status of Adam: Remember that the angels bowed to Adam. Man was granted the ability to understand and master the Divine Laws in the Universe. Nations that master these Laws reach the status of Adam. Such nations live a good life in this world but they have no portion in the Hereafter since they did not work for it by following the Divinely ordained Permanent Moral Values given to humans through God's Messengers.
Nations that fail to advance in science and technology fail to reach the Status of Adam. So, they live a life 'unlived' - that of humiliation and misery.
The Status of Mu'mins: They master these Laws thus reaching the Status of Adam. Then, they use the fruit of their efforts for the benefit of all humanity, not just their own people or nations. This is the Status of Mu'mins who are true candidates for paradise.
HELLFIRE: A life where the resurrected humans in the new 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.
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 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 the above 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 ancient 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 stagnant existence with no development.
Al-Hamdulillah, THE QUR’AN AS IT EXPLAINS ITSELF sixth edition (QXPv) reaches completion here in October 2015.
This is only a humble effort by a life-long student of the Qur’an, an ordinary servant of God. All that is good and correct in this rendition finds its source in the Almighty’s infinite kindness. Any errors belong to this fallible student and I seek the protection of forgiveness from the Supreme Creator Who revealed the Book to Prophet Muhammad (S) in Ramadhan 610 CE. With human knowledge constantly evolving, our understanding and rendition of the Qur’an will keep improving by the years and decades. Each new generation will owe to the Almighty and to humanity that they keep abreast with the advancing sciences and translate the Glorious Book according to the then proven domain of human knowledge.
41:53 Soon, We will show them Our signs in the utmost horizons and within themselves until it becomes obvious to them that this Qur’an is certainly the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord is Witness to all things (including this proclamation)? [9:31-33, 13:31, 14:48, 18:48, 41:53, 48:28, 51:20-21, 61:9]
It is one of the eternal miracles of the Qur’an that every sincere person can derive knowledge, wisdom and guidance from the Glorious Qur’an according to his or her intellectual capacity.
Accept from us our labor, O Our Lord, Cherisher, Originator!
With profound gratitude to the Almighty and His sincere servants,
A lifelong student,
Shabbir Ahmed, M.D.
6440 NW 53 ST
Lauderhill, Florida 33319 USA