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Islam Reviewed


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"Not one of you but will pass over it." (Sura 19:71).1

Yusaf Ali in his footnote no. 2518 offers three plausible interpretations
for the above, none of which negates the fact that according to Allah,
everyone will sink into Hell. The phrase "Pass over it" has led many
Islamic theologians to conclude that there might be a bridge (Sirat)
spanning Hell.

The length is supposedly great. Probably some millions of kilome-
ters. What about the width? You can be sure it's as thin as a thread. A
kind of fiery obstacle course. We shall see on that day how you will scale
through a thread like a sirat. While verse 72 hints of a possible rescue
operation from the fire, other suras hold out no such hope, Sura 6:128,
11:105-107, 14:16-17, 32:20, etc. So how certain is an Islamic rescue
when the creator of the universe - the God of the Bible - declares that
those who go to Hell will stay there forever?

The Koran states that Hell has seven gates (Sura 15:44) with
nineteen angels guarding them (Sura 74:30-31). The Islamic Hell is a
ghastly rather than a ghostly place. It represents  an extension and
amplification of all the worst physical horrors imaginable in this life.
Since sensuality characterizes Islam, inmates of Hell are assured of a
constant though horrible meal of it:

- They will eat to their satisfaction from a tree called Zaqqum
that  springs form the bottom of Hell (Sura 37:62-66).
- Another source of bitter food is the plant Dhari which neither
 nourishes nor satisfies (Sura 88:6-7).
- Occupants of Islamic Hell will not suffer thirst. There will be
an  abundance of boiling water and other equally unpleas-
ant beverages  (Sura 37:67).

Feeding of inmates should not be misconstrued to mean mercy on
the part of Allah. The meal may be intended to enable them to have the
strength to withstand the terrible agony they will suffer as inmates are:

1 Sura 19:70-72 is quoted in full on p. 97

 Islam Reviewed    101

- dragged into blazing fire immediately (Sura 37:68)
- have their skin roasted and renewed (Sura 4:56)
- made to taste boiling fluid, fluid dark, murky and intensely
cold  (Sura 38:57)
- served either intensely cold or boiling fluid (Sura 78:21-25)
- made to endure a blast of fire, boiling water, shade of black
 smokes (Sura 56:4-44)
- weighed down with burning chains and  beaten with iron
clubs   (Sura 14:49-50; 22:19-22)
- clothed with garment of fire (Sura 22:19-22)
- neither to die nor to live (Sura 20:74; 87:13)
-  forced  into the fire each time they try to get away (Sura

Mental anguish intensifies the physical pain. No peace here, only
interminable wrangling  and mutual recrimination (Sura 40:47-50).
Relief in death is denied the damned, even in the face of remorse (Sura
60:25-29). Surat Qaf paints a mind boggling conversation between Hell
and Allah. Allah asks, "Hell, are you filled up?" The answer comes back,
"Are there any more?" (Sura 50:30).

The perfect hatred of Allah toward Jews and Christians comes to the
fore again when inmates are distributed among the seven compartments
of Hell. These allocations are an interesting sidelight into the Muslim
tendency to demonize their opponents.

. Jahannam (Gehenna) for sinners who failed to repent before
death is the commonest (mentioned 77 times in the Koran).
. Laza, the place where Christians will languish (Sura 70:15).
. Hutama, the region where Jews will be tortured (Sura 104:5).
. Sa'ir, the abode of demons
. Jahim, a place where pagans burn (Sura 40:7)
. Saqar, the chamber prepared for Zoroastrians (Sura 74:27)
. Hawiya, dwelling place for hypocrites (Sura 101:9).

Punishment in Islamic Hell is under angelic supervision, but there is
a striking exemption - Muhammad's uncle, Abu Lahab, who happened
to be a bitter foe gets special treatment. In five verses of the Sura titled
"Lahab" (Sura 111), Muhammad (sorry, I mean to say Allah) draws a
vengeful scenario: Abu Lahab is to burn in perpetuity. His wretched wife
(no angels this time) supplies the fagots to keep the inferno going. The
Koran falls just short of creating a special compartment for this unfortu-

 102   Islam Reviewed

nate fellow. Islamic tradition paints a picture of additional Hellish
horrors,  just in case the foregoing images were not frightening enough.
One Hadith sketches a scientific absurdity: that Allah ordered the
fire to burn 1,000 years till it turned red, then another 1,000 years till it
turned white, and a further 1,000 years till it turned black, supposedly
its present color. When the fire complained that it was being consumed,
Allah gave it two natures - molten hot in summer, and freezing cold in
winter. But that is not what the God of the Bible says Hell is like. There
are many references, here are two:

Mat 13:49-50 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels
shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be
wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Rev 14:10-11 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of
God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his
indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the
Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever
and ever.

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