Heaven and hell exist to ensure we earthlings get exactly what we deserve in the hereafter. Those who are godly will be rewarded with paradise and those who are devilish will be penalized with the hellfire. It’s that simple really!
But let me dwell a bit on it so that you understand its purpose better. As you know our first parents lived in Paradise as their first abode in a sinless state, but as soon as they were touched by the devil they lost their innocence and were cast down to earth to live and die as mortals, and to propagate their kind for better or worse. So our parents downfall was a test not only for them, but also for us, their descendants, because this earth then became a battleground between good and evil, man in the middle, prompted to do good by the counsel of the angels and seduced to do evil by the whisperings of the devils.
This does not mean that man is led away by one of these or the other. His heart or conscience as it were is a blank slate that essentially knows only God and all that is good, innocent as our first parents before their fall. This is why newborns are said to be in a state of fitra or natural disposition towards God. But man is prone to various temptations in this fleeting earthly life even as our parents were tempted by the arch fiend to eat of the forbidden tree. And just as our parents were cast down to earth, so was this arch fiend who was given a free hand along with his army of devils to lead us astray and take us with them to their fiery abode in the hellfire.
The greatest temptation and the worst of all is idolatry and taking partners with God despite His Oneness and Peerlessness. You may wonder if this is a temptation at all, but look around you and tell me if it’s not? Idols of all kinds, made of wood, stone and even gold, found almost all over the world except where Islam reigns supreme. When foolish men want their worldly desires fulfilled, either for victory or material possessions, they are tempted by the evil ones to take others than the One True God as their benefactors, to no avail. However much the angels urge on his conscience he will not return to God, because his heart has been corrupted, seeing black where he should see white.
There are lesser temptations by which the Devil can lead us astray, like the temptations of the flesh. Man has been created weak in the flesh, and his desire for the opposite sex is strong. Such desire is alright so long as it is regulated through marriage, but take it further and give yourself to unbridled lust, and then you degenerate morally, lusting after women who are bonded in marriage to others and rending asunder what God has ordained be joined together. This is why even the good Christian prays to his Lord ‘Lead us not unto temptation’. There are other temptations, like the lust for wealth at another’s expense, nay even the temptation to laugh at the folly of our another in a fit of arrogance and to find fault with another in a burst of self-righteousness, not knowing that by doing so, we wrong our own souls and earn God’s Wrath.
But just as this world is full of temptation, it is also full of good. For every devil who wishes to lead us astray, there is an angel who counsels us. If you see heartlessness in some, you will see compassion in others. This world is such, a tug between good and evil. But good and evil are defined not as we want it, but as God ordains it. If He had not willed it as such, we would have certainly gone astray, following our own lusts and desires goaded on by the devil thinking it was for our good, and in the process harming not only ourselves but the larger society, in fact tearing apart our very own souls and the very fabric of society.
So we live and die as God wants it, in submission to Him and Him alone, surrendering our minds and our hearts to Him and using as the Criterion to judge between good and evil His Holy Word, His Final revelation to Mankind, the Qur’an and the Wise Words of His Final Chosen Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.
So God acting though His Prophet is our Guide to the Straight Way which can take us back to His Bosom and to the Paradise of our first Parents. He is our Light in the Darkness and beckons us to His Way. We follow it like a weary traveler in the desert rushes to an oasis or a castaway lost in an empty ocean struggles towards an island in the horizon. If we refuse to follow the straight path, we stumble and stray away from it, fumbling and mumbling all the way till we find ourselves in the pit of hell. Straight is the path to heaven, but many are the paths to hell!
So heaven and hell are earned by exercising our free choice using our conscience. It is the reward for our toil in this world. We reap what we sow. We earn God’s good pleasure and He’ll certainly reward us with Paradise, but earn His Wrath, His Righteous and Just Wrath, then fear the worst. We earn His Pleasure by acknowledging Him and Him Alone as our God, Our Creator and Cherisher; by doing deeds that bring us close to him like prayer, by helping our fellow men with charitable acts and all that is good that we know to be good, which our conscience knows as such. Why because when we do evil, our conscience pricks us. We all know that well, because God has put it in us.
A man once asked the Prophet: “What is faith?” He said: “When a good deed becomes a source of pleasure for you and an evil deed becomes a source of disgust for you, then you are a believer.” He asked the Prophet: “What is a sin?” Whereupon he said: “When something pricks your conscience, give it up” (Tirmidhi).
So remember you are the centre of this battleground as far as you are concerned. You are in the middle of it. Your heart is the battlefield between good and evil. Satan may goad you to evil and the angels may urge you to refrain; you will feel the tug of it all, this side and that. But remember you have a mind of your own. Use your God-given conscience and choose your side and choose it well. After all, what you choose will affect you a great deal, certainly more than this world and its fleeting moments and enjoyments.
Not everyone, who says, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus said, and so is it in Islam. Not everyone who testifies to God’s Oneness and His Prophet’s Mission will enter Paradise with a free ticket. His or her deeds count a good deal. For example desisting from anything that smacks of idolatry or associating partners with Him, even as much as building monuments to honour the dead or taking them as intermediaries between oneself and the divine, because this itself, this lack of direct connection between man and God is an affront to His Divine Majesty. It is He who has the Right to Rule Our Hearts and none else. The proud who think no end of themselves just as Satan does and the tyrants who oppress people will also have no share in paradise because they abused the gifts gone had given them for wrong ends and arrogated to themselves the Pride and the Power that was rightfully God’s. Prophet Muhammad captured this well when he told his companions:
The Garden and the Fire quarrelled and the Fire said, ‘The tyrants will enter me and the proud will enter me’. The Garden retorted: ‘The weak will enter me and the poor will enter me.’ God Almighty said to the Garden, ‘You are My mercy and I show you to whomever I will.’ Then He said to the Fire, ‘You are My punishment with which I will punish whomever I will. Each of you will have your fill.’
(Adab Al Mufrad)
Even deeds which some might take to be trivial, like harming an animal for no cause can get us into hell. The Prophet informed his followers:
A woman was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. She entered the (Hell) Fire because of it, for she neither gave it food nor water as she had imprisoned it, nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth
While a good deed, even a minor one could earn us paradise, so long as we fear God. The Prophet told us:
A prostitute was forgiven by God because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, God forgave her because of that
The morality of it all is this. The woman whom God forgave thought of the dog as much as herself as a humble creature of God and used the mercy put into her heart by God for the good of His creation. The woman who went to hell did not fear God and did not think that just as she could do whatever she wanted to the poor creature, God could do whatever He wanted with her. She did not feel any mercy for the cat that was under her power and as a result God did not show mercy to her who was under His Power.
Indeed small deeds go a long way with God. The Prophet made this clear when he told his followers:
Protect yourselves from the fire, even if with half a date and he who has not got even this, should do so by a good pleasant word
At the same time, all hope is not lost even for the sinner to enter paradise, since sincere repentance blots out one’s sins:
Except such as repent and believe and do good, these shall enter the Garden, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly in any way
As if that were not enough to assure sinners, His Prophet went further to assure them:
God Most High opens up His Hands at night time, in order to accept the repentance of those who commit sins by day. And for those who commit sins by night time, He opens up His Hands during the day. This will continue until the sun rises from the place it sets (that is, until the end times)
Indeed, God is so Merciful that he even admits parents to paradise out of compassion for their children: The Prophet said about those who had lost their children when young: “Their little ones are the little ones of Paradise. When one of them meets his father – or his parents – he takes hold of his garment – or his hand – as I am taking told of the hem of your garment, and he does not let go until God admits him and his father to Paradise”(Sahih Muslim). A lady companion of the Prophet named named Umm Salim says: “While I was with the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, he said, ‘Umm Salim! There is no God-surrendering couple who have three of their children die without God admitting them to the Garden by virtue of His mercy to them.’ I said, ‘And if there are two?’ He said, ‘And if there are two’”(Adab al Mufrad).
Nay, even little children who die when they are young and hence cannot be judged are assured of a place in heaven unlike some Christian sects that tell us that such children will be in limbo. Al-Absi once felt immense grief over the loss of his son and asked his friend Abu Hurairah: “Have you heard anything from the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, to cheer us regarding our dead?” He replied “I heard the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, say: “Your children are roaming freely in the Garden” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari). One day the Prophet narrated a dream where he was in the company of two angels: “We reached a garden of deep green dense vegetation, having all sorts of spring colours. In the midst of the garden there was a very tall man and I could hardly see his head because of his great height, and around him there were children in such a large number as I have never seen. I said to my companions, Who is this? They replied: “The tall man whom you saw in the garden, is Abraham and the children around him are those children who die with the natural faith (Fitra). Some Muslims asked the Prophet, “O God’s Messenger! What about the children of pagans?”. The Prophet replied, “And also the children of pagans”(Saheeh Al-Bukhari).
God assures us that if we earn his Pleasure He would reward us with Paradise. He says to the Pious Ones:
O reassured soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing (to Him), and enter among My (righteous) servants, and enter My Paradise
And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a true believer in the Oneness of God, such will enter paradise and not the least injustice, even to the size of a speck on the back of a date-stone, will be done to them
( The Women:124)
Those for whom the Good from Us has gone before, will be removed (far from hell). Not the slightest sound will they hear of hell. What their souls desired, in that will they dwell. The Great terror will bring them no grief. But the angels will meet them (saying) “This is your Day”
He assures us again:
But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are companions of the Garden: Therein shall they abide (forever)
Give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is gardens, beneath which rivers flow
Those whose lives the angels take in a state of purity, saying (to them), ‘Peace be on you, enter you the Garden, because of (the good) which you did (in the world)’
However, those who do most good in this world will have a higher status than those who do less. This is in the fitness of things. The Prophet made this clear when he said: “The people of Paradise will look at the dwellers of lofty mansions (i.e. a superior place in Paradise) in the same way as one looks at a brilliant star, far away in the East or in the West of the horizon. This is because of their superiority over one another (in reward)” One of his companions asked, “O God’s Messenger, are these lofty mansions for the Prophets which no one else can reach?“. The Prophet replied, “No! By God, in whose Hands is my life, these are for men who believe in God and also believe in the Messenger” (Saheeh Muslim)
On another occasion he told his followers:
The first group to enter Paradise will look like the moon when it is full; then those who follow them will look like the brightest star in the sky. They will not urinate or defecate, spit or blow their noses. Their combs will be of gold, their sweat will be musk, their incense burners will be of aloes-wood. Their wives will be houris and they will all look alike, like their father Adam, sixty cubits tall
The Prophet once had a vision of paradise where he saw Ja’far who had been martyred in a battle against the Byzantines. The man had taken up the banner of the Muslim army and lost both his arms to the swords of the enemy, finally holding it up with the stumps that had once been his strong arms before being martyred. For his sacrifice God granted him two wings and henceforth he was called even by the Prophet as ‘the one with the two wings’. The Prophet said of this vision he saw with his spiritual eye.
I entered Paradise yesterday and looked at it, and saw Ja’far flying with the angels, and I saw Hamzah reclining on a couch
However, all will enjoy eternal youth, never aging. As the Prophet himself described them:
The people of Paradise will enter Paradise hairless (in the body), beardless, white coloured, curly haired, with their eyes anointed with kohl, aged thirty three years
Interestingly the age at which Jesus was taken up to heaven was thirty three years. That this is the prime of life where people reach the peak of physical health and look their best is also confirmed by the latest studies which also link it to happiness, such as the one done by Friends Re-United in the UK which shows people are happiest at the age of 33.
In Islamic terminology, Paradise is simply called The Garden, or in Arabic Jannah. Why, because it is a large and spacious heavenly garden. It is the same as the Eternal Kingdom or Eternal Life spoken of by Jesus, because all its dwellers enjoy verlasting life. It is the life everlasting we inherit for the good deeds we have done in this earthly life:
The Garden of which ye are made heirs for your (good) deeds (in this life)
Paradise is what we all yearn for, whether we express it openly or not. The very thought of it delights one’s heart and soul. The delights of this world, nay even the fairest fairy tale setting, like you would see in Alice in Wonderland or The Lord of the Rings pales in comparison to the beauty of paradise. This is why God says:
No soul knows the delights of the eyes which is hidden for them; a reward for what they did
And His Prophet explains:
In Paradise, there are things which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has thought of
(Musnad of Ahmad)
The Prophet was once asked: “Are there horses in Paradise?” He said, “If God admits you to Paradise, any time you wish to be carried on a horse of red rubies that will fly with you wherever you want in Paradise, you will do that.” Another man asked him: “Will there be camels in Paradise?” and he said, “If God admits you to Paradise, you will have there whatever your heart desires”(Tirmidhi).
The Qur’an speaks of Paradise in wondrous terms, of the believers and their families who follow them in faith being joined together in eternal bliss (The Mount:21), in gardens with free flowing springs and fruits of every kind, and dates and pomegranates, and chaste maidens like rubies whom no man or jinn has touched before (The Most Merciful: 46-68). Reclining on raised thrones, they will feel neither the excessive heat of the sun or cold of the moon and the shades of the Garden would come low over them with bunches of fruit hanging low in humility. Vessels of silver and goblets of crystal will be passed round. There they will be given a cup of wine mixed with ginger and enjoy the bliss of a fountain called Salsabeel. They will be clad in green garments of fine silk and adorned with silver bracelets (Man:13-21). They will be served goblets and cups filled out of clear flowing fountains and the flesh of fowls of any that they desire (The Inevitable:18-21).
The Qur’an says of that eventful day when the believers would have gained paradise:
You shall see the believing men and the believing women- their light running forward before them and by their right hands. Glad tidings for you this day! Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever! Truly, this is the supreme success!
A salient feature of paradise are the gardens under which rivers flow:
Those who believe and work righteous deeds will be in the luxuriant meads of the Gardens; They shall have, before their Lord, all that they wish for
Those who believe and do righteous deeds, We shall soon admit to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath – their eternal home; therein shall they have companions pure and holy; We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening
God hath promised to the Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of God That is the supreme felicity
(Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the Righteous have been promised. In it are rivers of water, incorruptible; Rivers of milk the taste of which never changes; Rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink, and rivers of honey, pure and clear. For them will be every kind of fruit and Grace from their Lord
They will have all the joy in the world and dwell in cooling shades:
Verily, the companions of the Garden shall have joy in all that they do. They and their partners will be in groves of (cool) shade, reclining on thrones (of dignity). They will have therein fruits (of all kinds), and whatever they call for. Peace! A Word from a Lord Most Merciful
And mansions built up high:
But it is for those who fear their Lord that lofty mansions, one above another, have been built; beneath them flow rivers. (Such is) the Promise of God
And springs of flowing water:
Verily, the Righteous will be in a place of security, among Gardens and Springs, dressed in fine silk and in rich brocade, facing each other
Seated in thrones of dignity:
Truly the Righteous will be in Bliss; On thrones (of dignity) will they command a sight (of all things). Thou wilt recognize in their faces the beaming brightness of bliss. Their thirst will be slaked with pure wine
(The Dealers in Fraud:22-25)
Having all that they wish for, heavenly provender and wine:
And We shall bestow on them, of fruit and meat, anything they shall desire. They shall there exchange, one with another, a cup free of frivolity
(The Mount 22-23)
Men and women will be equally eligible to enter paradise and even have their spouses and near and dear ones with them:
Gardens of Eden they shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, spouses and offspring, and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation) “Peace Unto You for that you preserved in patience. Excellent indeed in the final Home!’
Enter ye the Garden, ye and your wives in rejoicing. To them will be passed round, dishes and goblets of gold; there will be there all that the souls could desire, all that the eyes could delight in. And ye shall abide therein (for aye)
(Gold Adornments: 70-71)
Women will have a high place in paradise. They will have all that the men have – gardens and mansions and food and drink. For did not the pious Asiyah, the wife of Pharaoh pray to her God: “O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings” (The Prohibited:11).
They will be young and never aging just like their husbands. One day an old woman came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of God, pray to God that He grants me Paradise!”. The Prophet replied: “O mother, an old woman cannot enter Paradise”. The woman began crying and left in tears. The Prophet said to his companion: “Tell the lady that one will not enter in a state of old age, but God will make all women of paradise young and playful” (Shamail Al Tirmidhi). Of this God Himself assures in the Qur’an:
Verily, We have created for them (maidens) of equal age, and made them virgin-pure, beloved, equal in age
(The Inevitable: 35-37)
The women of Paradise will be content with one husband who will satisfy them immensely so that they need not look for others. The Prophet made this clear when he said: “There will be no unmarried person in Paradise” (Saheeh Muslim). Thus if a woman died before marrying in this world or her husband did not make it to paradise, God will provide her with a husband in the hereafter who will delight her, perhaps from the unmarried men of paradise. If she had a husband in this life, she will also have him in the next, and if she had more than one, she will be for the last. The Prophet said: “The woman will be for her last husband in Paradise”(Tabarani).
There was also a follower of the Prophet named Hudhayfah who said to his wife: “If you want to be with me in Paradise, do not marry anyone after my death. The woman will be for her last husband”(Sunan of Baihaqi) . However another saying of the Prophet implies she will choose her husband from among those she loves the most. Umm Habibah, once asked the Prophet: “O Messenger of God, if a woman from amongst us has two husbands in this world and after her death, she and both her husbands enter paradise, with who of the two will she be? The first or
the second?”. The Prophet said: “She will choose, the husband who had the best character with her in this world will be with her in paradise. O Umm Habibah, the person who has good character will be blessed with the good in this world as well as the hereafter”(Mujam of Tabarani).
The men of paradise will however be provided with two wives or according to some accounts seventy.The Prophet said of the inhabitants of paradise:
Each man among them shall have two wives, the marrow of each of the two wives’ shanks will be seen glimmering under the flesh
And every one of them shall have two wives, each of whom will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the flesh
On another occasion he said: “The servant in Paradise shall be married with seventy wives” Someone said: “Messenger of God, can he bear it?” He replied: “He will be given strength for a hundred” (Musnad Al-Bazzar), meaning that he would have the virility to satisfy a hundred women.
However it all becomes clear from another account where he said:
The believer in Paradise shall be married off to seventy-two women, seventy women of the hereafter and two women of the women of this world
(Tarikh Dimashq. Ibn Asakir)
So it would seem that each man will have two wives from this world and seventy women not of the daughters of Eve, but rather heavenly nymphs known as Houris especially created by God for the pleasure of the faithful.
Verily, the Righteous will be in a place of security, among Gardens and Springs, dressed in fine silk and in rich brocade, facing each other. Moreover, We shall join them to Houris with big, lustrous eyes
These Houris are said to have intensely black irises and intense whiteness of their eyes. They long for the men to whom they will be joined even before they could lay their hands on them. The Prophet said: “A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: Do not annoy him, may God ruin you. He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us’” (Ibn Majah).
Yet, despite all these joys, the gardens, mansions and pleasures of the flesh, the greatest pleasure we will experience in paradise is seeing the Face of God Himself. Yes, the people of paradise would be given a glimpse of their Creator, the only thing intervening to hinder the people from looking at their Lord being the mantle of Grandeur over His Face in the Garden of Eden. He would lift the veil and nothing it is said would be dearer to them than the sight of their Lord. The Prophet captured that moment in the future when he observed:
When the inmates of Paradise enter Paradise and the inmates of Hellfire will enter Hell, the announcer will say, ‘O people of Paradise, verily you have a promise with God and He wishes to fulfill His promise to you.’ They will ask, ‘What is His promise? Has He not made our balances heavy (with good deed), whitened our faces, admitted us into Paradise, and delivered us from the Hellfire?’ Then the screen will be removed and they will look towards Him. By God, He will not give them a thing more beloved to them and more comforting to their eyes, than the gaze of Himself
On the other extreme is hell, a most frightening destination we should pray never to even enter. In Islamic terminology this abode of unrepentant sinners is called Jahannam, the same as the Gehenna used by Jesus when he pronounced in his pious zeal: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members, than to have your whole body go into Gehenna” (Matthew 5:29-30).
Many are the deeds that lead to the hellfire:
But for those who break the Covenant of God, after having plighted their word, and cut asunder those things which God has commanded to be joined, and work mischief in the land – On them is the Curse; for them is the Terrible Home!
The non-believers are warned by God to take heed of His Signs and submit to Him before it is too late:
To those who reject Our Signs and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven, nor will they enter the Garden, until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle. Such is Our Reward for those in sin. For them there is Hell, as a couch (below) and folds and folds of covering above
The Qur’an tells of the people of Pharoah in hellfire beseeching the keepers of hell: “Pray to your Lord to lighten us the penalty for a day!”. But they will say: “Did there not come to you your messengers with clear signs?” (Forgiver:49).
Since the dwellers of hell did not fall down before God in this world, they will not be able to do so even in the hereafter and so earn His Mercy:
The Day that the shin shall be laid bare, and they shall be summoned to go down prostrate, but they shall not be able- their eyes will be cast down-ignominy will cover them; seeing that they had been summoned aforetime to prostrate while they were whole
The Qur’an’s description of hell is so livid that one reading it is often seized with dread to go before God without a good record. It is hell as hell can be. We are told that when the evil ones are cast into hellfire, they will hear the terrible drawing in of its breath, even as it blazes forth, almost bursting with fury (The Dominion:7-8). It will throw out sparks like forts looking like a string of yellow camels (Al Mursalat:32-33). But that’s not all. The denizens of hell will be in the midst of a fierce blast of fire and in boiling water and in the shades of black smoke, tasting of the tree of Zaqqoom and drinking boiling water on top of it, drinking it like camels raging with thirst (The Inevitable:42-55). The Fire will darken and change their colour (The wrapped Up One:29) and as if that were not enough their roasted skins will be replaced by new ones to undergo further torment (The Women:56).
If you want to know how hellfire is like picture yourself on top of an erupting volcano with lava issuing out of the bowels of the earth and deathly sulfurous fumes stifling your very breath. It’s just that hell is as bad or worse:
O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are angels stern and severe, who flinch not (from executing) the commands they receive from God
(The Prohibition: 6)
As for those who are rebellious and wicked, their abode will be the Fire. Every time they wish to get away from it, they will be forced into it and it will be said to them: “Taste ye the penalty of the Fire, the which you were wont to reject as false”
Those who reject Our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire; As often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty
These verses tell us how hellish hell really is. Imagine your skin getting roasted and being replaced by fresh skin. Why, because when one’s skin is burnt, it cannot feel any pain as the pain receptors in it are destroyed. No matter, the skin that takes its place will ensure sinners suffer torment after torment. God forbid that we ever taste of it! Such sinners will neither live nor die, and even though they wish for death, it will not be given it:
In front of such a one is Hell, and he is given for drink, boiling fetid water. In gulps will he sip it, but never will he be near swallowing it down his throat. Death will come to him from every quarter, and yet he will not die
As if that were not enough, the dwellers of hell will be given to drink boiling water, and still they will drink of it, like thirsty camels do after traveling for days:
Truly Hell is as a place of ambush for the transgressors. A place of destination. They will dwell therein for ages. Nothing cool shall they taste therein, nor any drink, save a boiling fluid and a fluid, dark, murky, intensely cold
(The Great News:21-25)
For food, they will have nothing but the fruits of an evil tree growing thereabouts:
Is that the better entertainment or the Tree of Zaqqoom? For We have truly made it as a trial for the wrongdoers; For it is a tree that springs out of the bottom of Hellfire; The shoots of its fruit stalks are like the heads of devils. Truly they will eat thereof and fill their bellies with it. Then on top of that they will be given a mixture made of boiling water. Then shall their return be to the Fire
(Those Ranged in Ranks: 62-68)
The Prophet said of this terrible tree:
If a drop from zaqqum were to land in this world, the people of earth and all their means of sustenance would rot
Such torment would take place as long as God Wills, maybe an eternity, or almost:
As for those who are wretched, they will be in the Fire, sighing and sobbing. They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as Your Lord Wills. Verily, your Lord is the Doer of what He Wills
As for those who will be saved from the hell-fire by God’s Grace, they will come out of it after having received its burning touch, changing their colour. They might get as black as black can be, not necessarily the colour of your usual Negro, maybe darker, perhaps the colour of charcoal. The wretches would enter paradise, but even then, they will not be able to shake off their former state. Why, because they would still be called Al-Jahannamiyeen or ‘The People of the Fire’ by the People of Paradise (Saheeh Al-Bukhari).