What is the correct Islamic concept of heaven and hell?


Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa was asked, “If the concept of physical Heaven and Hell is incorrect, then what are Heaven and Hell? What will Heaven and Hell look like after the Day of Judgement? 

Huzooraa, in a letter, dated 4 February 2020, gave the following reply: 

“Just as there are all kinds of ideas about Heaven and Hell in other religions, Muslims have also concocted erroneous ideas in their minds due to misunderstanding the statements of the Holy Quran and the ahadith about Heaven and Hell and due to their taking them literally. However, the Holy Quran and the ahadith have only given allegorical descriptions of Heaven and Hell in order to make man understand. The words describing Heaven and Hell have been used as metaphors and there is a different truth hidden behind them. Therefore, along with these allegorical descriptions, the Holy Quran also states: 

فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَا أُخْفِيَ لَهُمْ مِنْ قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“‘And no soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden for them, as a reward for the (good) they used to do.’ [Surah al-Sajdah, Ch.32: V.18]

“Similarly, it has been narrated in a hadith that the Holy Prophetsa said that the bounties of Heaven were such that:

مَا لَا عَيْنٌ رَأَتْ وَلَا أُذُنٌ سَمِعَتْ وَلَا خَطَرَ عَلَى قَلْبِ بَشَرٍ

“‘No eye has ever seen them, no ear has ever heard them, and no human heart has ever conceived them.’ [Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab bad‘il khalq, baab maa ja‘a fi siffat al-jannah wa annahaa makhluqah]

In fact, Heaven and Hell are a reflection of the faith and the deeds of this world. They are not something new that will come to man from outside; rather, man’s paradise comes from within him. It is his own faith and his good deeds, the delight of which he begins to experience in this very life and the gardens of faith and deeds become visible in a subtle way. Rivers also become visible in the same way. These very gardens will be experienced intensely in the Hereafter. Hence, the Holy Quran states regarding the people of Paradise: 

كُلَّمَا رُزِقُوا مِنْهَا مِنْ ثَمَرَةٍ رِزْقًا قَالُوا هَذَا الَّذِي رُزِقْنَا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَأُتُوا بِهِ مُتَشَابِهًا

“‘Whenever they are given a portion of fruit therefrom, they will say: “This is what was given us before”, and gifts mutually resembling shall be brought to them.’ [Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.26]

“The Promised Messiahas, while elucidating the reality of Heaven and Hell, stated: 

“‘According to the Holy Quran, Hell and Heaven are both reflections of a man’s life, and are not something new that comes from outside. It is true that in the Hereafter, they will be manifested physically, but they will be reflections of the spiritual conditions of man in this life. We do not conceive of Heaven as containing material trees, nor of Hell as full of brimstone and sulphur. According to Islamic teachings Heaven and Hell are the reflections of the actions that a person carries out in this world.’ (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 157)”.

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