I began reading through the Quran (Koran) for a Bible college project toward the end of last year and finished reading it in February 2015. I wanted to learn more about Islam and what it is that Muslims believe about God. The thing that intrigued me most about the Quran was Muhammed’s depiction of hell. The similarities between Islam’s understanding of hell and Western Christianity’s are quite striking.
Let me show you:
Is the expression “burn in hell” from the Bible? The exact phrase “burn in hell” never appears in the Bible, but it does appear in the Quran:
Quran 38:55-58 But the arrogant will have the worst return: they will burn, in Hell, an evil resting place – all this will be theirs; let them taste it – a scalding, dark, foul fluid, and other such torments.
Quran 56:92-96 But if he is one of those who rejected the truth and went astray, he will be welcomed with boiling water. He will burn in Hell. This is indeed the indubitable truth. So glorify the name of your Lord, the Supreme.
A lot of Christians describe hell as “eternal conscious torment.” I do not deny that the Bible connects hell to unquenchable fire, worms, salt, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and that the word eternal is also used in conjunction with hell. But I see all of these things as double-edged (both negative and positive). Fire burns off impurities (purifies), worms enrich soil, salt heals wounds, weeping and gnashing of teeth go hand-in-hand with repentance. As for the word eternal, my husband says that the fire and results of the fire are eternal, but once a person has come to repentance, the same experiences that were once perceived as hellish, now become heavenly i.e. what was once perceived as burning, torment, being eaten by worms etc., can be transformed into an experience of refinement, cleansing, enriching, and healing.
The hell of the Quran is way more specific in connecting hell to a torment that never ends and does not move from being a negative experience to being a positive one.
Quran 4:56 We shall send those who reject our revelations to the Fire. When their skins are burnt up, we shall replace them with new ones so that they may continue to taste the punishment. God is mighty and wise.
Quran 7:40-41 The gates of Heaven shall not be opened for those who rejected our signs and arrogantly spurned them; nor shall they enter Paradise until a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle. That is how we repay the evildoers – Hell shall be their bed, and over them will be coverings of fire – thus shall we reward the wrongdoers.
[The Bible directly contradicts this by declaring the gate of heaven never to be shut, Revelation 21:25-26. Also the “eye of a needle” reference in the Bible refers to the rich entering the Kingdom of heaven and says in the same passage “BUT with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:24-26.]
Quran 18:29 & 53 For the wrongdoers we have prepared a fire which will cover them like a canopy, and if they beg for water, they will be given water as hot as molten lead, which will scald their faces: how dreadful a drink, and how evil a resting place! … (53) The guilty shall see the fire and realize that they are going to fall into it: they shall find no way of escape from it.
Quran 40:71-72 when, with iron collars and chains around their necks, they are dragged (72) into the boiling water and then are thrown into the Fire
Quran 43:74-77 As for the evil-doers, they shall endure forever the torment of Hell, from which there is no relief: they will remain there in utter despair. We have not wronged them; it was they who were the wrongdoers. They will cry, ‘Master, if only your Lord would put an end to us!’ But he [the angel] will answer, ‘No! You are here to stay.’
Quran 73:12-13 We have in store for them heavy fetters and a blazing fire, food that chokes and painful punishment.
Quran 85:10 Those who persecute the believing men and believing women, and then do not repent will surely suffer the punishment of Hell, and the torment of burning.
If you ask a Christian: “who goes to hell?” you will likely hear answers like: “unrepentant sinners,” “evildoers,” “non-believers.” Again, to be fair, the Bible does say: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:15. However, we have all done things on this list, whether it be telling lies, acts of sexually immorality or committing murder (Jesus equated hatred and murder). So we are either all “outside,” or this list is really just trying to tell us that certain people have not yet washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and are still identified as murderers etc. As soon as they wash their robes, they can come in as seen in the previous verse: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city [heaven],” Revelation 22:14.
Jesus called the Pharisees sons of hell. He also warned his own disciples (whether you want to call them Jewish or Christian) that they were in danger of the fire of hell because of how they behaved in their relationships, Mark 9. So hell is applicable to religious people, including me: a Christian “believer.” It seems to me that hell is for everyone at different times in their lives – both in this earth-age and the age to come.
Yet what the Quran says about who goes to hell sounds like the kind of thing a lot of Christians would say:
Quran 4:56 We shall send those who reject our revelations to the fire.
Quran 20:74 Indeed, he who comes to his Lord a sinner shall be consigned to Hell.
Quran 67:6-8 Those who are bent on blaspheming against their Lord will have the punishment of Hell: an evil destination. When they are cast into it, they will hear its roaring as it boils up, as though bursting with rage.
How many people go to hell? Everyone who is not a Christian? Not a believer? Not a Muslim? Most Christians I have asked say that the majority of human beings will go to hell. This means hell is a pretty full place right?
Quran 7:38 & 179 God will say, ‘Enter the fire and join the bands of jinn [like demons] and men that have gone before you.’ … (179) We created many of the jinn and mankind for Hell. They have hearts they do not understand with; they have eyes they do not see with; and they have ears they do not hear with. Such people are like cattle – no, they are even more misguided.
Quran 32:13 But My word shall come true: ‘I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together.’
Quran 38:85 I will fill up Hell with you [Satan] and every one of them who follows you.’
Quran 39:71 Those who rejected the truth will be led to Hell in throngs.
Christians who believe in hell as a place that cannot ever be exited seem to assume that they will be happy in heaven without all these other people, some of whom could be their mothers, fathers, siblings, children, favourite school teacher, neighbour etc. Perhaps we will forget those in hell. Once again this idea of forgetting is not found in the Bible, but is found in the Quran:
Quran 7:51 On that day we shall forget them, as they forgot their meeting of that day with us, for they denied our revelations.
Quran 32:14 We too will forget you – taste the chastisement of eternity for your evil deeds!’
Are the people in hell loved by God? This one is debated amongst Christians, even though the bible clearly says that God IS love and that we should love our enemies (and therefore so should he). Yet we seem to think it’ll be so easy, not only for those in heaven to forget those in hell, but for God to forget them and feel no more compassion or desire to save those in hell. The Quran testifies to the ease with which God rejects or hates those he sends to hell:
Quran 2:284 He will forgive whom He will and punish whom He pleases: He has power over all things.
Quran 28:68 Your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses whomsoever He pleases. They have no choice.
Quran 30:45 He does not love those who reject the truth.
Quran 59:20 The people of the fire and the people of paradise are not equal.
What we believe about hell is a dangerous thing. Often we don’t see how much the society, including religions around us, shape our ideas. Did you know that of the 6,236 verses in the Quran approximately 500 speak about hell? That is about 8% of the entire book. Yet of the 23,145 verses in the Bible the word hell only appears in an average of 12-14 verses and a maximum of 54 in the KJV. This amounts to less than a quarter of a percent (0.25%) of the book in every single English translation of the Bible.
The Bible never once says that Jesus was sent to earth to save us from hell and yet most gospel presentations preach that this as the central point of the gospel. Salvation from hell. I don’t see this in the Bible. I see warnings about a hell that we all experience called the refiners fire.
Here is my favourite verse in the Quran:
Quran 3:23-24 Have you not seen those who received a portion of the Book [the Bible]? … they say “The fire will touch us only for a limited number of days.”
The Quran was written around 600 A.D. Look what else was written not that much earlier:
“There are very many in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments” Augustine, 354-430 A.D.
“For it is evident that God will in truth be all in all when there shall be no evil in existence, when every created being is at harmony with itself and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature shall have been made one body.” Gregory of Nyssa, 335-390 A.D.
“The nations are gathered to the Judgment, that on them may be poured out the wrath of the fury of the Lord, and this in pity and with a design to heal, in order that every one may return to the confession of the Lord, that in Jesus’ Name every knee may bow, and every tongue may confess that He is Lord. All God’s enemies shall perish, not that they cease to exist, but cease to be enemies.” Jerome, 340-420 A.D.
It seems to me that in actual fact, the Quran was written in part as a reaction against Universalist-Christians who preached hell as the refiner’s fire. Furthermore, the Quran has had an influence on Western Christianity’s understanding of hell and unfortunately a lot of Christians have gone the way of the Quran, believing in a hell of eternal conscious torment. Study the hell of the Bible. Study the Jewish concept of hell. Study the root words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna that are being translated to hell in our English bibles.
As much as I respect Islam and Muslims, I reject the hell of the Quran, just as much as I reject the hell of traditional Western Christianity today, and I pray for a day when Muslims and Christians alike will come to understand that the concept of hell as “eternal conscious torment,” would never even enter God’s mind:
Jeremiah 19:5 (& 7:31) “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offering to Baal – something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.”