Hell: a mercy for nonbelievers?

Undeniably, hell is the worst place anybody could be in. It’s an abode of incredible suffering and grief. However, there are some aspects of mercy to it that are worth mentioning


  1. Existence is superior to nonexistence

Though hell is a place of incredible suffering, existence is always superior to nonexistence.


The death penalty, for instance, is far worse than a life sentence in prison. The same holds even with the toughest prisons where prisoners spend up to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.


  1. Relationships with believers

First of all, we must realize that the existence of heaven necessitates the existence of hell. For how else would justice be served to the victims? With no justice, it wouldn’t be “heaven” anymore.


As humans, we are connected to our families and friends and their happiness makes us happy. A father serving a life sentence in prison, for instance, would be pleased if his children grew up to become successful individuals and upset if they ended up in prison like him. If he was given a choice between the annihilation of everybody on the planet (thus ending his suffering) and serving a life sentence while knowing that his family and children are living a comfortable life; he would certainly choose the latter.


Even when we suffer, the well-being of our loved ones makes us happy. This is also true in the afterlife for the inhabitants of hell. While they suffer as a result of their sins, they will be happy for their loved ones who died as believers.


  1. Getting used to hell over time

According to the verse “أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالْآخِرَةِ ۖ فَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ”  [These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter: their torment will not be lightened, nor will they be helped, Baqara 86], punishment in hellfire will continue to eternity and never decline in severity. However, based on some hadiths of the Prophet (عليه الصلاة و السلام), some Islamic scholars say that while the punishment of hell will not decrease in severity as per the mentioned verse, the people in hellfire will, over time, get accustomed to it.


This is similar to the prison system. Say one is given a life sentence in prison. While the punishment is the same on day 1 and day 100 of the prison sentence, people find the 100th day easier as they have become accustomed to it in some way.


This view is held by some Islamic scholars and rejected by others. Only Allah knows the truth. If this is true, however, it would also be considered a mercy for nonbelievers.





The Tenth Word, The Second Truth

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