Punishments of Hell
Just as those who believe and do good deeds are rewarded for their efforts, those who reject God and rebel against His laws will face punishment in the Hereafter. Hell is described as a fierce fire that will consume and punish those within it. But beyond the pain and torment of the fire, the ultimate punishment is the shame and disgrace before God. “Our Lord! Any whom You admit to the Fire, truly You cover them with shame. And never will wrongdoers find any helpers” (Qur'an 3:192).
Just as Paradise contains levels within it, the Fire of Hell contain levels with varying degrees of heat and intensity. People will be placed therein depending on the extent of their disbelief and sins. The Qur'an indicates that “the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire” (Qu'ran 4:145).
Descriptions of the Fire
The Fire of Hell is described throughout the Qur'an to serve as a warning to people about the consequences of the choices they make in life. It is said to be a place of intense heat and suffering, with boiling water, hot wind, and black smoke. People are burned, dragged along in chains, and constantly tormented. They are given putrid liquid to drink and thorny, bitter plants to eat. There is no relief for those who are consumed by the punishment: “So taste the results of your evil; no increase shall We give you, except in torment” (78:30). Indeed, people themselves will supply the fuel for the Fire; the Qur'an repeatedly says that Hellfire is “fueled by men and stones.”
Who Will Be Punished?
The only people who will be punished in Hell eternally with no chance of escape are those who disbelieve in God and associate others with Him in their worship. The Qur'an says, “But those who reject God, for them will be the Fire of Hell. No term shall be appointed for them, so they should die, nor shall its punishment be lightened for them. Thus do We reward every ungrateful one!” (35:36).
The Qur'an says, “Those who reject faith, and die rejecting, on them is God's curse, and the curse of the angels, and of all mankind. They will abide therein [Hell]. Their penalty will not be lightened, nor will respite be their lot” (Qur'an 2:161–162).
Hypocrites are equated with disbelievers, and they face the same punishment. “The hypocrites, men and women, are alike. They enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and tighten their purse strings. They have forgotten God, so He has forgotten them. Verily the hypocrites are rebellious and perverse. God has promised the hypocrites, men and women, and the rejecters of faith, the Fire of Hell. Therein shall they dwell; sufficient is it for them. For them is the curse of God, and an enduring punishment” (Qur'an 9:68–69).
Those who believe in God may spend a short time in Hell, in punishment for sins they committed during their lives. Sins such as arrogance, pride, murder, envy, lying, oppression, promiscuity, slander, miserliness, or cowardice may be punished if they are not repented before death. Similarly, one may be punished for transgressing God's limits or for being neglectful of one's duties to God.
Despite the vivid and horrific images of the punishment of Hell, the overwhelming message in the Qur'an is one of God's Mercy and Compassion. Nearly every chapter of the Qur'an begins with the phrase, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” That message is repeated throughout the Qur'an to offer hope to those who turn to Him in repentance and humility.