Are Paradise and Hell Eternal? What are the Evidences?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

I.  The Analysis of Verse 88 of the Chapter of al-Qasas, which is Used as a Reference that Paradise and Hell are not Eternal

The translation of the verse is as follows: “And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He. Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face. To Him belongs the Command, and to Him will ye (all) be brought back.”

The verse above, which shows the great scope of the Quran, has some important meanings.

a) Introduction of Wajib al-Wujud (Necessary Existence) and Mumkin al-Wujud (Possible Existence)

There is a definition about the existence of Allah and the existence of His creatures in terms of their levels of existence in the verse. It is indicated in the definition that the existence of Allah is at the level of existence and that the existence of His creatures is at the level of possibility.

It is indicated in the first part of the verse that the only deity to be worshipped is Allah: “And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He.”

It is emphasized in the sentence immediately after it that everything is essentially ephemeral and hence bound to die: “Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face.”

The statement “To Him belongs the Command” coming immediately after it attracts attention to the fact that rule and sovereignty belong only to Allah in the universe; then, the last part of the verse indicates that people will be resurrected after that and that they will go to the eternal realm and enter into His presence: “And to Him will ye (all) be brought back”.

From this point of view, it can be stated in summary that the verse emphasizes the following fact in order to turn faces from the ephemeral to the eternal and from multitude to oneness: “Everything except Allah is ephemeral and will perish. Only Allah is eternal.”

- Allah’s existence is independent; it does not need others; His existence is necessary. Allah is existent and everlasting. The existence of all beings except Allah needs the existence of a creator, His creating and maintaining them. The existence of Allah, who is the Self-Subsisting and the Everlasting, is the only source and basis of all beings.  If the secret of Allah’s self-subsistence turned away from the universe for a moment, everything would be doomed to perish at once.    

In order to express that fact, some sufis say, “La mawjuda illa Hu” (There is no being except Him in the real sense) while others say, “La mashhuda illa Hu” (There is no visible being except Him) because everything that is visible is a manifestation of Allah’s attributes and deeds.

- From this point of view, the verse virtually invites people to absorb that fact mentally by saying “I do not like those that appear and then disappear because those ephemeral things cannot cure my disorders and are not worth the interest of my heart.” It also invites people to express the following fact:

“I am ephemeral; I do not want one such as that. I am impotent; I do not want one such as that. I have surrendered my spirit to the Most Merciful; I do not want another. I want one, but I want an eternal friend. I am a mere speck, but I want an eternal sun. I am nothing, but nothing, yet I want these beings, all of them.” (Sözler, pp. 221-222)

b) The Comparison of the Truth and the Wrong

If the deeds that are done by people are in compliance with Allah’s consent, they are true and are manifestations of His name Haqq, which is everlasting. If the deeds that are done by people are contrary Allah’s consent, they are wrong; all wrong things are useless, ephemeral and will perish.  

Accordingly, what is emphasized in the verse is this:

Everything that is done in accordance with Islam is a righteous deed and everything that is contrary to it is wrong and will perish.

“Wealth and sons are allurements of the life of this world: But the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of thy Lord, as rewards, and best as (the foundation for) hopes.” (al-Kahf, 18/46)

The verse above indicates the truth and the wrong; it also indicates that righteous deeds are eternal and that bad deeds are ephemeral.

- As Badiuzzaman Said Nursi expresses, in summary, all things are nothing in regard to their faces which look to themselves, that is in terms of nominative meaning. They do not possess existences that are of themselves independent or constant, and they do not possess realities that subsist of themselves. However, in regard to their aspects that look to Almighty God, that is, that signify a meaning other than themselves, they are not nothing; they have eternal existence. For, in that aspect are to be seen the manifestations of eternal names. That aspect is not doomed for non-existence because it bears the shadow of an eternal existent. It has a reality, it is constant, and it is elevated with that dimension because it is a sort of constant shadow of the eternal name which it manifests (see Mektubat, On Beşinci Mektup, pp. 59 - 60)

c)  The Comparison of what is for Allah and what is not for Allah

One of the most important aims of the phrase “everything will perish except His own face” is to make man’s face encounter the ephemeral face of the world, to make him leave masiwa (all beings except Allah), to cut the attachment of man’s heart, which is obliged to love Allah, to the ephemeral things that are not in accordance with the consent of God Almighty and to make man turn the face of his heart to Allah, who is everlasting, and to the things that become everlasting by being in accordance with His consent.

That is to say, if man’s attachment is for God’s sake and on account of the face that looks to Him, and for Him, he cannot embrace what is other than Him so that his head should be cut off with the sword of “Everything will perish except His own face.” (see Mektubat, On Beşinci Mektup, pp. 59 - 60)

d) The Comparison of the Eternal Realm and the Ephemeral Realm

The phrase “everything will perish” in the verse indicates that the world, which is the ephemeral realm, will perish when Doomsday strikes. The phrase “and to Him will you all be brought back” at the end of the verse indicates that this universe, especially man, will be resurrected and that he will attain everlastingness in the eternal realm.

“All that is on earth will perish: But will abide (for ever) the Face of thy Lord,- full of Majesty, Bounty and Honor.” (ar-Rahman, 55/26-27)

That fact is expressed clearly in the verses above.

- However, according to the majority of the investigative scholars, the phrase “everything will perish” does not include Paradise, Hell and the inhabitants of the eternal realm like “the angels, ghilmans and houris” that are there now. According to some other scholars, the decree of perishing when Doomsday strikes includes them too but their perishing will be so quick that they will not feel that they will go to non-existence and return. (see. Mektubat, On Beşinci Mektup, pp. 59 - 60)

e) The Interpretation of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi Regarding the Issue  

According to Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, the view of those who claim based on the apparent meaning of the verse above that Paradise, Hell and the realm of the hereafter will eventually perish is wrong due to the following reasons:

Since the Most Pure and Holy Divine Essence is eternal and everlasting, His attributes and names are also surely eternal and everlasting. And since His attributes and names are everlasting and eternal, the immortal beings in the realm of eternity, which are the mirrors, manifestations, impresses, and places of reflection of His attributes and names, of necessity will not vanish into absolute non-existence. Even if Paradise and Hell perished when Doomsday struck based the decree of the verse above, that perishing would not be absolute non-existence.  

For, Almighty God is the possessor of such absolute power that He can bring existence into being and dispatch it to non-existence most easily, as though they were two houses in relation to His power and will. If He wishes He can do this in a day or in an instant.

Anyway, there is no absolute non-existence, for His knowledge is all-embracing; there is nothing outside the sphere of divine knowledge so that something can be cast there. The non-existence within the sphere of His knowledge is external non-existence and a title for something concealed but existent in divine knowledge. Some scholars have called the beings existent in divine knowledge “latent realities.”

In which case, to go to extinction is to be temporarily divested of external dress and to enter upon existence in divine knowledge, existence in meaning. (see Mektubat, On Beşinci Mektup, pp. 59 - 60). That is to say, transitory, ephemeral beings leave external existence and their essences are clothed in what has the meaning of existence; they pass from the sphere of divine power to that of divine knowledge.

f) The Content of the Verse is an Indicator of the Eternity of the Realm of the Hereafter

The content of the verse shows its aim: In the verse above, Allah wants people to worship only Him because everything other than Him is ephemeral and only Allah is the everlasting and wants them to think that the last place they will go to is His presence and advises them to try to worship only Him, not others.

The summary of the message understood from the expression of the verse above is as follows: “Worship Allah because He alone is the everlasting; thus, it is only He who will bring you back to His presence after death and make you live eternally.”

That is, Allah asks people to worship Him in the verse and promises an eternal life in return. The phrase in the last sentence of the verse “and to Him will ye (all) be brought back” is clear evidence that the “perishing” in question is about the time of Doomsday because it is emphasized there that after everything is destroyed, people will be resurrected and arrive in the presence of Allah. Therefore, it is contrary to the clear expression of the verse to extend the phenomenon of “perishing” expressed in the verse to the life after Doomsday and to judge acting upon it that the two eternal lands of the hereafter, namely Paradise and Hell, will perish.

- According to those who understand from the verse that Paradise and Hell will also perish eventually, there must be a contradiction – God forbid – in the verse as follows: On the one hand, Allah asks people to worship Him and on the other hand He informs them that they will eventually perish. According to that understanding, the verse should be understood as follows: “O people! Worship Me; do not worship anyone but Me because I will eventually eradicate you and destroy you all.” We believe that Allah, who has infinite mercy, wisdom and majesty, is definitely free and away from saying such a thing.

II. The Existence of the Good and the Bad is an Evidence Showing That the Other World is Eternal.

If the believers and unbelievers have the same end, it will be contrary to the understanding of justice and the statements of many verses of the Quran regarding the issue.

Belief and unbelief, and good deeds and bad deeds cannot be equal.

“Do ye make the giving of drink to pilgrims, or the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque, equal to (the pious service of) those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and strive with might and main in the cause of Allah. They are not comparable in the sight of Allah; and Allah guides not those who do wrong.” (at-Tawba, 9/19)

It is stated in the verse above that it is not appropriate to regard some services of the polytheists related to the Kaaba since they do not believe as equal to what the believers do in the way of Allah. It is indicated that there is a great difference between the deeds done with belief and unbelief though what is done is seemingly equal; it is emphasized that they are never equal in the sight of Allah.

- Similarly, the sentence “Allah guides not those who do wrong” at the end of verse attracts attention to the fact that those who do not believe are oppressors and that the oppressor and the oppressed cannot be regarded equal.  

However, the perishing of Paradise and Hell means making the believer and unbeliever as well as the oppressor and the oppressed equal.   

Thus, as the verse above clearly states, Paradise and Hell are eternal. They will remain eternal so that the people of both places will not be equated - unjustly.

The one who cannot see and the one who can see, the darkness and the light cannot be equal

“Say: “Are the blind equal with those who see? Or the depths of darkness equal with light?” (ar-Ra’d, 13/16)

In the verse above, the unbeliever is described as blind since he does not see the truth and the believer is described as the one who sees since he sees the truth

Similarly, the attribute of unbelief is expressed as ignorance and darkness, belief is expressed as knowledge and light/brightness. When those two different parties are evaluated, it is concisely emphasized that “they are never equal and that they cannot be regarded as equal”.

However, if there were no eternal life in the hereafter, both parties would face the same end “by perishing” and would be equal, which is contrary to the clear expression of the verse.

A Believer and a Fasiq (Open Sinner) Cannot Be Equal

“Is then the man who believes no better than the man who is rebellious and wicked? Not equal are they. For those who believe and do righteous deeds are Gardens as hospitable homes, for their (good) deeds. As to those who are rebellious and wicked, their abode will be the Fire: every time they wish to get away therefrom, they will be forced thereinto, and it will be said to them: “Taste ye the Penalty of the Fire, the which ye were wont to reject as false.’(as-Sajda, 32/18-20)

Attention is attracted to the following three points in the verses above:

Firstly: A believer is not like a fasiq/unbeliever who has gone astray, in terms of his value or his end. It would be great injustice to regard both of them the same.

Secondly: The end of the believers is clear; so is the end of the unbelievers. The destination of the believers is Paradise; the last stop for those who prefer unbelief is Hell. It means a believer is not the same as an unbeliever in terms of his value; he will not have the same end as an unbeliever either. On the contrary, the believer will enter Paradise and the unbeliever will enter Hell, where they will remain forever.

Thirdly: The people of Paradise do not think of leaving it because they are pleased with their place. However, the people of Hell want to get rid of their trouble but they cannot get a positive response to their request. On the contrary, “every time they wish to get away therefrom, they will be forced thereinto, and it will be said to them: ‘Taste ye the Penalty of the Fire, the which ye were wont to reject as false.’”

However, if Paradise and Hell perished, those three facts expressed in the verse would be turned upside down. Thus, as the verse above states clearly, the abode of the hereafter is eternal.

The believers who do good deeds cannot be equal to those who do mischief

“Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between! that were the thought of Unbelievers! but woe to the Unbelievers because of the Fire (of Hell)! Shall We treat those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, the same as those who do mischief on earth? Shall We treat those who guard against evil, the same as those who turn aside from the right?” (Sad, 38/27-28)

The following three points are underlined in the verses above:

Firstly: The existence of the universe is the proof of the existence of the hereafter because to think that this wonderful universe, the earth and sky, and what is between them, were created in vain is only a delusion stemming from the delusions of the unbelievers.

Secondly: A believer is constructive; he always does useful things in the world; he repairs the world and tries to improve the people and the environment. An unbeliever is destructive as a requirement of his unbelief and causes mischief in the world. There is a great difference between them. According to the measure of justice, a person who believes and does good deeds cannot be regarded equal to a person who denies and does bad deeds.

Thirdly: It is not possible - in terms of justice - to equate people with taqwa who are respectful to Allah with those fasiqs who have gone astray.

In fact, those who believe and those who deny, the oppressor and the oppressed, the obedient and the disobedient leave this world together; what is more, many unbelievers and oppressors die in dignity, and many believers and oppressed people die in misery.

If death is an end that equates both parties (if there is no resurrection and the Day of Judgment or if the hereafter is destroyed after resurrection), it is necessary to conclude that the very clear and distinct expressions of those verses are not correct – God forbid. It is clear unbelief and is totally opposite to the reality of the verse “Whose word can be truer than Allah’s?(an-Nisa, 4/122)

The People of Hell and the People of Paradise Cannot be Equal

“Not equal are the Companions of the Fire and the Companions of the Garden: it is the Companions of the Garden, that will achieve Felicity.” (al-Hashr, 59/20)

It is stated in the verse above that the end of the people of Hell and the people of Paradise will not be the same because the people of Paradise have succeeded in the trade market of the world-hereafter and have deserved Paradise while the people of Hell have failed and lost Paradise.

However, if Paradise is not eternal and disappears one day, neither the success nor the gains of the people of Paradise can be mentioned. In that case, the people of Paradise and the people of Hell will have the same end and will be equal. It is contrary not only to Allah's infinite justice and mercy but also to the clear expression of the verse above.

Those Who Obey and Disobey Cannot be Equal

“Shall We then treat the People of Faith like the People of Sin?” (al-Qalam, 68/35)

The decrees of the verses mentioned previously are emphasized in summary in the verse above.

An important point in the verse “Shall We then treat the People of Faith like the People of Sin?” is the use of the pronoun “We”, which belongs to Allah. The following is expressed in the verse with it: “Since those who obey and disobey are not equal in terms of any criterion of justice, is it possible for ‘Us’, who have infinite justice and wisdom, to do such a bad thing?”

In fact, if the end of the abode of the hereafter is to perish, the strong emphasis of the verse will be in vain – God forbid. Thus, it is understood from the clear expressions of all those verses that the abode of the hereafter is eternal, that Paradise and Hell are everlasting and that their inhabitants are eternal.

III. The Togetherness of the Concepts Khuld and Abad

There are many verses in which the words “khuld/khalid”, which mean eternity, are used in the Quran. Those concepts literally express eternity but they are also used in the sense of “a long time” metaphorically; therefore, misinterpretations about the eternity of Paradise and Hell are made.

In this part, we will deal with the verses in which the words “khuld” and “abad” are used together in the same verse like “khalidina fiha abada” because when they are used together, there is no possibility of meaning anything but eternity; that is, the literal meaning is used and there is no possibility for the metaphorical meaning.  

We want to quote the verses expressing the eternity of Paradise and the people of Paradise first and then the verses emphasizing the eternity of Hell and the people of Hell in the order in which they are mentioned in the Quran.

Verses Emphasizing the Eternity of the People of Paradise

1) “But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal home.” (an-Nisa, 4/57)

2) “But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness,- we shall soon admit them to gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,-to dwell therein for ever. Allah’s promise is the truth, and whose word can be truer than Allah’s?” (an-Nisa, 4/122)

3) “This is a day on which the truthful will profit from their truth: theirs are gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal Home: Allah well-pleased with them, and they with Allah. That is the great salvation, (the fulfilment of all desires)” (al-Maida, 5/119).

4) “Their Lord doth give them glad tidings of a Mercy from Himself, of His good pleasure, and of gardens for them, wherein are delights that endure: They will dwell therein for ever. Verily in Allah’s presence is a reward, the greatest (of all).” (at-Tawba, 9/21-22)

5) “The vanguard (of Islam)- the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds,- well- pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity.” (at-Tawba 9/100)

6) “The Day that He assembles you (all) for a Day of Assembly,- that will be a Day of mutual loss and gain (among you), and those who believe in Allah and work righteousness,- He will remove from them their ills, and He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that will be the Supreme Achievement.” (at-Taghabun, 64/9)

7) “Allah has prepared for them a severe Punishment (in the Hereafter). Therefore fear Allah, O ye men of understanding - who have believed!- for Allah hath indeed sent down to you a Message,- An Messenger, who rehearses to you the Signs of Allah containing clear explanations, that he may lead forth those who believe and do righteous deeds from the depths of Darkness into Light. And those who believe in Allah and work righteousness, He will admit to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: Allah has indeed granted for them a most excellent Provision.” (at-Talaq, 65/10-11)

8) “Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,- they are the best of creatures. Their reward is with Allah. Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher.” (al-Bayyina, 98/7-8)

Verses Emphasizing the Eternity of the People of Hell

1) “Those who reject Faith and do wrong,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any way- Except the way of Hell, to dwell therein for ever. And this to Allah is easy.” (an-Nisa, 4/168-169)

2) “Verily Allah has cursed the Unbelievers and prepared for them a Blazing Fire,- To dwell therein for ever: no protector will they find, nor helper.”(al-Ahzab, 33/64-65)

3) “Unless I proclaim what I receive from Allah and His Messages: for any that disobey Allah and His Messenger,- for them is Hell: they shall dwell therein for ever.” (al-Jinn, 72/23)

IV. The Concept of Khuld in the Quran is the Declaration of Eternity

In the Quran, not only the “eternity” of the people of Hell and the people of Paradise but also Hell and Paradise themselves are emphasized with the attribute of “khuld”.

The translations of the verses in question are as follows:

The translation of the verse related to Paradise:

“Say: ‘Is that best, or the eternal garden, promised to the righteous? for them, that is a reward as well as a goal (of attainment).’” (al-Furqan, 25/15).

In the verse above, Paradise is qualified with the word “khuld” “Khuld” is a concept that expresses eternity. A beautiful aspect of Paradise is shown by being emphasized that it is an eternal abode. If we interpret that word as “not eternal, for a temporary period of time”, contrarily to its literal meaning, the meaning of the verse will disappear because the beauty of Paradise becomes manifest with eternity, not with temporariness.  

The translation of the verse related to Hell:

“Taste ye then - for ye forgot the Meeting of this Day of yours, and We too will forget you - taste ye the Penalty of Eternity for your (evil) deeds!” (as-Sajda, 32/14).

In the verse above, penalty in Hell is qualified with the word “khuld”, which expresses its eternity. It is clearly understood from the style of the verse that the attribute of the eternity of penalty in Hell is indicated when it is stated that penalty in Hell is something terrible.

V. The Interpretation of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi regarding the issue

We want to quote from Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, who always expresses the truth, as the last word. He expresses “the eternity of the hereafter” as follows in an invocation:   

“O All-Powerful and Wise One! O Most Merciful and Compassionate! O Munificent One True to His Promise! O All-Compelling One of Glory, One of Dignity, Grandeur, and Wrath!..” 

“You are utterly exempt from and exalted above giving the lie to so many loyal friends, and so many promises, and attributes and functions, and denying the certain demands of the sovereignty of Your dominicality and the endless prayers and supplications of Your innumerable acceptable servants, whom You love and who attract Your love by assenting to You and obeying You; and You are exempt from confirming the denial of resurrection by the people of misguidance and unbelief, who through their disbelief and rebellion and denial of Your promises, offend the magnificence of Your grandeur and affront Your dignity and glory and the honor of Your Godhead, and sadden the compassion of Your dominicality. We declare Your justice, beauty, and mercy to be exempt from such infinite tyranny, such ugliness.

We believe with all our strength that the testimony of the prophets, purified scholars, and saints, who are those truthful envoys of Yours, those heralds of Your sovereignty, at the degrees of ‘absolute certainty,’ ‘knowledge of certainty,’ and ‘the vision of certainty,’ to the treasuries of Your mercy in the hereafter and the stores of Your bounties in the everlasting realm, and to the wondrously beautiful manifestations of Your Beautiful Names, which will be manifested totally in the abode of bliss, are absolutely true and veracious, and what they have indicated conforms absolutely with reality, and that what they have given glad tidings of is true and will occur. Believing that the supreme ray of Your Name of Truth, which is the source, sun, and protector of all realities, is this truth of the resurrection and Great Gathering, they teach it to Your servants.…” (Sözler, Onuncu Söz, pp. 100-101).

To sum up, the clear expressions of the verses mentioned above clearly show that Paradise and Hell are eternal. To think of the opposite would be contrary to the clear expressions of those verses and would be unthinkable.

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