How should we answer those who allege that Paradise and Hell are not eternal, and that after a while (God forbid), Allah will feel bored and destroy Paradise and Hell?

Details of the Question
How should we answer those who allege that Paradise and Hell are not eternal, and that after a while (God forbid), Allah will feel bored and destroy Paradise and Hell?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Feeling bored is not in question for Allah. People's ignorance of assuming Allah like themselves can cause wrong ideas like this. Allah does not resemble what He creates. No artist can be in the same type as his art. For example, a furniture craftsman is not in the same type as the furniture. There cannot be more ignorance than considering the craftsman being in the same type as an armchair. Similarly, considering that Allah has the same qualities as human beings, who are His art, and attributing boredom to Allah is an example of great ignorance.

An idea put forward by a thought that has no route is such a refutable idea that it seeks the solution to boredom in non-existence.

As for the eternity of Paradise and Hell:

First of all, we should say this: there is no controversy among scholars about the eternity of Paradise. However, there are some marginal thoughts about Hell.

Yes, Paradise and Hell are eternal. However, this eternity will only be possible when Allah creates them as eternal. Because of this, there is no contrariness to Allah's eternity.

We will try to sum up this issue in items in accordance with verses, hadiths andthe views of Ahl as-Sunnah scholars.

Relevant verses:

The word ('KHULD')

"Give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow... They abide therein (forever).” (al-Baqara, 2/25, see also al-Baqara, 2/82).

"Those who believe and work righteousness... they therein to dwell (for ever)." (al-Araf, 7/42)

“Those who seek gain in evil, and are girt round by their sins,- they are companions of the Fire: Therein shall they abide (for ever)." (al-Baqara, 2/81)

"Those who reject Our Signs and treat them with arrogance,- they are companions of the Fire, to dwell therein (for ever)." (al-Araf, 7/36)

The word 'khalidun' that is mentioned in the verses above given as examples and that we translated as 'permanent/eternal' is derived from the word 'KHULD'.

The lexical meaning of this word is 'to remain eternal, to stay forever'. The meaning of beingkhalid in Paradise is to live there forever without leaving. The land of khuld means everlasting and eternal realm. One of the names of Paradise is "Darul-khuld". It states that the people of it will stay there eternally. (see Lisanul-Arab. Tahdhibul-Lugha, Kitabul-Ayn, “KHLD” item.)

Since the Qur'an was sent down in Arabic, it is obligatory to use the word 'khuld' in the sense of eternity that Arabic people understand. Otherwise, it will mean attributing deception to Allah, for whom it is impossible to break His promise – God forbid.

The word ('ABAD')

"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 Triumph." (at-Taghabun, 64/9)

"For any that disobey Allah and His Messenger,- for them is Hell: they shall dwell therein for ever." (al-Jinn, 72/23)

In these verses, which we quoted as examples, the word 'abad', which means for ever/eternally, is used along with the word ('khuld').

These verses show that both Paradise and Hell are realms which are eternal.

The following question can come to mind: “What kind of words should Allah have used in order to emphasize the eternity of the realm of hereafter?” Although he used these two words, which are the most specific and emphasized words in Arabic many times, what else can we expect to be satisfied regarding the issue?

Relevant Hadiths:

“O people! It is definite that the last return is to Allah. You will go either to Paradise or to Hell after that. It is a place of eternity and residence without migration.” It is stated in Majmauz-Zawaid that this hadith is sound. (see Majmauz-Zawaid, 5/56)

According to what Abu Hurayra narrated, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"On the Day of Resurrection, people will be addressed as follows: ''O people of Paradise! Everlasting life without death!' And 'O people of the Fire! Everlasting life without death!'' (Bukhari, Riqaq, 51; Muslim, Paradise, 40; Tirmidhi, Paradise, 20).

In these hadiths, the issue is ensured without leaving room to hesitation by using the word 'eternity' together with the word 'immortality'.

The Necessity of Allah's Names

There are a lot of things to say about this issue. However, we will present some issuesin brief. For, a word to the wise is enough.

- As Allah is everlasting, so too are his names and attributes. The art of an honorable Sultan who is eternalmust be eternal too.

- It is emphasized in both verses and hadiths that Paradise is a grace of Allah and a necessity of His mercy. Given this mercy of His is eternally existent, He would want the beings that need mercy to be eternal too.

- With the testimony of the balances in the universe, Allah has infinite justice. As for Hell, it is a place of punishment in the sense of giving everybody their due. The punishments being proportional to crimes is a necessity of the understanding of justice. Only one unbelief and denial is an infringement of rights of all of the beings, atoms, molecules, cells and all things in the universe that can be said to be endless, denial of the manifestation of Allah's one thousand and one names, is an infinite crime like accusing His thousands of messengers of being liars. Infinite punishment for an infinite crime like this is a necessity of justice.

- Thousands of prophets, saints, martyrs, mujahids who worship their Lord day and night, who sacrifice their lives and wealth on the altar of Him would love to see their Lord all the time and enter into His presence. If the life of Paradise ends, these exceptional people will bound to vanish. It is clear that the divine infinite mercy and compassion will not allow this to happen.

- Would Allah offend those sincere slaves of Him, whom He granted thousands of boons and upon whom He bestowed numerous treatsin order to make them love Him, by eliminating them?

Would he make them enemies of himself by executing those who love Him with infinite sacrifices?

- Allah’s names of Beauty want the eternity of Paradise, and His names of Majesty want Hell to exist forever.

There are many more truths to be found in this route.

The views of the Ahl as-Sunnah scholars:

According to Ahl as-Sunnah creed, Paradise and Hell were created and they are existent now. And they will never disappear. (see Hafiz al-Asbahani at-Taymi, al-Hujja, 1/471; Muhammad b. Abdurrahman al-Khamis, Itiqadu ahlis-Sunnah, 1/160-161; Abdulaziz, Abdullah b. Baz, Bayanu Aqidati Ahlis-Sunnati wal-Jamaa, 1/25-ash-Shamila)

The following views are included in the book named “Kitabu Usulil-Iman fi dawil-Kitabi was-Sunnah”), which was written by a scholarly committee composed of Islamic scholars about this issue:  

Believing in Paradise and Hell becomes real only with believing in these points about them:

a. To believe with the certain creed that Paradise is the destination of the believers of taqwa, and Hell is the destination of those who are unbelievers and hypocrites. (see an-Nisa, 4/56-57 for this issue)

b. To believe that Paradise and Hell are existent now.

“For The Garden is prepared for the righteous.” (Aal-i Imran 3/133)

"The Fire which is prepared for those who reject Faith." (al-Baqara, 2/24)

The verses above show that they are existent now.

c. To believe that Paradise and Hell are eternal realms and they will never disappearand that the people will remain there eternally. (see an-Nisa, 4/13 and al-Jinn, 72/23 for examples fort he issue)

"For any that disobey Allah and His Messenger,- for them is Hell: they shall dwell therein for ever." (al-Jinn, 72/23)

Scholars say that what is meant by disobedience, (which is) emphasized and mentioned in the verse -considering being there eternally- in the verse is polytheism. For, all of the sins except polytheism will finally be forgiven. (see ibid, p. 328-330-ash-Shamila).

The view of Ibn Taymiyya about the issue

Muhammed b. Ismail as-San’aniwrote a book named "Ibtalu Adilleti Fanain-Nar" (Refutation of the evidences that Hell will end) and refuted Ibn Taymiyya's views through scholarlyevidences. We will try to present the evidences -which are like the summary of this book of 190 pages- that we think they will be sufficient:

Ibn Qayyim reported and includedthe following information, which his teacher Ibn Taymiyya stated about the issue that life in Hell, not Paradise, will end: 

''Allah will finally extinguish the fire and take the unbelievers who are in Hell to Paradise.'' He used the views attributed to Hz. Umar, Hz. Abdullah b. Masud, Hz. Abu Hurayra, Hz. Abdullah b. Abbas, Hz. Abu Said al-Khudri as evidence. It will be useful to analyze this issue in the form of a few items:

a. Ibn Taymiyya supports this view of his with the following reasoning: All Companions, Tabiun and scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah agreed on the decrees like the following as it is stated in the Qur'an-; ''The torments of unbelievers in Hell will not ever be lessened; they will not die there, and they will not go to Paradise until/unless a rope is threaded through the eye of a needle''. In that case, it is necessary to understand Hz. Umar's statament as ''Hell will disappear one day.'' For, there is an explicit statement of the Qur'an and hadiths that they will not get out of Hell as long as it exists. (see Muhammad b. Ismail as-Sanani, Ibtalu Adillati Fenain-Nar, 1/68-ash-Shamila)

Scholars criticized this viewof Ibn Taymiyya’s in several aspects:

First: Ibn Taymiyya repoted the narration that he attributed to Hz. Umar from Hasan al-Basri. However, as he himself stated, Hasan al-Basri did not hear this hadith personally from Hz. Umar. So, it means that this hadith is mursal and munqati (interrupted). That is, there is a disconnection in the chain of the narrators of this hadith. This shows that the narration is weak. Hadith scholars, especially Ibn Sirin, Hafiz Ibn Hajar, Daraqutni, stated that the hadiths Hasan al-Basri narrated as mursal could not be trusted. How can such hadith narrations whose chain of narrators is interrupted be accepted in issues related to belief while they are not accepted regarding religious issues? (see ibid)

Second: Hz. Umar did not use a statement like Hell ending finally. This is what he said: “Even if the People of the Fire stayed in the Fire like the amount of sand of ‘Alij (for a very long time), they would have, despite that, a day in which they would come out.” As it can be seen, it is indicated in this statement that the people of Hell will leave Hell one day, not that Hell will disappear. In fact, this claimwas not accepted by none of the Islamic scholars including Ibn Taymiyya.

Third:

Ibn Taymiyya claimed -without any proof-  that this statement, which is attributed to Hz. Umar, should be about the unbelievers, who are the people of Hell. However, even if it is sound, the possibility of this hadith being about the people of oneness who are believers whose sins were not forgiven and who entered Hell is a lot more stronger. There is no other possibility in our opinion. For, only in that case would it be a view which is appropriate for clear verses-hadiths and the consensusof Ahl as-Sunnah  scholars. (see ibid)

b. One of the companions to whom this view is attributed is Abdullah b. Masud. According to the narration, Ibn Masud said,

“There will be such a time that there will be nobody in Hell." (ibid, 1/75)

However, there is a hadith that indicates the opposite of those statements that he narrated as a marfu hadith:

"If it were told to the people in Hell, ‘You will stay in fire as many years as the number of the stones on earth, they would be very pleased to hear this." (ibid, 1/70)

The same statements were reported from Abu Hurayra too.

The narrations from these two companions were quoted from the reports when Baghawi interpreted verses 107-108 of the chapter of Hud.

However, Baghawi himself, who reported those narrations, stated the following views after mentioning those narrations:

"The meaning of this narration -if it is correct- according to Ahl as-Sunnah is as follows: Finally, none of the people of belief will stay in Hell. However, the unbelieverswill stay there eternally." (ibid, 1/75)

c. One of the people whom these narrations target is Abdullah b. Abbas.

Ibn Taymiyya said that Hell would end someday based on the following statement ofAbdullah b. Abbas included byAli b. Talha in his tafsir: ‘Nobody can determine Allah’s decrees on His creatures; no one can give a decree if they will go to Hell or Paradise’ However, it is impossible to understand no meaning like that whatsoever from this statement. (ibid, 1/79)

It is odd that an incredibly intelligent scholar like Ibn Taymiyya accepted it as evidence.

In fact, these narrations were mostly related with the following two verses:

"They will dwell therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth: for thy Lord is the (sure) accomplisher of what He planneth. And those who are blessed shall be in the Garden: They will dwell therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth: a gift without break." (Hud, 11/107-108)

However, according to what Bayhaqi narrates, the view of Abdullah b. Abbas regarding the issue is clear. He interpreted the phrase ‘’Except as thy Lord willeth’’ in verses 107-108 of the chapter of Hud as follows:

"Doubtlessly, your Lord had willed that the unbelievers will stay in Hell eternally; and the believers will stay in Paradise eternally." (see ibid)

Accordingly, those who are stated not to stay in Hell forever are those who die as believers but who go to Hell because their sins overweigh.

Note: It is necessary to tell a person who does not believe in Allah the existence of Allah first and mention Paradise and Hell after that. The source of the wrong ideas of these kinds of people is unbelief. How appropriate would it be to talk on Allah’s attributes without belief in Allah? It is necessary to prove existence of Allah first to this kind of people. Otherwise, these questions will not stop coming.

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