Why does the phrase ‘Fire that feels pain’ exist in the verse though fire does not feel pain?

The Details of the Question

Fire does not feel pain. In that case, what is the wisdom behind describing the word عَذَابٌ (penalty) with the adjective أَلِيمٌ (grievous) with the use of the phrase عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (grievous penalty) in the verse?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The phrase عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ meaning "grievous penalty" in the Quran (see al-Baqara, 2/10) is an adjectival phrase. In this phrase the word أَلِيمٌ means "mutallim", that is, feeling pain, in pain, suffering. Feeling pain is an adjective used for a person, not for fire. Fire does not feel pain and does not suffer. In that case, what is the wisdom behind describing the word عَذَابٌ (penalty) with the adjective أَلِيمٌ (grievous) with the use of the phrase عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (grievous penalty) in the verse?

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi answers this question as follows:

The wisdom behind it is to show the greatness of the penalty. The phrase عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (grievous penalty) makes the mind imagine the following scene:

Fire has overwhelmed their bodies and enveloped their persons and suffused their inner beings, so that their bodies have virtually become lumps of fire. Nothing but penalty is seen in their bodies. The agonized wailing and moaning arising from those bodies are thought to be coming from the torment itself. That is, it is thought that the torment itself is wailing, groaning and suffering.  

Let us clarify the issue some more with meditation:

The body of a person of Hell has virtually become a lump of fire. You hear a cry and scream but you see nothing but fire when you look. Fire has eliminated the body in such a way that the body has become virtually invisible in fire; it looks as if fire is crying and shouting.   

When you throw something made of nylon into fire, it suddenly becomes a fireball.  

Similarly, when people of Hell enter into fire, it looks as if the bodies disappear due to the severity of fire and it is thought that wailing comes from fire. It looks as if fire is feeling pain and suffering.

Allah describes the penalty, not the person, to show the severity of the penalty. May God Almighty protect all of us from such penalty! Amin.

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