Punishment of Hell (Jahannam) in the Quran

What is Hell (Jahannam) in the Quran?

Hell is described in the Quran as being a blazing fire with seven gates (one less than Paradise) and levels consisting of higher and lower forms of punishment depending on the sins committed.   The worst sins are rejection of Allah’s existence, making partners with Him and being hypocritical in belief.

‘When it is said to them, “Fear Allah,” pride carries them off to sin. Hell will be their proper place. What an evil place to rest!’ 

Quran (S. Al-Baqarah 2:206)

In Islam there are only two final destinations possible for humans – Paradise or Hell.  Both are stated in the Quran as being in existence today and are the absolute opposites of each other.  Just as Paradise houses the pure and forgiven, Hell is the abode of the impure and the unforgiven.

It is a religious requirement that there is in a Muslim’s heart fear of Allah and His punishment.  Just as He has created Paradise perfectly for enjoyment by people, He has also created Hell perfectly for the punishment of His slaves.  The One who created the human body, knows well how it can be punished.

In a Hadith, ‘Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates: Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Hell had been lit for one thousand years until its flames became red. Again it was heated for another thousand years till its color became white. Still again it was burnt for a further thousand years and its white color flames turned pitch black.”

(Tirmidhi) 

Levels of Jahannam

Hell has been described with different names and some have taken these names to mean levels.  They could also be descriptions of Hell rather than the levels within it. 

The names Hell has been given are:

  • Al-Jaheem – because of its blazing fire.
  • Jahannam –   because of the depth of its pit  
  • Lazaa – the intensity of its flames.
  • Al-Sa’eer blazing flame which is kindled and ignited. 
  • Saqar – the intensity of its heat.
  • Al-Hatamah – broken pieces, debris because it breaks and crushes the things that are thrown into it.
  • Al-Haawiyah – like a chasm or abyss
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Find out the different levels of Jannah (Paradise) here >>

Tree of Zaqqum in Jahannam

According to the Quran, the Tree of Zaqqum springs out of the pit of Hell having roots growing at the bottom, being nourished by the fire.  The Quran describes the shoots of its fruit stalks as being like the heads of the devils in appearance, being ugly and repulsive. 

It has been made as a trial for the wrongdoers.  The people of Hell will be forced to eat from the tree of Zaqqum because they will not find anything else to eat.  The fruits of this tree will neither nourish not relieve the hunger.

‘Indeed, it is a tree that grows in the depths of Hell, bearing fruit like devils’ heads.  The evildoers will certainly be left to eat from it, filling up their bellies with it.  Then on top of that they will be given a blend of boiling drink.  Then they will ultimately return to their place in Hell.’ 

Quran (S. As-Saffat 37:64-68)

Who will go to Hellfire first?

In a hadith of Muslim narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA) the Prophet (SAW) said the first of people to enter Hell will be a man who died a martyr but not for Allah, only so that people would call him courageous.  Another man will be one who studied religious knowledge so that people would call him knowledgeable.  Another man who was rich but who had spent his wealth to be seen by people as being generous. 

Sincerity plays an important part in all of the good actions performed.  This is something no one else but Allah can see and therefore judge upon.

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Can you recognize the inmates of Hell in this world?

In a hadith reported by Iyad bin Him-ar, the Prophet (SAW) said:…The inmates of Hell are five: the weak who lack power to (avoid evil), the (carefree) who pursue (everything irrespective of the fact that it is good or evil) and who do not have any care for their family or for their wealth. And those dishonest whose greed cannot be concealed even in the case of minor things.  Those who betray you morning and evening, in regard to your family and your property. He also made a mention of the miser and the liar and those who are in the habit of abusing people and using obscene and foul language. 

(Muslim)

Who will have the worst punishment in Hell?

Many verses of the Quran mention the different degrees of punishment that will be given to the people of Hell.  Of these the Quran mentions those given the worst as “The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire and you shall never find for them a helper” (Quran S. Nisaa 4:145)


“…and on the Day when the Hour (of final judgement) will take place, (it is said): Admit Pharaoh’s folk to enter the most severe punishment.

(Quran S. Ghaafir 40:46)

Who will have the least punishment in Hell and what is it? 

The least severe of its levels was mentioned by the Prophet (SAW) in the hadith reported by al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer (RA) who said:

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “The least severely punished of the people of Hell will be a man who has two shoes and shoelaces of Fire – or according to another version: two live coals will be placed on the soles of his feet – due to which his brains will boil as a pot boils. He will not think that anyone is being punished more severely than him, but he will be the one who is punished most lightly.” (Bukhari, Muslim). The person is named specifically in a report by Muslim, as Abu Taalib, the paternal uncle of the Prophet (SAW), for whom Allah will reduce the punishment because of the role he played in protecting Islam at the beginning.

Will Muslims avoid the punishment of Hell?

Just because you are a Muslim, doesn’t mean you will definitely not enter Hell.  To answer this, we should look at the types of sins that lead to punishment.  There are some people who believe in the Oneness of Allah (Tawheed), yet they commit even major sins.  If they are not forgiven, they will be entered in Jahannam to be punished.   They will stay there for a time that Allah determines; He will then take them out and admit them to Paradise for eternity.  .

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Another group of people are regarded as disbelievers in Allah, whether by making partners in His worship (called Shirk), complete rejection of His existence (Kufr); or outwardly portraying themselves as Muslims, yet have no belief inside them but are hypocrites (Munafiq).  If they were all to die in that state, their punishment in Hell will be for eternity.

˹Beware of the Day We will ask Hell, “Are you full yet?” And it will respond, “Are there any more?” 

Quran (Qaf 50:30)

Dua for protection from Hell

‘Our Lord! We have believed, so forgive our sins and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’ 

Quran (S.Ale-Imraan 3:16)