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September 28, 2004
The Living Dead

by Faisal Akhtar

(Inspired by Surah Ta'ha)

Before I began writing this article, I would never have guessed that the article immediately before this one would be so pertinent to this one. In his article, Brother Saleem pointed out the wrong kinds of fears that hinder our development as human beings but what about good fears? The right kind of fears that actually motivate us and help us become fearful of that which will be harmful to us. Perhaps I can go even further and say that fear is essential to human preservation. Fear of heights, fear of large bodies of water, and fear of dangerous insects are all good fears that Allah SWT has naturally put in us so that we may instinctively avoid harm. Hollywood zombie movies are scary but are of no substance and do not motivate us. They instill in our psyche fears that is counterproductive and false. However, today I want to instill in my readers a different kind of fear. A fear that will help them become better Muslims, a fear that will help them in this life and the hereafter; a fear of the true living dead. Allah SWT says in surah Ta'ha

"No doubt, he who comes before his Lord as culprit, then necessarily for him is Hell, in which neither he shall die nor live." (20:74)

Why did Allah SWT say this about the dwellers of hell? Allah SWT knows his reasons best but Sayyed Abul A'la Maududi writes is his tafhim-ul-quran that this verse might be the single most dreadful description of hell in the entire Quran. It describes the entire situation of the inhabitants of hell in one verse. The people of hell will be alive since in the hereafter, there is no death but they will be in so much pain that in ordinary circumstances, they would be dead or would be better off dead. However, they will not die. They will live and taste the torment repeatedly. They will become the living dead

There is a plethora of punishments awaiting the people of hellfire. They will suffer, not only physically but also mentally. I will talk about the physical punishments first.

Physical Pain

The most painful punishment in hell will be the fire of hell. More often than not, the lectures I hear about hell describe the fire of hell as burning. For example, a speaker would say "And the disbelievers and those among the Muslims whose bad deed outweigh their good, will burn in hellfire". I have no problem with this choice of words and perhaps it is better to use the word "burn" in speech. However, the more pertinent word is "consumed". When we limit the description of the fire of hell to just burning, we are overlooking very important information Allah SWT revealed to us in this verse.

"O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel are men and stones"(66:6)

The flesh of the people of hell will not simply be cooked in hellfire, it will be used as fuel and as more people will be put in it, the fiercer it will become. Just as the fire of this world consumes wood, the fire of hell will consume flesh and when all the skin of the people of hell is consumed, new skin will replace the old. Allah SWT says

"Those who reject Our Signs, We shall soon cast them into the Fire. As often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty. For Allaah is Exalted in Power, All-Wise" (4:56)

Thus the punishment will repeat over and over without end and the inhabitants of hell will find no escape from the intense heat since no means of protection will be available. Allah SWT says

"And those on the left hand - who will be those on the Left Hand? In fierce hot wind and boiling water. And shadow of black smoke, [that shadow] neither cool, nor [even] good". (56:41-44)

The three ways in which people protect themselves of intense heat is by water, air and shade. The water of hell will be boiling, the wind will be severely hot and the shade will neither cool, nor comfort.

Fire will be just one of the many other punishments of hell that the wrongdoers will suffer. Other punishments include boiling water that will also be poured over their heads, which will destroy their outers and innards.

"garments of fire will be cut out for them, boiling water will be poured down over their heads. With it will melt or vanish away what is within their bellies, as well as [their] skins". (22:19-20)

They will be tormented with chains and yokes.

"...But soon shall they know - when the yokes [shall be] round their necks, and the chains, they shall be dragged along, in the boiling fetid fluid, then shall they be burned". (40:70-72)

They will eat from the tree of zaqoom.

"Verily the tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinful, like molten brass, it will boil in their insides, like the boiling of scalding water." (44:43-46).

Allah SWT describes the tree of Zaqoom in another verse.

"Is that [Paradise] the better entertainment or the tree of Zaqqum [a horrible tree in Hell]? For We have truly made it [as] a trial for the wrongdoers. For it is a tree that springs out of the bottom of Hellfire, The shoots of its fruit-stalks are like the heads of devils; Truly they will eat thereof and fill their bellies therewith. Then on top of that they will be given to drink a mixture made of boiling water. Then, shall their return by to the blazing Fire of Hell". (37:62-68)

They will drink from a mixture of boiling water, puss and the sweat of the people of hell.

"..[they] will be given to drink, boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels [to pieces]" (47:15)

"...and if they implore relief, they will be granted water like melted brass that will scald their faces. How dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on!" (18:29)

"...and he will be made to drink boiling, festering water. He will sip it unwillingly, and he will find great difficulty in swallowing it.." (14:16-17)

Mental Anguish

The punishment in hell will not just be limited to physical pain. Physical pain will be accompanied by mental anguish that the people of hell will made to suffer. They will feel complete misery and sorrow. They will be eternally depressed, regretting everything. Fear, regret, depression, humiliation; any negative emotion we can name, they will feel. When they will be made to witness hellfire, they will regret and become repentant when their repentance will be of no use to them.

"...they would declare [their] repentance when they see the penalty but the judgement between them will be with justice, and no wrong will be done unto them." (10:54)

The kuffar will pray for death in fear of the punishment that awaits them but their prayer will not be answered.

" But whoso is given his account behind his back, he surely will invoke destruction and be thrown to scorching fire. ". (84:10-12)

Due to their regret sorrow and pain, they will weep and they will weep so much that their tears will run out and then they will eventually weep blood.

Anas ibn Maalik reported that the Prophet (saw) said: "The people of Hell will be made to weep, and they will weep until they have no tears left. Then they will weep blood until they have as it were channels in their faces, if ships were put in them, they would float". (1)

One of the greatest fortunes a Muslim has is that he can always repent and make tawbah and that door is always open before death. For the people of hellfire, that last door of hope, that last shimmer of light will be gone. They will have no hope of ever coming out of their sorry state. Not only will they be punished, they will despair in the fact that their punishment must continue indefinitely and that will be dual punishment for them.


Hell is a place to be feared and becoming one of the people of hell is also to be feared but this fear must essentially accompany mercy. Our first duty is to protect our own selves from hellfire but we cannot forget about others. This article is meant to inspire fear as well as mercy, mercy for the non-Muslims, mercy for all those who are heading towards this dreadful abode. This is my request to the Muslims reading this article. Please help those who are going towards hellfire. Educate them, give them dawah and help them realize their true nature. Whether or not they are guided is up to Allah SWT but if you try to help them, at least on the end day you will not regret the fact you could have saved them from hell but you did not. I seek refuge in Allah SWT from shaitan, his followers, all the people of hellfire and indeed hellfire itself. May Allah SWT protect us all. Ameen.

(1) Sheikh Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaani narrated these two hadiths in Silsilat al-Hadith as-Saheehah, 4/245, no. 1679 and attributed the first hadith to al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak. al-Haakim said "It is a hadith whose isnaad is saheeh". adh-Dhahabi agreed with him. Sheikh Naasir said, "He should have added: according to the conditions of al-Bukhaari and Muslim. All the men of its isnaad are men who narrated the hadith they (al-Bukhaari and Muslim) recorded. He mentioned that one of them, Abul-Nu'man, whose nickname was 'Aarim had become confused. Sheikh Naasir quoted the second hadith in support of the first, and attributed it to Ibn Maajah, and Ibn Abi-Dunyaa; Yazeed al-Raqqas one of the narrators, is da'eef, but the rest of the narrators are those from whom al-Bukhaari and Muslim narrated.

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Humayun said


beautiful article Brother Faisal. We read these types of articles and listen to these types of lectures and it affects us only for a temporary amount of time. Let us make dua to Allah and ask him to help us internalize the warnings he has made clear in the Quraan and the Sunnah. After asking Allah for help, a way we can help ourselves internalize these warnings is by constantly reading them throughout the day. Maybe we should print out some of the decriptions of Hell on a single paper and carry it around with us wherever we go, and when are tempted to sin, we should take a look at the Ayas. This is just a suggestion as there are many ways we can prevent ourselves from heading towards the Hellfire. May Allah have mercy on us. Ameen


on September 29, 2004 1:16 PM
passerby said

Another suggestion -

Ramadan is coming. Articles, and reminders, like these, combined with dua's in Ramadan to instill such fears permanently in us, would go a long way.

Let's use Ramadan to get to the point where we fear Allah and Him alone, where we want only His approval, and care for only His praise. And may we stay at that point after Ramadan, till we finally meet Him.

Please remember to pray for the state of our Ummah during Ramadan.

Wa'alaikum Asalaam

on September 29, 2004 3:49 PM
Faisal Akhtar said

JazakAllah Khair Humayon and Passer. The real fear we need to inspire in our hearts is the fear of Allah and this article was an attempt to do that. We need to fear his wrath and hope for his mercy. The balance between hope and mercy must be kept thus this was a reminder to all of us to be on the middel path. The descriptions of Jannah are prevalent but hell is not talked about often enough. I would like to see some other writers write on Hell as well.


on October 1, 2004 2:46 PM
Aziz Aziz said


Will ALLAH SWT remove the punishment from the muslims if they truly believe.

on March 17, 2005 8:23 AM
asif said

Salaam Aziz Aziz:

Thats all up to Allah, who HE forgives and who He doesn't....BUT, I know this, HIS MERCY overcomes HIS Anger!

And yeah, sincere belief in Allah and having pure intentions followed by good actions according to Sunnah of Rasul-Allah (sal-lal-la-hu-wa-sal-lam) is the Main Highway that will lead to Allah's MERCY, Insha'Allah!

But dont just take my words, please consult a sheikh at the local mosque.

on March 17, 2005 11:20 AM
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