In the first part, we dealt with the Last Day in terms of portents, descriptions and judgment according to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
In this second part, we will deal with the Last Day in terms of Heaven and Hell according to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
While all followers of the heavenly messages believe in the Last Day, the fate of human beings on this day between Heaven and Hell varies from one message to another, even involves ambiguity and lacks justice in some of those messages.
Heaven and Hell according to Judaism
Though there are sporadic references to Heaven and Hell in the Old Testament, we do not find them coupled with the fates of the good and wicked people in the Old Testament.
As for the Talmud, we find a few references to Heaven and Hell as abodes of the good and wicked people. For example, we read: “Creator of the Universe, Thou hast judged rightly, finding the righteous just and the wicked full of iniquity, (and blessed be Thou) that Thou hast ordained hell for the wicked and paradise for the righteous.” (Chapter II – Tract Erubin)
The Talmud tells us that Hell will be the abode of non-Jews from among the other nations which are forgetful of God. We read: “The wicked shall return into hell, all the nations that are forgetful of God.” (Chapter XI – Part II (Haggada) – Tract Sanhedrin)
The Talmud states that fire will not touch even the sinful Jews for their forefather Abraham will rescue them. We read: “The fires of hell cannot gain access to the bodies of the sinners of Israel; Abraham the patriarch, seeing that they are circumcised, rescues them.” (Chapter II – Tract Erubin)
About that, in the Qur’an, we read:
And they say, “Never will the Fire touch us, except for a few days.” Say, “Have you taken a covenant with Allah? For Allah will never break His covenant. Or do you say about Allah that which you do not know?” (Al-Baqarah 2:80)
It is curious that the Mishnah which is the Jewish Holy Scripture is devoid of any mention of Heaven and Hell as abodes of the good and wicked people on the Last Day. We do not find the above allegation that Jews will go to Heaven and non-Jews will go to Hell. We find such an allegation only in the Talmud which is a commentary on the Mishnah.
Heaven and Hell according to Christianity
Heaven and Hell are often mentioned in the New Testament. Heaven is sometimes mentioned alone, sometimes coupled with “Kingdom”, and sometimes referred to as “Kingdom”.
The New Testament tells us that Hell will be the abode of the sinners, whereas Heaven referred to as “Kingdom” will be the abode of the righteous who will shine therein like the sun.
In the New Testament, we read: “Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age. The Human One will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin. He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Those who have ears should hear.” (Matthew 13:40-43)
We also read: “Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
Like the Talmud, the New Testament tells that Heaven will be the abode of Christians only. As for non-Christians, Hell will be their abode.
In the Pauline epistles, we read for example: “After all, it’s right for God to pay back the ones making trouble for you with trouble and to pay back you who are having trouble with relief along with us. This payback will come when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his powerful angels. He will give justice with blazing fire to those who don’t recognize God and don’t obey the good news of our Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the Lord’s presence and away from his mighty glory.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)
We also read: “Keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life. Have mercy on those who doubt. Save some by snatching them from the fire. Fearing God, have mercy on some, hating even the clothing contaminated by their sinful urges.” (Jude 21-23)
The above verses urge Christians to call on non-Christians to believe in Jesus as God and Lord and indicate that disbelief in Jesus as God and Lord leads to Hell. It goes without saying that only Christians believe in Jesus as God and Lord, unlike Jews and Muslims. It is noteworthy that the word “Lord” in the above verses should be written as “lord”. Click here for more details.
About that, we read in the Qur’an:
But the Jews and the Christians say, “We are the children of Allah and His beloved.” Say, “Then why does He punish you for your sins?” Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and to Him is the [final] destination. (Al-Ma’idah 5:18)
It is curious that we do not find out in the four gospels chronicling the life of Jesus any indication that “Heaven” and/or “Kingdom” will be an abode only for Christians in the present sense and fire will be an abode for non-Christians in the current sense.
On the contrary, we find the four gospels quoting Jesus as confirming that some Christians will not enter the kingdom of heaven like wrongdoers. We read: “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. On the Judgment Day, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’ Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
We also read: “I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
We further read: “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:22)
And we read: “If your hand or your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter into life crippled or lame than to be thrown into the eternal fire with two hands or two feet. If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter into life with one eye than to be cast into a burning hell with two eyes.” (Matthew 18:8-9)
We even find the four gospels quoting Jesus as promising Heaven or Kingdom to some people without requiring belief in him as God and Lord. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. He taught them, saying: “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad. Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full. Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12)
Heaven and Hell according to Islam
Heaven and Hell are often mentioned in the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the abodes of humanity on the Last Day. Heaven is often promised to believers and good-doers and Hell to disbelievers and wrongdoers in the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In the Qur’an, we read:
Yes, whoever earns evil and his sin has encompassed him – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally. But they who believe and do righteous deeds – those are the companions of Paradise; they will abide therein eternally. (Al-Baqarah 2:81-82)
Muslims who are the followers of Prophet Muhammad are often promised Heaven, while non-Muslims who disbelieve in the message and prophethood of Prophet Muhammad are threatened with Hell. For example, we read:
And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers. (Al-Baqarah 2:23-25)
However, unlike the Talmud of Jews and the New Testament of Christians, Heaven is not restricted to those Muslims who are followers of Prophet Muhammad only.
Rather, Heaven in Islam is the abode of all nations who believed in God as well as their prophets and scriptures before Prophet Muhammad’s prophetic mission just as being the abode of the believers in Prophet Muhammad and his message after his prophetic mission. In the Qur’an, we read:
And We remove whatever rancor may be in their hearts. Rivers flow beneath them. And they say: The praise to Allah, Who hath guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us. Verily the messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth. And it is cried unto them: This is the Garden. Ye inherit it for what ye used to do. (Al-A`raf 7:43)
We also read:
And they say, “None will enter Paradise except one who is a Jew or a Christian.” That is [merely] their wishful thinking, Say, “Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.” Yes [on the contrary], whoever submits his face in Islam to Allah while being a doer of good will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. The Jews say “The Christians have nothing [true] to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on,” although they [both] recite the Scripture. Thus the polytheists speak the same as their words. But Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ. (Al-Baqarah 2:111-113)
However, subsequent to Prophet Muhammad’s mission, all mankind hearing about him constitute his “Called Community”. Those who actually believe in him constitute his “Respondent community” and will ultimately go to Heaven, whereas those who disbelieve in him will go to Hell along with the other disbelievers in the messengers, prophets and scriptures of God.
Notwithstanding, some sinful Muslims will initially go to Hell. For example, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly will go to Hell. About them, we read in the Qur’an:
Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze. (An-Nisaa’ 4:10)
Those who devour people’s wealth unjustly will also go to Hell. About them, we read in the Qur’an:
O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. And whoever does that in aggression and injustice – then We will drive him into a Fire. And that, for Allah, is [always] easy. (An-Nisaa’ 4:29-30)
Nevertheless, believers in God as well as His prophets and scriptures will not remain in Hell forever even if they are sinful. They will rather remain in Hell for some time and then get admitted to Heaven but, of course, in such a rank which is lower to that of the righteous people. About that, we read in the Qur’an:
Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin. (An-Nisaa’ 4:48)
We also read:
And there is none of you except he will come to it. This is upon your Lord an inevitability decreed. Then We will save those who feared Allah and leave the wrongdoers within it, on their knees.(Maryam 19:71-72)
Finally, to conclude, the Jewish and Christian scriptures involve either ambiguity like the Old Testament or injustice like the New Testament in terms of Heaven and Hell. In contrast, the Qur’an is very clear when dealing with Heaven and Hell and very just when indicating who will go to Heaven and Hell.
1- Holy Qur’an
2- Holy Bible
4- Babylonian Talmud