A Debate Between Paradise and Hell
Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri RA has narrated that the Holy Prophet SAW said:
"A debate once took place between Paradise and Hell (as to which of the two is superior). Hell said, 'I am higher in dignity because I shall accommodate great tyrants and proud people, including the rich and the high placed dignitaries. In reply Paradise said, I shall accommodate the weak and poor. Both were proud of their inmates. Allah judged between them. He addressed Paradise saying, 'You are Paradise, then token and target of my mercy. Through you shall I send down my mercy on who I please.' Addressing Hell, Allah said, 'You are Hell, the token and target of my wrath and punishment. Through you shall I send down my punishment on who I displease. I promise that I shall fill both of you. I shall fill Paradise with those on whom I send down My mercy and shall fill Hell with those on whom I send down my punishment."
May Allah protect us from Hell and qualify us for Paradise, Ameen.
How Could Paradise and Hell Talk?
The Holy Prophet SAW has described the details of a debate between Paradise and Hell. A question arises how two inanimates can debate and argue with each other. It is quite possible that a dialogue actually took place between the two. Paradise and Hell both are Allah's creation and Allah has the power to grant each of them power to speak. People are surprised to know that even such things, as have no tongues, can speak. They should consider how man is able to speak; who has given him the power of speech? It is Allah who has bestowed upon man speaking power. Even stone, a tree or the earth, can speak, if Allah allows them the same speaking power.
The Limbs Will Speak On The Day of Judgement
Once a great scholar was once on a journey when a gentleman with modern education met him. He expressed doubt about the truth of the Qur'anic verse or some Hadith which states that human limbs will speak on the Day of Judgement. The Qur'an says that the hand, the leg, etc. will bear witness that they were used in committing such and such sin. How will they be able to speak?
The scholar told him that they will speak by Allah's power; Allah has absolute power to do whatever He likes. The gentleman asked if any example was available? Did this ever happen?
He was told by the scholar that it is not necessary that there should be an example of every phenomenon. The gentleman insisted on being given some example of this possibility. The scholar then explained to him, by way of an example, that the tongue is only a piece of flesh, yet it speaks though it has no tongue of itself. It speaks only with the power of speech bestowed upon it by Allah. In the same way any limb, or for that matter, anything, can speak if Allah grants it the power of speech.
Anyway, the debate between Paradise and Hell related by the Holy Prophet SAW may be a total truth that the two will actually speak to each other or it may have been related by him (SAW) only as an allegory - both are permissible and both are possible.
In fact, if we look closely into Allah's creation and keep our mind's eyes and ears open, we can easily discern the truth of many things stated in the Qur'an and the Prophet SAW's Aaadith which appear to be impossible. Take, for example, the faculty of speech. We have seen people born quite sound with their tongues but devoid the power of speech. Similarly, some malady inflicts a man and his power of speech is taken away and he remains dumb for the rest of his life. These phenomena demonstrate Allah's absolute ability to do anything, as the Qur'an has said at many places, "Allah has indeed power to do everything."
Hell Will be Filled With Proud People
Hell will be filled with proud men and women who used to display their superiority and behaved with their other fellow human beings with arrogance, despised them and talked proudly about themselves.
Paradise Will Be Filled With The Weak & The Poor
Paradise will be filled with the weak and the poor who were - in their worldly life, seen to be weak, modest and poor. The inmates of Paradise will consist of those who behaved with others with leniency, modesty and humility.
Allah Does Not Like Arrogance
Allah shall fill Hell with the arrogants, because arrogants are those who display their superiority over others, consider themselves to be great and others to be inferior and low in status. Allah does not appreciate this pride and arrogance even for a single moment.
It is narrated that Allah has said:
"Greatness is my cloak. I shall throw him into the fire who disputes with Me about this."
This pride is indeed an evil which drives the sinner into Hell. This is so grievous a sin that it may be called the mother of sins and the root of evils. Many sins emanate from this single sin of pride. Once this sin takes root in a man, it involves him in all sorts of sins.
The Example of a Proud Man
There is a wonderful and wise proverb in the Arabic language in which a proud man has been compared to a man who is standing on the peak of a mountain and sees those at the foot who look to him to be smaller than he and at the same time those at the foot also see the man at the peak smaller than they. When a proud man casts his glance at others, he will feel in his heart contentment for them. It is a major sin to look down upon a believer, even upon a non-believer. Thus, a proud man despises others and the greater the number of the persons he despises, the larger will be the number of the major sins recorded in his character roll.
Whenever a proud man talks to others, he talks in such a harsh tone as hurts the heart. It is a sin to hurt the heart of a Muslim.
Do not Despise Even An Unbeliever
It is also a sin to despise even an unbeliever, because who knows that Allah may, by His mercy, help the unbeliever to embrace Islam, and he may become a better believer than you. So even an unbeliever should not be despised. It is only the sin of disbelief that should be despised. You may have in your heart contempt for sin and disobedience, but not the hater nor the sinner. Sometime a man may not be able to realise whether he is despising the sin or he is despising the sinner and the disbeliever. One learns this fine difference by adopting the company of pious people.
We should say this to ourselves:
"I am inferior to every Muslim in his present state of belief and to an unbeliever with regard to his final fate. In other words, I regard myself inferior to a Muslim in his present condition of being a believer and inferior to an unbeliever, because, it is just possible that the unbeliever may turn a Muslim in the future and become a better Muslim than me."
Pride and Faith Cannot Exist Together
Pride and belief cannot exist together. Wwhen pride enters the heart of a man, sometime it becomes difficult for him to protect his Imaan (faith). Let us recall the story of Iblis. Was it not pride that drove Iblis (satan) into ruin and destruction? He thought that he was created out of fire and Adam out of earth, thereby he fell a victim to the grievous sin of pride and despised Adam. He was, therefore, condemned for enmity. How dangerous is the sin of pride!
Pride is an Inner Disease
The Holy Prophet SAW, kind as he was to his Ummah, has taught them a very important lesson in a Hadith, saying that they should never go near pride. It is such a dangerous disease that the patient himself sometime does not realise that he is suffering from it. It is difficult for anyone to diagnose this inner disease. It is, therefore, necessary to attach oneself to some highly qualified spiritual guide for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.
Pride Leads to Hell
The disease of pride creeps into the heart of man so secretly that most often he does not feel its presence. He thinks that he is quite sound in heart and soul, yet he is a carrier of the disease of pride. True faith and pride cannot go together. Pride leads to Hell. It is, therefore, imperative that the patient of this disease should do his best to seek a speedy cure. We must remember that the Holy Prophet SAW has issued a warning against this disease in the above Hadith.
Majority Of The Weak And The Poor Will Be In Paradise
In the second part of this Hadith, the Holy Prophet SAW has said:
"Paradise is filled with the weak and the poor."
In other words, among those who are near Allah are mostly the poor and the needy, the downgraded people wearing very ordinary and cheap garments who attract nobody's attention. They harbour in their hearts feeling of Allah's greatness and love and His mercy descends on them. Such people form the majority of the habitants of Paradise.
The Followers Of The Prophets AS Were Mostly The Poor
Any one going through the Qur'an will find out that the followers of all the Prophets AS sent to this world were mostly the poor and weak people. That is why the idolators refused to sit with this depressed class of people, consisting of fishermen, carpenters and other labour classes who were always surrounding the Holy Prophet SAW. The unbelievers claimed that, being highly dignified persons, they were not prepared to sit with these low class people.
These apparently depressed classes are the recipients of Allah's mercy and honour, not granted to others. Such people should never be looked down upon and treated as mean and depressed.
Who are the Weak and the Poor?
Another point deserving attention in this Hadith is that the Holy Prophet SAW has used two words, "dhu'afaa" (weak) and "masaakeen" (poor).
The word "dhu'afaa" signify those who are weak physically, financially and socially. As for the word, "masaakeen", it has two shades of meaning:
(i) the Poor men who have no money, and are needy; and
(ii) those who may or may not have money, but they are meek and mild in temperament and have no trace of pride in their hearts. This group lives among the poor people and has humility in their nature. A person who is assuming, simple and humble comes within the definition of the word "masaakeen" (the poor).
Poverty (in the second sense) and Affluence Can Go Together
It should not be misconceived that a man who is well-to-do and has wealth is automatically ordained to enter Hell. What is meant to say is that if Almighty Allah has conferred on any one the blessing of wealth, yet he is humble and mild in his temperament and not proud, behaves with others nicely and discharges fully the rights of Allah and those of His servants, then he too will be counted among the class of the Masaakeen (in the second sense).
Poverty and Maskanat (Humbleness) Are Two Different Things
In the Hadith, the Holy Prophet SAW has prayed to Allah as follows:
"O Allah, let me live as a poor man and die as a poor man, and raise me to life (in the Hereafter) in the group of the poor." (Tirmidhi)
In another Hadith, the Holy Prophet SAW has prayed to Allah in the following words:
"O Allah, I seek refuge with you from poverty and want." (Abu Dawud)
The Holy Prophet SAW sought refuge with Allah from poverty but prayed for Maskanah (humbleness). This shows that this Maskanah is something other than want, poverty and starvation. As mentioned earlier, Maskanah means modesty in temperament and natural disposition and nice behaviour with the poor. If this humbleness and leniency of character and conduct are born in anyone's heart he will be entitled to the reward mentioned in this Hadith.
Allah's Judgement Between Paradise and Hell
At the end of the Hadith, Allah has given His judgement between Paradise and Hell thus.
Allah said to Paradise:
"You are the token of my mercy, through you I shall bestow My mercy on whomsoever I please."
Allah said to Hell:
"You are the token of my punishment. Through you I shall punish whomsoever I please. I shall fill Paradise and Hell both with men because both types of men are found in the world those who deserve Paradise through their good deeds and also those who deserve Hell by dint of their bad deeds."
May Allah include us among the men of Paradise. Ameen.