Religious Concepts

Heaven and Hell – Part 1


Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi

The Promised Messiah (as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic.

The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. In this series, the Promised Messiah (as) discusses the concept of heaven and hell, in this life as well as in the hereafter.

This is the first of a multi-part series.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 427-439.

What is the object of religion? It is that having the certainty of faith in the existence and perfect attributes of God Almighty, man should attain release from the passions of self and should develop personal love for God. That is the paradise which will be manifested in diverse ways in the hereafter. To remain unaware of the True God and to keep away from Him and not to have true love for Him is the hell which will be manifested in diverse ways in the hereafter.

—Chashma Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 20, p. 352

The reality of heaven and hell that has been set forth by the Holy Qur’an has not been set forth by any other book. It has indicated plainly that this system starts in this very life. It is said:

وَ لِمَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّہٖ جَنَّتٰنِ

For him who fears to stand before his Lord, there are two Gardens. One Garden is obtained in this very world. The fear of God restrains a person from vice. To run after vice generates a restlessness and distress in the heart which itself is a fearful hell. He who fears God avoids vice and escapes the torment which is generated by the slavery of passion and he makes progress towards faithfulness and leaning towards God whereby he is bestowed a delight and joy and thus his heavenly life begins in this very world.

—Malfuzat, vol. III, pp. 155-156

وَ مِنَ النَّاسِ مَنۡ یَّشۡرِیۡ نَفۡسَہُ ابۡتِغَآءَ مَرۡضَاتِ اللّٰہِ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ رَءُوۡفٌۢ بِالۡعِبَادِ


That is, of the people there are those of such exalted spiritual station who surrender themselves to the pleasure of Allah. They sell their lives and buy the pleasure of Allah. These are the people who are the recipients of divine mercy. Similarly, one who has attained the exalted spiritual station sacrifices himself in the path of God.

In this verse God Almighty says that it is the one who sells his soul in order to win the pleasure of God who finds deliverance from all suffering. Such a one gives proof by his devotion that he belongs to God and conceives himself to have been created for the obedience of the Creator and the service of His creatures. He performs all good actions that are related to every faculty with such eagerness and sincerity of heart as if he beholds the True Beloved in the mirror of his obedience, his will conforms to the will of God Almighty and all his delight is in obedience to Him and righteous action proceeds from him not by way of labour, but on account of its delight and attraction. The paradise that a spiritual person finds immediately and that which will be bestowed upon him in future are a reflection of this life which will be personified physically in the other world by the power of God.

Two Gardens for the Righteous

This is indicated in the following verses in which Allah the Glorious says:

وَ لِمَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّہٖ جَنَّتٰنِ

وَسَقَىٰهُمۡ رَبُّهُمۡ شَرَابًا طَهُورًا

إِنَّ ٱلۡأَبۡرَارَ يَشۡرَبُونَ مِن كَأۡسٍ كَانَ مِزَاجُهَا كَافُورًا * عَيۡنًا يَشۡرَبُ بِهَا عِبَادُ ٱللهِ يُفَجِّرُونَهَا تَفۡجِيرًا

يُسۡقَوۡنَ فِيهَا كَأۡسًا كَانَ مِزَاجُهَا زَنجَبِيلاً * عَيۡنًا فِيهَا تُسَمّٰى سَلْسَبِيلًا

إِنَّآ أَعۡتَدۡنَا لِلۡكٰفِرِينَ سَلٰسِلَاْ وَأَغۡلٰلاً وَسَعِيرًا

وَ مَنۡ کَانَ فِیۡ ھٰذِہٖۤ اَعۡمٰی فَھُوَ فِی الۡاٰخِرَۃِ اَعۡمٰی وَ اَضَلُّ سَبِیۡلًا

He who fears God Almighty and stands in awe of His greatness and glory will have two gardens, one in this world and the other in the hereafter. Those who are devoted to God are given to drink of a beverage which purifies their hearts and thoughts and designs. The virtuous shall drink of a beverage which is tempered with camphor out of a spring which they dig out themselves. The root of the word camphor that has been used in this context means suppressing and covering up. This is an indication that they have drunk of the cup of cutting asunder from the world and turning to God with such sincerity that their love of the world has been cooled down. All emotions are generated by the ideas of the heart and when the heart withdraws far away from improper thoughts and has no concern with them, the emotions are subdued till they disappear altogether. In this verse God Almighty desires to convey that those who turn wholly to Him cast aside their passions and their hearts become cool to worldly activities and their emotions are covered up and suppressed as poisonous matter is suppressed by camphor.

Then Almighty Allah says: After partaking of the camphor, they drink of a cup flavoured with ginger. The word for ginger in Arabic is composed of two roots which mean ascending a mountain. It should be known that after a person recovers from a poisonous disease, his health passes through two stages. The first is a condition when the poisonous matter is subdued and dangerous tendencies are corrected and poisonous conditions are left behind and the fatal storm that had arisen is banked down. But the limbs are still weak and the patient cannot carry out anything that requires strength and moves about like a person who is half dead. The second stage is when health returns and the body gains strength and by the restoration of strength the patient is encouraged to think that he can ascend a mountain and can run about with delight on the heights. With reference to this condition, God Almighty indicates that virtuous people drink of a cup which is tempered with ginger, that is to say, their spiritual condition arrives at full strength so that they can scale the heights and carry out difficult tasks and exhibit wonderful devotion in the cause of God Almighty.

This property of ginger, that it strengthens bodily heat and improves the digestion, and its Arabic name that has been used in the verse is adopted as an indication that it so strengthens a weak person and generates such heat in him as enables him to scale the heights. The purpose of these two verses which refer to camphor and ginger is to indicate that when a person moves away from passion towards virtue, his poisonous tendencies are suppressed and begin to decline as camphor suppresses poisonous matters. That is why it is found useful in cases of cholera and typhoid fever. When poisonous matters are suppressed and a weak health is gained, the next stage is that the patient is strengthened with a drink tempered with ginger. This drink is a manifestation of the beauty of God Almighty which constitutes a nourishment for the soul. When a person is strengthened by this manifestation he is able to ascend great heights and to perform such surprisingly hard tasks in the cause of God Almighty as cannot be performed unless the heart is inspired by the heat of love. To illustrate these two conditions God Almighty has here employed two Arabic words, بهقسف camphor which connotes suppression and the other ginger which connotes ascending the heights. These are two conditions that are encountered by the seekers in their progress.

Then the verses proceed that:

إِنَّآ أَعۡتَدۡنَا لِلۡكٰفِرِينَ سَلٰسِلَاْ وَأَغۡلٰلاً وَسَعِيرًا

For those who are disinclined to accept the truth God has prepared chains and collars and a blazing fire.

The meaning of the verse is that those who do not seek God Almighty with a true heart suffer a reaction. They are so occupied with the world as if their feet are chained, and they are so much bent down in secular pursuits as if there are collars around their necks which do not permit them to raise their heads, and their hearts burn with worldly desires that they might acquire so much wealth or property or dominion over a region or victory over an enemy. Finding them unworthy and occupied with evil deeds God Almighty subjects them to these three handicaps. There is an indication here that when a person acts there is a corresponding action by God Almighty. For instance, when a person shuts all the windows of his room the corresponding action of God Almighty is that He makes the room dark. That which has been appointed as a necessary consequence under the divine law of nature is the action of God Almighty, inasmuch as He is the Cause of causes. In the same way, when a person swallows a fatal dose of poison the reaction of God Almighty would be that he would die. In the same way, if a person acts carelessly so as to attract an infectious disease, the reaction of God Almighty would be that he would suffer from that disease. Thus, as in our physical life there is a necessary consequence of every action and that consequence is an action of God Almighty, the same is the case in spiritual matters. God Almighty makes these points very clear in the following two verses:

ٱلَّذِينَ جٰهَدُواْ فِينَا لَنَهۡدِيَنَّهُمۡ سُبُلَنَا

فَلَمَّا زَاغُوٓاْ أَزَاغَ ٱللهُ قُلُوبَهُمۡ 

This means that those who seek God with full effort, their action is followed by divine action that they are shown the path of God; those who deviate from the right course, their action is followed by divine action that their hearts are perverted.

This is further illustrated in the verse:

مَنۡ کَانَ فِیۡ ھٰذِہٖۤ اَعۡمٰی فَھُوَ فِی الۡاٰخِرَۃِ اَعۡمٰی وَ اَضَلُّ سَبِیۡلًا

He who is blind in this world shall be blind in the hereafter and even more astray.

This is an indication that the righteous behold God in this very world and thus the foundation of heavenly life is laid in this world and the blindness of the hereafter is generated by the foul and blind life of this world. Again it is said:

وَ بَشِّرِ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ اَنَّ لَھُمۡ جَنّٰتٍ تَجۡرِیۡ مِنۡ تَحۡتِھَا الۡاَنۡھٰرُ

Those who believe and act righteously shall inherit the gardens beneath which rivers flow. In this verse God Almighty has described faith as a garden beneath which rivers flow.

It is here pointed out that the relationship which streams of water have with gardens is the relationship which subsists between faith and actions. As no garden can flourish without water, no faith can be a living faith without righteous action. If there is faith and there are no actions, that faith is vain, and if there are actions but there is no faith, those actions are mere show. The reality of the Islamic paradise is that it is a reflection of the faith and actions in this life. It is not a new thing which will be bestowed upon a person from outside. A person’s paradise is generated from within himself and everyone’s paradise are his faith and his righteous action, the delight of which begins in this life. The gardens of faith and actions and the streams that flow through them are seen in a hidden manner in this life, but in the hereafter they will be perceived overtly. The holy teaching of God Almighty tells us that the true and pure and firm and perfect faith in God and His attributes and His designs is a pleasant garden of fruit trees and righteous actions are the streams that irrigate that garden. This is indicated in the verse:

ضَرَبَ ٱللهُ مَثَلاً كلِمَةً طَيِّبَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصۡلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرۡعُهَا فِي ٱلسَّمَآءِ  * تُؤۡتِيٓ أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينِ

That is, the word of faith which is free from all excess and defect and falsehood and vanity, and is perfect in every way, is like a tree that is free from every defect, its root is firm in the earth and its branches spread into heaven and it brings forth fruit at all times. At no time are its branches without fruit.

In this verse God Almighty has likened a word of faith to a tree that bears fruit at all times and has specified three signs of it.

The first is that its root, that is to say, its true meaning should be firm in the soil of man’s heart. Nature and human conscience should have accepted its truth and reality.

The second sign is that its branches should spread into heaven, that is to say, it should be reasonable and should be in accord with the heavenly law of nature which is the action of God. The arguments in support of its correctness and truth should be deducible from the law of nature and should be so perfect as if they are in heaven and cannot be reached by any criticism.

The third sign is that its fruit should be eternal and unending. That is to say, its blessings and effects should be perceptible in every age and should not cease after any particular period.

It is then said:

وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ ٱجۡتُثَّتۡ مِن فَوۡقِ ٱلۡأَرۡضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ

The evil word resembles a tree which does not take root in the soil or, in other words, human nature does not accept it and in no way does it stabilise. It is not supported by reasonable arguments or by the law of nature or by human conscience and is like a mere tale or story. As the Holy Qur’an has referred to the good trees of faith as resembling grapes and pomegranates and other nice fruits, and has said that they will be personified like those fruits and resemble them, in the same way, it has called the evil tree of faithlessness in the hereafter by the name of zaqqum, as it is said:

أَذَٰلِكَ خَيۡرٌ نُّزُلًا أَمۡ شَجَرَةُ ٱلزَّقُّومِ * إِنَّا جَعَلۡنٰهَا فِتۡنَةً لِّلظّٰلِمِينَ * إِنَّهَا شَجَرَةٌ تَخۡرُجُ فِيٓ أَصۡلِ ٱلۡجَحِيمِ

إِنَّ شَجَرَتَ ٱلزَّقُّومِ  *طَعَامُ ٱلۡأَثِيمِ * كَٱلۡمُهۡلِ يَغۡلِي فِي ٱلۡبُطُونِ * كَغَلۡيِ ٱلۡحَمِيمِ … ذُقۡ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡكَرِيمُ

The wicked will be asked whether the gardens of paradise are better or the tree zaqqum which is a trial for wrong-doers. It is a tree that springs forth from the bottom of hell, that is to say, it is born of arrogance and self-esteem. Its fruit is like the heads of satan which means that its eating would be fatal…

It is the food of those dwellers of hell who deliberately choose sin. Its eating is like swallowing molten copper which boils up in the belly like scalding water.

The one condemned to hell is asked to eat it and is reminded that if he had not been arrogant and had not turned away from the truth out of self-esteem, he would not have had to endure these torments:

إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡكَرِيمُ

Thus as God Almighty has likened the words of faith of this world to the trees of paradise, He has likened the words of faithlessness of this world to the tree of hell and has indicated that the root of heaven or hell begins from this world. At another place hell is referred to as the:

نَارُ ٱللهِ ٱلۡمُوقَدَةُ * ٱلَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى ٱلۡأَفۡـِٔدَةِ

That is to say: Hell is a fire the source of which is the wrath of God. It blazes forth from sin and first overcomes the heart.

This is an indication that at the root of this fire are the sorrows and desires and torments that seize the heart, inasmuch as spiritual torment begins with the heart and then comprises the whole body.

At another place it is said:

وَقُودُهَا ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلۡحِجَارَةُ

That is to say: The fuel of the fire of hell which keeps it blazing are first those men who turn aside from God and worship other things.

As it is said:

إِنَّكُمۡ وَمَا تَعۡبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ

You and those whom you worshipped falsely, who were called gods despite being human, will be cast into hell.

Secondly, the fuel of hell are the idols. The meaning is that if these things had not existed there would have been no hell. Thus in the holy word of God, heaven and hell are not like this physical world. The source of both of them are spiritual matters. It is true that in the other world they will appear as physical, but they will not belong to this physical world.

—Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, pp. 385-393

The Torment and Comfort of the Grave is Perceived Through the Body

To enter heaven it is necessary to have a body, but that body will not be compounded of physical elements inasmuch as the fruits of heaven will not be physical, but will be a new creation. Therefore, the body in heaven will also be a new creation which will be different from the original body. It is necessary that after death the believers should have a body. On the night of his ascension, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) did not see only the souls of the other prophets, but saw the bodies of all of them, and Jesus (as) had not a body different from the others.

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 21, p. 387, footnote

We have also exposed the error of the Christians in that they think that heaven will only be a spiritual experience. We have proved that the nature of man is such that his spiritual faculties need a body for their perfect and complete functioning. For instance, it is our observation that an injury inflicted upon a certain part of the brain destroys memory, and that an injury inflicted upon another part destroys the faculty of thinking, and that a disturbance occasioned to the nervous system affects several spiritual faculties. Such being the case that a minor disturbance of the body occasions a disturbance in the functioning of the soul, how can we expect that after a total separation from the body the soul would be able to maintain its integrity? Therefore, Islam teaches that everyone is bestowed a body in the grave which is needed for the perception of delight and torment. We cannot say from what material that body is prepared except that this mortal body becomes naught and no one observes that it is revived in the grave. Very often it is cremated or is preserved in a museum or is kept outside a grave for long periods. If it were a fact that it is revived, that would have been witnessed, yet it is proved from the Holy Qur’an that a dead person is revived and we have, therefore, to accept that he is revived with another body which we are not able to see. Very probably that body is made out of the fine qualities of this body and along with it human faculties are revived. As that body is much finer than this body, the door of visions is opened widely to it and the realities of the hereafter are seen as they are. The wrongdoers then suffer a torment of despair in addition to the physical torment. It is thus an agreed principle in Islam that the torment or comfort of the grave is perceived through a body. Reason also demands this as experience has established that the spiritual faculties of man do not manifest themselves without a body.

—Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 13, pp. 70-71


[1] The Holy Qur’an, 55:47.

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 2:208.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 55:47.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 76:22.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 76:6-7.

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 76:18-19.

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 76:5.

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 17:73.

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 76:5.

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 29:70.

[11] The Holy Qur’an, 61:6.

[12] The Holy Qur’an, 17:73.

[13] The Holy Qur’an, 2:26.

[14] The Holy Qur’an, 14:25-26.

[15] The Holy Qur’an, 14:27.

[16] The Holy Qur’an, 37:63-66.

[17] The Holy Qur’an, 44:44-47,50.

[18] ‘Thou didst consider thyself the mighty, the honourable.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 44:50.

[19] The Holy Qur’an, 104:7-8.

[20] The Holy Qur’an, 2:25 and 66:7.

[21] The Holy Qur’an, 21:99.