Although I haven't read the Hadith, I've read the Qur'an many times. I count about 80 chapters in which God warns unbelievers about hell. Many warnings are simple reminders that hell awaits. Many describe hideous torments in gruesome detail.

There's a lot of talk about the "correct" interpretation of Islam. I wonder, are there any schools of Islamic thought that interpret hell figuratively, who reject the literal burning in fire, and all the other horrible torments described in the Qur'an? And of course, if there are any such schools of thought, which?

Edit: I've read that some schools reject an eternal hell. That's not what I mean. I'm wondering whether any schools reject the literal interpretation of the descriptions in the Qur'an.

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    Some sufis do based in teachings of Ibn Arabi and al-Hallaj who were said to have stated that hellfire was similar to having a dream and not something as actual punishment.
    – Sayyid
    May 19, 2016 at 7:23

2 Answers 2


The answer to "is hell a literal place of torture" is, in my experience at least, that no orthodox scholar ever disagreed that that is the case; if you find one I'd like to know.

There is a book "Islam and the Fate of Others: The Salvation Question" by Mohammad Hassan Khalil that deals with the fate of non-muslims according to selected muslim scholars (ibn Arabi, al-Ghazali, ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Rashid Rida, and I think Sayyid Qutb is briefly mentioned - the last of these is of course not a scholar); Khalil was a Ph.D. student of Sherman Jackson, a quite respected American scholar. Khalil's book discusses what hell is like in the thought of the covered figures alongside somewhat detailed discussions regarding the fate of non-muslims.

While the book does not concern itself with the very dominant orthodox position - which is and has always been that hell is eternal, and eternally painful as well - it does cover ibn Arabi's notion that while it is eternal, its inhabitants will come to enjoy being there; al-Ghazali's orthodox position that it is eternal suffering, but a somewhat optimistic position on how many people will burn; ibn Taymiyyah's position that hell must eventually be extinguished; and I don't remember what Rida's position was, but I believe it is somewhat similar to al-Ghazali's.

Note that apparently, if I recall correctly, a number of scholars who were contemporaries of those individuals have considered the positions of ibn Arabi and ibn Taymiyyah to be kufr and have pronounced takfir on them for this reason; this is something you would have to look up though, I don't recall a reference for this, and I don't remember whether the book mentions any.

The book seems to be based on his PhD thesis, which is available online. The section on Rida mentions Muhammad Abduh, a quite controversial and almost certainly heterodox figure; I think Rida might be a similar case, but I'm not sure about that.

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    A short comment on terminology: I seem to recall "jahannam" is not universally accepted as referencing hell in total, but a specifically torturous part of it reserved for the worst of people. "An-nar", which means "the Fire", might be the term referring to all of hell. I might be wrong about this comment altogether, maybe someone can clarify.
    – G. Bach
    Aug 4, 2016 at 11:54

No there isn't . And all what is behind our world, that is "Alam AlGhayb" have to be believed as told by God and the prophet Mohammad, including hell ( jahanam) , paradise (Al Janah), Angels , Demons, judgment day, etc.

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