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The punishments in the afterlife seem horrible, typically involving fire and a variety of forms of torture.

Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses - We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted in Might and Wise. -- Qur'an 4:56

I'm not aware of less drastic punishments, if they exist (although sometimes the Qur'an describes the punishments as "humiliating", e.g., Qur'an 54:9).

I'm wondering why they are this gruesome, and not more mundane like say, stubbing your toe every morning, having an itch you can't scratch, having a sore back, stepping in water just after putting on clean socks, etc.

Question: Did Allah let us know His wisdom behind the gruesome punishments in the afterlife?

It's possibly meant as a kind of deterrent, to thwart people who might think "I can handle that, therefore I can sin in moderation", but that's just a guess.

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    "It's possibly meant as a kind of deterrent" - That doesn't fit for Non-Muslims who don't believe there is a hell to go to; you can't deter someone with a punishment they're convinced they won't get. – G. Bach May 14 '17 at 5:22

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