The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Universalism in Islam

On another forum, someone posted about universalism in Islam.
“Thus there can be but little doubt left that Hell is a temporary place for the sinner, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, and this also supports the view that the chastisement of Hell is not for torture but as a remedy, to heal the spiritual diseases which a man has incurred by his own negligence, and to enable him to start again on the road to the higher life.”

The above is taken from The Religion of Islam by Maulana Muhammad Ali and the whole explanation is below:

"Different names of Hell
Hell is described by seven different names in the Qur’an, and these are supposed by some to be the seven divisions of Hell. The most frequently occurring is Jahannam , which is, as it were, a proper name for Hell. <1> Its meaning signifies a great depth. Another name for Hell which bears a similar significance, but which occurs only once in the Qur’an, <2> is ha wiya , meaning an abyss or *a deep place of which the bottom cannot be reached (LA.). <3> Four names of Hell are taken from the analogy of fire, viz ., jahim , derived from jahum , signifying the burning or blazing of fire , but this word is applied to the fury of war as well as of fire, while tajahhama , another measure from the same root, means he burned with vehemence of desire or covetousness and niggardliness , also he became strained in disposition (LL.); sa’ir for sa’r which means the kindling of fire and is metaphorically applied to the raging of war (R.); <4> saqar from saqara which means the heat of the sun scorched a man (R.); laza which means the flame of the fire, and in one form ( talazza ) is metaphorically used for " burning with anger " (LA). The seventh name hutamah , which occurs only twice in the same context (104 : 4, 5), is derived from hatam which means the breaking of a thing , also breaking or rendering infirm or weak with age , while hutamah means a vehement fire , and hutmah sterility (LL.). <5>

<1> Jahannam signifies great depth , and bi’r-un jahannam-um means a well whose depth is very great (LA.).

<2> 101: 9.

<3> The root being hawa which means falling down to a depth from a height , and hence indicating low desires (R.).

<4> The word su’ur has been used in the sense of distress in the Holy Qur’an (54: 24).

<5> The word hutam , derived from the same root, is used in 57 : 20 and elsewhere for “dried up and broken down” vegetation.

Hell, a manifestation of spiritualities
It will be seen from the above that the different names of Hell convey three different ideas, the idea of falling down to a great depth, the idea of burning and the idea of being broken down. Thus as the idea of rising higher and higher is connected with Paradise, that of falling down to abysmal depth is essentially connected with Hell; and as the ideas of contentment and happiness are associated with Paradise, the idea of burning is associated with Hell which is itself but the result of burning with passion in this life; and lastly, as the idea of a fruitful life is associated with Paradise, life in Hell is represented as an unfruitful life. All this is the result of man’s own deeds. Because he follows his low desires and baser passions, he makes himself fall into the depths; the burning caused by worldly desires and passions changes into a flaming fire after death; and since the only end in view is some sort of gain in this life, such deeds can bear no fruit after death. Just as the blessings of Paradise are a manifestation of the hidden realities of this life, so are the depths, the fire and unfruitfulness of the next, the Day of Resurrection being the day of the manifestation of hidden realities <1> when the veil shall be removed from the eyes of man so that he shall see clearly the consequences of the deeds of which he took no heed in this life. <2>

In other words, the spiritual torments and mental pangs, that are generally felt almost imperceptibly in this life, assume a palpable shape in the life after death. The answer to the question, what is Hell? is unequivocally given as “Fire kindled by Allah which rises over the hearts” (104 : 6, 7). Now the fire which consumes the hearts is that caused by inordinate passions. Regret for the evil done is also spoken of as fire: “Thus will Allah show them their deeds to be intense regret to them, and they will not escape from the fire” (2 : 167). The low desires of this life ( ahwa ), that are so often a hindrance in man’s awakening to a higher life and nobler aims, become the abysmal depth ( hawiyah or jahannam ), to which the evil-doer makes himself fall. Even so, in the Qur’an we are told: “So shun the filth of the idols and shun false words, being upright for Allah, not associating aught with Him; and whoever associates aught with Allah, it is as though he had fallen from on high” (22 : 30-31). And of the people whose exertions are all limited in this world’s life, it is said: “They whose efforts go astray in this world’s life and they think that they are making good manufactures: those are they who disbelieve in the messages of their Lord and meeting with Him, so their works are in vain. Nor shall We set up a balance for them on the Day of Resurrection. That is their reward - Hell” (18 : 104 - 106).

<1> 86 : 9. <2> 50 : 22.

Though fire is so frequently mentioned as the consequence of evil, reasons for which will be given later on, yet there are a number of other aspects of the evil consequences of evil deeds. For example, it is said: "For those who do good is good (reward) and more (than this). Neither blackness or ignominy will cover their faces. These are the owners of the Garden; therein they will abide. And those who earned evil, the punishment of an evil is the like thereof, and abasement will cover them - they will have none to protect them from Allah - as if their faces had been covered with slices of the dense darkness of night. These are the companions of the fire; therein they will abide;; (10 : 26, 27). Blackness of the face is again mentioned as the chastisement of Hell: “On the Day when some faces turn white and some faces turn black. Then as to those whose faces are black: Did you disbelieve after your belief? So taste the chastisement because you disbelieved” (3 : 105). So, too in the earlier revelation: “And faces on that day will have dust on them, darkness covering them. Those are the disbelievers, the wicked” (80 : 40 - 42).

Disgrace is mentioned as the chastisement of evil-doers in many other places: “Then on the Resurrection Day, He will bring them to disgrace . . . Surely disgrace this day and evil are upon the unbelievers” (16 : 27); " . . . that We may make them taste the chastisement of abasement in this world’s life. And the chastisement of the Hereafter is truly more abasing, and they will note be helped" (41 : 16). Again, those in Hell are sometimes spoken of as asking for water and sustenance from those in Paradise: “And the companions of the fire call out to the owners of the Garden: Pour on us some water or some of that which Allah has provided for you” (7 : 50). The water they have is “boiling and intensely cold” (78 : 25). On other occasions, however, it is light that they cry for: “On the day when the hypocrites, men and women, will say to those who believe: Wait for us that we may borrow from your light. It will be said: Turn back and seek a light” (57 : 13).

Remedial nature of Hell
Hell, therefore, only represents the evil consequences of evil deeds, but still it is not a place merely for undergoing the consequences of what has been done; it is also a remedial plan. In other words, its chastisement is not for the purpose of torture but for purification; so that man, rid of the evil consequences which he has brought about with his own hands, may be made fit for spiritual advancement. The Qur’an has clearly laid down the same law even for those punishments which are inflicted on man here on earth: “And We did not sent a prophet to a town, but We seized its people with distress and affliction that they might humble themselves” (7 : 94). It is clear from this that God brings down His punishment upon a sinning people in order that they may turn to Him, in other words, that they may be awakened to a higher life. The same must therefore be the object of punishment in Hell.

In fact, a little consideration would show that good is enjoined because it helps the progress of man, and evil is prohibited because it retards that progress. If a man does good, he himself gets the advantage of it; if he does evil, it is to his own detriment. It is a subject to which the Qur’an returns over and over again: “He is indeed successful who causes it <1> to grow, and he indeed fails who buries it” (91 : 9, 10). “Your striving is surely for diverse ends. Then as for him who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty, and accepts what is good - We facilitate for him (the way to) ease. And for him who is niggardly and considers himself self-sufficient, and rejects what is good, We facilitate for him (the way to) distress” (92 : 4 - 10). “If you do good, you do good for your own souls, and if you do evil, it is for them” (17 : 7). “Whoever does good, it is for his own soul; and whoever does evil, it is against it. And thy Lord is not in the least unjust to the servants” (41 : 46). “Whoever does good, it is for himself, and whoever does evil, it is against himself; then to your Lord you will be brought back” (45 : 15).

<1> Refers to the soul and the faculties given to man.

Purification being the great object, the man who has wasted his opportunity here must undergo the ordeal of Hell in order to obtain it. Various other considerations lead to the same conclusion. In the first place, such great prominence is given to the attribute of mercy in God that He is spoken of as having “ordained mercy on Himself”; <2> the Divine mercy is described as encompassing all things, <3> so that even those who have acted extravagantly, against their own souls, should not despair of the mercy of God; <4> and finally it is laid down that for mercy did He create all men. <5>. Such a merciful Being could not chastise man unless for some great purpose, which is to set him again on the road to the higher life, after purifying him from evil.

<2> 6 : 12, 54

<3> 6 : 148; 7 : 156; 40 : 7.

<4> 39 : 53.

<5> 11 : 119

The ultimate object of the life of man is that he shall live in the service of God: “And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me” (51 : 56). The man who lives in sin is debarred from the Divine presence, <1> but, being purified by fire, is again made fit for Divine service. Hence Hell is called, in one place, the friend (maula) of the sinners, <2> and their mother (umm) in another. <3> Both descriptions are a clear indication that Hell is intended to raise up man by purifying him from the dross of evil, just as fire purifies gold of dross. It is to point to this truth that the Qur’an uses the word fitnah ( the assaying of gold , or casting it into the fire to purify it ), both of the persecutions which the faithful undergo in this life <4> and of the punishment which the evil-doers shall suffer in Hell. <5> Thus the faithful are purified through their suffering, in the way of God, in this life; and the evil-doers shall be purified by hell-fire. Hell is called a “friend” of sinners, because through suffering it will fit them for spiritual progress, and it is called their “mother”, because in its bosom they will be brought up, so that they may be able to tread the path of a new life.

<1> 83 : 15.

<2> 57: 15

<3> 101 : 9.

<4> 2 : 191; 29 : 2, 10.

<5> 37 : 63.

Another consideration, which shows that this chastisement is of a remedial nature, is that, according to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sayings of the Prophet, all those who are in Hell, shall ultimately, when they are fit for a new life, be released from it. This a point on which great misunderstanding prevails even among Muslim theologians. They make a distinction between the Muslim sinners and the non-Muslim sinners, holding that all Muslim sinners shall be ultimately taken out of Hell, but not the non-Muslim sinners. Neither the Qur’an nor the Tradition upholds this view. There are two words khulud and abad used in connection with the abiding in Hell or Paradise, and both these words, while, no doubt, indicating eternity , also bear significance of a long time . Not only do all authorities on Arabic lexicology agree on this, but the use of these words in the Qur’an also makes it quite clear. The word khulud has been freely used regarding the chastisement in Hell of Muslim as well as of non-Muslim sinners. One example of its use for Muslim sinners is that after stating the law of inheritance, it is said: “These are Allah’s limits; and . . . whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and goes beyond His limits, He causes him to enter fire, to abide in it ( khalidin ), and for him is an abasing chastisement” (4 : 13, 14). Here clearly Muslim sinners are spoken of, and yet their abiding in Hell is expressed by the word khulud .

Take the other word abad. This word occurs thrice in the Qur’an, in connection with the abiding of sinners in Hell. Ordinarily, it is taken as meaning for ever or eternally , but that it sometimes signifies only a long time , is abundantly clear from the fact that both its dual and plural forms are in use. Raghib says that this is owing to the fact that the word is, in that case, used to express a part of time . And explaining its verb form ta’abbada , he says it signifies the thing existed for abad , and is taken to mean what remains for a long time . Thus a long time , as the significance of abad , is fully recognized in Arabic lexicology. That in the case of those in Hell, it signifies a long time and not for ever , is clear from the fact that the abiding in Hell of even the unbelievers is elsewhere stated to be for ahqab , which is the plural of huqbah , meaning a year or many years (LA.)., or eighty years (R.). At all events it indicates a definite period of time, and hence serves as a clear indication that even abad , in the case of abiding in Hell, means a long time .

The two words khulud and abad , which are generally construed as leading to an eternity of Hell, being thus disposed of, the verses which are generally adduced in support of the idea that those in Hell shall for ever and ever suffer its endless tortures may be considered: “Thus will Allah show them their deeds to be intense regret to them, and they will not escape from the fire” (2 : 167). “Those who disbelieve, even if they had all that is in the earth, and the like of it with it, to ransom themselves with from the chastisement of the Day of Resurrection, it would not be accepted from them and theirs is a painful chastisement. They would desire to come forth from the fire, and they will not come forth from it, and theirs is a lasting chastisement” (5 : 36, 37). “Whenever they desire to go forth from it, from grief, they are turned back into it” (22 : 22). “And as for those who transgress, their refuge is the Fire. Whenever they desire to go forth from it they are brought back into it, and it is said to them, Taste the chastisement of the Fire, which you called a lie” (32 : 20).

These verses are self-explanatory. Those in Hell shall desire to escape from it but shall not be able to do so; even if they could offer the whole earth as a ransom, they would not be able to get out. The evil consequences of sin cannot be avoided, howsoever one may desire, and even so is the fire of Hell. None can escape from it. But not a word is there in any of these verses to show that God will not take them out of it, or that the tortures of Hell are endless. They only show that every sinner must suffer the consequences of what he as done, and that he cannot escape them; but that he may be set free when he has undergone the necessary chastisement, or that God may, of His boundless mercy, deliver the sinners when He pleases, is not denied here.

Even if abad is taken to mean eternity, the abiding in Hell, according to the Qur’an, must cease at some time, because a limit is placed on it by the addition of the words except as Allah pleases ( illa ma sha’a Allah ) which clearly indicate the ultimate deliverance of those in Hell. The following two verses may be noted in this connection: “He will say, The fire is your abode - you shall abide therein, except as Allah pleases. Surely thy Lord is Wise, Knowing” (6 : 129). “Then as to those who are unhappy, they will be in the fire; for them will be sighing and groaning - abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord pleases. Surely thy Lord is the mighty Doer of what He intends” (11 : 106, 107).

Both these verses show that the abiding in Hell must come to an end. To make this connection clearer still, the Qur’an has used a similar expression for those in Paradise but with quite a different ending: “And as for those who are made happy, they will be in the Garden, abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord pleases - a gift never to be cut off” (11 : 108). The two expressions are similar; those in Hell and those in Paradise abide, each in his place, as long as the heavens and the earth endure, with an exception added in each case - except as thy Lord pleases - showing that they may be taken out of that condition. But the concluding statements are different. In the case of Paradise, the idea that those in it may be taken out of Paradise; while in the case of Hell, the idea that those in it will be taken out is confirmed by the concluding statement, that God does as He intends.(edited)

This conclusion is corroborated by Tradition. The Prophet is reported to have said: “Then Allah will say, The angels have interceded and the prophets have interceded and the faithful have interceded and none remains but the most Merciful of all merciful ones. So He will take out a handful from the fire and bring out a people who have never done any good” (M. 1 : 72). Three kinds of intercession are spoken of in this tradition - of the faithful, of prophets and of the angels - and the intercession of each class is undoubtedly meant for people who have some sort of close relation with that class. The faithful will intercede for people who have come into contact with them personally; the prophets will intercede for their followers; the angels, who move men to do good, will intercede for people who are not followers of a prophet, but who have done some good. And the report adds that the most Merciful of all still remains, so He will bring out from the fire even people who have never done any good. It follows that, thereafter, none can remain in Hell, and in fact the handful of God cannot leave anything behind.

Other traditions state even more explicitly that all men shall be taken out of Hell. “Surely a day will come over Hell when it will be like a field of corn that has dried up after flourishing for a while” (KU.). “Surely a day will come over Hell when there shall not be a single human being in it” (FBn. IV, p. 372). A similar saying is recorded from Ibn Mas’ud: “Surely a time will come over Hell when its gates shall be blown by wind, there shall be none in it, and this shall be after they have remained therein for many years.” <1> Similar sayings are reported from many other Companions such as Ibn 'Umar, Jabir, Abu Sa’id, Abu Hurairah, etc., and also from the learned men of the next generation ( Tabi’in ) (FBn.). And later Imams, such as Ibn 'Arabi, Ibn Taimiyah, Ibn Qayyim, and many others, have held similar views ( ibid. ). Thus there can be but little doubt left that Hell is a temporary place for the sinner, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, and this also supports the view that the chastisement of Hell is not for torture but as a remedy, to heal the spiritual diseases which a man has incurred by his own negligence, and to enable him to start again on the road to the higher life. The truth of this has already been established from the Qur’an, but a tradition also may be quoted here which expressly speaks of inmates of the fire as being set on the road to the higher life: “Then will Allah say, Bring out (of the fire) every one in whose heart this faith or goodness to the extent of a mustard seed, so they will be taken out having become quite black; then they will be thrown into the river of life and they will grow as grows a seed by side of the river” (Bu. 2 : 15). This report is conclusive as to the remedial nature of Hell and establishes beyond a doubt that all men will ultimately be set on the way to the higher life."

<1> IJ - C. XII, p. 66."


I’ve taken an interest in Islamic universalism too since I first heard about it. I’ve looked up Maulana Muhammad Ali - the author of this fascinating article - and note that he is of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam. The teaching of this sect is universalist and completely renounces jihad by warfare. There are a number of Ahmadiyya Muslim communities in the USA - where they tend to be well educated, well to do, and well integrated. However, they are fiercely persecuted in Pakistan where they originated by other Muslims.

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Ahmadiyya is considered “heretical” by traditional Muslims. Because the founder declared (or was declared), a prophet. And you can’t have prophets after Mohammad. Later, the group positions him as a reformer.

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That is true Holy Fool :slight_smile: I know very little about this (a couple of books, a few articles - not very much at all). However, from what I do know I think I should add to my previous post that it is not only the Ahmadiyya Muslims within the family of ‘Islam’ (orthodox and heretical) that are universalists. Tradtional Islam when influenced by some of the Sufi schools, for example, is often universalist or near universalist in hope. However, modern Islamists inspired by the Wahabbi sect and by the Muslim Brotherhood is most certainly not universalist in teaching or hope.

Here is a short, intro video (about 2 minutes)! Although personally, I wish ALL Muslims can be like them (and the Sufis).


I wish that all people of faith regardless of their religion could be able to respect each others’ beliefs (even while disagreeing) and live peacefully together.


I remember when the Glaswegian Amahdi shopkeeper was murdered. That was so awful :frowning:

Hell, Christians can’t even agree on crap… Your position is indeed positive, but the reality of human nature is that we all want to be right. And we want to tell everyone about it.:thinking:

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