Reflection No. 119 on Q 74:43-46 – Heaven and Hell

﴾قَالُوا لَمْ نَكُ مِنَ الْمُصَلِّينَ ﴿٤٣﴾ وَلَمْ نَكُ نُطْعِمُ الْمِسْكِينَ ﴿٤٤

﴾وَكُنَّا نَخُوضُ مَعَ الْخَائِضِينَ ﴿٤٥﴾ وَكُنَّا نُكَذِّبُ بِيَوْمِ الدِّينِ ﴿٤٦

Qālū lam naku minal-muSallīn*  walam naku nuT‘imul-miskīn*
wa-kunnā nakhudhū ma‘al-khā’idhīn* wa-kunnā nukadhdhibu biyawmid-dīn*

They shall say: We were not of those who prayed; and nor did we feed the poor;
and we used to gossip along with the gossipers; and we used to deny the Day of Judgment.
Sūratul Muddaththir (No. 74) Āyats 43-46

The Holy Qur’an describes the Hereafter in vivid detail. Many verses talk about Heaven and Hell, the condition of the people there, and even the conversations between the people of Heaven and the people of Hell. These verses give a powerful message, and evoke strong emotions in those who respond to the Qur’an. It is as though they can imagine and visualize being in Heaven or Hell. Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) says about such people: If they come across a verse creating eagerness (for Paradise) they pursue it avidly, and their spirits turn towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is in front of them. And when they come across a verse which contains fear (of Hell) they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 193)The above four verses are part of a conversation between the people of Heaven and the people of Hell. When the people of Hell are asked what brought them to Hell, they give the four sins that brought about their downfall:

1) Not praying. Had they prayed their Salāt would have prevented them from evil and indecency (Q 29:45) and they would not have ended in Hell.

2) Not giving charity. They did not give the charity that was obligatory on them. Commentators also say that although the verse talks about feeding the poor, the meaning can be extended to all forms of fulfilling the needs of the poor.

3) Indulge in vain discourses and gossiping. Human beings tend to follow what others are doing, and join in groups without discerning the path the group is taking. According to Tafsīr-e Namuneh, the verse refers to groups that mock religion and plan to undermine it. It can also mean groups that indulge in sins such as backbiting, false amusement, etc.

4) Denying the Day of Judgment. Obviously someone who does not believe in accountability to God would not refrain from sin and indulging in vice.

Believers stay away from the sins mentioned in these verses. They stem from a lack of faith, both in God and in the Last day. They cover social responsibility, so it’s not just worship of God but also duties to humanity that need to be considered. These verses are a red light for us, to stop and analyse ourselves so we are not guilty of the sins that the people of Hell will regret about in the Hereafter.

Sources: Tafsīir-e Namune, Aytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzi (ed); Nahjul Balāgha, Imam Ali (a)