Islamic Universalism : Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya's Salafi Deliberations on the Duration of Hellfire

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Islamic Universalism
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Islamic Universalism
The Muslim World • Volume 99 • January 2009
Islamic Universalism: Ibn
Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s Salafi
Deliberations on the
Duration of Hell-Fire
Jon Hoover
The Near East School of Theology
Beirut, Lebanon

Classical Sunni eschatology maintains that all those who believe that God
is one will enter the Garden of Paradise in due time. Some monotheists
may first have to endure punishment and purification in the Fire for
their sins, but those with even the least grain of belief will eventually enter the
Garden as their reward. Conversely, unbelievers and those who associate
partners with God (mushrikun) will spend eternity in Hell-Fire as retribution
for their unforgivable error.1 Classical Sunnism supports punishment of
unbelievers and associators in unending Fire with many verses from the
Qur’an. However, its fundamental warrant for this doctrine is not the Qur’an
but consensus (ijma“ ). The classical Sunni principle of consensus affirms that
when the scholars of the Muslim community have agreed on a matter — that
Islam has Five Pillars, for example — it is no longer open to discussion.2 So,
the claim here is that the Muslim community has reached a binding consensus
that punishment of unbelievers in the Fire will never cease.3
This claim has not gone uncontested. In copious writings on the duration
of the Fire, the Damascene theologian Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350)
— the leading student of the famed Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328)
— presents what may well be the most forthright challenge to the alleged
consensus on this doctrine in medieval Islamic thought. The case for the
limited duration of chastisement in the Fire did receive careful consideration
earlier on as is evident in the vast Qur’an commentary of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi
(d. 606/1209).4 Nonetheless, Ibn al-Qayyim’s discussions appear to be
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January 2009
unprecedented in their thoroughness and length. In his argumentation, the Fire
no longer functions retributively to punish as in the classical doctrine but
therapeutically to cleanse from sins, even the sins of unbelief (kufr) and
associationism (shirk). Does then the punishment of unbelievers come to an
end? Does the Fire pass away when its purposes have been attained? As we
will see, some scholars have concluded that Ibn al-Qayyim answers these
questions affirmatively to yield a doctrine of universal salvation. Yet, closer
examination of his texts shows that coming to this conclusion is not as simple
as it first appears.
This article investigates three lengthy discussions on the duration of
punishment and the Fire by Ibn al-Qayyim that come from the later years
of his life. These three have emerged in recent controversial literature as the
fullest and most significant of Ibn al-Qayyim’s deliberations on the topic.5
I have not undertaken an exhaustive search for additional treatments
elsewhere in Ibn al-Qayyim’s vast corpus, and no attempt is made here to
provide a comprehensive overview of his thought on this subject. Rather,
this study seeks to clarify Ibn al-Qayyim’s views in the key texts under
consideration, note debts to his teacher Ibn Taymiyya, and explore the means
by which he circumvents the classical Sunni consensus.
The Beginnings of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Deliberations
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya reveals how he first broached the question
of everlasting chastisement with Ibn Taymiyya in an autobiographical note
found in his Shifa” al-“alil (Healing of the Sick) [hereafter Shifa” ]:6
I had asked Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyya] — God sanctify his spirit —
[about everlasting chastisement]. He said to me, “This issue is very
great”, and he gave no reply concerning it. Some time had passed after
that when I saw in the commentary of ‘Abd b. Hamid [or Humayd]
al-Kiththi one of those traditions I have mentioned. So, I sent the book
to [Ibn Taymiyya] while he was in his last session ( fi majlisihi al-akhir).
I marked that place [in the book], and I told the messenger, “Say to him,
‘This place is difficult for him, and he does not know what it is.” Then,
he wrote his famous work about it — the mercy of God be upon him.
Whoever has the grace of knowledge, let him bring it forth, and above
each one having knowledge is one who is All-Knowing (pp. 564 – 65).
It appears that Ibn Taymiyya was not sure how to respond to Ibn
al-Qayyim’s first inquiry on the duration of the Fire. He only answered that the
question was “very great.” Ibn al-Qayyim’s second inquiry was prompted by
reading the commentary of ‘Abd b. Hamid al-Kissi (or al-Kiththi as he writes),
a ninth-century Hadith scholar from Kiss near Samarqand (d. 249/863).7
A tradition related by ‘Abd b. Hamid puzzled Ibn al-Qayyim. So, he marked
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Islamic Universalism
the spot in the book and sent it to his teacher via messenger. This occurred
“while [Ibn Taymiyya] was in his last session,” presumably near the end of his
life. In reply Ibn Taymiyya composed what Ibn al-Qayyim calls his “famous
work.” The identity of this work and its date will be clarified below.
In the passage above Ibn al-Qayyim also alludes to having mentioned the
puzzling tradition from ‘Abd b. Hamid earlier in Shifa”. A few pages back,
he does indeed cite from ‘Abd b. Hamid the following report from ‘Umar b.
al-Kha††ab, a Companion of the Prophet and the second Sunni caliph: “Even if
the People of the Fire stayed in the Fire like the amount of sand of ‘Alij, they
would have, despite that, a day in which they would come out” (p. 554). The
place name ‘Alij refers to a large tract of sand in the desert on the way to
Mecca,8 and the simile “like the amount of sand of ‘Alij” in ‘Umar’s report
indicates a very great length of time. Thus, the sense is that those in the Fire
will leave it someday even if they remain therein for a very long time.
At the same place in Shifa”, Ibn al-Qayyim cites other reports that also cast
doubt on the eternity of punishment in Hell-Fire. Two examples will suffice.
A report from the Prophet’s Companion Abu Hurayra conveys a message
similar to that of ‘Umar: “There will come to Hell a day when no one will
remain in it.” The second example counsels withholding judgment about
where humans will end up. The Companion Ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have
said, “It is not necessary for anyone to judge God with respect to His creatures
or to assign them to a garden or a fire” (p. 554). Ibn al-Qayyim clearly
understands these sundry reports to undermine the classical Sunni consensus
that unbelievers and associators will spend eternity in the Fire. But where
exactly does that lead him?
Ibn al-Qayyim’s Debt to Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana] al-nar
Ibn al-Qayyim’s most frequently cited treatment of the Fire’s duration
appears in his book on eschatology Hadi al-arwah ila bilad al-afrah
(Spurring Souls on to the Realms of Joys) [hereafter Hadi].9 A marking on one
manuscript of Hadi dates it to 745/1344 – 45 with the text, “He [i.e., Ibn al-
Qayyim] completed its composition in the year 745 A.H.”10 I have no reason to
doubt this date, but it would be good to have corroborating evidence before
accepting it as established. Some 400 years later, the Yemeni scholar
Muhammad b. Isma‘il al-San‘ani (d. 1182/1768) quotes Hadi at length in his
refutation Raf “ al-astar and charges both Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyya
with maintaining that Hell-Fire will pass away ( fana” al-nar).11 Despite
al-San‘ani’s assertions, it has not been obvious what can be rightly learned
about Ibn Taymiyya from the discussion in Hadi. At a few points toward
the beginning, Ibn al-Qayyim does indicate that he is quoting Ibn Taymiyya.
Unfortunately, however, he does not demarcate Ibn Taymiyya’s words from his
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own, indicate the text that he is citing, or make clear which view his teacher
took. To make matters more difficult, modern scholars have been hard pressed
to find Ibn Taymiyya speaking about the duration of the Fire anywhere in his
own texts. On this basis, Saudi scholar ‘Ali al-Harbi even concluded in 1990
that Ibn Taymiyya never said that the Fire will pass away.12
Nevertheless, Binyamin Abrahamov came to the opposite conclusion in a
2002 article entitled “The Creation and Duration of Paradise and Hell in Islamic
Theology.” Abrahamov argues that both Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim
al-Jawziyya maintain that the Fire will pass away. With respect to Ibn
al-Qayyim, Abrahamov draws this inference from Hadi, but for Ibn Taymiyya
he does not refer to any of his writings or mention how hard it has been to
find him speaking to this issue. Abrahamov’s sole source for Ibn Taymiyya is
Fortunately, the key to solving the mystery of Ibn al-Qayyim’s quotations
from Ibn Taymiyya and the latter’s own view is now available. In 1995
Muhammad al-Simhari edited and published a treatise by Ibn Taymiyya and
gave it the title Al-Radd “ala man qala bi-fana” al-janna wa al-nar (Response
to Whoever Says that the Garden and the Fire Will Pass Away
). I will
call it Fana” al-nar for short. As the editor al-Simhari argues, this brief work is
undoubtedly authentic.14 This is the text that Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya quotes in
Hadi, and it conspicuously shapes the structure of his discussion in that book.
As will become clear below, Ibn al-Qayyim proceeds through the same topics
and arguments in the same order as Ibn Taymiyya but with extensive
elaboration and addition. Ibn Taymiyya’s text structures Ibn al-Qayyim’s
discussion in Shifa” as well, but to a lesser degree.
Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana” al-nar gains added significance in view of Ibn al-
Qayyim’s autobiographical note in Shifa” quoted above. There, Ibn al-Qayyim
comments that he sent his question about ‘Abd b. Hamid’s book to Ibn
Taymiyya during “his last session” and that his teacher responded with
“his famous work.” There is little reason to doubt that this “famous work” is
Fana” al-nar. Ibn Taymiyya’s text gives careful attention to ‘Abd b. Hamid’s
commentary and the report from ‘Umar that troubled Ibn al-Qayyim. Moreover,
mention of Ibn Taymiyya being in his “last session” strongly suggests that he
was near life’s end. This is corroborated by references which Caterina Bori has
identified showing Fana” al-nar to be the last treatise that Ibn Taymiyya
authored.15 In a long list of Ibn Taymiyya’s works, his disciple Ibn Rushayyiq
(d. 749/1348 – 49) observes, “In his final imprisonment, he produced Qa“ida fi
radd “ala man qala bi-fana” al-janna wa al-nar
, in about 20 sheets.”16 Adding
more information, the biographer al-Safadi (d. 764/1363) states concerning Ibn
Taymiyya’s Fi baqa” al-janna wa al-nar wa fana”ihima, “This is the last thing
that he compiled in the citadel, and al-‘Allama Qadi al-Qudah Taqi al-Din
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Islamic Universalism
al-Subki has refuted it.”17 Taqi al-Din al-Subki did in fact write a refutation of
Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana” al-nar in 1348, and this will be discussed below. More
to the point, it is evident that al-Safadi’s and Ibn Rushayyiq’s notices refer to
the same treatise, namely Fana” al-nar, and that this was the last work that
Ibn Taymiyya wrote during his final imprisonment in the citadel of Damascus.
This incarceration began in 726/1326. Ibn Taymiyya’s pen and paper were
confiscated in Jumada al-akhira 728/April–May 1328,18 and he died in prison
later the same year.
From these observations we may conclude that Ibn Taymiyya wrote his last
work Fana” al-nar in response to an inquiry from Ibn al-Qayyim about the
duration of punishment and the Fire. This occurred during Ibn Taymiyya’s final
imprisonment, just before he was deprived of his writing materials in the
spring of 728/1328. Ibn al-Qayyim then followed his teacher’s treatise very
closely several years later, perhaps in 745/1344 – 45, when composing his
discussion of the Fire’s duration in Hadi and more loosely when writing on
the same topic in Shifa”.
Salafi and Theological Arguments in Fana] al-nar
and Hadi

Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana” al-nar (p. 41) and Ibn al-Qayyim’s corresponding
discussion in Hadi (p. 307) both begin by outlining three possible views on
the durations of the Garden and the Fire: 1) both pass away, 2) both remain
forever, or 3) the Garden remains forever while the Fire passes away. The first
of these views is refuted in the first section of Fana” al-nar. The second view
is refuted in the third section. The third view is defended in both the second
and fourth sections. The discussion in Ibn al-Qayyim’s Hadi follows suit. The
fifth and final section in Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana” al-nar cites Qur’anic verses
showing that the Garden will remain forever (pp. 83 – 87). Ibn al-Qayyim does
not go on to treat this matter because he has already attended to it earlier in
Hadi (pp. 305 – 7) just before picking up with Fana” al-nar.
The first section of Fana” al-nar (pp. 42 – 52) and the parallel discussion
in Hadi (pp. 307 – 11) are devoted to refuting the views of Jahm b. Safwan
(d. 128/745) and the early Mu‘tazili theologian Abu al-Hudhayl al-‘Allah
(227/841?). Jahm argues that the impossibility of an infinite series means that
both the Garden and the Fire must eventually cease to exist. On a similar basis,
Abu al-Hudhayl argues not that the two will pass away entirely but that motion
in them must end. Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim respond that an infinite
series into the future is possible and that Jahm ignores Qur’anic texts indicating
the perpetuity of the Garden. These verses include, “Its food is perpetual”
(Q. 13:35), and, “Truly, this is Our provision which is never exhausted”
(Q. 38:54).
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The second section of Fana” al-nar explores textual support for the Fire
passing away or at least that no one will suffer chastisement in it forever
(pp. 52–70). Ibn al-Qayyim’s matching section in Hadi (pp. 311–18) quotes
much of Ibn Taymiyya’s content and elaborates similar points. Ibn Taymiyya
begins with ‘Umar’s report cited by ‘Abd b. Hamid, “Even if the People of the
Fire stayed in the Fire like the amount of sand of ‘Alij, they would have, despite
that, a day in which they would come out.” ‘Abd b. Hamid cites this report,
explains Ibn Taymiyya, when interpreting the Qur’anic testimony that the
residents of Hell will be “staying in it for long stretches of time (labithina fiha
)” (Q. 78:23) to show that “long stretches of time” does indeed have
an end. Ibn Taymiyya also quotes several early exegetical traditions that take
“long stretches of time (ahqab)” to mean a period of finite length. To reconcile
this with classical Sunni doctrine, it might be argued that the verse applies only
to monotheistic sinners and the time they spend in the Fire before entering the
Garden.19 Ibn Taymiyya asserts that this is not so. The verse definitely refers
to unbelievers.
Among other points that Ibn Taymiyya makes in this section is that several
commentators use Ibn ‘Abbas’s report, “It is not necessary for anyone to judge
God with respect to His creatures or to assign them to a garden or a fire,” to
explicate the Qur’anic claim that the residents of the Fire will be “abiding in
the Fire, as long as the Heavens and the Earth endure, except as your Lord
wills” (Q. 11:107). Time spent in the Fire is not everlasting absolutely. Rather,
Ibn Taymiyya observes, it is contingent upon both the existence of this world
and — as corroborated by Ibn ‘Abbas — God’s will.
The third section of Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana” al-nar (pp. 71–79) and the
roughly equivalent section in Ibn al-Qayyim’s Hadi (pp. 318 –22) list and refute
arguments for the perpetuity (dawam) of the Fire. Only the first two of these
need occupy us here, and the second will be treated first because it is quickly
explained. This is the argument that the Qur’an supports the perpetuity of the
Fire. In reply, Ibn Taymiyya recognizes that the Qur’an says that unbelievers
are “abiding in [the Fire] forever (khalidun fiha abadan)” (Q. 4:169, 33:65,
etc.). Yet, he avers, the Qur’an never states that the Fire will not pass away.
There would seem to be a contradiction here. If unbelievers abide in the Fire
forever, how could the Fire pass away? Ibn Taymiyya responds that the
residents of Hell will abide in the abode of chastisement only as long as that
chastisement lasts. The terms “abiding” (khalid ) and “forever” (abad ) should
not be understood in absolute and unqualified senses. This is the same
solution to textual difficulties that Ibn Taymiyya employed in the preceding
section of Fana” al-nar.
The first and more significant argument for the perpetuity of the Fire
is that it is held by consensus (ijma“ ), with no conflict over it found among
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Islamic Universalism
the Salaf (i.e., the early Muslims). Ibn Taymiyya responds that no consensus
on this question is known. No one among the Prophet’s Companions said
that the Fire would never pass away, and the Successors (tabi “un),
the second generation after the Prophet, held diverse views on the matter.
Thus, Ibn Taymiyya argues, there is no ijma“ or consensus that the Fire will
remain forever.
This way of conceiving consensus divides Ibn Taymiyya methodologically
from the mainstream Sunni scholars of his day, and it is the key to his and Ibn
al-Qayyim’s Salafi hermeneutic. For Ibn Taymiyya, the only binding consensus
is an explicit consensus of the Salaf, the first three generations at most.
Thereafter, consensus becomes too difficult to verify. Any consensus by a later
generation of scholars is always subject to correction upon discovery of a
stronger proof.20 Thus, when Ibn Taymiyya discovers that there was no
agreement among the Salaf on the duration of the Fire, he is willing to rethink
the issue. In classical Sunnism, however, matters on which consensus have
been reached are no longer open to discussion. So, by virtue of raising this
question anew, Ibn Taymiyya is breaking the rules of classical Sunni
This becomes clearer in Taqi al-Din al-Subki’s (d. 756/1355) Al-I“tibar, a
refutation of Fana” al-nar written in 1348, twenty years after Ibn Taymiyya’s
death.21 Although al-Subki devotes much space to quoting Qur’anic verses
supporting the eternity of the Fire, he writes at the very beginning of the
treatise, “The doctrine of the Muslims is that the Garden and the Fire will
not pass away. Abu Muhammad b. Hazm has transmitted that this is held
by consensus and that whoever opposes it is an unbeliever by consensus”
(p. 32). That is, to suggest that the Fire is not eternal is to fall directly into
unbelief. Al-Subki reiterates this elsewhere in the treatise although he is careful
to clarify that he does not label any particular person an unbeliever
(pp. 47, 85, 89).
Even more telling is how al-Subki responds to Ibn Taymiyya’s charge that
there was no consensus among the Salaf. Al-Subki first expresses disbelief that
anyone among the Salaf ever said that the Fire would pass away. But then he
explains that some statements of the Salaf should not be taken literally. They
require reinterpretation (ta”wil ), just as some verses in the Qur’an and reports
in the Hadith require reinterpretation. This is especially so in matters of
doctrine upon which Muslims are agreed (p. 59). Al-Subki later explains that
consensus might legitimately be undermined by “transmission of a clear
difference (naql khilaf sarih).” However, he denies that this has occurred on
this issue, and he then effectively negates the possibility of a “clear difference”
ever emerging by arguing that the reports of the Salaf to which Ibn Taymiyya
appeals should be reinterpreted so as “to give a favorable opinion of them
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[i.e., the Salaf ] (tahsinan li-l-zann bihim)” (p. 79). For al-Subki, the classical
scholarly consensus is binding and earlier testimony must be read charitably
in its light.
Al-Subki’s argument from consensus is still invoked today. In a 1986 book
on Paradise and the Fire, Sulayman al-Ashqar likewise cites Ibn Hazm’s
assertion of consensus that the Fire will not pass away, and he maintains that
this is “the doctrine of the People of the Sunna and the Community.”22
Al-Ashqar observes that Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim are wrong on this
doctrine but should not be censured as unbelievers. They were engaged in
creative reasoning from authoritative texts (ijtihad ) and will be rewarded
accordingly. If they had been properly informed of the truth, they would have
changed to the correct view. Moreover, al-Ashqar explains, early scholars
(i.e., Salaf) similarly held views that sometimes disagreed with what eventually
became the consensus of the Muslim community. Imam Malik (d. 179/795),
for example, maintained that the invocation “In the name of God, the Merciful,
the All-Merciful” found at the head of Qur’anic suras was not part of the
Qur’an whereas consensus was later reached that it was. Also, ‘Umar b.
al-Kha††ab said that a traveler who could not find water did not have to pray
whereas it was agreed in due course that a traveler in such circumstances
should pray after performing ritual cleansing with sand.23 Although al-Ashqar
does not make the point explicitly, it is clear that he grants a later scholarly
consensus precedence over diversity of views among the Salaf. Ibn Taymiyya’s
Salafi methodology turns the tables on this strategy by making diversity among
the Salaf grounds for scrutinizing and reconsidering doctrines prevailing
among later scholars. One such doctrine that falls under Ibn Taymiyya’s ax,
obviously, is the eternity of the Fire, and in this he is followed faithfully by Ibn
The fourth section of Ibn Taymiyya’s Fana” al-nar (pp. 80 – 83) and the
much longer parallel section in Ibn al-Qayyim’s Hadi (pp. 322 – 41) are cast as
a series of differences between the Garden and the Fire. In reality, they
constitute arguments for the perpetuity of the Garden and the limited duration
of the Fire and chastisement in it. Ibn Taymiyya provides eight arguments. The
first five reiterate textual indications for limited duration of the Fire and need
not be recounted here. The sixth through eighth are theological. The sixth
argument explains that God’s mercy (rahma) and forgiveness entail the
blessing of the Garden. The Garden remains forever as something following
necessarily from God’s attributes and names, especially God’s forgiveness and
mercy. Chastisement, however, may cease because it is only something
created. It does not follow necessarily from God’s names. This of course does
not yet prove definitively that chastisement in the Fire will pass away. For that
something more is needed, and this is provided in the seventh argument,
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Islamic Universalism
where Ibn Taymiyya makes his key theological move. He observes that God’s
mercy encompasses all things. The Qur’an says, “[God] has written mercy for
Himself” (Q. 6:12), and, in the Hadith, we find, “My mercy precedes my
anger,”24 and, “My mercy overcomes my anger.”25 So, Ibn Taymiyya reasons,
God’s mercy precludes chastisement without end. In the eighth argument,
Ibn Taymiyya asserts that God has a wise purpose (hikma) in everything that
He does. As he cannot imagine God having any wise purpose in creating
everlasting chastisement, chastisement is limited, and its wise purpose is
cleansing from sins and purifying souls.
That Ibn Taymiyya should even consider what reason or purpose God
might have in everlasting chastisement sets him at odds with the dominant
Ash‘ari theology of his day. In classical Ash‘arism, God does not act for reasons
or purposes. The only explanation for what God does is that God wills it.
As I have shown elsewhere, Ibn Taymiyya refutes the arguments that support
this Ash‘ari voluntarism and maintains that God creates everything for wise
purposes — evils and all human actions included — such that this is the best
possible world. On those few occasions when Ibn Taymiyya is specific about
God’s wise purposes in evil, he speaks of the lessons that Pharaoh’s rebellion
and destruction teach us, the humility nurtured by illness and sins, and the
expiation of sin gained through suffering. Evil is educational and purifying.
It affords opportunity to struggle and advance in the religious life and perfect
worship of God alone.26 Probably more than any other factor, this theological
optimism spurs Ibn Taymiyya to reconsider the received doctrine that the Fire
is eternal. Reports from the likes of ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas noted above and the
Salafi hermeneutic that allows reading them afresh certainly play their parts,
but, more fundamentally, everlasting Fire undermines Ibn Taymiyya’s vision of
a God who wisely creates all creatures and draws them to love and worship
only Him.
This optimism comes into full flower with a strongly therapeutic hue in the
much more extensive parallel section of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Hadi. Ibn al-Qayyim
rejects the Ash‘ari notion that God creates some people from the outset to
languish eternally in the Fire. He clarifies that God does not create anyone
to be an unbeliever essentially. There is no such thing as unbelief and
associationism that cannot be removed, and no one is beyond the pale of
being made fit for the Garden. God created everyone with a natural
constitution ( fi†ra) to love God and confess His unity, and God’s wise purpose
in chastisement is not vengeance but cleansing (pp. 324–26). The punishment
of the Fire is not fundamentally a matter of retribution but therapy. Ibn
al-Qayyim writes, “Trial and punishment are the remedies appointed to
remove maladies. They are not removed by any other means. And the Fire
is the Great Remedy” (p. 332). At another point, he says:
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The wise purpose [of God] — Glory be to Him — required that He make
a remedy (dawa” ) appropriate to each malady (da” ) and that the
remedy for the malady be among the most toilsome of remedies. The
Compassionate Physician cauterizes one who is ill with the Fire,
cauterization after cauterization, to remove the vile matter besmirching
the upright nature (p. 326).27
Ultimately, argues Ibn al-Qayyim in Hadi, there can be no benefit or
profit in everlasting punishment for anyone. It would be of no profit to
God because God is above gaining anything from punishing human beings.
At the human level, eternal punishment of the wretched does not increase the
blessedness of God’s beloved, and it certainly is of no benefit to those who
suffer under it. Punishment and chastisement can only be a means to a greater
end (p. 327).
Similar to Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al-Qayyim also explains in Hadi that the
Garden is a necessary product of God’s mercy and likewise the Fire a product
of God’s anger ( ghadab). Now, since we know that God’s mercy will
overcome God’s anger, it follows that the effects of God’s mercy will overcome
the effects of God’s anger (pp. 323 – 24, 333). Moreover, Ibn al-Qayyim
clarifies, God’s good pleasure and mercy are essential attributes having no limit
while God’s anger and wrath are not essential and thus do not need to last
forever (p. 327). Ultimately, there is no good reason for evils like the Fire not
to end. Ibn al-Qayyim states, “It is not in the divine wise purpose that evils
remain perpetually without end and without interruption forever such that
[evils] and goods would be equivalent in this” (p. 341).
To review: Ibn Taymiyya never states categorically in Fana” al-nar that the
Fire and its chastisement will pass away. However, this is certainly the burden
of his argument, and it is not without reason that later critics attribute this view
to him. Ibn Taymiyya breaks with the classical Sunni consensus that the Fire
is eternal by appealing to diversity among the Salaf. He interprets sayings of
the Companions and early exegetical traditions on key Qur’anic texts to
support the Fire’s passing away, and he employs theological arguments from
God’s mercy and wise purpose to render the Fire’s end inevitable. Ibn Qayyim
al-Jawziyya employs the same Salafi hermeneutic and follows Ibn Taymiyya’s
exegesis and argumentation very closely in Hadi, often elaborating on his
teacher. Elaboration is most evident as Ibn al-Qayyim develops his therapeutic
rationale for the Fire and its eventual passing. The mercy and wise purpose
of God work everything to the benefit of all, and retribution fades far from
Ibn al-Qayyim’s horizon.
Yet, at the very end of his disquisition in Hadi and after explaining that he
has finished presenting arguments for both sides of the issue, Ibn al-Qayyim
raises the question of where he himself stands. In reply, he quotes, “Surely
© 2009 Hartford Seminary.