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Last Updated: 2007/04/26
Summary of question
Does Heaven and Hell presently exist or not?
Does Heaven and Hell presently exist or not?
Concise answer

In accordance with Quranic verses and traditions, the promised Heaven and Hell are presently in existence and will be completely shown in the hereafter where man will be given his everlasting abode in relation to his beliefs, actions, and ethical traits. But, there has been another form of Heaven and Hell which can be seen in this world through mystical experiences (shahūd) or they will manifest themselves for mankind in the interworld which will result in either pleasure or pain. There are differences of opinions in regards to the form of influence and relation that one’s beliefs and actions have on his condition in the hereafter and also in the explanation of Heaven, Hell, and their forms. But, in general it can be said that:


The Heaven that Prophet Adam (a) and Eve entered and from there went ‘down’ to earth, the Heaven and Hell of actions which surround mankind and the Heaven and Hell of the interworld (barzakh) are manifestations of the promised Heaven and Hell, not Heaven and Hell themselves. What is for certain is that for man to be sent to Heaven or Hell depends on his own freewill and actions.

Detailed Answer

The belief in Heaven and Hell being the eternal abode for mankind after resurrection and the belief in how it was structured and perfected are parts of the belief in the unseen where knowledge and faith about them cannot be ascertained except through revelation found in the Quran or traditions. This will always be part of the unseen until man sees it himself and all of its uncertainties are made certain. These uncertainties are not enough to bring any sort of doubt into the belief of the hereafter and general events that will occur therein. An example of one of the uncertainties about Heaven and Hell is the question of their present existence, and if they exist; where? Are they complete and man just gives life to them or are they incomplete and man completes them? Or are they created in such a way that man just enters them in the hereafter or will Heaven and Hell be created in the hereafter?


Two subjects must be examined before answering these questions:

1.       How man’s actions effect his hereafter,

2.       The types of heavens and hells and the differing opinions regarding them.


The opinions that have been given in regards how man’s actions effect his eternal rewards or punishments:


1. Rewards and punishments in the hereafter are determined by the actions and intentions of man in the world. These are similar to legal punishments and traffic violations. Therefore, there is not a real relation between the worldly actions and the events of the hereafter.


2. Rewards and punishments in the hereafter is a form of changing energy into matter; the energy that man used in the world performing good or bad deeds is transformed into matter in the hereafter which causes him to be rewarded or punished.


3. Man’s actions and beliefs have exoteric and esoteric forms. In the world, most humans only see the exoteric form and are unaware of the esoteric forms until they see them after death in interworld and completely on the Day of Resurrection. The esoteric forms cause reward or punishment.


4. Man’s actions and beliefs are performed by man’s physical body but effect and form his inner-self, even if man is unaware of this. In the world most humans see physical forms and in the hereafter the inner-selves or esoteric forms will appear and take on their own forms. Man will be raised with his inner-self that he formed in the world and this will be the cause of reward or punishment.


The first opinion in not in congruence with verses of the Quran or traditions and cannot be used to explain reward or punishment in the hereafter. The next two opinions, although in congruence with the apparent meanings of verses of the Quran[1] and traditions, only explain some of the events of interworld and the hereafter (Heaven and Hell) – not all of them.


The opinions that have been given about the types of heavens and hells:


1. Divine promises and warnings of Heaven and Hell are only made to help man build himself spiritually and do not need to really be in existence. Man has reached Heaven and distanced himself from Hell by becoming righteous and staying away from corrupt actions due to a desire for Heaven and loathe for Hell. Here, Allah’s goal of guiding mankind would be accomplished and that is enough.


2. Heaven is a one-class society and Hell is a capitalist society and there is nothing more than this. Therefore, those seeking Heaven must establish a socialist society and by doing this they will reach Heaven on Earth and be free of the Hell of capitalism.


3. Heaven is in this universe, on another planet which will be able to be reached with the progression of astronomy and technology. When it is reached man will be saved from Hell; Earth.


4. Heaven is being attributed with high moral traits and Hell is being attributed with base moral traits. Therefore, one who seeks Heaven and wants to be saved from Hell must rid his soul of base moral traits and obtain high moral traits.


These four opinions belong to materialists and syncretics. They are in direct opposition to and rejected by the apparent meanings of the verses of Quran and traditions as well as the purpose of prophethood, revelation, and faith in the unseen. The Heaven and Hell that is predominately described in the Quran occur after man’s death in the hereafter; are eternal, not worldly and mortal.


5. Prophet Adam (a) and Eve entered a Heaven after being created and from there they were sent ‘down’ to earth. This Heaven is regarded as a stage of the world or else Adam (a) would not have left it. In addition, man’s actions did not have any role in its creation or circumstances.


6. The Heaven and Hell in interworld are manifestations of the esoteric forms of man’s actions. These are seen by people with great spiritual qualities before death and by believers and disbelievers in the grave after death. These esoteric forms of actions are the causes for reward or punishment before the Day of Resurrection.


Interworld, because it occurs before the Day of Resurrection, is considered a stage of the world and will be felt by all people and by those close to Allah in their dreams or mystical experiences. This opinion is in congruence with the third and fourth opinion of the effects of man’s actions in his being rewarded or punished.[2]


7. The Heaven and Hell of the hereafter: it is understood from verses of the Quran and traditions that they are presently in existence and some parts of them were seen by the Noble Prophet (s) on his great ascension (mi‘rāj).[3] It is in this form that every person who is born is given a place in Heaven and a place in Hell, if his dies after performing righteous deeds and having faith he will enter his place in Heaven and if not he will enter his place in Hell. But, the different levels of Heaven or Hell and the way he is rewarded or punished are dependent on his actions in the world.


It has been narrated from Imām Sādiq (a) through a correct chain or narration that he said: “The truth {Allah} has not created anyone without making a home for him in Heaven and a home for him in Hell. When the people of Heaven and in Heaven and the people of Hell are in Hell, the people of Heaven will be called look at Hell. The people of Heaven will then look at Hell and their houses in Hell will then be shown to them, where they would have been sent to if they committed sin in the world. Then they will become so happy that if there was death in Heaven they would have died of happiness. Then the people of Hell will be called upon to look up. They will look up and see their houses in Heaven and the bounties that they would have been given. It will then be said to them that if they would have obeyed Allah they would have been there. They will then be so sad that if there was death they would die. Then the houses of the people of Hell in Heaven will be given to good people and the houses of the people of Heaven in Hell will be given to bad people. This is the explanation to the verse in which the Truth says: ‘It is them that will inherit Heaven and remain their eternally.’”[4][5]


Due to this, the Heaven and Hell that exist in the hereafter and will be man’s eternal abode are no existent and are being completed by man’s actions and beliefs. But, nobody has entered either of them nor has seen them, except the Messenger of Allah (a) on the great ascension, and this will be the case until the hereafter starts.


Therefore, the Heaven that Prophet Adam (a) and Eve were in, the Heaven and Hell that is seen before death, in dreams [of mystic experiences] and while awake, during death, and after death in the Barzakh (interworld) is not the Heaven and Hell of the hereafter, rather it is the manifestation and representation of that Heaven and Hell.




1. Hussayn Tehranī, Muhammad Hussayn Ma‘ād Shināsī Mashad: ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī Press, 1417 h.q. (Fifth edition)

2.Qumī, Shaykh ‘Abbās Manāzil al-Akhirah Qum: Dar Rāh-e-Haqq Foundation, 1377 h.s. pgs. 81-170 (seventh edition)

3. Subhānī, Ja‘far Ma‘ād Shināsī (translation by ‘Alī Shīrwānī)

4. Qurbānī, Zayn al-‘Ābidīn Besūy-e-Jahān-e-Abadī Qum: Shafaq Press, 1372 h.s. (third edition)

5. Rahīm-Pūr, Farūgh al-Sādāt Ma‘ād az Dīdgāh-e-Imām-e-Khomeini Tehran: Tanzīm wa Nashr Āthār Imām, 1378 h.s. (second edition)

6. Tabātabā’ī, Muhammad Hussayn Hayyāt Pas az Marg Qum: Intishārāt Islāmī Office, 1372 h.s. (seventh edition)

7. Tabātabā’ī, Muhammad Hussayn Barrasīhāy-e-Islāmī Qum: Hijrat Press, 1360 h.s. pgs. 354-382.

[1] Quran, 4:10, 9:34-35, etc.

[2] Muhammad Hussayn Tehranī, Ma‘ād Shināsī, v.2, p.157-192

[3] Ibid, v.2, p.292-320; refer to the explanations of Quran, 17:1

[4] Bihār al-Anwār, v.8, p.125 and 287; narrated from Shaykh ‘Abbās Qumī, Manāzil al-Akhirah, p.129-130

[5] Quran, 23:10-11

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