The Creation, Existence and Surroundings of Paradise and Hell
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “When Allah created Paradise and Hell, He sent Jibreel to Paradise and said, ‘Look at it and at what I have prepared for its people therein.’ So he went and looked at it and at what Allah had prepared for its people therein. Then he went back to Him and said, ‘By Your Glory, no one will hear of it but he will enter it.’ Then He commanded that it should be surrounded with difficult things. Then He said, ‘Go back and look at what I have prepared for its people therein.’ He went back and saw that it was surrounded with difficult things. He came back and said, ‘By Your Glory, I am afraid that no one will enter it.’ Allah said, ‘Go and look at Hell and see what I have prepared for its people therein.’ [He saw it] with parts of it consuming other parts. He came back and said, ‘By Your Glory, no one who hears of it will enter it.’ So Allah commanded that it should be surrounded with desires. Then he said, ‘Go back to it.’ So he went back, then he said, ‘By Your Glory, I am afraid that no one will be saved from it and that all will enter it.’”
[Sunan al-Tirmidhi (2560), Al-Tirmidhi said: this is a Hasan Sahih Hadith. Al-Haafiz said in al-Fath: its isnaad (chain) is qawiy (strong). Also classed as Hasan Sahih by al-Albaani]
Allah has created Paradise and its creation is complete, because He says in a Hadith Qudsi: “I have prepared for My righteous slaves that which no eye has seen…” And because the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) saw it on the night of the Israa’ and Mi’raaj, and because of other proofs (daleel) [see below]
The scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah are agreed that Paradise and Hell are two created things that exist at present. None of them doubt that because of the volume of evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah which indicates that.
From the Qur’an:
Allah says concerning Paradise (interpretation of the meaning): “[Paradise] prepared for Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:133]
“Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord (Allah), and Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers” [al-Hadeed 57:21]
“And indeed he (Muhammad) saw him [Jibreel (Gabriel)] at a second descent (i.e. another time). Near Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (a lote tree of the utmost boundary over the seventh heaven beyond which none can pass). Near it is the Paradise of Abode” [al-Najm 53:13-15]
Allah says concerning Hell (interpretation of the meaning): “Prepared for the disbelievers” [al-Baqarah 2:24]
The word prepared indicates that they exist at present.
From the Sunnah:
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) saw Sidrat al-Muntaha (a lote tree of the utmost boundary over the seventh heaven beyond which none can pass), by which he saw the Paradise of Abode, as it says in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim who narrated the Hadith of Anas (radi Allahu anhu) which tells the story of the Isra’ (Prophet’s Night Journey). At the end of this Hadith it says: “Jibreel took me until we reached Sidrat al-Muntaha, which was covered with colours, I do not know what they are. Then I entered Paradise and saw that its domes were pearls and its soil was musk.”
In Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim it is narrated from the Hadith of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (radi Allahu anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “When any one of you dies, he is shown his place morning and evening. If he is one of the people of Paradise, then he is one of the people of Paradise, and if he is one of the people of Hell, then he is one of the people of Hell, and he is told, ‘This is your abode until Allah raises you on the Day of Resurrection.”
According to the lengthy Hadith of al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib (radi Allahu anhu), “A voice will call out from heaven, ‘My slave spoke the truth, so provide him with furnishings from Paradise and open for him a door to Paradise so that its fragrant breeze may reach him.’” [This is a Sahih Hadith which was classed as such by Ibn al-Qayyim in Tahdheeb al-Sunan and by al-Albaani in Ahkaam al-Janaa’iz]
In Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, it is narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas (radi Allahu anhu) said: “The sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam)… and he said: ‘I saw Paradise and I reached out for a bunch of its fruits. If I had managed to take it you would have eaten from it for as long as the earth remains. And I saw Hell, and I have never seen anything more terrifying than it…”
In Sahih Muslim it is narrated from the Hadith of Anas (radi Allahu anhu) that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “By the One is Whose hand is my soul, if you had seen what I have seen, you would laugh little and weep much.” They said, “What have you seen, O Messenger of Allah?” He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “I have seen Paradise and Hell.”
There are very many ahadith on this topic. In his Sahih, Al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy upon him) wrote a chapter entitled ‘Baab ma jaa’a fi Sifat al-Jannah wa annaha makhlooqah’ (Chapter on what was narrated concerning the description of Paradise and the fact that it has already been created), in which he listed ahadith, such as the one’s quoted above, which say that Allah shows the dead person his place in Paradise or Hell after he has been placed in his grave.
This Hadith also gives us an idea of the fact that the kind of moral courage, self control and willingness to conduct oneself under the divinely ordained limitations so very essential for admission to Paradise requires undergoing difficulties. On the other hand, a lifestyle of amusement and chasing after the desires of one’s own heart, where a person feels free to do whatever he likes but which ultimately leads to Hellfire, is a path that all men, except the rarest few, would willingly wish to adopt.
In conclusion, all that remains for a person to do is to strive his utmost in worshipping his Lord and refraining from disobeying Him, in the hope that He may attain the victory of being admitted to Paradise and being saved from the painful torment. May Allah make us of those people, Ameen!
And Allah knows best!