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“Those who (knowingly) conceal and reject Our Revelations...” (An-Nisā’ 4:56)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūratu’n-Nisā’ (Women)

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إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا سَوْفَ نُصْلِيهِمْ نَارًا كُلَّمَا نَضِجَتْ جُلُودُهُم بَدَّلْنَاهُمْ جُلُودًا غَيْرَهَا لِيَذُوقُوا الْعَذَابَ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا

Those who (knowingly) conceal and reject Our Revelations, We will land them in a Fire to roast there. Every time their skins are burnt off, We will replace them with other skins, that they may taste the punishment. Surely God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, and All-Wise. (An-Nisā’ 4:56)

In interpreting the verse above, many Qur’anic commentators mention the following hadīth narrated by Ibn ‘Umar, which refers to the enormity and heaviness of “the punishment” in Hell: “God’s Messenger said, ‘The people of Hell will increase so much in size that the distance between their earlobes and shoulders will be so great that it would take 700 years by walking, and the thickness of his skin will be equal to 70 zirā (approximately 165 feet or 50 meters), and his jaw-tooth will be as enormous as Mount Uhud.’”[1]

In fact, what is meant in this hadīth is the severity of the punishment of Hell and the situation of those condemned to it. It is also possible to understand the hadīth in this way: Human beings develop or grow with respect to their spiritual being. For example, one may find pleasure in Salāh (the Prayer) ten times more than you do. This means that his or her ability to receive pleasure has developed more than yours. This is true also for the sense of pain. If one’s sense of feeling pain has developed, even the smallest things upset them, and they may remain sleepless. Moreover, a tooth-ache, for example, may make them faint. Our beloved Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “I suffer as much grief as the sum of a few of you do.”[2] Hence, this hadīth can be understood in both ways: The enlarging of the body in the Hereafter will cause the pain and affliction to be felt more. Or the enormity of the pain and affliction to be suffered in Hell may have been expressed that way to impart certain instances of other wisdom.

As a matter of fact, it is equally reasonable that a sinful body will enlarge to the size of mountains and a soul is made to feel the punishment of unbelief and rebellion according to the capacity of its feeling. The limitless vastness of the Divine Knowledge, Will, and Power are able to do either or both. For our part, we take refuge in His boundless Mercy and pray to Him to treat us in proportion to the vastness of His Mercy.

[1] Musnad Ahmad, 2:26; Haythamī, Majma’uz-Zawā’id, 10:391–393.
[2] Bukhārī, Mardā, 3, 13, 16; Muslim, Birr, 45.