• If you were to ask: If Hell exists now, where is it located?
You would be told: We Sunnis believe that it exists now, but we cannot specify where.
• And if you were to ask: The literal meanings of some Hadiths indicate that it is under the earth,1 and in one it says that its fire is two hundred times fiercer and hotter than worldly fire,2 and that the sun also will enter Hell?
You would be told: The expression “under the earth” means its core, for the centre is under the globe. It has been established by scientific theories that the heat (lit. fire) at the [earth’s] centre reaches two hundred thousand degrees. For every thirty-three commercial cubits (dhirā’ al-tujjār) one digs down into the earth, the temperature increases one degree, and at the centre it is approximately two hundred thousand degrees. This theory is in conformity with the Hadith that says that it is two hundred times hotter than worldly fire.
Moreover, in another Hadith it says that a part of this fire [of Hell] is freezing (zamharīr)3 and that it burns with its coldness. This corresponds to the theory, for the fire at the centre – [from the centre] to the surface – comprises all degrees of fire [heat]. And it has been established by natural science [al-ḥikmat al-ṭabī‘iyya] that there is a degree of heat (lit. fire) that spontaneously attracts surrounding heat and burns it with its coldness and freezes water.
• If you were to ask: The fire inside the earth, that it contains, is very small, so how will it encompass Hell, which will encompass the heavens and earth?
You would be told: Even if in respect of this manifest world (al-mulk) and [Hell] being ‘rolled up’ (al-maṭwīyya), it is contained by the earth, but in respect of the hereafter, it will become so vast it will encompass thousands [of globes] similar to the earth. Yes, the Manifest World (ālam al-shahāda) is like a screen preventing contact between this [present] fire and its branches. Also, its being under the earth does not necessitate its being conjoined with it, for the branches of the tree of creation have produced such fruits as the sun, the moon, and the stars, and our earth, and other earths. So what lies beneath the fruits includes the area between the
al-‘Ajlūnī, Kashf al-Khafā’, i, 281; see, al-Ḥākim, al-Mustadrak, iv, 568.
See, al-Bukhārī, Bad‘ al-Khalq, 10; Muslim, Janna, 30; al-Tirmidhī, Jahannam, 7.
al-Bukhārī, Mawāqit, 9; Muslim, Masājid, 32; al-Tirmidhī, Jahannam, 9; Ibn Māja, Zuhd, 38.