held within its limits and prevented from its aggression only through intimidation; and intimidation only truly affects the conscience if it [can be] verified and actualized by the existence of external torment; for like the intellect and imagination, the conscience is truly affected by intimidation only if it perceives from various indications the eternal, external reality of torment. It is pure wisdom therefore after filling people with fear at Hell-fire in this world, for it to exist in the next.
• If you were to ask: So it is consistent with divine wisdom also, but how does compassion permit it?
You would be told: The unbelievers can be thought of only in terms of non-existence or existence in torment. If you think it over in your conscience [you will understand that] existence, even if in Hell, is a mercy and better than non-existence. For if you analyze it carefully [you will see that] non-existence is pure evil; indeed, non-existence is the source of all misfortunes and sins, whereas existence is pure good, even if in Hell. Furthermore, it is in the nature of man’s spirit, if it knows that the torment eliminates its crimes and sins, to be content with it, to alleviate the burden of shame. It will then acknowledge that the punishment is fair and that it deserves it. Out of its love of justice, it receives pleasure from it even. There are many honourable people in this world who long for the execution of justice on themselves so as to be saved from the shame of their crimes.
[The unbelievers] go to Hell and abide there forever as their perpetual abode, but after some time paying the penalty for their actions they grow accustomed to it in a way, even if they do not deserve this, and adapt to it. Also, their punishments are reduced and mitigated in many ways in recompense for their good deeds in this world, as is indicated in some Hadiths. These are instances of mercy for them, although they are not worthy of them.