More Women than Men in Hell?
Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari
I recently received the following from someone who is earnestly attempting to follow the deen, but did not know how to reply in this regard. Your help would be greatly appreciated. May Allah shower you all with his infinite graces for all your service to the ummah:
“I came accross this Hadith and was very disheartened:
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The Prophet said: “I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful.” It was asked, “Do they disbelieve in Allah?” (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, ‘I have never received any good from you.” Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 28
Women tolerates injustices from their husbands during the entire period of their lifetime. 99% of the wives are treated like servants. However, Islam does not give women the right to complain, or to react against the injustice of their husbands, or to show the same bad attitude to the husband as he shows. If a woman does any of this, hell fire is her destiny!!
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
I pray this message finds you in good health and iman.
Hadith literature is a rich and fascinating glimpse into the life of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. One of the most amazing aspects of this literature is the fact that many women shared in the transmission and preservation of the Prophet’s legacy.
After all, if it weren’t for the Prophet’s wives, may Allah be well pleased with them, countless facets of the Prophet’s life might have been lost to future generations. For those who claim that women had no stake in Islamic history, all I can say is look to the hadith and the phenomenal contributions of women like Aisha, Hafsa, and Umm Salama, may Allah be pleased with them.
You may wonder why I’m saying this. I’m saying this because you have to approach the hadith with some understanding of its context. There is an entire field of studies called Hadith Studies. Scholars, past and present, have devoted their entire lives to memorizing, understanding, classifying, authenticating, tracing, and commenting on the thousands of traditions associated with the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Ordinary students like us have no business taking one hadith and running to the races with it. If we’re confused about a hadith, then we should go to an expert and ask him or her what it means. We owe the Messenger, who is the Beloved of Allah, something called husn al-dhann, or the benefit of the doubt. If we see a hadith that looks strange to us, we put the best construction on the matter.
First, we should recognize that we may not have sufficient knowledge of the Arabic language to come to any conclusion on the hadith.
Second, we need to understand that this is one hadith in thousands. Look how many hadith there are that speak positively of women, and remind men to honor women. Foremost of these hadith are the ones that deal with motherhood. For example:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said. “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man further said, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked for the fourth time, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your father. ”
[Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 2]
Third, there are other hadith that indicate a plentitude of women in Paradise. For example:
Muhammad reported that some (persons) stated with a sense of pride and some discussed whether there would be more men in Paradise or more women. It was upon this that Abu Huraira reported that Abu’l Qasim (the Holy Prophet) (may peace be upon him) said: The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise.
[Muslim, Book 040, Number 6793]
It looks like this was a topic of debate even in the early days of Islam. It’s important to also keep in mind that the Qur’an frequently mentions the presence of hoor al-ain, or beautiful virgins, in Paradise. The Qur’an says, “But those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds We shall bring into gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide beyond the count of time; there shall they have spouses pure: and [thus] We shall bring them unto happiness abounding.” [Al-Nisa, 4:57]
This verse is a very clear statement on the spiritual parity between men and women. Both believing men and women are promised a peaceful abode in Paradise with loving spouses.
Once again, there is no indication that women are excluded from Paradise and its rewards.
Fourth, even if we take the hadith at its literal meaning, is it really an issue? Since we’re all supposed to be striving for Paradise anyway, we should welcome the hadith as advice on how not to act.
In other words, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, may have seen certain behavior from the women of his community. Out of love and concern, he warned them that these behaviors would lead to Hell rather than Paradise. This hadith is telling us how serious ingratitude is. And it’s a warning to both sexes.
The scholars frequently explain that hadiths like these can apply to both sexes. Of course, there are ungrateful husbands. That goes without saying. And of course many women have suffered at their husbands’ hands.
However, this hadith is addressing situations where women are in the wrong. We have to be honest. A lot of women do take their husbands for granted. We should be grateful that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, warned us of the consequences of such unbecoming behavior.
Last but not least, this hadith is not saying that any woman who complains is going to Hell. This hadith addresses a very specific behavior. Women certainly have the right to voice their grievances.
Isn’t there an entire chapter of the Qur’an called al-Mujadilah? This surah is the 58th chapter in the Qur’an and it is devoted to the story of a woman who came to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and complained about her husband.
The Prophet did not tell this woman that she was going to Hell. Instead, he listened to her, and Allah Most High revealed verses directly addressing this woman’s situation and condemning the husband for his unacceptable behavior.
I pray that Allah Most High helps your friend to find peace in this beautiful way of life that has enriched and inspired the lives of countless women.
And Allah knows best.