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Islamic Hell

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Ideas about punishment in hell (the Fire, Jahannam) have an important place both in the Qur'an and in later Muslim literature. The article surveys the scenarios of hell given in these sources and discusses the various functions of hell-talk in Islamic discourse. In particular, a tension exists between conceiving hell as a place of punishment for sins and as a place reserved for disbelievers, or non-Muslims. The two perspectives meet in the idea that disbelief (kufr) is the worst of all sins, though ambiguities regarding who belong in hell remain. Strategies to mediate this ambiguity are found in the ideas that hell is divided into several levels or that the punishment in hell is only temporary.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bergen, Department of Archaeology, History, Culture Studies and Religion, P.O. Box 7805, 5020 Bergen, Norway;, Email:


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