It didn’t strike me until my male cousins started joking, saying that it’s more women in hell than men. Sometimes, it’s impossible to consider these jokes because they fuel misconceptions and create negative feelings in women’s hearts. As a Muslim woman, I didn’t particularly appreciate that more women go to hell than men; it is gender-discrimination, although Islam isn’t gender-based. I didn’t make an effort to verify or research the credibility of the hadiths circulating until now. But this is the time to learn and clear the misconception that most men have taken for their benefit. Let’s dive in to understand whether this is precisely what Islam says.
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The below verse from the Quran will set the bar for our discussion:
“For Muslim men and women- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” (Surah Al-Ahzab, 35)
We can clearly see that there is no gender discrimination in the above verse. Moreover, Allah treats both men and women equally.
“If any do deeds of righteousness- be they male or female – and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (Surah An-Nisa, 124)
So, how can we draw the line saying that it’s more women in Hell than men? How are we supposed to assume the unseen? Well, all these misconceptions boil down to one of the hadiths.
Abdullah bin Abbas narrates,
Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “I saw the (Hell) Fire, and I have never before, seen such a horrible sight as that, and I saw that the majority of its dwellers were women.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is the reason for that?” He replied, “Because of their ungratefulness.” It was said. “Do they disbelieve in Allah (are they ungrateful to Allah)?” He replied, “They are not thankful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors done to them. Even if you do good to one of them all your life when she seems some harshness from you, she will say, “I have never seen any good from you.” – Sahih al-Bukhari Book 62 Hadith 125
This is one of the hadiths that makes us assume that gender discrimination persists in Islam. When you read the hadith without understanding its context, you might find it more biased towards men, but once you peel the layers, it gets better and more apparent.
However, some claim that this is a weak hadith (Daeef), which means it cannot be understood or verified. Prophet (PBUH) is known as a man of peace and equality. Hence, it is unlikely that he would have advised about a wife’s responsibilities rather than talking about both husband and wife’s responsibilities in general.
But there’s another take on this hadith, and it was not meant that women would outnumber men just because of their “womanhood.” The hadith doesn’t mean it in any form because Islam is about equality. Another misconception derived from the hadith is that women have to bear their husbands’ toxic behaviors without complaining. This is not the right interpretation because the hadith was to educate women about their responsibilities, not just about putting up with their husbands’ toxic behaviors. Surah Mujadila discusses a woman’s complaint about her husband’s behaviors to the Prophet, and he listened to it carefully to guide while condemning the husband’s behavior.
Lastly, the hadith is periodic because it was said that Hell-Fire was shown to the Prophet during his journey (Night of Ascension). So it’s pretty easy to understand that it doesn’t mean that women will outnumber men in hell forever; it’s at the time of the journey that he saw, which means it’s not likely to be the same even now.
Digging deeper into the hadith’s context has opened my views and ideas that I was fed with. I didn’t know or make an effort to clarify the truth behind it. Unfortunately, most of the advice and guidance provided by many “scholars” have become God’s words for many of us. We hardly ponder the Quran’s verses, and it shows in our behaviors because we don’t question, seek, and learn. It’s easier to accept whatever you are fed with instead of finding whether it’s reliable or not.
Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
“Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created-Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the pen, Taught man that which he knew not.” The Holy Quran: Al-Alaq 96:1-5.
The verses of the Quran itself mention that learning and seeking knowledge is crucial. If you doubt a hadith or statement made by scholars, you need to do your research. Try to understand the context, period, and every other detail related to it.
In one of the narrations, the Prophet (SWT) said, “You must seek knowledge from birth till death.”
Overall, I must mention that we cannot assume or come to conclusions about hadiths without doing our part. There are tons and tons of fabricated hadiths, so it’s in our hands to filter out the verified hadiths. We’d have to fight to keep our Iman (faith) strong during the end time, and it’s not as if we didn’t see this coming. Allah knows the best, so we cannot decide what the hereafter has for us.
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Nevertheless, the following Quran verse is a delight for everyone who were misled to believe that women outnumber men in hell.
“Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely bless them with a good life, and We will certainly reward them according to the best of their deeds.” Surah An-Nahl16:97