Question: How many levels of Paradise and Hell are there? How many doors or gates does each have? What are the Seven Heavens?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
First of all, these are not points of creed. So just in case, we have the wrong number in our heads, we should not start worrying whether or not we are still Muslims! This is because the verses of the Qur’an and hadith that talk about these issues are not 100% clear. That said, we can still get a good idea of the answers from them.
Levels of Paradise
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘Indeed in Paradise, there are one hundred levels that Allah has prepared for those who fight in Allah’s way. The distance between each level is like the distance between Heaven (sama’) and Earth.’
Commentating upon this hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says, ‘The language used does not clearly state that all the levels of Paradise are one hundred and not more, since it doesn’t use the negation [i.e. the word only]. Furthermore, the hadith of Abu Sa’id in Abu Dawud, that both Tirmidhi and Ibn Hibban deemed sound, states, ‘It will be said to the people of the Qur’an, “Recite, ascend, and recite slowly and carefully as you did in The Lower Life, for indeed your rank will be at the last verse that you recite.” and the number of verses of the Qur’an and more than 6,200.’ (Fath al-Bari, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani) That is to say that the levels of Paradise are not just one hundred, but many, many more.
The Seven Heavens
Regarding the Seven Heavens, it is not completely clear what these are. However, what seems to be the clearest answer is that they are indeed seven and that they exist beyond the visible universe.
I say this because sometimes seven is just used in Arabic to simply convey the sense plethora. This doesn’t seem to be the case here because they are mentioned specifically seven times in the Qur’an. So too, on the Miraculous Night Journey, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered each heaven one by one (Muslim), so it seems quite clear that they are indeed seven in number.
As mentioned, it also seems that the other heavens are somehow beyond the visible or accessible universe. Looking to the Miraculous Night Journey again, we see how access to each subsequent heaven is specifically sought and only Jibril and those who are sent for can enter. (Muslim) It seems that only the First Heaven is what we can see and (in principle) access. Even in Sura al-Mulk, Allah refers to bedizening the “Lower-most Heaven” with stars. (Quran, 67: 5) This intimates that the stars and galaxies that we can see are only in the First Heaven, and the other heavens are somewhere far beyond that.
These are just possible explanations, and there is no scholarly consensus on this. Allah knows best.
Doors of Paradise
Tُhe Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘Allah will enter whosoever says, “I testify that there is no god but Allah, alone without partner, and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger, and that Jesus is the slave of Allah, and the son of His slave, and a word that He gave to Mary and spirit from Him, and that Paradise is true and that Hell is true.” into Paradise from whichever of its eight doors he wishes.’ (Muslim)
This hadith tells us that there are eight doors into Paradise. (Sharh Muslim, Nawawi)
Levels of Hell and its doors
Allah Most High says, ‘It has seven doors. Each door has its appointed share.’ (Qur’an, 15: 44)
According to the majority of the scholars, what is meant by “doors” is levels. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; Tafsir Abu al-Su’ud) ‘Ikrima explained the aforementioned verse saying, ‘They have seven levels.’ Qatada said, ‘They are, by Allah, the different levels based on their crimes (a’mal).’ (Tafsir ibn Abi Hatim)
Ibn Abbas (Allah be well pleased with him) said that these levels were Jahannam, al-Sa’ir, Ladha, al-Hutama, Saqar, al-Jahim, and al-Hawiya, which is the lowest of them. (Tafsir ibn Abi Hatim)
There many, many levels of Paradise, it has eight doors, and there at least eight levels of Hell.
The point of Paradise is to show Allah’s generosity, beauty, and kindness. The point of Hell is to show Allah’s power, justice, and augustness. We need to work on appreciating this and feeling it to the very core of our being.
It is important to know that Paradise is not our birthright. We can only enter Paradise and be saved from Hell by the grace of Allah. We have to appreciate this grace and act like we need Allah’s help in order that we can be saved. Acting like we need Allah’s help means striving to adhere to the Sacred Law in word and deed, inwardly and outwardly.
I pray this helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language