وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ زُمَرًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءُوهَا فُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ رُسُلٌ مِّنكُمْ يَتْلُونَ عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ رَبِّكُمْ وَيُنذِرُونَكُمْ لِقَاءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَٰذَا ۚ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ وَلَٰكِنْ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَةُ الْعَذَابِ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٧١﴾ قِيلَ ادْخُلُوا أَبْوَابَ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۖ فَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ ﴿٧٢﴾ وَسِيقَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا رَبَّهُمْ إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ زُمَرًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءُوهَا وَفُتِحَتْ أَبْوَابُهَا وَقَالَ لَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ طِبْتُمْ فَادْخُلُوهَا خَالِدِينَ ﴿٧٣﴾
‘And those who disbelieved will be driven to Hell in groups until, when they reach it, its gates are opened and its keepers will say, “Did there not come to you messengers from yourselves, reciting to you the verses of your Lord and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?” They will say, “Yes, but the word of punishment has come into effect upon the disbelievers. [To them] it will be said, “Enter the gates of Hell to abide eternally therein, and wretched is the residence of the arrogant.” But those who feared their Lord will be driven to Paradise in groups until, when they reach it while its gates have been opened and its keepers say, “Peace be upon you; you have become pure; so enter it to abide eternally therein,” [they will enter].’
[Al-Zumar, 39: 71-73]
Q: Why are the gates of the Fire opened only on the arrival of its denizens, while the gates of Paradise appear already opened when its people arrive before it?
A: Imām Ibn al-Qayyim [d. 751 AH] explains:
It is said: Such is the most eloquent phrasing in both verses. For the angels will drive the people of the Fire towards it, while its gates are closed, until they finally arrive before it and [its gates] are opened before their faces, such that their impending punishment will startle them. Thus, it is only upon their arrival that its gates are opened without delay. For this is befitting of any resulting punishment predicated on a condition, that it occurs immediately after [the fulfilment of that condition]. It is the home of deprivation and shame, so it would not be appropriate for them to request entry themselves, nor for them to seek from its keeper the facilitation of their entry.
As for Paradise, it is the land of Allāh and His generosity. The land of His closest [servants] and allies such that when its people come upon it, they find its doors closed before them. Consequently, they desire that the companion [of this land] and its keeper open its gates for them. So they will seek intercession from those with firm will and resolution among the Messengers but they will all decline this request, until the directive falls upon their seal and leader, the best of them who will proclaim: ‘I will fulfil it.’ So he will come below the Throne [of Allāh] and fall down in prostration to his Lord. He will then invoke Him with whatever he wills. Then, he will be granted permission to raise his head and request his need. He will intercede, requesting of Him, the Exalted, concerning the opening of its gates and his intercession will be accepted. They will open, glorifying the significance [of the Prophet Muḥammad (ﷺ)], clarifying the station and nobility of His messenger before Him.
Contemplate the command of the keeper of Paradise to its people: ‘enter it,’ while the keeper of the Fire proclaims to its people: ‘Enter the gates of Hell.’
You will find within it a brilliant secret, an astounding allusion that cannot remain hidden from the true contemplator. It is that insofar as [Hell] is the place of punishment, its gates are therefore among the most repulsive of things, the most intensive in its heat, and the greatest personification of despair. The ones on the verge of entering it await [for themselves] what is even more severe than it, for they are on the very cusp of despair, shame, and torment itself through only the entering of its gates. Thus, it is said to them:
‘Enter through its gates’ as a way of belittling, shaming, and humiliating them.
Then it will be said to them: You will not be made to just simply enter through its abominable gates, rather you will subsequently remain in Hell for eternity.
As for Paradise, it is a place of honour and esteem. The home prepared by Allāh for his closest allies. Thus, they are given glad tidings from the first moment of their arrival of entry into their place of abode, their home for eternity.
Source: Ḥādī al-Arwāḥ: 102-103, 105
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī