Are There More Women Than Men in Hell? Part 1

08 March, 2017
Q Many Muslims, especially men, say that hell is occupied mostly by women. I think there is a hadith that says this also. This confuses me because, around the world and throughout history, many women have been treated terribly and still suffer so much in this life. Please explain why most of the dwellers of hell will be women. Thanks.


Salam Dear Helen,

Thank you for this very important question. 

Please find part one of the answer to your question below. Find the second and final part at the link here.

In my view, women’s issues are the real test for current Islamic reform. The reason is that groundless and unfair differentiation between men and women is deeply embedded in many popular narrations and opinions that we inherited and considered to be part of our religion.

However, they are not, and actually contradict what Islam itself is about—namely justice and equality for all humans that Allah created.

To put my answer in a framework, I find it necessary to make the following distinctions, especially in the area of women in Islam. There is a difference between:

1. A ‘popular’ narration and an ‘authentic’ narration.
2. ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims.’
3. Islamic ‘Shari’ah’ and Islamic ‘madhahib.’
4. The ‘Scriptures’ and the ‘interpretation of the Scriptures.’

First, there are popular narrations that say that ‘most occupiers of hell are women,’ ‘women are deficient in mind and faith,’ ‘women are crooked,’ ‘your bad omen is in your woman,’ and so on.

I can tell you with confidence that all these narration are un-authentic (or ‘weak’), whoever the narrator is and wherever they are narrated and written. Without getting ourselves in much debate and discussing who ‘out-narrates’ who, the reason behind the rejection of such narrations is that they are at odds with the Quran.

Let me take one of these narrations and assess its authenticity, as an example. According to Bukhari, Abu Hurairah, narrated: “Your bad omen is in your woman, your animal, and your house.”

However, Bukhari also, in the same chapter, narrated that Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, refused Abu Hurairah’s narration and said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said, instead: “People during the Days of Ignorance (jahiliyya) used to say that bad omens are in women, animals, and houses.”

In terms of the Science of Hadith, Aisha rejected Abu Hurairah’s narration on the basis of its content (al-matn) rather than its chain of narrators (al-sanad). Abu Hurairah is a great companion, but he simply made a mistake in this narration.

Apparently, he did not hear the complete statement, and he thought he did. Here we have two narrations, honestly and accurately reported by Bukhari. However, they are clearly at odds and one of them should be undoubtedly rejected.

It is quite telling that most commentators rejected Aisha’s narration and accepted Abu Hurairah’s, even though she supported the meaning of her narration with a verse from the Quran (al-Hadid 57:22):

{No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah , is easy -}

Meaning everything that happens is as Allah wills and not from bad omens

In addition, another companion, Mikhmar, supported Aisha’s narration with a similar narration that says: “There is no such thing as bad omens.”

But Ibn al-Jawzi, surprisingly, commented: “How can Aisha reject an authentic narration?” And Ibn al-Arabi, shockingly, commented: ‘”Aisha’s rejection of the narration is nonsense (qawluha saaqitt).” The great scholar Badruddin al-Zarkashi wrote a book dedicated to Aisha’s critiques of the other companions’ narrations.

Then, we should differentiate between Islam and Muslims. This is not necessarily meant to be in a negative sense. However, it is crucial that we distinguish (as much as we possibly can) between the religion (Islam) and its followers (Muslims).

What Muslims did, or currently do, is not necessarily what Islam teaches. Islam has a core that every Muslim must embrace. However, in addition to this core, Islam has manifested itself in a variety of ways in various cultures.

Some of these cultures had social structures that were generally anti-women, and true scholars have struggled to implement the Islamic values of justice and equality of human beings in these societies.

One example is the practical ban of Muslim women from entering the mosques, despite the clear instruction from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Do not ban the female servants of God from the mosques of God,” and despite the fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) lead many men and women in prayer in his own mosque.

Another contemporary example is banning women from driving cars in some Islamic countries, despite centuries of similar practices by Muslim women—starting with the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, who lead an entire battle on her camel (The Battle of the Camel, or Mawqi`at al-Jamal). There are numerous examples in this area.

Similarly, it is important to differentiate between Islam and the history of the Islamic world, which could have positive as well as negative aspects with regard to women. We, Muslims, have to admit that there is a lot of anti-women baggage in the history of the Islamic world that is simply un-Islamic, according to Islam’s references and sources of legislation.

One example is the concept of ‘harem,’ in which a rich or powerful man essentially imprisons a large number of women for his own convenience, as concubines.

We thank God that such non-Islamic customs no longer exist. Another contemporary example is honor killings that still take place, sometimes ‘in the name of Islam,’ in some areas (like present-day Pakistan, Nigeria, and Jordan), despite being clearly against Islam, and having no basis in the Islamic law.

Please continue reading part two at the link here.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Did the Prophet (PBUH) Discourage Women’s Visits to Mosque?

1400 Years Ago, Islam Offered the Perfect Social System for Women

About Dr. Jasser Auda
Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.