Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says:
When it sees them from a far place, they will hear its raging and its roaring. Suratul Furqan, verse 12
What is the “it” and “them” in this verse referring too? When the hell fire sees the disbelievers. Hell fire will see them from a far place, and they will hear it تَغَيُّظًا وَزَفِيرًا , raging with fury and roaring. Imagine: the disbelievers will not even see the fire yet, but they will hear it even though they are far (ba’eed). Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says in another surah:
Indeed hell is a place of ambush. [Surah Naba, verse 21]
It is like a lion watching its prey very closely, waiting for the right time to pounce on it.
The first description of hell fire is, تَغَيُّظًا, taghayyudthan, from ghayn-ya-dhaa or ghaydh, and this means to express anger. Not just any anger, but a furious rage of anger. Imagine when a person is very angry, they do not remain quiet rather they rant and rave, go on and on in their anger.
The second characteristic is,وَزَفِيرًا , zafeeran, a roaring, from zay-fa-ra, and it literally means to exhale out. This word is particularly used for screaming out; because when a person screams out loud, they inhale first and then yell out a loud scream. It is like the roaring of a lion, it inhales and roars at the same time. Think of when a volcano is about to erupt, you can hear loud sounds from it like it is roaring. But hell fire is something we cannot even imagine.
They will be able to hear this raging and roaring from makaanin ba’eed, a far off place. SubhanAllah, after going through a yaumun ‘aseer (a difficult Day), they will be herded to hell fire and even before they enter it, they will hear its anger and shrieking.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) also says in Suratul Mulk:
When they are cast therein, they will hear the (terrible) drawing in of its breath as it blazes forth. It almost bursts up with fury.[Suratul Mulk, verse 7-8]
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) continues:
And when they shall be thrown into a narrow place thereof, chained together, they will exclaim therein for destruction. [Surah Furqan, verse 13]
Allah calls hell fire, مَكَانًا ضَيِّقًا , a narrow place. dayyiqan is from dawd-ya-qaaf, and means that which is narrow and cramped. It is not an open space, but one restricted and tight.
How will they be thrown in there? مُقَرَّنِينَ, muqarraneen, ones chained together, from qaaf-ra-noon or qarn and qarn is used for a rope that a camel is tied with. Muqarraneen gives two meanings:
1) The disbelievers will all tied with each other, all bound together so no one can escape. This expresses the huge number of those thrown in the fire.
2) The disbelievers themselves will be bound and chained, like their arms bound to their necks.
Imagine being thrown in all together in a tight and cramped place in a roaring and raging fire…What would you do?
Allah informs us of what the companions of hell fire will do: دَعَوْا هُنَالِكَ ثُبُورًا , they will call instantly for destruction, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says: هُنَالِكَ , this is ism tharf, and it means: at that very place and at that very moment, right then and there, instantly, when they are bound together and thrown into a narrow place: they will call for:
ثُمَّ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَىٰ
Then they will not die therein nor will they live. [Surah Alaa, verse 13]
The disbelievers will be somewhere in the middle, not living in the sense that being in hell fire cannot be called life and they will not die, although they ask for it.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) continues:
Call not today for one destruction, but call for many destructions. [Surah Furqan, verse 14]
After they call for death and destruction, that is what will be said to them. What does Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) mean by ثُبُورًا كَثِيرًا , many destructions? One destruction is not enough, although they keep asking for ruin because they will not receive it, because that is the nature of their punishment. They will not get a punishment that is about to kill them once, but it will come again and again. When their skins are burnt, this is one thaboor (destruction), then it will be replenished for them again. They are not being told in a nice way, this is a taunt.
Allahumma ajirnaa min an naar, O Allah, save us from the fire. Ameen.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) is The Most Just, and He says in the next ayah:
Say: “Is that better or the Paradise of Eternity promised to the Muttaqoon?” It will be theirs as a reward and as a final destination.” [Surah Furqan, verse 15]
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is told to say to those who deny and are in doubt: is that better? Meaning is the punishment, the roaring and raging, the many destructions–is that better or Jannatul Khuld (eternal paradise), the one which the muttaqoon are promised? The Muttaqoon are those who have taqwa, they have fear of Allah, they believe in the hereafter, and they are protecting themselves from hell fire now. Jannatul Khuld is promised to them as a jazaa, a recompense, and a maseera, a place of return, a place where one arrives. After their death and after the hisaab, they will arrive in Jannatul Khuld.
Imam ibn Katheer says about this ayah:
Here Allah says: `O Muhammad, this We have described to you about the state of those who are doomed, who will be dragged on their faces to Hell, which will receive them with a scowling face, with hatred and moans. There they will be thrown into their constricted spaces, tied up to their shoulders, unable to move or call for help, and unable to escape their plight — is this better, or the eternal Paradise which Allah has promised to the pious among His servants, which He has prepared for them as a reward and ultimate destiny in return for their obedience to Him in this world’.
Al-Huda Institute Canada: Ta’leem Al Qur’an English course.