Names of Hell-Fire: Saqar
Allah azza wa jal describes the state of the Mujrimeen, the criminals, on the Day of Judgment:
يَوْمَ يُسْحَبُونَ فِي النَّارِ عَلَىٰ وُجُوهِهِمْ ذُوقُوا مَسَّ سَقَرَ
The Day they will be dragged on their faces into the Fire (it will be said to them): “Taste the touch of Saqar!” (54:48)
يُسْحَبُونَ, yushaboona, not only means to drag, but it means to drag someone out of disgrace. The criminals will be humiliated by being dragged on their faces–the most honorable part of our bodies and it will be said to them:
ذُوقُوا مَسَّ سَقَرَ, ‘taste the touch of saqar!’ The use of dhooqoo, taste, and mass, touch, show us how the people of Hell-Fire will be dealt with. When we think of ‘taste’, it gives us the connotation of perceiving and experiencing something slowly. How is this tasting different than akala, eating? It is said that tasting refers to a small amount of food while akal refers to a larger portion. So those in the fire will taste the fire: they will endure it bit by bit, slowly and painfully.
Moreover massa means to meet or touch or feel a thing with the hand, without any interference. Massa also means strike, smite, and befall.
Imagine the difference of feeling the heat of an oven, and then opening the door and experiencing the heat directly on your face. The criminals will feel the fire directly, they will receive this torment first-hand in a slow and penetrating manner.
Saqar, which means to burn, is one of the descriptive names of Hell-Fire and it appears four times in the Qur’an. Most of the names of Hell-Fire include the definition of burning, but the intricacies in the language show us that each name denotes a different type and description of fire or burning.
What type of burning does Saqar refer too? The root meaning of Saqar means to injure and change the form of something by heat and to scorch something. Saqrah is used for extreme heat of the sun, which causes appearances to change; such as melting. Musmaqir means an intensely hot day and saqaraat, means the violent stroke of the sun. It is said: saqarathu ash-shams, the sun scorched or burned him.
The use of saqar gives two meanings:
1. Extreme heat that will cause alteration in the complexion and skin. (Have you ever received a sun burn?)
2. Extreme heat that will cause pain. (Have you ever received a headache after a long day in the heat?)
From this literal definition, we learn that saqar is extreme heat that melts, changes the nature and appearance of something and in particular changes the skin and surface, as well as extreme heat that causes pain and discomfort.
Allah azza wa jal asks us in Surah Muddaththir,
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا سَقَرُ
And what will make you know (exactly) what Saqar is? (74:27)
Then He ta’ala gives us the definition of Saqar:
لَا تُبْقِي وَلَا تَذَرُ
It spares not, nor does it leave! (74:28)
Saqar does not let anything remain: Everything that goes into this fire will be burned.
And it does not leave behind: This fire will affect everyone and no part of them will be left untouched by the fire.
Furthermore it is:
Burning and blackening the skins! (74:29)
This Saqar is lawwaahah: laaha is when skin darkens due to exposure to heat, fire, and also from hard work and thirst. This fire will have a terrible effect on the skin of human beings, leaving their skins crisp and black. The structure of this word shows us the continuous effect of the Saqar, it not only burns once, but it continues to burn the skins again and again.
As if this description was not enough to strike fear into our hearts, Allah ta’ala ends these ayaat with a reminder:
عَلَيْهَا تِسْعَةَ عَشَرَ
Over it are nineteen. (74:30)
Upon it are 19 angels, stern and strong, who do not disobey the command of Allah azza wa jal.
Who then, can escape from Saqar?