The religious authority Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah
Q: some contemporary Islamic thinkers tend to believe that the fire of hell that Allah, The Most Exalted, frightens the worshippers with is not a real fire. It is a means of purification by which God purifies His sinful worshippers to qualify them to enter heaven. There is no permanent stay in hell and this is one of the manifestations of Allah’s mercy…
A: Anyone can think in his own way, but what proof does he have? Allah, The Most Exalted, talks about a fire much like a boiling water “ Like the boiling of scalding water ” [44;46] and a raging and sighing fire that Indeed, roasts “ those who disbelieve in Our verses - We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment ” [4:56].
These Ayats indicate that the fire of hell is real and materialistic. Moreover, there is no evidence that Allah, The Most Exalted, indents the meaning figuratively, since we take the apparent meaning of the word unless there is an evidence that is equal in level to the apparent meaning that it is meant to be symbolic.
This view is similar to the one held by those who say that there is no heaven and hell. They claim that paradise is a psychological state in which one feels happy while hell is the psychological state of pain and suffering.
Anyway, this is an idea, but what is the proof of its validity? When we want to say that an idea or a concept is Islamic we have to provide a proof. We also have to provide a proof even when we want to interpret, as some thinkers try to subjugate the Quranic Ayats to interpretation. Nevertheless, this interpretation should conform to the rules of Arabic language and grammar. If not, everyone would interpret according to his subjective mood!