Where is Hell (Jahannam) – we seek refuge with Allāh – located? Is it below the seventh Earth like Imām al-Barbahārī mentions in Sharḥ us Sunnah?
Shaykh Muḥammad Bazmal:
The universe – the heavens and the Earth was brought closer to our understanding by Ibn `Abbās; thus he said, ‘the skies are layered one above the other like a dome.’ On another occasion he said, ‘the universe is formed like a spindle.’ Meaning that it is large and circular at the top, and it gets smaller and smaller until it becomes a point. At that very lowest point is Hell.
Jahannam is at the very lowest point of all like the narrowest part of a spindle. Do you know what a spindle is? It is an object that is round at the top and then tapers downwards such that the narrowest point is at the bottom. This bottom is the lowest of all lows and above the Earth is the lowest heaven, and the lowest heaven is like a dome over the Earth, and the second lowest heaven is like a dome enclosing the lowest heaven. Next is the third heaven upwards, which is like a dome enclosing the second heaven, then after is the fourth heaven upwards, which is like a dome enclosing the third heaven, then the fifth heaven upwards, which is like a dome enclosing the fourth heaven, then the sixth heaven upwards, which is like a dome enclosing the fifth heaven then the seventh heaven, which is like a dome enclosing the sixth heaven, then there is the Throne, which encloses the seventh heaven like a dome.
The Universe, then, is like a spindle, domed at the top like a spindle that then tapers to a point. So Jahannam is at the very bottom. Thus, any comment of al-Barbahāri or any other scholar is referring to this particular form indicated by Ibn `Abbās. That is, in Ibn `Abbās’s model, the narrowest point of that shape is where Jahannam lies – at the very bottom. And you can see an allusion to this idea in the ḥadīth of al-Barā’u ibn `Āzib, for he mentions in it the ascension of the angels with the Believer’s soul accompanied by a pleasant fragrance, and the descent of the angels with the soul of the Unbeliever to the lowest of all lows. And Allāh knows best.