In "The Brother's Karamazov", Dostoevsky's Father Zossima speaks as he is parting from the world: "Fathers and teachers, I ponder, ‘What is hell?’ I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love. Once in infinite existence, immeasurable in time and space, a spiritual creature was given on his coming to earth the power of saying, ‘I am and I love.’ Once, only once, there was given him a moment of active lifting love, and for that was earthly life given him, and with it times and seasons. And that happy creature rejected the priceless gift, prized it and loved it not, scorned it and remained callous. Such a one, having left the earth, sees Abraham’s bosom and talks with Abraham as we are told in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and beholds heaven and can go up to the Lord. But that is just his torment, to rise up to the Lord without ever having loved, to be brought close to those who have loved when he has despised their love. For he sees clearly and says to himself, ‘Now I have understanding, and though I now thirst to love, there will be nothing great, no sacrifice in my love, for my earthly life is over, and Abraham will not come even with a drop of living water (that is the gift of earthly active life) to cool the fiery thirst of spiritual love which burns in me now, though I despised it on earth; there is no more life for me and will be no more time!" - it reflects a general perspective in Eastern Orthodox theology in which hell is the experience of the distance from God.
Often, the Traditions speak of the significance of Agape, as a form of an almost, detached divine love. This love often appears so godly, that it can barely relate to the passionate feelings of a human love, especially eros. But, mystics, not rarely either, love eros or even pathos through eros, and it is exactly this form of passionate, attached, and sometimes chaotic love, that brings them closer to their Beloved. In Ibn Arabi's "Theophany of Perfection", even God expresses this kind of yearning for a human being to recognise him: "Dearly beloved! I have called you so often and you have not heard Me. I have shown Myself to you so often and you have not seen Me. I have made Myself fragrance so often, and you have not smelled Me. Savorous food, and you have not tasted Me. Why can you not reach Me through the object you touch or breathe Me through sweet perfumes? Why do you not see Me? Why do you not hear Me? Why? Why? Why? For you My delights surpass all other delights, and the pleasure I procure you surpasses all other pleasures. For you I am preferable to all other good things. I am Beauty, I am Grace. Love Me, love Me alone. Love yourself in Me, in Me alone. Attach yourself to Me. No one is more inward than I. Others love you for their own sakes, I love you for yourself. And you, you flee from Me. Dearly beloved! You cannot treat Me fairly for if you approach Me, it is because I have approached you. I am nearer to you than yourself, than your soul, than your breath. Who among creatures would treat you as I do? I am jealous of you, over you. I want you to belong to no other. Not even to yourself. Be Mine, be for Me as you are in Me, though you are not even aware of it."
The image of pathetic God who yearns for a human being as much as a human being yearns for God is a central part of Ibn Arabi's cosmology and metaphysics, and also plays an important role in his idea of what happens to the soul once it parts from this world.
Hell is Forgetting
"Similarly on the day of the Resurrection, God will appear to His worshipers; there are some who will not recognize Him and will run from him." - "Meccan Revelations", Ibn Arabi
Ibn Arabi's theophany proposes that every human being is given Divine Name or Divine Attribute that the human being is to manifest in this world. A human has only a relative existence - the true Existence is only God's. If a human being is loving, merciful or wrathful, they are just manifesting the Names into the world. They do not exist outside of the "the one who is most inward."
Human being was given an advantage over even angels because human was taught names of God's both "left and right hand", of both Wrath and Mercy. Angels only know Mercy, and those of fire only know Wrath. Only a human being was given a chance to manifest every Name. That's why a human being is a "pupil of existence".
According to the Sufi view, God created the world out of love for Himself and desire for self - knowledge. And in this journey towards self - knowledge, God epiphanises through the Names: "God epiphanizes Himself to the soul according to the essence of that soul, which is at once physical and spiritual. Then the soul becomes aware that it sees God, but through Him, not through itself; it loves only Him, not through itself, but in such a way that it is He who loves Himself; it is not the soul which loves Him; it contemplates God in every being, but thanks to a gaze which is the divine gaze itself. It becomes aware that He loves no other than Himself; He is the Lover and the Beloved, He who seeks and He who is sought." - Ibn Arabi in "Alone by Alone", Henry Corbin
Ibn Arabi shares the view with the Orthodox theologians that hell is a spiritual condition, rather a purely physical one. It is the experience of distance from God. But in the context of Ibn Arabi's theophany, this can be expanded, by the idea that hell is inability to recognise one's Lord, or more precisely, inability to recognise the Name or the Names which one is to manifest. It is to deny and to run away from one's Lord the entire life, and then, upon dying, be unable to recognise one's Lord, which is nothing but inability to recognise one's self.
A human being was taught all the Names, so within each human, there is a knowledge of the Names. To not be able to recognise one's Name, means forgetfulness, it means that one has forgotten the innermost Truth of one's existence. Without the knowledge of the innermost Truth, one denies the existence of one's Lord and therefore denies own existence. Christos Yannaras in his "The Ontological Realism of our Hopes Hereafter" says: "Hell, says Maximus, is the negation to participate in being, in well being and in ever being: the free self-exclusion from existence, from relation-participation in being, the negation of the relationship and as such the negation of existing, of existence. And this voluntary nonexistence (...) can perhaps only be signified symbolically in language with the image of endless torture, of the suffering and weeping."
The Absolute Mercy
"An often cited hadith typifies the situation. On the day of the Resurrection ( Qiyama), God will show Himself to His servants in a form they have not known. It will not be the form of the God of their faiths, but some form from among the divine determinations in which other believers have known their God. The servants deny and reject Him; they take refuge in God against this "false" God, until at last God discloses Himself to them in the form of their own faith. Then they recognize Him. What, indeed, would a Murtazilite theologian think if on the day of Resurrection he perceived that even a rebel who had died unconverted is received by the Divine Compassion? How could he recognize the God of his faith in so shocking a form?" - "Alone with Alone", Henry Corbin
"His self-generosity is that which rules,
And nothing may ever rule over Him.
Everything is covered by His Mercy,
Bestowed upon them, allowing no choice;
Even the devil aspires to His Mercy,
So should be the servant who commits sins." - Ibn Arabi
In the process of God's self - manifestation, God created a Throne as the center of entire cosmos. On this Throne, the Name "The Most Merciful" was enthroned as the highest of the Names around which zodiac spheres and lunar mansions spin in cycles. All other Names are unified by the Mercy of the Most Compassionate, as the whole existence is result of the God's Compassion for Himself. Ibn Arabi says, that even inhabitants of hell, who are those who have died in absolute ignorance, will be able to see their Lord, as nineteen parts of Mercy are reserved for them. Eventually, even if they suffer in their forgetfulness, the Mercy is the Name above the Names, and even inhabitants of hell will be able to see that one.
In Ibn Arabi's "Revelations" those who have the knowledge & are able to recognise their Lord, are to be called and be gathered in a place in which they will have food, drink and beautiful garments. There, each one will sit in a place, in accordance to his or her knowledge of God, and not according to their deeds. Then, the keepers of God's portal will start removing the veils, and as each veil is removed, each soul according to its knowledge will recgonise and see its Lord. All veils but the final veil will be removed, then God will manifest as Al - Jamil - Al Latif, which means "The Delicately Beautiful". The light will spread across the essences of those who are there and they will look in wonder when the Delicately Beautiful and the pure Beauty rises in their own essences. The final veil is nobody but them. Ibn Arabi also believes that the people of Trinity will be able to recognise God because they know the Oneness by the means of Singularity, whereas Muslims know Oneness by the means of Unity: "And this is how I saw them, in the abstract unveiling where I could not distinguish between the monotheists and the people of trinity except in the presence of singularity."
The Hereafter Here
"Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all embracing love." - "The Brothers Karamazov", Fyodor Dostoevsky The hell and heaven exist already now, on earth, even before the material world, as is promised by almost every sacred Tradition, perishes. They exist for each and every soul, because each and every soul experiences this life as either hell and heaven here on earth. The mystic who is on the path of Love, may experience both and know the feeling of both very strongly. When the Beloved is distant, and shows no sign, the lover experiences hell, because the lover cannot see his own self. The spiritual agony the lover feels can be so painful that the physical pain in that moment would serve as a relief. The lover, likewise, experiences Heaven every time the Beloved is near and when the lover recognises him. Every time the lover forgets, the lover experiences hell, every time the lover remembers, he experiences heaven. Some lovers may desire a perpetual remembrance, or a perpetual heaven but there are those, like Mirza Ghalib who do not. These love their yearning, their pain, their fire in desiring the Beloved, as much as they love the meetings, because it is in the absence, that they become aware of the extent of their love: For he says: "In paradise it is true that I shall drink at dawn the pure wine mentioned in the Qur'an, but where in paradise are the long walks with intoxicated friends in the night, or the drunken crowds shouting merrily? Where shall I find there the intoxication of Monsoon clouds? Where there is no autumn, how can spring exist? If the beautiful houris are always there, where will be the sadness of separation and the joy of union? Where shall we find there a girl who flees away when we would kiss her?."
And that is how even in Absence one sees one's Lord, and feels the Absence as strongly as the Presence. And that is how even from the depths of hell and separation one can see the Lord, and that is how there is hidden Mercy even in the greatest of Wraths. "From the existence of the things God only wanted
the manifestation of His names or attributes.
No matter what appears in the courtyard of the cosmos,
the goal is manifesting the property of a name.
If we suppose that a thing did not come to exist,
how could the property of the name be shown?
That is why the Prophet addressed
his Companions long ago, saying,
"If there were to appear from you no work
within which there was the taint of sin,
God would create people of error
so that they might sin and err,
And then ask forgiveness for that sin, making
manifest the property of the Forgiver."