Are women the majority in the Hellfire?

By Abu Amina Elias

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.

It is incorrectly claimed that women are a majority of people in Hellfire according to Islam because women are of lesser piety, worth, and value than men. However, the reason women are a majority in Hellfire is because women are the majority of humankind overall. It is further forbidden in Islam for men and women to boast to each other in this regard.

The following prophetic tradition is cited in isolation to make this claim against women:

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

يَا مَعْشَرَ النِّسَاءِ تَصَدَّقْنَ فَإِنِّي أُرِيتُكُنَّ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِ النَّارِ

O gathering of women! Give in charity, for I have seen you as a majority of people in Hellfire.

They said, “Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said:

تُكْثِرْنَ اللَّعْنَ وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ أَذْهَبَ لِلُبِّ الرَّجُلِ الْحَازِمِ مِنْ إِحْدَاكُنَّ

You curse others often and you are ungrateful for your livelihood. I have not seen anyone with reductions in mind and religion more capable of removing reason from a resolute man than you.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 298, Grade: Sahih

That the Prophet (s) saw a majority of women in the Hellfire is not indicative of their inherent propensity towards evil. Other traditions forbid men and women from boasting to each other over this claim, as if one gender were better than another.

Muhammad ibn Sireen reported: People were boasting to each other, whether men or women would be a majority in Paradise. Abu Huraira said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, say:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ زُمْرَةٍ تَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ عَلَى صُورَةِ الْقَمَرِ لَيْلَةَ الْبَدْرِ وَالَّتِي تَلِيهَا عَلَى أَضْوَإِ كَوْكَبٍ دُرِّيٍّ فِي السَّمَاءِ لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِنْهُمْ زَوْجَتَانِ اثْنَتَانِ يُرَى مُخُّ سُوقِهِمَا مِنْ وَرَاءِ اللَّحْمِ وَمَا فِي الْجَنَّةِ أَعْزَبُ

Verily, the first group to enter Paradise will have faces as bright as the full moon at night. The next group will have faces as bright as shining stars in the sky. Every man will have two wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath their skin and there will be no one in Paradise without a wife.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2834, Grade: Sahih

Every man will have ‘two wives’ in Paradise, who will not experience worldly jealousy as they would in this life. This has been understood by some scholars to indicate that women are the majority of humankind.

Al-Qadi ‘Iyad comments on this tradition, saying:

ظَاهِرُ هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَنَّ النِّسَاءَ أَكْثَرُ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ وَفِي الْحَدِيثِ الْآخَرِ أَنَّهُنَّ أَكْثَرُ أَهْلِ النَّارِ قَالَ فَيَخْرُجُ مِنْ مَجْمُوعِ هَذَا أَنَّ النِّسَاءَ أَكْثَرُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ

This tradition demonstrates that women are the majority of the people of Paradise, and in another tradition that they are a majority of the people of Hellfire. What can be deduced from them together is that women are the majority of the children of Adam.

Source: Sharḥ al-Nawawī ‘alá Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2834

A majority of women in Hellfire does not mean they are uniquely evil compared to men, because there are more women than men overall. This interpretation is supported by other traditions speaking about periods of time in the future, which are signs before the Day of Judgment, when women will greatly outnumber men.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَتَكْثُرَ النِّسَاءُ وَيَقِلَّ الرِّجَالُ حَتَّى يَكُونَ لِخَمْسِينَ امْرَأَةً الْقَيِّمُ الْوَاحِدُ

There will be an abundance of women and scarcity of men such that fifty women will be maintained by a single man

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 81, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

And in another narration, the Prophet said:

وَيُرَى الرَّجُلُ الْوَاحِدُ يَتْبَعُهُ أَرْبَعُونَ امْرَأَةً يَلُذْنَ بِهِ مِنْ قِلَّةِ الرِّجَالِ وَكَثْرَةِ النِّسَاءِ

A man will be seen followed by forty women seeking refuge with him due to the scarcity of men and abundance of women.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1348, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Hence, polygyny (a man marrying up to four wives) is permissible in Islam, as it would be necessary in contexts such as this when women greatly outnumber men, although many scholars recommended that a man marry only one wife at a time under normal circumstances.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.