Are women the majority in Hellfire?

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, or 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 traditions are cited, without commentary or in light of other authentic traditions, to make this false claim against women:

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اطَّلَعْتُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ فَرَأَيْتُ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِهَا الْفُقَرَاءَ وَاطَّلَعْتُ فِي النَّارِ فَرَأَيْتُ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِهَا النِّسَاءَ

I looked into Paradise and saw a majority of its people were poor. I looked into Hellfire and saw a majority of its people were women.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2737, Grade: Sahih

In another narration, the Prophet (ṣ) said:

إِنَّ أَقَلَّ سَاكِنِي الْجَنَّةِ النِّسَاءُ

Verily, a minority of the residents of Paradise are women.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2738, Grade: Sahih

The realities of the Hereafter were not revealed to the Prophet (ṣ) all at once. That he saw a minority of women in Paradise does not indicate that this is the case for all time, as many believers will enter Paradise after the Greater Intercession when sinners are taken out of Hellfire.

Al-Munawi commented on these traditions, writing:

إن أقل ساكني الجنة النساء أي في أول الأمر قبل خروج عصاتهن من النار فلا دلالة فيه على أن نساء الدنيا أقل من الرجال في الجنة

Women are a minority in Paradise, meaning, at the beginning of the matter before the sinful among them are removed from Hellfire. There is no evidence in this tradition that the women of the earth are less than men in Paradise.

Source: Fayḍ al-Qadīr 2/428

Ibn Hajar also suggests that the sub-narrator of the tradition about women as a minority in Paradise had transmitted the meaning he misunderstood, rather than the actual wording of the Prophet (ṣ):

وَيُحْتَمَلُ أَنْ يَكُونَ الرَّاوِي رَوَاهُ بِالْمَعْنَى الَّذِي فَهِمَهُ مِنْ أَنَّ كَوْنَهُنَّ أَكْثَرُ سَاكِنِي النَّارِ يَلْزَمُ مِنْهُ أَنْ يَكُنَّ أَقَلَّ سَاكِنِي الْجَنَّةِ وَلَيْسَ ذَلِكَ بِلَازِمٍ لِمَا قَدَّمْتُهُ

It is possible the narrator related the tradition by the meaning he understood, that if they make up the majority of residents in Hellfire, they must be the minority of residents in Paradise. That is not necessarily so, as I mentioned previously.

Source: Fatḥ al-Bārī 6/325

Another tradition clarifies that there are more women than men overall, and it forbids men and women from arrogantly boasting to each other as if one gender were better than the other.

Muhammad ibn Sirin 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

And Ibn Hajar writes:

وَاسْتَدَلَّ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ بِهَذَا الْحَدِيثِ عَلَى أَنَّ النِّسَاءَ فِي الْجَنَّةِ أَكْثَرُ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ كَمَا أَخْرَجَهُ مُسْلِمٌ مِنْ طَرِيقِ بن سِيرِينَ عَنْهُ وَهُوَ وَاضِحٌ

Abu Huraira used this tradition as evidence for there being more women in Paradise than men, as narrated from Muslim by way of Ibn Sirin; this is clear.

Source: Fatḥ al-Bārī 6/325

That women are a majority overall is supported by other traditions speaking about periods of time in the future when women will greatly outnumber men. It is a sign of the coming of the Day of Judgment if we see many more women than 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

In another narration, the Prophet (ṣ) 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.

In sum, compiling all the prophetic traditions on this topic conclusively determines that women are the majority of humankind overall, which is why they are a majority in Paradise and in Hellfire.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.