Suspended between these alternatives is often a chance for redemption, for some of those who have transgressed the codes, and it is here and in the different rewards that some significant differences arise between major religions. This paper aims to identify the conceptual similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, in terms of heaven, hell and salvation, based on the Koran, the writings of a number of 11th and 12th-century Arabic scholars and those of Dante Alighieri, whose work contains theological as well as philosophical aspects. In addition, modern interpretations of these documents will be discussed, together with the suggestion that Dante drew to some extent on Arabic sources for the inspiration of his epic poem (Monroe, J. T., 2004, p. 15).
“Then the Prophet was brought the ladder by which the spirits of the children of Adam ascend…It had alternate stairs of silver and gold and came down from the Highest and Amplest Garden of Paradise, Jannat al-Firdaus. It was encrusted with pearls and surrounded with angels on its right and left. The Prophet began his ascent with Jibril …"2
This heaven is complex, in that it contains areas in which sinners are housed and punished, but in general, it follows a structure of ascension through the ranks of the righteous, with each heaven extolling a particular virtue. Eventually, the seventh heaven is reached, which holds the gate to Paradise and access to the eighth (or ninth3) Ascension – the Lote-Tree, where Mohammed meets God. What follows is a kind of covenant between God and Mohammed’s people, resonant of that of God and Moses (Qur’an 53:10-18).
Even these early documents show strong parallels to Dante’s Paradiso, in which Dante ascends through nine spheres of paradise, which eventually lead him to the Saints. Here he is questioned and has an experience of the ‘Triune God’. This encounter is short but .‘blinding’ it its intensity, leading Dante to an intuitive understanding to the mystery of Christ’s divinity (Kirkpatrick, Paradiso, Canto xxxii).