Paradise in Islam
The Review of Religions
It is often alleged that the religion of Islam entertains a concept of Paradise which is filled with eternal, lustful and worldly desires. Sadly, confused youngsters are lured into extremist groups by this concept and this is a grave misunderstanding of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Since childhood, a Muslim is taught that the ultimate purpose of our creation is to worship God and build a spiritual relationship with Him. As a result, he or she is rewarded both in this life and in the Hereafter. We do not have much knowledge of the Hereafter as stated in the Holy Qur’an ‘And no soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden for them, as a reward for their good works.’[i] However, the Holy Qur’an and Ahadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa)) have given a limited description of what Paradise holds for us and sadly this limited knowledge has been misinterpreted by Muslims themselves.
The mainstream Muslims have understood Paradise in the Hereafter to be an immeasurably large infinite garden which is lush green and full of shade, and beneath the gardens, there are streams of milk, honey and wine. One may drink from them without filling up nor being intoxicated. Whatever type of meat is desired will be freshly provided. A man will be rewarded with seventy or so beautiful young women who are subjected to him. There will be no physical type of realm and one can move freely without fatigue and labour.[ii]
It is indeed contradicting that a religion which focuses immensely on righteousness and spirituality rewards its followers with lustful and worldly passions.
It is by the grace of God Almighty that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been guided by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) – the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi – and have come to know the true reality of what the Qur’an and Holy Prophet (sa) have told us.
Firstly, it is important to understand that the Holy Qur’an uses a universal language that can be understood by man. The rewards of the Hereafter are not worldly but are given worldly names as similitudes so that we may understand the goodness we will be rewarded with.
An example of this is found when the Holy Prophet (as) described the latter days and Dajjal, ‘Jabir bin Abdullah (ra) narrated that Prophet (sa) while discussing about Dajjal said: And his donkey on which he will arrive, will have a span of 40 hands between his two ears’[iii]. In another place, he described that he would be easily able to travel on land and sea.[iv]
We have now come to know that the description was of trains and airplanes. However, at that time, to explain what trains and airplanes would be was nearly impossible.
With that said, the rewards of the Hereafter are not physical, rather spiritual, and continuously help one excel in spirituality.
For example, the Qur’an says, ‘And give glad tidings to those who believe and do good works that surely for them are gardens beneath which streams flow’. [v]
The Promised Messiah (as) has explained this by saying,
‘In this verse, God Almighty has called faith a garden and righteous actions streams of water. This is the relationship between righteous actions and faith. As no garden can flourish and bring forth fruit without water, in the same way, no faith is helpful which is not accompanied by righteous action. So what is heaven? It is the embodiment of faith and righteous action.’[vi]
Similarly, clarifying the receiving of milk, honey and wine the Promised Messiah (as) states:
‘They are described physically but we are informed that they illumine the soul and create understanding of God. Their source is the soul and righteousness. It does not mean that in this world what we partake of milk, honey, grapes, pomegranates, etc., will also be provided in the hereafter. Not at all. Those things in their kind and condition will be totally different except those that have common names. Although all these blessings are exemplified in concrete terms, it has been pointed out at the same time that all these blessings illumine the soul and lead to the knowledge of Divine. Their source is soul and truth. ‘What was given to us before’, does not mean that they are material bounties of this world. No, absolutely not. What God means to say in this verse is that the believers who act righteously make with their own hands a heaven the fruit of which they will enjoy in the other world also. As they will have tasted that fruit spiritually in this world, they will recognize it in the other world and will exclaim: ‘These appear to be the same fruits and spiritual exaltations that we had enjoyed in the world’. In this manner those who worship God and possess spiritual insight will recognize them.’[vii]
Perhaps the biggest misconception and the one against which most allegations are raised is the reward of beautiful fair maidens who fulfill sexual passions. The Holy Qur’an states:
‘Thus will it be. And We shall consort them with fair maidens, having wide, beautiful eyes.’[viii]
Here it is necessary to explain what the Arabic word hoor (حور) which translates to fair maidens actually means. In the Arabic language, nouns are either masculine or feminine. Many a time, a masculine noun is used when referring to a male and when referring to a female, the most common form is the addition of taa marbuta (ة) to the end of the masculine noun to make it feminine. However, there are many things that are referred to as either masculine or feminine but have no real gender, such as a table, which is called mindadatun (منضدة). It is in the feminine form but has no gender. An example from the Qur’an is:
‘And thou, O soul at peace! Return to thy Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter thou among My chosen servants, And enter thou My Garden.’[ix]
The Arabic for ‘Soul at peace’ is an-nafsul mutma’innah (النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ) which is used here in the feminine form. Generally, the word nafs (نفس) is used in the masculine form, however in this instance, since mutma’innah (مطمئنّة), the adjective following the word nafs comprises of a taa marbuta (ة) at the end, nafs here appears in the feminine form. Thus, nafs can appear in both the masculine and feminine forms.
Such is the case with the word hoor in Arabic. It can be applied to both male and female and signifies that in the Hereafter, males will have pure partners and females will also have pure partners. That is why in some places in the Qur’an such as chapter 2 verse 26 and chapter 3 verse16, ‘pure spouses’ is used, which can apply to both men and women. The word hoor also means one who has extremely white eyes which demonstrates purity.[x]
To clarify, the purpose of these spouses will not be to relieve sexual pleasures, rather, believers will be paired with spiritual partners who will help them progress spiritually and motivate them to do good deeds; as is the concept of marriage in this world as well.
Keeping this perspective in mind, the concept of Paradise is much more understandable and refutes any allegation that the Hereafter entertains such lustful and vain desires. There is no doubt that God will reward those who are deserving with unimaginable bounties that are eternal, spiritual and pure in nature.
[i] The Holy Qur’an 32:18
[ii] The Holy Qur’an. 15:46-49, 36:56-59
[iii] Kanzul Ummal Vol.7, Hadith No.2998
[iv] Sahih Muslim Hadith No.2937a
[v] The Holy Qur’an 2:26
[vi] Malfuzat, vol. III, pp. 25-30
[vii] Malfuzat, vol. III, pp. 25-30
[viii] The Holy Qur’an 44:55
[ix] The Holy Qur’an 89:28-31
[x] Team, Almaany. “لغت حور میں کے معنی اور تراجم.” almaany.com. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://www.almaany.com/ur/dict/ar-ar/حور/.