Mohamed Kohia, professor, Rockhurst University: Many verses in the Quran illustrated how beautiful and rewarding paradise is. Allah has promised the believing men and women gardens with rivers flowing under them, and fine dwellings in the Gardens of Eden.
The most striking expression of Allah’s good pleasure is that he will manifest himself to believers. In that, the believers’ faces will be radiant, gazing at their Lord. This is impossible in this world because, as the Quran says, “Eyesight cannot perceive him.”
The Prophet said, “Allah said, ‘I have prepared for my righteous slaves (such excellent things) as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard, nor a human heart can ever think of.’” Bukhari (9, 93, 589).
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Also, in many verses believing men are promised to marry beautiful virgin women in paradise called Houris. Some people tend to argue then, what will women get?
Actually, the Quran makes no distinction in rewards between men and women. They shall not be dealt with unjustly.
The main reason for the Houris is because in most cases men pursue women and not vice versa. As for women who are married in this life, Allah Almighty will grant them some kind of beauty with which they will feel that they are better than the Houris and so they will not love anyone other than their own husbands nor will they feel jealous of the Houris.
If women are unmarried during worldly life, Allah will marry them to the unmarried believers in paradise, or he may compensate them by making them feel content with their position.
Syed E. Hasan, chairman, Shawnee Mission Islamic Education Center: This is one of the common misperceptions about Islam, similar to the one that says, “Any Jihadi who dies is assured of six or eight virgins in the heaven,” or “Men will have beautiful Houris in the heaven.”
The Quran repeatedly emphasizes that men and women are equal in terms of their obligations toward fulfilling the five pillars of the Islamic faith — declaration of oneness of God, offering five daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan, paying the required charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.
A woman with higher level of God-consciousness (taqwa) would attain a higher place in the paradise as opposed to a man with lower level of taqwa.
In the heaven, pious women will be blessed with the company of pious mates, and so would pious men. The notion that Houris will be available for men only is grossly erroneous.
This confusion is due to the inherent problem in translating words from Arabic into English. The word “Hur” occurs in many verses in the Quran that can be translated as “mate” or “companion” and is gender-neutral, just like the word “spouse.”
Referring to the bounties of the heaven and the reward for righteous men and women, Verse 20 of Chapter 52 says: “They will recline on thrones (of dignity) arranged in ranks; and (in that paradise) we shall mate them with companions pure, with beautiful eyes.”
The realm of heaven is beyond our imagination. It is a reality that begins where our imagination ends. According to the Quran, the order of things in the heaven will be entirely different from our known physical laws.
To reach the writers of Voices of Faith, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.