The Doctrine of Heaven
The Doctrine of Heaven (Paradise)
Behind the Veil of Islam
At best, the doctrine of heaven can be a source of inspiration, incentive and comfort. At its worst, the impetus to go to a particular heaven after death can be an effective tool for great evil, coercion and manipulation. Recent acts of terrorism have only too painfully revealed to us that if you can mesmerize a few radical extremists to believe in a certain heaven, you can get them to do anything. “In the 00’s, a decade known so far for its calamities, the question of what heaven is and who gets to go has taken on a new urgency. Suicide bombs and terrorists…often invoke heaven before they act and, afterward, the survivors invoke heaven to guide them forward.”
And so visions of heaven divide people. The afterlife and our view of heaven are quite different among the different religions of the world, as we shall see in this Islamic concept of Paradise. “Muhammad’s conception of Paradise is well known to be materialistic and voluptuous; it is expressed in several surahs which belong to the first period of his preaching…all these descriptions are quite clearly drawn pictures; they are probably inspired by the art of painting. Muhammad or his unknown teachers must have seen Christian miniature or mosaics representing the gardens of Paradise and have interpreted the figures of angels as being those of young men or young women…Orthodox Muslim Theology, whose chief representatives are Ghazi and Ashari, has admitted sensual pleasures into Paradise,
though pointing out that they will only begin after the Resurrection.”
Muhammad’s Famous Visit to Heaven
“As far as the hadith is concerned, we shall summarize here the main topics in the account of Anas b. Malik, as related by Al-Bukhari. Two angels visited the prophet while he was asleep in Al-hatim or al-Hajr. They split open His chest, took his heart out and washed it with the water of Zamzam, filling it with faith and wisdom. Then follows the night journey and the ascension of the prophet to heaven, where he saw Adam in the first heaven; Yahya and Isa in the second; Yusuf, son of Yaqub, in the third; Idris, the biblical Enoch in the fourth; Harun in the fifth; Musa in the sixth; and Ibrahim in the seventh. In the neighborhood of the Lote tree, the prophet was offered three cups of wine, milk and honey, of which he chose the milk.”
Narrated Malik bin Sasaa:
“The Prophet said, ‘While I was at the House in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness, (an angel recognized me) as the man lying between two men. A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me and my body was cut open from the throat to the lower part of the abdomen and then my abdomen was washed with Zam-zam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief. Al-Buraq, a white animal, smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me and I set out with Gabriel.’”
“When I reached the nearest heaven, Gabriel said to the heaven gatekeeper, ‘Open the gate.’ The gatekeeper asked, ‘Who is it?’ He said, ‘Gabriel, the gate-keeper,’ ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Gabriel said, ‘Muhammad.’ The gate-keeper said, ‘Has he been called?’ Gabriel said, ‘Yes.’ Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’ Then I met Adam and greeted him and he said, ‘You are welcomed O son and a Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the second heaven.”
“It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Gabriel said, ‘Gabriel.’ It was said, ‘Who is with you?’ He said, ‘Muhammad’ It was asked, ‘Has he been sent for?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ It was said, ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!” Then I met Jesus and Yahya (John) who said, ‘You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the third heaven. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Gabriel said, ‘Gabriel.’ It was asked, ‘Who is with you? Gabriel said, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been sent for?’ ‘Yes,’ said Gabriel. ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’”
“There I met Joseph and greeted him, and he replied, ‘You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet!’ Then we ascended to the 4th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met Idris (Ezekiel or Elijah) and greeted him. He said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and Prophet.’”
“Then we ascended to the 5th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in previous heavens. There I met and greeted Aaron who said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet.” Then we ascended to the 6th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Moses who said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and. a Prophet.’ When I proceeded on, he started weeping and on being asked why he was weeping, he said, ‘O Lord!
Followers of this youth who was sent after me will enter Paradise in greater number than my followers.’”
“Then we ascended to the seventh heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Abraham who said, ‘You are welcomed O son and a Prophet.’ Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma’mur (i.e. Allah’s House).”
“I asked Gabriel about it and he said, ‘This is Al Bait-ul-Ma’mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).’ Then I was shown Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. a tree in the seventh heaven) and I saw its Nabk fruits which resembled the clay jugs of Hajr (i.e. a town in Arabia), and its leaves were like the ears of elephants, and four rivers originated at its root, two of them were apparent and two were hidden. I asked Gabriel about those rivers and he said, ‘The two hidden rivers are in Paradise, and the apparent ones are the Nile and the Euphrates.’”
“Then fifty prayers were enjoined on me. I descended till I met Moses who asked me, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Fifty prayers have been enjoined on me.’ He said, ‘I know the people better than you, because I had the hardest experience to bring Bani Israel to obedience. Your followers cannot put up with such obligation. So, return to your Lord and request Him (to reduce the number of prayers.)’ I returned and requested Allah (for reduction) and He made it forty. I returned and (met Moses) and had a similar discussion, and then returned again to Allah for reduction and He made it thirty, then twenty, then ten, and then I came to Moses who repeated the same advice. Ultimately Allah reduced it to five. When I came to Moses again, he said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Allah has made it five only.’ He repeated the same advice but I said that I surrendered (to
Allah’s Final Order).’ Allah’s Apostle was addressed by Allah, ‘I have decreed My Obligation and have reduced the burden on My slaves, and I shall reward a single good deed as if it were ten good deeds.’”
General Description of Paradise
Heaven (Paradise), a Garden (79:41) of bliss and fruit (69:21–24), has rivers (3:198), with maidens pure and holy (4:57), and carpets and cushions, (88:8–16). Wearing the finest silk clothing and sitting on chairs made of gold and precious stones. There will be a physical resurrection of all people (19:93–95) on the day of judgment (3:77; 15:25; 16:38; 42:29). Judgment is based on a person’s sincere repentance (66:8–9) and righteous deeds (5:9; 24:26; 45:21–22; 64:7).
“Gardens of perpetual bliss — they shall enter them, as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses and their offspring. And angels shall enter upon them every gate.”
“The description of Paradise which the Muttaqoon have been promised is that in it are rivers of water, the taste and smell of which are never changed. Rivers of milk the taste of which will remain unchanged. Rivers of wine that will be delicious to those who drink from it and rivers of clear, pure honey. For them will be every kind of fruit and protection from their Lord.”
“And their recompense shall be Paradise, and silken garments, because they were patient. Reclining on raised
thrones, they will see there neither the excessive heat of the sun, nor the excessive bitter cold, (as in Paradise there is no sun and no moon). The shade will be close upon them, and bunches of fruit will hang low within their reach. Vessels of silver and cups of crystal will be passed around amongst them, crystal-clear, made of silver. They will determine the measure of them according to their wishes. They will be given a cup (of wine) mixed with Zanjabeel, and a fountain called Salsabeel. Around them will (serve) boys of perpetual youth. If you see them, you would think they are scattered pearls. When you look there (in Paradise) you will see a delight (that cannot be imagined), and a Great Dominion. Their garments will be of fine green silk and gold embroidery. They will be adorned with bracelets of silver, and their Lord will give them a pure drink.”
“And those foremost (in Tawheed and obedience to Allah and His Messenger in this life) will be foremost (in Paradise). They will be those nearest to Allah in the Gardens of Delight. A multitude of those (the foremost) will be from the first generation (who embraced Islam) and a few of those (the foremost) will be from the later (generations). They will be reclining, face to face, on thrones woven with gold and precious stones. They will be served by immortal boys, with cups and jugs, and a glass from the flowing wine, from which they will have neither any headache, nor any intoxication. They will have fruit from which they may choose, and the flesh of fowls that they desire. There will be Houris with wide, lovely eyes (as wives for the pious), like preserved pearls, a reward for deeds that they used to do.”
“They will hear no vain or sinful speech (like backbiting, etc.) but only the saying of: Salam, Salam, (greetings of peace). And those on the Right Hand, who will be those on the Right Hand? They will be among thorn-less lote-trees
among Talh (banana trees) with fruits piled one above another, in long-extended shade, by constantly flowing water, and fruit in plenty, whose season is not limited, and their supply will not be cut off. They will be on couches or thrones raised high. Verily, we have created for them (maidens) of equal age, loving (their husbands only) for those on the Right Hand.”
“It is sparkling light, aromatic plants, a lofty palace, a flowing river, ripe fruit, a beautiful wife and abundant clothing, in an eternal abode of radiant joy, in beautiful soundly-constructed high houses.”
Tents and Pavilions
Allah has told us that there are tents or pavilions in Paradise: “Houris [beautiful, fair females] restrained in pavilions.” These pavilions are wondrous tents, made of pearls, each one is made from a single, hollowed-out pearl. They are sixty miles high; according to some reports they are sixty miles wide. “The tent is a hollowed out pearl, thirty miles high; in each corner of it the believer will have a wife whom no one else can see.” Here is a description of the houses in this paradise: “Bricks of gold and silver, and mortar of fragrant musk, pebbles of pearl and sapphire, and soil of saffron (other references mention fine white powder of pure musk). Whoever enters it is filled with joy and will never feel
miserable; he will live there forever and never die; their clothes will never wear out and their youth will never fade.”
Women in Paradise
Apparently, Paradise will contain a very small number of women. “Whilst we were with the Messenger of Allah on this mountain path, he said, ‘Look, can you see anything?’ We said, ‘We see crows, and one of them stands out because its beak and feet are red.’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘No women will enter Paradise except those who are as rare among them as this crow is among the others.’”
“The first group (of people) who will enter Paradise will be (glittering) like the moon when it is full. They will not spit or blow their noses or relieve nature, and their sweat will smell like musk…Their utensils will be of gold and their combs of gold and silver; in their centers the aloe wood will be used, and their sweat will smell like musk. Everyone of them will have two wives; each of whom will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that the marrow of the bones of the wives’ legs will be seen through the flesh out of excessive beauty.” This inspiration implies that women will be stark naked to the eyes of men in Paradise. “The believer in Paradise will have a tent made out of a single, hollowed-out pearl, sixty miles long, in which he will have [a number of] wives, whom he will visit in turn, none of whom will see the others.”
“Again, the activities of the husbands in the Garden are quite plainly enumerated. That they will be kept busy with their various wives and consorts is obvious. There are also other sources of entertainment; they may for example visit the bazaar…There is less certainty, however, as to how the women will occupy themselves apart from waiting for their spouses…If we add to this the kind of hope expressed in the prayer traditionally given at the funeral of a female Muslim, ‘…and free thou her from the torment of the grave and of Hellfires, causing her to dwell in the abode of Paradise, with her children,’ it rather appears that while the men are free to enjoy themselves with whatever companion pleases them, the women, as usual, are left with the offspring. As has been noted, in the traditional materials there is little doubt that the hur are creatures other than the earthly wives of the believers.”
Spiritual Reality Or X-Rated Fantasy ?
“I entered Paradise, where I saw ar-Rumaysa, the wife of Abu Talhah. And I heard footsteps and asked, ‘Who is that?’ He [Jibreel] said, ‘That is Bilaal.’ And I saw a palace with women in its courtyard. I asked, ‘Whose is this?’ They said, ‘It is for ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab.’ I had wanted to go in and look at it, but I remembered your jealousy [where women are concerned].’ Umar said, ‘May my mother and father be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of Allah, would I feel jealous from you?’”
“As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed virgins for companions: a truly overflowing cup.”
“…They will sit with bashful, dark-eyed virgins, as chaste as the sheltered eggs of ostriches.”
“…Yes and we shall wed them to dark-eyed houris (beautiful virgins)”
“In each there shall be virgins chaste and fair…Dark eyed virgins sheltered in their tents whom neither man nor Jin (angels) will have touched before.”
“There is in Paradise a market, wherein there will be no buying or selling, but will consist of men and women. When a man will desire a beauty, he will have intercourse with them.”
“The Prophet, after the death of his son Ibrahim, said, ‘There is a wet-nurse for him (i.e. Ibrahim) in Paradise.’”
“The smallest number of wives that any one man will have in Paradise is seventy-two. It was reported that the Shaheed will have seventy-two wives from amongst al-Hoor a-’Eeyn. The reason being that the believer in Paradise will be given the strength of one hundred men. ‘The believer in Paradise will be given such and such strength.’ He was
asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, will he really be able to do that?’ He said, ‘He will be given the strength of one hundred men.’”
In several instances in the Koran, we see how the angel Gabriel used to comply immediately with the wishes of Muhammad’s companions and his wives who used to instruct God and His Angel in what verses he must reveal to Muhammad. The Angel Gabriel used to comply with Muhammad’s personal desires and fulfill all his wishes, even if these wishes did not conform to the simplest principle of chastity, purity and mercy. Even his wife, Aisha told him: “I see that your Lord hastes to comply with your passion, O Muhammad,” as the Bukhari records in 6:60:311.
Admittance and Requirement to Paradise
“Because admittance to paradise and salvation from the Fire is according to Allah’s will and judgment, it is a great victory and tremendous success: ‘Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object of Life [been successful]’ For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.”
“In Islam, where we end up, Jannah (Paradise) or Jahannam (Hell-fire) depends on what we worked towards in this life. Paradise is the aim and the hope of every Muslim. But like trying to attain any goal, in order to achieve success, one must have a well-defined plan, and it must be implemented to be successful. ‘And whoever desires the
Hereafter and strives for it as he ought to strive and he is a believer; their striving shall surely be accepted.’”
Always in the Quran when Allah mentions those who will attain Paradise, He mentions the believers, not the Muslims. That takes knowledge, dedication and determination, and constant work to see it through to its completion. The first step is belief in Allah and His Messenger, and the flip side to that is leaving all acts of shirk (polytheism). The next step is obeying Allah and His Messenger, avoiding innovations, and carrying out all compulsory acts of worship that He has prescribed.
Another aspect is that of Taqwa — fear of Allah, and acting in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah (habit, practice, customary procedure, or action, norm and usage sanctioned by tradition) of the Messenger of Allah. “Surely those of taqwa shall be in the midst of Gardens and fountains.” He further stated: “The most common thing which leads people to Paradise is taqwa of Allah and good conduct, and the most common thing which leads people to the Hell Fire is the mouth and the private parts.”
“And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will cause him to enter Gardens beneath which rivers flow, and whoever turns back, He will chastise him with a painful chastisement.”
“All of my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse. It was asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, who would refuse?’ He said, ‘He who obeys me enters Paradise and he who disobeys me has refused.’
Thus conversion to Islam is no redemption, but obedience towards Allah.
Note the requirements on women:
‘Whosoever female who dies while her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise.”
“When a woman says her five prayers and fasts her month, and guards her private parts, and obeys her husband, let her enter Paradise by whichever door she likes.”
With all this said, there is not an absolute guarantee in Islam of attaining paradise or having their eternal destiny assured. Mohammed said, “By Allah, though I am the apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me” (Koran 5:266). Islam teaches that “fate” decides everyone’s eternal destination. According to the Quran, God leads and misleads as He pleases. “Allah leaves straying those whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases”(Koran 14:4).
Purification Before Entering
The believers will be purified before they enter Paradise. After the believers have passed over as-Siraat (the bridge over Hell), they will be kept on a bridge between Paradise and Hell, where they will be purified by means of their settling any wrongs that existed between any of them in this world.
Guaranteed Entrance to Paradise
Means by which to avoid Hell and guarantee Paradise: Everyone must pass over Hell’s fire, however, those who have
taqwa (the fear of Allah, the restrain of guarding of one’s self from evil, righteousness, piety and good conduct) will be saved. There are actions which would protect one from Hell-fire. The best among these deeds are salaah and jihad or martyrdom for the sake of Allah the Almighty.
It was narrated in a Hadeeth Qudsee, “The best thing my slave does that gets him closer to me is obligatory salaat, (One of the five pillars of Islam. A special communication like prayer to take place five times a day for a Muslim) and then if he does the nawafil (supererogatory or extra prayers), I like him more. And if I like him, I protect his hearing and his sight from going to haram things and anything he asks for, I give him, and if he asks refuge from anything, I will protect him. I never hesitate in anything which I do except when I take the Muslim’s soul away. He hates death and I hate harming him.”
Islam does teach a day of judgment but that Martyrs and the poor have entered paradise already without going through that process.
First People to Enter
Muhammad will be the first to ask for the gates of paradise to be opened, after Adam, the father of mankind, and all the other great Prophets refuse this task. He will be the first of mankind to enter Paradise and the first nation to enter Paradise will be his ummah (community of believers or Muslims). “We are the last, but we will be the first on the Day of Resurrection. We will be the first of mankind to enter Paradise”(Muslim 152:4:1859). Muslim also reported from Anas that the Messenger of Allah said: “I will come to the gates of paradise and ask for it to be opened. The gatekeeper will ask, ‘Who are you?’ I will say, ‘Muhammad.’ The gatekeeper
will say, ‘I was ordered not to open the gate for anyone else before you’” (Muslim 84:1:384).
If it comes to the question of salvation, it is necessary that every human being submits himself to Allah and accepts Islam, since there will be no mercy on non-Muslims at the Day of Judgment. According to tradition, only Muhammad can intercede for Muslim believers as intercessor. Some people will be brought out of Hell through his Muhammad. The Koran itself gives only some hints at the possibility on intercession. From Muslim tradition we know the following prayer to Muhammad:
“You are the beloved, to whose intercession we look forward at the Great Day of Judgment, to which all people will flock. You are the intercessor, to whose intercession we look forward on the narrow path, when your foot slips. Then be my intercessor, when I lay in my grave and am your guest, since a guest is to be honored”
Sinners will be brought forth from Hell and will also enter paradise among the believers by means of intercession. “The people of Hell will remain there, never dying, and never living. But there are people who will enter Hell because of their sins, and will be killed therein, so that they become like coals. Permission will be granted for intercession to be made, and they will be brought forth in groups and spread on rivers of Paradise, and it will be said, ‘O
people of Paradise, pour water on them. Then they will grow like seeds in the silt left by a flood.’”
Positions and Rewards in Paradise
“Paradise has one hundred levels which Allah has reserved for the mujaahideen (Muslim fighter-jihad) who fight in his cause and the distance between each of the two grades is like the distance between the heavens and the earth. So when you ask Allah for something, ask for al-Firdaws which is the best and highest part of Paradise. Above it is the throne of the Most Merciful, and from it originate the rivers of Paradise.”
The highest position in Paradise will be attained by Muhammad “Whoever says, when he hears the call to prayer, ’Allaahumma Rabba hadhihi-da’wati-tammah,was-salaatil-qaa’imah, aati muhammadan al-waseelata wal-fadeelata, wab’aththu maqaaman mahmoodan alladhi wa’adtahu [O Allah, Lord of this Perfect Call and the Prayer to be Offered, grant Muhammad al-Waseelah — the highest position in Paradise — and also the eminence and resurrect him to the praised position You have promised],’ intercession for him will be granted on the Day of Resurrection.”
“The best of the Shuhaadaa are those who fight in the first rank, and do not turn their faces away until they are killed. They will have the pleasure of occupying the highest dwellings in Paradise. Your Rabb will smile at them, and
whenever your Rabb smiles upon any of His Slaves, that person will not be brought to account.”
The one who helps widows and the destitute will have the status of a mujaahid in Paradise. “The one who helps widows and the destitute is like one who fights in jihad for the sake of Allah. I [the narrator] think he said, ‘And he is like the one who stands all night in prayer and never sleeps, and like the one who fasts continually and never breaks his fast.’”
People In Paradise
The people of Paradise will enter in the most perfect and beautiful form, in the image of their father, Adam (as), for there is no human form more perfect and beautiful than that of Adam, whom Allah created very tall. He was as tall as a great palm tree, sixty cubits tall. “Allah, Subhaanahu wa ta’aala, created Adam in his own image, sixty cubits tall…everyone who enters Paradise will be in the image of Adam, sixty cubits tall. People kept getting shorter and shorter after the time of Adam.” Another aspect of their physique is that they will have no body hair, and will look as if their eyes are anointed with kohl. Each of them will enter Paradise aged thirty-three, the age of strength, vitality and youth.
Paradise is free from all the impurities and disappointments of this world. Eating and drinking in this life results in the need for excretion and its associated unpleasant odours. If a person drinks wine in this world, he loses his mind. Women in this world menstruate and give birth, which are sources of pain and hurt. Paradise is free from all of these discomforts: its people will not
urinate, defecate, spit or suffer from catarrh. The wine of Paradise, as described by its Creator is: “Crystal-white, delicious to those who drink [thereof], free from intoxication, nor will they suffer intoxication there from.”The first food which Allah will present to the people of Paradise will be the caudate [extra] lobe of fish-liver.
The women of Paradise are pure and free from menstruation, nifaas [postnatal bleeding] and all the other impurities suffered by women in this world, as Allah says: “…and they shall have therein Azwaajun Muttaharatun [Purified mates having no menses, urine, stools, etc.].”
The vessels from which the people of Paradise will eat and drink will be of gold and silver. “The believer in paradise will have a tent made of a hollowed out pearl and two gardens of silver, their vessels and everything in them, and two gardens of gold, their vessels and everything in them.”
“In Paradise there is a market to which the people will come every Friday, then a wind will come from the north and blow on their faces, and clothes, and they will increase in beauty. Then they will return to their wives, who will also have increased in beauty. Their wives will say to them, ‘By Allah, you increased in beauty after you left us.’ And they will say, ‘And you too, by Allah, you have increased in beauty since you left us.’”
“There will be an announcer [in Paradise] who will make this announcement, ‘Verily, there is in store for you [everlasting] health. You will never fall ill, and you will live
[forever] and never die. You will remain young and never grow old. You will always live in affluent circumstances and never become destitute.’ [This is explained in] the words of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, ‘And it will be announced to them, ‘This is the Paradise you have been made to inherit for what you used to do.’”
Gates of Paradise
“Paradise has eight gates, and one of them is called ar-Rayyaan, through which none will enter but those who observe fasting.” [al-Bukhaari]. In addition to ar-Rayyaan, (gates for those who fast) there are also gates for those who pray much, those who give in charity and those who fight in jihad; Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said, ‘Whoever spends a pair [of anything] from his wealth for the sake of Allah will be called from the gates of Paradise, and Paradise has eight gates. Whoever used to pray [regularly and properly] will be called from the gate of prayer; whoever used to give in charity will be called from the gate of charity, whoever used to fight in jihad will be called from the gate of jihad, and whoever used to fast [regularly] will be called from the gate of fasting.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, it would not matter if a person was called from any of them but will anyone be called from all of them, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘Yes, and I hope that you will be one of them.’”
Other Issues of “Heavenly” Interest…
There are countless other means of attaining Paradise; from building a mosque, to seeking Islamic knowledge, to obeying our husbands, and raising righteous children, to fighting in the Path of
Allah with one’s goods and soul [Koran 61:10–12]. Even so, apparently, a lot of Muslims are going to miss Paradise: Muhammad said, “Verily! 70,000 or 700,000 of my followers will enter Paradise altogether; so that the first and the last amongst them will enter at the same time, and their faces will be glittering like the bright full moon.”
Despite all the glorious castles, the beautiful clothes and mates that those who inherit Paradise will possess, Islam teaches that Allah still has in store for the believers the greatest honor awaiting them in Paradise. Suhaib ibn Sinan narrated that the Prophet said, “When the inmates of Paradise enter Paradise and the inmates of Hellfire will enter Hell, the announcer will say, ‘O people of Paradise, verily you have a promise with Allah and He wishes to fulfill His promise to you.’ They will ask, ‘What is His promise? Has He not made our balances heavy (with good deed), whitened our faces, admitted us into Paradise, and delivered us from the Hellfire?’ Then the screen will be removed and they will look towards Him. By Allah He will not give them a thing more beloved to them and more comforting to their eyes, than the gaze of Himself.”
Although there are some spiritual aspects to heaven in Islamic theology, one cannot overlook the obvious emphasis on a very physical place with many physical delights.
Interpretation of the Verses
“It is clear that for the great mass of the faithful the particulars given in the sacred scripture, and often those added by eschatological narratives, are to be taken at face value. Certainly in terms of exegesis of the Quran, this has also been the position of Muslim traditionalists over the centuries, with the exception of
some who have written from more mystical orientation…The great majority of commentators, if they venture to speculate on the nature of the afterlife realities at all, acknowledge that the world to come is beyond our clear comprehension precisely because of the differentiation from the present world. They avoid taking sides on the issue of whether afterlife realities are to be understood in literal or allegorical terms and rely on the conclusion that such matters ultimately are known only to God.”
“The official teaching has never confirmed the exclusively allegorical and spiritual interpretation of Koranic verse and Hadith concerning paradise. Throughout the centuries two trends have co-existed. 1. The so-called traditional exegesis, which accepts many traditions and which endlessly multiplies concrete details about the life of Paradise and its sensual pleasures. 2) The attempts of those who retain indeed the literal meaning of the Kuranic text, but take care not to amplify it.”
The Opinion of Scholars and Others
As you can see, some of these are outright fictitious and many appear to be clearly borrowed accounts. “Such has been the general conclusion of Islamic Scholars, who have mainly devoted themselves to analyzing the development of the traditions about Muhammad’s ascension, to pointing out their inconsistencies and to isolating additions made in the course of time to the original kernel of the story. A good example of this is the statement of Fazlur Rahman in his book Islam, published in 1966, where he writes: ‘the Quran refers to an important transforming experience or perhaps a series of such experiences of Muhammad in several
Suras…but the spiritual experiences of the prophet were later woven by tradition, especially when and ‘orthodoxy ‘ began to take shape, into the doctrine of a single, physical, locomotive experience of the ‘Ascension’ of Muhammad to Heaven, and still later were supplied all the graphic details…The doctrine of a locomotive ‘Ascension’ developed by the orthodox and backed by the Hadith is no more than a historical fiction whose materials come from various sources.’”
If we keep in mind that Muhammad came into contact with Christians in his environment and took over into the Quran much material from the Bible (especially stories of Old Testament prophets), it is no wonder that many teachings of the Quran correspond with Old and New Testament teachings. On the other hand, Islamicists today believe that Christians of Muhammad’s time in the 7th century AD lacked an Arabic translation of the Bible. Their belief seems to have been mostly founded on other sources like apocryphal writings and oral traditions.
Nicholas of Cusa was a Roman Catholic Cardinal of the 15th century who wrote a work entitled De Pace fidei attempting to explain away the differences between Islam and other religions. Even this pro-Islamic cardinal acknowledges and uses this fact to support his thesis! “As to the so-called carnal nature of the Islamic paradise, a juicy tidbit which fed anti-Islamic polemic throughout the Middle Ages, Nicholas argued that because he preached to the unlearned, Muhammad couched his description of Paradise in sensual terms lest his hearers fail to be attracted to this goal. Not only do we find Christian-Muslim agreement here, but a Catholic cardinal actually defends Muhammad! Pro- Muslim sentiment
in De Pace fidei is, interestingly enough, often coupled with a decided anti-Jewish bias. Cusanus is happy to find Muslims on his side against the Jews…And while Nicholas took great pains to explain away the apparent differences between Islam and Christianity, he was not all that concerned to do the same for the Jews.”
The Conclusion of the Matter…
In his revealing book, Behind the Veil, Unmasking Islam, Abd El Schafi illustrates several examples of some of the after-the-fact additions to the so-called revelations based on questions and challenges from Muhammad’s wives and companions.
“How Muhammad (I mean Gabriel) used to fulfill the desires of Muhammad’s wives! In part I, p.97, the Suyuti indicates in the Itqan that, ‘Um Salmaa, Muhammad’s wife, said to him, ‘O apostle of God, I do not hear that God has mentioned anything for the immigrant women.’ Then God sent down, ‘And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them, ‘Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you’ (Koran 3:195). Um Salmaa also said, ‘O apostle of God, you always mention men and ignore women.’ Then the verse was sent down, ‘For Muslim men and Muslim women…’ (33:5).’”
He goes on to give another example: “The Baydawi (pp.100 and 558)…says, ‘The prophet’s wives told him, ‘O apostle of God, God has mentioned men with good things; do not we women have anything good in us to be mentioned?’ Then the verse in the chapter of Parties was sent down — the above mentioned verse.’”
Let us reason together with El Schafi in the poignant conclusion to this matter:
“There is a very significant question which we cannot ignore, neglect or avoid, ‘Did not God know that mentioning women in the Quran is very important until Muhammad’s wives, such as Um Salma and Um’Amara, complained? Why did Gabriel reveal these verses only after the women complained and after Muhammad’s wives expressed the necessity for them? The question is very plain, and the answer is very clear also. The angel had nothing to do with these matters.”
In light of all these capricious, whimsical and X-rated fantasies of paradise, our hearts go out to every Muslim out there who lives in doubt, fear and ignorance of the future and his eternal destiny. The precious word of our Father in Heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has rightly revealed: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.’ But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God…But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:9–14).
True Heaven for genuine believers in Jesus Christ is a spiritual reality more factual, authentic and alive than life itself. May we with bended knee pray that those blinded by the veil of Islam may
see the true and almighty Lord of all wisdom and revelation. For it is only through having the mind of Christ, and no other, that we can know “what has been freely given to us by God.”
Tyndale Theological Seminary, Conservative Theological Journal Volume 6
(Tyndale Theological Seminary, 2002; 2003), 6:351-375.
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