Expectation of Paradise in Islam
his lifetime, Mohammed studied the topics of paradise and hell again and again. In many a Koran-sura, like-minded people are
encouraged to expect the pleasures of paradise. Opponents, hypocrites or half-hearted people were warned of the horrible agonies
of hell. Until today, young suicide assassins and violent fighters can be encouraged with certain promises of paradise to
risk their lives. Will their hopes be fulfilled?
Garden of Paradise and who is allowed in
The Arab idiom for paradise in the Koran “janna” means “garden”.
The related Turkish word “cennet” also stands for paradise, old for garden. Paradise consists of several gardens
(55,46ff.) and is guarded by watchmen (39,73). Even before entering paradise, the believers are promised houses or chambers
(39,20; 29,58). They will live there eternally and consequently be eternally spared from hellfire (44,56). In the traditional
scriptures (Hadith), the incredible size of paradise is depicted: “There is a tree in the shadow of which a horseman
can ride along for one hundred years without ever reaching the outer range of the shadow” (al-Buchari). All those will
be rewarded who “believe and do what is right” (2,25), the “Godfearing” (52,17). The image of the
scales plays an important part in the judgment. “Who (as a result of his good deeds) has heavy scale pans” (101,6ff)
is promised to escape the blazing fire. Even though the good deeds are important, the right faith is the main criteria for
the acceptance by God. The true believers may enter paradise, the “gardens of delight” (56,26) or the “gardens
of Eden” (19,61) for good.
does it look like?
“There will be merry faces who excel in satisfaction with the same enthusiasm they showed
in their (good) deeds and who are situated in a higher garden where they do not hear (empty) talk and where there is a (constantly)
flowing fountain and thickly upholstered (maybe raised) pillows of rest, ready mugs, pillows one next to the other, and rugs
which are spread here and there (across the floor)” (88,8-16).
“On gold-weaved rest beds they lie (those who
are close to God) opposite each other, while eternally young lads pass among them with mugs and jugs (full of wine?) and a
cup (full) of fountain water (to mix in?), of which they will neither receive a headache nor become drunk and (with plenty
of) fruit whatever they desire, and meat of poultry whatever they indulge in. And large-eyed Huris (are at their disposal)
(in their beauty) they can be compared to pearls well-cared for (56,15-23). “We give them large-eyed Huris for spouses”
From these quotations it can be clearly seen that Allah promises plenty of the best food and drinks for his
believers. The quality of the dishes and mugs also plays an important part: silver (76, 15-16) or gold (43,71). Moreover,
he gives them large-eyed Huris for spouses. “Huri” is derived from the Arab word “hur” and means:
“those in whose eyes the white and the black is protruding” (assumption by Horovitz). This expression points out
these womens’ immense beauty. (In Europe, the word “huri” makes you think of the expression “Hure”
without knowing the proper meaning of the word). The question is whether these are the believers’ spouses (cleansed
spouses, 2,25; 3,15; 4,57) which went to paradise with them or whether they are non-terrestrial beings who God specifically
created as virgins. Various aspects suggest that these are not spouses: “Virgins .... of passionate love and of the
same age” (56, 36-37), “with swelling breasts” (78,33), “comparable to hyacinths and corals”
(55,58), “which, before, have not been deflowered neither by man nor jin (ghosts)” (55,56).
An explicit paradise for men?
“Allah will not
allow anyone into Paradise without marrying him off to 72 partners” (Hadith). Due to these or similar quotations on
Paradise, the reader gets the impression that all human desires of men are fulfilled. Few sura, such as in 33,35, speak about
Muslim women. For those who fulfill their obligations: “God will have prepared forgiveness and immense reward”.
Even their pious descendants (children) will be rewarded with Paradise (13,23; 40,8). In surah 43,70, men are downright challenged:
“enter Paradise with your spouses and take delight in each other”. Josef Horovitz sees a historical development:
in the early period of Islam, Mohammed put a larger emphasis on the material delights of Paradise – maybe following
the descriptions of Arab poets. During this time, he did not mention the whereabouts of believing women. In later descriptions
of Paradise, he spoke of women and children in Paradise and put the purely material pleasures somewhat in the background.
Which part does Allah play in Paradise?
The closeness to God
and “God’s benevolence” are also part of Paradise, a fact which the Koran attributes more importance to
than to all material delights (3,15; 9,72). Next to all other statements, such quotations, however, have to almost be searched
for with a magnifying glass. It could be derived from surah 75,22-23, that the believers will see God: “there will be
radiant faces which will see their Master”. The theologians have several views of whether the actual viewing of God
is described herein or whether it is merely an image-like recognition of God. One Hadith (Buhari and Muslim) says: “The
Prophet said: “You will see your Master just like” (you can see the full moon)”. There is not doubt that
God will let himself be recognized by the believers one way or another. Traditional scripture more clearly speaks of that:
“Do you wish for me to give you more? He pulls away the curtain. See, they have not been given anything that would be
better than looking upon their Master” (Muslim). Or: “The Master appears over them from above. He says: “Peace
to all of you, you people of Paradise!” He looks at them and they look at Him ... until he is veiled” (Ibn Madja).
Obviously, Allah will be acting autocratically even in the kingdom to come and he will determine for himself who he will show
himself to and for how many moments.