I smile as I view this question posted by a Muslim woman on an online discussion forum. “Not again!” I exclaim. I have been asked this question so many times, by Muslim women who start gaining knowledge of Islam to lead a life of righteousness, that by now I know most of the answer by heart.
- The meaning of "Hoor Al-`Een" as mentioned in the Qur'an:
First of all, what are Hoor Al-`Een?
The word "Hoor" means "A person having eyes characterized by hauar -- the intense whiteness of the white part of the eye". "Al-`Een" means large, wide eyes. Hoors are a special creation of Allah, one that He will create only for the inmates of Paradise. Hoor's are women who are described as having large eyes, with black irises contrasted against the intensely white part of the eye, luminous white skin, restrained glances, and glowing flesh through which the marrow of their bones will be visible. They do not exist in this world; they will be made as a special creation in the Hereafter, for the sexual gratification of the men of Paradise, and there will be a multitude of them for each man. They will be perpetual virgins.
“... Maidens restrained (as to their glances), in (goodly) pavilions;-
... With whom no man or Jinn before them has done "tamth" (broken the hymen)"; [Surah Al-Rahman 55:70,72,74]
According to Ibn Kathir, in his Qur'anic commentary (explanation, exegesis or "tafsir") of the above verse 72: "The Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] was heard saying: "The smallest reward for the people of Paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a [Yemen]"."
Al-Hoor al-‘Een will be wives of the men in Paradise, in addition to their wives from among the people of this world. Allah says in the Qur'an:
“So (it will be). And We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes.”
[Qur'an - Surah Al-Dukhan 44:54]
“They will recline (with ease) on thrones arranged in ranks. And We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes.”
[Qur'an Surah Al-Toor 52:20]
The Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] also said: “The first group to enter Paradise will look like the moon when it is full. They will not spit or blow their noses or defecate therein. Their vessels and combs will be of gold and silver; their incense burners will be of aloeswood, and their sweat will be musk. Each of them will have two wives, the marrow of whose calves will be visible from beneath the flesh because of their beauty. There will be no dissent or enmity among them, and their hearts will be as one, and they will glorify Allah morning and evening.” [Sahihain: Al-Bukhari, Muslim]
Another narration explains the statement of Allah, "beautiful fair females restrained in pavilions” - narrated Qaisi, Allah’s Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said, "In Paradise, there is a pavilion made of a single hollow pearl sixty miles wide; in each corner, there are wives who will not see those in the other corners; and the believers will visit and enjoy them(all).’" [Sahih Al-Bukhari vol.6 - 402]
"Every man who enters paradise shall be given 72 Hoors; no matter at what age he had died, when he is admitted into Paradise, he will become a thirty-year-old, and shall not age any further. A man in paradise shall be given virility equal to that of one hundred men". [Al-Tirmidhi]
- The status of the women of the world who enter Paradise, is higher than that of the Hoors:
Umme Salamah [may Allah be pleased with her] - the Prophet Muhammad's wife - narrates that she said to Allah's Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم], "O Messenger of Allah! Are the women of this world superior or the Hoors?" He replied, "The women of this world will have superiority over the Hoors just as the outer lining of a garment has superiority over the inner lining."
Umme Salamah then asked, "O Allah's Messenger, what is the reason for this?" He answered, "Because they performed salah, fasted, and worshipped [Allah]. Allah will put light on their faces and silk on their bodies. [The human women] will be fair in complexion, and will wear green clothing and yellow jewelry. Their incense-burners will be made of pearls, and their combs will be of gold. They will say, 'We are the women who will stay forever and we will never die. We are the women who will always remain in comfort and we will never undergo difficulty. We are the women who will stay and we will never leave. Listen, we are happy women and we will never become sad. Glad tidings to those men for whom we are and who are for us.'" [Tabrani]
As for these women of the world who are admitted into Paradise, they will have eyes and lust only for their husbands in Paradise, as stated in Tafsir Ibn Kathir:
Ibn Kathir said: “They (the women of Jannah) lower their gaze and avoid looking at men other than their husbands, so they do not think that there is anything in Paradise that is more handsome than their husbands. This was stated by Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah, ‘Ata’ al-Khurasani and Ibn Zayd. And it was narrated that one of them will say to her husband: "By Allah I do not think that there is anything in Paradise finer than you, or that there is anything in Paradise dearer to me than you; praise be to Allaah Who has made you for me and made me for you"." [Tafsir al-Qur’an by Ibn-e-Kathir]
Analyze and accept men's innate sexual nature:
Scholars reassure women that the jealousy they feel in this world at the prospect of sharing their husband with another woman will not be felt by them in Paradise. Further, they exhort that women should submit to Allah’s Will regarding that which He has decreed for Paradise, which is Al-ghayb (Unseen/Unknown), and questioning anything about the Unseen is advised against. This is because only Allah knows the details of what rewards Paradise will harbor, and whatever of those details He has chosen to describe in the Qur'an and Prophetic narrations, cannot even be properly imagined by the human mind, let alone understood or grasped in their true essence. Thirdly, Muslim women are given the consolation that at the end of it all, if they are admitted to Paradise, their status and beauty will far outweigh that of their husband’s hoors, so they needn't worry.
The real answer to the “objection”, however, of this seeming ‘unfairness’ of rewards in Paradise, - with men receiving a multitude of young, beautiful women to have physical relations with, while women being “restricted” to just one husband, lies simply in the basic physiological and physical differences between men and women.
The nature of men - that is, their physical, physiological and psychological make-up is such that the level of lust, sexual arousal, and temptation for procreation which they feel during this worldly life, is higher than that felt by women. Men are more prone to visual stimuli and frequent temptations. Women should try to understand that Allah has motivated men by the detailed description of Hoor’s in Paradise, as a reward for their restraining themselves from zina (unlawful sexual intercourse i.e. adultery outside the marriage bond) in the world, because men easily get tempted time and again. Even if they love their wife, and she is very beautiful, they still desire other attractive women physically. Simply put: men get aroused by a single, casual glance at a body-part or a small flash of skin. They also desire unrestricted polygamy (i.e. they love the idea of having physical relations with a multitude of young women).
The idea, for women, of having simultaneous multiple partners, though, is too abhorred and repulsive. However, men find the idea appealing. I have myself read questions on IslamQA.com and other Q&A and counselling websites in which men have asked scholars and experts, much to the latter’s horror, whether they can have a threesome with both their wives; or intercourse in the back passage with their wife’s consent; whether they can watch porn with their wife, or marry a second, younger wife in secret, and so on. I remember being shocked when I read a male poster's comment on a blog under a photograph showing supermodels of famous a lingerie brand, "I'd do them all in one night!" Other comments have also made my jaw drop; they are just too unmentionable.
The problem is that men do not admit these desires to women, not even to their wives, but they share them with other men. That is why it not uncommon to find, in bachelor accommodations in every part of the world, a 24-hour porn channel, or piles of famous adult magazines. No such things are found in all-women dormitories, though. Prostitution, too, being the oldest profession in the world, has existed since centuries for the same reason. Male prostitutes are a much rarer phenomenon, though. The reasons for these are the same: men desire sexual relations with a variety of women during this worldly life, even if they love their wife with all their heart. Consequently, making do with just one woman for their whole lives is very difficult for them, a situation requiring much patience and restraint.
Women should embrace and accept this aspect of men’s nature, and face the fact that their husband would love to have 72 wives, not just in Paradise, but in this world too, if it were possible. Men’s physical desire for several young women simultaneously, has little to do with their love for each. For men, love and a physical relationship are not always one and the same thing.
If you, as a woman, find the concept of Hoor's in Paradis difficult to accept, that is because of your lack of understanding and knowledge of men’s sexual nature, which Allah has ingrained in them with Himself, as a severe test of their patience. I have heard many married friends complain of their husbands staring at beautiful women on the streets, on television, or their flirting with their wife’s own friends and cousins. Others have to deal with outright cheating and adultery in silence.
Reflect upon why rules and laws of Islam are different for women, than for men:
In order to better understand the difference in sexuality of men and women, try to reflect upon the following differences in Islamic laws and restrictions pertaining to the two genders:
- Men are not even allowed a second glance at a woman after the first, accidental one, whereas women have a less strict restriction regarding lowering the gaze.
- Men do not have to veil themselves, whereas women do.
- Men can take up to four wives, with strict restrictions, whereas women are forbidden to be polygamous in marriage, much to their relief and ease.
The differences in the above rulings apply for the reasons already cited – men’s physical desirers being different from women’s. That is why, women are obliged to cover themselves in front of men, and men are endorsed to lower their gaze. They can not even look at a woman while talking to her on the basis of need; they can not even talk to her unless there is a genuine, permissible need to do so. This is a very strict restriction upon them from Allah, one that is difficult to fulfill. One who fulfills them, therefore, is entitled to a great reward.
Accept that your husband wants this reward - despite what he says to the contrary:
Muslim women should appreciate the fact that if their husband is trying to obey Allah in this world, by trying to not gaze at women, and to avoid any kind of relations with them, particularly if his wife has aged or is not beautiful to begin with, he is indeed fighting a major battle against his base self, striving hard to be patient in obeying this extremely difficult command of Allah, and deserves ample reward for it in the Akhirah. If you truly love your husband for the sake of Allah, wouldn’t you be big-hearted enough to rise above your petty possessiveness and insecurities, to let him have what he really wants, and more? Believe it - he WANTS those hoors! And if you truly love him, you should forget your jealous feelings and pray for Allah to recompense him with what he wants, and deserves, in Paradise.
Reflect upon the reasons for your jealousy:
As an empowered Muslim woman enjoying a lofty status and economic independence, following a religion in which you will never be reduced to a sex object or a physical body to be enjoyed by all and sundry, why are you so insecure that you feel jealous at the prospect of your "man" being shared by other women? Are you afraid of losing his love, of being given less importance by him, of no longer being the "one and only" in his life? What is it that you acually fear losing? Your control over his life? Your high status as the love of his life? Why do you believe so blindly in a man's monogamous love? Is it because romance novels and movies tell you that "the prince and princess lived happily ever after?" Or because man-made laws dictate that polygamy is illegal, because it is a cruelty and oppression toward women? Do you know that, demographically speaking, if each man were to marry just one woman, thousands of women would remain without mates, with no prospects of having children, a family life, a home of their own? Would you not love for other women what you want for your own self?
As far as petty jealousies and over-possessiveness go, many married women get jealous even if their husband compliments their sister before them ("You never gave me that compliment when I wore that color! Are you saying she's prettier than me?"); or if he spends more time in a day with his mother than with them; or if he talks in private on the phone with his best friend for more than an hour, when they are around waiting for his attention, etc. Women can get so insecure and possessive, that no woman is allowed even a second glance or casual physical proximity with their husband (I personally know a lady who hires no domestic maids for this reason!)
If you lack self-worth or suffer from low self-esteem, or if you are selfish in your love for your husband so much so that you do not want him to get what HE wants just because YOU do not like it, then perhaps you should study the Qur'an and ahadith more until you grasp the essence of reality. Anyone knowledgeable in Islam knows that Allah will grant her the most supreme of pleasures and perpetual happiness in Paradise, where she will never be sad, insecure, jealous or angry, even if her husband has other wives.
The Paradise of Islam is not a drunken orgy, as most haters claim:
Anti-Islam propagandists use the description of women, wine and dining in Islam's Paradise as a hate-mongering technique. They misconstrue these rewards by comparing them to similar pastimes prevalent in social gatherings here on earth. What they don't realize is that when Allah forbids some temporary pleasures in this world, the indulgence in which cause harm to humans themselves, (such as drinking causing accidents; adultery causing divorce, unwanted pregnancies, and broken homes etc.), He compensates those who obey Him by abstaining from these pleasures for His sake, with more sublime, everlasting pleasures of the same kind in the Hereafter, only without their negative consequences!
Also, some people claim that Islam uses the male sexual urge, by describing Hoors to Muslim men as a reward, to make them become righteous. Allah has not mentioned Hoors in the Qur'an as the sole motivating factor for men; those who dwell just on this aspect, driven by sexual urges to do good deeds in order to get those Hoors, have missed the spirit of Islam. There are three reasons why a Muslim does good deeds, or lives an Islamic way of life:
- To escape the Hell-Fire,
- To attain Paradise (implying that they covet the physical rewards of Paradise), and
- To please Allah out of their love for Him.
The true believers reach this third level of faith, in which they don't obsessively covet the rewards they are promised for doing good deeds; they do good only to please Allah, whose attributes they have recognized by gaining in-depth knowledge of the Qur'an. Therefore, if they know that there will be rivers of honey in Paradise ["..and rivers of honey pure and clear" - Surah Muhammad, 47:15], they don't argue or indulge in discussions about the length and depth of these rivers, or the taste of this honey; they just hope that Allah will be pleased with them when they leave this world, and will consequently grant them the best reward in the Hereafter.