Monday, August 28, 2023

Decoding Islamic Doctrine of Paradisical Houris

By Nur Ul Islam Sadequey, New Age Islam 28 August 2023 Recently released Bollywood movie ‘72 Hoorain’, although made to satiate rising domestic Islamophobia, has re-exposed the underbelly of Islamic eschatological doctrine where what the modern scholars of Islam have refuted, the classical ones had no qualms in admitting. So, what is it about? Let’s examine the theology of virgin houris in Islam and the milieu in which it developed. -------------------------------------------- Also Read: Are There Houris in the Jannah? -------------------------------------------- The Quranic term hoor or hoor ein has long intrigued Islamic scholars and critics alike for its ambiguity. The classical interpretation is almost unanimous that the term refers to young virgin ladies’ believers will be rewarded in paradise. This view finds basis in around 50 Prophetic traditions (hadiths) that vividly describe these virgins’ varying numbers and physical attributes in a highly sensual manner. While many hadiths show houris are paradisiacal reward meant for martyrs only, there are few that show they are for righteous Muslims and for those who fast during Ramadan or other males who endure any loss for the sake of Allah. However, many modern scholars see the Quranic term hoor far from what is conceived in hadiths. While they differ on exact meaning but nowhere close to virgins and carnal pleasures. A critical study of all such hadiths that talk about Islamic eschatology, life after death, reward and punishment, will lead one to conclude that they are purely didactic, prone to fabrication and contradiction, and majority of them are in contrast with Quranic teachings. ------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Taslima Nasreen, 72 Houris and Wildan and Ghilman ------------------------------------------------------------- It seems the doctrine of virgin houris emerged and evolved in 9th century as one finds no mention of houri hadiths in Muwatta of Imam Malik, first collection of hadith texts written in 8th-century CE. It was a time when Muslims were at war on various fronts and had already established multifaceted contacts with outside world. During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad around 80 military expeditions took place and less than 20 involved fighting. Nowhere Prophet was heard persuading his followers to fight for doe-eyed and ever willing virgins in Jannah. Quranic Jannah has no sexual gratification described anywhere. It’s for righteous people (Muttaqin) irrespective of gender. It’s a place of everlasting bliss and peace where there will be plenty of food and drinks and everything one wishes for. Gardens, springs, rivers of water, milk, honey, and meat, all sorts of fruits, no death, no resentment or fatigue, nice clothes, ornaments etc are obvious descriptions in Quran. The word hoor occurred four times in Quran. It is usually translated as ‘fair women with large, beautiful eyes. However, there is no evidence to support that the Prophet explained the word hoor or the verses that contain hoor and its intended meaning. The inferences of unsullied maidens and carnal pleasure drawn by the classical commentators are their personal ijtihad (interpretation) and therefore not binding. -------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Where Did These 72 Hooris Come From? -------------------------------------------------- The famous classical theologians and commentators like Tabari (died 923 CE), Ash’ari (died 936), Ghazali (died 1111), Ibn Kathir (died 1373) and Suyuti (died 1505) have acknowledged sensual pleasures in paradise. It seems Tabari repeated same narrative that emerged in 9th century based on hadiths influenced by foreign imports and the posterity followed suit. German Orientalist Christoph Luxenberg in his book ‘The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran’, originally published in German in 2001 argues that the term hoor ein is Syro-Aramaic which was lingua franca of the pre-Islamic Middle East, and it refers to ‘white grapes or raisins’. Ancient Christian hymns in Aramaic suggest the word refers to ‘grapes’ that the departed will enjoy in paradise. Adjective used for hoor in verse 56:26 says, “like the pearls hidden in the shells” and “no man or jinn ever touched them” verse 55:72, gives perfect sense in case of grapes and raisins. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: The Hoor in Paradise and Their Attributes in the Quran and Ahadith in Response to Inquiries Following the Newly Released Movie 72 Hoorain ----------------------------------------------------------------- Likewise, the term Wildaanun Mukhalladoon is Syro-Aramaic expression which means ‘chilled raisin drinks’ and not the ‘immortal young boys’ who will serve the drinks. Thus, the other adjectives “in vessels, pitchers and cup (56:18)” and “when you see them you would think them scattered pearls” (76:19) give sense. According to Luxenberg, the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that will be offered in Jannah. For Moroccan scholar Khalīd Benakrash (and others like Abdul-Karim Alwan Al-Khafaji) the term Hoor Ein has Arabic origin meaning spring of running water. They also argue grammatically that Zawwajnahum does not mean ‘marrying them’ or the object should come without preposition as can be seen in various places where this word occurred for marriage in Quran. They say ‘Wa Zawwajnahum Bi Hoor Ein’ (verse 44:54) suggests ‘the people in Jannah will have the company of running stream’. This description can be found in several places in Quran. Syrian philosopher Mohammad Shahrour (died 2019) says all such verses where Jannah and zauj (spouse) have occurred are for everybody irrespective of gender, and deriving sexual connotation is misreading of Quran. --- Nur Ul Islam Sadequey is an Arabic scholar and researcher based in Abu Dhabi, UAE URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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