In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms.
HURS–MAIDENS OR MANJI’S RAISINS?
Irshad Manji writes in her book, The Trouble with Islam: “….it’s long been claimed that the Koran promises this reward (seventy virgins) to Muslim martyrs. But we have reason to believe that there’s trouble in paradise, a human error that’s made its way into the Koran. According to new research, what martyrs can anticipate for their sacrifices aren’t virgins but raisins! The word that Koranic scholars have for centuries read as “dark-eyed virgins”–hur–might be more accurately understood as “white raisins.” (Don’t laugh. Not excessively, anyway. Raisins would have been pricey enough delicacies in seventh-century Arabia to be considered a heavenly treat.) Still, raisins instead of virgins? Please. How can the Koran be so mistaken? The historian who makes this case, Christoph Luxemberg, is a specialist in Middle Eastern languages.” (pp. 50-51).
RESPONSE: Would martyrs (and faithful men) receive “seventy virgins” each in Paradise? And women also are martyrs. (If the martyrs and faithful men will have virgins, what will the faithful women have? And Allah is not unjust).
There is no place in the Qur’an that expresses such a reward to the martyrs (or to faithful men). Allah tells us plainly: “And no soul knows what delights of the eyes is kept hidden for them, as a reward for their (good) deeds”–(Qur’an 32:17).
And the Prophet Mohammad is reported to have said: “Allah says, I have prepared for My righteous servants that which no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and which the heart of man cannot conceive–(Bokhari Vol. 4, # 467; Vol. 6:, # 302-303; Vol. 9, # 589).
Man can relate to things only in the physical life. To us the ultimate in possessions are gold and precious stones, wealth and carnal pleasure. So Allah relates to us in terms of what we understand. These descriptions of paradise are to let us know that we will receive in paradise the ultimate in bliss.
There is nothing scandalous about having pleasure in paradise. This –having peace and joy– seemingly, is the desire and goal of every religionist. However, heavenly bliss is not a pleasure of the body. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din points out:
“The Muslim Paradise is not, it must be understood, a garden for the voluptuary, where he may sit in the company of maidens under the shade of trees, with goblets of wine circling continually for the enjoyment of the dissipated. We read, it is true, of Hur (Qur’an 44:54) in the Muslim Paradise….But we are assured that these damsels of heaven will be possessed of a pure and spotless heart (Qur’an 56:22), which the very word Hur literally means. Their eyes, fascinating as they may be, will not be the bearers of amorous message ……We shall all be free of physical appetites and there will be no further procreation of the species….It may be said that the Hurs are not wanted if they are not to play the role of wife as in our earthly sojourn. But those who say so only betray the hollowness of their own minds. Even in this life bed is not the best part of our happiness. All earthly tastes lose their attractions for us when we pass a certain age. Intellectual or spiritual pleasures alone can captivate us for good. Knowledge, and not the flesh, is our real pleasure.”1 (Much like a ballerina finds pleasure in his/her dancing, and a musician in his/her music).
There are several verses of the Qur’an dealing with the rewards of Paradise, but the women mentioned in Paradise are not there to serve the “fantasies” of men. Allah says that “The dutiful will be surely in Gardens and bliss….. Reclining on thrones set in lines, and We shall join them to pure; beautiful ones”–(Qur’an 52:17, 20). (As emphasized, both men and women are “dutiful”).
It would seem that in the Hereafter there would not be any carnal relations, as Allah says we would be given new forms–perhaps, as the physical world requires a physical form, the Hereafter being spiritual, it seems that we will have a spiritual form–(Qur’an 56:61).
However, arguably, since intimacy in the physical plain is Divinely permitted in the bed of marriage, where is the problem if in the spiritual realm men would be given virgins and women youths?
Hurs–maidens or raisins?: The word that means raisins (or white raisins) must be agonizingly similar to the word hur for scholars –not only one scholar but all of them that I have read– to mistake raisins for maidens/“virgins.” Could Allāh have been “mistaken” in His choice of this word hur, which “might be more accurately understood as “white raisins””? (Might, mind you! Not for certain!)
Muhammad Ali explains (Qur’an 52:20, comm. 2356):
“The word hur occurs four times in the Holy Qur’an, and on two of these occasions, here and in 44:54, the form adopted is zawwajna-kum bi-hur-in ‘in, and in 55:72 and 56:22 there is no mention of tazwij (“join”). While zawwaj-tu-hu imra‘t-an (doubly transitive without a particle) means I gave him in marriage a woman (LL), zawwaja shai’-an bi-shai’-in (made doubly transitive with particle bi) means he coupled a thing with a thing or united it to it as its fellow or like (LL). It is added, quoting 44:54 and 52:20, “the meaning is not the tazwij commonly known (i.e., marriage), for there will be no such tazwij in paradise”. Along with it is quoted 81:7, wa idha-l-nufusu zuwwijat, which is translated as meaning and when the souls shall be coupled, or paired, or united with their fellows, or according to some “when each sect, or party, shall be united with those whom it has followed” (LL). As regards the word hur, it is a plural of ahwar (applied to a man) and of haura’ (applied to a woman), signifying one having eyes characterized by the quality termed hawar, which means intense whiteness of the white of the eye and intense blackness of the black thereof. The word ahwar (singular of hur) also signifies pure or clear intellect (LL). The other word, ‘in, is plural of a‘yan (meaning a man wide in the eyes) and of ‘aina’ (meaning a woman beautiful and wide in the eye). The latter word also signifies a good or beautiful word, or saying (LL). It may be noted that whiteness is also a symbol of perfect and unsullied purity, and hence the two words hur and ‘in really stand for purity and beauty; and therefore, instead of white-eyed and large-eyed ones, I adopt the words pure and beautiful ones, as being more expressive of the true significance.
To realize the true significance of these words, two points must be borne in mind. The first is that paradise is a place for faithful women as well as for the faithful men, and hence the Holy Qur’an often speaks of the faithful as being in paradise with their wives; see for instance 36:56…13:23 and 40:8… The second is that the blessings of paradise are alike for women and men, there being not the least difference in this respect between the two sexes. ….the Holy Qur’an does not speak of any conjugal relations being maintained in a physical sense in the life to come. Moreover, it has been shown on various occasions that, where the blessings of paradise are spoken of, these are nothing but physical manifestations of the spiritual blessings which the doers of good enjoy in this life too. There are gardens, trees, rivers, milk, honey, fruits and numerous other blessings spoken of as being met with in paradise, but that all these are not things of this life has been shown more than once in these footnotes, and a saying of the Holy Prophet already quoted makes it clear that the blessings of paradise are not the things of this life. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: Allah says I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has seen and no ear has heard and what the heart of man has not conceived (Bukhari 59:8/Vol. 6, # 302). The Holy Qur’an also speaks of them in similar words: No soul knows what is hidden for it (32:17). These clear statements need no comment, and they establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that whatever blessings are spoken of as existing in paradise, the one thing sure about them is that they are not things of this world. Hence even the white-eyed, large-eyed ones, or the pure, beautiful ones, the hur ‘in, of this verse, are not actually the beautiful women of this life. These are heavenly blessings, which the righteous women shall have along with the righteous men, for v. 17 plainly says that those who keep their duty will find these blessings, and therefore the pure, beautiful ones are as much a blessing meant for the righteous women as for the righteous men.
The question may still be asked, why are these blessings described in words which apply to women? The fact is that the reward spoken of here is one having special reference to the purity of character and the beautiful deeds of the righteous, and it is womanhood, not manhood, that stands for a symbol of purity and beauty. (M. Ali explained Arabic terms and noted that) “this is another reason why the reward of good and pure deeds is spoken of in terms which apply to women. But note also that both hur (purity) and ‘in (beauty) are plurals of words applying to men as well as to women, as also to qualities and deeds.”
Of the possibly tens of thousands of raisins I have so far seen, I have yet to see at least one with beautiful big lustrous eyes as the Qur’an details these hurs to have. (“Don’t laugh. Not excessively, anyway”).
Allah says that dutiful men shall be joined with hur–(Qur’an 52:20). Can you envision men joined with “raisins”? (“Don’t laugh. Not excessively, anyway”).
Allah says that these hurs, untouched by man or jinn, are confined to pavilions–(Qur’an 55:72-74).
Have you ever heard of “raisins” being “untouched” by man or jinn and “confined” to pavilions? (“Don’t laugh. Not excessively, anyway”).
These hurs are likened unto hidden pearls–(Qur’an 56:22).
Have you ever heard of “raisins” likened unto hidden pearls, even though it might have been a “pricey enough delicacies in seventh-century Arabia”? (“Don’t laugh. Not excessively, anyway”).
And the Prophet Muhammad, who is the foremost authority in explaining the Qur’an, said of these hurs –“Beautiful fair females”– that: “In Paradise there is a pavilion made of a single hollow pearl sixty miles wide, in each corner of which there are wives….”–(Bokhari, Vol. 6, # 402).
Wives not raisins. Have you ever heard of raisins being called “wives” even though it might have been a “pricey enough delicacies in seventh-century Arabia”? (“Don’t laugh. Not excessively, anyway”).
It is an astonishment of monumental proportion that a believer in Allah would rationalize that this infallible God, this Master Designer and Creator of all –from the gigantic orb to the minute atom– and Who instills laws for their precise operation, processes for their growth, and systems for their function is “mistaken” in his dictation of a word (hur), whereas a fallible mortal (whom He has created) is correct, or even “might” be correct, in interpreting this word. SUBHAAN ALLAAH!!!
The Arabic word for grapes, from which raisins are derived, is ‘anib, and the Arabic word for raisins, whether black or white or brown, cheap or “pricey” is zabeeb.
Whether in sound or letters, ‘anib and zabeeb are apart from hur as the walls of the Grand Canyon are from each other so that the Qur’anic scholars should be mistaken in their translation.
Even without the above presentation, a few moments head-work would dictate that it is amusing to entertain that Allāh would try to attract man –especially the educated and the affluent– to trade their lives in His cause or to eschew evil with promises of “raisins,” be they “white,” black, or crimson –literal or metaphorical.
And to know, Islam is the one said to be without “reason.”
(May be the reason why in these days there are no “white raisins” with “beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes,” is because those unique “white-raisins” plants eventually heard through the “grape-vines” about the fig tree cursed to death by Jesus and they all died from “shock and awe”).
1. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Introduction to the Study of the Holy Qur’an, pp. 109, 110.