Pleasures in the Islamic Heaven: Spiritual or Sensual?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Ever wondered why Christian missionaries come up with all kinds of stupid arguments in their bid to confuse the Truth? The answer is simple. For years they have been envious of the steady and deep inroads Islam has made into the hearts and minds of the people in the West. Decades ago, Adolf Hitler said;
“… it may be remarked that the progress made by the missions in spreading the Christian Faith abroad was only quite modest in comparison with the spread of Mohammedanism.” (Mein Kampf, Translated and annotated by James Murphy, Hurst & Blackett Ltd., Dec. 1939 p. 225)
And for a surety recently these wounds of envy have only got deeper. And the outcome is all the slandering campaign against the most demonized and yet the most rapidly growing religion.
Objections about Islamic Heaven:
The Heaven, they say, as represented in Qur’an and Hadith, Islam’s primary sources, is too sensuous and devoid of any spiritual fervor.
Christians take exception to the idea of palaces, maidens and other material delights in the Islamic heaven. Their main trouble lies with concept of spouses in the paradise. They argue as to how one can have sex in the ‘presence of God’?
Why material and physical delights?
We are humans, and even after resurrection we shall be humans, no doubted perfected but humans still. In wake of this reality John Davenport makes a valid observation;
“Another charge brought against Mohammed is the sensual character of the joys promised by him in his Paradise to those who shall receive his Law, and conform their lives to the precepts it contains; but, upon reflection, it will be found that there is nothing so absurd in this as is generally imagined by Christians, when it is considered that our bodies will, as we are told, assume, at the resurrection, a form so perfect as infinitely to surpass all that we can conceive,
and that our senses will acquire so extraordinary an activity and vigour as to be susceptible of the greatest pleasures, each according to the difference of their objects, for, indeed, if we take away from those faculties their proper exercise,
if we deprive them of the fit objects to please and gratify them, it cannot be otherwise than supposed that they have not only been given us to no purpose, but even to inflict upon us continual disappointment and pain.
For, in fact, by supposing that the soul and body are restored to us, as must necessarily be the case if our bodies are restored in a perfect state, it is not clear upon what grounds it can be supposed that the senses should not have objects to exercise upon, in order to be capable of bestowing and of tasting all the pleasures which they may be capable of affording. Can there be any sin, crime, shame or degradation in the enjoyment of such pleasures?”
(John Davenport: An Apology for Muhammed and the Koran, J. Davy and Sons, London pp. 144-145)
On material delights in general:
Before I come to the question of wide-eyed-maidens let us talk about the other material delights like palaces and ‘lavish eatables’.
Heaven will be a place of eternal and total delight. And as a person is neither merely soul nor just body he will be provided with everything that soothes his spirit or the body.
The skeptical notions about the issue arise from the fact that most people do not understand Islam’s approach to life and humankind. In Islam there is no dichotomy of spiritual and the mundane. And if they can both go hand in hand in this world, why be allergic to the same in the hereafter?
Are material delights opposed to Spirituality?
It seems that to a Christian mind, spirituality cannot be retained in the face of material delights and even needs. This is perhaps the reason why celibacy is so much celebrated as being devoted to God (See Rev. 14: 1-5)
While Jesus (PBUH) walked this Earth he did eat and drink. People of his time saw him eating and drinking and hurled the charge of being a ‘glutton and winebibber’. (Matthew 11:19). Obviously the charge was false and we reject it but we still hold, and the text of N.T. proves, he was not abstinent and ascetic like John the Baptist (PBUH).
When physical pleasures like eating and drinking could not prevent him from experiencing spiritual delights and he enjoyed the spiritual blessings more than the physical ones in this life, the physical pleasures in Paradise will not deprive people of their spiritual delights in the same manner.
Wide-Eyed Maidens and sensual pleasures:
Almost invariably, every Christian especially from the West will like to talk about the physical sensation of the sexual nature in the Islamic paradise. And thus inevitably we come across the mention of wide-eyed maidens.
Actually all this is in the backdrop of the culture from which the critics come. Giving full allowance of sex and sensuality they are still uneasy with the same when it is related to the divine blessings, albeit in a channelized manner. The credit goes to the Church which has long held and perhaps continues still to allow it only as a sort of necessary evil for the sake of procreation. Islam views the whole affair differently!
Man and, to make the statement more categorical even woman, yearn for a mate. And Islam recognizes the need as absolutely natural and hence justified. To put it straight, Islam does not view sex as an evil in itself and the same goes for all desires that emerge from human instincts. All it does is to channelize them.
Following Hadith clarifies the Islamic position;
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said; ‘… in the sexual act of each of you [with his wife] there is a charity.” They said: “O Messenger of Allah, when one of us fulfils his sexual desire will he have some reward for that?” He said: “Do you not think that were he to act upon it unlawfully he would be sinning? Likewise, if he has acted upon it lawfully he will have a reward.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1674)
Having known that sex is nothing intrinsically evil in this world; it’s being there in the heavens ought not to be a problem.
Gai Eaton tends to help us understand the thing at a deeper level;
“No less shocking to the Christian are the Quranic references to the wide-eyed maidens of Paradise, of whom it is said (in traditions) that were one of them to let down her scarf upon the world, the whole earth would be perfumed. How can this be reconciled with Jesus’s statement that there is no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven?
It is a question, surely, of what might be described as divine expediency: since people will always be inclined to take images of Paradise in too narrow and too earthly a sense, they must be told that ‘it is not like that at all’; but since nothing that is good or beautiful or dear to us on earth can be absent from Paradise,
we may take these as foretastes of heavenly joy, while trying to understand how inadequate such images are. Christianity emphasizes their inadequacy the Quran, on the other hand, ‘speaks in terms of pleasures of the senses, because these direct pleasures are in fact the earthly projections or shadows of the Paradisal archetypes which it is seeking to convey.
Having their roots in these archetypes, the sensations have power to recall them, for the “tether” which attaches the symbol to its reality not only traces the path by which the symbol came into existence but can become, in the opposite direction, a vibrating chord of spiritual remembrance’; and while reminding the soul that Paradise is intensely desirable, these descriptions serve also ‘to re-endow life on earth with a lost dimension’. (Gai Eaton: Islam and the Destiny of Man, Suhail Academy, Lahore, 1997 p. 48)
Sex in the ‘presence of God’?
Christians contend that how can sex ‘in the presence of God’ be justified? This is a naïve argument. For are we not in the presence of God in this world? Are we in some hiding from the Omnipresent? If something is justified here, the place of test, why not enjoy the same in the Abode of Bliss?
Greatest bliss in the Heaven will be spiritual:
Many Christians think the Islamic heaven is all about physical delights especially of the sexual nature! That is what shows you how unempirical are the critics in their approach towards Islamic ideas.
In Qur’an we read;
“Allah hath promised to Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah: that is the supreme felicity.” (Qur’an 9:72
Does the verse leave anything ambiguous?
Such were the lies which made John Davenport cry in his day and say;
“That Mohammed, in his Koran, promises the faithful the use of women, and mentions delightful gardens and other sensual delights, is true, but that he places the chief happiness in these things is a mistake.” (An Apology for Mohammed and Koran, p.145)
“It is, therefore, false that the pleasures of the Mohammedan Paradise consist exclusively in corporeal things and the use of them.” (p.146)
The Christian view of the Heaven:
Christians tend to convey that Heaven will be all about spiritual blessings. This is may be the popular Christian belief but the Bible does not consistently support the notion.
We read in the Bible that Adam and Eve were allowed to eat in the Heavens which they actually did;
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;” (Genesis 2:16)
If pleasures like eating were there back then, why do we suppose they are not present now? If man’s desire to eat is to be fulfilled why doubt the same about others?
There is no evidence from the Bible to hold that the Paradise from which Adam and Eve fell will be different from the one that all believers yearn to enter into or are promised of.
Christians will certainly make a quick reference to Matthew 22:30 arguing that after resurrection people will be like angels.
Now the question is whether angels, according to the Bible, are free from all requirements? Not really! Bible tells us a story different from the Islamic one and what may be the general impressions. Bible tells us of the two Angels came to Prophet Lot (PBUH) and;
“He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.” (Genesis 19: 1-3)
Same is true for the angels that came to Abraham (PBUH). They also ate ‘curds and milk and the calf.’ (Genesis 18:8). By the way, same story is mentioned in Qur’an wherein we read that angels did not even touch the things brought to them. See Qur’an 51: 26-28
P.V. Carletti in a footnote to his own French translation of Shaykh Rahmatullah Hindi’s book Izharul Haqq (Truth Revealed) gives his insight into the issue. Making a reference to Matthew 26:29 he says that there will be drinking in the Father’s Kingdom i.e. the Heaven and using Luke 22:16 he maintains the same about eating.
After alluding to all these examples he writes;
“Le paradis des Chrétiens ne me paraît donc pas plus spirituel que celui du Coran; pourquoi faire tant de bruit pour la présence des femmes seulement?” (Idh-Har-ul-Haqq, Translated by P.V.Carletti , Ernest Leroux Editeur, Paris 1880. vol.2 p.72)
When translated it reads;
“The paradise of the Christians does not seem to me more spiritual than that of the Qur’an; why make so much noise for the presence of women only?”
Only if the critics can rid themselves of self styled and unnatural ideals of spirituality they can understand how the Islamic idea of Heaven is the perfect one. Islam promises humans everything of delight in the Paradise, the Abode of Eternal and Total Bliss.
If we shall be raised as perfect humans then surely we shall have all our senses and if any of our senses is rejected the objects to work upon then the paradise will no more be a place of total reward rather a source of pain with regards to that sense. Such an idea is inconsistent with Paradise, atleast as envisioned by Islam –the religion of inborn human nature!
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!
Source Let me turn the tables