Companions of Heaven

Based on “hadiths” (claimed sayings of prophet Muhammad), some traditional Muslims believe that Muslim men will be rewarded with 70 “houris”/companions/fair maidens specially created for them and two believing women from this life. Some of the descriptions found in these “hadiths”, previous and current interpretations and translations of the Quran are very demeaning and offensive to all women and any decent man who believes in God and the authenticity of the Quran.

This corrupted belief had –and still has- lamentable implications in the way women are treated up to today in the “Muslim” world.

I undertook the task of compiling the verses that are claimed to refer to these beautiful chaste young virgin companions/fair maidens with gaze lowered and swelling breasts –these offensive descriptions can be found in some Quranic translations and interpretations-. I was convinced that there is corruption in the traditional interpretation of the Quranic text. When reading the context of the compiled verses without preconceived ideas based on tradition and male dominated connotations, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these verses were referring to something totally different to what it was claimed. I was also shocked to see that this lie had lasted for so long unchallenged. The context of these verses was about food, drink, comfortable furnishings and other “material” descriptions of heaven without reference to any other “beings”. They were not about these pure “houris” as it is still believed by many “Muslims”.

The word “hur” by itself is only an adjective or an attribute meaning pure/white/crystal clear, as for the noun “Houris” claimed to refer to these heavenly companions; it is a pure invention and has no Quranic basis. Before investigating the list of all the descriptions contained in the Quran let us find out who you will be with in heaven if one was blessed by God and saved from the punishment of hellfire.

Who is in heaven?

Believers will be with their spouses. The word “azwajuhum” (their spouses) in verse 36:56 is un-gendered and could refer to either partner.

Verses 2:25, 4:57 describe the spouses as pure (azwaajun muttahharatun).

36:54-56

Khalifa: On that day, no soul will be wronged in the least. You will be paid precisely for whatever you did. 

YusufAli: Then, on that Day, not a soul will be wronged in the least, and ye shall but be repaid the meeds of your past Deeds.

Arabic: Faalyawma la tuthlamu nafsun shay-an wala tujzawna illa ma kuntum taAAmaloona 

Khalifa: The dwellers of Paradise will be, on that day, happily busy. 

YusufAli: Verily the Companions of the Garden shall that Day have joy in all that they do;

Arabic: Inna as-haba aljannati alyawma fee shughulin fakihoona 

Khalifa: They abide with their spouses in beautiful shade, enjoying comfortable furnishings. 

YusufAli: They and their associates will be in groves of (cool) shade, reclining on Thrones (of dignity);

Arabic: Hum waazwajuhum fee thilalin AAala al-ara-iki muttaki-oona 

Khalifa: They will have fruits therein; they will have anything they wish. 

YusufAli: (Every) fruit (enjoyment) will be there for them; they shall have whatever they call for;

Arabic: Lahum feeha fakihatun walahum ma yaddaAAoona 

They will be gathered with those who followed them in belief from among their children and descendents.

59:21

Khalifa: For those who believed, and their children also followed them in belief, we will have their children join them. We never fail to reward them for any work. Every person is paid for what he did. 

YusufAli: And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith,- to them shall We join their families: Nor shall We deprive them (of the fruit) of aught of their works: (Yet) is each individual in pledge for his deeds.

Arabic: Waallatheena amanoo waittabaAAat-hum thurriyyatuhum bi-eemanin alhaqna bihim thurriyyatahum wama alatnahum min AAamalihim min shay-in kullu imri-in bima kasaba raheenun 

This is further confirmed in verse 40:8.

Verses 40:7-8

Khalifa: Those who serve the throne and all those around it glorify and praise their Lord, and believe in Him. And they ask forgiveness for those who believe: 'Our Lord, Your mercy and Your knowledge encompass all things. Forgive those who repent and follow Your path, and spare them the retribution of Hell. 

Arabic: Allatheena yahmiloona alAAarsha waman hawlahu yusabbihoona bihamdi rabbihim wayu/minoona bihi wayastaghfiroona lillatheena amanoo rabbana wasiAAta kulla shay-in rahmatan waAAilman faighfir lillatheena taboo waittabaAAoo sabeelaka waqihim AAathaba aljaheemi 

Khalifa: 'Our Lord, and admit them into the gardens of Eden that You promised for them and for the righteous among their parents, spouses, and children. You are the Almighty, Most Wise. 

Arabic: Rabbana waadkhilhum jannati AAadnin allatee waAAadtahum waman salaha min aba-ihim waazwajihim wathurriyyatihim innaka anta alAAazeezu alhakeemu 

Key Words and misinterpretations:

I have listed below the common attributes and adjectives of these “companions” as described by most translations/interpretation. In most of these verses, there is no noun as translators take it as implied (to be companions/fair maidens) and did not look into the context and previous verses to find an appropriate noun.

Hur: Pure and chaste Houris, companions, fair women

(bi) hoorin Aaeenin: fair women with big and lustrous eyes, wonderful spouses

Qasiratu alttarfi: chaste women, restraining their glances

Qasiratu alttarfi Aaeenu: chaste women, restraining their glances, with big eyes (of wonder and beauty), wonderful companions.

Kharatun hissanun: beautiful mates, fair (companions), good, beautiful

Atraban: (companions) of equal age

Kawa3iban Atraban: (blooming) young maidens suiting their age, and also matching in all other respects, magnificient spouses, voluptuous women of equal age.

3uruban atraban: perfectly matched, beloved (by nature), equal in age.

Let us now look into every description/attribute in the occurring verses.

“Qasiratu alttarfi” and “hurun” in Chaptre 55

I consider chapter “Al-rahman” (55), one of the key chapters to rediscover and unlock some key attributes of heaven, once we set aside the deliberate corruptions or the unintentional assumptions. There is an interesting duality and polarity theme that develops throughout this chapter; however it is beyond the scope of this article to expand on it.

It is worth noting that in Arabic, nouns can be in either masculine or feminine form (the verbs will “follow” the inclination), in addition there are three forms: singular, dual and plural. In chapter 55, there are some key points where there is a switch from one form to another that would help understand the subject (and the object) being referred to.

Dual to plural switch:

Verses 55:46-61

055:046

Khalifa: For those who reverence the majesty of their Lord, two gardens (one for the jinns and one for the humans). 

YusufAli: But for such as fear the time when they will stand before (the Judgment Seat of) their Lord, there will be two Gardens-

Arabic: Waliman khafa maqama rabbihi jannatani 

055:047

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?-

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:048

Khalifa: Full of provisions. 

YusufAli: Containing all kinds (of trees and delights);-

Arabic: Thawata afnanin 

055:049

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?-

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:050

Khalifa: Two springs are in them, flowing. 

YusufAli: In them (each) will be two Springs flowing (free);

Arabic: Feehima AAaynani tajriyani 

055:051

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?-

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:052

Khalifa: Of every fruit in them, two kinds. 

YusufAli: In them will be Fruits of every kind, two and two.

Arabic: Feehima min kulli fakihatin zawjani 

055:053

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:054

Khalifa: While relaxing on furnishings lined with satin, the fruits are within reach. 

YusufAli: They will recline on Carpets, whose inner linings will be of rich brocade: the Fruit of the Gardens will be near (and easy of reach).

Arabic: Muttaki-eena AAala furushin bata-inuha min istabraqin wajana aljannatayni danin 

055:055

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:056

Khalifa: Their beautiful mates were never touched by any human or jinn. 

YusufAli: In them will be (Maidens), chaste, restraining their glances, whom no man or Jinn before them has touched;- 

Arabic: Feehinna qasiratu alttarfi lam yatmithhunna insun qablahum wala jannun 

055:057

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?-

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:058

Khalifa: They look like gems and coral. 

YusufAli: Like unto Rubies and coral.

Arabic: Kaannahunna alyaqootu waalmarjanu 

055:059

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

055:060

Khalifa: Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness? 

YusufAli: Is there any Reward for Good - other than Good?

Arabic: Hal jazao al-ihsani illa al-ihsanu 

055:061

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Please note that verses 55:47-48 are describing the two gardens.

The dual form “Feehima” (meaning: in the 2 of them) is used to describe what’s in those two gardens in verses: 55:50 and 55:52. Verse 55:54 is broken down into two parts; the first part is describing the state of people –men and women- who are rewarded in heaven within these gardens:

“They will recline on Carpets, whose inner linings will be of rich brocade”

And the second part is:

“The Fruit of the Gardens will be near (and easy of reach).”

 (wajana aljannatayni danin)

It states that the fruits of the 2 gardens are bending down (easy to pluck).

We also found the expression: “qutufuha daania” (The clusters of fruit of which will be ganging) in verse 69:23.

69:22-23

In a lofty Garden.

The cluster of fruit of which will be hanging.

Now, we are getting closer to the meaning of the expression “Qasiratu alttarfi”.

From the dual form “Feehima” in verses 55:50 and 55:52, we notice a switch to “Feehina” (In them) where them (Huna) is in plural feminine inclination, therefore this can not be about describing additional “beings” or creatures in the “two gardens”. The addressed all along in chapter 55 is in dual form referring to “manifest” nature of humans and hidden nature of “jinn” which we don’t have a full grasp of their nature yet as in 55:55

“Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?”

Arabic: “Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani”

The verb “tukaththibani” (to deny) is in dual form. The only logical object left that is referred to by the pronoun “huna” is in the last part of verse 55:54. It could only be about the “fruits” that are hanging low –in the “implied” branches of the trees-.

Being chaste for men and women has always been expressed in the Quran by the expression “Hifdh el faraj” and not by the forced interpretation of “Qasiratu alttarfi”. It has been assumed that it means “to lower the gaze”. However lowering the gaze is always expressed by “ghadh el bassar” as found in 24:30 and 24:31.

Heaven is not a place where the concepts of being chaste or unchaste, lowering the gaze or not lowering the gaze apply. It is a place where believers will be rewarded and not accountable again for their deeds, this makes the whole interpretation of the expression “Qasiratu alttarfi” as  “chaste”/”gaze lowered” ridiculous and inconsistent with the Quranic text. The root of “Qasiratu” is “Qasara”: to shorten/make short and it has been assumed that “alttarfi” is the eyelid. Technically speaking, when you shorten your eyelid, you are opening your eyes wider! If you want to really “lower your gaze”, you need to “lengthen” and show more of your eyelid surface. The expression used in the Quran for the “blink of the eye” is “irtadda elttaraf” as found in verses 14:43 and 27:40 and these are totally unrelated to the topic of “lower the gaze”.

In its general sense, “taraf” is simply “end” as expressed in the Quran by “tarafay elnahhar” (two ends of the day-verse 11:114) or “Atraaf elnahaar” (ends of the day-verse 20:130). “Taraf” –end- is a multi-meaning word, it is found in verses 13:41 and 21:44 to express the “ends” of the earth. I have to remember here my basic biology/science lessons in the primary school: The body is divided into three “parts”: “Elraas” (the head), “El jidh3” (the trunk) and “el atraaf” –ends- (the limbs: arms and legs) as arms and legs are the end parts of your body. Therefore “Qasiratu alttarfi” is simply a description of the “fruits that are hanging low”, thus you can reach them easily for plucking/picking effortlessly without having to stretch your arms (or take a long walk).

The concept of availability, ease of reach and accessibility of the gardens’ fruits is also found in verse 76:14.

Verse 76:14

Khalifa: The shade covers them therein, and the fruits are brought within reach. 

YusufAli: And the shades of the (Garden) will come low over them, and the bunches (of fruit), there, will hang low in humility.

Arabic: Wadaniyatan AAalayhim thilaluha wathullilat qutoofuha tathleelan 

“lam yatmithhunna insun qablahum wala jannun”: no man or Jinn before them has touched?

If the context was about “companions”, then the above statement implies and insinuates that these “maidens” who are chaste with gaze lowered will be “touched” after. This is clearly an impure inappropriate “fantasy” interpretation. It is sad to find that in traditional Muslim literature the concept of heaven is a place specially created for men; there is no equality between men and women. For them, heaven is simply an extension of the earth where they established control and dominance over women through legitimising unsanctioned polygamy and unlimited sex with slaves: One man’s heaven is another woman’s hell. However, I must emphasise that this concept and belief is not shared by all Muslims traditional or not and my aim is to present a Quranic logical alternative understanding to all those who feel uncomfortable with some traditional literature and interpretation.

The verb used in other occurrences about being touched is “massa” or “tamaassa” as in verses: 2:236-237, 3:47, 19:20, 33:49, 58:3-4 etc..

Because of the context of verse 55:57, the verb “tamatha” could be rendered as: to experience/to taste/”to spoil”/to touch or to consume (fruits of heaven). The delicacies of heaven from food and drink are nothing like anything experienced on earth. They are pure, holy and perfected in all aspects and manners.

The interpretation of verse 55:58 becomes very simple, what is “Like rubies and pearls/coral” are simply the fruits of the gardens. If verse 55:56 was describing “inner” qualities of the fruits, then verse 55:58 is describing their outer/visual properties. There many more obvious “dualities”, part of the theme I mentioned earlier on.

Beautiful mates (Kharatun hissanun),“untouched” and Hooran

Verses 55:62-74

Khalifa: Below them are two gardens (one for the jinns and one for the humans). 

YusufAli: And besides these two, there are two other Gardens,-

Arabic: Wamin doonihima jannatani 

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?-

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Khalifa: Side by side. 

YusufAli: Dark-green in colour (from plentiful watering).

Arabic: Mudhammatani 

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Khalifa: In them, wells to be pumped. 

YusufAli: In them (each) will be two Springs pouring forth water in continuous abundance:

Arabic: Feehima AAaynani naddakhatani 

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Khalifa: In them are fruits, date palms, and pomegranate. 

YusufAli: In them will be Fruits, and dates and pomegranates:

Arabic: Feehima fakihatun wanakhlun warummanun 

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Khalifa: In them are beautiful mates. 

YusufAli: In them will be fair (Companions), good, beautiful;-

Arabic: Feehinna khayratun hisanun 

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Khalifa: Confined in the tents. 

YusufAli: Companions restrained (as to their glances), in (goodly) pavilions;

Arabic: Hoorun maqsooratun fee alkhiyami 

Khalifa: Which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? 

YusufAli: Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Arabic: Fabi-ayyi ala-i rabbikuma tukaththibani 

Khalifa: No human ever touched them, nor a jinn. 

YusufAli: Whom no man or Jinn before them has touched;

In verse 55:70 “Feehinna khayratun hisanun”, there is a switch to plural feminine form (feehina) in contrast to the dual form (feehima) in verses 55:62, 55:64, 55:66 and 55:68. Therefore what’s being referred to by the pronoun is not the two gardens (or what’s in them), but rather an added description of what was mentioned before in verse 55:68; these are the fruits, dates and pomegranates. “Khayratun” and “hisanun” are adjectives, there is no noun in the Arabic text as found in English translations (mates, companions or maidens). As the verse was misunderstood, the idea of “mates”/”companions” object was perceived to be implied.

“Feehinna khayratun hisanun”= “In them goodness/benefits, most excellent”.

The two adjectives simply describe the qualities of the heavenly fruits mentioned in verse 55:68.

Verse 55:72 “Hoorun maqsooratun fee alkhiyami” is simply a continuation of what is being already described (fruits in 55:68, qualities in 55:70 and further attributes in this verse 55:72). There is no noun object in this verse again. “Hoorun” simply means pure in the current context.

It is not fitting to find that what is being described are “companions” who are confined and restrained in tents! This might as well be a place of very low morality –to say the least-. “Maqsooratun fee alkhiyami” is about fruits contained/piled/stacked –within reach as “maqsooratun” has also root from “qasara”: to be short- inside the tents.

Verse 55:74 is again about fruits that no one has experienced/consumed before:

“No a human or a jinn has experienced/consumed/”spoilt”/touched them before”.

“Wahoorun AAeenun” Companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes? 56:22

Verses 56:15-40

56:15

Khalifa: On luxurious furnishings. 

YusufAli: (They will be) on Thrones encrusted (with gold and precious stones),

Arabic: AAala sururin mawdoonatin 

056:016  

Khalifa: Enjoying everything, they will be neighbors. 

YusufAli: Reclining on them, facing each other.

Arabic: Muttaki-eena AAalayha mutaqabileena 

056:017  

Khalifa: Serving them will be immortal servants. 

YusufAli: Round about them will (serve) youths of perpetual (freshness),

Arabic: Yatoofu AAalayhim wildanun mukhalladoona 

056:018

Khalifa: With cups, pitchers and pure drinks. 

YusufAli: With goblets, (shining) beakers, and cups (filled) out of clear-flowing fountains:

Arabic: Bi-akwabin waabareeqa waka/sin min maAAeenin 

056:019  

Khalifa: They never run out, nor do they get bored. 

YusufAli: No after-ache will they receive therefrom, nor will they suffer intoxication:

Arabic: La yusaddaAAoona AAanha wala yunzifoona 

056:020  

Khalifa: Fruits of their choice. 

YusufAli: And with fruits, any that they may select:

Arabic: Wafakihatin mimma yatakhayyaroona 

056:021

Khalifa: Meat of birds that they desire. 

YusufAli: And the flesh of fowls, any that they may desire.

Arabic: Walahmi tayrin mimma yashtahoona 

056:022 

Khalifa: Beautiful mates. 

YusufAli: And (there will be) Companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes,-

Arabic: Wahoorun AAeenun 

056:023  

Khalifa: Like protected pearls. 

YusufAli: Like unto Pearls well-guarded.

Arabic: Kaamthali allu/lui almaknooni 

056:024 

Khalifa: Rewards for their works. 

YusufAli: A Reward for the deeds of their past (life).

Arabic: Jazaan bima kanoo yaAAmaloona 

At last, we come across an attribute “Hoorun” that is joined by a noun “AAeenun” and this seems in “contradiction” with I have been claiming so far!

First of all, let us look into the list of other “items” and heavenly “objects” and “pleasures” described:

56:15: Luxurious furnishings/Gold-encrusted Thrones

56:18: Goblets, beakers and cups filled –of pure clean drinks-

56:20: Fruits of their choice

56:21: Birds –that they desire-

56:22: “Wahoorun AAeenun” –Could this be (companions) with beautiful, big and lustrous eyes?-

It is important to note that the word companion/mate is non-existent in the Arabic text; the only noun (object) is “3eenun” that was taken to mean “eyes”.

Every other item in the list is an “object” reward to believing men and women who are reclining/seated face to face (verse 55:16). The exception taken by all interpretations is that verse 56:22 is referring to “beings” and these “beings” are part of the reward. However these “beings” are not described all in full –like all other items-, but only their “eyes” which are big, pure, beautiful and lustrous. This is clearly a continuation of a “fantasy” theme intended to corrupt the interpretation and the understanding of the Quran. The word “hoorun” by itself could only mean pure or crystal clear. “3ayn” is a letter in Arabic alphabet, in addition “Aaeenun” could either mean eye/eyes or spring/springs. Both occurrences are found in the Quran in numerous times:

3aynun= one eye           3aynun=one spring (singular form)

3aynaan= two eyes        3aynaan=two springs (dual forms)

The plural form could either be “A3yun” or “3uyoon”.

For “3ayn” meaning “eye” in different forms, please refer to verses 3:13, 5:45, 5:83, 7:116, 7:179, 7:195, 8:44, 11:31, 12:84, 15:88, 18:28, 20:40, 76:6 etc…

For “3ayn” meaning “spring” in different forms, please refer to verses 2:60, 7:160, 15:45, 26:57, 55:50, 55:66, 76:18 etc…

“hoorun AAeenun” is about pure/clear springs, The adjective “Hoor” describes the whole of the spring. One must wonder why God Almighty will go down to the level of  describing “beings”/ “special companions” of his creation through one part of their “anatomy” be it big lustrous eyes, fully grown breasts (kawa3ib) or fair skin, He who breathed in us from his “ruh” (spirit). In truth, God only describes the righteous beings he resurrected in the most fitting of terms and best of ways as “pure/purified spouses” with no gender differentiation. It is demeaning and insulting to all women: our mothers, our spouses, our daughters and our sisters to find these “anatomy” attributes in any Quranic understanding or interpretation.

Verse 2:25

Khalifa: Give good news to those who believe and lead a righteous life that they will have gardens with flowing streams. When provided with a provision of fruits therein, they will say, 'This is what was provided for us previously.' Thus, they are given allegorical descriptions. They will have pure spouses therein, and they abide therein forever. 

YusufAli: But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow. Every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say: 'Why, this is what we were fed with before,' for they are given things in similitude; and they have therein companions pure (and holy); and they abide therein (for ever).

Arabic: Wabashshiri allatheena amanoo waAAamiloo alssalihati anna lahum jannatin tajree min tahtiha al-anharu kullama ruziqoo minha min thamaratin rizqan qaloo hatha allathee ruziqna min qablu waotoo bihi mutashabihan walahum feeha azwajun mutahharatun wahum feeha khalidoona 

Verse 4:57

Khalifa: As for those who believe and lead a righteous life, we will admit them into gardens with flowing streams; they abide therein forever. They will have pure spouses therein. We will admit them into a blissful shade. 

YusufAli: But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal home: Therein shall they have companions pure and holy: We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening.

Arabic: Waallatheena amanoo waAAamiloo alssalihati sanudkhiluhum jannatin tajree min tahtiha al-anharu khalideena feeha abadan lahum feeha azwajun mutahharatun wanudkhiluhum thillan thaleelan 

Suddenly, we find that those pure flowing springs that were an integral part of the picture of the gardens portrayed in Chapter 55 (verses 55:50 and 55:66) are also part of the scenery described in Chapter 56. At the same time, the “non-existent” mysterious companions have also disappeared from Chapter 56 as they have from Chapter 55!

Putting the concerned verses of chapter 56 together again, we find that the flow, context and the “units” of the “frame” fit in perfectly.

Verse 56:18-24

“With goblets, (shining) beakers, and cups (filled) out of clear-flowing fountains:

No after-ache will they receive therefrom, nor will they suffer intoxication:

And with fruits, any that they may select:

And the flesh of fowls, any that they may desire.

And pure/clear springs,

Like unto Pearls well-guarded.

A Reward for the deeds of their past (life).”

As an analogy in English, if one reads the following sentence:

“It was a beautiful spring.”

Only the context would help to understand if the “spring” was referring to the season spring or a spring of water. For automobile fans, it may even be referring to a mechanical spring/springs used in cars as shock-absorbers.

Before analysing verses 56:36-37, let us look into other relevant verses from chapters 44, 52, 78 and 38.

Marrying them to/ twining them with/ granting them pure eyes?

Verses 44:53-55

Khalifa: Wearing velvet and satin; close to each other. 

YusufAli: Dressed in fine silk and in rich brocade, they will face each other;

Arabic: Yalbasoona min sundusin wa-istabraqin mutaqabileena 

Khalifa: We grant them wonderful spouses. 

YusufAli: So; and We shall join them to fair women with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes.

Arabic: Kathalika wazawwajnahum bihoorin AAeenin 

Khalifa: They enjoy in it all kinds of fruits, in perfect peace. 

YusufAli: There can they call for every kind of fruit in peace and security;

Arabic: YadAAoona feeha bikulli fakihatin amineena   

On the day of judgement and requital, God will not perform wedding ceremonies or rule in divorce issues. He will not pick up and match fair maidens/pure companions with earthly beings. God made the just rule that believers will be with their spouses and righteous descendents (verses 36:56, 2:25, 4:57 and 59:21).

The verb “zawwaja” in verse 44:54 could mean “matched”, “paired” or “granted”. This is not about joining two different types of beings together, it is about granting one type of God’s gifts (pure springs) further to what was granted in the previous verse (Silk and Satin clothing). The believers will be granted pure springs 44:54) to go with the garments of silk satin (44:53) and furthermore, they will have plentiful fruits in serine tranquillity and peace (44:55).

From the root “za wa ja”, we can find the noun “azwaaja” in plural which does not always carry the meaning of “spouses”. Verse 38:58 shows an alternative meaning similar to the one we are exploring in verse 44:54 (of the verb form), but in the negative form. It is about “compounding”/”increasing”/”doubling” the retribution of hell of the transgressors, the hellish drink and the bitter food with similar/same kind of penalties.

Verses 38:55-60

Khalifa: As for the transgressors, they have incurred a miserable destiny.  

YusufAli: Yea, such! but - for the wrong-doers will be an evil place of (Final) Return!-

Arabic: Hatha wa-inna lilttagheena lasharra maabin 

Khalifa: Hell is where they burn; what a miserable abode! 

YusufAli: Hell!- they will burn therein, - an evil bed (indeed, to lie on)!-

Arabic: Jahannama yaslawnaha fabi/sa almihadu 

Khalifa: What they taste therein will be hellish drinks and bitter food. 

YusufAli: Yea, such! - then shall they taste it,- a boiling fluid, and a fluid dark, murky, intensely cold!-

Arabic: Hatha falyathooqoohu hameemun waghassaqun 

Khalifa: And much more of the same kind. 

YusufAli: And other Penalties of a similar kind, to match them!

Arabic: Waakharu min shaklihi azwajun 

Khalifa: 'This is a group to be thrown into Hell with you.' They will not be welcomed (by the residents of Hell). They have deserved to burn in the hellfire. 

YusufAli: Here is a troop rushing headlong with you! No welcome for them! truly, they shall burn in the Fire!

Arabic: Hatha fawjun muqtahimun maAAakum la marhaban bihim innahum saloo alnnari 

Khalifa: The newcomers will respond, 'Nor are you welcomed. You are the ones who preceded us and misled us. Therefore, suffer this miserable end.' 

YusufAli: (The followers shall cry to the misleaders:) 'Nay, ye (too)! No welcome for you! It is ye who have brought this upon us! Now evil is (this) place to stay in!'

Arabic: Qaloo bal antum la marhaban bikum antum qaddamtumoohu lana fabi/sa alqararu 

Another “matching” case (verses 52:19-21)

Khalifa: Eat and drink happily, in return for your works. 

YusufAli: (To them will be said:) 'Eat and drink ye, with profit and health, because of your (good) deeds.'

Arabic: Kuloo waishraboo hanee-an bima kuntum taAAmaloona 

Khalifa: They relax on luxurious furnishings, and we match them with beautiful spouses.  

YusufAli: They will recline (with ease) on Thrones (of dignity) arranged in ranks; and We shall join them to Companions, with beautiful big and lustrous eyes.

Arabic: Muttaki-eena AAala sururin masfoofatin wazawwajnahum bihoorin AAeenin 

Khalifa: For those who believed, and their children also followed them in belief, we will have their children join them. We never fail to reward them for any work. Every person is paid for what he did. 

YusufAli: And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith,- to them shall We join their families: Nor shall We deprive them (of the fruit) of aught of their works: (Yet) is each individual in pledge for his deeds.

Arabic: Waallatheena amanoo waittabaAAat-hum thurriyyatuhum bi-eemanin alhaqna bihim thurriyyatahum wama alatnahum min AAamalihim min shay-in kullu imri-in bima kasaba raheenun 

Verse 52:20 is about granting believers; men and women pure springs to go with the food and drink served (52:19) and those who followed in faith from their children/descendents will be with them and every person is paid what he/she deserves for what he/she did.

The worst of descriptions

1-Kawa3ib= with fully grown/swelling breasts?

78:31-36

Khalifa: The righteous have deserved a reward. 

YusufAli: Verily for the Righteous there will be fulfilment of (the heart's) desires;

Arabic: Inna lilmuttaqeena mafazan 

Khalifa: Orchards and grapes. 

YusufAli: Gardens enclosed, and grapevines;

Arabic: Hada-iqa waaAAnaban 

Khalifa: Magnificent spouses. 

YusufAli: And voluptuous women of equal age;

Arabic: WakawaAAiba atraban 

Khalifa: Delicious drinks. 

YusufAli: And a cup full (to the brim).

Arabic: Waka/san dihaqan 

Khalifa: They will never hear in it any nonsense or lies. 

YusufAli: No vanity shall they hear therein, nor Untruth:-

Arabic: La yasmaAAoona feeha laghwan wala kiththaban 

Khalifa: A reward from your Lord; a generous recompense. 

YusufAli: Recompense from thy Lord, a gift, (amply) sufficient,

Arabic: Jazaan min rabbika AAataan hisaban 

In some translations or Quranic dictionaries, we found one of the worst and most insulting descriptions of the word “kawa3ib” –verse 78:33- to imply it is describing women/companions’ breasts.

The previous verse (78:32) mentions gardens/orchards and grapevines. The singular form of “kawa3ib” is “ka3ba”, this word does not only describe the shrine that God cited in the Quran (el ka3ba); in its simplest form it also means a singular or an individual grape.

“Ka3batu 3inab”= one “individual” grape.

This is not a rare hidden meaning, where I come from (North Africa); it is still how the fruit of grapes “3inab” is described (in a bunch (3unqood) and a single grape (ka3ba). It is easy to notice again that there is no noun in verse 78:33 to imply magnificent women/voluptuous spouses –but “kawa3iba” could be the noun to the attribute “atraban”-

 It seems that there is a logical link between the sequence of verses 78:31, 78:32 and 78:33:

Within the gardens, there are grapevines (78:31).

From the grapevines, one can obtain individual grapes –all matching- (78:32).

From the grapes, drinks –full to the brim- can be “extracted” (78:33).

The three verses are describing gardens, fruits and drinks: a very harmonious combination. The “positioning” of “companions of equal age” between gardens and grapevines (78:31) and a full cup –of drink- seems out of place and out of context.

Verses 78:31-36 are also in contrast with verses 78:22-27: The former describes the righteous (78:31) and their achievement –in gardens with fruit and drink-, the latter describes the abode of the transgressors where they taste neither coolness nor any drink (78:24) save   for boiling drink and a paralysing cold (78:25).

The attribute “atraban” was always taken to mean same/equal age. The other simple meanings are “matching” in all aspects and attributes or: “not aging”, in the context of individual pieces of fruit such as grapes from the grapevines, this will be more about describing: “matching” individual grapes which will not degrade or loose their goodness (please refer to verse 55:70 analysis).

Also: the concept of “Time”, “the passing of time” and “aging” for human beings is tied up to our existence in this earth and universe. We have no full grasp of the hereafter or “Time”, “aging” and “physical” dimensions.

“qasiratu alttarfi atrabun” in verse 38:52

Verses 38:49-54

Khalifa: This is a reminder: the righteous have deserved a wonderful destiny. 

YusufAli: This is a Message (of admonition): and verily, for the righteous, is a beautiful Place of (Final) Return,-

Arabic: Hatha thikrun wa-inna lilmuttaqeena lahusna maabin 

Khalifa: The gardens of Eden will open up their gates for them. 

YusufAli: Gardens of Eternity, whose doors will (ever) be open to them;

Arabic: Jannati AAadnin mufattahatan lahumu al-abwabu 

Khalifa: Relaxing therein, they will be given many kinds of fruits and drinks. 

YusufAli: Therein will they recline (at ease): Therein can they call (at pleasure) for fruit in abundance, and (delicious) drink;

Arabic: Muttaki-eena feeha yadAAoona feeha bifakihatin katheeratin washarabin 

Khalifa: They will have wonderful spouses. 

YusufAli: And beside them will be chaste women restraining their glances, (companions) of equal age.

Arabic: WaAAindahum qasiratu alttarfi atrabun 

Khalifa: This is what you have deserved on the Day of Reckoning. 

YusufAli: Such is the Promise made, to you for the Day of Account!

Arabic: Hatha ma tooAAadoona liyawmi alhisabi 

Khalifa: Our provisions are inexhaustible. 

YusufAli: Truly such will be Our Bounty (to you); it will never fail;-

Arabic: Inna hatha larizquna ma lahu min nafadin 

Verse 38:51 describes the righteous while relaxing (recline at ease), will call for abundant fruits and drink. Verse 38:52 is the response to that call where in an “instant”, they will have within easy reach (or close by) what they called for. The fruits and drink will be matching or not degrading (always fresh).

In verse 38:54, believers who are rewarded describe these bounties as “these are our endless provisions” (larizquna ma lahu min nafadin), the emphasis is on provision (rizq).

They will have shortening-eyelids, eyes like eggs closely guarded? (verses 37:48-49):

The title of this paragraph is no joke as this is a very serious matter; it is my attempt to give a “literal” translation for the overstretched interpretation found in Quranic translations.

Verses 37:40-49

37:40

Khalifa: Only GOD's servants who are absolutely devoted to Him alone (will be saved). 

YusufAli: But the sincere (and devoted) Servants of Allah,-

Arabic: Illa AAibada Allahi almukhlaseena 

37:41 

Khalifa: They have deserved provisions that are reserved specifically for them. 

YusufAli: For them is a Sustenance determined,

Arabic: Ola-ika lahum rizqun maAAloomun 

37:042

Khalifa: All kinds of fruits. They will be honored. 

YusufAli: Fruits (Delights); and they (shall enjoy) honour and dignity,

Arabic: Fawakihu wahum mukramoona 

37:43 

Khalifa: In the gardens of bliss. 

YusufAli: In Gardens of Felicity,

Arabic: Fee jannati alnnaAAeemi 

37:44

Khalifa: On furnishings close to one another. 

YusufAli: Facing each other on Thrones (of Dignity):

Arabic: AAala sururin mutaqabileena 

37:45

Khalifa: Cups of pure drinks will be offered to them. 

YusufAli: Round will be passed to them a Cup from a clear-flowing fountain,

Arabic: Yutafu AAalayhim bika/sin min maAAeenin 

37:46 

Khalifa: Clear and delicious for the drinkers. 

YusufAli: Crystal-white, of a taste delicious to those who drink (thereof),

Arabic: Baydaa laththatin lilshsharibeena 

37:47 

Khalifa: Never polluted, and never exhausted. 

YusufAli: Free from headiness; nor will they suffer intoxication therefrom.

Arabic: La feeha ghawlun wala hum AAanha yunzafoona 

37:48 

Khalifa: With them will be wonderful companions. 

YusufAli: And besides them will be chaste women, restraining their glances, with big eyes (of wonder and beauty).

Arabic: WaAAindahum qasiratu alttarfi AAeenun 

37:49 

Khalifa: Protected like fragile eggs. 

YusufAli: As if they were (delicate) eggs closely guarded.

Arabic: Kaannahunna baydun maknoonun 

Once “taraf” is understood as limb (arm/leg) instead of eyelid, the expression “qasiratu alttarfi” will not be taken to mean: chaste women/restraining glances/lowering gazes but instead: within easy reach/close by/near by/short proximity.

The word “AAeenun” will be referring to springs instead of eyes as suggested from verse 56:22.

The word “baydun” in verse 37:49 was translated as “eggs”, it is the plural of the singular form “baydaa” (white) found in 37:46 which was translated as “crystal-white” by Y Ali. Thus verses 37:48-49 can easily be translated as:

“They will have close by/near by/within close proximity springs

Like crystal-white well guarded/treasured/appreciated”

Verse 37:41 states that the devote servant of God (37:40) will have a determined/allocated/known sustenance or provision. The emphasis is on provision again; this includes:

- Fruits (verse 37:42) while enjoying honour and dignity.

- In gardens of Felicity (37:43).

- On thrones (while facing each other (verse 37:44)).

- A Cup from a clear-flowing fountain that is crystal-white of a delicious taste will be passed to them (37:45-46).

- No headiness or intoxication effects occur from these drinks.

- Close by, they will have springs (verse 37:48)

- Like crystal-white well treasured and appreciated/”closely guarded” (verse 37:49).

The idea of newly created companions of fair/white skin is very racist and offensive to any person who believes in God of any colour. God can not be accused of racism.

Verse 49:13

Khalifa: O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant. 

YusufAli: O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

Another example of worst of meanings:

“abkaran” Virgins? (verse 56:36)

Verse 56:27-38

56:27

Khalifa: Those of the right side, will be on the right side. 

YusufAli: The Companions of the Right Hand,- what will be the Companions of the Right Hand?

Arabic: Waas-habu alyameeni ma as-habu alyameeni 

56:28

Khalifa: In lush orchards. 

YusufAli: (They will be) among Lote-trees without thorns,

Arabic: Fee sidrin makhdoodin 

56:29

Khalifa: Fragrant fruits. 

YusufAli: Among Talh trees with flowers (or fruits) piled one above another,-

Arabic: Watalhin mandoodin 

56:30

Khalifa: Extended shade. 

YusufAli: In shade long-extended,

Arabic: Wathillin mamdoodin 

56:31

Khalifa: Abundant water. 

YusufAli: By water flowing constantly,

Arabic: Wama-in maskoobin 

56:32

Khalifa: Many fruits. 

YusufAli: And fruit in abundance.

Arabic: Wafakihatin katheeratin 

56:33

Khalifa: Never ending; never forbidden. 

YusufAli: Whose season is not limited, nor (supply) forbidden,

Arabic: La maqtooAAatin wala mamnooAAatin 

56:34

Khalifa: Luxurious furnishings. 

YusufAli: And on Thrones (of Dignity), raised high.

Arabic: Wafurushin marfooAAatin 

56:35

Khalifa: We create for them mates. 

YusufAli: We have created (their Companions) of special creation.

Arabic: Inna ansha/nahunna inshaan 

56:36

Khalifa: Never previously touched. 

YusufAli: And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled), -

Arabic: FajaAAalnahunna abkaran 

56:37

Khalifa: Perfectly matched. 

YusufAli: Beloved (by nature), equal in age,-

Arabic: AAuruban atraban 

56:38

Khalifa: For those on the right side. 

YusufAli: For the Companions of the Right Hand.

Arabic: Li-as-habi alyameeni

Verses 56:35-37 are another example of “mistaken identity”. Verses 56:35-37 do not contain an object (such as mates or companions). There is only a pronoun (hunna) in plural feminine connotation found in verses 56:35- ansha/nahunna - and 56:36 – FajaAAalnahunna-. This pronoun is referring to the noun/object mentioned in verse 56:34 that is: “furushin marfooAAatin” (luxurious furnishings/raised couches or beds). Having noticed the linguistic flaw, M Asad in his translation “Message of the Quran”, he translates “furushin marfooAAatin” to spouses raised high.

M Asad Translation:

56:34-38

And [with them will be their] spouses, raised high.

For, behold, We shall have brought them into being in a life renewed,

Having resurrected them as virgins,

Full of love, well-matched

With those who have attained righteousness.

He comments that one of the reasons to justify this rendering is because the word “firash” (lit., “bed” or “couch”) is often used tropically to denote “wife” or “husband”?

The Quranic textual consistency should always take precedence to any claimed usage from classical Arabic idioms wherever they are found (Raghib, Qamus, Taj al –Arus etc.). There are many words in the Quran for describing husband, wife, spouses and women (ba3l/zawj, imraa, azwaaj and nissaa), therefore this interpretation is “stretched”. It is also due to the lack of understanding of the attributes that follows and the perception of the existence of the special companions of heaven. In addition, “whoever” is being described in verse 56:34-37 is not being rewarded, but rather: they are part of the “reward” for “the companions of the right hand” (verse 56:38) and they are listed among the luxuries and the “objects” of the gardens of heaven (verses 56:28-37).

“Abkaran”: The translation of this word as virgins is offensive and unacceptable. The word virgin has a different equivalent in Arabic (3adraa) that has never been literally used in the Quranic text. One might find in Arabic bibles the expression “Virgin Mary” (Maryam el 3adraa) but this expression is non-existent in the Quran. Once, one accepts that it is literally describing the beds/couches that were raised high, the alternative meanings are: “fresh”/”new”/clean/pure. This is consistent with other attributes that we looked into describing other “objects” and delicacies of heaven (the goodness and ease of reach of fruits, the purity of the springs etc…).

“bakara” is to get up early, “bukratan” is early morning. “el bakr” is the first of anything and “baakoor” is the early fruit of the season.

“3uruban”: This could be taken to mean clear, with no imperfections or rich. While describing a language, we find that “3aruba” means “became eloquent”. We also find the expression: “A3raba 3an hajatihi” meaning: (He clarified/expressed his need) and the expression “a3raba el kalaam” means “He clarified the speech”.

In a small dictionary I have, I also found the word “3arooba” that is taken to mean a wife who is very fond of her husband. It puzzles me that for a supposedly rich language, the equivalent of “3arooba” in the masculine form does not exist. This is clearly a case of “adopted” meaning based on tradition and misunderstanding of the verse. It is more fitting to look into how the Quran is described as “3arabiyin” where the context is about clarity and no crookedness and imperfections in it. Love and affection are mutual feelings between husband and wife.

Verse 30:21

Transliteration

Wamin ayatihi an khalaqa lakum min anfusikum azwajan litaskunoo ilayha wajaAAala baynakum mawaddatan warahmatan inna fee thalika laayatin liqawmin yatafakkaroona

Y Ali

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.

Khalifa

Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think.

A question comes to my mind at this point, why would God cause “jealousy” between husband and wife on this earth because of what he “promised” in heaven to one gender (or to both) He who put love, mercy and affection between the spouses?

Whatever the real or possible meanings of the word “AAuruban”, it is referring to couches or furnishings.

As for the attribute “atraban” and in the case of beds/couches, it carries similar meaning to what have already been stated in previous verses: matching in all aspects/ ever-lasting. Thus, a possible translation of verses 56:34-37 could be:

And couches raised high,

We created them (couches) in such a way,

That we made them pure/clean/”new”,

Clear/no imperfection and matching/non-degenerating,

For the companions of the right hand!

Traditional argument/apology

I would like to cite below the apologetic argument when translators tackle the word “hur” such as M Asad and A R & A M Omar in “The Holy Quran”:

“Hur: it is the plural of ahwar (masculine) and houra (feminine). The word ahwar signifies pure and clear “intellect”.

As for the word hur in its feminine connotation quite a number of the earliest commentators understood as signifying the righteous among the women of mankind.”

First of all, the idea of having newly created companions (of both genders and no sexual connotation) is neither appealing nor acceptable. Some decent Muslims tried to come to terms in accepting it because they perceived that God stated it in his book. We spent all our life in this earth we care about and have affection for some people among parents, spouses, children and other friends yet we will be sharing the rewards of heavens with aliens matched/assigned to us!

Second of all, from the linguistic point of view, the word “hur” and other supposedly “related” words in the Quran were followed by adjectives (“Qasiratu alttarfi”, “maqsooratun fee alkhiyami” and “khayratun hisanun”) which are in plural feminine connotation/inclination; this implies “female beings”. There is no neutral in Arabic like some other languages. In Arabic, the “masculine connotation” is dominant, so if an adjective is in masculine plural form, this implies that the “members” of the group described could be of both male and female gender unless the context specifically implies a single sex group (ie: males/masculine). The plural feminine connotation always applies to an exclusive female/feminine group.

Christoph Luxenberg’s Work

A university scholar in Germany published a book in German under the pseudo-name Christoph Luxenberg. The book title was: “The Syro-Aramaic way of reading the Koran: a contribution to decode the language of the Koran”.

He also reached the conclusion that traditional Muslims got it completely wrong in the interpretation of the verses dealing with “hur” and “companions of heaven” as he states that these verses were about food and drink. I share his understanding about this key point. From the commentaries I read (as I have no knowledge of German and had no access to his book), it is alleged that to understand the Quran, you need Syrian-Aramaic knowledge as some of the Quranic passages could have been borrowed from the Syrian (Christian) poems of “Ephrem”.

I hope I have demonstrated in this article that the Quran can be understood through the Quranic text and the textual consistencies within it. There is no issue or a big deal if there is similarity between Quranic passages and ancient Syrian/Aramaic poems: The source of truth is one: God.

“There is one river of Truth which receives tributaries from every side.” Clement of Alexandria

Conclusion:

The commonly adopted interpretation of verses dealing with the description of heaven led me to find many inconsistencies and linguistic flaws:

The lack of noticing the switch from dual to plural pronoun (Chapter 55), addition of words such as companions, the mixing up between the “eye” and the “spring” and the confusion between attributes to fruits, drink and couches and description of women/companions etc…

Our concept of heaven and who will be there among believers has direct influence on our behaviour in this life and the treatment of women in the “Muslim” world. This belief about “Houris” is also used as a weapon against the Quran as can be seen from some of the links I put below. We have the duty to challenge and review this interpretation.

To those who believe in God, the Quran as a source of guidance and hope they will be re-united in the hereafter with those they loved and cared for in this earth under God’s mercy and blessings, my findings/interpretation come as no surprise to them.

As for those who believe in the existence of “Houris” besides God and the guidance of the Quran, I urge them to read the Quran for themselves and ponder about it; no other deities and sources should be upheld beside God Almighty and his guidance.

The promise of 72 women/fair maidens to believers and “martyrs” could be from Satan and can never be from God. Those who teach and upheld this belief rooted in their traditions and “books” are accountable in front of God for what they preach as we are all accountable for our actions and what we preach. Combined with other deviations, this corruption and lie had led some people to committing evil acts and the killing of innocent people (while taking their own lives) in the hope of gaining such a “reward” that is false and un-Quranic.

When you grow a bad tree, you get a bad fruit and when you plant a good seed, you harvest a good fruit.

May God shower us with his mercy and re-unite with those we love and care for!

Praises be to God!

Links and further readings:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,631357,00.html

http://www.secularislam.org/books/luxenberg.htm

http://www.paktoday.com/zaidi.htm

Links about verse 78:33

http://answering-islam.org/Quran/Versions/078.033.html

(Verse 78:33 –Arabic link-)

http://quran.al-islam.com/Tafseer/DispTafsser.asp?nType=1&bm=&nSeg=0&l=a...

Personal site (under construction):

http://www.geocities.com/yaseen_q/

This article:

http://www.geocities.com/yaseen_q/hur-article.htm

 


By Yaseen (yaseenz@hotmail.com)

English