“Houris” (linguistically, beautiful white women) or heavenly wives are often used for attacking and ridiculing Islam and Muslims by focusing on calculating their number per man and criticizing Islam on the pretext that it is unjust towards women for not giving them equal otherworldly treatment.
In fact, Islam is the most balanced and moderate faith especially in terms of the otherworldly reward for men and women.
Clear and Just Otherworldly Reward
Reward and Heaven are clearly promised for faith and good deeds, whereas punishment and Hell are clearly cited as intimidation for disbelief and evil deeds in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (prophetic tradition). For example, in the Qur’an, we read:
And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers. And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow. Whenever they are provided with a provision of fruit therefrom, they will say, “This is what we were provided with before.” And it is given to them in likeness. And they will have therein purified spouses, and they will abide therein eternally. (Al-Baqarah 2:23-25)
The Qur’an and the Sunnah often reflect absolute justice in terms of the otherworldly reward among all human beings, either between Prophet Muhammad’s community and the other communities or between male believers and female believers etc.
About justice between Prophet Muhammad’s community and the communities of the other prophets, we read in the Qur’an:
Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. (Al-Baqarah 2:62)
About justice between male believers and female believers, we read in the Qur’an:
And their Lord responded to them, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another. So those who emigrated or were evicted from their homes or were harmed in My cause or fought or were killed – I will surely remove from them their misdeeds, and I will surely admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow as reward from Allah , and Allah has with Him the best reward.” (Aal `Imran 3:195)
As I once stated, we do not find such clear and just requital in the other Abrahamic religions, especially Judaism and Christianity.
Do Houris Constitute Everything in Heaven for Men?
While the otherworldly reward has various forms and manifestations in Islam, we, unfortunately, observe that some Islamophobes disregard all of those forms and manifestations and concentrate only on the Houris in an attempt to defame Islam and Muslims.
In fact, the forms of otherworldly reward as varied and infinite as man’s desires, be they physical or moral.
The more man restrains oneself, keeps patient and curbs one’s desires to avoid indulgence and illicit enjoyment, the more rewards God promises this one in Paradise. For example, we read:
Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet made evident those of you who fight in His cause and made evident those who are steadfast? (Aal `Imran 3:142)
We also read:
And those who are patient, seeking the countenance of their Lord, and establish prayer and spend from what We have provided for them secretly and publicly and prevent evil with good – those will have the good consequence of [this] home – Gardens of perpetual residence; they will enter them with whoever were righteous among their fathers, their spouses and their descendants. And the angels will enter upon them from every gate, [saying], “Peace be upon you for what you patiently endured. And excellent is the final home.” (Ar-Ra`d 13:24-26)
While the believers are commanded to restrain their desires for, for example, food, sex and the like in this worldly life, they are promised full satisfaction in the otherworldly life. For example, we read:
And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow. Whenever they are provided with a provision of fruit therefrom, they will say, “This is what we were provided with before.” And it is given to them in likeness. And they will have therein purified spouses, and they will abide therein eternally. (Al-Baqarah 2:25)
We also read:
Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return. Say, “Shall I inform you of [something] better than that? For those who fear Allah will be gardens in the presence of their Lord beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and purified spouses and approval from Allah. And Allah is Seeing of [His] servants (Aal `Imran 3:14-15)
As I have just indicated, there are no limits or bounds for the otherworldly reward in Paradise, including food, drink, Houris, rivers and the like. About that, we read in the Qur’an:
Whoever does an evil deed will not be recompensed except by the like thereof; but whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – those will enter Paradise, being given provision therein without account. (Ghafir 40:40)
The last verse above indicates that the forms of otherworldly reward are infinite for both men and women on an equal footing. But, what about the satisfaction of the sexual desire for men and women in Paradise?
Are There Houris in the Bible as Well?
Before dealing with Houris as a form of the otherworldly reward in Islam, we have to discuss whether or not there are Houris or, in other words, heavenly wives for men in the Hereafter according to the Bible.
As a matter of fact, Houris or heavenly wives do not sound strange to or absent from the Bible, either the Old Testament or the New Testament. They are rather an integral part of Judaism and Christianity as well as their Scriptures. However, they are not as clear in Islam as in Judaism and Christianity.
As for Judaism, the New Testament tells us that before Jesus’ prophetic mission Jews had known that men will have wives in Paradise. Therefore, they asked Jesus as follows:
“Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.” (Luke 20:28-33)
As for Christianity, the New Testament quotes Jesus as promising his followers not only one but a hundred wives in the Hereafter. In the New Testament, we read: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) – (New International Version)
Houris in Islam
Before elaborating on Houris in Islam, as a refutation of any suspicion of adultery, the Qur’an tells us that God prepared for male believers “purified spouses” i.e. wives rather than concubines or girlfriends. For example, we read:
But those who believe and do righteous deeds – We will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide forever. For them therein are purified spouses, and We will admit them to deepening shade. (An-Nisaa’ 4:57)
The Qur’an describes those spouses in more than one position as “limiting their glances” i.e. gazing only at their husbands only. In the Qur’an, we read:
And with them will be women limiting [their] glances, with large, [beautiful] eyes (As-Saffat 48:37)
The above spouses are also described as “reserved in pavilions” i.e. staying at their husbands’ houses in Paradise and so they neither get out nor are they seen by any people other than their husbands. In the Qur’an, we read:
Houris reserved in pavilions (Ar-Rahman 72:55)
About those Houris, we also read in the Qur’an:
Indeed, the righteous will be in a secure place; within gardens and springs, Wearing [garments of] fine silk and brocade, facing each other. Thus. And We will marry them to Houris with large, [beautiful] eyes. (Ad-Dukhan 44:51-54)
Do Women have Male Houris in Paradise?
In Paradise, married female believers will be wives of their believing husbands in this worldly life. About that, we read in the Qur’an:
Our Lord, and admit them to gardens of perpetual residence which You have promised them and whoever was righteous among their fathers, their spouses and their offspring. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (Ghafir 40:8)
If a female believer was married to several husbands in this world, she will be the wife of the last of them in Paradise. It is reported that Grand Companion Hudhayfah said to his wife: “If you wish to be my wife in Paradise, do not get married after me for a woman in Paradise will be the wife of the last of her husbands in this world. That is why God forbade the Prophet’s wives to marry after him for they will be his wives in Paradise.” (Sunan Al-Bayhaqi)
However, there is no explicit text in the Qur’an or the Sunnah about such a female believer who dies unmarried or was married to a man who will not enter Paradise. Nevertheless, some scholars argue that God will make any such woman a wife of a believing man in Paradise.
They offer as evidence the following hadith (prophetic statement). Abu Huraira reported that Abul-Qasim (Prophet Muhammad) said: “The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a spouse in Paradise.” (Muslim)
Yet, it is safe to say that what matters to man, male or female, is just to enter Paradise. If man does, God will ensure eternal bliss for him/her therein, and so one will have complete satisfaction of one’s desires and even more. About that, we read in the Qur’an:
But those who feared their Lord will have gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein, as accommodation from Allah. And that which is with Allah is best for the righteous. (Aal `Imran 3:198)
We also read:
And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer – those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed. (An-Nisaa’ 4:124)
It is worth noting that one’s worldly needs in the Hereafter differ from the otherworldly ones. In Paradise, the worldly norms will be replaced by otherworldly ones and then one, man or woman, will be satisfied with one’s lot of heavenly bliss. About that, we read in the Qur’an:
And We remove whatever rancor may be in their hearts. Rivers flow beneath them. And they say: The praise to Allah, Who hath guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us. Verily the messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth. And it is cried unto them: This is the Garden. Ye inherit it for what ye used to do. (Al-A`raf 7:43)
It must be borne in mind that there are varied gardens or grades of Paradise and the otherworldly reward itself differs from the worldly one and assumes various forms. Some people may have exclusive reward in Paradise to the exclusion of others.
This does not mean that those other people will be wronged or done an injustice. Nonetheless, everybody in Paradise will have one’s own reward and bliss which one deserves along with or to the exclusion of others for otherworldly reward differs from one person to another.
For example, the highest garden which is the highest of the grades of Paradise is dedicated to some people to exclusion of others. Anas Ibn Malik reported that Umm Ar-Rubay`i bint Al-Bara’, who was the mother of Harithah bin Suraqah, came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah! Will you not tell me about Harithah? (He was killed in the battle of Badr). If he is in Paradise I shall show endurance, but if he has met another fate, I may exert myself in weeping for him.” He replied, “O mother of Harithah, in the gardens of Heaven there are many ranks, and your son has attained Al-Firdaus, the highest of gardens.” (Al- Bukhari).
Likewise, there is a river, namely Kauthar, in Paradise which is exclusively dedicated to Prophet Muhammad. Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet said: “While I was walking in Paradise (on the night of Mi`raj), I saw a river, on the two banks of which there were tents made of hollow pearls. I asked, “What is this, O Gabriel?’ He said, ‘That is the Kauthar which your Lord has given to you.’ Behold! Its scent or its mud was sharp smelling musk!” (Al-Bukhari)
Similarly, there is a gate called “Ar-Rayyan” in Paradise through which only fasting believers will enter. Grand Companion Sahl reported that the Prophet said: “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe Saum (fast) will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said: ‘Where are those who used to observe Saum (fast)?’ They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.” (Al-Bukhari)
The above hadiths serve as evidence that Paradise has various grades and reward there is also varied. Therefore, one, man or woman, should make sure that if one enters Paradise will have more than a sufficient lot of bliss, regardless of the form of such bliss one will get.
Number of Houris per Man in Paradise
Unlike the New Testament which promises one hundred women per man, the Qur’an does not specify the number of Houris per man. It rather promises believers Houris in Paradise without specification. About that, we read in the Qur’an:
And with them will be women limiting [their] glances, with large, [beautiful] eyes, As if they were [delicate] eggs, well-protected. (As-Saffat 37:48-49)
As for the Sunnah, the most authentic hadiths indicate that a male believer will have only two wives in Paradise. “The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a spouse in Paradise.” (Muslim)
However, there are less authentic hadiths indicating that some male believers, specifically martyrs, will have a bigger number of Houris (about seventy two) as great reward and special honor.
Al-Miqdam bin Ma`dikarib reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The martyr has six things (in store) with Allah: He is forgiven from the first drop of his blood that is shed; he is shown his place in Paradise; he is spared the torment of the grave; he is kept safe from the Great Fright; he is adorned with a garment of faith; he is married to (wives) from among the wide-eyed Houris; and he is permitted to intercede for seventy of his relatives.” (At-Tirmidhi)
To conclude, the lucky servants of God who will enter Paradise will have ultimate bliss and find all things they desired in this worldly life as promised by God.
Man cannot and even should not try to calculate the otherworldly reward and heavenly bliss unless there is evidence from the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah in this regard.
It is better for man to busy oneself with the concerns how to be admitted to Paradise and survive Hell. Whenever man is admitted to Paradise and survive Hell, one will be lucky and successful.
Man should realize that Paradise is an abode of infinite bliss and the Creator Who created him and will admit him to Paradise is better aware of the fair, individual bliss one deserves.
About that, we read in the Qur’an:
We were your allies in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. And you will have therein whatever your souls desire, and you will have therein whatever you request (Fussilat 31:41)
We also read:
(Ye) who believed Our revelations and were self-surrendered, Enter the Garden, ye and your wives, to be made glad. Therein are brought round for them trays of gold and goblets, and therein is all that souls desire and eyes find sweet. And ye are immortal therein. (Az-Zukhruf 43:69-71)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Allah has said: ‘I have prepared for my righteous slaves what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and the mind of no man has conceived.’ If you wish, recite: ‘No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.”‘ (As-Sajdah 32:17) (Al-Bukhari)
- The Glorious Qur’an
- Sahih Al-Bukhari
- Sahih Muslim
- Sunan At-Tirmidhi
- Sunan Ibn Majah
- Sunan Al-Bayhaqi
- The Holy Bible