… And wide-eyed beauties [Ḥûr ʿÎn] to wed, who look as though they were well-preserved pearls. [Surat Al-Wâqiʿah, 56:22-23]
THERE ARE FEW âyât which trigger as much emotional turmoil as those describing the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn: those otherworldly women created to spend eternity in Paradise, without ever stepping foot in the Dunya.
The Quran describes these women in detail alongside the other pleasures of Jannah. And while many Muslim men exult in these verses and make a point of repeating and emphasizing them, many Muslim women find them to be a source of discomfort and even emotional pain.
It is all too easy for others to respond with, “You must accept the Quran and be content with the Words of Allah.” While this may sound correct theoretically – after all, every believer is obliged to accept the Divine Revelation as being the ultimate source of truth, justice, and wisdom – this approach does not address human reality. It is human nature to question, and indeed, the Quran itself recognizes this, responds to this, and many times even encourages an inquisitive spirit. However, the Quran and Sunnah also present a method of responding to such questions with emotional depth as well as facts.
Unfortunately, there tends to be a callous attitude when it comes to discussing the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn and especially in responding to the concerns that women express regarding them. Rather than taking the time to understand why so many women feel uncomfortable, the standard answer is often one of rebuke. ‘Worry about getting into Jannah yourself,’ some retort; ‘Be good to your husband, and you will be better than the Hûr,’ others say.
All of these answers, however, completely miss the point and do little (if anything) to provide the reassurance that women seek.
Human Women vs. Al–Hûr Al-‘În
Many discussions regarding the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn are framed in such a way as to present them as rivals or even enemies to believing human women. It is no wonder, then, that some Muslim women feel antagonistic towards them and question just how ‘perfect’ Jannah is.
Whether classical scholars or modern-day imams, there is a clear focus on describing the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn in detail – often disproportionately in comparison to the many, many other rewards and features of Jannah that are mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah. From the opalescence of their skin to their large, dark eyes, their virginity and their ample bosoms, men in general are very enthusiastic when talking about the Ḥûr. Unfortunately, they also phrase these descriptions in contrast to human women. One common sentiment is that the Ḥûr are ‘better’ than human women because they don’t experience ‘dirty’ bodily functions such as urinating, excreting, menstruating, child-birthing, and so on.
Another way that the Ḥûr are pitted against human women is as a threat. There are men who will deliberately quote the following ḥadîth as a means of emotionally and spiritually blackmailing their wives:
No woman annoys her husband (without legitimate reason) in this world except that his wife among the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn said: ‘Do not annoy him, may Allah destroy you; he is only like a guest with you, soon he will part from you for us.’ (Tirmidhi and Ibn Mâjah)
While the intent of this ḥadîth was as a deterrent against excessive marital discord, it is largely misused to make Muslim women feel inferior. Though the Arabic phrasing of the duʿâ’ they invoke is quite harsh, it is a turn of phrase found in other Arabic expressions that are commonly used, such as “May your mother be bereft of you,” “May your nose be rubbed in the dust,” and so on. Such phrases are often lost in translation, and misused inappropriately.
Furthermore, discussions about the Ḥûr are inescapably linked to the topic of polygamy – which in turn has, in general, been spoken about, taught, and practiced in a less than ideal manner. Due to the lack of positive frameworks and references for earthly polygamy, it is no surprise that the idea of polygamy in Paradise is met with similar resistance. When polygamy is so often used as a tool to oppress women and to deprive them of their rights, while at the same time accusing women of not being ‘pious’ or ‘patient’ enough, we truly cannot blame such women for having such negative reactions.
In short, it is all too common to see many men purposely using the idea of the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn to manipulate women, and as a means of spiritual abuse. This is extremely disturbing when one considers the fact that Jannah was created as a reward for all believers, men and women alike. Paradise is meant to be a source of motivation, something that is looked forward to and is desired by the believers. In fact, Jannah is explicitly described as a place wherein there is no sorrow, grief, jealousy, or any type of negative emotion whatsoever.
Why, then, are some people so determined to make Jannah appear more favorable to men than to women?
For the Believing Women…
“Do women get male Hûr?” is the question asked as a retort to repeated mentions of the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn. “What do women get in Jannah?” The reactions to such questions tend to be predictable – “AstaghfirAllah! Women won’t want anyone other than their husbands!” “Women don’t have a desire for more men anyway.” “You’ll get jewelry!”
It is quite understandable that many women are unsatisfied with these responses. Indeed, there are those who try to actually downplay a woman’s reward in Jannah, by implying or saying outright that unlike men, women will have no sexual desires whatsoever. There are also those who say that those who were unmarried (or divorced, or whose earthly husbands did not enter Jannah) will be satisfied being alone.
However, none of these statements holds any weight whatsoever. In fact, there is an explicit ḥadîth to the contrary:
It was narrated that a group of the Companions once either boasted or discussed whether there would be more men or women in Paradise. Abû Hurairah said: “Did not Abû Al-Qâsim (the Prophet ﷺ) say: The first group to enter Paradise will look like the moon when it is full, then those who follow them will look like the most brilliant planet in the sky. Each man among them will have two wives whose marrow can be seen beneath their flesh, and there will be no one in Paradise who is unmarried.” (Muslim, Ḥadîth No. 7147 (2834), Book of Paradise and Description of its Delights and its People)
From this ḥadîth alone, it is clear both that women will make up the majority of the inhabitants of Paradise, and that all women will be married to similar believing spouses.
In addition, the believing women are described in two other narrations:
Umm Salamah (the Prophet’s wife) narrates that she once said to the Prophet: “O RasûlAllâh, are the women of this world superior or the Ḥûrs (the houris of Paradise)?” He replied: The women of this world will have superiority over the Ḥûrs just as the outer lining of a garment has superiority over the inner lining.
Umm Salamah then asked: “O RasûlAllâh, what is the reason for this?” He answered: Because they performed Salah, fasted, and worshipped [Allah]. Allah will put light on their faces and silk on their bodies. [The human women] will be fair in complexion and will wear green clothing and yellow jewelry. Their incense-burners will be made of pearls and their combs will be of gold. They will say: ‘We are the women who will stay forever and we will never die. We are the women who will always remain in comfort and we will never undergo difficulty. We are the women who will stay and we will never leave. Listen, we are happy women and we will never become sad. Glad tidings to those men for whom we are and who are for us!’ (Ṭabarâni)
Abû Hurairah narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: Every man in heaven will go to seventy-two of the creatures of Allah (houris) and two of the women of mankind. These two (human, believing) women are superior to the houris with their worshipping (good deeds) they had performed in this world. (Bayhaqi and Ṭabarâni)
Another fascinating narration exists that references an âyah from the Quran itself.
An old woman once came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate for me that Allah grants me entrance into Jannah.” He replied: Mother! Don’t you know that old women cannot enter Jannah? The woman began to weep, and turned to leave. The Prophet quickly told his Companions to follow her and inform her: Allah will make all the women of Jannah young virgins, for didn’t Allah say: Indeed, We have produced the women of Paradise in a [new] creation, and made them virgins, lovers and of equal age… [Surat Al-Wâqiʿah, 56:35-37] (Al-Shamâ’il Al-Muhammadiyyah)
These above texts are the most explicit regarding the status of the believing women in Jannah, and in particular, their superiority over the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn.
However, there still remains a great deal to discuss with regards to concerns that women have regarding the Ḥûr Al-ʿÎn, and how one may try to address them. Part two of this article will, Inshâ’Allah, delve into more detail and consider various questions and responses that arise.