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CHAPTER THIRTY

HEAVEN
WHO WILL BE IN PARADISE
THE FOREMOST AND WHO ATTAINED TO RIGHTEOUSNESS (after sinning)
(56:7-14) [On that Day,] then, shall you be [divided into] three kinds. Thus, there shall be such as will have attained to what is
right: oh, how [happy] will be they who have attained to what is right! And there shall be such as will have lost themselves in evil:
oh, how [unhappy] will be they who have lost themselves in evil! But the foremost shall be [they who in life were] the foremost [in
faith and good works]: they who were [always] drawn close unto God! In gardens of bliss [will they dwell] - a good many of those of
olden times, but [only] a few of later times. [The above stress on the “many” and the “few” contain an allusion to the progressive
diminution, in the historical sense, of the element of excellence in men’s faith and ethical achievements.] (56:27) Now as for those who
have attained to righteousness - what of those who have attained to righteousness? [It is those who had not always been “foremost in
faith and good works”, but have gradually, after erring and sinning, attained to righteousness. However, though they may not have been as
perfect in life as the “foremost”, their ultimate achievement brings them to the same state of spiritual fulfillment as those others.] (56:88-
91) [All of you are destined to die.] Now if one happens to be of those who are drawn close unto God, [I.e., the foremost] happiness
[awaits him in the life to come], and inner fulfillment, and a garden of bliss. And if one happens to be of those who have attained to
righteousness, [he, too, will be welcomed into paradise with the words,] “Peace be unto you [that are] of those who have attained to
righteousness!”
LIGHT EMANATING FROM BELIEVERS
(57:12) On the Day when you shall see all believing men and believing women, with their light spreading rapidly before them and
on their right, [and with this welcome awaiting them:] “A glad tiding for you today: gardens through which running waters flow,
therein to abide! This, this is the triumph supreme!” [The metaphor of “the right hand” or “right side” is used in the Quran to denote
“righteousness” and, therefore, “blessedness”, symbolized in the present context by the “light spreading rapidly” before and on the right
side of the believers as a result of their cognition of God, and their high morality, and their freedom from ignorance and blameworthy
traits.]
REWARDS FOR GOOD DEEDS
(10:9-10) [But,] verily, as for those who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds – their Sustainer guides them aright by means
of their faith. [In the life to come,] running waters will flow at their feet in gardens of bliss; [and] in that [state of happiness] they
will call out, “Limitless art Thou in Thy glory, O God!”- and will be answered with the greeting, “Peace!” And their call will close
with [the words], “All praise is due to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!” [The term Salam comprises the concepts of spiritual
soundness and peace, freedom from faults and evils of any kind, and inner contentment. Its closest - though by no means perfect -
equivalent would be the French salut, in the abstract sense of that word, or the German Heil. For an explanation of the term salam and its
fundamental connotation of inner peace, fulfillment, and security from all that is evil, see 5:16.]
(11:23-24) Behold, [only] those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds and humble themselves before their Sustainer - [only]
they are destined for paradise, and there shall they abide. These two kinds of man [I.e., the believers and those who reject the divine
writ.] may be likened to the blind and deaf and the seeing and hearing. Can these two be deemed alike in [their] nature? Will you
not, then, keep this in mind?
(14:23) But those who shall have attained to faith and done righteous deeds will be brought into gardens through which running
waters flow, therein to abide by their Sustainer’s leave, and will be welcomed with the greeting, “Peace!”
(16:30-32) But [when] those who are conscious of God are asked, “What is it that your Sustainer has bestowed from on high?” -
they answer, “Goodness supreme!” Good fortune awaits, in this world, all who persevere in doing good; [This “good fortune” does
not necessarily signify material benefits but refers, rather, to the spiritual satisfaction and the feeling of inner security resulting from
genuine God-consciousness.] but their ultimate state will be far better still: for, how excellent indeed will be the state of the God-
conscious [in the life to come]! Gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter - [gardens] through which running waters flow - having
therein all that they might desire. Thus will God reward those who are conscious of Him - those whom the angels gather in death
while they are in a state of inner purity, greeting them thus: “Peace be upon you! Enter paradise by virtue of what you were doing
[in life].
(19:60-63) Those who repent and attain to faith and do righteous deeds: for it is they who will enter paradise and will not be
wronged in any way: [I.e., they will not only not be deprived of reward for the least of their good deeds, but will be granted blessings far
beyond their actual deserts.] [theirs will be the] gardens of perpetual bliss which the Most Gracious has promised unto His servants,
in a realm which is beyond the reach of human perception: [The prospect of a reality which is inconceivable by man in terms of his
worldly experiences, and which can, therefore, only he hinted at by means of allegorical allusions.] [and,] verily, His promise is ever sure
of fulfillment! No empty talk will they hear there - nothing but [tidings of] inner soundness and peace; and there will they have
their sustenance by day and by night: [I.e., always. The term rizq (sustenance) applies to all that might be of benefit to a living being,
spiritually as well as physically.] this is the paradise, which We grant as a heritage unto such of Our servants as are conscious of Us.
(23:102) And they whose weight [of righteousness] is heavy in the balance - it is they, they who will have attained to a happy state.
(35:32-35) And so, We have bestowed this divine writ as a heritage unto such of Our servants as We chose: and among them are
some who sin against themselves; and some who keep half-way [between right and wrong]; and some who, by God’s leave, are fore-
most in deeds of goodness: [and] this, indeed, is a merit most high! [Hence,] gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter, therein to be
adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls, and therein to be clad in raiments of silk; [Regarding this symbolic “adornment” of the
blessed in paradise, see 18:31.] and they will say: “All praise is due to God, who has caused all sorrow to leave us: for, verily, our
Sustainer is indeed much-forgiving, ever-responsive to gratitude - He who, out of His bounty, has made us alight in this abode of
life enduring, wherein no struggle can assail us, and wherein no weariness can touch us!”
(77:41-44) The God-conscious shall well amidst [cooling] shades and springs, and [partake of] whatever fruit they may desire; [and
they will be told:] “Eat and drink in good cheer in return for what you did [in life]!” Thus, behold, do We reward the doers of good.
(88:8-12) [And] some faces will on that Day shine with bliss, well-pleased with [the fruit of] their striving, in a garden sublime,
wherein you will hear no empty talk. Countless springs will flow therein, [This metaphor of the life-giving element is analogous to that
of the “running waters” frequently mentioned in Quranic descriptions of paradise.]
MARTYRS AND THOSE WHO SUFFERED IN GOD’S CAUSE
(2:214) [But] do you think that you could enter paradise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before
you? [The intellectual cognition of the truth cannot, by itself, be a means of attaining to ultimate bliss: it must be complemented by
readiness to sacrifice and spiritual purification through suffering.] Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that
the apostle, and the believers with him, would exclaim, “When will God’s succor come?” Oh, verily, God’s succor is [always] near!
[The preceding reference to “those who passed away before you” makes it obvious that the term “the apostle” is used here in a generic
sense, applying to all the apostles.]
(3:195) Hence, as for those who forsake the domain of evil, and are driven from their homelands, and suffer hurt in My cause, and
fight [for it], and are slain - I shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly bring them into gardens through
which running waters flow, as a reward from God: for with God is the most beauteous of rewards.”
(47:4-6) And as for those who are slain in God’s cause, never will He let their deeds go to waste: He will guide them [in the hereafter
as well], and will set their hearts at rest, and will admit them to the paradise which He has promised them.
SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES AND POSSESSIONS
(61:10-13) O you who have attained to faith! Shall I point out to you a bargain that will save you from grievous suffering [in this
world and in the life to come]? [See 9:111 - “God has bought of the believers their lives and their possessions, promising them paradise in
return”, which explains the metaphor of a “bargain.”] You are to believe in God and His Apostle, and to strive hard in God’s cause
with your possessions and your lives: this is for your own good - if you but knew it! [If you do so,] He will forgive you your sins, and
[in the life to come] will admit you into gardens through which running waters flow, and into goodly mansions in [those] gardens of
perpetual bliss: [See 38:50.] that [will be] the triumph supreme! And [withal, He will grant you] yet another thing that you dearly
love: succor from God [in this world], and a victory soon to come: and [thereof, O Prophet,] you give a glad tiding to all who
believe. [It relates to a spiritual victory of the Quranic message, and its spread among people who had not previously understood it.]
KEPT COVENANT WITH GOD AND MAN (patience in adversity, repel evil with good)
(13:20-24) They who are true to their bond with God and never break their covenant; [The “covenant” is, in this context, a general
term embracing the spiritual obligations arising from one’s faith in God and the moral and social obligations, resulting from that faith,
towards one’s fellow-men.] and who keep together what God has bidden to be joined, [This refers to all ties arising from human
relationships - e.g., the bonds of family, responsibility for orphans and the poor, the mutual rights and duties of neighbors - as well as the
spiritual and practical bonds that exist between all who belong to the brotherhood of Islam (see 8:75). The phrase “what God has bidden to
be joined” applies to the spiritual obligation, on the part of man, to remain conscious of the unity of purpose underlying all of God’s
creation, and hence man’s moral duty to treat all living beings with love and compassion.] and stand in awe of their Sustainer and fear
the most evil reckoning [which awaits such as do not respond to Him]; and who are patient in adversity out of a longing for their
Sustainer’s countenance, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others, secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as
sustenance, and [who] repel evil with good. [This may mean that “if they have committed a sin, they repel it [i.e., its effect] by
repentance”, while others think that the “repelling” connotes the doing of a good deed in atonement of a - presumably unintentional - bad
deed, or that it refers to endeavors to set evil situations to rights by word or deed. But most commentators hold that the meaning is ‘they
repay evil with good; thus Al-Hasan al-Basri: “When they are deprived [of anything], they give; and when they are wronged, they forgive.”
Tabari’s explanation is very similar: “They repel the evil done to them by doing good to those who did it”; and “they do not repay evil with
evil, but repel it by [doing] good”.] It is these that shall find their fulfillment in the hereafter: [The end-result or fulfillment of the
ultimate abode or life in the hereafter.] gardens of perpetual bliss, which they shall enter together with the righteous from among
their parents, their spouses, and their offspring and the angels will come unto them from every gate [and will say]: “Peace be upon
you, because you have persevered!” How excellent, then, this fulfillment in the hereafter! [The term zawj denotes “a pair” or “a
couple” as well as each of the components of a couple or a spouse: hence it signifies either “husband” or “wife”.]
DOING RIGHT, FORBIDDING EVIL, PRAYER AND CHARITY
(9:71-72) And [as for] the believers, both men and women - they are close unto one another: [Or: are the friends and protectors of one
another. The term wali (of which awliya is the plural) is in its primary meaning of being near or close to one another.] they [all] enjoin the
doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and are constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay
heed unto God and His Apostle. It is they upon whom God will bestow His grace: verily, God is almighty, wise! God has promised
the believers, both men and women, gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and goodly dwellings in gardens
of perpetual bliss: but God’s goodly acceptance is the greatest [bliss of all] - for this, this is the triumph supreme! [For the rendering
of adn (akin to the Hebrew eden, “delight” or “bliss”), see 38:50, where this expression occurs for the first time in the chronological order
of Quranic revelation.]
HOLD IN CHECK ANGER, PARDONED OTHERS AND ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS
(3:132-136) Pay heed unto God and the Apostle, so that you might be graced with mercy. And vie with one another to attain to your
Sustainer’s forgiveness and to a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been readied for the God-conscious who
spend [in His way] in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and hold in check their anger, and pardon their fellow-men because
God loves the doers of good; and who, when they have committed a shameful deed or have [otherwise] sinned against themselves,
remember God and pray that their sins be forgiven - for who but God could forgive sins? - and do not knowingly persist in doing
whatever [wrong] they may have done. These it is who shall have as their reward forgiveness from their Sustainer, and gardens
through which running waters flow, therein to abide: and how excellent a reward for those who labor!
FEEDING THE HUNGRY WITHOUT DESIRE OF RECOMPENSE
(76:7-12) [The truly virtuous are] they [who] fulfill their vows, [I.e., the spiritual and social obligations arising from their faith.] and
stand in awe of a Day the woe of which is bound to spread far and wide, and who give food - however great be their own want of it -
[In 2:177: however much they themselves may cherish or need it; see also 90:14-16. In this context the concept of “giving food” comprises
every kind of help and care, both material and moral.] unto the needy, and the orphan, and the captive, [The term asir denotes anyone
who is a captive either literally (e.g., a prisoner) or figuratively, i.e., a captive of circumstances which render him helpless; thus, the
Prophet said, “Thy debtor is thy captive; be, therefore, truly kind to thy captive”. The injunction of kindness towards all who are in need of
help - and therefore captive applies to believers and non-believers alike, and apparently also to animals dependent on man.] [saying, in
their hearts,] “We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks: behold, we stand in awe of
our Sustainer’s judgment on a distressful, fateful Day!” And so, God will preserve them from the woes of that Day, and will bestow
on them brightness and joy, and will reward them for all their patience in adversity with a garden [of bliss] and with [garments of]
silk.
PRAYING FOR FORGIVENESS AND GIVING CHARITY
(32:15-16) Only they [truly] believe in Our messages who, whenever they are conveyed to them, fall down, prostrating themselves
in adoration, and extol their Sustainer’s limitless glory and praise; and who are never filled with false pride; [and] who are im-
pelled to rise [I.e., bodies restlessly rise] from their beds [at night] to call out to their Sustainer in fear and hope; and who spend on
others out of what We provide for them as sustenance. (32:18-19) Is, then, he who [in his earthly life] was a believer to be compared
with one who was iniquitous? [Nay,] these two are not equal! As for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds - gardens of
rest await them, as a welcome [from God], in result of what they did;
(51:15-19) [But,] behold, the God-conscious will find themselves amid gardens and springs, enjoying all that their Sustainer will
have granted them [because], verily, they were doers of good in the past: they would lie asleep during but a small part of the night,
and would pray for forgiveness from their innermost hearts; and [would assign] in all that they possessed a due share unto such as
might ask [for help] and such as might suffer privation. [But could not beg - and this applies to all living creatures, whether human
beings or mute animals, irrespective of whether the need is of a physical or an emotional nature.]
GATES OF PARADISE WIDE OPEN AND WELCOME FROM THE ANGELS
(39:73-74) But those who were conscious of their Sustainer will be urged on in throngs towards paradise till, when they reach it,
they shall find its gates wide- open; and its keepers will say unto them, “Peace be upon you! Well have you done: enter, then, this
[paradise], herein to abide!” [Its gates will have been opened before their arrival. See also 38:50 - “gardens of perpetual bliss, with gates
wide-open to them”.] And they will exclaim: “All praise is due to God, who has made His promise to us come true, and has bestowed
upon us this expanse [of bliss] as our portion, so that we may dwell in paradise as we please!” And how excellent a reward will it be
for those who labored [in God’s way]! [The concept of “heritage” is used here metaphorically, to denote the rightful due, or portion, of
the blessed. The term ard (lit., “earth” or “land”) has also - especially in poetry - the connotation of “anything that is spread”: hence the
rendering of it, in the above context, as “expanse”.]
PROPHET’S NIGHT JOURNEY AND VISION OF HEAVEN
The prophet’s “Night Journey” (isra) from Mecca to Jerusalem and his subsequent “Ascension” (miraj) to heaven are, in reality, two stages
of one mystic experience, dating almost exactly one year before the exodus to Medina. In the best-known Tradition on the Ascension, the
Prophet introduces his narrative with the words: “While I lay on the ground next to the Kabah, lo! There came unto me an angel and cut
open my breast and took out my heart. And then a golden basin full of faith was brought unto me, and my heart was washed therein and
was filled [with it]; then it was restored to its place.” Since faith is an abstract concept, it is obvious that the Prophet himself regarded this
prelude to the Ascension - and therefore the Ascension itself and, ipso facto, the Night Journey to Jerusalem - as purely spiritual
experiences.
The Apostle of God, accompanied by the Angel Gabriel, found himself transported by night to the site of Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem,
where he led a congregation of many of the earlier, long since deceased prophets in prayer; some of them he afterwards encountered again
in heaven. The Ascension, in particular, is important from the viewpoint of Muslim theology as it was in the course of this experience that
the five daily prayers were explicitly instituted, by God’s ordinance, as an integral part of the Islamic Faith. (The translation of the Quran is
presented in bold letters and the explanation in parentheses.)
(17:1) Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night from the inviolable House of Worship [at Mecca] to the
Remote House of Worship [at Jerusalem] - the environs of which We had blessed [The Inviolable House of Worship (al-masjid al-
haram) is one of the designations given in the Quran to the Temple of the Kabah, the prototype of which owed its origin to Abraham
(2:125) and was “the first Temple set up for mankind” (3:96), i.e., the first ever built for the worship of the one God. “The Remote House
of Worship”, on the other hand, denotes the ancient Temple of Solomon - or, rather, its site - which symbolizes here the long line of Hebrew
prophets who preceded the advent of Muhammad and are alluded to by the phrase “the environs of which We had blessed”. The
juxtaposition of these two sacred temples is meant to show that the Quran does not inaugurate a “new” religion but represents a
continuation and the ultimate development of the same divine message, which was preached by the prophets of old.] - so that We might
show him some of Our symbols: for, verily, He alone is all-hearing, all - seeing. [The expression “some of Our symbols”, i.e., insight,
through symbols, into some of the ultimate truths.]
ASCENSION TO HEAVEN (lote-tree as symbol of paradise)
Verses 53:13-18 below, allude to the Prophet’s mystic experience of ascension to heaven (miraj). For the Prophet’s vision of hell and tree of
deadly fruits, see previous chapter “Hell”.
(53:13-18) And, indeed, he saw him a second time [He saw the angel manifested in his true shape and nature.] by the lote-tree of the
farthest limit, [On the occasion of his mystic experience of the “Ascension” (miraj). Owing to the abundance of its leafy shade, the
Arabian lote-tree appears in the Quran as well as in the Traditions relating to the Ascension as a symbol of the “shade” - i.e., the spiritual
peace and fulfillment - of paradise. The qualifying term “of the utmost or farthest limit” is indicative of the fact that God has set a definite
limit to all knowledge accessible to created beings, implying, in particular, that human knowledge, though potentially vast and penetrating,
can never - not even in paradise - attain to an understanding of the ultimate reality, which the Creator has reserved for Himself.] near unto
the garden of promise, with the lote-tree veiled in a veil of nameless splendor. [Lit., “when the lote-tree was veiled with whatever
veiled [it]”: a phrase deliberately vague, indicative of the inconceivable majesty and splendor attaching to this symbol of paradise which no
description can picture and no definition can embrace.] [And withal,] the eye did not waver, nor yet did it stray: truly did he see some
of the most profound of his Sustainer’s symbols. [During this mystic experience, the Prophet is said to have been “made to see” i.e.,
given to understand some, but not all, of the ultimate truths.]
PHYSICAL OR SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
Since the Prophet himself did not leave any clear-cut explanation of this experience, Muslim thinkers have always widely differed as to its
true nature. Many of the Companions believed that both the Night Journey and the Ascension were physical occurrences; however Aishah,
the Prophet's widow and most intimate companion of his later years, who declared emphatically that “he was transported only in his spirit,
while his body did not leave its place”. The theologians who maintain that the Night Journey and the Ascension were physical experiences
refer to the corresponding belief of most of the Companions - without, however, being able to point to a single Tradition to the effect that
the Prophet himself described it as such.
ALLEGORICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF MYSTICAL JOURNEY
The most convincing argument in favor of a spiritual interpretation of both the Night Journey and the Ascension is forthcoming from the
highly allegorical descriptions found in the authentic Traditions relating to this double experience: descriptions, that is, which are so
symbolic that they preclude any possibility of interpreting them literally in “physical” terms. Thus, for instance, the Apostle of God speaks
of his encountering at Jerusalem, and subsequently in heaven, a number of the earlier prophets, all of whom had undoubtedly passed away
a long time before. According to one Tradition, he visited Moses in his grave, and found him praying. In another Tradition, the Prophet
describes how, on his Night Journey, he encountered an old woman, and was thereupon told by Gabriel, “This old woman is the mortal
world”. In the words of yet another Tradition, Prophet “passed by people who were sowing and harvesting; and every time they completed
their harvest, the grain grew up again. Gabriel said, ‘These are the fighters in God's cause’. Then they passed by people whose heads were
being shattered by rocks; and every time they were shattered, they became whole again. Gabriel said, ‘these are they whose heads were
oblivious of prayer.’ Then they passed by people who were eating raw, rotten meat throwing away cooked, wholesome meat. [Gabriel] said,
“These are the adulterers.”
PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE VERSES DREAM
There is no cogent reason to believe in a “bodily” Night Journey and Ascension, there is, on the other hand, no reason to doubt the
objective reality of this event. The early Muslim theologians, who could not be expected to possess adequate psychological knowledge,
could visualize only two alternatives: either a physical happening or a dream. Since it appeared to them - and rightly so - that these
wonderful occurrences would greatly lose in significance if they were relegated to the domain of mere dream, they instinctively adopted an
interpretation in physical terms and passionately defended it against all contrary views, like those of Aishah, Muawiyah or Al-Hasan al-
Basri. In the meantime, however, we have come to know that a dream-experience is not the only alternative to a physical occurrence.
OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE
Observations of modern psychologists have confirmed the possibility - claimed from time immemorial by mystics of all persuasions - of a
temporary “independence” of man’s spirit from his living body. In the event of such a temporary independence, the spirit or soul appears to
be able freely to traverse time and space, to embrace within its insight occurrences and phenomena belonging to otherwise widely separated
categories of reality, and to condense them within symbolical perceptions of great intensity, clarity and comprehensiveness. But when it
comes to communicating such “visionary” experiences to people who have never experienced anything of the kind, the person concerned -
in this case, the Prophet - is obliged to resort to figurative expressions: and this would account for the allegorical style of all the Traditions
relating to the mystic vision of the Night Journey and the Ascension. It was his soul itself which actually went on the Night Journey and
ascended to heaven, and that the soul witnessed things which it otherwise witnesses after death or after separation from the body. As to the
prophets whom the Apostle of God met in heaven, it was but their souls which had come to dwell there after the separation from their
bodies, while the soul of the Apostle of God ascended there in his lifetime. By assuming that the Night Journey and the Ascension were
spiritual and not bodily, we do not diminish the extraordinary value attaching to this experience of the Prophet. On the contrary, it appears
that the fact of his having had such an experience by far transcends any miracle of bodily ascension, for it presupposes a personality of
tremendous spiritual perfection - the very thing that we expect from a true Prophet of God. However, it is improbable that we ordinary
human beings will ever be in a position fully to comprehend spiritual experiences of this kind. Our minds can only operate with elements
provided by our consciousness of time and space; and everything that extends beyond this particular set of conceptions will always defy
our attempts at a clear-cut definition.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the Prophet’s Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, immediately preceding his Ascension, was
apparently meant to show that Islam is not a new doctrine but a continuation of the same divine message which was preached by the
prophets of old, who had Jerusalem as their spiritual home. The Prophet, during his Night Journey, also offered prayers at Yathrib, Sinai,
Bethlehem, etc. His encounters with other prophets, mentioned in this connection, symbolize the same idea. The well-known Traditions to
the effect that on the occasion of his Night Journey the Prophet led a prayer in the Temple of Jerusalem, in which all other prophets ranged
themselves behind him, expresses in a figurative manner the doctrine that Islam, as preached by the Prophet Muhammad, is the fulfillment
and perfection of mankind’s religious development, and that Muhammad was the last and the greatest of God’s message-bearers.

HEAVENLY BLISS
By analogy, the principle of a comparison through allegory applied in the Quran to all references to paradise - i.e., a state of unimaginable
happiness in afterlife. The conditions of heavenly bliss are described with all the vividness of Eastern imagery for the people who lived in
arid climate. Heaven abounds in deep rivers of cool, crystal water, lush fruit and vegetation, boundless fertility, and beautiful mansions with
gracious attendants. We are told: Imagine the most joyous sensations, bodily as well as emotional, accessible to man: indescribable beauty,
love physical and spiritual, consciousness of fulfillment, perfect peace and harmony; and imagine these sensations intensified beyond
anything imaginable in this world - and at the same time entirely different from anything imaginable: and you have an inkling, however
vague, of what is meant by paradise.
Also supporting the non-materialistic interpretation of paradise is Muhammad’s statement that for the favored of God, to “see his Lord’s
face night and morning is a felicity which will surpass all the pleasures of the body, as the ocean surpasses a drop of sweat.” From this
view, the joy of joys consists in the beatific vision in which the veil which divides man from God will be rent forever and his heavenly
glory disc1osed to the soul untrammeled by its earthly raiments.
IMPOSSIBILITY OF MAN’S IMAGINING PARADISE
(32:17) And [as for all such believers,] no human being can imagine what blissful delights, as yet hidden, await them [in the life to
come] as a reward for all that they did. [The expression “what is kept hidden for them” refers to the unknowable - and, therefore, only
allegorically describable quality of life in the hereafter. The impossibility of man’s really imagining paradise has been summed up by the
Prophet in the well-authenticated hadith. In explaining the reference to paradise in 32:17, the Prophet indicated the essential difference
between man’s life in this world and in the hereafter in these words: “God says, ‘I have readied for My righteous servants what no eye has
ever seen, and no ear has ever heard, and no heart of man has ever conceived’ ”. On the other hand, the Quran speaks thus of the blessed in
paradise: (2:25) “Whenever they are granted fruits there from as their appointed sustenance, they will say, ‘It is this that in days of yore was
granted to us as our sustenance’ - for they shall be given something which will recall that [past]”: and so we have the image of gardens
through which running waters flow, blissful shade, spouses of indescribable beauty, and many other delights infinitely varied and unending,
and yet somehow comparable to what may be conceived of as most delightful in this world.
However, this possibility of an intellectual comparison between the two stages of human existence is to a large extent limited by the fact
that all our thinking and imagining is indissolubly connected with the concepts of finite time and finite space: in other words, we cannot
imagine infinity in either time or space - and therefore cannot imagine a state of existence independent of time and space - or, as the Quran
phrases it with reference to a state of happiness in afterlife, “(3:133) a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth” : which expression is
the Quranic synonym for the entire created universe. On the other hand, we know that every Quranic statement is directed to man’s reason
and must, therefore, be comprehensible either in its literal sense or allegorically; and since, owing to the constitution of the human mind,
neither infinity nor eternity are comprehensible to us, it follows that the reference to the infinite vastness of paradise cannot relate to
anything but the intensity of sensation which it will offer to the blest.
PARABLES OF PARADISE (see 13:35 and 45:15 below)
The parables of paradise also serve as an illustration, by means of something which we know from our experience, of something that is
beyond the reach of our perception. The term “parable” itself, is meant to impress upon those who read or listen to the Quran that its
descriptions of life in the hereafter are purely allegorical. We are here reminded that the Quranic descriptions of what awaits man after
resurrection are, of necessity, metaphorical, since the human mind cannot conceive of anything that is - both in its elements and its totality -
entirely different from anything that can be experienced in this world.
INFINITE GARDENS OF PARADISE
RIGHTEOUS DEEDS MIRRORED IN FRUITS OF HEAVEN
(2:25) But unto those who have attained to faith and do good works give the glad tiding that theirs shall be gardens through which
running waters flow. Whenever they are granted fruits there from as their appointed sustenance, they will say, “It is this that in
days of yore was granted to us as our sustenance!”- for they shall be given something that will recall that [past]? And there shall
they have spouses pure, and there shall they abide. [It is this that we have been promised during our life on earth as requital for faith and
righteous deeds. In other words, man’s actions and attitudes in this world will be mirrored in their “fruits”, or consequences, in the life to
come - “And he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good, shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall
behold it” (99:7-8).]
PARADISE BEYOND THE COUNT OF TIME
(4:122) Yet those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds We shall bring into gardens through which running waters flow,
therein to abide beyond the count of time: this is, in truth, God’s promise - and whose word could be truer than God’s? (4:124-126)
whereas anyone - be it man or woman - who does [whatever he can] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise, and
shall not be wronged by as much as [would fill] the groove of a date-stone. And who could be of better faith than he who surrenders
his whole being unto God and is a doer of good withal, and follows the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false -
seeing that God exalted Abraham with His love? [Or, chose Abraham to be (His) beloved friend (khalil)] For, unto God belongs all that
is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and, indeed, God encompasses everything.
FREEDOM FROM UNWORTHY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
(7:42-43) But those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds - [and] We do not burden any human being with more than he is well
able to bear - they are destined for paradise, therein to abide, after We shall have removed whatever unworthy thoughts or feelings
may have been [lingering] in their bosoms. Running waters will flow at their feet; [All blessings will be at their command.] and they
will say: “All praise is due to God, who has guided us unto this; for we would certainly not have found the right path unless God
had guided us! Indeed, our Sustainer’s apostles have told us the truth!" And [a voice] will call out unto them: “This is the paradise
which you have inherited by virtue of your past deeds!”
EVERLASTING HAPPINESS
(13:35) The parable of the paradise promised to those who are conscious of God [is that of a garden] through which running waters
flow: [but, unlike an earthly garden.] its fruits will be everlasting, and [so will be] its shade. [I.e., its gift of happiness] Such will be
the destiny of those who remain conscious of God.
FACING ONE ANOTHER ON THE THRONES OF HAPPINESS
(15:45-48) Verily, those who are conscious of God [shall find themselves in the hereafter] amidst gardens and springs, [having been
received with the greeting,] “Enter here in peace, secure!” And [by then] We shall have removed what - ever unworthy thoughts or
feelings may have been [lingering] in their breasts, [and they shall rest] as brethren, facing one another [in love] upon thrones of
happiness. [I.e., all being equal in dignity, and therefore free from envy. The plural noun surur (sing. sarir), which literally denotes
“couches” or, occasionally, “thrones”, signifies also seats or thrones of eminence or of happiness (surar), from which latter word the noun
sarir, and its plural surur may be derived. The sublime quality of these “thrones of happiness” is in some instances further symbolized by
expressions like “gold-encrusted” (56:15) or “raised high” (88:13).] No weariness shall ever touch them in this [state of bliss], and
never shall they have to forgo it.
BRACELETS OF GOLD, GREEN GARMENTS OF SILK AND BROCADE
(18:30-31) [But,] behold, as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds - verily, We do not fail to requite any who persevere
in doing good: theirs shall be gardens of perpetual bliss - [gardens] through which running waters flow - wherein they will be
adorned with bracelets of gold and will wear green garments of silk and brocade, [and] wherein upon couches they will recline:
how excellent a recompense, and how goodly a place to rest! [Like all other Quranic descriptions of happenings in the hereafter, the
above reference to the “adornment” of the believers with gold and jewels and silk (see similar passages in 22:23, 35:33 and 76:21) and their
“reclining upon couches” is obviously an allegory - in this case, an allegory of the splendor, the ever-fresh life (symbolized by “green
garments”), and the restful fulfillment that awaits them in result of the many acts of self-denial which their faith had imposed on them
during their earthly life. Referring to the symbolism of these joys of paradise, Razi draws our attention to the difference in the construction
of the two parts of this clause: the first part is in the passive form (“they will he adorned…,”) and the second, in the active (“they will
wear…”). In his opinion, the active form alludes to what the righteous will have earned by virtue of their deeds, whereas the passive form
denotes all that will be bestowed on them by God above and beyond their deserts.]
(22:23-24) [As against this,] behold, God will admit those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds into gardens through which
running waters flow, wherein they will be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls, and where silk will be their raiment: for they
were [willing to be] guided towards the best of all tenets, and so they were guided onto the way that leads to the One unto whom all
praise is due. [I.e., that there is no deity save God]
MANSIONS OF PARADISE
(29:56-59) O you servants of Mine who have attained to faith! Behold, wide is Mine earth: worship Me, then, Me alone! [Since the
earth offers innumerable, multiform facilities to human life, there is no excuse for forgetting God owing to the pressure of adverse
circumstances. Whenever or wherever the worship of God - in its essential, and not merely liturgical sense - becomes impossible, the
believer is obliged to “forsake the domain of evil” (which, as explained in 4:97, is the innermost meaning of the concept of hijrah) and to
“migrate unto God”, that is, to a place where it is possible to live in accordance with one’s faith.] Every human being is bound to taste
death, [and] in the end unto Us shall all be brought back: whereupon unto those who have attained to faith and wrought good
works We shall most certainly assign mansions in that paradise through which running waters flow, therein to abide: how excellent
a reward for those who labor - those who are patient in adversity and in their Sustainer place their trust!
TOTAL PEACE AND FULFILLMENT
(36:55) “Behold, those who are destined for paradise shall today have joy in whatever they do: (36:56) in happiness will they and
their spouses on couches recline; [In the Quranic descriptions of paradise, the term zill (shade) and its plural zilal is often used as a
metaphor for “happiness” - thus, for instance, in 4:57, where zill zilal signifies “happiness abounding” - while the “couches” on which the
blessed are to recline are obviously a symbol of inner fulfillment and peace of mind, as pointed in 18:31 and 55:54.] (36:57-58) [only]
delight will there be for them, and theirs shall be all that they could ask for: peace and fulfillment through the word of a Sustainer
who dispenses all grace. [This composite expression is the nearest approach in English to the concept of salam in the above context.]
DRINK FROM UNSULLIED SPRINGS
(37:40-49) God’s true servants: [in the hereafter,] theirs shall be a sustenance which they will recognize [See 2:25.] as the fruits [of
their life on earth]; and honored shall they be in gardens of bliss, facing one another [in love] upon thrones of happiness. [For the
rendering of the plural noun surur as “thrones of happiness”, see 15:47.] A cup will be passed round among them [with a drink] from
unsullied springs, clear, delightful to those who drink it: no headiness will be in it, and they will not get drunk thereon. And with
them will be mates of modest gaze, [See 38:52, where the expression “such as restrain their gaze” appears for the first time in the
chronology of Quranic revelation.] most beautiful of eye, [as free of faults] as if they were hidden [ostrich] eggs. [This is an ancient
Arabian figure of speech derived from the habit of the female ostrich, which buries its eggs in the sand for protection. Its particular
application to the women who attain to paradise becomes clear from 56:34, which states that all righteous women, irrespective of their age
and condition at the time of death, will be resurrected as beautiful maidens.]
CONVERSATION OF THE BLESSED
(37:50-61) And they will all turn to one another, asking each other [about their past lives]. [The conversation of the blessed which
follows here is, of course, allegorical, and is meant to stress the continuity of individual consciousness in the hereafter.] One of them
speaks thus: “Behold, I had [on earth] a close companion who was wont to ask [me], ‘Why - are you really one of those who believe
it to be true [that] after we have died and become mere dust and bones we shall, forsooth, be brought to judgment?”’ [And] he
adds: “Would you like to look [and see him]?” - and then he looks and sees that [companion of his] in the midst of the blazing fire,
and says: “By God! Verily, you have almost destroyed me [too, O my erstwhile companion] - for had it not been for my Sustainer’s
favor, I would surely be [now] among those who are given over [to suffering]! But then, [O my friends in paradise,] is it [really] so
that we are not to die [again,] beyond our previous death, and that we shall never [again] be made to suffer? Verily, this - this
indeed - is the triumph supreme!” For the like of this, then, let them labor, those who labor [in God’s way]!
GARDENS OF PERPETUAL BLISS WITH BELOVED SPOUSES
(38:49-54) Let [all] this be a reminder [to those who believe in God] - for, verily, the most beauteous of all goals awaits the God-
conscious: gardens of perpetual bliss, with gates wide-open to them, [The noun adn is used as a qualifying term for the “gardens”
(jannat) of paradise. It is derived from the verb adana, which primarily denotes he remained somewhere permanently. In Biblical Hebrew -
which is but a very ancient Arabian dialect - the closely related noun eden has also the additional connotation of “delight”, “pleasure” or
bliss”; hence the combination of the two concepts in above rendering of adn as “perpetual bliss”. As in many other places in the Quran, this
bliss is here allegorized - and thus brought closer to man’s imagination - by means of descriptions recalling earthly joys.] wherein they will
recline, [and] wherein they may [freely] call for many a fruit and drink, having beside them well-matched mates of modest gaze.”
[This allegorical reference to the delights of paradise occurs in the Quran three times (37:48 and 55:56). As an allegory, this phrase
evidently applies to the righteous of both sexes, who in the life to come will be rejoined with those whom they loved and by whom they
were loved in this world: for, “God has promised the believers, both men and women, gardens through which running waters flow, therein
to abide, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual bliss” (9:72); and, “anyone - be it man or woman - who does [whatever he can] of
good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise” (4:124, with similar statements in 16:97 and 40:40). Finally, we are told in 36:56
that in this paradise “will they and their spouses on couches recline” - i.e., will find peace and inner fulfillment with and in one another.]
This is what you are promised for the Day of Reckoning: this, verily, shall be Our provision [for you], with no end to it!
ANGELS SURROUNDING THE THRONE OF GOD’S ALMIGHTINESS
(39:20) They who of their Sustainer are conscious shall [in the life to come] have mansions raised upon mansions high, beneath
which running waters flow: [this is] God’s promise - [and] never does God fail to fulfill His promise. (39:75) And you will see the
angels surrounding the throne of [God’s] almightiness, extolling their Sustainer’s glory and praise. [The term al-arsh or the throne of
God is used as a metaphor for His absolute dominion over all that exists. (See 7:54) The mention of the “angels surrounding” it has a
metaphorical meaning: see 40:7.] And judgment will have been passed in justice on all [who had lived and died], and the word will be
spoken: “All praise is due to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!”
FLOWERING MEADOWS OF THE GARDENS OF PARADISE
(42:22-23) And in the flowering meadows of the gardens [of paradise you will see] those who have attained to faith and done
righteous deeds: all that they might desire shall they have with their Sustainer: [and] this, this is the great bounty - that [bounty]
whereof God gives the glad tiding to such of His servants as attain to faith and do righteous deeds.
ALL THAT THE SOULS DESIRE AND THE EYES MIGHT DELIGHT IN
(43:68-73) [And God will say:] “O you servants of Mine! No fear need you have today, and neither shall you grieve - [O you] who
have attained to faith in Our messages and have surrendered your own selves unto Us! Enter paradise, you and your spouses, with
happiness blest!” [And there] they will be waited upon with trays and goblets of gold; and there will be found all that the souls
might desire, and [all that] the eyes might delight in. And therein shall you abide, [O you who believe:] for such will be the paradise
which you shall have inherited by virtue of your past deeds: fruits [of those] shall you have in abundance, [and] thereof shall you
partake!
EVERLASTING PARADISE
(44:51-59) [As against this -] verily, the God-conscious will find themselves in a state secure, amid gardens and springs, wearing
[garments] of silk and brocade, facing one another [in love]. [see 18:31.] Thus shall it be. And We shall pair them with companions
pure, most beautiful of eye. [For the rendering of hur, see 56:22 and 56:34. The noun zawj applies to either of the two sexes, as does the
transitive verb zawaja, “he paired” or “joined”, i.e., one person with another.] In that [paradise] they shall [rightfully] claim all the
fruits [of their past deeds], resting in security; and neither shall they taste death there after having passed through their erstwhile
death. Thus will He have preserved them from all suffering through the blazing fire - an act of thy Sustainer’s favor: and that will
be the triumph supreme! [I.e., by His having offered them guidance, of which they availed themselves: thus, the attainment of ultimate
felicity is the result of an interaction between God and man, and of man’s communion with Him.] Thus, then, [O Prophet,] have We
made this [divine writ] easy to understand, in your own [human] tongue, so that men might take it to heart. [See 19:97.] So you
wait [for what the future will bring]: behold, they, too, are waiting. [I.e., whether they know it or not, God’s will shall be done.]
RIVERS OF WATER, MILK, WINE AND HONEY
(47:15) [And can] the parable of the paradise which the God-conscious are promised - [a paradise] wherein there are rivers of
water which time does not corrupt, and rivers of milk the taste whereof never alters, and rivers of wine delightful to those who
drink it, [See 37:47: “no headiness will there be in it, and they will not get drunk thereon”.] and rivers of honey of all impurity cleansed,
and the enjoyment of all the fruits [of their good deeds] and of forgiveness from their Sustainer. [The parabolic description of
paradise - beginning with the phrase “wherein there are rivers, etc., and ending with the words “and forgiveness from their Sustainer” - is a
parenthetic passage.]
REUNITING WITH FAMILY
(52:17-28) [But,] verily, the God-conscious will find themselves [on that Day] in gardens and in bliss, rejoicing in all that their
Sustainer will have granted them: for their Sustainer will have warded off from them all suffering through the blazing fire. [And
they will be told:] “Eat and drink with good cheer as an outcome of what you were wont to do, reclining on couches [of happiness]
ranged in rows!” [The “reclining on couches” or “on carpets” in paradise is a symbol of inner fulfillment and peace of mind; and this is
also alluded to in the identity of the verbal root sarra (“he was [or “became”] happy”) in both the nouns surur (“happiness”) and sari)’
(“couch”).] And [in that paradise] We shall mate them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye. [see 56:22.] And as for those
who have attained to faith and whose offspring will have followed them in faith, We shall unite them with their offspring; and We
shall not let aught of their deeds go to waste: [The righteousness of their children increases the merit of the parents.] [but] every human
being will be held in pledge for whatever he has earned. [I.e., the righteousness of the parents cannot absolve their offspring from
individual responsibility.] And We shall bestow on them fruit and meat in abundance - whatever they may desire: and in that
[paradise] they shall pass on to one another a cup which will not give rise to empty talk, and neither incite to sin. [See 37:47 - “no
headiness will there be in it, and they will not get drunk thereon”: and 56:19 - “by which their minds will not be clouded, and which will
not make them drunk”: an allegory of conscious, joyful elation. As regards the preceding reference to “fruit and meat in abundance -
whatever they may desire”, this symbolic “abundance” of sensual satisfaction will not lead to satiety but, rather, to a pleasurable desire
which - contrary to what is man’s lot in this world - can always be gratified.] And they will be waited upon by [immortal] youths, [See
56:17-18.] [as if they were children] of their own, [as pure] as if they were pearls hidden in their shells.] And they [who are thus
blest] will turn to one another, asking each other [about their past lives]. [This symbolic “asking one another about their past lives” is
meant to bring out the fact, often stressed in the Quran, that man’s individual consciousness invariably survives his bodily death, to
continue unbroken in the life to come.] They will say: “Behold, aforetime - when we were [still living] in the midst of our kith and kin
- we were full of fear [at the thought of God’s displeasure]: and so God has graced us with His favor, and has warded off from us all
suffering through the scorching winds [of frustration]. Verily, we did invoke Him [alone] before this: [and now He has shown us]
that He alone is truly benign, a true dispenser of grace!” [Through our own, actual experience and direct insight which will be granted
to the blessed on resurrection]
INFINITE GARDENS WITH WONDROUS HUES, SPRINGS, EVERY KIND OF FRUIT
(55:46-78) But for those who of their Sustainer’s Presence stand in fear, two gardens [of paradise are readied] - [I.e., two kinds of
paradise, to be experienced simultaneously. The “two gardens” of paradise contains a pointed allusion to the allegorical character of all
descriptions of the life to come, as well as to the inexpressible intensity (or multiplication) of all imaginable and unimaginable sensations in
that afterlife. The subsequent descriptions of the joys of paradise must be understood in the same symbolic light.] which, then, of your
Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? [two gardens] of many wondrous hues. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you
disavow? In [each of] these two [gardens] two springs will flow. [The “two springs” of paradise symbolize the two sources or streams of
knowledge accessible to man: the one obtained through the observation and intellectual analysis of external phenomena and the other
through inward, mystic insight.] Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? In [each of] these two will two kinds of
every fruit be [found]. [A kind that is known and a kind that is strange - i.e., cognitions or sensations that are imaginable on the basis of
our experiences in the present life, and such as are, as yet, unimaginable to us, and can, therefore, be only hinted at by means of symbols or
allegories.] Which, then, of your Sustainer s powers can you disavow? [In such a paradise the blest will dwell,] reclining upon
carpets lined with rich brocade; [The “reclining upon carpets” (or “upon couches” in 18:31) is a symbol of utter restfulness and peace of
mind. The mention of the “carpets” of paradise being lined with rich brocade is perhaps meant to convey the idea that - just as the lining of
a carpet is, as a rule, invisible - the beauty of paradise has nothing to do with outward show, being of an inner, spiritual nature.] and the
fruit of both these gardens will be within easy reach. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? In these [gardens]
will be mates of modest gaze, whom neither man nor invisible being will have touched before then. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s
powers can you disavow? [When you are promised splendors] as though [of] rubies and [of] pearls - which, then, of your
Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? Could the reward of good be aught but good? Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can
you disavow? And besides those two will be yet two [other] gardens - [The juxtaposition of “two other gardens” with the “two”
previously mentioned is meant to convey the idea of infinity in connection with the concept of paradise as such: gardens beyond gardens
beyond gardens in an endless vista, slightly varying in description, but all of them symbols of supreme bliss.] which, then, of your
Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? - two [gardens] of the deepest green. [I.e., by reason of abundant watering. The adjective “green”
is often used in the Quran to indicate ever-fresh life: e.g., the “green garments” which the inmates of paradise will wear (18:31 and 76:21),
or the “green meadows” upon which they will recline (see 55:76.] Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? In [each
of] these two [gardens] will two springs gush forth. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? In both of them will
be [all kinds of] fruit, and date-palms and pomegranates. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? In these
[gardens] will be [all] things most excellent and beautiful. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? [There the
blest will live with their] companions pure and modest, in pavilions [splendid] - [For this rendering of the plural noun hur (which is
both masculine and feminine), see 56:22, the earliest occurrence of this term in the Quran; also 56:34.] which, then, of your Sustainer’s
powers can you disavow? - [companions] whom neither man nor invisible being will have touched before then. Which, then, of your
Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? [In such a paradise will they dwell,] reclining upon meadows green and carpets rich in
beauty. Which, then, of your Sustainer’s powers can you disavow? Hallowed be thy Sustainer’s name, full of majesty and glory!
RECLINING ON GOLDEN THRONES, COMPANION PURE
(56:15-26) [They will be seated] on gold-encrusted thrones of happiness, reclining upon them, facing one another [in love]. [See
15:47 below for explanation of the above two verses.] Immortal youths will wait upon them with goblets, and ewers, and cups filled
with water from unsullied springs [A symbolic allusion to the imperishable quality (the eternal youthfulness) of all the experiences in the
state described as paradise.] by which their minds will not be clouded and which will not make them drunk; and with fruit of any
kind that they may choose, and with the flesh of any fowl that they may desire. And [with them will be their] companions pure,
most beautiful of eye, like unto pearls [still] hidden in their shells. [And this will be] a reward for what they did [in life]. No empty
talk will they hear there, nor any call to sin, but only the tiding of inner soundness and peace. [The noun hur rendered as “companions
pure” - is a plural of both ahwar (masc.) and hawra (fem.), either of which describes “a person distinguished by hawar”, which primarily
denotes “intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the iris”. In a more general sense, hawar signifies simply “whiteness” or, as
a moral qualification, “purity”. Hence, the compound expression hurin signifies, approximately, “pure beings or, more specifically,
“companions pure”, most beautiful of eye” (which latter is the meaning of in, the plural of ayan). As regards the term hur in its more
current, feminine connotation, it signifies the righteous among the women of the human kind.]
FRUIT-LADEN LOTE-TREES, SPOUSES OF ETERNAL YOUTH
(56:28-40) [They, too, will find themselves] amidst fruit-laden lote-trees, [See 53:14 above.] and acacias flower-clad, and shade
extended, [See 4:57.] and waters gushing, and fruit abounding, never-failing and never out of reach. And [with them will be their]
spouses, raised high: [The term firash (lit., “bed” or “couch”) is often used tropically to denote “wife” or “husband”; and, secondly,
because of the statement in the next verse that God “shall have brought them into being in a life renewed”. Also 36:56, which thus refers to
the inmates of paradise: “… in happiness will they and their spouses on couches recline”. The “spouses raised high” - i.e., to the status of
the blest - are identical with the hur mentioned in verse 22 above as well as in 44:54, 52:20 and 55:72.] for, behold, We shall have
brought them into being in a life renewed, having resurrected them as virgins, [The Prophet stated on several occasions that all
righteous women, however old and decayed they may have been on earth, will be resurrected as virginal maidens and will, like their male
counterparts, remain eternally young in paradise.] full of love, well-matched with those who have attained to righteousness: [I.e., equal
in dignity with all other inmates of paradise. Tthe term atrab (sing. tirb), rendered above as “well-matched”, primarily denotes persons of
equal age; however, this term is also used in the sense of persons equal in quality, that is, “well-matched”: a significance which is
eminently appropriate here as it is meant to stress the equal excellence of all who have attained to righteousness, whether they be men or
women; or, alternatively, the equal attraction towards one another and, thus, a mutual fulfillment of their spiritual and emotional needs; or
both of the above meanings.] a good many of olden times, and a good many of later times. [In contrast with the foremost, who have
always been “drawn close unto God” - and of whom there are less and less as time goes on ( verse 14) - there will always be many of those
who attain to righteousness after initial stumbling and sinning (verse 27).]
HEAVENLY DRINKS, VESSELS OF SILVER AND GOBLETS
(76:5-6) [whereas,] behold, the truly virtuous shall drink from a cup flavored with the calyx of sweet smelling flowers: [There are
different meanings given to kafur by lexicologists: the calyx (kimm) of the grape before its flowering; the calyx of any flower; spathe of a
palm tree, etc. The meaning of kafur in the above context is an allusion to the sweet, extremely delicate fragrance of the symbolic drink of
divine knowledge (see 83:25-28).] a source [of bliss] whereof God’s servants shall drink, seeing it flow in a flow abundant. [I.e.,
having it always at their disposal] (76:13-22) In that [garden] they will on couches recline, and will know therein neither [burning]
sun nor cold severe, since its [blissful] shades will come down low over them, [Regarding the allegorical implication of the term
“shades”, see 4:57. It is to be noted that the existence of shade presupposes the existence of light, which latter is one of the characteristics
implicit in the concept of “paradise”.] and low will hang down its clusters of fruit, most easy to reach. And they will be waited upon
with vessels of silver and goblets that will [seem to] be crystal - crystal-like, [but] of silver - the measure whereof they alone will
determine. [I.e., partaking of as much as they may desire] And in that [paradise] they will be given to drink of a cup flavored with
ginger, [derived from] a source [to be found] therein, whose name is “Seek Thy Way”. [This is how Ali ibn Abi Talib explains the
(obviously compound) word salsabilan, dividing it into its two components, salsabilan (“ask [or “seek”] the ways): namely, “seek thy way
to paradise by means of doing righteous deeds”. It contains an allusion to the highly allegorical character of the concept of “paradise” as a
spiritual consequence of one’s positive endeavors in this world. That its delights are not of a material nature is also evident from their
varying descriptions - i.e., “a cup flavored with ginger” in verse 17, and “flavored with the calyx of sweet-smelling flowers” in verse 5; or
“they will be waited upon with trays and goblets of gold” in 43:71, and “vessels of silver and goblets that will (seem to) be crystal - crystal-
like, (but) of silver”, in verses 15-16 of this surah; and so forth.] And immortal youths will wait upon them: [See 56:17-18.] when you
see them, you would deem them to be scattered pearls; and when you see [anything that is] there, you will see [only] bliss and a
realm transcendent. Upon those [blest] will be garments of green silk and brocade; and they will be adorned with bracelets of
silver. [See 18:31, where “bracelets of gold” are mentioned.] And their Sustainer will give them to drink of a drink most pure. [And
they will be told:] “Verily, all this is your reward, since your endeavor [in life] has met with [God’s] goodly acceptance!” [Implying
that God Himself will slake their spiritual thirst by purifying their inner selves of all envy, and rancor, and malice, and all that leads to
harm, and all that is base in man’s nature, and by allowing them to drink of His Own Light.]
LUXURIANT GARDENS AND VINEYARDS
(78:31-37) [But,] verily, for the God-conscious there is supreme fulfillment in store: luxuriant gardens and vineyards, [I.e., the
fulfillment of all that a human being may ever desire, symbolized by the “luxuriant gardens”, etc.] and splendid companions well-
matched, [the term kawib has the meaning “glorious (or “splendid”) beings”, without any definition of sex; and that, in combination with
the term atrab, it denotes, “splendid companions well-matched” - thus alluding to the relations of the blest with one another, and stressing
the absolute mutual compatibility and equal dignity of all of them. See also 56:34.] and a cup [of happiness] overflowing. No empty talk
will they hear in that [paradise], nor any lie. [All this will be] a reward from thy Sustainer, a gift in accordance with [His Own]
reckoning – [I.e., not merely in accordance with their good deeds but far in excess of them, in accordance with God’s unlimited bounty.] [a
reward from] the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, the Most Gracious!
PURE WINE FROM FOUNTAIN OF PARADISE
(83:18-28) Nay, verily, the record of the truly virtuous is [set down] in a mode most lofty! [The verb a1a, which signifies something
was (or became) high or lofty.] And what could make you conceive what that mode most lofty will be? A record [indelibly] inscribed,
witnessed by all who have [ever] been drawn close unto God. [I.e., by the prophets and saints of all times as well as by the angels]
Behold, [in the life to come] the truly virtuous will indeed be in bliss: [resting] on couches, they will look up [to God]: [As elsewhere
in the Quran, the “couches” of the virtuous in paradise symbolize complete restfulness and inner fulfillment.] upon their faces you will see
the brightness of bliss. They will be given a drink of pure wine whereon the seal [of God] will have been set, pouring forth with a
fragrance of musk. [The pure wine of the hereafter - which, contrary to the wine of this world, will carry “the seal” (i.e., the sanction) of
God because “no headiness will be in it, and they will not get drunk thereon” (37:47) - is another symbol of paradise, alluding, by means of
comparisons with sensations that can be experienced by man, to the otherworldly sensations of joy which, in a form intensified beyond all
human imagination, are in store for the righteous. Some of the great Muslim mystics (e.g., Jalal ad-Din Rumi) see in that “pure wine” as an
allusion to a spiritual vision of God: an interpretation which, is fully justified by the sequence.] To that [wine of paradise], then, let all
such aspire as [are willing to] aspire to things of high account: for it is composed of all that is most exalting – a source [of bliss]
whereof those who are drawn close unto God shall drink. [Whereas most of the classical commentators regard the infinitive noun
tasnim as the proper name of one of the allegorical “fountains of paradise”, or, alternatively, refrain from any definition of it, it seems that
the derivation of tasnim from the verb sannama - “he raised (something)” or “made (it) lofty” - points, rather, to the effect which the “wine”
of divine knowledge will have on those who “drink” of it in paradise. Hence, the tabii Ikrimah (as quoted by Razi) equates tasnim with
tashrif, “that which is ennobling” or “exalting”.]
GARDENS THROUGH WHICH RUNNING WATERS FLOW
(85:11) [But,] verily, they who attain to faith and do righteous deeds shall [in the life to come] have gardens through which running
waters flow - that triumph most great! [This is the earliest Quranic reference to “gardens through which running waters flow” as an
allegory of the bliss which awaits the righteous in the hereafter.]
(88:13-16) [and] there will be thrones [of happiness] raised high, [See 15:47.] and goblets placed ready, and cushions ranged, and
carpets spread out.
HIGHER STAGE OF EVOLUTION FOR MAN
(11:108) But as for those who [by virtue of their past deeds] will have been blest with happiness, [they shall live] in paradise, therein
to abide as long as the heavens and the earth endure - unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise - as a gift unceasing. [I.e., unless God
wills to bestow on them a yet greater reward or unless He opens up to man a new, yet higher stage of evolution.]

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