But even if the hur are taken to be a blessing of Paradise, and not the women of this world, it is a blessing as well for men and for women. Just as the gardens, rivers, milk, honey, fruits, and numerous other things of Paradise are both for men and women, even so are hur. What these blessings actually are, no one knows, but the whole picture of Paradise drawn in the Qur'an strongly condemns the association of any sensual idea therewith. It may, however, be asked, why are these blessings described in words which apply to women? The fact is that the reward spoken of here has special reference to the purity and beauty of character, and if there is an emblem of purity and beauty, it is womanhood, and not manhood.
The Religion of Islam
by Maulana Muhammad Ali, pp. 218-226
Jannah or Paradise
The life after death takes two forms: a life in Paradise for those in whom the good preponderates over the evil, and a life in Hell for those in whom the evil preponderates over the good. The word Paradise (Firdaus) occurs only twice in the Qur'an; on one occasion in conjunction with Gardens (18:107) (jannat) and on the other alone. (23:11). It is the word garden (jannah) or its plural (jannat) that is generally used to indicate the abiding place of the righteous. (Jannat is derived from janna which signifies "the conceding of a thing so that it is not perceived by the senses, and jannat, in the ordinary usage, means a garden, because its ground is covered by trees.) The use of this name for the abode of bliss has a deeper significance, since of Paradise it is plainly stated that its blessings are such as cannot be perceived by the physical senses. The description of Paradise usually given is "gardens in which river flow," corresponding to which the description of the righteous generally is "those who believe and do good." These two descriptions, read in the light of what has gone before as to the materialization in the next world of the spiritualities of this life, are an indication of the fact that faith, which is the water of spiritual life, is converted into rivers, and good deeds, which spring from faith, are the seeds whence grows the trees of the next life.
Blessings of Paradise
The description of Paradise as a garden with rivers flowing in it, is clearly stated to be a parable or a likeness, not an actuality, in terms of this life: "A parable of the garden which is promised to those who keep their duty: therein flow rivers; its fruits are perpetual and its plenty" (13:35); "A parable of the garden which the dutiful are promised: therein are rivers of water not altering for the worse..." (47:15).
And quite in keeping with third description is the statement made elsewhere, that the blessings of Paradise cannot be conceived of in this life, not being things of this world:
"No soul knows what refreshment of the eyes is hidden for them: a reward for what they did" (32:17).
And explanation of these words was given by the Prophet himself when he said:
"Allah says I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what the mind of man has not conceived" (Bu. 59:8)
And Ibn 'Abbas, the famous companion and commentator, is reported to have said:
"In Paradise there are no foods of this life except in names" (RM. 1, p. 172).
A few examples may be added. Zill which means "a shadow," is spoken as of one of the blessings of Paradise: "They and their wives are in shades" (36:56);
"The dutiful are amid the shades and fountains" (77:41); "It's fruits are perpetual and its zill" (13:35). Zill (The same word has also been used in connection with the rigours of Hell. "And the shade of black smoke, neither cool nor honourable" (56:43, 44). "Walk on to the shade having three branches" (77:30). Raghib adds that "zill" is "every covering whether good or bad"; and hence zill is also spoken of as one of the severities of Hell. Zill actually does not in all these cases bear the significance of shade; the name is there but its import is quite different. In fact we are plainly told in the Qur'an that there is no sun in Paradise: "They will see therein neither sun nor intense cold" (76:13).
Hence in the case of Paradise, zill signifies "protection of plenty," as being the idea underlying the word shade (R.). Those in Paradise are spoken of as being given sustenance (rizq). But it cannot mean what sustains the body here. It is the sustenance that is needed for the inner self of man, and it is for this reason prayer is also called sustenance. (20:131). The fruits of Paradise, whether mentioned under a particular name or generally, are not the fruits of this life, but of deeds done. The name is the same, but the significance is quite different. Thus we are told: "Whenever they are given a portion of the fruit thereof, they will say: This is what was given to us before" (2:25). Evidently the fruits of good deeds are meant here, and not the fruits that the earth grows, because the latter are not given to all the true believers here while the former are. Similar is the case with the rivers of water, milk and honey all of which are plainly spoken of as a parable; (47:15) the thrones, the cushions and carpets; (88:13-16) the ornaments, the bracelets, the silk robes (18:31) --- all these are not things of this life, but are mentioned simply to show that whatever may serve to perfect the picture of happiness of man, will be there.
As for the exact form they will take, that cannot be made known to man, because his sense are incapable of perceiving it. All descriptions of the blessing of the next life are only a likeness or a parable (mathal) as is explained in the Qur'an. (13:35, 47:15). As already stated, the Resurrection means quite a new life and a new order of things, a new heaven and a new earth. A little consideration will show that our ideas of space and time are inapplicable to the next life. Paradise extends over the whole of the heavens and the earth, that is to say, the whole of this universe: "And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden as wide has the heavens and the earth" (3:132; 57:21). And when the Prophet was asked where was Hell, if Paradise extended over the whole of the heavens and the earth, he replied "Where is the night when the day comes?" (RM. 1, p. 670).
This shows that Paradise and Hell are more like two conditions than two places. Again, not withstanding the fact that the two are poles asunder, the one being the highest of the high and the other the lowest of the low, they are separated only by a thin partition: "Then a wall, with a door in it, will be raised between them; within it shall be mercy and outside of it chastisement" (57:13)
And it is said: "And between them is a veil" (7:46). It is impossible, with our present ideas of space, to conceive of these two things at one and the same time. Again, a "vehement raging and roaring" of hell-fire is repeatedly mentioned, (25:12; 67:7) but those in Paradise shall "not hear its faintest sound" (21:102) while they will hear the call of the inmates of that fire: And the companions of the fire shall call out to the owners of the Garden: "Pour on us some water or some of that which Allah has provided for you. They say: Surely Allah has prohibited them both to the disbelievers, who take their religion for an idle sport and a play, and this world's life deceives them" (7:50,51).
Thus, those in Paradise shall hear the talk of those in Hell, but they shall not hear the roaring of the fire of Hell. This shows that the change, that will come over man in the Resurrection, will be so thorough that even his present senses will be changed into others of which it is impossible to him to conceive in this life, senses which would hear the lowest tones of one kind, but not the most terrible sounds of another.
Women in Paradise
The things mentioned among the blessings of Paradise, are, therefore not the things of this world, but things which we have neither seen nor heard of in this life; nor, with our present senses, can we even conceive of them. All descriptions given are simply to show that the life of the righteous will be perfect in the Resurrection. It is with the same end in view that mention is made of the company of men and women in that state, to which sensually minded people have attached a sensual significance. Raghib (The famous lexicologist of the Qur'an) says that "the meaning of zawwajna-hum bu-hur-in 'in is that we have given them hur as companions (qarannahum bi-hinna), and the Qur'an does not say zawwajna-hum hur-an, as you say in the case of marriage of a man with a woman, zawwajtu-hu imra'atan, hinting that relations there will not be as they are known to us here in this life." (25)
See also LL., which confirms that the use of the word zauj as a double transitive verb without being followed by a particle means marrying and when made doubly transitive with a particle bi to join and unite to its fellow or like. Along with it is quoted 81:7 which is translated as meaning as when the souls shall be paired or united with their fellows.
It is also stated that in the "relations with women in Paradise there is no suggestion of procreation"; (RM. 1, p.172) and as sexual relationship, as understood in this life, is a requirement of nature to help the act of procreation, it is clear that the relationship of sexes of company of men and women in the Resurrection has quite a different significance. The mention of women in the Qur'an is, in the first place, to show that men and women are both equal in the sight of God, and that both will enjoy the higher life in the Resurrection. That women, in general, shall have access to Paradise like men, is made clear in many places:
"And whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, these shall enter the Garden" (40:40; 4:124).
"Whoever does good deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer, We shall certainly make him live a good life" (16:97).
"I will not suffer the work of any worker among you to be lost whether male or female, the one of you being from the other" (3:194).
The wives of the righteous are mentioned particularly as accompanying their husbands in Paradise: "They and their wives are in shades, reclining on raised couches" (36:56).
"Our Lord! make them enter the Gardens of perpetuity, which Thou hast promised them and such of their fathers and their wives and their offspring as are good" (40:8).
"Enter the garden, you and your wives; being made happy" (43:70).
Among the various descriptions of women in Paradise is the word hur, which occurs four times in the Qur'an. It is plural o ahwar (applied to man) and of haura (applied to woman), signifying one having eyes characterized by the quality termed hawar (LL).
27) It is plural o ahwar (applied to man) and of haura' (applied to woman), signifying one having eyes characterized by the quality termed hawar (LL). (27)
Hawar means originally whiteness (which is a symbol of purity), and the word haura is applied to a woman who is of white colour and whose white of the eye is intensely white and the black thereof intensely black (LA). Ahwar, besides being applied to a man of a similar description, also signifies pure or clear intellect. (LL).
Purity is the prevailing idea in the meaning of hawar and therefore hawari, (28) which is derived from the same root, means "a pure and sincere friend."
(28) In the Qur'an this word has been particularly used applied to the chosen disciples of Jesus, but in Tradition it is used in a general sense in connection with the chosen friends of any prophet.
Hence "pure ones" is the nearest rendering of the word hur, in English.
The four occasions on which the women of Paradise are spoken of as hur are:
"Those who keep their duty are indeed in a secure place, in gardens and springs... and We shall join them to pure (hur), beautiful ones" (44:51-54).
"The dutiful will be surely in Gardens and bliss... Reclining on thrones set in lines, and We will join them to pure (hur), beautiful ones” (52:17-20).
"Therein (i.e. the gardens) are good beautiful ones... Pure ones (hur) confined to pavilions" (55:70-72).
"And the foremost are the foremost, these are drawn nigh (to God). In Gardens of bliss... On thrones inwrought.. And pure (hur), beautiful ones, the likes of hidden pearls: a reward for what they did" (56:10-24).
Are hur the women that go to Paradise, the wives of the righteous? A hint to this effect is given in tradition. The last of the occasions of the occasions on which the hur are spoken of is 56:10-24, and in continuation of the subject there occur the words: "Surely We have created them a new creation, so We have made them virgins, loving, equals in age, for those on the right hand" (56:35-38).
In connection with their being a new creation, the Prophet is reported to have said that, by this are meant women who have grown old here. (Tr. 44: Surah 56). The meaning therefore is that all good women will be in a new creation in the life of the Resurrection so they shall be all virgins, equals in age. The Prophet's explanation shows that the word hur is used to describe the new growth into which women of the world will grow. An anecdote is related that an old woman came to the Prophet when he was sitting with his Companions, and asked him if she would go to Paradise. In a spirit of mirth, the Prophet remarked that there would be no old women in Paradise. She was about to turn away rather sorrowfully, when the Prophet comforted her with the words that all women shall be made to grow into a new growth, so that there shall be no old women in Paradise, and recited the verses quoted above. (RM. VIII, p. 320).
Hur as a blessing of Paradise
The conclusion to which this tradition leads is further supported by what is stated in the Qur'an. The description of hur as given in the Qur'an, contains the best qualities of a good woman, purity of character, beauty, youthful appearance, restrained eyes and love for her husband. But even if the hur are taken to be a blessing of Paradise, and not the women of this world, it is a blessing as well for men and for women. Just as the gardens, rivers, milk, honey, fruits, and numerous other things of Paradise are both for men and women, even so are hur. What these blessings actually are, no one knows, but the whole picture of Paradise drawn in the Qur'an strongly condemns the association of any sensual idea therewith. It may, however, be asked, why are these blessings described in words which apply to women? The fact is that the reward spoken of here has special reference to the purity and beauty of character, and if there is an emblem of purity and beauty, it is womanhood, and not manhood.
Dr Zahid Aziz writes:
Explanation of so-called ‘maidens’ (húr) in Islamic conception of paradise:
From the notes in the English translation of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali
The mention of hur in the Holy Quran as among the blessings of paradise, promised to the true believers in the life after death, is much misunderstood. This word and certain other associated terms are mistakenly considered to mean beautiful, young maidens, to be given as reward in the after-life to Muslim men, and on this basis the teachings of Islam are maligned and criticized as pandering to the crude, lustful desires of men.
We quote below some commentary notes by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his English translation of the Holy Quran, explaining these terms and their true significance. The following points emerge about what these blessings of paradise are:
They are the fruits of the good deeds of a person, whether male or female;
Their nature is entirely different from anything that is, or can be, known in this world;
These rewards are meant for both the male and the female believers equally.
See the rest at: http://www.muslim.org/islam/hur.htm
Children in Paradise
What is true of women is also true of ghilman (children). The Qur'an speaks, on one occasion, of the presence in Paradise of ghilman (pl. of ghulam meaning a boy), and on two occasions of wildan (pl. of walad meaning a son or a child):
"And round them go boys (ghilman) of theirs as if they were of hidden pearls" (52:24);
"And round about them shall go youths (wildan) never altering in age" (56:17; 76:19).
In the first case, there is a double indication showing that these boys, called the ghilman, are the offspring of the faithful; they are called ghilman-un la-hum or their boys, and it clearly stated that God will "united with them (i.e. the righteous) their offspring" (52:21).
To the same effect, it is elsewhere said that the "offspring" of the faithful will be made to enter Paradise with them (40:8). Hence ghilman and the wildan are the young children who have died in childhood. There is, however, a possibility that these boys are only a blessing of Paradise, as boyhood is, like womanhood, an emblem of purity and beauty.
Abode of peace
No reader of the Qur'an can fail to see that the real picture of Paradise, therein portrayed, has no implication whatsoever, of any sensual pleasure.
Some of the verses which reveal the true nature of Paradise may be quoted:
"Allah has promised to the believing men and the believing women gardens in which rivers flow, to abide in them, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual abode; and greatest of all is Allah's goodly pleasure, that is the grand achievement" (9:72).
“Those who believe and do good, their Lord guides them by their faith; rivers flow beneath them in Gardens of bliss. Their cry in it will be, Glory to Thee, O Allah! And their greeting Peace! And the last of their cry will be: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds” (10:9,10).
“Their greeting therein is, Peace!” (14:23). “Surely those who keep their duty are in Gardens and fountains: Enter them in peace, secure. And We shall root out whatever of rancour is in their breasts – as brethren, on raised couches, face to face. Toil afflicts them not in it, nor will they be ejected therefrom” (15:45-48)
“And they say: Praise be to Allah, Who has removed grief from us! Surely our Lord is Forgiving, Multiplier of rewards, Who out of His grace has made us alight in a house abiding forever therein; toil touches us not, nor does fatigue afflict us therein” (35:34-35).
“They have fruits therein, and they have whatever they desire. Peace! A word from the Merciful Lord” (36:57-58).
“Enter it in peace. That is the day of abiding. For them therein is all they wish and with Us is yet more” (50:34-35).
“They hear therein no vain or sinful talk but only the saying, Peace! Peace!” (57:25-26).
Quite in accordance with this description of Paradise, one of the names by which Paradise is mentioned in the Qur’an is abode of peace (6:128, 10:25) – (dar al-salam).
Liqa Allah or meeting with God
The ultimate object of the life is described as liqa' Allah which means the meeting with God. In one of the earliest chapters we are told: "O man! Thou must strive a hard striving (to attain) to thy Lord until thou meet Him" (84:6). But this object cannot be fully attained in this life; it is only in the life after death, the higher life, that man is able to reach this stage. Hence it is that those who deny the life after death are said to be deniers of the meeting with God: "And they say: "When we are lost in the earth, shall we then be in a new creation? Nay, they are disbelievers in the meeting with their Lord" (32:10).
To be content with this life, and not to look forward to a higher goal and a higher life, is repeatedly condemned: "Those who expect not the meeting with Us, and are pleased with this world's life and are satisfied with it, and those who are heedless of Our communications --- these, their abode is the Fire" (10:7,8);
"We leave those alone who have no hope of meeting with Us, in their ordinancy, blindly wandering on" (10:11);
"And those who disbelieve in the messages of Allah and the meeting with Him, they despair of My mercy, and for them is a painful chastisement" (29:23);
"They know the outward of this world's life, but of the Hereafter they are heedless. Do they not reflect within themselves? Allah did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them but with truth and for an appointed term. And surely most of the people are deniers of the meeting with their Lord" (30:7-8).
Only those who are sure that they will meet their Lord work on patiently for this great object: "And seek assistance through patience and prayer, and this is hard except for the humble ones, who know that they will meet their Lord and that to Him they will return" (2:45-46).
The meeting with the Lord is the great goal to attain for which all good deeds are done: "So whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds and join no one in the service of his Lord" (18:110).
And what is Hell itself but being debarred from the Divine presence: "Nay, rather, they earned is rust upon their hearts. Nay, surely they are that day debarred from their Lord. Then they will surely enter the burning Fire" (83:14-16).
Paradise is therefore the place of meeting with God, and life in Paradise is above all corporeal conceptions.
Advancement in the higher life
That, however, is only the beginning of the higher life. The goal has been attained, but it only opens out wide fields for further advancement. In accordance with the idea of the Resurrection as the birth into a higher life, the Qur'an speaks of an unending progress in that life, of the righteous ever rising to higher and higher stages. Rest and enjoyment are not the goal of human existence. Just as there is a desire implanted in the human soul to advance further and further in this life, even so there will be such a desire in Paradise:
"O you who believe, turn to Allah with sincere repentance. It may be your Lord will remove from you your evil and cause you to enter Gardens wherein flow rivers, on the day on which Allah will not abase the Prophet and those who believe in him. Their light will gleam before them and on their right hands -- they will say: Our Lord, make perfect for us our light and grant us protection; surely Thou art possessor of power over all things" (66:8).
It is clear from the first part of this verse that all evil is removed from those who enter into Paradise, and as clear from the concluding portion that the soul of the righteous shall be animated by a desire for more and more light, which evidently indicates a desire to attain to higher and ever higher stages of spiritual life. And there shall be means of fulfillment of every desire in Paradise: "They have fruits therein and they have whatever they desire" (36:57).
So the desire to attain to higher and higher stages can not remain unfulfilled: "But those who keep their duty to their Lord, for them are high places, above them higher places (still), built for them" (39:20).
The new life granted to the righteous in Paradise is thus the starting-point for a new advancement, in which man shall continue to rise to higher and higher places.
“Nor shall man ever grow weary in the attainment of these high stages of which even a conception cannot be formed, for "therein toil touches us not nor does fatigue afflict us therein" (35:35);
"Nor shall they be ever ejected from it" (15:48).
They joys of Paradise are thus really the true joys of advancement.