In Islam, the ḥūr or ḥūrīyah[note 1] (Arabic: حورية) are commonly translated as "(splendid) companions of equal age (well-matched)", "lovely eyed", of "modest gaze", "pure beings" or "companions pure" of paradise, denoting humans and jinn who enter Jannah (paradise) after being recreated anew in the hereafter. Islam also has a strong mystical tradition which places these heavenly delights in the context of the ecstatic awareness of God.
- 1 Description
- 2 Etymology
- 3 Mention
- 4 Physical attributes
- 5 72 virgins
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The houri have variously been described as being "restraining their glances (chaste)", "modest gaze", "wide and beautiful/lovely eyes", "like pearls", "spouse", "companions of equal age", "splendid", "voluptuous", and much more besides.
Shia scholar description
Still all in accordance with the Quran, the basic fact of the description of this beauty is how good deeds take the ideal order and proportion to physical forms, how they won't fade away over time, and how they accompany their performers. This description is widely used in Sufism and mysticism.
Some descriptions are more superficial rather than scholarly. For example, "non-menstruating/urinating/defecating and childfree or being able to have a short pregnancy lasting an hour", "with bodies not affected by pregnancy or breast-feeding", "60 cubits (27.5 m or 90 ft) tall", "7 cubits (3.2 m or 10 ft) in width", "transparent to the marrow of their bones", "eternally young", "hairless except the eyebrows and the head", "pure", "beautiful",
Classical Arabic usage
The word 'ḥūr' (حُور) is the plural of both ʾaḥwar (أحْوَر) (masculine) and ḥawrāʾ (حَوْراء) (feminine)  which literally translates as "white-eyed", or persons distinguished by ḥawar (حَوَر), signifying "intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the pupils." (ref: Qamus ), hence 'the purity'. In 3 of the 4 Quranic verses in which the word ḥūr is specifically used, it is collocated with the word ʿayn (عين) and in this sense is used to refer to the beautiful eyes in terms of contrast between the white and the dark. In general, this word implies 'most beautiful eye' irrespective of the person's gender. Thus, it seems that the most appropriate English rendering of the phrase ḥūr ʿayn might be: "Companions pure, most beautiful of eye." and it is applicable to both male and female.
Corresponding Hebrew root
In Hebrew the corresponding adjective חיוור hiwer has the same root h-w-r, meaning "pale, whitish". The corresponding word for eye is עין Ayin.
"Houri" and "whore"
The English word "whore" (German Hure, Danish hore, Swedish hora, Dutch hoer, Proto-Germanic *hōrōn, masculine form Gothic hors, Proto-Germanic *hōraz) is thought to stem from the Proto-Indo-European verb root *keh₂- "to love" (with an the original meaning of "lover") and is not etymologically related to the Arabic (Semitic and thus non-Indo-European) word houri.
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The houri are mentioned in several places in the Quran, although in plural no specifics are given as to the number of houries available. Likewise it does not appear from the Quran that they are only women; both sexes are mentioned (although their descriptive qualities are feminine, as alluded to, by the hadiths). They are made available to all believers, not just martyrs.
Thus shall it be. And We shall pairA them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye.
[There the blest will live with their] companions pure and modest, in pavilions [splendid]—Quran, sura 55, (Ar-Rahman), ayah 72
reclining on couches [of happiness] ranged in rows!" And [in that paradise] We shall mate them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye
Here are verses that refer to one's spouse recreated in the hereafter:
And [with them will be their] spouses, raised high: for, behold, We shall have brought them into being in a life renewed, having resurrected them as virgins
And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kindC so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! ... And He it is who creates [all life] in the first instance, and then brings it forth anew: and most easy is this for Him, since His is the essence of all that is most sublime in the heavens and on earth, and He alone is almighty, truly wise.
There are also verses regarding both genders explicitly:
Allah has promised the believers, both men and women,D gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual bliss: but Allah's goodly acceptance is the greatest [bliss of all] -for this, this is the triumph supreme!
As for anyone - be it man or womanE - who does righteous deeds, and is a believer withal - him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life, and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did.
A verse regarding other companionship:
And, O our Sustainer, bring them into the gardens of perpetual bliss which Thou hast promised them, together with the righteous from among their forebears, and their spouses, and their offspring - for, verily, Thou alone art almighty, truly wise
The Islamic traditions (hadith) also mention the houris. The hadith are divided into several types by hadith scholars, and among them, there are groups that have been poorly documented and therefore, are not valid as a reference.
"...everyone will have two wivesF from the houris, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that) the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh."—Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 54 "The Beginning of Creation", hadith 476)
They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their censers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in stature), sixty cubits tall.
Muhammad reported that some (persons) stated with a sense of pride and some discussed whether there would be more men in Paradise or more women. It was upon this that Abu Huraira reported that Abu'l Qasim (the Holy Prophet) said: The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wivesG and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise.—Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri, Sahih Muslim, Book 40 "Pertaining to Paradise", hadith 6793
—Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri, Sahih Muslim, Book 31 "Pertaining to the Merits of the Companions", hadith 6012
Al-Hasan Al-Basri says that an old woman came to the messenger of Allah and made a request, O’ Messenger of Allah make Dua that Allah grants me entrance into Jannah. The messenger of Allah replied, O’ Mother, an old woman cannot enter Jannah. That woman started crying and began to leave. The messenger of Allah said, Say to the woman that one will not enter in a state of old age, but Allah will make all the women of Jannah young virgins. Allah Ta’aala says, Lo! We have created them a (new) creation and made them virgins, lovers, equal in age.
Muhammad was heard say: "The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy two wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from [Damascus] to San'a.
A houri is a most beautiful young woman with a transparent body. The marrow of her bones is visible like the interior lines of pearls and rubies. She looks like red wine in a white glass. She is of white color, and free from the routine physical disabilities of an ordinary woman such as menstruation, menopause, urinal and offal discharge, child bearing and the related pollution. A houri is a girl of tender age, having large breasts which are round (pointed), and not inclined to dangle. Houris dwell in palaces of splendid surroundings.—Al-Tirmidhi, Jami` at-Tirmidhi
Houris do not want wives to annoy their husbands, since the houris will also be the wives of the husbands in the afterlife. "Mu’adh bin Jobal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: Do not annoy him, may Allah ruin you." He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us.
Sahabah and Tabi‘un
Abu Huraira mentions houri between a dispute of if there were more women or men going to paradise.
Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah (Abu Ubayda) said that the recreated women of this life referring to
We have created (their Companions) of special creation.
And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled), -—Quran, sura 56 (Al-Waqia), ayat 35-36
were mentioned in the previous verse:
And (there will be) Companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes,-—Quran, sura 56 (Al-Waqia), ayat 22
Damrah bin Habib
Artat bin Al-Mundhir said:
Damrah bin Habib was asked if the Jinns will enter Paradise and he said, 'Yes, and they will get married. The Jinns will have Jinn women and the humans will have female humans.'—Ibn Kathir, Tafsir ibn Kathir
Quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir ibn Kathir of sura Rahman (55), ayah (verse) 56:
In these [gardens - paradise] will be mates of modest gaze, whom neither man nor invisible being [Jinn] will have touched them then [after they have been created again].—Ibn Kathi, Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Al-Hasan al-Basri said that the word houri implies the righteous women among mankind who are rewarded with paradise as related in the Tafsir of Tabari quoted by Muhammad Asad in his tafsir "Message of Quran" concerning the following ayah:
We have created (their Companions) of special creation.
And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled), -—Quran, sura 56 (Al-Waqia), ayat 35-36
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari mentions 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.
Ibn Kathir says that the houri "are delightful virgins of comparable age who never had sexual intercourse with anyone, whether from mankind or Jinns, before their husbands." by commenting, "in the other life, after they became old in this life, they were brought back while virgin, youthful, being delightfully passionate with their husbands, beautiful, kind and cheerful."
Ibn Kathir mentions Muhammad saying that there will be sexual intercourse between a husband and his wife in paradise.
Al-Qurtubi reconciled between the hadith of making the majority of the inhabitants of Hell (Jahannam) and Paradise women by suggesting that the women that will form the majority in hell will be among the sinners that will stay there temporarily and will be brought out of Hell and enter Paradise. Thereafter the majority of the people of Paradise will be women.
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi comments that the companions of paradise mentioned in Quran 44:54 include "[even] those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings" and observes that inasmuch as a person's eye reflects his soul more clearly than any other part of the human body in Quran 52: 20.
In addition, Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that book 78, verse 33 in the Quran describes the physical attributes of the women. He says the following about the verse: "This means round breasts. They meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age."
It should be noted that the original wording in Arabic is وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَاباً (Transliteration: wa-kawāʻib-a atrāb-an - feminine noun).
Muhammad Asad has said regarding the above verse:
As regards my rendering of kawa’ib as "splendid companions", it is to be remembered that the term ka'b -from which the participle ka’ib is derived - has many meanings, and that one of these meanings is "prominence", "eminence" or "glory" (Lisan al-Arab); thus, the verb ka'ba, when applied to a person, signifies "he made [another person] prominent", "glorious" or "splendid" (ibid.) Based on this tropical meaning of both the verb ka'ba and the noun ka'b, the participle ka'ib has often been used, in popular parlance, to denote "a girl whose breasts are becoming prominent" or "are budding" hence, many commentators see in it an allusion to some sort of youthful "female companions' who would entertain the (presumably male) occupants of paradise.—Muhammad Asad, The Message of The Qur'an
Then he continues:
...this interpretation of kawa’ib overlooks the purely derivative origin of the above popular usage - which is based on the tropical connotation of "prominence" inherent in the noun ka'b - and substitutes for this obvious tropism the literal meaning of something that is physically prominent: and this, in my opinion, is utterly unjustified. If we bear in mind that the Qur'anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa’ib can have no other meaning than "glorious [or "splendid"] beings".—Muhammad Asad, The Message of The Qur'an
The idea of 72 virgins in Islam refers to an aspect of paradise. In a collection by Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi in his Jami` at-Tirmidhi and also quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir ibn Kathir of sura 55 it is stated:
It was mentioned by Daraj Ibn Abi Hatim, that Abu al-Haytham 'Adullah Ibn Wahb narrated from Abu Sa'id al-Khudhri, who heard Muhammad saying, 'The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy-two houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San'a.
However, regarding the above statement Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf has said: "The narration, which claims that everyone would have seventy-two wives has a weak chain of narrators." There is also a theory that the promise of 72 virgins is a mistranslation from "72 angels".
In the same collection of hadiths, however, the following is judged strong (hasan sahih):
That the Messenger of Allah said: "There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror, the crown of dignity is placed upon his head - and its gems are better than the world and what is in it - he is married to seventy two wives among Al-Huril-'Ayn of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives."
An interpretation of the relevant passages of the Quran is The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran written by Christoph Luxenberg. In respect of this particular point, Luxenberg argues that the relevant passage actually translates to a portrayal of paradise as a lush garden with pooling water and trees with rare fruit, including white raisins (considered to be delicacies at the time that the Quran was written), not virgin maidens.
- ^A zawajnahoom: pair them, marry them. Note zawj (lit., "a pair" or - according to the context - "one of a pair") applies to either of the two sexes,a man to a woman and a woman to a man, as does the transitive verb zawaja, "he paired" or "joined", i.e., one person with another
- ^B qasirat at-tarf: Lit., "such as restrain their gaze", i.e., are of modest bearing and have eyes only for their mates (Tafsir Razi). This phrase applies to both genders.
- ^C min anfusikum azwajan, Lit. "from among yourselves mates (spouses, one of the pair)"
- ^D Lit., waalmuminoona (male believers) waalmuminatu (female believers)
- ^E Lit., min (from) thakarin (male) aw (or) ontha (female)
- ^F In a version of this hadith: waa li kul-li wa ahidin minhoom zawjataani = and to every single (everyone) among them zawjataani. The expression kulli wa hadin-each one (everyone) includes both males and females. Note: the feminine ending -at(un) (feminine ta-marbuta, -ah in modern Arabic language) is also added to distinguish a person in an exemplary manner as in allamun = scholar, allamatun (-ah) = distinguished scholar [not "female scholar"], or as in rawin = narrator, rawiyatun(-ah) = narrator(of poems) [not "female narrator"]. These forms ending in -at(un) (modern -ah), as they designate the individual, are treated as masculines. [zawjatan: dual connotation (Classical Arabic Idiom - which can be used to refer to two different things calling them by the same name: two paired persons or things can be expressed by the dual of one of them (e.g. abawaani [dual of aba (father)] = parents (father and mother, not "two fathers"; qamarani [dual of qamar (moon)] = sun and moon (not "two moons"); usage in "Qur'an in Surah Al-Furqan(25):53" bahrayn [dual of bahr (sea)] = sea "salty and bitter" and river "sweet and thirst-allaying" (not "two seas"); sometimes the word with the female gender is chosen to make the dual form, such as in the expression "the two Marwas", referring to the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwa (not "two hills, each called Al-Marwa") in Mecca;) ( (i.e. Husband - zawj and wife -zawjah can be referred as zawjatan in the dual form)]
- ^G Or husband - zawj and wife -zawjah can be referred as zawjatan in the dual form Houris: inferred from Sahih Muslim, hadith 6795 through another chain of narration
- Asad (2003). "Sura 78 (An-Naba), ayah 33". Note 16.
- Asad (2003). "Sura 56 Al-Waqiah, ayah 38". Note 15.
- Quran 56:22–23
- Asad (2003). "Sura 38 Sad, ayah 52".
- Kathir. "Sura 55 (Ar-Rahman), ayah 56". Narrating Artat bin Al-Mundhir.
- "Heaven", The Columbia Encyclopedia (2000)
- Quran 37:48
- Quran 55:56
- Quran 52:20
- Quran 56:36
- Quran 78:33
- Allameh Tabatabaei, Tafsir al-Mizan
- Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2.
- Al Ghazzali, Ihya Uloom Ed-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) Vol. 4
- al-Tirmidhi, no. 2487; al-Daarimi, no. 2712; Ahmad, no. 11339; Ibn Maajah, no. 4329
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:55:544[dead link]
- Kathir (2000). "The Reward of Those on the Right After".
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
- Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, hadith: 5638
- see Lane's Lexicon, p. 302 and Hans Wehr, p. 247
- Tafsir al'Tabari, and Tafsir al-Razi in 3:52
- The Message of the Qur'an: A Great Tafsir of the Current Time - Commentary on Various Marriage-Related Phrases from Surat Nisaa
- Dr. Israr Ahmad Khan, Department of Quran & Sunnah Studies,"Quranic Description of The Paradise"[dead link], IRKHS, International Islamic University of Malaysia
- Online Etymology Dictionary: Houri
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
- Oxford University Press Blog, Monthly Gleanings: April 2007
- Online Etymology Dictionary: Whore
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- Asad (2003). "Sura 30 Ar-Rum, ayat 21-27".
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- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
- Sahih Muslim, 40:6793
- Sahih Muslim, 31:6012
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- Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi. Vol. II
- Sunan Ibn Majah, Volume 3, Book 9, Num. 2014
- , Book on the Etiquette of Marriage; Etiquette for the women
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- Abdullah Yusuf Ali: The Meanings of the Illustrious Qur'an, Alminar Books, Houston, TX, 1997
- Volume IV, chapters on The Features of Heaven as described by the Messenger of Allah, chapter 21: About the Smallest Reward for the People of Heaven, hadith 2687
- Quran 55:72
- How Many Wives Will The Believers Have In Paradise? - Questions answered by Islamic scholar Gibril Haddad
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- Fischer (2002). "Nr. 108(a)".
- Abbas Hassan, An-nahw al-wafi, I, 118–19
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- Response from IslamQA team to a Muslim asking about sex with virgins in heaven
- A review of a book by Christoph Luxenberg who claims Aramaic origins for the Quran.
- Description of al-hoor al-‘iyn in the Qur’aan and Sunnah
- A humorous look at the Seventy two virgins - From The New Yorker
- '72 Black Eyed Virgins': A Muslim Debate on the Rewards of Martyrs - Memri.org
- Joyce M Davis (2001-08-24). "'60 Minutes' quotations fabricated". Knight-Ridder Newspapers as reported by The Muslim News. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
- Cleric: Zarqawi's wedding with virgins has begun