In Islam, houris (/, /; in Arabic, حورية, plural form of ḥūr, which means "gazelle-eyed") are said to be human-like, "splendid" "pure beings", created by God to serve as personal "companions" to believers in their afterlives in Paradise.
Outside Islam, the houris are often translated as the "virgins" that are putatively promised to Muslim martyrs after their death (most usually referred to, in most non-Islamic accounts, at a number of 72 for each one martyr).
Contrary to such non-Islamic widespread beliefs, the Quran states that all believers (not just martyrs, and nowhere either is it said its just men) who go to Heaven shall be granted the company of more than one houris - explicitly mentioned in the plural, even though no number (72 or any other) or estimate is given in the Quran.
- 1 Descriptions
- 2 Etymology
- 3 Number and gender of the houris, and the "young boys of perpetual freshness"
- 4 Spouses of the deceased being recreated as houris
- 5 The houris in the Hadith
- 6 The "large breasts" of the houris
- 7 Widespread misconception of the "72 virgins"
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In the Quran the houris are called "companions", described as being "restraining in their glances (chaste)", with "modest gazes", "wide and beautiful/lovely eyes", "eyes like pearls", "splendid", "voluptuous" and "large-breasted".
Surah Al-Waqia (56:22) of the Quran describes the houris as "most refined", created by God "in the best of form", "virgin, loving, and well-matched".
Shia scholar description
To Shia scholars, the most important fact of the description of the houris is that good deeds performed by believers are recompensated by the houris, which are the physical manifestations of ideal forms, that won't fade away over time, and who will serve as faithful companions to those they accompany.
Other details of the houris that have been pointed out by religious scholars include that the houris would not urinate, defecate, become pregnant or menstruate. It has also been said that all houris are "transparent to the marrow of their bones", "eternally young", "hairless except the eyebrows and the head", "pure" and "beautiful".
Classical Arabic usage
The word 'ḥūr' (حُور) is the plural of both ʾaḥwar (أحْوَر) (masculine) and ḥawrāʾ (حَوْراء) (feminine)  which literally translates as "gazelle-eyed", or as "distinguished by ḥawar (حَوَر)", which itself means "intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the pupils". Some also propone that the most literal translation of the noun into English would be "pure companions, most beautiful of the eyes".
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 be akin to Latin cārus 'dear, precious' and thus 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.
Number and gender of the houris, and the "young boys of perpetual freshness"
The houris are mentioned in several passages of the Quran, always in plural form. No specifics are even given, though, as to the number of houris that should be available to each believer.
As for the gender of the houris: the Quran doesn't indicate that only men would be granted the company of houris - in fact, it is inferrable from the context that both men and women believers will have a plural number of houris for themselves -, which leads to the assumptions that houris can be both male or female. Furthermore, all adjectives used in the Quran to refer to the houris can be applied to both females and males (i.e., "splendid", "pure", "companions" "modest", "wide-eyed", "gazelle-eyed", and even "large-breasted".
Regardless of the gender of the houris themselves, the Quran does state that in Heaven, all believers would be granted not only the eternal company of houris, but also those of "boys of perpetual freshness", as stated in two different verses of the Quran:
Round about the believers will serve, to them, young boys, who will be as pearls well-guarded.
alternatively translated as:
And there will go round boy-servants of theirs, to serve them, as if they were preserved pearls.
They will be served by immortal eternal young boys ... as fair as virgin pearls
alternatively translated as:
Round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness.
And round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness: if thou seest them, thou wouldst think them scattered pearls.
And round about them will (serve them) boys of everlasting youth. If you see them, you would think they were scattered pearls
Spouses of the deceased being recreated as houris
Many verses of the Quran refer to the fact that, among the houris each person would receive, there would be included recreations of their spouse(s) they had in their Earthly lives:
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.
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 houris in the Hadith
A number of Islamic hadiths (non-Quranic texts or traditions, accepted as canonic by some, but not all, Muslims) also mention the houris:
Muhammad al-Bukhari (810 - 870):
"...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.
Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri
Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri (821 - 875):
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
Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi (At-Tirmidhi) (824 - 892):
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
Ibn Majah (824 - 887):
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.
As Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri (see above), also Abu Huraira mentions houris as the solution to previous mundane worries as to whether there would be more women or more men who would go to paradise (and whether, therefore, there would be a shortage of each gender for couple-making in the afterlife).
Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah (Abu Ubayda):
We have created (their Companions) of special creation.
And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled), -—Quran, sura 56 (Al-Waqia), ayat 35-36
Damrah bin Habib, apud Artar bin Al-Mundhir
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
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 stated that the word "houri" implied 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 houris "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 also stated that Muhammad confirmed that there would be sexual intercourse in Paradise.
Al-Qurtubi reconciled between a previous hadith that stated that the majority of the inhabitants of Hell (Jahannam) would be women by suggesting that many of the women that will form the majority in Hell will be among the sinners that would stay there merely temporarily and would then be brought out of Hell, into Paradise. Thereafter the majority of the people of Paradise will be women.
The "large breasts" of the houris
Book 78, verse 33 of the Quran says that the houris would be large-breasted. This adjectivation, however, has not been translated into all non-Arabic versions of the Quran.
Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that the adjective contained in said verse "means 'round breasts'." He goes on as to state that it is "meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age."
As an alternative interpretation, Muhammad Asad has said the following regarding such 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 ... 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
Widespread misconception of the "72 virgins"
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."
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."
Importantly, some scholars argue that the promise of 72 virgins is a mistranslation from "72 angels" or even from "72 white raisins, of crystal clarity". According to Ibn Warraq referring to The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, "Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offered, and not unsullied maidens or houris".
- Apsara (Hindu and Buddhist faith)
- Dakini (Tibetan Buddhism)
- Fairy (European folklore)
- Valkyrie (Norse religion)
- Maid of Heaven (Bahá'í faith)
- Nymph (Ancient Greek religion)
- Yakshini (Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religion)
- ^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
- "houris". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
- Quran 37:48
- Quran 55:56
- Asad (2003). "Sura 38 Sad, ayah 52". Missing or empty
- Quran 56:22–23
- Quran 52:20
- Asad (2003). "Sura 78 (An-Naba), ayah 33". Note 16. Missing or empty
- Quran 78:33
- Allameh Tabatabaei, Tafsir al-Mizan
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- 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
- The Message of the Qur'an: A Great Tafsir of the Current Time - Commentary on Various Marriage-Related Phrases from Surat Nisaa
- 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". Missing or empty
- Asad (2003). "Sura 40 Ghafir, ayah 8". Missing or empty
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- Sahih Muslim, 31:6012
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- 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
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- 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
- Hadith - The Book on Virtues of Jihad - Jami` at-Tirmidhi - Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)
- Ibn Warraq, "Virgins? What virgins?", The Guardian, Saturday 12 January 2002.
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Black Swan, 2007, page 122 (ISBN 978-0-552-77429-1). Richard Dawkins cite Ibn Warraq, "Virgins? What virgins?", Free Inquiry, number 26, pages 45-46, 2006.
- Christoph Luxenberg, The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran (German: Die Syro-Aramaische Lesart des Koran).
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- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:468
- Fischer (2002). "Nr. 73(a)". Missing or empty
- Fischer (2002). "Nr. 108(a)". Missing or empty
- Abbas Hassan, An-nahw al-wafi, I, 118–19
- Dr. Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, Secretary General of the World Union of the Muslim Ulemas, "Female Circumcision Neither a Sunna, nor a Sign of Respect"(Al Alazhar, Cairo),[dead link] [dead link]
- Asad, Muhammad (December 2003). The Message of The Qur'an (Bilingual ed.). The Book Foundation. ISBN 1-904510-00-0.
- Kathir, Ismail ibn. Tafsir ibn Kathir. qtafsir.com.
- Kathir, Ismail ibn (2000). Tafsir ibn Kathir. Dar-us-Salam Publications. ISBN 978-1-59144-020-8.
- Fischer, Wolfdietrich (2002). A Grammar of Classical Arabic (3rd Revised ed.). New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Houri|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Houri.|
- 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'an 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