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Houris in paradise, riding camels. From a 15th-century Persian manuscript.

Houris (/ˈhʊəriz/; from Arabic: حُـورِيَّـة ,حُورِيّ‎, romanizedḥūriyy, ḥūrīya,[note 1] adjectival and feminine singular formation from حُـور ḥūr, from حُورٌ عِينٌ ḥūr[un] ʿīn[un] “dark-eyed, wide-eyed ones”) are women in Islamic eschatology who will accompany faithful believers in Paradise.[1] Houris are described in the Quran as "splendid companions of equal age [or well-matched],"[2][3] "dark-eyed,"[4] of "modest gaze"[5] and "virginal".[6]


In classical Arabic usage, the word 'ḥūr' (Arabic: حُور‎) is the plural of both ʾaḥwar (Arabic: أحْوَر‎) (masculine) and ḥawrāʾ (Arabic: حَوْراء‎) (feminine) [7] which can be translated as "gazelle-eyed"[8] (or "having eyes with an intense contrast of white and black",[9]) or as "distinguished by ḥawar (حَوَر)", which itself means "intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the pupils".

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.

European usage

The word "houri" has entered several European languages from around the 17th and 18th centuries, with the first recorded English usage being in 1737.[10][11] It is also used in English to refer more broadly to "a voluptuously beautiful young woman."[12]

It is to be noted that 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" and is not etymologically related to the Arabic (Semitic and thus non-Indo-European) word houri.[13]


The houris are mentioned in several passages of the Quran, always in plural form. No specific number is ever given in the Quran for the number of houris accompanying each believer.

Quranic description[edit]

In the Quran, the houris are often translated as "fair ones" or "companions", and are described as being virgins "whom neither man nor jinn has ever touched," "wide-eyed,"[14] "buxom"[15] and "of modest gaze",[16][17][18].

The word ḥūr itself appears only four times in the Quran, always in the plural:

  • 44:54 ...And We shall wed them unto fair ones with wide, lovely eyes (ḥūr ʿīn).[19] كَذَلِكَ وَزَوَّجْنَاهُم بِحُورٍ عِينٍ
  • 52:20 Reclining on ranged couches. And we wed them unto fair ones with wide, lovely eyes (ḥūr ʿīn).[19] مُتَّكِئِينَ عَلَى سُرُرٍ مَّصْفُوفَةٍ وَزَوَّجْنَاهُم بِحُورٍ عِينٍ
  • 55:72 Fair ones (ḥūr), close-guarded in pavilions.[19] حُورٌ مَقْصُورَاتٌ فِي الْخِيَامِ
  • 56:22 And (there are) fair ones with wide, lovely eyes (ḥūr ʿīn).[19] وَحُورٌ عِينٌ

However, they are also referred to in a few other passages in different terms:[20]

  • 78:31, 78:32, 78:33 Lo! for the duteous is achievement, Gardens enclosed and vineyards, And voluptuous women of equal age;[19] إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا حَدَائِقَ وَأَعْنَابًا وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَابًا
  • 56:35, 56:36 Lo! We have created them a (new) creation, And made them virgins[19] إِنَّا أَنشَأْنَاهُنَّ إِنشَاء فَجَعَلْنَاهُنَّ أَبْكَارًا
  • 55:56 Therein are those of modest gaze, whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them.[19] فِيهِنَّ قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ لَمْ يَطْمِثْهُنَّ إِنسٌ قَبْلَهُمْ وَلَا جَانٌّ
  • 40:8 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[21] رَبَّنَا وَأَدْخِلْهُمْ جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدتَّهُم وَمَن صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

Hadith Description[edit]

Houris have been described as "transparent to the marrow of their bones",[22][23] "eternally young",[24] "hairless except the eyebrows and the head",[24] "pure"[23] and "beautiful".[23] Sunni hadith scholars also relate a number of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in which the houris are mentioned.

  • A narration related by Bukhari states that

"...everyone will have two wives 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."[25]

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 wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise.[26]

Al-Hasan Al-Basri says that an old woman came to the messenger of God and made a request, O’ Messenger of God make Dua that God grants me entrance into Jannah. The Messenger of God replied, O’ Mother, an old woman cannot enter Jannah. That woman started crying and began to leave. The Messenger of God said, Say to the woman that one will not enter in a state of old age, but God will make all the women of Jannah young virgins. God Most High says, Lo! We have created them a (new) creation and made them virgins, lovers, equal in age.[27]

  • According to a report transmitted by Ibn Majah in his Sunan:

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."[28][29]

Reference to "72 virgins"[edit]

The idea of 72 virgins in Sunni Islam refers to an aspect of paradise. Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi in his Jami` at-Tirmidhi[30] and Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir ibn Kathir both quote the prophet Muhammad as having said:

"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.[31]

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."[32]

Another hadith, also in Jami` at-Tirmidhi and deemed "good and sound" (hasan sahih) gives this reward specifically for the martyr:

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 the wide-eyed houris (Ar. اثْنَتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ زَوْجَةً مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ) of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives.[33]

Carnal Knowledge in Paradise[edit]

In multiple hadith, Muhammad is reported to have confirmed the existence of carnal knowledge in Paradise.[34][35]


Shi'ite description[edit]

To Shi'ite scholars, the most important fact of the description of the houris is that good deeds performed by believers are re-compensated by the houris, who are the physical manifestations of ideal forms that will not fade away over time and who will serve as faithful companions to those whom they accompany.[36]

Sunni description[edit]

Sunni sources mention that like all men and women of Paradise, the houris do not experience urination, defecation or menstruation.[37]

Regarding the eschatological status of this-worldly women vis-à-vis the houris, many Sunni scholars throughout the centuries have maintained that righteous women of this life far surpass the houris in virtue and rank. For instance, Aḥmad al-Ṣāwī (d. 1825), in his annotative commentary on Ahmad al-Dardir's theological work, states, "The sound position is that the women of this world will be seventy thousand times better than the dark-eyed maidens (ḥūr ʿīn)." [38] Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar Baḥraq (d.1524) mentions in his didactic primer for children that "Adamic women are better than the dark-eyed maidens due to their prayer, fasting, and devotions." [39] However, other authorities, such as Razi, appear to indicate that houris themselves are the women of this world resurrected in new form. [40] Ibn Kathir mentions Muhammad saying that if his wife was righteous, then she will be his wife in Paradise too.

Quranic commentators[edit]

  • 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.[41]
  • 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."[42] 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."[43] Ibn Kathir also stated that jinns will have female jinn companions in Paradise.[44]
  • Al-Qurtubi reconciled a 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 would be women.[45]
  • Fakhr al-Din al-Razi comments that amongst the houris mentioned in the Quran would also be "[even] those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings."[46]
  • Muhammad Asad believes that the references to Houris and other depictions of paradise should be taken to be allegorical rather than literal, citing the "impossibility of man's really "imagining" paradise". In support of this view he quotes Quran verse 32:17[47] and a hadith found in Bukhari and Muslim.[48]


Several translators—like Arberry, Palmer, Rodwell and Sale—have translated the noun ka'ib in Quran 78:33 of the Quran as "with swelling breasts".[49]

Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that the adjective contained in this verse has been interpreted to refer to "fully developed" or "round breasts... they meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins."[50]

Similarly, the authoritative Arabic-English Lexicon of Edward William Lane defines the singular of the word ka'ib as "A girl whose chest is beginning to swell, or become prominent, or protuberant."[51]

On the other hand, Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates the word into English simply as "companions."[52] Muhammad Asad, too, renders the word as "splendid companions," explaining:

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 shoulder and chest 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".[3]

Max I. Dimont argues that the Houris described in the Quran are specifically dedicated to "male pleasure".[53] Henry Martyn claims that the concept of the Houris was chosen to satisfy Muhammad's followers.[54]

Alternatively, Annemarie Schimmel says that the Quranic description of the houris should be viewed in a context of love; "every pious man who lives according to God's order will enter Paradise where rivers of milk and honey flow in cool, fragrant gardens and virgin beloveds await home..."[55]

Nerina Rustjomi has argued that the misuse of the term "houri" by terrorists has led Americans to have a skewed perception of the term and depict Islam as "a religion which is characterized by sensuality, violence, and irrationality."[56]


It has traditionally been believed that the houris are beautiful women who are promised as a reward to believing men,[57] with numerous hadith and Quranic exegetes describing them as such. Others, however, argue that the term ḥūr refers both to pure men and pure women (it being the plural term for both the masculine and feminine forms which refer to whiteness) and the belief that the term houris only refers to females who are in paradise is a misconception.[57]

The Quran uses feminine as well as gender-neutral adjectives to describe houris,[58][59][60][61] by describing them with the indefinite adjective عِينٌ, which some have taken to imply that certain passages are referring to both male and female companions.[62] In addition, the use of masculine pronouns for the houris' companions does not imply that this companionship is restricted to men, as the masculine form encompasses the female in classical and Quranic Arabic—thus fuctioning as an all-gender including default form—and is used in the Quran to address all humanity and all the believers in general.[63][64][65] [note 2]

In The Message of The Qur'an, Muhammad Asad describes the usage of the term ḥūr in the verses 44:54 & 56:22, arguing that "the noun ḥūr—rendered by me as "companions pure"—is a plural of both aḥwār (masc.) and ḥawrā' (fem.)... hence, the compound expression ḥūr ʿīn signifies, approximately, 'pure beings, most beautiful of eye.'"[66][67]

Some argue that while the term "houri" may refer to female companions, "this does not necessarily preclude the existence of handsome male companions for female believers."[68]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ حورية is also transliterated as ḥūriyyah or ḥūriyya; pronunciation: /ħuː.ˈrij.ja/.
  2. ^ In these verses, God addresses the believers, male and female alike, and orders them to speak وَقُولُوا (masculine form) and listen وَاسْمَعُوا (masculine form), using the grammatical masculine form although the addressed group includes females.


  1. ^ "Houri". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Quran 78:33.
  3. ^ a b Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayah 38". The Message of The Qur'an. Note 15.
  4. ^ Quran 56:22–23
  5. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 38 Sad, ayah 52". The Message of The Qur'an.
  6. ^ 56:36.
  7. ^ see Lane's Lexicon, p. 302 and Hans Wehr, p. 247
  8. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Houri" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 809.
  9. ^ Wehr's Arabic-English Dictionary, 1960.
  10. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary".
  11. ^ "Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and hundreds more".
  12. ^ "Definition of Houri". Dictionary by Merriam-Webster.
  13. ^ "Monthly Gleanings: April 2007 - OUPblog". 2 May 2007.
  14. ^ Quran 37:48
  15. ^ Quran 78:33
  16. ^ Quran 52:20
  17. ^ Quran 37:48
  18. ^ Quran 55:56
  19. ^ a b c d e f g translation by Muhammad M. Pickthall from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/
  20. ^ Including at least 37:48, 38:52, 55:56, 55:74, 56:22-23, 56:35-36, 78:33.
  21. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 40 Ghafir, ayah 8". The Message of The Qur'an.
  22. ^ Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2.
  23. ^ a b c Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
  24. ^ a b Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, hadith: 5638
  25. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
  26. ^ Sahih Muslim, 40:6793
  27. ^ Shamaa-il Tirmidhi, Chapter 035, Hadith Number 006 (230)
  28. ^ "The Index of Islam".
  29. ^ "Book on the Etiquette of Marriage".
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ "Various Questions Answered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad".
  32. ^ Salahuddin Yusuf, Riyadhus Salihin, commentary on Nawawi, Chapter 372, Dar-us-Salam Publications (1999), ISBN 1-59144-053-X, ISBN 978-1-59144-053-6
  33. ^ "Hadith - The Book on Virtues of Jihad - Jami`at-Tirmidhi - Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)".
  34. ^ Ibn Kathir,Tafsir ibn Kathir (Quranic Commentary),"The Reward of Those on the Right After", [Chapter (Surah) Al-Waqiah (That Which Must Come To Pass)(56):35-36], Dar-us-Salam Publications,2000, ISBN 1591440203
  35. ^ "Will men in Paradise have intercourse with al-hoor aliyn?". IslamQA. 30 August 2000. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  36. ^ Allameh Tabatabaei, Tafsir al-Mizan
  37. ^ Al Ghazzali, Ihya ʿUlum al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) Vol. 4
  38. ^ al-Ṣāwī, Aḥmad (1947) [composed 1813]. Ḥashiyat ʿAlā Sharḥ al-Kharīdat al-Bahīyah (An Annotative Commentary Upon "The Resplendent Pearl") (PDF). Cairo: Maṭbaʿat Muṣṭafā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī wa Awlāduh. p. 67. والصحيح: أنّ نساء الدنيا يكنّ أفضل من الحور العين بسبعين ألف ضعف.
  39. ^ Bahraq al-Yamanī, Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar (1996) [composed 15th-16th century]. Ḥilyat al-Banāt wa'l-Banīn wa Zīnat al-Dunyā wa'l-Dīn (The Splendour of Girls and Boys and the Adornment of This Life and the Next). Dār al-Ḥāwī. p. 129. والنّساء الآدميّات أفضل من الحور العين بصلاتهنّ وصيامهنّ وعبادتهنّ.
  40. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayah 22". The Message of The Qur'an. Al-Hasan, quoted by Razi in his comments on 44: 54.
  41. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayat 35-36". The Message of The Qur'an.
  42. ^ The Delight of Those Who have Taqwa in Paradise - Tafsir.com for Quran 55:56
  43. ^ Ismail ibn Kathir (2000). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah ayat 35-36". Tafsir ibn Kathir. The Reward of Those on the Right After.
  44. ^ Ismail ibn Kathir (2000). "The Reward of Those on the Right After". Tafsir ibn Kathir.
  45. ^ at-Tadhkirah, al-Qurtubî, p. 475
  46. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayah 22". The Message of The Qur'an. Al-Hasan, quoted by Razi in his comments on 44: 54.
  47. ^ Quran 32:17
  48. ^ https://archive.org/stream/TheMessageOfTheQuran_20140419/55877864-54484011-Message-of-Quran-Muhammad-Asad-Islam-Translation_djvu.txt ""what is kept hidden for them [by way] of a joy of the eyes", i.e., of blissful delights, irrespective of whether seen, heard or felt. The expression "what is kept hidden for them" clearly alludes 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; "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'" (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah; also Tirmidhi). This hadith has always been regarded by the Companions as the Prophet's own comment on the above verse'(cf. Fath al-Bari VIII, 418 f.). "
  49. ^ Quran 78:33
  50. ^ Ibn Kathir. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 10 Surat At-Tagabun to the end of the Qur'an. pp. 333–334.
  51. ^ كعب in Lane's lexicon.
  52. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali: The Meanings of the Illustrious Qur'an, Alminar Books, Houston, TX, 1997
  53. ^ The Indestructible Jews, by Max I. Dimont, p. 134
  54. ^ Controversial Tracts on Christianity and Mohammedanism, by Henry Martyn, p. 131
  55. ^ Islam: An Introduction, by Annemarie Schimmel, p. 13, "Muhammad"
  56. ^ Campbell, Robert A. (2010). Women, War, & Hypocrites: Studying the Qur'an. Cape Breton University Press. ISBN 978-1-897009-53-6 (167–170)
  57. ^ a b "Are all 'houris' female?". Dawn.com. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  58. ^ "Corpus Quran by the University of Leeds, Surah 56:22".
  59. ^ "Ibid Surah 52:20".
  60. ^ "Ibid Surah 55:72".
  61. ^ "Ibid Surah 56:23".
  62. ^ Asad, M. The Message of the Quran, Surah 56:22 [8]. The noun hur—rendered by me as companions pure—is a plural of both ahwar (masc.) and hawra' (fem.)
  63. ^ "Ibid Surah 2:104".
  64. ^ "Ibid Surah 2:93".
  65. ^ "Surah 2:172".
  66. ^ Ibid The Message of the Quran by M. Asad, Surah 56:22 note [8].
  67. ^ Ibid The Message of the Quran by M. Asad, Surah 44:54 note [30]. For the rendering of hur 'in as "companions pure, most beautiful of eye", see surah {56}, notes [8] and [13]. It is to be noted that the noun zawj (lit., "a pair" or - according to the context - "one of a pair") applies to either of the two sexes, as does the transitive verb zawaja, "he paired" or "joined", i.e., one person with another.
  68. ^ "What Will Be the Reward of Women in Paradise?". SeekersGuidance. 25 August 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2020.