Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Unveiling the Hoor al-'Ayn (Part 3)

Is Jannah Gender-Specific?


"Why does Jannah favor men?” Faced with the existence of the Ḥûr Al-În, there are many women who want to know why it is that Jannah seems so gender specific. “What about male ḥûr?”

The most common response tends to be “AstaghfirAllâh! How can a woman ask such a thing?” Alas, this simply goes to show the common attitude of many Muslims towards the idea of women having any kind of intimate needs, or being ‘forward’ in expressing those desires.

However, it is a valid question that remains, and one that many try to avoid answering directly. Some may try to be evasive and remind women that they can get jewelry, pearls, and palaces – which, while true (and equally applicable to men in many cases), still does not address the matter. Nor is the question one that has only come up recently as a result of women being ‘influenced by the kuffâr,’ as some try to insinuate.

In fact, there are three recorded incidents in which female Companions of the Prophet œ posed very similar questions to him directly. They too wondered why it seemed that the Quran addressed men so often and in detail, while leaving things vague when it comes to women.

On one occasion:

Umm Salamah (wife of the Prophet) said: “O Messenger of Allah! I did not hear a Verse in the Quran regarding the Hijra (migration with the Prophet) of women.”

Then was revealed the Verse: And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: ye are members, one of another: those who have left their homes, and were driven out therefrom, and suffered harm in My cause, and fought and were slain – Verily I will blot out from them their inequities, and admit them into gardens with rivers flowing beneath; … A reward from Allah, and from Allah is the best of rewards. [Sûrat Âl Imrân, 4:195] (Tirmidhi, # 3023)

Imam Aḥmad, Imam Al-Nasâ’i and Imam Ibn Jarîr recorded that Umm Salamah, may Allah be pleased with her, the wife of the Prophet said:

I said to the Prophet, `Why is it that we are not mentioned in the Quran as men are?’ Then one day without my realizing it, he was calling from the Minbar and I was combing my hair, so I tied my hair back then I went out to my chamber in my house, and I started listening out, and he was saying from the Minbar: “O people! Verily Allah says:

Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. [Sûrat Al-Aḥzâb, 33:35]

Another female Companion, Umm Imârah, Nusaybah bint Ka'b, narrated:

I went to the Messenger of Allah  and said to him, “I feel that everything is for men. Women are not mentioned as having anything! Verse 35 of Sûrat Al-Ahzâb was then sent down. (Tirmidhi # 3211 & 2565)

Clearly, the women around the Messenger  did not simply sit by idle and unquestioning. Rather, they ensured that they approached him directly and sought clarification for their inquiries; in turn, Allah Himself reassured them with the promise of something far greater than they could have imagined for themselves.

Going back to the question of why Allah does not speak about certain specific rewards of Jannah for women (especially those of a sexual nature), some scholars have said that it is due to the shyness and modesty of the Prophet. This may or may not have some merit, as it is clear elsewhere in the Quran and Sunnah that Allah declares that He is not shy to speak of any matter. Others, however, have noted that when Allah mentions the greatest deeds that a believer can do, the rewards for those deeds are left mysteriously unmentioned:

Say, “O My servants who have believed, fear your Lord. For those who do good in this world is good, and the earth of Allah is spacious. Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” [Sûrat Al-Zumar, 39:10]

Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving (a reward of) ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, ‘…except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it; he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.’ (Bukhâri)

Most scholars explain this âyah and ḥadîth as referring to patience and fasting, and the reward for both is considered to be so magnificent and great that Allah has chosen not to describe it specifically so as to emphasize that the greatness of that reward cannot be imagined by the human mind. There is no evidence to say that this lack of description is restricted solely to the reward for fasting or patience, as we already know that Jannah is full of that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can comprehend Jannah.

An Eternity of Experience

Before we go back to the specific issue of what women will receive in Jannah, there is something else we must first look at – what is Jannah, exactly, and is it really all that gender-specific?

It was narrated from Abû Hurayrah that the Prophet said:

Allah says: ‘I have prepared for My righteous slaves that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and it has never crossed the mind of man. All of that is reserved, besides which all that you have known is as nothing.’ Then he recited: No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do. [Sûrat Al-Sajdah, 32:17] (Bukhâri # 3072; Muslim #2824)

The Quran describes Paradise in numerous verses, mentioning both common rewards and specific features of the celestial plane:

Therein will be a running spring.

Therein will be thrones raised high.

And cups set at hand,

And cushions set in rows,

And rich carpets (all) spread out. [Sûrat Al-Ghâshiyah 88:12-16]

But for the one who fears the standing before their Lord, there will be two Gardens (i.e. in Paradise).

Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinn and men) deny?

With spreading branches –

Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinn and men) deny?

In them (both) will be two springs flowing (free) –

Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinn and men) deny?

In them (both) will be every kind of fruit in pairs. [Sûrat Al-Raḥmân, 55:46-52]

So Allah will protect them from the evil of that Day and give them radiance and happiness:

And will reward them for what they patiently endured [with] a garden [in Paradise] and silk [garments].

[They will be] reclining therein on adorned couches. They will not see therein any [burning] sun or [freezing] cold.

And near above them are its shades, and its [fruit] to be picked will be lowered in compliance.

And there will be circulated among them vessels of silver and cups having been [created] clear [as glass],

Clear glasses [made] from silver of which they have determined the measure.

And they will be given to drink a cup [of wine] whose mixture is of ginger

[From] a fountain within Paradise named Salsabîl.

There will circulate among them young boys made eternal. When you see them, you would think them [as beautiful as] scattered pearls.

And when you look there [in Paradise], you will see pleasure and great dominion.

Upon the inhabitants will be green garments of fine silk and brocade. And they will be adorned with bracelets of silver, and their Lord will give them a purifying drink.

[And it will be said], “Indeed, this is for you a reward, and your effort has been appreciated.” [Sûrat Al-Insân, 76:11-22]

Almost every verse of the Quran that elaborates about Jannah, applies its rewards to men and women alike. In fact, there is a deliberate emphasis on men and women being rewarded with full justice in Paradise.

And their Lord responded to them, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another. So those who emigrated or were evicted from their homes or were harmed in My cause or fought or were killed – I will surely remove from them their misdeeds, and I will surely admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow as reward from Allah, and Allah has with Him the best reward.” [Sûrat Âl Imrân, 3:195]

Besides the Quran, we also learn from the Prophet about the many incredible things that will be available for believers.

The Messenger of Allah said:

In Jannah there is a market to which the people will come every Friday. The northern wind will blow and shower fragrance on their faces and clothes and, consequently, it will enhance their beauty and loveliness. They will then return to their spouses who will also have increased in their beauty and loveliness, and their families will say to them: ‘We swear by Allah that you have been increased in beauty and loveliness since leaving us.’ Thereupon they will reply: ‘We swear by Allah that you have also been increased in beauty and loveliness since we left you.’ (Muslim)

Indeed, in Paradise there is a market in which there is no buying nor selling- except for images of men and women. So whenever someone desires an image, they enter it. (Tirmidhi)

Sa'îd bin Al-Musayyab said, Abû Hurairah said:

I supplicate Allah to bring you and me together in the marketplace of Paradise,” Sa'îd said: “Is there a marketplace there?” He said: “Yes. The Messenger of Allah told me that when the people of Paradise enter it, they will take their places according to their deeds, and they will be given permission for a length of time equivalent to Friday on earth, when they will visit Allah.

His Throne will be shown to them and He will appear to them in one of the gardens of Paradise. Chairs of light and chairs of pearls and chairs of rubies and chairs of chrysotile and chairs of gold and chairs of silver will be placed for them. Those who are of a lower status than them –and none of them will be regarded as insignificant– will sit on sand hills of musk and camphor, and they will not feel that those who are sitting on chairs are seated better than them.”

Abû Hurairah said: “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, will we see our Lord?’

He said: ‘Yes. Do you dispute that you see the sun and the moon on the night when it is full?’ We said: ‘No.’ He said: ‘Likewise, you will not dispute that you see your Lord, the Glorified. There will be no one left in that gathering with whom Allah does not speak face to face, until He will say to a man among you: “Do you not remember, O so-and-so, the day you did such and such?” And He will remind him of some of his sins in this world. He will say: “O Lord, have You not forgiven me?” He will say: “Yes, it is by the vastness of My forgiveness that You have reached the position you are in.” While they are like that, a cloud will cover them from above and will rain down on them perfume the like of whose fragrance they have never smelled before. Then He will say: “Get up and go to the honor that has been prepared for you, and take whatever you desire.”

So we will go to a marketplace surrounded by the angels, in which there will be such things as eyes have never seen, ears have never heard and it has not entered the heart of man. Whatever we desire will be carried for us. Nothing will be bought or sold therein. In that marketplace the people of Paradise will meet one another. A man of elevated status will meet those who are of lower status than him, but none shall be regarded as insignificant, and he will be dazzled by the clothes that he sees on him. He will not finish the last of his conversation before better clothes appear on him. That is because no one should be sad there.’” “He said: ‘Then we will go back to our homes where we will be met by our spouses, and they will say: ‘Welcome. You have come looking more handsome and with a better fragrance than when you left us.’ And we will say: ‘Today we sat with our Lord, the Compeller, the Glorified, and we deserve to come back as we have come back.’” (Ibn Mâjah)

It is clear, therefore, that the default state of rewards in Jannah is not gender-specific, but are of a huge variety that will be shared amongst men and women alike. Jannah is, essentially, an eternity of experience – not only what has been mentioned, but so much more of what hasn’t. The believers will not only be able to enjoy incredible foods and drinks, live in amazing palaces, visit each other and interact with fascinating individuals who lived long before and long after their own period of time on earth – they will also be able to see Allah Himself, which is truly the greatest reward of all.

And yet… the question still stands: If men get the Hûr Al-În in Jannah, what do women get that is just as special to them? Part 4 will discuss this in greater detail, inshâ’Allah.

1 comment:

Lascar said...

Just came back to re-read this series again. This is one of the only articles I have read about the Hoor Al Ayn that fully takes into the account the feelings of women towards them and the way they have been used to manipulate women's feelings into believing that they are inferior in status in this life and the hereafter. I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment and may Allah swt reward you for all your efforts ameen.