Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
I am very shocked when I read how scholars describe Hoor al al-‘Ayn; they always make it seem as if believing women are filthy and dirty. I always see them saying that the maidens of Paradise are free from urine, bad smells, and unbecoming features that exist in women of this world. Why are they always compared to women and not to people in general? I mean, men too have a terrible smell and urinate, etc.
Does that mean that women are considered filthy and unattractive, but men are not, and nothing is ugly about them? Why, when describing Hoors, they always mention something unpleasant about us women?
Thank you for your question. Islam does not consider women of this world to be filthy or dirty, but just the opposite.
Islam Honors Women
I want first to mention a few examples of Islam honoring women. In the Quran, Allah Most High says, “Whenever one of them is given the good news of a baby girl, his face grows gloomy, as he suppresses his rage. He hides from the people because of the bad news he has received. Should he keep her in disgrace, or bury her (alive) in the ground? Evil indeed is their judgment!” [Quran, 16:58-59]
Throughout the Quran, Allah asks men to treat women well, here is one example, “O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take (back) part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good. But if you want to replace one wife with another and you have given one of them a great amount (in gifts), do not take (back) from it anything. Would you take it in injustice and manifest sin?” [Quran, 4:19-20]
And what did the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say in his farewell sermon about women? “O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. It is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”
You ask why maidens of Paradise are compared to women of this world. Parables are often drawn in the Quran and in the prophetic hadith, and this is only so that it is easier for the mind to grasp. For example, Allah Most High tells us, “The parable of those who take protectors other than God is that of a spider spinning a shelter. And the flimsiest of all shelters is certainly that of a spider, if only they knew.” [Quran, 29:41] In giving this parable, Allah is not insulting the spider, but stating the reality of taking gods other than Allah.
Maidens of Paradise (Hoor al-‘Ayn)
Similarly, if one reads about the maidens of Paradise, one should not feel jealous or ugly, but understand Allah’s point in mentioning them. Men are encouraged by the promise of this reward to obey Allah and His messenger, and this desire, coupled with the fear of the Hellfire incites men to action. Our carnal nature was created by Allah, and He made our reward for obeying Him, in accordance with that. And because maidens will be in the next world, married to the men of Paradise, they are compared to the women here, and not to the men here. Does that mean that men and women here don’t both have lowly worldly traits? Of course not.
Everything There Is Better
Comparing ourselves to heavenly creatures is futile as nothing from this world will be like anything from the next world. Again we are given parables to try and understand the next life. The people of Paradise will be given fruits that are similar to the fruits in this world but much more delicious. They will be given milk, but with no aftertaste. They will be given wine that will not intoxicate. In summary, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has told us, “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.’” [Ibn Majah] So everything there will be better, including the maidens, but that doesn’t reduce your value an iota.
A hoor (maiden of Paradise) is created in order to be gifted to a man for his righteous deeds. She is not given free will or freedom of choice! A woman of this world is created to choose to worship Allah in this world, bear its hardships, and then be forgiven and rewarded with an eternal Paradise. Which one is superior? Would you rather be created as a trophy gift or would you rather be lovingly rewarded by your Creator who forgives you and wants to give you Paradise? To me, the rank is clear.
Please find solace in this hadith as one of the wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), questioned him, similarly:
Umm Salama (may Allah be well pleased with her) mentions that she asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), to explain the verse, “And (there will be) maidens with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes,” [Quran, 56:22]. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), said, “They will be women with wide eyes having a sharp contrast between the white of the cornea and the black of the iris. They will be fair complexioned and their limbs will be free of hair like the wings of a bird.”
Umm Salama, (may Allah be well pleased with her), then asked for an explanation of the verse, “They will be like concealed pearls?“ [Quran, 56:23] to which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained that their purity would be like that of a pearl still inside the oyster, untouched by human hands.
She then asked for an explanation of the verse, “They will be good and fair.” [Quran, 55:70] to which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), replied, “Their character will be good and their faces will be fair.”
She then asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), to explain the verse, “Delicate and pure as if they were hidden eggs well preserved.” [Quran, 37:49] The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), said, “Their softness and delicacy would be like that of the skin you see inside the egg under the shell.”
She then asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), to explain the verses, “We made them virgins, loving and equal in age.“ [Quran, 56:36-37]. He explained, “They will be those women who left this world, old, grey-haired, with discolored skin. Allah will recreate them after this old age and will make them loving virgins who would be very passionate towards their husband who in turn would be madly in love with them. They would all be of the same age.”
She then asked, “O Prophet, are the women of this world superior or the hoors?” He replied, “The women of this world will have superiority over the hoors just as the outer lining of a garment has superiority over the inner lining.”
Umm Salama, (may Allah be well pleased with him), then asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is the reason for this?” He answered, “Because they performed Salah, fasted and worshipped Allah. Allah will put light on their faces and silk on their bodies. They will be fair in complexion and will wear green clothing and yellow jewelry. Their incense-burners will be made of pearls and their combs will be of gold. They will say, ‘We are the women who will stay forever and we will never die. We are the women who will always remain in comfort and we will never die. We are the women who will always remain in comfort and we will never undergo difficulty. We are the women who will stay and we will never leave. Listen, we are happy women and we will never become sad. Glad tidings to those men for whom we are and who are for us.’”
She then asked, “If a woman of this world married two, three, or four husbands in this world, then dies and enters Jannah with them, who will be her husband?” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), answered, “O Umm Salama, (may Allah be well pleased with her), she will be allowed to choose between them, so she will choose the one with the best character. She will say to Allah, ‘O Allah, this husband displayed the best character to me in the world, so marry him to me.’” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) further added, “O Umm Salama, good character has gained (for him) the excellence of this world and the hereafter.” [Tabarani; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
- Reader on Women’s Ranks in the Hereafter
- “I Love Being a Woman!”
- What Will Women Receive in Paradise? I Feel That They Are Left Out.
May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin and completed her Master’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.