This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.The description the Koran gives us of paradise, especially as it relates to the sexes, is not always a consistent one. At times it seems to honor the bonds between husband and wife and at other times it depicts a scene deliberately set to appeal to the pleasures of men. The Koran describes Paradise as something akin to a frat-house or one of the ancient Greek symposiums complete with wine and sex. Muhammad writes,
"See, the inhabitants [inmates]of Paradise today are busy in their rejoicing [joyous in their employ], they and – their spouses, reclining upon [bridal] couches in the shade; therein they have fruits, and they have all that they call for [whatever they require]." (Koran 36:55-57)First, the idea of having spouses in Paradise clearly contradicts the words of Jesus when He said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) But of greater concern to us here is the question of who exactly are these spouses? In one place, the Koran seems to indicate that they would be those wives you had while on the Earth.
"Enter Paradise, you and your wives, walking with joy [delighted]!' There shall be passed around them platters of gold, and cups, therein being whatever the souls desire, and the eyes delight in." (Koran 43:70-71)However, in other places, they seem to be spouses whom God has provided before hand for men when they reach Paradise.
"whensoever they are provided with fruits therefrom they shall say, 'This is that wherewithal we were provided before'; that they shall be given in perfect semblance; and there for them shall be spouses purified [of perfect purity]; therein they shall dwell forever." (Koran 2:23)
"Surely the godfearing [pious] shall be in a station secure among gardens and fountains, robed in silk and brocade [rich robes], set face to face [facing one another]. Even so; and We shall espouse them to wide-eyed houris [the virgins with large dark eyes], therein calling for every [kind of] fruit, secure." (Koran 44:51-55)
Such a promise is very demeaning to women. It lower's her status in the marriage and constantly reminds her that she is inferior in every way, so much so, that as a reward to her husband, God will one day, in Paradise, give him the wife he really deserves, one who is pure and desirable to him, one who will fulfill him in ways she could never do. How can a woman compete with the promise of a perfect spouse in heaven? How can a man truly appreciate and cherish a wife whom the scriptures already impugns as being less that that perfect wife that is awaiting him in Paradise? How can the Koran claim to support strong marriages when it lures the desires of the husband away from his wife and towards something more pure and desirable in Paradise?
In the Koran, these perfect spouses are called the Houris.
"Reclining upon couches ranged in rows; and We shall espouse [wed] them to wide-eyed houris [damsels with large dark eyes]." (Koran 52:20)
"The Companions of the Right (O Companions of the Right [Oh! How happy shall be the people of the right hand]!) mid thornless lote-trees [sidrahs] and serried acacias [talh tree clad with fruit], and spreading shade and outpoured flowing] waters, and fruits abounding unfailing, unforbidden, and upraised [lofty] couches. Perfectly [of a rear creation] We formed them [created the Houris], perfect, and We made them spotless [ever] virgins, chastely amorous [dear to their spouse], like of age [of equal age] for the Companions [people] of the Right [hand]." (Koran 56:26-38)
It is unclear to what extent these Houris are actually human but we know the are created by God, have bodily form, and are created for the pleasure of men. To this end, the are created with a specific man in mind; created to be of the same age that they may be desirable to the one for whom they were created.
"and for the godfearing is a fair resort, Gardens of Eden, whereof the gates [portals] are open to them, wherein they recline, and wherein they call for fruits abundant, and sweet potions [drink], and with them [shall be virgins] maidens restraining their glances [modest retiring glances] of equal age [of their own age]." (Koran 38:50-52)
As to their form and appearance, we have this description from the Koran,
"Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security [a blissful abode], [enclosed] gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age [their peers in age], and a cup overflowing." (Koran 78:31-34)
How demeaning to an Islam woman to hear from God that she is not beautiful enough or desirable enough, so much so, that He has to create some Houris to please him in Paradise? There is also the clear implication from the Koran that a truly desirable and beautiful woman is one with large dark eyes and swelling breasts. What are women without these physical attributes to believe about themselves? Does the God of Islam not remember His own wisdom as expressed through King Lemuel when he said, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31:30) Is the value of a woman truly to be found only in her beauty and her desirability towards men? For a religion built for men, this might be the case, but not for a religion that elevates women to be the equals of men and to have equal standing before God.
More to come...