Monday, May 16, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - Gardens of Eden

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find 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.
Of all the descriptions the Koran offers of Paradise, the most common is that of a desert oasis.
"God has promised the believers, men and women, gardens underneath which rivers flow, forever therein to dwell, and goodly dwelling-places in the Gardens of Eden" (Koran 9:73)
"Blessed be He who, if He will [pleases], shall assign to them better than that -- gardens underneath which rivers flow, and he shall assign to thee palaces [pavilions]." (Koran 25:11)
For those living in arid and desert places, such an image would be inviting, refreshing, and familiar to them. It would be easy for a desert dweller to see such an oasis as being the very paradise of heaven. Additionally, the Koran provides more detailed pictures of Paradise including our participation in its enjoyments. Here are some of the more interesting ways the Koran depicts the blessing of Paradise.
"and they high-honoured in the Gardens of Bliss [delight] upon couches, set face to face, a cup from a spring [fountain] being passed round to them," (Koran 37:41-44)
The Koran depicts paradise with the elect reclining on couches, facing each others, and sharing a drink from the rivers and springs which richly supply it. However, John describes heaven in this manner, "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." (Revelation 22:3-4) Muhammad promises that in Paradise we will see each other, face-to-face, while the scriptures promise that, in heaven, we will see Jesus face-to-face. Paul similarly makes this promise, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) How much greater is the Christian promise than the promise of Muhammad. As much as I like my brother's and sister's in Christ, on that day it is not their face I wish to see, but Jesus'. My life is spent here on this Earth, not that I might be reunited with my loved ones, which I will be, but that I might finally, in the resurrection, be able to behold God's face plainly, clearly, and intently. For me, the goal of my life if God, not merely the eternal fellowship of mankind. Let them have their dinner party in Paradise, I want to stand before the very presence of God!
"Gardens of Eden they shall enter, underneath [their shades] which rivers flow, wherein they shall have all they will [all they wish]." (Koran 16:33)
"Therein they shall have whatever [all] they will [desire]; and with Us there is yet more [and ours will it be to augment their bliss]." (Koran 50:34)
"whatsoever they will [desire] they shall have with their Lord; that is the great bounty [boon]." (Koran 42:21)
Like everyone else, I am sure that I am able to desire many great things, but what I've learned of desires, especially those for material things, is that the joy of their satisfaction is often short lived. Yes, in Paradise, we might be satiated with every sort of desirable food, drink, and pleasure, but then what? Is that all they have to offer? The desire of things, even great things, will in the end always leave us empty again. Paul said that he had "the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better." (Philippians 1:23) The truth is that, in that day, I will have had enough of the desires and pleasures of the flesh. What I truly desire is not more good things, but one good person, and that being Jesus. My desire is not to finally make it where I can have all my wishes and dreams come true, but that it might be granted to me to spend the rest of eternity enjoying the presence and fellowship of Christ. When compared with the unfathomable riches and depths of Christ, what can mere pleasures have to offer?
"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)
Muhammad obviously did not understand the true nature of lust. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." (1 John 2:16) It is this same lust of the eyes that led, in part, to Eve's sin. "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." (Genesis 3:6) Why then should we expect the desire of our eyes to be sanctioned in Paradise? Such desires, and our need to satisfy them, led to the downfall of all mankind. In that day, it will not be the desires of our eyes and souls we will be listening to but rather our spirits who long after God. It is His presence that will fill our every desire and satisfy our every care.

Furthermore, Muhammad misunderstood the institution of marriage as it pertains to our life to come. When the Jews tried to trap Jesus by asking him to comment on a hypothetical case regarding a woman who married all seven brothers in succession, Jesus answered them saying, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." (Luke 20:34-36) Muhammad was wrong in his view that in Paradise we would remain married or that there would be marriage and/or sex.
"those -- theirs shall be Gardens of Eden, underneath which rivers flow; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold, and they shall be robed in green garments of silk and [rich] brocade, therein reclining upon couches [thrones] -- O, how excellent [blissful] a reward! And O, how fair a resting-place [pleasant couch]!" (Koran 18:30)
"Gardens of Eden they shall enter; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and with pearls, and their apparel there shall be of silk." (Koran 35:30)
"reclining upon couches lined with brocade" (Koran 55:54)
The Koran describes Paradise as a place of sensual pleasures; the gold, the silk, the reclining. All these things are designed to lure and entice the flesh. They appeal to the baser nature of us rather than to our reason or our spirit. Paul warns is of those "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things." (Philippians 3:19 NKJV) How could God, who came to free us from our baser desires and the lust of the flesh, then turn around and release us to them once again in Paradise? Having "escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Peter 1:4) how shall we then find ourselves once again enslaved by it in the resurrection? How can we even begin to consider eternal subjugation to lust and desire a blessing and something to live for in the life to come? Having been then raise from the dead, should we once again be debased and reduced to mere desires and lust all over again? I think not, for I believe in better things for us on that day more than just a mere satisfaction of the desires we had while living.

David Robison

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