05-17-2008, 05:51 PM
The ultimate form of success in the Islamic faith is the attainment of paradise where there is nearness to God.Reply
There are, apparently, various levels or degrees of that. If an adherent of Islam produces the highest deed in the faith, he is awarded that level of heaven, which is nearest to the abode of all the prophets (pbut) who are in turm nearest to Allah(swt). These will be the human souls who were most God conscious on Earth.
What is this God consciousness? The Quran mentions it as the highest quality of a Muslim:
"The most honorable among you in the sight of God is the one who is most God-conscious." (49:13)
Humility, modesty, control of passions and desires, truthfulness, integrity, patience, steadfastness, and fulfilling one's promises are moral values which are emphasized again and again in the Quran. We read them as:
"And God loves those who are firm and steadfast." (3:146)
"And vie with one another to attain to your Sustainer's forgiveness and to a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which awaits the God-conscious, who spend for charity in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and restrain their anger, and pardon their fellow men, for God loves those who do good." (3:133-134)
"Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear patiently whatever may befall you; for this is true constancy. And do not swell your cheek (with pride) at men, nor walk in insolence on the earth, for God does not love any man proud and boastful. And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; for the harshest of sounds, indeed, is the braying of the ass." (31:18-19)
In a way which summarizes the moral behavior of a Muslim, Prophet Muhammed (saw) said: "My Sustainer has given me nine commands: to remain conscious of God, whether in private or in public; to speak justly, whether angry or pleased; to show moderation both when poor and when rich, to reunite friendship with those who have broken off with me; to give to him who refuses me; that my silence should be occupied with thought; that my looking should be an admonition; and that I should command what is right."
Now comes the second aspect.
What does paradise contain that we should vie for it? And if the pleasures and luxuries of paradise are meant to be eternal, then isn't the concept, slightly boring?
The most appropriate answer to this is given by brother Moin Amjad at this article of his website Understanding Islam. Some people might ask this question also, as to according to Quran, 'What's in it for women if men are provided for, by over 70 virgins?'
The Qur'an, while referring to the rewards of the pious in the Hereafter, has categorically stated that:
1. All persons - men as well as women - shall be fully rewarded for their deeds and shall not be wronged in the least (Aal Imraan 3: 195, Al-Nisaa 4: 124, Al-Nahl 16: 97, Ghaafir 40: 40);
2. They shall get all that they may desire and all that they can ask for, as a first gift from God. His blessings would follow subsequently (Fussilat 41: 31); and
3. They - (men as well as women) - shall have perfected mates/counterparts/spouses ( Arabic: Azwajun Mutahharatun) as a reward of their deeds (Al-Baqarah 2: 25, Aal Imraan 3: 15, Al-Nisaa 4: 57).
As should be obvious from the above points, there is absolutely no difference in the reward of men and women, as it is mentioned in the Qur'an. Furthermore, it may be noted that the Qur'an has not mentioned anything about '70 huries'. The Qur'an has only mentioned 'perfected spouses/counterparts'. The numerical value of 70 is derived from a Quranic commentary by Ibn kathir.
An interesting point to note here is that some people have criticized the Qur'an for appealing to the very basic needs and desires of man, which include his desire for taste in edibles and beauty and chastity in his partner. A seldom highlighted point is that Quran also exhorts all Muslims (men and women) to maintain a very high level of conduct on this Earth. For Muslim men, a very strict Quranic injunction goes like this:
"Tell the believing men that they should lower their gazes and guard their sexual organs; that is purer for them. Indeed Allah is well-acquainted with what they do" (Quran 24:30).
Here "lowering of the gazes" means to avert the eyes from the unrelated women who pass by and not to caress the attractive features of women with the eyes and "guarding of sexual organs" stands for keeping oneself away from fornication, adultery or committing rapes. Such are the men, who are likely candidates for paradise.
The Prophet Muhammed (saw) told Ali ibn Abu Talib, "Ali do not let a second look follow the first. The first look is allowed to you but not the second" (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and Al-Tirmidhi). It is the reasonableness of the Shari'ah (Islamic law) that a glance which accidentally falls on something which it is not permissible to see is forgiven. I really do not understand how can a person with even a cursory knowledge and exposure of human nature criticize this aspect of reward, mentioned in the Qur'an in lieu of an exemplary pious conduct on this earth. The Qur'an has simply stated that in the life hereafter, man shall be granted all these things that he very strongly desired to possess in the life of this world BUT he refrained from doing so due to God consciousness and due to which, many a times, he is driven away from the path of his Lord's liking.
On the contrary, the Noble Qur'an has simply assured man that there is no harm in this attraction if one's behavior is controlled within the boundaries prescribed by the Shari`ah [i.e. the limits prescribed by God]. It has assured man that if, in the life of this world, man would control himself within the boundaries prescribed by the Shari`ah, his Lord in His infinite mercy shall grant him all that he desired to get but from which he refrained himself, only to deserve the mercy and good will of His Lord.
For a normal human being the concept of an everlasting reward without the satisfaction of his most pressing desires is obviously incomplete. The Qur'an has recognized this fact, as all realistic views should. Only an ascetic, incomplete and unnatural view of life with arbitrary concepts of reward and punishment can refute this fact.
Same is the case with another prohibited commodity for Muslims of this world, which will be provided aplenty in the paradise. Allah(swt) describes the consumption of wine (intoxicants) in paradise in the manner:
There (in Paradise) they shall pass from hand to hand a (wine) cup, free from any 'Laghw' (dirty, false, evil vague talk between them), and free from sin (because it will be legal for them to drink). (Quran 52:23)
However, Quran does use the term 'Hur' in few of the verses which were revealed during the Meccan period of revelation, and there is a reason. Sister Amina Wadud has explained it in her book, "Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 54-55"
“They will recline (with ease) on thrones arranged in ranks; and We shall join them to Hur with beautiful big and lustrous eyes” (Quran 52:20)
Amina Wadud says, " It is clear that the term huri, used in the (idhafah) construction hur-al-'ayn, meant something specific to the Jahili Arabs (i.e. people living in Arabia prior to Islam). She was 'so called by the Arabs of the desert because of her whiteness or fairness or cleanness'. She was a woman of 'clear complexion and skin'.1 The description given of the huri are specific and sensual - youthful virgin females with large dark eyes, white skin, and a pliant character - 'while nowhere…are found similar descriptions detailing, if not the beauty, at least the modest or even perhaps hidden assets of earthly wives'.2
The specific depiction here of the companions of Paradise demonstrates the Qur'an's familiarity with the dreams and desires of those Arabs. The Qur'an offers the huri as an incentive to aspire after truth. It is impossible to believe that the Qur'an intends white women with large eyes to represent a single universal description of beauty for all humankind. If we take these mythological depictions universally as the ideal female, a number of culturally specific limitations are forced on the divergent audiences of the Qur'an. The value of these particulars is extremely limited.
The Qur'an itself demonstrates the limitation of this particular description when the community of believers in Islam had increased in number and established itself at Madinah. After the Makkan period, the Qur'an never uses this term again to depict the companions in Paradise. After Madinah, it describes the companions of Paradise in generic terms, 'For those who keep from evil, with their Lord are Gardens underneath which rivers flow, and pure 'azwaj' and contentment from Allah.' (3:15). Keeping in mind my arguments about the generic use of certain terms, 'believers' here are either male or female, especially as the term 'azwaj' is used for both in the Quranic Arabic:)
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