Those 72 Virgins

Just for fun:

Islam Question: What about those 72 virgins greeting suicide bombers as “martyrs” in heaven – what is the truth about the 72 virgins? Here are some imperfect comments:

1. It’s not only martyrs who will experience the joys of Paradise but all righteous Muslims, especially perhaps righteous Muslim men. But righteous Muslim women also reach the glories of Paradise in their own ways.

2. In various places, the Qur’an does promise that the righteous in Paradise will dwell in lush gardens and vineyards and that an individual man will have a harem of beautiful women with full and round breasts. All in heaven will be 33 years of age, and the men and the women will be perfectly happy with one another and with their situations.

3. To the best of my (limited) knowledge, the Qur’an never mentions that a man will have 72 luscious women. No number is mentioned. However, in some Hadith there is mention of the 72 virgins promise. (Hadith are written reports on Mohammad’s conduct and sayings.)

4. How is this sort of thing to be understood? The options are (1) literally or (2) figuratively and symbolically. Fundamentalist Muslims tend to take the physicalist descriptions of the Qur’an, the Hadith, and other sources literally; and non-fundamentalist Muslims understand the sources figuratively, symbolically, philosophically. For the non-fundamentalists, the pysicalist descriptions are symbolic (1) of the ecstasies and joys of being in the direct presence of God in heaven or (2) of the horror of being separated from God in hell.

5. The same issues can be (have been, are) raised about how Jews and Christians interpret the strong physicalist descriptions in the Hebrew Bible (and Old Testament) and in the New Testament – and the same contrast between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist interpretations is present there too.

All for now…. :)

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