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The houris (//; from Persian: حُـورِی, ḥūrī; plural of ḥaurāʾ or ḥūrīyah; Arabic: حُـورِيَّـة) are beings in Islamic mythology, described in English translations as "full-breasted companions of equal age [or well-matched]", "lovely eyed", of "modest gaze", virgins of paradise, denoting humans and jinn who enter Jannah (Arabic: جَـنَّـة, Paradise) after being recreated anew in the hereafter.
The houris are mentioned in several passages of the Quran, always in plural form. No specifics are ever given, though, as to the number of houris that should be available to each believer. As for the gender of the houris, the Quran does not indicate that only men would be granted the company of houris—in fact, it can be inferred from the context that both men and women believers will have a plural number of houris for themselves. This in turn leads to the assumptions that houris can be both male or female.
On the other hand, feminine adjectives or participles are always used when it is possible to make a distinction, and the Qur'an says that one of the favors granted to those in Paradise is houris "untouched before them by man or Jinni", which implies that they are (female) virgins. They are described as virgins in 56:36 (although the word in another context can mean "first-born").
In the Quran, the houris are called "companions", described as being "restraining in their glances" (chaste), with "modest gazes", "wide and beautiful/lovely eyes", "eyes like pearls", and "full-breasted". The word itself occurs four times, always in the plural, but they are also referred to in a few other passages in different terms:
- 44:54: "Thus. And We will marry them to fair women with large, [beautiful] eyes",
- 52:20: "They will be reclining on thrones lined up, and We will marry them to fair women with large, [beautiful] eyes",
- 55:72: "Fair ones reserved in pavilions",
- 56:22: "And [for them are] fair women with large, [beautiful] eyes"
And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kindC so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! ... And He it is who creates [all life] in the first instance, and then brings it forth anew: and most easy is this for Him, since His is the essence of all that is most sublime in the heavens and on earth, and He alone is almighty, truly wise.— Quran, sura 30 (Ar-Rum), ayat 21...27
And, O our Sustainer, bring them into the gardens of perpetual bliss which Thou hast promised them, together with the righteous from among their forebears, and their spouses, and their offspring—for, verily, Thou alone art almighty, truly wise— Quran, sura 40 (Ghafir), ayah 8
To Shi'ite scholars, the most important fact of the description of the houris is that good deeds performed by believers are recompensated by the houris, which are the physical manifestations of ideal forms, that would not fade away over time, and who will serve as faithful companions to those they accompany.
Details of the houris that have been pointed out by Sunni scholars include that the houris would not urinate, defecate or menstruate. It has also been said that all houris are "transparent to the marrow of their bones", "eternally young", "hairless except the eyebrows and the head", "pure" and "beautiful". Islamic scholars such as Ibn Majah and Al-Suyuti have also described them as having libidinous vaginas.
A number of Sunni ahadith (collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, accepted as canonic by most, but not all, Muslims) also mention the houris:
- Muhammad al-Bukhari (810–870):
"...everyone will have two wivesF from the houris, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that) the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh."
[People who enter Paradise] will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their censers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in stature), sixty cubits tall.
- Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri (821–875):
Muhammad reported that some (persons) stated with a sense of pride and some discussed whether there would be more men in Paradise or more women. It was upon this that Abu Huraira reported that Abu'l Qasim (the Holy Prophet) said: The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wivesG and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise.
- Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi (At-Tirmidhi) (824–892):
Al-Hasan Al-Basri says that an old woman came to the messenger of Allah and made a request, O’ Messenger of Allah make Dua that Allah grants me entrance into Jannah. The messenger of Allah replied, O’ Mother, an old woman cannot enter Jannah. That woman started crying and began to leave. The messenger of Allah said, Say to the woman that one will not enter in a state of old age, but Allah will make all the women of Jannah young virgins. Allah Ta’aala says, Lo! We have created them a (new) creation and made them virgins, lovers, equal in age.— Al-Tirmidhi, Jami` at-Tirmidhi (Surah Waaqi’ah, 35–37).
A houri is a most beautiful young woman with a transparent body. The marrow of her bones is visible like the interior lines of pearls and rubies. She looks like red wine in a white glass. She is of white color, and free from the routine physical disabilities of an ordinary woman such as menstruation, menopause, urinal and offal discharge, child bearing and the related pollution. A houri is a girl of tender age, having large breasts which are round (pointed), and not inclined to dangle. Houris dwell in palaces of splendid surroundings.
- Ibn Majah (824–887):
Houris do not want wives to annoy their husbands, since the houris will also be the wives of the husbands in the afterlife. "Muadh ibn Jabal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: Do not annoy him, may Allah ruin you." He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us.
- Like Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri (see above), Abu Hurairah mentions houris as the solution to previous mundane worries as to whether there would be more women or more men who would go to paradise (and whether, therefore, there would be a shortage of each gender for couple-making in the afterlife). Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah (Abu Ubayda) said that the recreated women of this life referring to
We have created (their Companions) of special creation.
And made them virgin—pure (and undefiled)
were mentioned in the previous verse as houri in verse 22. Al-Hasan al-Basri stated that the word "houri" implied the righteous women among mankind who are rewarded with paradise as related in the Tafsir of Tabari quoted by Muhammad Asad in his tafsir "Message of Quran" concerning the following ayah:
We have created (their Companions) of special creation.
And made them virgin—pure (and undefiled)
- Artat bin Al-Mundhir said regarding houri mentioned in sura Rahman (55), ayah (verse) 56:
Damrah bin Habib was asked if the Jinns will enter Paradise and he said, 'Yes, and they will get married. The Jinns will have Jinn women and the humans will have female humans.'— Ibn Kathir, Tafsir ibn Kathir
- Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari mentions that all righteous women, however old and decayed they may have been on earth, will be resurrected as virginal maidens and will, like their male counterparts, remain eternally young in paradise.
- Ibn Kathir says that the houris "are delightful virgins of comparable age who never had sexual intercourse with anyone, whether from mankind or Jinns, before their husbands." by commenting, "in the other life, after they became old in this life, they were brought back while virgin, youthful, being delightfully passionate with their husbands, beautiful, kind and cheerful." Ibn Kathir also stated that Muhammad confirmed that there would be sexual intercourse in Paradise.
- Al-Qurtubi reconciled between a previous hadith that stated that the majority of the inhabitants of Hell (Jahannam) would be women by suggesting that many of the women that will form the majority in Hell will be among the sinners that would stay there merely temporarily and would then be brought out of Hell, into Paradise. Thereafter the majority of the people of Paradise will be women.
- Fakhr al-Din al-Razi comments that amongst the houris mentioned in the Quran would also be "[even] those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings"
Classical Arabic usage
The word 'ḥūr' (Arabic: حُور) is the plural of both ʾaḥwar (Arabic: أحْوَر) (masculine) and ḥawrāʾ (Arabic: حَوْراء) (feminine) which can be translates as "gazelle-eyed" (or "having eyes with an intense contrast of white and black",) or as "distinguished by ḥawar (حَوَر)", which itself means "intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the pupils". Some also propose that the most literal translation of the noun into English would be "pure companions, most beautiful of the eyes".
Corresponding Hebrew root
In Hebrew the corresponding adjective חיוור hiwer has the same root h-w-r, meaning "pale, whitish". The corresponding word for eye is עין Ayin.
"Houri" versus "whore"
The English word "whore" (German Hure, Danish hore, Swedish hora, Dutch hoer, Proto-Germanic *hōrōn, masculine form Gothic hors, Proto-Germanic *hōraz) is thought to stem from the Proto-Indo-European verb root *keh₂- "to love" and is not etymologically related to the Arabic (Semitic and thus non-Indo-European) word houri.
Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that the adjective contained in said verse "means 'fit pectorals or breasts'." He goes on as to state that it is "meant by this that the chest and pectorals or breasts of these girls will be fully fit and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age. And the houris can be male and female both. It means the 'fit pectorals or breasts' can be male or female."
Abdullah Yusuf Ali, on the other hand, translates said adjective into English simply as "charming, elegant and holy"—which refers to sensual (or physical) attributes, though not necessarily chest, pectorals or breasts.
As an alternative interpretation, Muhammad Asad has said the following regarding such verse:
As regards my rendering of kawa’ib as "splendid companions", it is to be remembered that the term ka'b—from which the participle ka’ib is derived—has many meanings, and that one of these meanings is "prominence", "eminence" or "glory" (Lisan al-Arab); thus, the verb ka'ba, when applied to a person, signifies "he made [another person] prominent", "glorious" or "splendid" (ibid.) Based on this tropical meaning of both the verb ka'ba and the noun ka'b, the participle ka'ib has often been used, in popular parlance, to denote "a girl whose shoulder and chest are becoming prominent" or "are budding" hence, many commentators see in it an allusion to some sort of youthful "female companions' who would entertain the (presumably male) occupants of paradise ... This interpretation of kawa’ib overlooks the purely derivative origin of the above popular usage—which is based on the tropical connotation of "prominence" inherent in the noun ka'b—and substitutes for this obvious tropism the literal meaning of something that is physically prominent: and this, in my opinion, is utterly unjustified. If we bear in mind that the Qur'anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa’ib can have no other meaning than "glorious [or "splendid"] beings".
The authoritative Arabic-English Lexicon of Edward William Lane defines the singular of the word kawa`ib as "A girl whose chest is beginning to swell, or become prominent, or protuberant", related to words meaning knob, chest, bosom, virginity, and so forth.
Sexual intercourse in Paradise
Ibn Kathir mentions Muhammed saying that man in heaven would have sex with one hundred virgins in one day. In another version of the hadith, Muhammad is reported to have said: "In Paradise, the believer will be given such and such strength for women." Anas said, "I asked, 'O Allah's Messenger! Will one be able to do that?' He said, "He will be given the strength of a hundred (men)". Some companions of Muhammad are reported to have said that man in heaven will be "busy in deflowering virgins" Ibn Kathir says that the houri "are delightful virgins of comparable age who never had sexual intercourse with anyone, whether from mankind or Jinns, before their husbands." by commenting,"in the other life, after they became old in this life, they were brought back while virgin, youthful, being delightfully passionate with their husbands, beautiful, kind and cheerful."
Imam Suyuti is reported to have said, "[E]ach time we sleep with a houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one [ie Muslim] will marry seventy [sic] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetising vaginas."
In another place, Ibn Kathir emphasizes the literal nature of sexual intercourse in Paradise by another Hadith:
"The Prophet was asked : 'Do we have sex in Paradise?' He answered: 'Yes, by him who holds my soul in his hand, and it will be done dahman, dahman (that is intercourse done with such shove and disturbance). And when it is finished she will return pure and virgin again.'"
Ibn Kathir relates concerning the following verses: "Verily, the dwellers of the Paradise, that Day, will be busy with joyful things. They and their wives will be in pleasant shade, reclining on thrones. They will have therein fruits and all that they ask for." [Chapter (Surah) Ya Seen (O Thou Human Being)(36):55-57]
Although Ibn Kathir relates the opinion of some companions of Muhammad being reported to have said concerning "will be busy with joyful things" that means in heaven people will be "busy in deflowering virgins", he continues to relate other alternate meanings. Another companion, Ibn Abass has said that it refers "listening to stringed instruments". Others such as Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Isma`il bin Abi Khalid have said, "they will be too busy to think about the torment which the people of Hell are suffering." Qatadah implied "with the delights which they are enjoying." Ibn Abas said, "this means that they will be rejoicing.". While Mujahid said, "Their spouses,(will be in pleasant shade) means, in the shade of trees."Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi and Khusayf said, "beds beneath canopies."
Reference to "72 virgins"
The idea of 72 virgins in Islam refers to an aspect of paradise. In a Sunni collection by Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi in his Jami` at-Tirmidhi and also quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir ibn Kathir of sura 55 it is stated:
It was mentioned by Daraj Ibn Abi Hatim, that Abu al-Haytham 'Adullah Ibn Wahb narrated from Abu Sa'id al-Khudhri, who heard Muhammad saying, 'The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy-two houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San'a.
In the same collection of Sunni hadiths, however, the following is judged strong (hasan sahih):
That the Messenger of Allah said: "There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror, the crown of dignity is placed upon his head—and its gems are better than the world and what is in it—he is married to seventy two wives among the Hur the `Iyn ["wide-eyed ones", اثْنَتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ زَوْجَةً مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ] of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives."
- ^A zawajnahoom: pair them, marry them. Note zawj (lit., "a pair" or, according to the context, "one of a pair") applies to either of the two sexes, a man to a woman and a woman to a man, as does the transitive verb zawaja, "he paired" or "joined", i.e., one person with another
- ^B qasirat at-tarf: Lit., "such as restrain their gaze", i.e., are of modest bearing and have eyes only for their mates (Tafsir Razi). This phrase applies to both genders.
- ^C min anfusikum azwajan, Lit. "from among yourselves mates (spouses, one of the pair)"
- ^D Lit., waalmuminoona (male believers) waalmuminatu (female believers)
- ^E Lit., min (from) thakarin (male) aw (or) ontha (female)
- ^F In a version of this hadith: waa li kul-li wa ahidin minhoom zawjataani = and to every single (everyone) among them zawjataani. The expression kulli wa hadin-each one (everyone) includes both males and females. Note: the feminine ending -at(un) (feminine ta-marbuta, -ah in modern Arabic language) is also added to distinguish a person in an exemplary manner as in allamun = scholar, allamatun (-ah) = distinguished scholar [not "female scholar"], or as in rawin = narrator, rawiyatun(-ah) = narrator(of poems) [not "female narrator"]. These forms ending in -at(un) (modern -ah), as they designate the individual, are treated as masculines. [zawjatan: dual connotation (Classical Arabic Idiom, which can be used to refer to two different things calling them by the same name: two paired persons or things can be expressed by the dual of one of them (e.g. abawaani [dual of aba (father)] = parents (father and mother, not "two fathers"; qamarani [dual of qamar (moon)] = sun and moon (not "two moons"); usage in "Qur'an in Surah Al-Furqan(25):53" bahrayn [dual of bahr (sea)] = sea "salty and bitter" and river "sweet and thirst-allaying" (not "two seas"); sometimes the word with the female gender is chosen to make the dual form, such as in the expression "the two Marwas", referring to the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwa (not "two hills, each called Al-Marwa") in Mecca;) ( (i.e. Husband - zawj and wife -zawjah can be referred as zawjatan in the dual form)]
- ^G Or husband -zawj and wife -zawjah can be referred as zawjatan in the dual form Houris: inferred from Sahih Muslim, hadith 6795 through another chain of narration
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- Qur'an 78:33.
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- Quran 56:22–23
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- Such as قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ in 37:48.
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- Quran 55:56
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Abu Umama narrated: "The Messenger of God said, 'Everyone that God admits into paradise will be married to 72 wives; two of them are houris and seventy of his inheritance of the [female] dwellers of hell. All of them will have libidinous sex organs and he will have an ever-erect penis.
- Al-Suyuti. Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur'an. p. 351.
Each time we sleep with a Houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one will marry seventy [sic] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetizing vaginas.
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Houri.|
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- A review of a book by Christoph Luxenberg who claims Aramaic origins for the Quran.
- Description of al-hoor al-‘iyn in the Qur'an and Sunnah
- A humorous look at the Seventy two virgins - From The New Yorker
- '72 Black Eyed Virgins': A Muslim Debate on the Rewards of Martyrs - Memri.org
- Joyce M Davis (2001-08-24). "'60 Minutes' quotations fabricated". Knight-Ridder Newspapers as reported by The Muslim News. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
- Cleric: Zarqawi's wedding with virgins has begun