Voices of Faith: Do heavenly rewards differ for Muslim men, women?

Voices of Faith offers perspectives from religion columnists. This week’s question: Do heavenly rewards differ for Muslim men, women?

Order of heaven is not like the one on Earth

Syed E. Hasan, chairman, Shawnee Mission Islamic Education Center: This is one of the common misperceptions about Islam, similar to the one that says, “Any jihadi who dies is assured of six or eight virgins in the heaven,” or “Men will have beautiful Houris in the heaven.”

The Quran repeatedly emphasizes that men and women are equal in terms of their obligations toward fulfilling the five pillars of the Islamic faith: declaration of oneness of God, offering five daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan, paying the required charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.

A woman with higher level of God-consciousness (taqwa) would attain a higher place in the paradise as opposed to a man with lower level of taqwa.

In the heaven, pious women will be blessed with the company of pious mates, and so will pious men. The notion that Houris will be available for men only is grossly erroneous.

This confusion is due to the inherent problem in translating words from Arabic into English. The word “Hur” occurs in many verses in the Quran that can be translated as “mate” or “companion” and is gender-neutral, just like the word “spouse.”

Referring to the bounties of the heaven and the reward for righteous men and women, Verse 20 of Chapter 52 says: “They will recline on thrones (of dignity) arranged in ranks; and (in that paradise) we shall mate them with companions pure, with beautiful eyes.”

The realm of heaven is beyond our imagination. It is a reality that begins where our imagination ends.

According to the Quran, the order of things in the heaven will be entirely different from our known physical laws.