My cmnt: I worked with a Muslim man from Pakistan who was quite religious. He would not drink alcohol, prayed five times a day (some while at work), would not eat pork and overall was a very decent fellow. At the time I knew very little about Islam and so took advantage of our association to ask any number of questions. When the suicide bombers became a news item it wasn’t long before we all heard of the 72 virgins awaiting them in Muslim heaven.
My cmnt: My Muslim coworker became very enthusiastic when I asked him about this belief. He said it is the great hope of all devout Muslim men and certainly helped many of them bravely face death in battle or by suicide bombing of infidels. When I asked him what awaited Muslim women in heaven he replied (and I quote), “Who cares”.
If Muslim martyrs (AKA suicide bombers) are rewarded with 72 sex slaves in heaven, what do female martyrs get? This age-old question was on recent display. According to a Jan. 12 report, Maulana Sajid Rashidi, president of the All India Imam Association, said during a televised interview that “72 hoors are made available for men in jannat (Islamic heaven) as a reward for their ‘good deeds’ on earth.”
The proper Arabic term for these entities is hoor al-‘ayn. They are supernatural, celestial women — “wide-eyed” and “big-bosomed,” says the Koran (56:22, 78:33) — created by Allah for the express purpose of sexually gratifying his favorites in perpetuity. (Whether or not the English word “whore” is etymologically connected to the Arabic hoor is ultimately a moot point, as they both seem to serve the same function.)
Imam Rashidi and all other advocates of the hoors trace their information back to a canonical hadith — a statement attributed to Muhammad that mainstream (Sunni) Islam acknowledges as true. In it, the prophet of Islam declares:
The martyr [shahid, one who dies fighting for Islam] is special to Allah. He is forgiven from the first drop of blood [that he sheds]. He sees his throne in paradise. … And he will copulate with seventy-two hoors. (See also Koran 44:54, 52:20, 55:72, and 56:22.)
While the hoors may invoke images of scantily clad genies and other wild tales from the Arabian Nights to the Western mind — and thus be dismissed as “fairy tales” with no capacity to inspire anyone — the fact is, desire for these immortal concubines has driven Muslim men to acts of suicidal terror, past and present, as recorded in both Muslim and Western historical sources (see here).
During the televised interview, Arzoo Kazmi, the female host, asked Imam Rashidi why Muslim women get no such “reward”:
On being questioned why no such provision was made for women, he first replied that the woman would be made the head of the 72 hoors that her husband gets. When Kazmi bemoaned that a woman would be stuck with the same earthly husband even in paradise, while the husband would have a bevy of beauties to choose form, Rashidi had no reply and said that Kazmi should be asking this question to Allah who has made these provisions for Muslims in heaven.
Thus, Arzoo Kazmi joins the ranks of countless Muslim women throughout the ages questioning Allah’s patriarchal designs and gender-based discrimination. Moreover, she asked: if Muslims are supposed to lead moral and alcohol-free lives because morality and sobriety are intrinsically good, why are they (at least men) “rewarded” with things like 72 hoors and “rivers of wine” (Koran 37:45) in heaven? Again, the imam gave no satisfactory answer.
Clearly, not only do many Muslim men obsess over the hoors — not a few of them hastening their exits from this world to meet them — but their existence in Islam has raised many questions for women. In one Arabic-language video I watched back in 2016, another Muslim imam took and answered questions via phone calls. A woman called in expressing outrage at the hoors, saying that she would be driven “mad with jealousy” seeing her husband copulating with these supernaturally beautiful women all day in heaven.
The cleric responded by telling her that “when you enter paradise, Allah will remove the jealousy from your heart. And have no fear, for you will lord over the hoors and be their queen.” Still apprehensive, the Muslim wife pleaded: “But must he have the hoors?” Laughing, the cleric reassured her: “Look, when you enter paradise, you will be more beautiful than the hoors — you will be their mistress. Okay? And when you enter paradise, Allah will remove any jealousy or concerns from your heart.”
Such is the lot of women in Islam: they are second-class citizens not only in the here but in the hereafter as well.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute