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Heaven

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Heaven or Paradise or al-Janna (Arabic: الجنة) is, according to Muslims, a place in the Afterlife where righteous and prosperous people will reside and enjoy divine blessings. The place where Adam and Eve lived before their fall (hubut) to the Earth is also referred to as "al-Janna".

There are over 200 verses of the Qur'an as well as many hadiths from the Infallibles (a) with regard to the Heaven and its features, such as its vastness, the number of Heavens, variety and features of its blessings, things in the Heaven, the purpose of the creation, the characteristics of its residents, characters and actions that make one deserve to reside in the Heaven, people who are deprived of the Heaven, and the relationship between residents of the Heaven.

Although the belief in the Heaven is a crucial Islamic doctrine, there are disagreements among Muslim theologians over whether the Heaven will be created in the Afterlife or it is already created. Moreover, Muslim scholars, both Shi'as and Sunnis, dispute over whether the Heaven and its blessings are corporeal or spiritual.

The Notion and Related Terms

The Heaven is a place in the Afterlife where righteous and prosperous people will reside and enjoy divine blessings.

In the Qur'an

There are over 200 Quranic verses and many hadiths from the Infallibles (a) with regard to the Heaven. Here are the themes of Quranic verses regarding the Heaven: features of the Heaven, its main characteristics, the vastness and the type of its space, variety of its blessings, features of its blessings, purpose of the creation of the Heaven, what makes people deserve the Heaven, what deprives people of the Heaven, and finally, the relationship between the residents of the Heaven. In addition to emphasizing the end of the world and occurrence of the resurrection and the beginning of a new life in the Afterlife, the Quran refers to the Heaven in different ways:

"Jannat" (literally meaning the garden; its plural form is: "Jannāt", الجنات): it has occurred over 100 times in the Quran. It is sometimes used with another noun or adjective, such as "Jannat al-Khuld" (جنّة الخلد, the Garden of Eternity), "Jannat al-Na'im" (جنة النعیم, the Garden of Bliss), "Jannat al-Ma'wa" (جنّة المأوی, the Garden of Abode), "Jannāt 'Adn" (جنّاتُ عدن, Gardens of Eden), and "Jannāt al-Firdaws" (جنّات الفردوس, Gardens of Paradise).

"Rawḍa" (روضة, Garden): in Sura al-Rum: 15.

"Rawḍāt al-Jannāt" (روضات الجنات, Meadows of Gardens): in Sura al-Shura: 22.

"Firdaws" (فردوس, Paradise): in Sura al-Mu'minun: 11.

"Dār al-Salām" (دارالسلام, Home of Peace): in Sura al-An'am: 127 and Sura Yunus: 25. It is a name and a feature of the Heaven. According to some exegetes of the Qur'an, since "Salam" (Peace) is a Divine Name, "Dar al-Salam" means the Home of God, which shows the value of the Heaven.

"Dār al-Ākhira" (دارالآخرة, Home of the Hereafter): it occurs 9 times in the Qur'an.

"Dār al-Khuld" (دارالخلد, Home of Eternity): in Sura Fussilat: 28.

"Dār al-Muqāma" (دارَالْمُقامه, Home of Everlasting Dwelling): in Sura Fatir: 35.

"Dār al-Qarār" (دارُالْقرار, Enduring Home): in Sura al-Ghafir: 39.

"Dār al-Muttaqīn" (دارُالْمتّقین, Home of the Pious): in Sura al-Nahl: 30.

"Maqām 'Amīn" (مَقامٍ امین, Secure Place): in Sura al-Dukhan: 51.

"Maq'ad Sidq" (مقعدِ صدق, Seat of Truth): in Sura al-Qamar: 55.

"'Illīyyūn/'Illīyyīn" (علّیین/ علّیون, High Place): in Sura al-Mutaffifin: 18-19.

"Ḥusnā" (حُسنی, the Best): in Sura Yunus: 26 and other verses.

'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas is quoted as saying that each of the phrases, "Jannat al-Ma'wa", "Jannat al-Na'im", "Dar al-Khuld" or "Jannat al-Khuld", "Dar al-Salam", "Jannat al-Firdaws", "Janna 'Adn" and "Dar al-Jalal" refers to a particular heaven.

In his collection of hadiths, Bihar al-anwar, 'Allama Majlisi cited Quranic verses concerning "Jannat" (the Heaven)—which are about 275—in the order of the Quranic chapters, and then cited their exegeses from al-Tabrisi, al-Fakhr al-Razi, and al-Baydawi.

In Hadiths

In some hadiths from the Infallibles (a), the names of the Heaven in the Qur'an are explained; for example:

According to a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (s), "Jannat al-Ma'wa" is the name of a river in the Heaven. And "Jannat 'Adn" and "Jannat al-Firdaws" are names of two heavens in the middle of two other heavens.

According to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), the Quran has mentioned 4 heavens—Jannat 'Adn, Firdaws, Na'im, and Ma'wa—while there are many heavens around these 4 heavens.

According to a hadith transmitted by Su'ayd b. Janah from Imam al-Baqir (a), verses 46 and 62 of Sura al-Rahman in the Qur'an are evidence for the existence of 4 heavens. One of the two heavens in the former verse is a reward for abstaining from sins, and the other is a result of fearing to stand before God—people who are very close to God—and the two heavens referred to in Sura al-Rahman: 62 (Na'im and Ma'wa) belong to Ashab al-Yamin (Companions of the Right Hand): these heavens are closer to God, though there is less bliss there.

According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the verse 62 of Sura al-Rahman is evidence for there being numerous heavens, and the term, "darajāt" (degrees), reveals differences between residents of the Heaven with respect to their rankings.

According to some Shiite and Sunni hadiths, there is a heaven which is directly created by God and its trees are directly planted by Him; its sceneries are never seen by anyone and its bliss is not known by anyone. Some exegetes of the Qur'an take the verse 17 of Sura al-Sajda to refer to this heaven. In a hadith, Imam al-Sadiq (a) talked about God's manifestation for residents of the Heaven and then referred to this particular heaven. There are hadiths in many Shiite and Sunni collections to the effect that there is a heaven whose bounties are beyond human imaginations.

Features and Characteristics

Some features of the Heaven are mentioned in the Qur'an and hadiths from the Infallibles (a). According to the Qur'an, the Heaven is a place where prosperous people reside in the Afterlife: gardens with many green and dense trees with rivers streaming beneath them, springs, various fruits, and a moderate temperature.

According to the verse 133 of Sura Al 'Imran and the verse 21 of Sura al-Hadid, the Heaven is as wide as the skies and the Earth. Exegetes of the Qur'an such as al-Tabrisi, al-Fakhr al-Razi and 'Allama Tabataba'i, have appealed to these verses to show that it is beyond the human mind to conceive the vastness of the Heaven.

The Heaven is Corporeal and already Created

Some hadiths have pointed out that the Heaven is created before the occurrence of the resurrection. It has been known as a Shiite belief. There is a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a) according to which the Heaven is created in the sense that it has an external existence, and that the Prophet (s) saw the real Heaven in his Mi'raj. Thus, if someone rejects that the Heaven is created, they will thereby deny the Prophet (s).

Some hadiths have emphasized that for every person there is a specific, predetermined place in the Heaven as well as in the Hell. A person's actions gradually build up that place in the Heaven or the Hell during time. Such hadiths have been appealed to for the existence of the Heaven and the Hell right now.

The Qur'an and hadiths from the Infallibles (a) emphasize that the Heaven, and in general, the Afterlife, are corporeal or physical. Thus, there is no difference between this mundane world and the Afterlife with respect to their being physical. They are different in other respects. 'Allama Majlisi and Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri have appealed to a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a) to show that the states of the Afterlife should be measured with those of this world. They maintain that this doctrine implies the corporeality of the Heaven. In response to a question by 'Imran al-Sabi and as an argument for the invisibility of God for human beings in the Heaven, Imam al-Rida (a) said that one can argue for what happens in the Heaven only by what happens in this world. According to the interpretation of 'Allama Majlisi and his student, Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri, this implies the principle that the states of the Afterlife should be measured with those of this world.

Theological Arguments

In order to show that the Heaven is created, scholars have appealed to some verses of the Qur'an: the verse 5 of Sura al-Najm which is a report of the Prophet's (s) Mi'raj, the verse 133 of Sura Al 'Imran and the verse 21 of Sura al-Hadid both of which state that the Heaven is "prepared", and the verse 100 of Sura al-Tawba which says that God has prepared the Heaven, and thus implies that the Heaven and the Hell actually exist right now.

In some hadiths from Shiite Imams (a), it is explicitly stated that the Heaven already exists. Imam al-Rida (a) has appealed to the story of the Prophet's (s) Mi'raj to show its existence. Ibn Hazm and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya have also appealed to some accounts of the Prophet's (s) Mi'raj to show that the Heaven is already created.

On the contrary, people who believe that the Heaven and the Hell are not created yet have appealed to rational and transmitted evidence. The oldest rational argument is that it is vain to create the Heaven before the resurrection. Some theologians have replied to this argument by saying that the reason for all God's actions need not be known for people, and thus, we cannot hold that the creation of the Heaven before the resurrection is vain from our own perspectives.

Esoteric Interpretation of the Corporeal Heaven in the Batini View

In accordance with their philosophical methodology, the Batiniyya have provided esoteric interpretations (ta'wil) of Quranic verses which imply the corporeality, and other features, of the Heaven, taking them to be symbolic. In an explicit objection to them, al-Ghazali maintained that this approach implies that the Prophet (s) was ignorant or, at least, their approach is at odds with the explicit text of the religion and is, thus, against Islam, especially because there are many Quranic verses regarding the Heaven and the Afterlife.

It has been assumed that the belief in the existence of the Heaven with the features mentioned in the Quran and hadiths is an essential component of Islam, and thus, the interpretation of Quranic verses in a way that leads to the denial of the Heaven's corporeality amounts to the denial of Islam.

Muslim theologians do not permit any esoteric interpretation or symbolic construal of religious texts, such as the corporeality of the Heaven in the Quran, except when there is a rational dilemma. Sulayman b. Salih al-Ghusn holds that doctrines, such as the corporeality of the Heaven, are rationally plausible and there is a transmitted agreement over them, and thus, it is not permissible to provide an esoteric interpretation of them which leads, say, to the denial of the Heaven's corporeality.

The Blessings

In the Islamic culture, Divine Satisfaction and His happiness is considered as the highest blessing of the Heaven. Moreover, many various blessings, such as foods, drinks, houses, gardens, palaces, clothes, and the like, have been mentioned in different chapters of the Qur'an, such as Sura al-Rahman, Sura al-Waqi'a, Sura al-Insan, and some verses of other chapters.

According to Islamic hadiths, Divine Satisfaction is the highest blessing of the Heaven. There is a hadith from Imam 'Ali (a) to the effect that when people of the Heaven begin to reside in their places, they are told that beyond the blessings they are given is the Divine Satisfaction and His love of them. After this, Imam 'Ali (a) cited the verse 72 of Sura al-Tawba according to which, "what is greater than all of this is that Allah is pleased with them". According to a hadith from the Prophet (s), the least blessed people in the Heaven are those who are concerned with the bliss of the Heaven, and the most blessed—who are very valuable for God—are those who are concerned with the Divine Presence or Face every morning and evening.

Foods and drinks: the Qur'an has emphasized most of all on fruits in the Heaven. According to Quranic verses, every type of fruit can always be found in the Heaven in abundance, and they can be easily picked from the trees. The Qur'an has twice pointed to the meat and the flesh of birds as bounties of the Heaven.

The verse 15 of Sura Muhammad points to drinks of the Heaven: streams of water, milk, wine, and honey, cups of very pleasant and white wine mixed with the aroma of camphor or ginger from a spring called "Salsabil", or mixed with musk. The words, "sharab" (drink) and "sharab tahur" (pure drink) in the Qur'an also refer to drinks of the Heaven. The Qur'an has emphasized that the wine of the Heaven is free of the problems of the wine of this world (such as intoxication, headache, inclination to sins, and dementia).

Clothes: other blessings of the Heaven include silk and dibaj clothes, golden, silver, and pearl bracelets, silk and brocade carpets with gorgeous, tall pillows, golden trays, silver dishes, crystal cups, with young and handsome servants.

Marriage: another blessing of the Heaven is the bond of marriage which is referred to in the Qur'an as "pure spouses", "your spouses", and "We make them spouses". Some exegetes of the Qur'an have appealed to the verse 23 of Sura al-Ra'd and the verse 8 of Sura al-Ghafir to show that spouses who are both believers in this world will live together in the Heaven as well. And if parents and children are all righteous, they will be in the Heaven together (the verse 56 of Sura Yasin and the verse 70 of Sura al-Zukhruf). Moreover, the Qur'an has pointed to "hur" (once) and "hur 'in" (white women with black eyes, three times) and their marriage with people of the Heaven. According to the Qur'an, these women are beautiful and fresh, chaste, and far from any lustful look.

Eye-catching things: in the verse 71 of Sura al-Zukhruf, it is said that everything eye-catching—whatever pleases the eyes—can be found in the Heaven and every desire is satisfied there. Some exegetes have appealed to these phrases to show that the blessings of the Heaven mentioned in the Qur'an do not exhaust all the blessings. The bliss of the Heaven is beyond human minds.

Other features of the Heaven: in addition to positive features of the Heaven, the Qur'an has rejected any negative features about it. With respect to its positive features, the Qur'an says that the Heaven is eternal and permanent, secure, stable, continuous, and available. Negative features from which the Heaven is said to be free, include: suffering, frustration, sadness, committing sins, vain talks, attributing lies, hearing any lies, intoxication, and dementia.

Degrees

In the Islamic culture, it is accepted that the degrees of the Heaven are correlated with human actions, but it is not obvious what degrees are yielded by each action.

According to exegetes of the Qur'an, such as al-Fakhr al-Razi, the word, "darajāt" (degrees), in the Qur'an with respect to the Heaven, refers to the ranking of the blessings in the Heaven: human beings will enjoy different degrees of the Heaven in accordance to their actions. The Quran and Islamic hadiths have emphasized different degrees of the Heaven.

According to a hadith from the Prophet (s), the Heaven has degrees the distance between each of which is like the distance between the Earth and the sky.

Actions and Characters of Heavenly People

Many actions are said by the Quran and hadiths to lead people to the Heaven. Men and women are said to be equal in this respect. The most frequently mentioned features of heavenly people in the Qur'an include faith, piety, righteous action, obeying God and His messenger, accepting the truth, purity, and avoiding polytheism. The Qur'an also points to characters such as modesty towards God and people, fear of God, good behavior, avoiding mundane desires, truthfulness, generosity, trustfulness, keeping one's promises, financial aid of the impoverished, avoiding vain talks and actions, and avoiding arrogance. Some people are said to be prohibited from entering the Heaven, such as those who deny divine signs or revelations of God.

Some characters and actions that lead to the Heaven include: helping other people, being kind to people, good talk, and avoiding any injustice to others. Some wrong behaviors deprive people of going to the Heaven, such as telling lies, gossiping, ridiculing others, malevolence, contributing to the injustice of the rulers, promiscuity, and drinking wine.

The Heaven of Adam and Eve

In three Quranic chapters (Sura al-Baqara: 35, Sura al-A'raf: 19-20, and Sura Taha: 115, 117 and 120), the first residence of Adam and Eve is said to be the "Heaven" (Jannat). According to Quranic verses, they enjoyed all the blessings in the Heaven and all of their desires were satisfied, but despite this abundance and welfare, they were warned not to approach a certain tree (and not to eat its fruit). They were also warned about the Devil's temptations. Adam and his wife disobeyed God, followed the Devil's temptations, and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. They were thus deported from the Heaven and had to live on the Earth. After this fall (hubut), the life of the human species began on the Earth.

There are three views, in Islamic exegetical and theological books, with respect to this Heaven.

Al-Fakhr al-Razi has cited all the three views and the arguments for them. Here are the views: (i) it refers to a garden on the Earth, (ii) a heavenly garden other than the promised Heaven, and (iii) the promised Heaven. Al-Fakhr al-Razi holds that all the three views are plausible, though none of them can be proved. Thus, he remained neutral on the issue.

'Allama Majlisi has also pointed to these three views and their arguments. He cited hadiths according to which the heaven of Adam and Eve is the promised Heaven. In other sources, it is identified as a garden on the Earth. Majlisi concluded that we cannot decide on this issue. He also speculated that it might be the heaven of barzakh.

Among later exegetes of the Qur'an, Muhammad 'Abduh take the heaven of Adam and Eve to be an Earthly one, taking this to be the view of Sunni scholars. However, 'Allama Tabataba'i takes the heaven of Adam and Eve to be in the sky, but other than the promised Heaven. He takes it to be located in the world of Barzakh. He also takes the Quranic story of the fall from Eden to be a metaphor for the birth of every human person in this world.

Books and Writings regarding the Heaven

Many independent works have been written about the Heaven and the Hell. Moreover, significant parts of many collections of hadiths are devoted to the citation of hadiths concerning the Heaven and the Hell. Here are some Shiite works in this regard:

In addition to Shiite works, some Sunni works are also devoted to the citation of hadiths regarding the Heaven and the Hell, including:

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from بهشت in Farsi Wikishia.