Debate Among Saudi Scholars: Are the Dark-Eyed Virgins For Sensual Pleasure?
On June 11, 2010, Dr. Anwar Bin Majid ‘Ishqi, head of the Saudi Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, published an article on the issue of whether the dwellers of Paradise engage in sexual relations. The article was published in Al-Risala, the weekly supplement of the Saudi daily Al-Madina, under the title “Paradise is Above Sex; The Dark Eyed Virgins are Not for Sensual Pleasure.” In it, Dr. ‘Ishqi explains that he took up the issue of sex in Paradise for two reasons.
First, because terrorists make extensive use of it in the recruitment of young people: they incite these impressionable youths to carry out suicide operations by promising them that their reward will be to enjoy sex with the virgins of Paradise.
The second reason, he says, is that many religious scholars – including prominent ones – believe that Paradise offers actual sexual pleasures.
‘Ishqi rejects this notion as absurd and harmful. He says that it is a source of contempt for Muslims, and also a travesty of Islam, because the sexual pleasures mentioned in the Koran are not meant to be understood as physical pleasures but as spiritual ones. ‘Ishqi contends that in Paradise people have no sexual desires, and that their bodies even lack sexual organs, because they have no need for them.
‘Ishqi’s article sparked heated responses from several Saudi clerics, who argue that both the Koran and the Hadith provide extensive evidence that the dwellers of Paradise do enjoy physical pleasures, including sex. They concede that these texts are exploited and distorted by extremists, but contend that this abuse does not justify denying the straightforward meaning of the text and misrepresenting it as metaphorical.
It should be noted that ‘Ishqi’s article has since been removed from Al-Madina’s website and online archive.
Following are excerpts from ‘Ishqi’s article, and from three responses.
“Terrorists Exploit Adolescents, Telling Them that If They Carry Out Suicide Operations and Kill and Destroy… the Dark-Eyed Virgins Will Welcome Them in Paradise”
“Two things induce me to write about sex in paradise. First, the fact that the terrorists exploit adolescents, telling them that if they carry out suicide operations and kill and destroy, they will become martyrs, and as soon as they die, the dark-eyed virgins will welcome them in Paradise. Second, I have discovered that a number of religious scholars and prominent intellectuals believe that sex is practiced in Paradise, so much so that one of them [even] wrote a book in which he described this fantasy in great detail. And he said that the ‘immortal boys’ mentioned in the Koran [Koran 56:17] are intended for [the pleasure of] those people of Paradise who were inclined in this world to sodomy, but who denied and restrained themselves from practicing this perversion. So Allah rewards them in Paradise with these immortal boys. This distorts the image of Paradise in the minds of Muslims and causes disdain among their enemies.
“The terrorists and other deviants benefit from this wrong understanding and exploit it to seduce young people. This is so not only in our times; it also occurred in the days of Nizam Al-Mulk and Salah Al-Din, when the assassins of the Batini sect [were active]. This gang was established by Hassan Bin Sabah, who set up for them an [imaginary] Paradise and Hell, so as to toy with the emotions of the youth and to push them toward terrorism and assassinations. Today, we find that the terrorists make use of all the methods used by Hassan bin Sabah and his followers in order to convince the young men of the reality of the dark-eyed virgins. [The terrorists] give them a distorted [understanding] of suicide, killing, and destruction, and distribute drugs among them…
“Allah created sex in the lower world so that man and woman would be interested in each other, so as to ensure procreation. And this is also true of animals and plants. However… in Paradise there are no sexual impulses. Therefore, people’s sexual organs will disappear in the afterlife, because Allah described them as [a source of] shame. As He said: ‘When they both ate of the tree, their shame became apparent to them, and they began to conceal themselves by covering themselves with leaves of the Garden. And Adam disobeyed his Lord, so went astray.’ [Koran 20:121]”
“Allah Did Not Expel Adam and His Wife from Paradise for Their Disobedience, but Because of Their Shameful Parts, Which Appeared [Only] after They Both Ate from the Tree…”
“Allah did not expel Adam and his wife from Paradise for their disobedience, but because of their shameful parts, which appeared [only] after they both ate from the tree… Due to the emergence of their shameful parts, they were no longer eligible to stay in Paradise, so he expelled them… The great painter Leonardo da Vinci made an error when he painted Adam and Eve with a navel. It escaped him that the two of them were not born of a woman’s womb with an umbilical cord, and that they did not have shameful parts when they were first created… Allah created Adam from wet clay and copied Eve from his rib. Thus, there is no sex in Paradise. The sex organs of the people [who go there] disappear, because they have no need for them…
“Allah knows that human minds cannot grasp the nature of the pleasures of Paradise, so He made it closer to their understanding by mentioning dark-eyed beauties, wine, milk, and fruit. Allah utters nothing but the truth, which means that there is wine [in Paradise, but it is] not like the wine of this world, and there is food that is not like the food of this world. Rather, these are spiritual pleasures that make the sensual pleasures pale in comparison…
“Likewise, the pleasure [given] by the dark-eyed beauties is not sexual pleasure. That is why Allah endowed them with [beautiful eyes]: the most beautiful part of the human form is the face, and the most beautiful part of the face is the eyes… This is a spiritual pleasure, the extent of which we cannot grasp with our worldly minds. Those with deviant purposes select from the Koran that which pleases them, and interpret it in a way that serves their purposes. And thus we come to an age in which in we place religion at our service rather than [the other way around].”
Khaled Muhammad Al-Nu’man: “Yes There Is Sex in Paradise”
Saudi cleric Khaled Muhammad Al-Nu’man responded to ‘Ishqi’s article in an article of his own, titled “Yes There Is Sex in Paradise,” published in Al-Madina on July 2, 2010. He wrote: “…I [recently] read an article by the honorable Dr. Anwar bin Majid ‘Ishqi titled ‘Paradise is Above Sex.’ As evidence for this [claim], he stated that Adam, peace be upon him, left Paradise only after his shameful parts became apparent. In his view, these [shameful parts] will disappear [from the bodies] of those who enter Paradise. However, when we consider [Allah’s] words – ‘Surely the dwellers of the Garden shall on that day be [engaged] in a joyful occupation. Together with their spouses, they shall recline in shady groves upon soft couches’ [Koran 33:55-56] – and what the exegetes say about them, we discover the opposite of what is claimed by the learned Dr. [‘Ishqi].
“According to a large number of Koranic exegetes, the occupation… [referred to] in these verses is the deflowering of virgins. It is recounted, on the authority of the son of Ibn ‘Umar, in [the hadith collection] Al-Darr Al-Manthur: ‘The Muslim [in Paradise], whenever he desires his wife, he will find her a virgin.’ And in the description of Paradise it is mentioned, on the authority Abu Hurayra: ‘The Prophet was asked, ‘Will we have sexual intercourse in Paradise?’ And he answered, ‘Yes. By Allah, it will be dahman dahman. And when the man rises from [his wife], she will revert back to a pure virgin.’ Whoever wants to better understand the meaning of dahman dahman should open the Lisan Al-Arab Dictionary under the letter ‘m’, because this is not the place to explain it in detail. It follows that the people of Paradise take any kind of pleasure they want, including sex…
“However, what today’s terrorists do in order to seduce young men, [namely] their claim that the dark-eyed virgin sits next to the young man in his car [when he is on his way to carry out a suicide mission], and that he cannot see her until the moment he blows himself up and hurts others… is patently false… Only someone who has no sense at all could believe this. If those youths [seduced by the terrorists] had any sense, they would have realized that [the terrorists] are sending them to their death while sparing themselves and their own sons. If they were sincere, would they so altruistically [send other youths] to the virgins and the shady gardens, while depriving their own children of these pleasures?
“Truly, these deluded youths do not understand that they are instruments in the [hands] of criminals who use them to achieve their goals. Society as a whole should reach out to these youths, each [individual] in his own field, in order to guide them and teach them, lest they fall into the claws those who plan only evil things for them.”
Muhammad Kamel Al-Khoja: ‘Ishqi’s Article Was “An Intellectual Blunder”
Saudi cleric Muhammad Kamel Al-Khoja wrote in the daily Al-Bilad on July 5, 2010:
“An important man once came to the great scholar Abu Hanifa and asked him how he interprets the Koranic verse: ‘The Compassionate One seated Himself upon the throne.’ [Koran 20:5] And [Abu Hanifa] answered: The [fact of the] seating is known but the ‘how’ is unknown. To believe in it is obligatory; inquiry about it is a forbidden innovation. I was reminded of this story as I read the various speculations that Dr. ‘Ishqi wrote [in his article]… Dr. ‘Ishqi, whom I love and hold in esteem, should not have inquired into issues that are shrouded in mystery and into which no one should delve, not even well-established scholars, because these are secret matters which only Allah knows… And the Muslim should [simply] believe them, because the Koran does not provide any details about them… The tradition of the prophets, including Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets, does not provide [detailed information] about them either.
“The way Dr. ‘Ishqi allowed himself to explain them, letting his imagination run away with him, has baffled religious scholars. These matters are shrouded in mystery, [but Dr. ‘Ishqi] presented them in a manner that contradicts what can be clearly inferred from a number of Koranic verses… Had he considered these verses from the perspective of a believer, rather than in a materialistic, modern manner riddled with doubt, [he would have realized this fact]… Dr. Brigadier (res.) ‘Ishqi speaks about the creation of Adam and Eve, their life in Paradise, and their disobedience of the Creator in eating from the forbidden tree… and [argues that] they could not remain in Paradise after their shameful parts became apparent to them…
“As for the enjoyment of sex in the Paradise, which is promised to the believers, Paradise is not above it. What is concealed, and known only to the Creator, is ‘how’ [sex is experienced in Paradise]. However, I and all those who believe in the powers of Allah maintain that the pleasure of sex in Paradise will be higher, sweeter, and more joyous than the pleasure [of sex] in this world… In the Koran there are [verses] that confirm [the existence of] marriage in Paradise, which Dr. ‘Ishqi denies… These Koranic verses are intended to heighten the desire for Paradise among the believers…
“There is another topic that seems to have escaped Dr. ‘Ishqi’s understanding. I would like Dr. ‘Ishqi, who is a well known linguist, jurist, and consultant, not to apply the term ‘terrorists’ to those who spread corruption in the land and to the erring sect [i.e., those who carry out terrorism in Muslim lands], because terrorizing the enemy [is a good thing]: it is necessary and Allah encourages us to do so in the Koranic verse: ‘And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to strike terror among the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them…’ [Koran 8:60]… [So] let us not apply the term ‘terrorists’ to those sinful, bloody, destructors who spread corruption in the land and [belong to] the erring sect. These are more accurate terms for them…
“What Dr. ‘Ishqi published was an intellectual blunder that was surely unintended. It is [only] to prevent this [misconception] from spreading among the public that I wrote what I wrote against it…”
Khaled Babtin: The Terrorists’ Exploitation of the Faith “Should Not Lead Us to Deny… All the Pleasures that Allah Intends for the Dwellers of Paradise “
Cleric Khaled Babtin, a lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca and a member of the Saudi Association of Islamic Jurisprudence, wrote on the online magazine Al-Wiam (www.alweeam.com) on June 5, 2010: “The honorable Dr. Anwar bin Majid ‘Ishqi took us by surprise with the publication of a strange and bizarre article, which I wish he had not written… In this article, he created a strange mixture and adopted views that he did not support with evidence… He made various claims:
- There are no sexual relations in Paradise because, according to ‘Ishqi, Paradise is above sex.
- There are no sexual impulses in Paradise.
- People in the hereafter will not have sex organs.
- The virgins of Paradise are not for sexual pleasure.
- The natural inclinations which humans have in the world do not exist in Paradise…
- Allah did not expel Adam and his wife from Paradise for their act of disobedience, but rather because their shameful organs appeared after they ate from the tree.
- Our father Adam and our mother Eve, peace be upon them, did not have shameful parts when they were first created.
- The prophets, peace be upon them, did not worship Allah for the sake of Paradise and its pleasure, nor for fear of Hell and its fire, but rather out of love for His essence.
“Therefore, I felt it my duty to respond to Dr. ‘Ishqi’s article and to dispute his claims, which surprised everybody. In his capacity as head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, Dr. ‘Ishqi has accustomed us to seeing him on satellite channels as an outstanding strategic and political analyst, who comments on [such issues as] the implications of the sanctions on Iran…; the preemptive action taken by the Saudi security services against terrorists…; the criminal attacks perpetrated by the Houthis against our holy territory; and other such political and security matters. These are matters he can discuss very well. But how on Earth did he come to speak of things that he does not know well, and which lie outside of his area of expertise and outside the domain that his Center [for Strategic Studies] deals with?…
“Additionally, I was very surprised by Dr. ‘Ishqi’s insistence that Paradise is above sex, as he puts it… He says this without presenting a shred of evidence. In the beginning of his article, he explains that two things induced to write about sex in Paradise: the fact that [it is] exploited by the terrorists to exploit the youth… [and the fact that] a number of scholars and important intellectuals actually believe that there are sexual relations in Paradise.
“We see then that Dr. ‘Ishqi was affected by the words of the terrorist leaders and those who organize those sinful, criminal operations from which our country has suffered in the past – [the words] with which they seduce the youth. Indeed, what these terrorists do is wrong and unacceptable, from the perspective of both Islamic law and common sense. It is [their] way of stirring up the emotions and impulses of young and unsophisticated boys. However, this should not lead us to deny the confirmed [facts] about all the pleasures that Allah intends for the dwellers of Paradise and grants to the true believers [who come there]…
“The fact that [the terrorists exploit religious beliefs] should not lead us to abandon the truth in which we believe. The first generations of Muslims used to encourage the mujahideen, in the heat of battle, with mention of the virgins.
It is recounted in the [hadith] collection of Ibn Hajar [Al-Asqalani] that in the Battle of Siffin, ‘Amar proclaimed, ‘Whoever wishes to be embraced by the virgins, let him step forward to face the enemy in order to merit reward in Paradise.’
Dr. ‘Ishqi, read along with me the verse: ‘Surely the dwellers of the Garden shall on that day be [engaged] in a joyful occupation. Together with their spouses, they shall recline in shady groves upon soft couches.’ [Koran 33:55-56] Don’t you know, doctor, that the occupation in which they are engaged is the deflowering of maidens?… And this clearly demolishes [‘Ishqi’s] article from its very foundations. This reading of the verse is agreed upon by all the Koranic exegetes, first and foremost among them the Companions of the Prophet, who had the greatest knowledge of the Koran…
“The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘In Paradise Each Man Will Be Given the Strength of a Hundred [Men] for Eating, Drinking, Copulation, and Passion”
“For your benefit, Dr. ‘Ishqi, and for the benefit of all the readers, I shall present some texts as evidence that the people of Paradise enjoy copulation, or sexual relations, as Dr. ‘Ishqi calls it. Firstly, on the authority of Anas bin Malik: ‘The Prophet Muhammad said: “In Paradise the believer will be given much potency for copulation.” So he was asked, “Will he [be able to] endure this?” And he answered, “He will be given the strength of a hundred [men]”‘…
“Secondly, on the authority of Zayd Bin Arqam, the Prophet Muhammad said: ‘In Paradise each man will be given the strength of a hundred [men] for eating, drinking, copulation, and passion.’ On the authority of Abu Hurayra: ‘The Prophet was asked, ‘Shall we have sexual intercourse in Paradise?’ And he answered, ‘Yes. A man will have intercourse with one hundred virgins a day…’ [Babtin quotes further traditions of this kind to support his position.]
“The great scholars of the prophetic tradition arranged these traditions into various chapters, which indicates that this point was firmly established for them. For example, [there is] a chapter on desire among the people of Paradise, and a chapter on sexual intercourse among the people of Paradise and the utmost pleasure they derived from it…
“Thirdly, this copulation mentioned in the Koran and in the prophetic tradition is performed by the believers in Paradise with the same sex organs they possessed in this world. These [organs] do not, as the writer claims, disappear in Paradise… Those believers whom Allah favors by bringing them into his Paradise enjoy its pleasures in the same way they enjoyed them in this world, except that the pleasure of Paradise is of a degree incomparable to that of this world…
“I say to Dr. ‘Ishqi: All Muslims believe that [there is sex in Paradise, for] it is evidenced in the Koran and in tradition, and [the matter] is not as you fantasized…
“[Finally,] Dr. ‘Ishqi presumptuously claims, Allah forgive him, that Adam and Eve, peace be upon them, did not have shameful parts when they were first created. I will not response [to this] at length, and it is enough to quote the verse: ‘I did not allow them to witness the creation of Heaven and Earth, nor their own creation.’ [18:51] Have you, Dr. ‘Ishqi, witnessed your own creation, that you allow yourself to speak of the creation of our father Adam and our mother Eve?…”
 This refers to the Hashshashin sect, active in the Middle Ages.
 Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), June 11, 2010.
 In Classical Arabic dictionaries, words are ordered according to the final letter of the root, which in this case is m. The entry for the verb dahama states that its meaning is “to push forcefully,” and that when applied to a woman, it means to have sex with her.
 Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), July 2, 2010.
 Al-Bilad (Saudi Arabia), July 5, 2010.
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