Paradise: the Eternal Abode
The pleasures of Paradise are hidden and far beyond human perception, and hence we note that all we know and hear of its sensual pleasures are merely figurative expressions. Similarly, only an iota of the actual torment of Hellfire has been described to us. Exactly what Allah has in store to reward His faithful servants, we cannot even begin to imagine nor can we comprehend the pains and calamities of Hell. Nonetheless, there are a few details that have been provided to us through the Qur’an and traditions to help us attain some degree of insight into the permanent, everlasting dwelling that we will each eventually reside in – whether it is the greatest, everlasting bounty of Paradise (the focus of the present article) or the torturous Hellfire (to be discussed in an article shortly following)
Editor’s Note: Before continuing with this article, make sure you have read the previous articles in this series, which explain what happens after death, the journey through Barzakh, the Day of Judgment, accounting for the rights of Allah, the rights of people, and the Ahlul Bayt’s right to intercession, and crossing the Bridge of Siraat.
It is related from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) in Sifatush Shi’ah that: “The person who does not believe in the following four things is not from our Shi’as: Me’raj (ascension) of Prophet Muhammad, the questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakeer, the existence of Paradise and Hell, and our Shafa’at (Intercession).”
“So no soul knows what is hidden from them of that which will delight the eyes, as a reward for their (good) deeds.” (Holy Qur’an, 32:17) This verse illustrates that the pleasures of Paradise are hidden and far beyond human perception, and hence we note that all we know and hear of its sensual pleasures are merely figurative expressions. Similarly, only an iota of the actual torment of Hellfire has been described to us. Exactly what Allah has in store to reward His faithful servants, we cannot even begin to imagine nor can we comprehend the pains and calamities of Hell. Nonetheless, there are a few details that have been provided to us through the Qur’an and traditions to help us attain some degree of insight into the permanent, everlasting dwelling that we will each eventually reside in – whether it is the greatest, everlasting bounty of Paradise (the focus of the present article) or the torturous Hellfire (to be discussed in an article shortly following).
The Kingdoms of Paradise
As opposed to the extreme congestion which the sinners will be suffocated in within Hellfire, in Paradise the believers will be granted their own kingdoms, which will be entirely in their control and containing all that they desire. It is related that even for the person with the lowest rank in Paradise, when he looks at his kingdom its distance will be equal to a period of one thousand years, and even the Angels will not be permitted to enter it without his consent.
Food and Drink of Paradise
The food and drink of Paradise are beyond what one can imagine. It is related from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) that birds with 70,000 feathers will be flying in the air. Whenever a believer will desire to eat something, a bird will fly down to his eating-carpet and will flap its feathers, and from each of its feathers will fall a dish whiter than ice, more delicious than honey and more fragrant than musk, and no other food will be like it. Then the bird will fly away.
“They are made to quaff of a pure drink that is sealed (to others). The sealing of it is (with) musk, and for that let the aspirers aspire. And the admixture of it is a water of Tasneem, a fountain from which drink they who are drawn near (to Allah).” (83:25-28) Tasneem is only one of the many springs in Paradise. The specialty and tastefulness of each will be different from one another, and have been named according to their qualities: The Camphor Spring, the Zanjabil Spring, the Salsabeel and the Tasneem. The most important of all is the Spring of Kawthar which is flowing from beneath the Divine Throne and which is whiter than milk, sweeter than honey and softer than butter. It will contain precious stone particles (embedded at the bottom) and they will be of topaz, rubies and corals. Its grass will be saffron and its mud will be more fragrant than musk. Narrations mention that this spring will flow from beneath the Arsh-e-Ilaahi and takes the shape of a big cistern in the field of Mahshar.
Dresses and Ornaments
Allah says in the Qur’an: “Ornaments shall be given to them therein of bracelets of gold, and they shall wear green robes of fine silk, thick silk brocade interwoven with gold” (18:31), and “They shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and (with) pearls, and their garments therein shall be of silk.” (22:23)
The Holy Prophet said, “When a believer enters his palace in Paradise, a crown of magnificence will be placed on his head, and he will be given to wear seventy thousand different types of dresses adorned with various gems and pearls. If one of these dresses is made apparent to the people of this world, they will not be able to bear its fragrance.”
Palaces of Paradise
“And (Allah) will cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetuity, that is the mighty achievement.” (61:12) The Holy Prophet is narrated to have said regarding the interpretation of this “goodly dwelling” that there is a palace in Paradise made of pearls, which has 70 houses of red rubies. In every house are 70 rooms of emeralds, and in each room there are 70 thrones on which are spread 70 carpets, and on each carpet will be seated Hoor al-‘Ain. In each room there will be 70 dining tables, on which there will be 70 types of delicious dishes, and in each room there will be one servant (male and female). Allah will give the believers enough strength to be able to derive pleasure from all these bounties.”
“They shall have high places, above them higher places, built (for them), beneath which flow rivers.” (39:20) It is related from Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) that Imam Ali (peace be upon him) asked the Holy Prophet regarding the interpretation of the “higher places” and what these are made of. He replied, “O Ali! Its walls are of pears, rubies and topaz. Its ceiling is of gold, lined with silver. Each ‘higher place’ has a thousand doors, and on each door are a thousand Angels. In it are spread carpets of soft and colorful silk filled with musk, camphor and amber.”
Hooris and Women of Paradise
Since the greatest physical bounty in Paradise are Hoor al-‘Ain, Allah makes a special mention of them in the Holy Qur’an in numerous verses. “Hoor” means a female having a white body and “Ain” means a wide-eyed lady. As both these specialties are found in Hoor al-‘Ain, they are called Hoori. “And pure, beautiful ones, the like of hidden pearls.” (56:22-23) “There are Hooris in heavenly gardens who keep their eyes low except before their husbands. They have not been touched by anyone from men or jinn.” (55:56)
The Lord Almighty also said: “We have created these Hooris with Our perfect might, and made them pure.” (56:35-36) They will be sweet-voiced having pleasing gestures, and all of them will be youthful.
The believing women who die in perfect faith will have a charm and beauty in Paradise far greater than that of Hooris. “In them are goodly things, beautiful ones.” (55:70) In reference to this verse, Allama Majlisi quotes Imam Sadiq as saying that the “goodly things” referred to in the verse are the faithful, knowledgeable Shia women who will enter Paradise, who will be given in wed-lock to the believing men. It is said that these women in the gardens of Paradise referred to in this verse will have the best bodily charm and the best of spiritual excellence.
Songs of Paradise
In a sermon in Nahj al-Balagha, Imam Ali says Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) will entertain the inhabitants of Paradise with his pleasant voice; he will entertain the dwellers of Paradise with good songs. In Majma al-Bayan, it is related from the Holy Prophet that the best song from amongst the songs of Paradise will be the ones which the Hooris will sing for their husbands (the believers); it will be such that no man or jinn will ever have heard it.
Imam Sadiq was once asked whether there would be music and melody in Paradise, to which he replied: “In Paradise there is a tree. By the command of Allah, when the breeze will shake it, a sound will emanate from it, such that no man has ever heard such a pleasant and melodious tune. This blessing will be for the one who in the world kept away from (vain) music and songs because of fear of Allah.”
The Greatest Blessings
The greatest blessing in Paradise for a believer will be that Allah Himself will communicate with him/her. In Tafseer-e-Minhaj, it is related from the Holy Prophet that when the dwellers of Paradise will be busy in its pleasures, a light will shine forth and a voice will be heard: “Peace be on you, O dwellers of Paradise!” Just as the Prophets in this world had the honor of communicating with Allah, the believers will get this honor in Paradise.
Residing within the neighborhood of the Holy Prophet and His Progeny and meeting with them is no less a blessing. The Holy Prophet said, “O Ali! Your Shias will be seated on illuminated pulpits in Paradise. Their faces will be glowing like a full moon, and all of them will reside in our neighborhood.” One of the spiritual bounties is that one will be meeting frequently with the messengers and the righteous and faithful persons. Almighty God says in the Holy Qur’an that the believers will be seated on thrones facing one another happily (37:44). They will be guests of each other as stated in traditions. It is also related that one Ulul ‘Azm Prophet (the five great Prophets) will come to visit the believer daily, and will be a host to everyone. On Thursdays the Holy Prophet will be the host, and on Fridays Allah the Almighty Himself will invite all for food.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Make It Into Paradise?
Martyr Ayatollah Dastghaib Shirazi says in his book The Hereafter (Ma’ad): “We have to think, will any wise man want to deprive himself of the said spiritual joys and pleasures and high positions? How much trouble a man takes for getting the worldly positions and ranks even though it is not always certain he will attain them. Even if he gets them after suffering and undergoing a lot of difficulties and hardships, there is every possibility of being deprived of them due to his death. But the same person does not make any effort to attain the exalting places and everlasting bounties, even though here it is certain that if he strives, he will gain his goal. The reason for this carelessness is man’s lack of courage and drowning in engagement in the world’s short-lived pleasures, passions, lusts and greed, even though there are thousands of impurities in them – as is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: ‘But man wants to go on indulging in the evil even in front of him.’ (75:5)”