Opinion Editorials, August 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: www.aljazeerah.info
The Qur’anic Descriptions of Heaven and Misunderstandings
Arab News, 8/8/04
Q.1. The Qur’anic descriptions of heaven include that men will have maidens as spouses. Would women in heaven also have men for their entertainment?
Q.2. Many expatriates reach Makkah in the pilgrimage season violating some government rules. Will their pilgrimage be valid? If so, would it be a lesser pilgrimage or a full one?
Q.3. Since God does not wish to overburden His servants, what should be the timing of prayers in the case of a night worker who needs to sleep during the day. Should he wake up for every prayer?
A.1. What we need to understand is that the descriptions given in the Qur’an are phrased in a way that we are able to understand. Otherwise, the realm of heaven is totally unlike our own. In reference to heaven, the Prophet says: “It includes what no eye has ever seen, no ear ever heard of, and no human mind ever thought of.” This Hadith tells us that what people destined to heaven will have there is totally different from what they have known in this present world of ours. Therefore, we must not think of heaven in terms of what we experience in this life, even though the favors and blessings mentioned in the Qur’an as being reserved for the people of heaven are stated in terms that we know and understand. Therefore, they may be luxuries and blessings given names we know but they are unlike what these names refer to in this life. On the other hand, they may be of the same nature that we know but unlike what we experience.
The Qur’anic descriptions of heaven state that its inmates will have women companions whose beauty is outlined in certain terms. Unlike what is often mentioned by people, the Qur’an does not give any numbers of such companions and it does not say that these will be wives. Nor does it ever mention the pleasure of sex as one of the types of enjoyment people will have. This is perfectly understandable, because sex is closely associated with procreation. The inmates of heaven do not procreate, because this is an aspect associated with their life on earth, not with their future life.
That they will have maiden companions is true, but what sort of happiness such companions will give is something we do not know. It could well be something that both men and women enjoy in equal measure. Otherwise, if a married couple go to heaven, they will be together there as man and wife.
A.2. Islam gives a ruler of a Muslim community the authority to issue orders and promulgate laws, intending to serve the interests of the community, provided that such orders and laws do not violate any Islamic principle, rule or value. Every Muslim in that community must obey and abide by such orders, laws and regulations. Unless they do so, there will be chaos and trouble. For example, the government may issue a rule limiting the speed of motor vehicles on certain roads. Initially, driving at any speed is permissible, but when the government imposes a speed limit on a particular road, observing such speed limit is an Islamic requirement in addition to its being required by law.
The government of Saudi Arabia issued a number of regulations restricting the frequency of offering the pilgrimage and setting certain requirements for obtaining a permit to offer the pilgrimage. Obeying these is obligatory from the Islamic point of view, because they are intended for the public good. However, if a person manages to go on pilgrimage without obtaining the necessary permit, we cannot say that his pilgrimage is invalid.
We say that he must observe the official rules. How God will look at his pilgrimage is up to Him only. This is similar to doing other duties such as prayers while violating some rules that do not relate to their validity. Take the example of a company providing a prayer room for its staff and issuing an order that prayer in other areas is not allowed. If someone prays in his office, can we say that his prayer is invalid?
A.3. A person who has to work at night can determine the time of his sleep in the most convenient way that enables him to offer his prayers on time. We must not forget that all Muslims have to offer the dawn, or Fajr, prayer before sunrise, even though they might not have had more than a couple of hours of sleep before it. They wake up, pray and go back to sleep if they need to. The same could be said for night workers and their daily prayers.
Wailing for Dead Person
Q. In a Hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) says that a dead person is tortured by his relatives’ wailing for him. Aishah rejects this Hadith saying that no one suffers as a result of the action of another. Please clarify.
A. What Aishah said is correct. No one will ever bear responsibility for the action of another. This is divine justice summed up in short statement in the Qur’an which is repeated several times. Since a dead person has no say in how his relatives conduct themselves after he has died, it is impossible that God would hold him responsible for them. What the Hadith means is that the dead person will be informed by God of what his people do, and he is saddened by their excessive grief, or their wailing.
This is the sort of torment that the Hadith refers to. It is not a torment God inflicts on him as a result of their action. To suggest so is contrary to divine justice.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.