Men and women

Published: September 11, 2010
The writer is professor emerita at the University of Louisville, Kentucky

The writer is professor emerita at the University of Louisville, Kentucky

It is commonly believed that in the afterlife righteous men will be rewarded by God and given beautiful female companions (hur). This belief is based on a reading of the following Quranic passages:  “Verily, the God-conscious will find themselves (on that Day) in gardens and in bliss … (And they will be told) “Eat and drink with good cheer as an outcome of what you were wont to do, reclining on couches (of happiness) ranged in rows!” And (in that paradise) We shall mate them with Companions pure, most beautiful of eye” ( Surah 52: At-Tur: 17-20)

“Immortal youths will wait upon them with goblets, and ewers, and cups filled with water from unsullied springs by which their minds will not be clouded and which will not make them drunk; and with fruit of any kind that they may choose, and with the flesh of any fowl that they may desire. And (with them will be their) companions, pure, most beautiful of eye, like unto pearls (still) hidden in their shells.  (And this will be ) a reward for what they did (in life).” (Surah 56: Al-Waqi‘ah: 15-26)

Explicating the term hur Muhammad Asad has stated:  “The noun hur… is a plural of both ahwar (masculine) and hawra (feminine), either of which describes a person distinguished by hawar which primarily denotes ‘intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the iris’ (Qamus). In a more general sense, hawar signifies simply whiteness (Asas) or, as a moral qualification, purity. Hence the compound expression hur ‘in signifies, approximately, ‘pure beings (or, more specifically, ‘companions pure’) most beautiful of eye’ (the latter is the meaning of ‘in (the plural of a‘yan). In his comments (on this expression) Razi observes that inasmuch as a person’s eye reflects his soul more clearly than any other part of the human body, ‘in may be understood as ‘rich of soul’ or ‘soulful’.”

Most Muslims believe that the hur mentioned in the Quran are females who will be bestowed by God upon the righteous males in paradise. It is important to note here that in Surah Tur:20 and Surah Ad-Dukhan:53 the term zawwaj is used in conjunction with hur. Since the term zauj is generally interpreted as referring to a wife, it is commonly assumed by Muslim men that the hur are heavenly counterparts to their earthly wives. In this context the following statement by Muhammad Asad is relevant: “As regards the term hur in its current feminine connotation, quite a number of the earliest Quran commentators, among them Al-Hasan al-Basri, understood it as signifying no more and no less than ‘the righteous among the women of the human kind’ (Tabari) – ‘even those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings ( Al-Hasan, ad quoted by Razi).”

Despite the common association of hur with females, the fact that the term hur is plural and refers to both males and females must be kept in mind. What the Quran has stated in the above-cited passages is that reward given by God to righteous women in the afterlife is identical to the reward given by God to righteous men in the afterlife. That righteous women are offered a similar reward in the afterlife by God is not known to most Muslims and is likely to shock those who consider men’s superiority to women, both in this world and in the next, as self-evident.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Sep 11, 2010 - 11:52AM

    Count you hur or ahwar when you get there, And I have doubts not many will, considering our lust, greed, and inhumanity Recommend

  • Erfan Afghan
    Sep 11, 2010 - 6:34PM

    Yes, this is a confusion with most of the people but then again most of us doesn’t spend time doing research.

    B/w regarding having doubts – Many of us lack the basic knowledge of what will be offered in the life hereafter. Nor we are interested in any of the offerings. Recommend

  • Salman Arshad
    Sep 11, 2010 - 9:24PM

    We need more “research” on our lust.. Lust seems to be one thing that will stay with us even in the hereafter..

    I wonder if those palaces made of pearls will also be available to both men and women.. speaking of which.. a lot of “research” is needed even on our greed.. Recommend

  • Raza Usman
    Sep 11, 2010 - 11:44PM

    And to have a professor actually writing this dribble and discussing the “afterlife” goes to show how the level of education has fallen around the world…Recommend

  • Talha
    Sep 12, 2010 - 3:22PM

    Whats the point, haven’t we got much more pressing issues to deal with.Recommend

  • Erfan Afghan
    Sep 12, 2010 - 3:52PM


    Isn’t “afterlife” part of our Imaan? Recommend

  • Think therefore
    Sep 12, 2010 - 7:06PM

    why is the sex of the hur important. i dont think we would be procreating in heaven…. i have to agree with salman though… when would we be free of lust and greed!!Recommend

  • AmaaN
    Sep 12, 2010 - 9:05PM

    “when would we be free of lust and greed!!”

    When the Qur’an does not just remain on our lips but descends into the very depths of our hearts.Recommend

  • Sep 12, 2010 - 9:11PM

    Shouldn’t this have been a time for a professor of religion to write about what religion/Islam says about how to help people engulfed by natural calamities such as the devastating floods in Pakistan that has ruined millions of lives instead of making another ‘scholarly’ effort to show the relevance of gender balance in the hereafter? Why not write on Islam and the reward with God for philanthrophy to motivate people to help fellow muslims who are in dire need of such assitance? Why can’t even our professors understand and promote the spirit of religion instead of focusing on such issues which have no relevance in this time of immense pain for millions of our poor, devastated people?Recommend

  • Sep 13, 2010 - 5:31AM


    as usual, this is insightful and thought provoking…

    perhaps the prime reason for this: That righteous women are offered a similar reward in the afterlife by God is not known to most Muslims and is likely to shock those who consider men’s superiority to women, both in this world and in the next, as self-evident.…may be the hegemony of male interpreters of texts….Recommend

  • Asad
    Sep 13, 2010 - 10:29AM

    To all the commentators who think this is not very relevant consider the gender disparity and discrimination in Pakistan. Also do you think sex isn’t important for people? Do you think its unnatural? You should know that the Quran celebrates the idea as being a very important part of human life. It’s too bad the people who are commenting on this continue to impose silence on this issue. The way we perceive sex (and gender) whether in this life or the next has important implications for how we interact and behave in our daily lives.
    Beauty and procreation are also said to be ways to access the divine so maybe you should pay more attention.Recommend

  • parvez
    Sep 13, 2010 - 1:59PM

    Wonderful article very convincing in the logical way it’s presented.
    So you say women will get the same deal as men in the life hereafter ? OK.Recommend

  • Talat Haque
    Sep 13, 2010 - 2:58PM

    futile attempt at filling in the glaring gap of expected rewards in heaven by men and women ………….. women are to be rewarded ‘generally’ and hopefully ‘fairly’ (as one cannot assume Allah to be unfair) …………. rewards for men are clearly specified and spelt out (no ambiguity there!) …………. musalman men have been counting their ‘hurs’ before they are hatched …….. musalman women may expect the unexpected (bad eggs included, with not much to hatch) …………. lets call a spade a spade (women a degree less) ………….. ah! the things people do to make themselves feel good !!Recommend

  • Mahvesh
    Sep 13, 2010 - 11:47PM

    Talat Haque’s ‘analysis’ is humourous! So quite clearly, men are superior not only here but also in the afterlife too, and apparently, the presence of women in heaven is going to be an error, and is also referred to as ambiguously. Clearly, Allah didn’t consider women worthy enough to be rewarded.

    Good article. People fail to take into account that rewards will not be based on your sexuality but on your deeds. And I see most people here are insecure about being faced with that fact, the fact that women, too, will be rewarded, and the general uncomfortableness with discussing anything going against the grain of what they’ve been ‘taught’ about religion through tv evangilists and textbooks. To agree with Asad, they’d probably shout ‘blasphemy’ if you point out that sexual relations are also mentioned in the Quran, and women are supposed to be treated equally. Recommend

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