Could you give information about the levels of heaven?

The Details of the Question
Please can you give information about the levels of heaven? I heard that the "Heaven of Firdaws" is the highest level of heaven. Is it true?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Levels of Heaven: according to what Ibn Abbas narrates, Heaven is reported to consist of seven levels. They are Firdaws, heaven of Adn, heaven of Na’im, Dar al-khuld, heaven of Ma’wa, Dar as-Salam and Illiyyun. In each of these levels, there are degrees or positions for Muslims, which they will enter in return for their good deeds (al-Baydawi, Anwaru't-Tanzil, Beirut (n.d.), I, 119). They are as follows:

1. Heaven of Na’im: “And make me one of the inheritors of the Paradise of Delight.” (as-Shuara 26/85).  (See also al-Maida, 5/65; at-Tawba, 9/21; Yunus, 10/9).
2. Heaven of Adn: “Their reward with their Lord is 'Adn (Eden) Paradise (Gardens of Eternity), underneath which rivers flow, They will abide therein forever, Allah will be pleased with them, and they with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord.” (al-Bayyina, 98/8, see also at-Tawba, 9/72; ar-Ra’d, 13/23; an-Nahl, 16/31).
3. Heaven of Firdaws: "Verily! those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous deeds, shall have the Gardens of Al-Firdaws (the Paradise) for their entertainment.” ( al-Kahf, 18/107 and al-Mu’minun, 23/11).
4. Heaven of Ma’wa: "For those who believe and do righteous deeds are Gardens of Ma’wa, for their (good) deeds.” (al-Sajdah, 32/19 and an-Najm, 53/15).
5. Daar as-Salam: “But God doth call to the Daar as-Salam (Home of Peace) and He doth guide whom He pleaseth to a way that is straight.” (Yunus, 10/25 and al-An’am, 6/127).
6. Dar al-Khuld: "Who has, out of His Bounty, settled us in a Home that will last” (Fatir, 35/35).

In spite of the fact that Ibn Abbas limits the levels of Heaven to seven, as it can be understood from verses, Heaven has got a lot of levels. Those levels of Heaven mentioned by Ibn Abbas and also mentioned in the verses are the highest levels of Heaven, because those levels themselves consist of a lot of levels. In fact, Allah’s verses stating them in plural form as “Heavens of Firdaws” and “Heavens of Na’im” prove it. Moreover, this reality is revealed by the Prophet (pbuh) himself in the event of Ummu Haritha. Ummu Haritha called upon Hazrat Prophet to be informed of her son martyred in the Battle of Badr and the Messenger of Allah, pointing out that there are a lot of Heavens, comforted her by saying that her son was in heaven of Firdaws (Mansur Ali Nasif, at-Taju’al-Jami li’l Usul, fi Ahadithi’r Rasul, İstanbul (n.d), 5, 4033).

In fact, in the hadith which Muslim narrated from Abu Said al-Khudri, Hazrat Prophet indicates that the ones who make Jihad for the sake of Allah will be elevated a hundred levels in return for their Jihad and that the distance between each level is equal to the distance between the earth and sky (Muslim, Imara, 116). The possibilities put forward about the issue of levels stated in the Hadith are as follows: It is possible to understand those levels as they seem. Actually, it is possible that those levels in question are layers (stages) which mount on one another, as it can be understood from what it is described. On the other hand, it is also possible that what is meant by “mounting on one another” is the abundance of boons, the greatness and abundance of blessings which no human or no other creature has ever thought of and has ever dreamed of in Heaven. In fact, the kinds of blessings and bounties which Allah blesses upon Mujahids are different from each other and superior to each other. In this sense, the differences of superiority between boons resemble the distance between the earth and sky. However, al Qadi Iyad (544/1149) adopted the former view (an-Nawawi, Sharhu Muslim, Cairo (n.d), 13, 28).

Again in a narration by Bukhari, Hazrat Prophet indicates that for the ones who make Jihad for the sake of Allah a hundred levels are prepared, and the distance between two levels resembles the distance between thr earth and sky, and he continues “When you ask from Allah, ask for Firdaws… because Firdaws is the middle of Heaven and the highest level of Heaven (…). From Firdaws spring out Heaven’s rivers.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 4).

Ayni interprets the statement “Firdaws is the middle (medicore) of Heaven” as Heaven’s best or most superior place and supports his view with the word “wasatan” written in the verse “Thus We have appointed you a middle (wasatan) nation” (al-Baqara, 2/143).  (al-Ayni, Umdatu'l-Kari fi Sarhi Sahihi'l-Bukhari, İstanbul 1309, VI, 539). Various narrations put the beauties of Firdaws into words. On the other hand, the distance between levels of heaven mentioned in hadith varies as “a distance of hundred years” and “a distance of five hundred years” in different narrations (al-Ayni, ibid).

It can be concluded from all those verses, hadiths and interpretations of scholars that Heaven has a lot of levels. We are informed of those levels’ names because some of them are superior to others and their boons are more beautiful or superior. Heaven of Firdaws is the highest level of Heaven by means of its position. (Also see: at-Tabari, Tafsir, Egypt 1954, 16, 37-8).

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