What are the hadith narrations about houris?

The Details of the Question

- Will you make a general evaluation related to hadiths about houris?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

Some hadith narrations about houris are as follows:  

1. ”Verily, a person will marry a thousand houris in a month (in Paradise), that is, in the amount of a month, and live a love life with each of them as much as his life on earth.” (Imam Sha’rani, Ölüm-Kıyâmet-Ahiret, p. 355, Hadith No: 645)

2. ”A step taken in the way of Allah (in service and jihad) in the morning or evening is better than the world and what is in it. A place in Paradise as much as the place that the bow or arrow of one of you occupies in the world is better than the world and what is in it. If one of the women of the people of Paradise were to appear in the world, she would illuminate the earth and everything in it with her light. The cover on her head is better than the world and what is in it.” (Tirmidhi, Fadailul-Jihad, 17; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, 3/141, 264; Baghawi, Sharhus-Sunnah, nr. 2616; Abu Ya’la, al-Musnad, nr. 3775; Bayhaqi, al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, nr. 372)

3. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following related to the interpretation of the verse “Like unto Rubies and coral.” (ar-Rahman, 55/58):

“When the owner of the houris lifts the veil of one of them, he will see that her face is brighter than a mirror. The smallest pearl on her is beautiful enough to illuminate the space between east and west. She has seventy layers of dresses on her. However, when she is viewed from behind those dresses, even the marrow of their calves will be visible (because of transparency). (Suyuti, ad-Durrul-Mansur, 7/712; Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 2/475; Bayhaqi, al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, nr. 375. See also Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, 3/75; Ibn Hibban, as-Sahih, nr. 2631)

4. At the night I was taken to Miraj, I went to a place in Paradise called Baydah (the name of a river in Paradise). There were tents made of red rubies, green jewels, and pearls there. I heard voices from there: ‘O Prophet of Allah! Welcome!’ I asked, ‘O Jibril! Who is speaking?’. Jibril said, ‘They are houris in tents reserved for their owners. They asked their Lord for permission to greet you, and He gave them permission.’

Then, the houris of Paradise started to say: “We are pleased (with those we are preparing for) and we will not be angry forever. We are here forever; we will never leave.”

Then, the Prophet recited the verse “Companions restrained (as to their glances), in (goodly) pavilions.” (Bayhaqi, al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, nr. 376; Suyuti, ad-Durrul-Mansur, 7/718; Zabidi, Ithaf, 14/602)

5. “Every man from the people of Paradise will marry five hundred houris, four thousand virgins, and eight thousand widows. He will stay with each of them for as long as his life on earth.” (Bayhaqi, al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, nr. 414; Mundhiri, at-Targhib wat-Tarhib, nr. 5523)

6. “There is a bazaar (assembly place) in Paradise. There is no shopping there; there are only male and female images. When a man’s heart desires an image, he enters into it. When he enters, he sees the houris gathered in front of him. They state the following in their wonderful voices: ‘We are eternal; we never get old. We are the blessings of Paradise; we never have trouble. We are pleased with you and we never get angry. Glad tidings to us and to those to whom we belong!’ (Bayhaqi, al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, nr. 420; Tabarani, al-Mu’jamul-Awsat, nr. 6493; Mundhiri, at-Targhib wat-Tarhib, nr. 5540; Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, nr. 18761)

7. “Two houris sit at the head and foot of every person who enters Paradise and sing the most beautiful songs that human beings and jinn have ever heard. However, they do it not with the instruments of Satan, but by praising and sanctifying Allah.” [Ibn Asakir, Tarikhu Madinati Dimashq, 16/295; Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, 10/419 (nr. 18759); Tabarani, al-Mu’jamul-Kabir, nr. 7478; Bayhaqi, al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, nr. 421]

Zabidi states that the songs that the people of Paradise will listen to will sometimes come from houris, sometimes from rivers, sometimes from trees and sometimes from the voice of the Prophet Dawud (David). (see Zabidi, Ithaf, 14/609)

Answer 2:

Evaluation of the hadiths about houris

Various narrations most of which do not reach the Messenger of Allah about houris are included in Kutub as-Sitta, mostly in Tirmidhi’s as-Sunan, and other hadith collections when the states of the hereafter and the blessings of Paradise are narrated.

The narrations about houris were brought together in works such as Abu Nuaym al-Isfahani’s Sifatul-Jannah, Bayhaqi’s al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, Qurtubi’s at-Tadhkira, Ibn Qayyim’s Hadil-Arwah and Ibn Kathir’s an-Nihaya; and the issue of houris is shown as one of the realities of the hereafter; it is also used as a pedagogical factor to enable people to be virtuous within the framework of individual and social life in the world, not to exceed the legitimate limits in their worldly wishes and activities, and to act piously in terms of Islamic criteria.

Eating and drinking, housing and sexual satisfaction are among the issues that are attached great importance in the world. However, the number of people who can meet those needs fully is very few. Sexual satisfaction is the most difficult one to meet among these needs, and it is not possible to share it. Therefore, the religion of Islam, which informs us that the real existence of human beings does not end with death, and that the real life will continue forever in the hereafter (al-Ankabut, 29/64), emphasizes that the pleasures that are generally thought to be very difficult to get enough of in the mortal world, and the pleasures that are more desirable, especially sexual pleasures, will be provided ideally in eternal life.

It should not be forgotten that the descriptions of Paradise in verses of the Quran and hadiths and especially the explanations about the houris have a pedagogical purpose that encourages religious and ethical life, which is generally summarized with the concept of taqwa. For example, it is clear that the following hadiths describing the virtue of participating in jihad aims to encourage people to make jihad:

“The place occupied by the whip, which one of you will use to activate his war horse, in Paradise is more valuable than the earth and everything on earth.” (Bukhari, Badul-Khalq, 8)

“And if a woman from Paradise appeared to the people of the earth, she would fill everywhere with light and pleasant scent and her head cover is better than the world and whatever is in it.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 6)

None of the narrations stating that the houris of Paradise were created from saffron was considered reliable and it was concluded that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not say anything about it. (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, pp. 335-336)

However, it is stated that the skin of houris is extremely delicate and clear in a sound hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim and some other hadith scholars. (Musnad, II, 230, 247, 316, 420, 422; Bukhari, Badul-Khalq, 8; Muslim, Jannah, 14, 17)

There is no information about the number of houris in the Quran. Although the verses that mention houris refer to both them and the men who will have them, it is not possible to deduce a number from them.

According to the narrations reported in many hadith collections, especially in those of Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (pbuh) stated that there would be two houris for each man, and this number was repeated on various occasions. (For example, see Musnad, II, 232, 345, 507; III, 27; Darimi, Riqaq, 108; Bukhari, Badul-Khalq, 8; Muslim, Iman, 311, Jannah, 14; Ibn Majah, Jihad, 16, Zuhd, 39)

When the Messenger of Allah used a singular expression, “and a very beautiful wife” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 39) while describing Paradise, he must have referred to the type, not the number. There are various criticisms about the narrators of the hadiths stating that the men at the lowest level of Paradise will have seventy-two houris in addition to the women of the world narrated by Ahmad b. Hanbal and some other hadith scholars (Musnad, II, 537; IV, 131; Tirmidhi, Sifatul-Jannah, 23).

According to Ibn Qayyim, who collected the criticisms of hadith scholars such as Nasai, Abu Hatim and Daraqutni along with Ahmad b. Hanbal, the sound hadiths regarding the issue state that two wives will be given to every man in Paradise; if there are credible narrations that there will be more of them, those who are in the status of servants are meant by them or such expressions aim to explain the sexual power in men. (Hadil-Arwah, pp. 222-223, 330-334)

However, Ibn Qayyim also states that there should be no doubt that every believer will have more than two houris in Paradise because the Prophet (pbuh) states that there will be individuals who will not see one another in the wide places to be given to every believer. (Bukhari, Tafsir, 55/2; Muslim, Jannah, 23)

It seems that Ibn Qayyim accepted the content of the word “ahl” (family members) in the hadith to consist of wives only. However, as it is stated in the Quran, there will be believing family members of the person in the world as well as servants (ghilman, wildan) in addition to houris in Paradise. Therefore, this hadith is not definite evidence that a believer will be given many houris.

One of the narrations about the number of houris, which is narrated as a hadith but is criticized by scholars, is included in Ibn Majah’s as-Sunan (Jihad, 11)

According to this narration attributed to the Prophet (pbuh) through Anas b. Malik, the mansion to be given to the person who participated in the conquest of the city of Qazwin and persevered for forty days will have 70,000 doors in Paradise, and next to each door, there will be a houri waiting for the owner of the mansion. After stating that this narration is fabricated, Ibn al-Jawzi expresses his astonishment at the fact that a hadith scholar like Ibn Majah included such a hadith in his book without criticizing it. (Ibn Majah, ibid; Nasiruddin al-Albani, I, 371)

The hadith narrated by Abu Nuaym al-Isfahani stating that everyone who enters Paradise will be given 4,000 virgins, 8,000 widows and also 100 houris was found to be weak in terms of chain of narrators, and it was stated that there were liars among its narrators. (Sifatul-Jannah, III, 219-220, 279-280; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, pp. 360-361)

While interpreting the verse “Then those who have believed and worked righteous deeds, shall be made happy in a Mead of Delight” (ar-Rum 30/15), Tabari states that the people of Paradise will listen to songs and have fun (Jamiul-Bayan, XXI, 19-20). Tirmidhi (Sifatul-Jannah, 24) and Bayhaqi (al-Ba’th wan-Nushur, p. 210) reported hadiths stating that houris of Paradise would perform music in chorus.

It is also stated that the houris will express their feelings as follows: “We are the fresh ones who will live forever and will not wither; we are the lovers who do not get offended. We are very happy; our spouses are very happy too.” It is also stated that houris will sing around their spouses by glorifying and praising Allah. (Musnad, I, 156; Bayhaqi, p. 212; Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, pp. 358-360)

The belief in the existence of the second life in which Almighty God, whom the people who cannot attain worldly pleasures enough, who cannot be as happy as they expect and who are exposed to various agonies and losses do not doubt to be just, will grant them the happiness they cannot attain in the world, will cause them to be in optimistic mood and such a belief in the hereafter will help people to lead a healthier religious life.

Therefore, some narrations attributed to the Prophet (pbuh) about the structure, physiological superiority, sexual strength and number of houris started to appear in hadith books from the early periods.

Ibn Qayyim brought together those narrations, which are partly included in Tirmidhi’s as-Sunan and mostly in the works of Ibn Abud-Dunya, Tabarani, Abu Nuaym, Khatib al-Baghdadi, Mundhiri and Qurtubi, in his book named Hadil-Arwah and partly criticized them. Yusuf Ali Budaywi, who published the work based on scientific rules, criticized the narrations in question and said that most of them were unreliable. (Hadil-Arwah, pp. 337-346)

Happiness in the hereafter is described within both material and spiritual framework in the Quran. A similar approach is also seen in hadith texts. Some scholars who aimed to examine, understand and convey those descriptions to people made different and sometimes exaggerated conclusions from them in line with their own abilities and inclinations.

Although it is stated that the conditions of the hereafter are different from the conditions of the world and since the issues described about that life appeal to people living in the reality of the world, it is clear that they must be in harmony with the mind and expectations of people to be effective. As a matter of fact, it is seen that when the life in Paradise is described in the Quran, it is narrated in connection with the happiness in the world, but it is stated that the life in the hereafter will be much purer, deeper and happier. (For example, see al-Baqara 2/25; as-Saaffat 37/45-47; Muhammad 47/15; see TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, Huri item)

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