Will you give information about the levels of Paradise?

The Details of the Question

- How many levels/degrees does Paradise have?
- Is it possible for an ordinary Muslim to attain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

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.

It is possible to list the names and layers of jannah used in order to express heaven/Paradise in the Islamic literature as follows:

1. Jannah: It is the most widely used term among the names in the Quran, various hadiths and other Islamic works to express the eternal land of bliss; its content is wide enough to cover all the places and possibilities in it. It is mentioned in one hundred and forty-seven places in the Quran. In the Islamic literature, the promises, encouraging expressions and descriptions about eternal bliss generally focus on the name jannah. Although the singular forms of other names are used, jannah is included in its plural form (jannat) in many verses, which shows that jannah is not a certain region of the abode of bliss, but the whole land.

2. Jannatun-Naim: It is mentioned in thirteen verses. Naim, which has a more comprehensive content than the word blessing, which means "welfare, peace, happy life" in Arabic, expresses all the material and spiritual beauties that give man bliss. Accordingly, jannatun-naim means heavens full of bliss.

"Make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss (jannatun-naim)." (ash-Shuara, 26/85)

3. Jannah Adn: Adn, which means dwelling and place of dwelling in general, is mentioned in eleven verses. It is understood that Adn is the name of a certain part of jannah or, acting upon its plural form, it is a name expressing the whole jannah.

"Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,- they are the best of creatures. Their reward is with Allah. Gardens of Eternity (Jannat And), beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher." (al-Bayyina, 98/7-8)

4. Firdaws: It means vineyard or garden with grapes. It is mentioned in two verses. Firdaws can be a name that refers to the whole jannah, or it can be the special name of its middle, highest and most valuable region.

"As to those who believe and work righteous deeds, they have, for their entertainment, the Gardens of Paradise (Firdaws)." (al-Kahf, 18/107)

5. Husna: It is accepted by the majority of tafsir scholars that the word husna (more beautiful, better, the most beautiful, the best) in verse 26 of the chapter of Yunus expressing that those who do good will be responded with a greater good deed and that an addition will be made to it means Jannah. What is meant by "ziyadah (more)" in the verse is to attain the honor of seeing Allah from jannah.

"To those who do right is a goodly (reward)- Yea, more (than in measure)! No darkness nor shame shall cover their faces! they are companions of the garden; they will abide therein (for aye)." (Yunus, 10/26)

6. Darus-Salam: This compound, which consists of the word salam, which means being protected from material and spiritual disasters and unpleasant things, and the word dar (land), is mentioned in two verses as the name of jannah or a layer of it. There is no doubt that jannah is the land of peace. It is understood that true peace can only be found in jannah, and that eternal life, wealth without any need, honor and superiority that do not leave room for humiliation, and complete well-being exist only there.

"But Allah doth call to the Home of Peace: He doth guide whom He pleaseth to a way that is straight." (Yunus, 10/25)

7. Darul-Muqama: This compound, which means the main place to stand and the land to live forever, should be an expression that will be used by those who enter jannah for the place they are in while praising and thanking Allah.

"Who has, out of His Bounty, settled us in a Home that will last: no toil nor sense of weariness shall touch us therein." (Fatir, 35/35)

8. Jannatul-Ma'wa:

"For those who believe and do righteous deeds are Gardens as hospitable homes (Jannatul-Ma'wa), for their (good) deeds." (as-Sajda, 32/19)

Apart from those names, the word "dar", which means "home, mansion, city, country, land", is used in the Quran in the sense of jannah in the compounds darul-khuld (home of eternity), darul-akhira (land of the hereafter), aqibatud-dar and uqbad-dar (the end of the world homeland).

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 mentioning them in plural form as “Heavens of Firdaws” and “Heavens of Na’im” prove it. Moreover, this fact is expressed by the Prophet (pbuh) himself in the event of Umm Haritha. Umm Haritha visited Hazrat Prophet to get information about her son martyred in the Battle of Badr and the Messenger of Allah, pointing out that there were 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, Istanbul (n.d), 5, 4033).

In fact, in the hadith which Muslim narrates 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 the 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 one another and superior to one another. In this sense, the differences of superiority among the boons resemble the distance between the earth and the sky. However, al Qadi Iyad (544/1149) preferred 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 the earth and the sky; and he continues as follows: “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 (mediocre) 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, Umdatul-Qari fi Sarhi Sahihi'l-Bukhari, Istanbul 1309, VI, 539). Various narrations put the beauties of Firdaws into words.

On the other hand, the distance between the 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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