Thursday, 15 October 2009

Discussed: Sexual Sensations in the Islamic Paradise

Much has been written about this subject, to the surprise of learned Muslims as paradise in the Islamic mindset is much more than mere sexual-sensation. Thus, the critic’s fascination with this Islamic belief is perplexing to say the least, William Montgomery Watt (paraphrased) did indicate that the critic who focuses on the sexual elements related to Islam speaks more about him/herself as opposed to Islam. In fact he goes further and highlights the fact that the Muslim world is better controlled when it comes to sexual urges than its Western (Christian) counterpart [1]. It does seem that the famous Biblical passage concerning the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye is highlighted while your own eye contains something far more harmful (a plank) yet ignored comes into play. [2]

Historical outline

However, it is still important to outline the view of paradise that the Muslim will have rather than the view the critic wrongly imposes upon the Muslim. Critics often seem horrified that the Muslims would be of the belief that there would be physical sensations in paradise, especially of a sexual nature. The history or the context behind this is that the critic invariably comes from a culture which was or is still subsumed by Christianity and the Christian view of paradise is generally one of a spiritual sensation only and the “horror” of having a physical experience (especially one of a sexual nature) in the “presence of God” in paradise does not sit well with the cultural and religious beliefs that the critics have been moulded by (consciously or subconsciously). Thus, it is fair to say that the critic’s almost obsessive focus on the sexual element within the Muslim paradise is somewhat understandable as it is foreign and incompatible with the influencing factors which shaped their mode of thinking. That does not mean that they are exempt from revising their views in the light of the Muslim response, a response which is usually left unreported leading to a lob-sided debate or one-way argument against Islam.

To the Muslim the critic’s view is extremely myopic and sensationalistic whilst the critics on the unregulated internet do add to the mix in a much more coarse and unsophisticated fashion; this combined with the lack of a Muslim response to balance the discussion leads the Muslim to much frustration. Subsequently shrieks of “Islamophobia” can be heard but all that is required in reality is an analytical approach and an approach that brings to the surface the Muslim response, this is sufficient to show that the Muslims have some genuinely potent points that counter the critics in a convincing fashion. If this methodical approach is adopted as opposed to suspicion and idle claims of Islamophobia this issue would have been put to bed in no time (pun intended) thus forcing the critic in a position of defence rather then the default attack position that the critic has been stuck in concerning this aspect of Islam.

Critics misunderstood

Firstly it is important to show the critics who are representing Islamic views on paradise as solely physical that they are mistaken as according to Islamic theology the individual (in paradise) will have the best of the physical and the best of the spiritual in paradise. So the thunderous denials to the claims that the Islamic paradise is solely focussed on sex or physical well being must be heard as critics are misrepresenting the Islamic views on Paradise. In fact the spiritual aspect of paradise is thought to be greater and more appealing than the physical features of the Muslim paradise. It is concerning that the critics leave this crucial information out in order to carry out their onslaught against Islam

Now we have established that the Islamic views pertaining to paradise are similar to the Christian views in so far as the inhabitant would be at a zenith or peak of spirituality (i.e. his/her relationship with God would be more complete) we can realise the only difference between the two (aside from the obvious theological differences concerning the nature of God) is that the Islamic view incorporates the idea of physical pleasure (i.e. good food, clothing, accommodation, spouses etc). The question is, why would physical pleasure be objectionable to the critic, especially considering that the spiritual side of the Islamic Paradise is very much there too?

The first argument of the critic

Well there are two stances the critic takes to this, the first argument is theologically motivated (usually critics who happen to be Christians use this approach) in that they argue that physical pleasure in the “presence” of God is something unthinkable, especially pleasure of a sexual nature. This view would be more understandable if the Islamic Paradise lacked the spiritual element but the fact remains it does not and is very much similar to the Christian view of paradise when it comes to the spiritual aspect. So I feel the theologically motivated critic argues a straw man as he/she wrongly pre-supposes that the Muslim paradise is solely physical and lacks the spiritual side to it.

Their argument also drifts to the obvious tangent in that they cannot comprehend how or why sex would be allowed in Paradise “in the presence of God”, they in fact are quite simply horrified by this. Their horror only arises as Christendom’s views on sex has always been one of a taboo, this perhaps is borne from their belief that Jesus never married and thus they view it (sexual relations) somewhat unbefitting of the pious and those of a spiritual nature; this is further supported by the Catholic priests and nuns vowing celibacy. On the other hand the Muslim view of sex has never really got the stage of taboo or shame. In fact it is seen as a natural desire of the man and woman which would be related to the natural desire of the human for food (though not the same). Islam in this sense recognises the human nature and even recommends avenues to fulfil this desire in an Islamically acceptable fashion, namely within marriage. Marriage is recommended and celibacy is frowned upon and the woman’s desire for sexual satisfaction is acknowledged too.

In fact Muslim writings concerning sex are very analytical and scientific whilst in the past (as well as now) Christian writings have always seemed to be underpinned by suspicion, shame and even eroticism when it comes to sex. Even to this day the Catholic Church is vigorously opposed to contraception as sex thus becomes a thing of pleasure rather than procreation whilst the Muslim does not generally object to contraception as sexual relations are seen through a scientific fashion and the sensual enjoyment of sex is recognised along with it being the mode for reproduction. In fact, upon reflection, I saw the Islamic method of dealing with issues of this type as progressive, modern and scientific (whilst being enveloped with a removal of any negative taboo). This Islamic mindset is deemed a positive one for sex education.

Having set the context we realise that the idea of sex within Paradise for the Muslim is not something of taboo but merely linked to the view that in paradise everybody (man and woman) has their desires fulfilled (both physical and spiritual desires) and sexual urges are included in the physical desires.

Knowing this the critic should factor this into his/her work, if this is done diligently without an agenda-based motivation we would see that the idea of sexual pleasure in the Islamic paradise is not such a big deal and those who do make it into an issue are lacking contextual knowledge and in many cases argue a straw man as they fail to realise that the Muslim paradise includes spiritual pleasure and this pleasure is viewed as the greater form of pleasure.

"In the presence of God"

Going back to the Christian repulsion towards sexual satisfaction “in the presence of God” in paradise one only needs to remind the Christian of their belief concerning Jesus, the Christian believes him to be God. Now, when Jesus was on earth his mother was married to Joseph and he was beset by married people, therefore conjugal relations (sex within marriage) clearly were taking place in the proximity of Jesus. As the Christian believes Jesus to be God then the Christian critics seem hypocritical and even Biblically illiterate when making such an attack against the Islamic view of paradise.

To make the point even more vivid it is hinted that prostitution (illegal sexual relations) was taking place in the locality of Jesus [4]; the question to the Christian is, if the Bible hints at illegal sexual satisfaction taking place in the area of Jesus (who the Christian believes to be God) then how can the Christian critics object to sex in paradise for the Muslim. It really is a case of hypocrisy and ignorance of their ideologies. Of course if that illustration was not sufficient for the critic of a Christian background then how about the belief that the Holy Spirit (who is also thought to be God by Christians) resides in Christians; do Christians not have sex? Certainly they do therefore according to their beliefs we realise they must believe that this sexual satisfaction takes place in the presence of their god. Thankfully there are only a small group of Christians who make such hypocritical and ignorant attacks against Islamic ideas on paradise.

Biblical view

Before moving onto the second group’s argumentation we can look to the Bible and realise there is not much definitive description concerning paradise and thus leaving it open to debate within Christendom whether the body will be physical or not but there is a description of John’s view of paradise in Revelation 22:2, remarkably it seems to fit in line with the Muslim view that paradise will have a physical element to it:

down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations

Though this is not definitive but the fruit being yielded does support the argument that there will be food in the Christian view of paradise, however it is important to note that the Christian view of paradise is not fully understood as the Bible does not really expand upon it thus leaving it open to speculation. So, pardon the pun, this is some food for thought for the critics who come from a Christian background.

It is also worth noting that though there is food in the Muslim paradise (and the Christian view of paradise hints at the same through the Biblical reference cited) we should realise that both the Christian and Muslim beliefs about paradise teach us that there will be no thirst or hunger in paradise therefore the food/drink is something solely for pleasure rather than out of hunger/thirst. As we are discussing the critics who happen to be motivated by evangelising their Christian beliefs to the Muslims we can bring a Bible passage into play. The real motivation behind the Christian critic in attacking the Muslim view of paradise is all down to the fact that Muslims do not view Jesus as God but rather as a Prophet; surely this belief of Muslims should not mean that they get a raw deal! A Biblical passage to encourage the Muslim to take the unfair critique from theologically motivated groups with a mature and patient approach:

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [3]

These words are attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. They do resonate in the hearts of the Muslims who have been unfortunate enough to witness some of the sinister misrepresentations of the Muslim faith by so-called Christians on the internet. I am glad to say that the majority of Christians that I know of do not go down the route of attacking Islam in a wicked manner just because it holds a different teaching to the Trinitarian Christian view.

The second argument of the critic

The second group are those who attack the Muslim view of Heaven solely based on sexual enticement alone, they tend to be people who claim Muslim men are motivated by sex alone and question why “sexual reward” must be offered in order for the Muslim to behave. It is important to correct this group (they usually consist of secularists) as reward is not merely limited to men but includes women too. This critic misses the other rewards of paradise and directs his focus solely on the sexual pleasure within paradise. Well, the question to the critic would be why not have a variety of physical rewards in Heaven?

Muslims and Christians are commanded by their respective faiths to avoid sexual sin (even looking lustfully at a member of the opposite sex); would it not be Just of God to reward those that complied with His orders with something better? This view of paradise by the Muslim does in fact help the Muslim to comply; knowing that there is something better in the hereafter if they avoid the sin in this life. It must be stressed that this is not the reason behind the Muslim avoidance of sin but the reason is due to his/her spiritual nature and closeness to God.

Not to pick on Christianity but to merely use it as an example to put against Islam, within Christendom there has been a number of high profile cases of Christian leaders falling to sexual sin (i.e. Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggert etc) whilst, to date, instances of such a nature are unheard of when it concerns high profile Muslim leaders. Now we compare the two, Christianity lacks a clear idea of a “reward” of physical pleasure in paradise while Islam does posses this idea very clearly. Couple this with the fact that sexual sin is not such a widespread problem in the Muslim world as opposed to the Christian world and ask the question which one seems to inspire their respective followers to avoid the sin? Thus the Islamic view of paradise does have an apparent wisdom behind it.

The Islamic belief is that Allah is Just so if an individual who is not appealing to the member of the opposite sex (through no fault of his/her own) has something of comfort from his/her beliefs concerning paradise. Why cannot this person be of the belief that in Paradise he/she will get a spouse who is greater than anything this world can offer, this view surely offers emotional and psychological comfort to the individual. I think this belief is even more relevant in this Hollywood/Pop culture of ours in the West where beauty, wealth and attraction to the opposite sex are seen as the be-all and end-all; yet we know many will never reach the lifestyle that the Western (pop/Hollywood) culture sets for us as the benchmark. Surely, psychologically and emotionally, the Islamic belief is a fine remedy and also curtails the individual’s desire to enter the realms of unregulated materialism thus aiding his/her spiritual growth as materialism is a hindrance to spirituality. It seems to me that the Islamic system has got a system that is workable and of benefit to the individual both psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. This is food for thought.


The critic generally misses the fuller picture of the Muslim Paradise and blows the sexual element out of perspective and takes it out of context. The critic fails to mention that the Muslim paradise contains spiritual ecstasy and this is the main feature of the Muslim paradise and the physical ecstasy (be it food, drink, accommodation, sexual relations) is second to the spiritual element. Critics also focus entirely on the sexual element of the physical whilst the Muslim paradise contains a whole spectrum of physical delights for the inhabitants.

Theologically motivated critics abhor the idea that physical pleasure should be “in the presence of God” but fail to give a reason why God would not allow physical pleasure in Heaven especially considering that He can view us in this life partaking in physical pleasure. This type of critic also falls into hypocrisy as the Christian Bible shows that physical pleasure (including sexual pleasure) took place in the locality of Jesus and the Christians believe that Jesus is God therefore we realise that the Muslim idea of paradise containing physical delight “in the presence of God” is not something for the Christians to argue against.

Finally, looking at the Muslim idea of physical delight in the Hereafter we realise that this idea provides great emotional, psychological and spiritual support in combating the superficial, materialistic ideas and teachings on life that the current Pop culture in our Western world imposes upon us.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [3]

I do hope the critics do ponder upon these points and give the Muslim a fair deal.

May Allah help us all into Paradise. Ameen.

Note: all Bible references come from the New International Version


[1] What Is Islam by W.Montgomery Watt, Longman Group, Second Edition, 1979, pg230

[2] New International Version, Matthew 7:3

[3] Ibid. Matthew 5:11-12

[4] Ibid. Luke 7:36-39

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An excellent summary of the ridiculousness of the argument against the physical heaven of Islam.