Imamology

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Hoor al-`Ayn are not White Chicks

Qa'im

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There is a common misconception among modern Muslim men that they will be rewarded with white women in Paradise. This attitude has even caused some to justify their preference of light-skin women and Western women through Islamic texts that describe beautiful women in this world and the Hereafter. They put white skin on a pedestal, which both sidelines women with darker complexions, and objectifies women with lighter skin. I would like to investigate the claim that the heavenly maidens of Paradise are essentially "white girls".

Heaven is unlike anything

In the hadith literature, Paradise is described as what the eye has not seen, what the ear has not heard, and what the heart has not imagined. ( مَا لَا عَيْنٌ رَأَتْ وَ لَا أُذُنٌ سَمِعَتْ وَ لَا خَطَرَ عَلَى قَلْبِ بَشَرٍ ). You will be an entirely new creation in Paradise, which will cause those who suffered most in this world to completely forget their suffering. Therefore the descriptions of the pleasures of Paradise are, at most, symbols of things that we cannot exactly know.

The meaning of abyad

The word that modern Arabs use to refer to the colour "white" ( أبيض ) has certainly been used to describe the women of Paradise. In one narration, the Prophet (s) says that the women of Paradise will be every shade of "white" ( ان في الجنة نهرا حافتاه الابكار من كل بيضاء ). In another narration, Imam ar-Rida recites a poem in which he describes beautiful "white" women ( أَرَى الِبيضَ الْحِسَانَ يَجِدْنَ عَنِّي ). Other narrations associate this "whiteness" with pleasure ( سعادة الرجل أن يكشف الثوب عن امرأة بيضاء ).

But what does all of this mean? Abyad comes from the root word bayada ( بيض ), which means "to lay eggs". An egg is a bayda ( بيضة ), and eggs can be white or brown, depending on the colour of the feathers of the chicken. In Arabic, there is no special word for either type of egg, both are given the name bayda, which is related to the word for "white".

Several Arabic dictionaries have interpreted abyad to mean pure, fair, and without blemish; rather than strictly "white". Here are a few references:

In Lisan al-`Arab:

إذا قالت العرب فلان أبيض، وفلانة بيضاء، فالمعنى نقاء العرض من الدنس والعيوب لا يريدون به بياض اللون، ولكنهم يريدون المدح بالكرم، ونقاء العرض من العيوب وإذا قالوا: فلان أبيض الوجه، وفلانة بيضاء الوجه، أرادوا نقاء اللون من الكلف والسواد الشائن

“When the Arabs say that a man is white or a woman is white, they mean that he has an appearance that is pure and clear from defects. They don’t mean that he has a white complexion, but they mean that someone has an appearance that is pure from defects. When they say that a man or woman has a white face, they mean that their colour is pure from blemish and darkness.

”العرب لا تقول : رجل أبيض من بياض اللون إنما الأبيض عندهم الطاهر النقي من العيوب”

The Arab does not say that a man is white in terms of the colour white. Rather, the "white" for them is he who is pure from any defects.

Abu Tayyib al-Lughawi says in Kitab al-Idad al-`Arab:

و انما الأبيض من الناس البعيد من الدنس، النقي من العيب

The whitest of people are those who are far from impurity, and are purified from defects.

Ibn Atheer says in an-Nahaya fii Ghareeb al-Hadith:

الغر : جمع الأغر ، من الغرة : بياض الوجه ، يريد بياض وجوههم بنور الوضوء يوم القيامة

The innocent (al-ghurr); its plural is al-aghur, from al-ghurra: a white face, meaning, a face whitened by light and illumination on the Day of Resurrection.

al-Dhahabi says in Siyar A`laam an-Nubala':

“إن العرب إذا قالت: فلان أبيض ، فإنهم يريدون الحنطي اللون بحلية سوداء

When Arabs say a person is white, they mean tawny in colour with black hair.

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So according to these dictionaries, "whiteness" in a person is either: (1) purity in their reputation, (2) purity in their appearance with no blemishes or defects (scars, birth marks, discolouration, wrinkles, moles, bumps), (3) tawny or wheat-coloured skin, (4) light and illumination, (5) a strong contrast between their face and hair colours.

The meaning of hoor al-`ayn

The Quran describes the houri (hoor al-`ayn) as a heavenly beauty that has been gifted exclusively to a good, believing person. The Quran does not provide much more detail than that. The hoor al-`ayn can be translated as "one with contrasting eyes", and it is often tied to the related word hawra', which refers to a person who has a strong contrast between her dark pupil and white sclera (white part of the eye). If this is the meaning of hooriya, then her "whiteness" may have more to do with her eyes than her skin. The word hawar can also mean "to bleach", but also "to tan". The same word is used in the Quran to refer to the apostles of Jesus, who were "purified" from evil ( فَسُمِّيَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ حَوَارِيِّينَ لانَّهُمْ كَانُوا مُخْلَصِينَ فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَمُخْلِصِينَ لِغَيْرِهِمْ مِنْ أَوْسَاخِ الذُّنُوبِ ). The word therefore may also be an indication to the maiden's spiritual purity and not just her physical beauty.

The word hoor also means to change, alter, remodel, and modify, so perhaps one feature of this heavenly beauty is constant rejuvenation and transformation.

Another related word means to converse and discuss - it is possible that there is more to the houri than her looks!

I have heard that there may be a relationship between hooriya and hayara, which means "to be confused, bewildered, perplexed, baffled, embarrassed", because the believer will be perplexed by the startling beauty of the hoor al-`ayn.

Remember that we cannot imagine Paradise, so the skintone of the heavenly beauty would also be beyond comprehension.

The word for "pale" in Arabic is actually yellow

When Arabs describe a pale complexion, such as a pale face of an ill person, they use the word musfar (مصفر), which means "yellowed", rather than saying he has been whitened.

The Prophet's colour

Many hadiths describe the Prophet Muhammad (s) as being abyad, but these could be descriptions of the fairness of his skin or the purity of his character. Other hadiths say that the Prophet was reddish. To reconcile both sets of narrations, one can say that he had a tawny or wheatish complexion, which was light in Arabia but unlike the pale western Europeans. While modern Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and Germanic peoples have a monopoly on "whiteness" today, most people in the Middle East would have never met such people by the 7th century.

White faces on the Day of Resurrection

The Quran describes the believers' faces on the Day of Resurrection as "white" (3:106), but this will be due to their illumination. Some hadiths describe that the body parts washed in wudu will glow in the Hereafter, which includes the face, and other hadiths say that the wudu washes sins away from a person. Similarly, other narrations discuss the illumination of the faces of those who stay up to pray at night. These are not references to pigment.

"Whiteness" will be due to light, and the colour of light, which was found in the Sun, Moon, and fire, ranges from orange to light yellow.

Lady Fatima was a human houri

Several narrations describe Lady Fatima (as) as a human houri. Her houri nature in Paradise was a dazzling light ( نورا ساطعا ) - first she was beneath the Throne, and then she resided within a fruit in Paradise - both in the form of a beautiful lady of light.

Paradise is much more than this world

In conclusion, there is much more to look forward to in the next world than conquering a colonial inferiority complex. Muslims have a very complicated relationship with white folks - from lust, to hatred, to jealousy, to emulation - and our relationships with other races are no where near as complex. The first step to overcome something is to realize and understand it. Allah gave us all of our hues so that we may learn about one another, and understand that the Creator of spectrums is beyond all spectrums Himself. If the hoor al-`ayn is simply a pretty white girl, then she would not be a sufficient reward for the believers, since there are plenty of them in this dunya. Paradise is more than a brothel, open bar, and buffet. It's a chance to gain true proximity to Allah, through His Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt, and to gain gnosis. The journey into timelessness starts in this world, and it culminates in the Hereafter.




47 Comments




They never were white chicks, Qaim is right, the whiteness is used in context of purity. At least that was the impression I got from reading about the Houris. Anybody who made this into a race issue, shame on you. Maybe your Houri will be white but don't argue about things that you cannot definitively prove.

 

Edited by Gaius I. Caesar
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4 hours ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

They never were white chicks, Qaim is right, the whiteness is used in context of purity. At least that was the impression I got from reading about the Houris. Anybody who made this into a race issue, shame on you. Maybe your Houri will be white but don't argue about things that you cannot definitively prove.

 

Yeah shame on Shaykh Makarem Al-Shirazi.... according to you.

Edited by E.L King

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A brother sent me this blog article from bhooka bhariyya about the Imams recommending white women for marriage:

http://realtashayyu.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/the-ideal-wives.html?m=1

A few points about the translation. Firstly, as we know, abyad in classical Arabic usage is not the same as "white" today.

He translated سمراء  as "white and rosy", when samra' literally means "tanned".

He translated الأوراك as "large round [well shaped] hips and buttocks", but it simply means "wide hips", and that is because many women would die in childbirth in those days.

He translated مربوعة  as "big and round [well shaped] buttocks", but its meaning is closer to "curvy" (body type).

As for the hadith about marrying blue-eyed women, this is because the Arabs viewed blue-eyed women negatively. It was an insult to call someone a "son of a blue-eyed woman", and so the Prophet said "marry the blue-eyed woman, for in her is faith."

There are plenty of hadith about marrying wheat-coloured women as well which were not shared in this article, and so the bias of the author must be noted.

These translations are unprofessional, inaccurate, and can also be damaging to the faith of dark skinned women.

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29 minutes ago, Qa'im said:

As for the hadith about marrying blue-eyed women, this is because the Arabs viewed blue-eyed women negatively. It was an insult to call someone a "son of a blue-eyed woman", and so the Prophet said "marry the blue-eyed woman, for in her is faith."

Didn't "blue-eyed" mean to be blind to the Arabs?

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21 minutes ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

Didn't "blue-eyed" mean to be blind to the Arabs?

Yes, the term extends to the blind and those with cloudy vision as well. "Bleary-eyed", as mentioned in 20:102, refers to the clouding of the cornea, giving it a blueish or grayish tinge. This condition can cause blindness.

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1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

A brother sent me this blog article from bhooka bhariyya about the Imams recommending white women for marriage:

http://realtashayyu.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/the-ideal-wives.html?m=1

A few points about the translation. Firstly, as we know, abyad in classical Arabic usage is not the same as "white" today.

He translated سمراء  as "white and rosy", when samra' literally means "tanned".

He translated الأوراك as "large round [well shaped] hips and buttocks", but it simply means "wide hips", and that is because many women would die in childbirth in those days.

He translated مربوعة  as "big and round [well shaped] buttocks", but its meaning is closer to "curvy" (body type).

As for the hadith about marrying blue-eyed women, this is because the Arabs viewed blue-eyed women negatively. It was an insult to call someone a "son of a blue-eyed woman", and so the Prophet said "marry the blue-eyed woman, for in her is faith."

There are plenty of hadith about marrying wheat-coloured women as well which were not shared in this article, and so the bias of the author must be noted.

These translations are unprofessional, inaccurate, and can also be damaging to the faith of dark skinned women.

Bhooka took his translations of this I believe:
(1) أي يضرب لونها إلى الحمرة. (الفيروزآبادي).
(2) واسعة العين. (الفيروزآبادي).
(3) عظيمة كبيرة الأليتين. (الفيروزآبادي).
(4) متوسطة قامتها. (الفيروزآبادي). 

العيناء: الواسعة العين مع سوادها، والعجزاء: العظيمة العجز والأليتين، والمربوعة: من لم تكن طويلة ولا قصيرة
توضيح : العيناء هي واسعة العين , والعجزاء هي عظيمة العجز, والمربوعة هي المتوسطة الطول
 عيناء: العظيم سواد عينها في سعة، عجزاء:
العظيمة العجز، مربوعة: بين الطويلة والقصيرة. (في) 

(4)  - (5) امرأة عيناء حسنة العينين واسعتهما - امرأة عجزاء أي ذات عجز - عظمت عجزها - مجمع.
(6) المربوعة: المتوسطة وهي ما بين الطويلة والقصيرة 

 

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1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

Yes, the term extends to the blind and those with cloudy vision as well. "Bleary-eyed", as mentioned in 20:102, refers to the clouding of the cornea, giving it a blueish or grayish tinge. This condition can cause blindness.

So the hadith you mentioned would be more accurately translated as having the Prophet (saws) say "Marry the blind woman, for in her is faith"?

2 hours ago, Qa'im said:

It was an insult to call someone a "son of a blue-eyed woman",

And am I correct in assuming that the insult implies that the person being insulted might be illegitimate? 

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34 minutes ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

So the hadith you mentioned would be more accurately translated as having the Prophet (saws) say "Marry the blind woman, for in her is faith"?

I'm not sure, I think the term would encompass both blue-eyed and bleary-eyed women, but Allahu a`lam.

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Nice article brother but incomplete. 

You mention the men getting houris (white or otherwise) but what do the women get?

Inshallah somewhere in the universe, there is a houri waiting for ShiaMan14 to show up and I am color-agnostic. 

On a serious note, I would say it is a mistake to do anything for the greed of Heaven. The goal should always be qurb-e-Ilahi (closeness to Allah), heaven is just a by-product. 

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On ‎9‎-‎2‎-‎2017 at 7:41 AM, shiaman14 said:

Nice article brother but incomplete. 

You mention the men getting houris (white or otherwise) but what do the women get?

Inshallah somewhere in the universe, there is a houri waiting for ShiaMan14 to show up and I am color-agnostic. 

On a serious note, I would say it is a mistake to do anything for the greed of Heaven. The goal should always be qurb-e-Ilahi (closeness to Allah), heaven is just a by-product. 

Salam brother,

You're right but there are diffirent ranks of believers as well. If there was only one type of believer Paradise would be kinda empty.

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so is hoor al ayn something real or is it only hadith stuff.

what is known about them, are they woman, pure n beautiful?

so if the believing husband gets hoor al ayn what will be for the believing woman?

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11 minutes ago, AkhiraisReal said:

so is hoor al ayn something real or is it only hadith stuff.

what is known about them, are they woman, pure n beautiful?

so if the believing husband gets hoor al ayn what will be for the believing woman?

Its from the Quran. Not hadith.

I just know that they are beautiful women, never have known that it can go this deep. 

I mean, what is the difference between white and brown women? 

Both of them can be beautiful, or they have unique beauty. 

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Houris will be for companionship, service and support.

There is no evidence that there will be any sexual activity in heaven. 

None whatsoever!

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That's kinda depressing no? Well whether or not there will be physical sexual activity like in this world, I think there is some kind of derivation of pleasure, whatever form it will take there. Sexual activity in its real form is a connection between two souls, so supposing we are going to take the spiritual version of things, that dimension of the issue should still be around. 

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On 17/02/2017 at 10:41 AM, baqar said:

Houris will be for companionship, service and support.

There is no evidence that there will be any sexual activity in heaven. 

None whatsoever!

And what pray tell evidence do you have for that "no evidence"?

You're talking as though sexual activity is going to be haram in heaven, something which is perfectly halal in this life.

And what about the poor souls who get denied sex in this life or have to suffer endless marriage rejections? What do they get? A pat on the back for their patience? While other people get to enjoy this halal blessing?

I'm not suggesting it will be a brothel in heaven, but I'm talking about the intimacy aspect.

But if you have evidence then by all means let's see it.

 

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Here ... some of my mothers friends says that ... we don't want to go to heaven .... we want to go to Karbala ..Karbala is our heaven .... Saying these kinds of things is right or wrong??

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On 1/31/2017 at 1:37 PM, Bazzi_ said:

I thought all muslims will (eventually) enter paradise....

 

I get really sad when I read things like that, I know we have to work hard in this world, stay away from the things prohibited by Allah,the most exalted. Pray, fast, give charity, carry out rightoues deeds..... but to not be admitted to paradise and rather hellfire, is the greatest loss one can have. Just thinking about it here on earth throws me into a slight depression, imagine on the day of judgement. My uncle who is quite religious, and spends much time around notable alims told me the other day "we just want to see Jannah, to be at the edge of it, we dont want the best". I couldn't make out what he was implying, and even that got me kinda sad. Why wouldn't one want to be in Jannah, could he have said it out of humbleness? Sarcasm?

I am not trying to get anyone depressed. Assuming that we do that wajib and try our best to avoid the haram(and if we don't seek forgiveness from Allah(s.w.a) in sincerity) and keep our belief in Allah(s.w.a), Rasoulallah(p.b.u.h) and Imams of Ahl Al Bayt(a.s) in tact and die in that belief, we will make it to Jannah with the help of Allah(s.w.a) 

But we are in the dunya now. We have the Barzakh, Youm al Qiyammat, the Sirat, etc, ahead of us. Those will be difficult stages to go thru, even if we do eventually make it to Jannah. That is my point. We should focus on this that will get us there faster, rather than focusing on what will happen when we get there. 

 

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Fantastic post brother! 

I am not sure if you have studied the perception of colours in Ancient Greece. They did not have colour blue. They would not consider the colour of the sea/ocean to be blue. It seems they didn't see anything as blue. It's hard for us to understand this, but it seems they saw the world differently. 

Colours didn't necessarily meant what we saw, but how an object made us feel or how object was seen in relation to others. For example, a new and fresh object, regardless of its actual physical colour, would've been described as green. 

 

Edited by SoRoUsH

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