Where Did the Notion of 72 Virgins in Islamic Paradise Come From?

Published By: All Right Magazine on June 27, 2010

koranBy Dr. AVI PERRY

Islamic leaders, seeking to motivate would be suicide bombers, inducing them to commit murder in the name of Allah, have been quoting Islamic sources, which promise 72 Virgins in Paradise to those who kill and are killed in Jihad for Allah.

Many Muslims, especially those exposed to Western culture, are aware of the jokes and the ridicule that the 72 Virgins legend has brought upon them and upon their brother believers. Consequently, they blame the Jews for spreading the myth in an attempt to downgrade the image of the Islamic “freedom fighters”.

Despite the disclaimer by some Muslims, the truth is very clear. The 72 Virgins notion has its origins in the Qur’an. Although the holy book does not specify the number as 72, it does say that those who fight in the way of Allah and are killed will be given a great reward. It goes on to stipulate that Muslims will be awarded with women in Islamic heaven. It even describes their physical attributes—large eyes (Q 56:22) and big, firm, round “swelling breasts” that are not inclined to sagging (Q 78:33). The Qur’an refers to these virgins as houri, companions of equal age, but the highly-flavored emphasis of their bodily characteristics, including their virginity, gave rise to many hadiths and other Islamic writings.

Hadith 2687 is where the number 72 is mentioned. “The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and 72 houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San’a.”

Qur’anic commentator Al-Suyuti (died 1505) and Orthodox Muslim theologians such as al Ghazali (died 1111 CE) and Al-Ash’ari (died 935 CE) graphically elaborated sensual pleasures attributed to Muslims in paradise”. Al-Suyuti wrote, “Each time we sleep with a Houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one [i.e. Muslim] will marry seventy houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetizing vaginas.”

On the whole, the Qur’an and the hadiths are filled with sexual fantasies that Muslim men are awarded when they reach Islamic heaven. Anas bin Malik, an Islamic scholar, claimed that “The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number… The Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).” Muhammad (hadith 24) apparently claimed that devout Muslims would be given the sexual strength of 100 persons upon their arrival in Heaven. (This is apparently more than what was attributed to the prophet himself).

The sexual obsession by Muslim men as conveyed by Islamic writings, takes its cue from the founder of the religion.  The description depicts him as a sexual predator. Aisha, Muhammad’s wife since she was a nine-year-old girl, described her sexual experiences with the prophet. When she was six years old, he could not have intercourse with her due to her young age. As a consolation prize, he placed his penis between her thighs and massaged it softly. Aisha explained that unlike other believers, the prophet had control over his penis.”

Being consistent with its sexual obsession and predatory practices, the Qur’an permits pedophilia (sura 65:4). It also discusses rape in detail. It lets you know that men can rape female slaves and captives (Q 23:6), even in front of their husbands (Q 4:24). Other writings advise that when having sex with captives, it’s better if you don’t pull out at the end (Sahih Bukhari 3:46:718).

It’s no wonder that 72 Virgins in Paradise are a fundamental piece of Islamic culture. Sex, sex abuse, pedophilia, and enslavement of women take central stage within that religion. Encouraging martyrdom by pointing to sexual rewards in heaven is a natural corollary of that tradition. Although the Qur’an may not be as specific, it nevertheless, offers many clues, which subsequent inscriptions reinforced, interpreted, and broadened.

I have written this article in response to many questions I had been asked by book club members who’d read my book 72 Virgins. In that book, I did not discuss the roots of that evil thinking. Instead, I told a story, a thriller about a group of Jihadi terrorists and their quest for martyrdom. The story builds on the Jihadists’ motivation for targeting so many innocents and exploiting the victims’ massacre as a stepping-stone to their dream of eternal paradise next to Allah’s throne. The real question I’ve tried to answer is not whether Jihadists’ plots will ever cease to emerge. There’s no chance of that. The question the book seeks to answer is—will the next one be stopped before it’s too late?

Dr. AVI PERRY is author of a novel –72 Virgins,  and an engineering book–Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks. Former VP at a hi-tech company, Bell Labs, and Prof at Northwestern University, and an Intelligence expert; www.aviperry.org.

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3 Responses to “Where Did the Notion of 72 Virgins in Islamic Paradise Come From?”

  1. K. Will Says:

    Your article is quite interesting. I would like to know where you are getting your information from? The Surahs that are are quoting in your article DO NOT support the claims that you are making. I advise you read the Quaran carefully. Yes it mentions sex, but it mentions it in the context of laying the law for mankind. Before you decide to disrespect any religion or people I advise you get your facts straight.

  2. Mohamed Kawia Says:

    Islam Does Not Promise 72 Virgins for Martyrs: an explanation
    Many adversaries of Islam and those whom have been deprived of the Truth have wrongly and continuously asserted that Islam or the Quran promises 72 virgins to martyrs. This article is a response to such baseless assertion against the message of Islam.
    The incorrect assumption that “Islam promises 72 Virgins for Martyrs in Heaven” unfortunately signifies deep misconceptions in the West with regards to Islam. It is a myth repeated so often that has misled many people in accepting it as truth and an evidence of an obviously insane religion.

    It is the myth of the 72 virgins
    When news of a suicide bombing appears in the headlines, it is automatically assumed that some crazy Arab or Muslim must have sacrificed his earthly life to have gained the erotic and everlasting pleasure from the company of 72 virgins in paradise.

    Many people are surprised when told that Islam does not promise 72 virgins, and actually condemns people who commit suicide. No matter how many times it is repeated through the media, it will not changed the fact that such assertion is an absurd lie.

    The “virgin” myth has clearly received more than its fair share of publicity due to its hilarity. The image of a lunatic suicide bomber taking his pick from 72 luscious virgins is much more welcoming to today’s masses and their imagination than whether or not it logically and rationally would suffice. At the very least, it makes for a particularly gratifying affirmation for those who would love to see their political gain protected against Islam and within the Islamic countries.

    The harsh punishment promised by God for people who commit suicide or murder could not be any clearer than the following verse of the holy Quran, which holds absolute precedence of authority over any other Islamic scripture:

    But let there be amongst you Traffic and trade by mutual good-will: Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily God hath been to you Most Merciful! If any do that in rancor and injustice, soon shall We cast them into the Fire: And easy this it is for God. – Chapter 4 (Surah An-Nisa): Verse 29 – 30

    Moreover, Muslims view suicide as “Major Sin” with severe punishment in the hereafter. This is also re-enforced by several authentic Hadiths, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a), such as the followings:

    Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, “A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 445)

    Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak:”And if somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection. (Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 73)

    The condemnation of Islam towards suicide is so great that it would be unimaginable to think that sex has been promised for its reward.

    Where has the 72 virgin myth come from?
    So one might ask where such a myth could have sprung from and why the number “72 virgins”?

    It comes from an alleged saying attributed to Prophet Muhammad, which has neither been verified nor authenticated. Muslims refer to these dubious sayings as Gharib Hadiths, which mean sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in that they are conveyed by only one narrator.
    The dubious hadith of “72 virgins” goes as such:

    The Prophet Muhammad was heard as saying: “The smallest reward for the people of Paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah (a Damascus suburb) to – Sana’a (Yemen)” – Sunan al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2562

    It is interesting to note that majority of the Muslims outside the western world have not even heard of such saying, which ironically makes the west more aware of it than the Muslim world.

    Even considering that such saying exists and is valid, there is no mention of virgins or deserving martyrs. This is a weak narration from an untrustworthy source.
    Again, it must be stressed upon that the above saying cannot be verified as authentic due to the fact that there is a discrepancy in its “Sanad”, (or chain of transmitters). As such, Muslims are not required to believe in these Hadith for there is a chance that it may have been fabricated or corrupted along the way.
    Even so, as dubious as it may be, nowhere does it mention anything about virgins being rewarded to anyone who commit suicide for any reason. What it does mention however are wives, which scholars have argued, should not even be translated literally for it may convey a metaphorical meaning such as companions.

    As mentioned earlier, a convincing majority of Muslims do not believe that such Hadith is authentic, but western media have definitely made hay with it.

    Today, the myth of the “72 virgins” is amongst other false arguments against Islam, which is brought forth and kept nourished by those, whose arrogance or ignorance motivates them to prevail against Islam and its spirit of Truth. Political and financial entities have used media sources to twist this alleged saying to suit their fancies and smear Islam with ridicule and humiliation.

    So, it leads many uninformed individuals to think that when a Palestinian youth is driven to kill him self in order to destroy Israeli soldiers, it is because he wants to indulge himself in endless heavenly erotica. It is never about the mistreatment by the Israelis, demolishing Palestinian homes, killing their women and childern during the bright of the day or their sleep. It is never about blockading of food and life’s essentials by air, land and sea and it is never about the years of anguish and oppression felt but the people of Palestine

    Suicide attack is an act of desperation:
    Dr. Robert Pape, an American Political Scientist and a professor of University of Chicago in his book, Dying to Win, proves that suicidal killing is a phenomenon of desperation. After studying all recent suicide attacks around the world, he concludes that in every case and without exception, suicide attacks were response to occupation of an ethnic group.

    Although the act of committing suicide in order to kill others should be condemned and criticized, it is perhaps more significant and practical to investigate what truly drives such individuals to do it. Human beings with families and claims to their sovereignty do not just kill themselves.

    Very often, we fail to see the real reason behind such desperate acts, yet it is easier for us to believe what we are expected to believe and what is easy for us to believe: the myth of the “72 virgins”.

    CANT WE ALL JUST LOOK PAST OUR RELIGIONS

  3. Mohamed Kawia Says:

    Doctor let’s assume every word you claimed is correct , what are you trying to achieve ? This is pure hatred

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