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QUESTIONS CONCERNING PARADISE

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Give glad tidings to those who believe and do good deeds; for them are Gardens underneath which rivers flow; every time they are provided with fruit thereof, they say: ‘This is what we were provided with before,’ and it is given to them in resemblance. There for them are pure spouses and they shall abide there for ever. (2:25)

The descriptions in the verses of the Quran about Paradise, which are more beautiful than Paradise itself, and sweeter than the pleasant water of its springs, leave no one anything to add. However, we shall point out some steps in order to make understandable those brilliant, eternal, elevated, and beautiful verses, and explain some fine points that are of the kind of the flowers from that Quranic paradise. We shall point to them through five significant questions and answers.

What does the defective, changing, and unstable body have to do with eternity and paradise? The elevated pleasures of the spirit must be enough. Why should a bodily resurrection take place for corporeal pleasures?

Since, despite its darkness and density in contrast to water, air, and light, earth is the means and source of all the varieties of the works of Divine art, in meaning it has some superiority to the other elements. Also, despite its density, on account of being comprehensive and provided it is purified, man’s selfhood gains some kind of superiority to his other senses and faculties. Likewise, man’s body is a most comprehensive and rich mirror to the manifestations of the Divine Names. It has been equipped with the instruments to weigh and measure the contents of all of the Divine treasuries. For example, if the sense of taste in the tongue was not the origin of as many measures as the varieties of food and drink, it could not experience each and recognize them; it could not measure them. Furthermore, the instruments with which to experience and recognize the manifestations of most of the Divine Names, and the faculties for experiencing the most various and infinitely different pleasures are also in the body.

Since, as is understood clearly from the conduct of the universe and the comprehensiveness of man, the Maker of the universe wants through the universe to make known all the treasuries of His Mercy, and all the manifestations of His Names, and to make us experience all the varieties of His bounties, for sure, the world of eternal happiness, which is a mighty pool into which the flood of the universe flows and a vast exhibition of the products of the loom of the universe and the everlasting store of the crops produced in the field of the world, will resemble the universe to a degree. The All-Wise Maker, the All-Com-passionate Just One, will give as wages for the duties of the bodily organs and in reward for their services and particular types of worship, pleasures particular to each. To think otherwise would be contrary to His Wisdom, Justice and Compassion.

Why are eating and sexual relations included in the pleasures of paradise?

A living body is in constant formation and deformation and subject to disintegration; therefore it cannot be eternal. Eating and drinking are for the perpetuation of the individual, and sexual relations are for the perpetuation of the species. These are fundamental to the worldly life but there is no need for them in the world of eternity. So why have they been included in the greatest pleasures of Paradise?

Answer: Firstly, a living body is doomed to decline and death because of the imbalance between what it takes in and what it consumes. From childhood to the age of maturity, what it takes in is more than it expends. Afterwards its expenditure increases until it results in the destruction of the balance and death. In the world of eternity, however, the particles of the body remain constant and are not subject to disintegration and reformation. Or the balance between the body’s income and consumption remains constant.2 Like moving in perpetual cycles, a living body gains eternity together with the constant operation of the factory of bodily life for pleasure. Although in this world eating, drinking and sexual relations between married couples arise from a need and perform a function, a great variety of excellent pleasures are ingrained in them as an immediate wage for the functions performed, which are superior to other pleasures. Since in this world of ailments eating and marriage are means to many wonderful and various pleasures, for sure, in Paradise, which is the realm of happiness and pleasures, those pleasures will take on a most elevated form, and with the addition to them as pleasures of the otherworldly wages for the duties performed in the world and of the need felt for them in the world in the form of a pleasant, otherworldly appetite, they will become an all-encompassing, living source of pleasure, appropriate to Paradise and eternity.

This life of the world is nothing but a pastime and a game, but the Abode of the Hereafter, it is all living indeed.

According to the verse, all the lifeless and unconscious substances and objects in this world are living and conscious there. Like human beings and animals here, the trees and stones there will understand commands and carry them out. If you tell a tree to bring you such-and-such a fruit, it will bring it. If you tell a stone to come, it will come. Since stones and trees will take on such an elevated form, for sure and of a necessity, together with preserving their bodily realities, eating, drinking and marital relations also will take on a form as much higher than their worldly forms as Paradise is higher than this world.

A hadith says: ‘a person is with whom he loves. ’ So, how can an ordinary believer be together with the prophet in paradise?

According to the meaning of the hadith, , friends will be together in Paradise. This requires that a simple Bedouin who feels a deep love for God’s Messenger in one minute’s companionship with him should be together with God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in Paradise. But how can illumination and reward of a simple nomad cause him to share the same place with God’s Messenger, whose illumination and reward are limitless?

Answer: I shall point to this elevated truth by a comparison. For example, in an extremely beautiful and splendid garden, a magnificent person prepared a vast banquet and richly-adorned spectacle in such a way that it included all the delicious foods that the sense of taste can experience, and all the beautiful things that please the sense of sight, and all the wonders that amuse the faculty of imagination, and so on; he included in it everything that would gratify and please all the external and inner senses. Two friends went together to that banquet, and sat at a table in the same pavilion. But the sense of taste of one of them was very limited, he received little pleasure. His power of sight was weak, and he had no sense of smell, and therefore he could not understand the wonderful arts nor comprehend the marvels. Proportionally to his capacity, he could only benefit from and take pleasure at that beautiful place of recreation to the degree of a thousandth or millionth. As for the other man, since all his external and inner senses, his intellect, heart, and all his faculties and feelings, had been developed to the utmost degree, he could perceive and experience all the subtleties and beauties, and marvels and fine things in that exquisite garden, and derive all varieties of pleasure from them.

Since it is so in this confused, painful and narrow world, and there is as great difference as from the ground to the Pleiades between the greatest and the least who exist side by side, for sure, in Paradise, which is the abode of happiness and eternity, while friends are together, it is more fitting for them that each will receive his share from the table of the Most Merciful of the Merciful in accordance with the degree of his abilities. Besides, even though they are in different Paradises or different ëfloors’ of Paradise, it will not prevent them from coming together. For although the eight levels of Paradise are one above the other, the roof of all of them is the Supreme Throne of God. Suppose there are walled circles round a conical mountain, one within the other and one above the other from its foot to the summit, the circles are one over the other, concentric with, and look to, one another, but do not prevent each other seeing the sun. (Indeed, there are various narrations or hadiths indicating that the levels or floors of Paradise are in a manner like this.)

What is the use of giving a single person a place as large as the world in paradise?

Some Prophetic traditions say: ‘Some of the people of Paradise will be given a place as large as the world.’ What is the reason for this and why and how does a single man need this? What does this mean?

Answer: If man was only a solid object, or was only a vegetable creature consisting of a stomach, or consisted only of a limited, heavy, simple, and transient corporal or animal body, he would not own, nor deserve, so many palaces. But man is such a comprehensive miracle of the Divine Power that even in this transient world and brief life, if he is given the rule of the whole of the world with all its wealth and pleasures, to gratify the need of some of his undeveloped senses and faculties, it will not be possible to satisfy his greed. Whereas, a man with an infinite capacity in an eternal abode of happiness, who will knock on the door of infinite Mercy in the tongue of infinite needs, will of a certainty and most reasonably receive the Divine bounties described in hadiths. We shall try to see this elevated truth through the telescope of a comparison, which is as follows.

Although, like this valley garden, each of the vineyards and gardens of Barla has a different owner, each bird, each sparrow, each honey-bee in Barla, which possesses with regard to food only a handful of grain, may say: ‘All the vineyards and gardens of Barla are my places of recreation.’ Each may take possession of Barla and include it in its property. Others sharing it does not limit its rule. A man who is truly human may say: ‘My Creator has made the world home for me, with the sun as its chief lamp and the stars, its electric lights. The earth is my cradle spread with flowered carpets.’ He offers thanks to God. The other creatures sharing it does not negate this conclusion of his. On the contrary, the creatures adorn his home and are like its decorations.

If on account of being human, a man in this narrow brief world--even a bird--claims a power of disposal over such a vast area and receives such a vast bounty, how can it be deemed unlikely that he will be given the ownership of a property stretching a distance of five hundred years of walk in a broad and eternal abode of happiness?

Just as in this dense, narrow world the sun is present at the same moment in numerous mirrors, so too, a spiritually enlightened being may be present in many places at the same moment. For example, the Archangel Gabriel, upon him be peace, being present on a thousand stars at the same moment he is at the Supreme Throne of God, and in the presence of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and in the Divine Presence; and the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, meeting with most of the devoted, God-fearing members of his community in the Place of Gathering after the Resurrection at the same moment and appearing in this world in countless places at ...
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