Jannah or Paradise in Islam
In Islam, Jannah (جنّة Jannah; plural: Jannat), lit. “garden”, is the final abode of the righteous and the Islamic believers, but also the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Hawwa dwelt. Firdaws (فردوس) is the literal term meaning paradise, but the Quran generally uses the term Jannah symbolically referring to paradise. However “Firdaus” also designates the highest layer of heaven.
In contrast to Jannah, the words Jahannam and Nār are used to refer to the concept of hell. There are many words in the Arabic language for both Heaven and Hell and those words also appear in the Quran and hadith. Most of them have become part of the Islamic traditions.
Jannah is often compared to Christian concepts of Heaven.
Heaven and Jannah
While Jannah in the Quran is often translated as “Heaven” in the sense of an abode where believers are rewarded in afterlife, سماء sama’ (usually pl. samawat) is the word for heaven in the sense of firmament or celestial sphere, as “seven heavens” (2:29, 78:12).
Some sources connect the two in some way. According to Sufi cosmology, Paradise is often depicted over the seven heavens or between the sixth and seventh heaven. In some modern interpretations, based on Surah 21:30 and 67:5, the lowest heaven is also interpreted as the observable universe, with the other six beyond, once were a mess together with the earths and later expanded.
Images and descriptions of Jannah
In the Quran, “the Garden” is described with material delights, such as beautiful maidens, precious stones, delicious foods, and constantly flowing water—the latter especially appealing to the desert dwelling Arabs, who spend most of their life in arid lands. The Islamic texts describes life for its immortal inhabitants as: one that is happy—without hurt, sorrow, fear or shame—where every wish is fulfilled. Traditions relate that inhabitants will be of the same age (33 years), and of the same standing. Their life is one of bliss including wearing sumptuous robes, bracelets and perfumes as they partake in exquisite banquets served in priceless vessels by immortal youths (Houri), as they recline on couches inlaid with gold or precious stones.
According to Muslim belief, everything one longs for in this world will be there in Paradise.
They will eat delicious food and drink, and every bowl will have a new taste. They will take eructation which will digest the food and there will be perfumed sweating for the digestion of water. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their parents, spouses, and children (provided they were admitted to paradise)—conversing and recalling the past.
The food in Jannah never rotting and so delicious it will make any person on earth live without feeling hunger forever. The dwellings for inhabitants will be pleasant, with lofty gardens, shady valleys, fountains scented with camphor or ginger; rivers of water, milk, honey and Sharab-un-Tahoora (pure drink); delicious fruits of all seasons without thorns;
One day in paradise is considered equal to a thousand years on earth. Palaces are made from bricks of gold, silver, pearls, among other things. Traditions also note the presence of horses and camels of “dazzling whiteness”, along with other creatures. Large trees whose shades are ever deepening, mountains made of musk, between which rivers flow in valleys of pearl and ruby.
The names of four rivers are Saihan (Syr Darya), Jaihan (Amu Darya), Furat (Euphrates) and Nil (Nile). Salsabil is the name of a spring that is the source of the rivers of Rahma (mercy) and Al-Kawthar (abundance). Sidrat al-Muntaha is a Lote tree that marks the end of the seventh heaven, the boundary where no angel or human can pass.
In spite of the goodly dwellings given to the inhabitants of paradise, the approval of God and nearness to him is considered greater. According to the Quran, God will bring the elect near to his throne (‘arsh), a day on which “some faces shall be shining in contemplating their Lord.” The vision of God is regarded as the greatest of all rewards, surpassing all other joys. The true beauty of paradise is also understood as the joy of beholding God, the creator.
Besides the material notion of the paradise, those descriptions are also interpreted as allegories, explaining the state of joy people will get. For some theologicans, seeing God is not a question of sight, but of awareness of Gods presence. The Persian theologian Al-Ghazali said:
This life belongs to the world of earth and the world of visibility; the hereafter belongs to the world of transcendental and the world of beings. By this life I understand your state before death, by hereafter I understand your state after death … However, it is impossible to explain the world of beings in this life by any other means than allegories.
Inhabitants of Jannah
According to the Quran, the basic criterion for salvation in the afterlife is the belief in the oneness of God (tawḥīd), Angels of God, revealed books of God, all messengers of God, as well as repentance to God, and doing good deeds. Though one must do good deeds and believe in God, salvation can only be attained through God’s judgment.
Regarding salvation from hell, according to hadith literature, Muhammad said, “Surely a time will come over hell when its gates shall be blown by wind, there shall be none in it, and this shall be after they have remained therein for many years.” Still in the Hadith literature, Muhammad is reported to have said, “Allah will bring out people from the Fire and admit them into Paradise.” Otherwise some hadiths indicate, that the majority of mankind will not access heaven. According to Sunni Islam, a Muslim, even if condemned to hell, will eventually enter Heaven.
As in life there are many trials which one must face. This is also a condition individuals must encounter in order to enter Jannah.
Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: “When (will come) the help of Allah?” Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near!— Qur’an, sura 2 (al-Baqarah), ayah 214
Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (In His Cause) and remained steadfast?— Qur’an, sura 3 (Al-i-Imran), ayah 142
Non-Muslims in Jannah
There are different opinions among scholars in regard whether Non-Muslims could enter Jannah. Some Muslims and Islamic scholars argued Surah 2:62 indicates Jannah is not exclusively for Muslims.
Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans—those who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness—will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.2:62
On the other hand, other scholars hold this verse is abrogated by Surah 3:85 and just applied until the arrival of Muhammad. For example, before Jesus was born, Jewish will enter Jannah alike Christians who lived before Muhammad enter Jannah, but every religious group must accept the newest prophet.
And whoever desires other than Islam as religion—never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.3:85
Scholars like Ibn Arabi did not hold the first to be abrogated by the latter, since “Islam” in this context, does not apply to Islam as a religious tradition, but to “submission”. Ghazali distinguished between the “saved” and “those who will attain success”. Therefore, righteous Non-Muslims will neither enter hell nor Jannah, but will stay in Araf.
Further those, who regard Jannah as exclusively for Muslims argue, that Islam is the “completed” and “perfected” religion and it is necessary to believe in the whole teaching of God, the prophets and the angels that just can be done by a Muslim.
According to the Islamic theologian Süleyman Ateş, argues Muslims had made the same mistake Jews and Christians made before by claiming Jannah is exclusive to Muslims only. Further he states, that those who believes in God without associating any partners with Him, believes in the hereafter without any doubt and do good and useful deeds can enter paradise, conditions several religions offer. He also refers to the Quran 5:66 that there are good and bad people among any religion, and even not all Muslims may enter paradise.
Finally, most scholars agree that Non-Muslims who did not hear the message of Islam and Non-Muslims who died in childhood are eligible for Jannah as well:
… And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning).17:15
Number of people who will enter Jannah
Several precise numbers are mentioned in the hadith literature regarding the extremely high standards required to qualify for Jannah. Initially, a select elite group of 70,000 people from the followers of Muhammad will enter Jannah without any accountability of their sins.
After the above group, only 1 out of 100 people from the rest of humanity (Muslim and Non-Muslim) would qualify for Jannah. It is understood that despite this small percentage, the actual number of people who would make it to Jannah would be higher, as Allah would forgive the sins of many people, allowing them to enter Jannah as well.
Islamic scholars debated whether or not, the jinn can enter Jannah. It is clear from the Quran, that the jinn might be thrown into Jahannam (hell), but does not mention explicitly the presence of jinn in Jannah. The fact, Houris are explicitly described as “untouched by human and jinn” indicates, that jinn could enter Jannah, too. Others however, deny the possibility for jinn to enter Jannah, they could merely try to avoid hell. Accordingly, in the afterlife the fires of hell will be brought forth to the jinn. While the infidel jinn will suffer in the flames, the pious jinn will turn to dust before they touch the flames. On the other hand, we find traditions which explains in more details the nature of jinn in paradise, such as inverting the invisiblity of jinn, thus the jinn will turn into fixed forms, while they can not see humans anymore. Whether or not, jinn could enter paradise, might deal with the ambiguity of the jinn in Islamic tradition: According to one strant, the jinn are the demonic children of Iblis. Since Iblis himself was cast out of heaven, it would be impossible for his kind to get back to heaven. The other strant does not depict the jinn as the children of Iblis, but as a predecessor of human, with many similarities between whose two creatures. Here, paired with humans as creatures endowed with a larger amount of free-will, both can be rewarded with paradise and will be punished with hell. Here, the children of Iblis are not the jinn, but the shayatin. Additionally, according to this tradition, the will of shayatin is linear; they can not avoid hell by being pious, their abode in hell is destined, thus rejecting the former mentioned explanation regarding the fate of jinn in the afterlife.
Quranic names of Jannah
Layers of Jannah
- Firdaws – The Highest Gardens of the Paradise (al-Kahf, Al-Mu’minoon)
- Dār al-maqāmah – The Home (Fāṭir)
- Jannatul Aliyah (suras Haqqah, Ghashiyah)
- Dār al-salām – Home of Peace (Yūnus, Al-An’am)
- Dār al-Ākhirah – The Home in the Hereafter (al-‘Ankabūt)
- al-Jannah – This is the most commonly used term in the Quran and Hadith. (al-Baqarah, Āl ‘Imran,}},)
- Jannat al-ʿadn – Gardens of Everlasting Bliss (al-Tawbah: 72, al-Ra‘d)
- Jannat al-Khuld – The Eternal Gardens (al-Furqān)
- Jannat al-Ma’wā – Garden of Abode (al-Najm)
- Jannat al-Na‘īm – The Gardens of Delight (al-Mā’idah, Yūnus, al-Ḥajj)
- Maq‘ad al-Ṣidq – Assembly of Truth (al-Qamar)
- al-Maqām al-Amīn – The House of Security (al-Dukhān)
Doors of Jannah
According to hadith, there are eight doors of Jannah. Their names are as following:
- Bāb al-Ṣalāh: For those who were punctual in prayer
- Bāb al-Jihād: For those who took part in jihad
- Bāb al-Ṣadaqah: For those who gave charity more often
- Bāb al-Rayyān: For those who fasted (siyam)
- Bāb al-Ḥajj: For those participated in the annual pilgrimage
- Bāb al-Kāẓimīn al-Ghayẓ wa-al-‘Āfīn ‘an al-Nās: For those who withheld their anger and forgave others
- Bāb al-Aymān: For those who by virtue of their faith are saved from reckoning and chastisement
- Bāb al-Dhikr: For those who showed zeal in remembering God
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