Jannah or Paradise

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

Main articles: Garden of Eden, Heaven, and Paradise

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

Persian miniature depicting the artist’s impression of heaven

The Paradise is described as surrounded by eight principal gates, each level generally being divided into a hundred degrees guarded by angels (in some traditions Ridwan). The highest level is known as firdaws (sometimes called Eden) or Illiyin. Entrants will be greeted by angels with salutations of peace or As-Salamu Alaykum. Furthermore, paradise is considered to be “as vast as the heavens and the earth”.

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

Muslims

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

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

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.

Shahid

Shahid, or Shaheed (witness or martyr) is considered one whose place in Jannah is promised. Sunni sources such as Ibn Kathir, as well as Shia sources cite Quran At-Tawbah 9:111 in support of this view.

A shahid is considered one whose place in Paradise is promised according to these verses in the Quran:

The Quran, chapter 3 (Al Imran), verse 169–170:

Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah. And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.

The Quran, chapter 9 (At-Tawba), verse 111:

Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur´an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.

The Quranic passage that follows is the source of the concept of Muslim martyrs being promised Paradise:

The Quran, chapter 22 (Al-Hajj), verse 58–59:

Those who leave their homes in the cause of Allah, and are then slain or die,- On them will Allah bestow verily a goodly Provision: Truly Allah is He Who bestows the best provision. Verily He will admit them to a place with which they shall be well pleased: for Allah is All-Knowing, Most Forbearing.

The importance of faith is highlighted in the following hadith:

It has been narrated on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Who seeks martyrdom with sincerity shall get its reward, though he may not achieve it.

— Collected by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, “Sahih Muslim”

It is thus not the outcome that determines the placement in Heaven but rather the intention.

Nonetheless, Paradise for a shahid is a popular concept in the Islamic tradition according to Hadith, and the attainment of this title is honorific.

The prophet Muhammad is reported to have said these words about martyrdom:

By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

The Prophet said, “Nobody who enters Paradise likes to go back to the world even if he got everything on the Earth, except a Mujahid who wishes to return to the world so that he may be martyred ten times because of the dignity he receives (from Allah).

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

Several hadith also indicate the nature of a shahid’s life in Paradise. Shahids are thought to attain the highest level of Paradise, the Paradise of al-Firdous.

Haritha was martyred on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and he was a young boy then. His mother came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! You know how dear Haritha is to me. If he is in Paradise, I shall remain patient, and hope for reward from Allah, but if it is not so, then you shall see what I do?” He said, “May Allah be merciful to you! Have you lost your senses? Do you think there is only one Paradise? There are many Paradises and your son is in the (most superior) Paradise of Al-Firdaus.

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

Furthermore, Samura narrated:

The Prophet said, “Last night two men came to me (in a dream) and made me ascend a tree and then admitted me into a better and superior house, better of which I have never seen. One of them said, ‘this house is the house of martyrs.’

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

There are at least five different kinds of martyrs according to hadith.

Allah’s Apostle said, “Five are regarded as martyrs: They are those who die because of plague, abdominal disease, drowning or a falling building etc., and the martyrs in Allah’s cause.

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

One who dies protecting his property is also considered a martyr according to Hadith:

I heard the Prophet saying, “Whoever is killed while protecting his property then he is a martyr.

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

While the Qur’an does not indicate much about martyrs’ death and funeral, the hadith provides some information on this topic. For example, martyrs are to be buried two in one grave in their blood, without being washed or having a funeral prayer held for them. The following Hadith highlight this:

The Prophet collected every two martyrs of Uhud in one piece of cloth, then he would ask, “Which of them had (knew) more of the Quran?” When one of them was pointed out for him, he would put that one first in the grave and say, “I will be a witness on these on the Day of Resurrection.” He ordered them to be buried with their blood on their bodies and they were neither washed nor was a funeral prayer offered for them.

— Collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari

Supernatural creatures

See also: Jinn and Houri

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 (YūnusAl-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’idahYūnus, 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:

  1. Bāb al-Ṣalāh: For those who were punctual in prayer
  2. Bāb al-Jihād: For those who took part in jihad
  3. Bāb al-Ṣadaqah: For those who gave charity more often
  4. Bāb al-Rayyān: For those who fasted (siyam)
  5. Bāb al-Ḥajj: For those participated in the annual pilgrimage
  6. Bāb al-Kāẓimīn al-Ghayẓ wa-al-‘Āfīn ‘an al-Nās: For those who withheld their anger and forgave others
  7. Bāb al-Aymān: For those who by virtue of their faith are saved from reckoning and chastisement
  8. Bāb al-Dhikr: For those who showed zeal in remembering God

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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