The Twenty-Eighth Word

[ This Word is about Paradise and consists of two Stations. The First indicates some of the subtle wonders of Paradise. However, it does not prove the existence of Paradise, since this has been proved in brilliant fashion by the twelve decisive Truths of the Tenth Word and by the firm and clear consecutive arguments in Arabic which form the basis and summary of the Tenth Word and the Second Station of this Word. This Station discusses in question and answer form a number of the aspects of Paradise which have been the cause of criticism. If Divine assistance is forthcoming, a great Word will later be written about that mighty truth. God willing.]

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

And give glad tidings to those who believe and act righteously that theirs shall be gardens beneath which flow rivers. Everytime they are fed with fruits therefrom, they will say: “Why, this is what we were fed with before.” For they will be given things in similitude. And they shall have therein spouses pure, and shall abide there for ever.1

The brief answers to a number of questions about eternal Paradise.

The descriptions of the Qur’an’s verses about Paradise, which are more beautiful than Paradise, more lovely than the houris, and sweeter than the water of Salsabil, leave nothing to be said about it so that anyone should say it. However, in order to bring closer to the understanding those shining, pre-eternal, post-eternal, elevated and exquisite verses, we shall mention a number of steps, and, as samples of that Qur’anic Paradise, a number of fine points which are like samples of its flowers. We shall point to these through five allusive questions and answers. Indeed, Paradise is the means both to all spiritual and non-physical pleasures, and to all physical pleasures.

QUESTION: What connection with eternity and Paradise has faulty, deficient, changing, unstable, and suffering corporeality? Since the spirit has elevated pleasures, that is sufficient. Why is bodily resurrection necessary for bodily pleasures?

THE ANSWER: Because, just as in relation to water, air, and light, earth is dense and dark, but since it is the source and means of all the varieties of Divine artefacts, in meaning it rises above the other elements; and just as in regard to the mystery of its comprehensiveness and on condition it is purified, the human soul, which is also dense, rises above all the other human subtle faculties; so too corporeality is the richest and most comprehensive and all-embracing mirror to the manifestation of the Divine Names. All the tools and instruments for measuring the contents of the treasuries of mercy and reckoning their balances lie in corporeality. For example, if scales to the number of sorts of food and their pleasures did not originate in the sense of taste in the tongue, it could not taste and weigh them all up, and recognize and experience them. Also, the instruments for experiencing and knowing the manifestations of most of the Divine Names, and tasting and recognizing them, again lie in corporeality. And the faculties for experiencing all the infinitely various pleasures are also in corporeality.

As is proved in the Eleventh Word, it is understood clearly from the disposition of the universe and man’s comprehensiveness that the universe’s Maker wants to make known all the treasuries of His mercy, and all the manifestations of His Names, and to make experienced all the varieties of His bounties. The abode of bliss, therefore, which is a vast pool formed from the flood of the universe and a great exhibition of the textiles woven on the loom of the universe and an everlasting store of the crops produced in the arable field of this world, will resemble the universe to a degree. And it will preserve all its fundamental matters, both corporeal and spiritual. Its All-Wise Maker, the Most Compassionate One, will also give as recompense for the duties of the physical tools and instruments, pleasures worthy of them; and to His servants, as a wage and reward for the particular worship of each. Otherwise a situation would occur that was contrary to His wisdom, justice, and mercy, which is in no way fitting for the beauty of His mercy and perfection of His justice, and in no way compatible with them.

QUESTION: If a body is living, its parts are constantly being formed and dissolved; it is doomed to extinction and 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 this world, but there is no need for them in the world of eternity and hereafter. So why are they among the greatest pleasures of Paradise?

THE ANSWER: Firstly, the bodies of living creatures are doomed to annihilation and death in this world because of an imbalance between what is taken in and what is expended. From childhood until maturity much is taken in, and after that what is expended increases; the balance is spoilt, and the body dies. In the world of eternity, however, the particles of the body remain constant and are not subject to composition and dissolution, or else the balance remains constant.1

{(*) In this world, the bodies of humans and animals are like guest-houses, barracks, and schools for particles. The lifeless particles enter them and acquire worthiness to be particles for the everlasting realm, which is living, then they leave them. In the hereafter, however, according to the verse, The Abode of the Hereafter, that is life indeed, the light of life is general. There is no necessity for that travelling, drill, and instruction in order to be illuminated. Particles will remain constant as permanent fixtures.}

Like a closed circle or perpetual motion, the body of the living creature becomes eternal together with the functioning of the machine of bodily life for pleasure. Although in this world eating and drinking and sexual relations arise from need and perform a function, various delights and pleasures have been placed within them as an immediate wage for the duty performed, and these are superior to other pleasures. Since in this abode of sorrows eating and sexual relations are the means to so many wonderful and various pleasures, certainly in Paradise, which is the abode of pleasure and bliss, those pleasures will take on a sublime form. The recompense of the duties pertaining to the hereafter performed here will also be added to them as pleasure, and they will be augmented by worldly needs which have taken the form of agreeable, otherworldly appetites, so will become an all-embracing, living source of pleasure worthy of Paradise and suitable to eternity. Indeed, according to the meaning of the verse,

And what is the life of this world but amusement and play? But indeed the Abode of the hereafter, that is life indeed,2

substances, matters, which are inanimate and without consciousness and life in the abode of this world, there will be living and conscious. 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. And if you tell such-and-such a stone to come, it will come. Since stones and trees will take on this elevated form, it surely necessitates that, together with preserving their bodily realities, eating, drinking, and sexual relations also will take on a form higher than their worldly form, higher to the degree that Paradise is higher than this world.

QUESTION: According to the meaning of:

Everyone will be together with those he loves,3

in Paradise, friend will be together with friend. Therefore, love for God’s sake kindled in a simple nomad during one minute’s conversation with the Prophet (PBUH), means he has to be with the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) in Paradise. But since God’s Noble Messenger (PBUH) receives limitless effulgence, how can it be united with that of a simple nomad?

THE ANSWER: We shall allude to this elevated truth with a comparison. For example, a magnificent personage set up a vast banquet and finely-adorned spectacle in a splendid garden. He prepared it in such a way that it included all the delicious foods that the sense of taste can experience, and all the fine 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 give pleasure to the external and inner senses. Now, there were two friends and they went together to the banquet and sat down at a table in a pavilion. But the sense of taste of one of them was very limited, so he received only minor pleasure. His eyes could see only a little, he had no sense of smell, and he could not understand the wondrous arts nor comprehend the marvels. He could only benefit from and take pleasure in a thousandth or even a millionth of that beautiful place, to the extent of his capacity. The other man however had developed his outer and inner senses, his mind, heart, emotions, and subtle faculties so perfectly and to such a degree that although he was next to his friend, he could perceive and experience all the subtleties and beauties and marvels and fine things in the exhibition, and receive their different pleasures.

Since this confused, sorrowful, and narrow world is thus, and although the greatest and the least are together, the difference between them is as great as from the ground to the Pleiades, surely in Paradise, the realm of bliss and eternity, while friend is together with friend, each will receive his share from the table of the Most Merciful and Compassionate One in accordance with his capacity and to the extent of his abilities. Even if the Paradises in which they are found are different, it will not be an obstacle to their being together. For although the eight levels of Paradise are one above the other, the roof of all of them is the Sublime Throne.1 If 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 and look to one another, but do not prevent each other seeing the sun. There are also various narrations of Hadiths indicating that the Paradises are in a manner close to this.

QUESTION: It is said in Hadiths: “Although the houris are clothed in seventy garments, the marrow of their leg-bones may be seen.”2 What does this mean? What sort of meaning can it have? What sort of beauty is this?

THE ANSWER: Its meaning is truly beautiful and its beauty is most lovely. It is like this: in this world, which is ugly, inanimate, lifeless, and for the most part just a husk, beauty and loveliness only appear beautiful to the eye, and so long as familiarity is not an obstacle, that is sufficient. Whereas in Paradise, which is beautiful, living, brilliant, and entirely the essence without the husk and the kernel without the shell, like the eye, all man’s senses and subtle faculties will want to receive their different pleasures and various delights from the houris, the gentle sex, and from the women of this world, who will be like houris and even more beautiful. That is to say, the Hadith indicates that from the beauty of their top garments to the marrow of their bones, each layer will be the means of pleasure to a sense and a subtle faculty. Yes, by saying, “The houris wear seventy garments and the marrow of their leg-bones can be seen,” the Hadith points out that however many senses, feeling, powers, and faculties man has which are enamoured of beauty, worship pleasure, are captivated by ornament, and yearn for loveliness, the houris comprise all of them – every sort of adornment and exquisite loveliness, physical and spiritual and immaterial, which will please and satisfy all of them, and gratify them and make them all happy.

That is to say, just as the houris are clothed in seventy of the varieties of the adornment of Paradise, and not one sort, none of which conceal the others; so they display beauty and loveliness perhaps seventy times greater than their own bodies and beings, all of different sorts and varieties. They demonstrate the truth indicated by the verse:

There will be there all that the souls could desire and all that the eyes could delight in.1

There is also a Hadith which states that since in Paradise there are no unnecessary, extraneous, waste-matters, the people of Paradise will not excrete waste after eating and drinking.2 Since in this lowly world, trees, the most ordinary of living beings, do not excrete despite taking in much nourishment, why should the people of Paradise, who are the highest class of life?

QUESTION: It says in Hadiths: “Some of the people of Paradise are given lands as extensive as the world, and thousands of palaces and hundreds of thousands of houris are bestowed on them.”3 What need has a single person of all these things, why should it be necessary? How can this be and what does it mean?

THE ANSWER: If man was only a lifeless being, or was only a vegetable creature consisting of a stomach, or consisted only of a limited, heavy, temporary, simple corporeality or animal body, he could not own many palaces and houris, or be fit for them. But man is such a comprehensive miracle of power that even in this transitory world and brief life, if he is given the rule of all the world with its wealth and pleasures, his ambition is not satisfied – in respect of the need of some of his subtle faculties, which do not develop here. It is therefore reasonable, right, and true that a person possessing an infinite capacity who knocks on the door of an infinite mercy with the hand of infinite desires and the tongue of infinite needs will receive in an eternal abode of bliss the Divine bounties described in Hadiths. We shall observe this elevated truth through the telescope of a comparison. It is as follows:

Although, like this valley garden,(*) all these gardens and vineyards of Barla have different owners, all the birds and sparrows and honey-bees in Barla, who have only a handful of grain for food, may say: “All the gardens and orchards of Barla are my pleasant resorts where I fly around and enjoy myself.”

{(*) That is, the garden of Süleyman, who served this poor one with perfect loyalty for eight years, where this Word was written in one or two hours.}

Each may take possession of Barla and include it in its property. Others sharing it does not invalidate his ownership. Similarly, a man who is a true human being may say: “My Creator made this world a house for me. The sun is my lamp and the stars my electric lights. The face of the earth is my resting-place spread with flowered carpets.” And he offers thanks to God. The other creatures sharing it does not negate his statement. On the contrary, the creatures adorn his house like decorations. And so, if in this narrow fleeting world, by virtue of his humanity, man – and even a bird – claims a sort of power of disposal over such a vast sphere and receives such a vast bounty, how can it be deemed unlikely that he is given ownership of a property stretching over a five hundred year distance in a broad and eternal abode of bliss?

Moreover, just as in this dense and dark narrow world the sun is present in the same way at the same time in numerous mirrors, so too, as is proved in the Sixteenth Word, a luminous being may be present in many places in the same way at the same time. For example, Gabriel (Peace be upon him) being on a thousand stars simultaneously, and at the Divine Throne, and in the presence of the Prophet (PBUH), and in the Divine Presence; and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) meeting with most of the righteous of his community at the resurrection of the dead at the same time and appearing in this world in innumerable places simultaneously; and a strange group of the saints known as abdal, appearing at the same time in many places; and ordinary people sometimes carrying out as much as a year’s work in one minute in a dream and observing this; and everyone being in contact with and concerned with numerous places at the same time in their hearts, spirits, and imaginations – all these are well-known and may be witnessed. Most certainly, in Paradise, therefore, which is luminous, unrestricted, broad, and eternal, the people of Paradise, whose bodies have the strength and lightness of the spirit and the swiftness of imagination, being in hundreds of thousands of places at the same time, and conversing with hundreds of thousands of houris, and receiving pleasure in hundreds of thousands of ways, is fitting for that eternal Paradise, that infinite mercy, and as told by the Bringer of Sure News (PBUH), is reality and the truth. Nevertheless, these vast truths cannot be weighed on the scales of our tiny minds.

This tiny mind cannot perceive the true meanings,

For this scale cannot bear such a weight.

Glory be unto to You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed, You are All-Knowing, All-Wise.1

O our Sustainer! Do not call us to task if we forget or fall into error.2

O God! Grant blessings to Your Beloved, who by being Your Beloved and through his prayers, flung open the doors of Paradise, and because of the benedictions for him of its members, You confirmed its opening for his community, and bless him and grant him peace.

O God! Appoint us to Paradise among the righteous, through the intercession of Your Beloved, the Chosen One. Amen.