Almost a year ago, I was contacted by a revert sister from a European country who was struggling with what she described as a “major challenges in her faith and relation with Allah”. The concerns were centered around Islam’s view towards men and women, polygamy, and particularly the hard-to-swallow concept of the women in paradise (AKA الحور العين)
Excerpts From the Sister’s Questions and Concerns
“… There will be the “hoor al ayn” for every man in paradise. So there is no, we created you in pairs, true true love like soulmates etc…”
“… My wish is to be with my husband forever alone and he alone with me, but this seems to be contradicting with what Islam preaches and describes paradise”
“… Heaven does not seem appealing to me anymore if this is the case! I know there will be no negative feelings like jealousy etc… but that doesn’t change the fact that a man will never love only one woman a true love”
“… I understand that Allah is all-wise and He can do whatever HE wants, so why hasn’t he decided for real true ‘soulmate’ love. Also for polygamy, maybe in this life there could be situations like war or so where women may need to accept the reality and become second wives, but these things don’t exist in paradise! However there will still be the Houris, so a man NEVER only loves one woman. So what I see, there isn’t real as I call soulmate love in Islam neither in the worldly life nor in the hereafter”
“.. on top of all that, I am very afraid from these feelings. I see a lot of scholars say things like, you have to love everything Allah send down, otherwise you are a disbeliever, but I clearly do not love polygamy and the concept of the women in Jennah! I hope you have an advice for me because I don’t want to lose my faith in God and Islam”
Excerpts From My Short (or Shorter) Answers
My short answer is that our happiness in paradise is not based on the same factors in the worldly life!
You mention for example that “I want my husband to love me and me alone”.. but don’t you think that human beings in the world and especially women are dependent on their spouses because of human imperfection? and don’t you think (or I should say believe) that paradise is where we get rid of those human imperfections… those human attributes are part of our test in this life, and paradise is nothing but a reward to our test
Regarding polygamy: my teacher used to always say: it is an ugly solution to an uglier problem… exactly like divorce.. Nobody likes it, it is a destruction to a family and a difficult ending to a relation that is supposed to complete half the deen for the other spouse, but it is needed (I was referring to divorce)… Would I wish any of these solutions (divorce or the state of being a second wife) for any of my two daughters? definitely not.. would I submit (Islam = submission) that such a solution is needed for some special cases? definitely I should submit!
My Longer Response
(Gathered Ideas & Put Together in an Email Format)
I understand from your questions that your ultimate goal and dream is to live a true love story with one and only soulmate; I also can sense that you have concerns due to some elements in Islam that– at least from the outside – contradict with your dreams and hopes.
Please note that in this message, I am not trying to belittle your valid feelings and fears; I am only trying to give you another perspective and look at things from a different angle.
I say this because we – as human beings – are a product of the culture, environment, and education that we get throughout our lives. Our search for true love for another soulmate (be it for men or for women) is a reflection of thousands of hours of novels, songs, movies, positive and negative real life experiences, etc… It is being communicated to us as the standard definition of happiness and fulfilment.
Islam does not contradict that, and does not prohibit pure, halal love; however it calls for love and devotion to the divine first and foremost, to Allah SWT. So I am not inviting you to abandon this thought, but to at least understand where did this feeling come from, and then step out of it and don’t let these thoughts affect your faith and your current feelings and emotions
Now in the hereafter, we go through a lot of cleansing and purification, the major part of it is removing grudges and hatred from the hearts as in the Ayah:
لَا يَمَسُّهُمْ فِيهَا نَصَبٌ وَمَا هُم مِّنْهَا بِمُخْرَجِينَ – 15:48
And We will remove whatever is in their breasts of resentment, [so they will be] brothers, on thrones facing each other.
No fatigue will touch them therein, nor from it will they ever be removed.
Now the action item out of this discussion: you need to be firm with yourself and with the negative thoughts that are conquering you:
Instead of worrying what is going to happen for me there, why don’t you worry about HOW TO GET THERE in the first place?
Instead of being stuck with feelings that you know are a product of your cultural background and raising (not only you but probably all of us), why don’t you base your feelings on education based on revelation and the Quran, once again your quest and what you’re craving for is NOT HARAM! It is Ok to FEEL this way, but not get caught with it.
Allow me to give you an example: imagine someone who lived all of their lives in the desert, eating only two kinds of food and wearing certain type of dress, and basing their happiness and fulfilment on getting exactly these items on the menu. They get out of it, they travel to a different country where the life standards and the food is UNLIMITED! This person – due to his/her human nature – might demand the same food, same clothing because this is how they are conditioned to have fun or enjoy themselves. But we know from this simplistic example that it is wrong to think this way! Get out of your worldly pleasures and welcome to the real world! To JENNAH!
We are males and females in this worldly life, but in JENNAH we will be human souls, who are connected only to GOD! We love him and we seek His Pleasure. We look at him face to face with no veils and this is the ultimate pleasure in paradise! We listen to HIM directly reciting the Quran to us, and praising us and be proud of us to his angels … We will be free from our limited definitions of happiness in this world
Now turning to the classical Islamic answer to your question:
In Jennah a believing woman will be the queen of the palace, whereas the houris will be servants. They will NEVER be the same as a believing woman; they are creatures that are meant to serve the believers (both men and women), just like angels. They did not go through the test of freedom of choice, and hence cannot be equated with believers like yourself who worked hard to deserve Jennah.
Please note that – again – I didn’t aim at belittling your feelings in the email above, but to zoom out of our human nature and look at the big picture.
I ask Allah to enlighten your heart and refresh your soul with His Love, and to make you aim for His attention, His pleasure, and His serve alone… I ask Allah to put down all the doubts from your mind and to replace you with strong conviction and submission (Islam=Submission) to His Deen
Also let me know if my email made sense or if you have more questions