Paradise: Page 5

THE HIGHEST BLESSING: ALLAH'S GOOD PLEASURE

Allah has promised the men and women of the believers Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever, and fine dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. And Allah's good pleasure is even greater. That is the great victory. (Surat at-Tawba, 72)

Earlier, we looked at the dazzling blessings found in Paradise. The picture that emerges is one of letting people experience the greatest pleasures and delights of the five senses.

But the biggest blessing of all is Allah's good pleasure, and the joy and happiness a believer feels when he or she wins it. As one hadith also relates: "Allah would say to the inmates of Paradise: 'I shall cause My pleasure to alight upon you' " (Muslim). Moreover, being content with everything that Allah has given and offering Him continual thanksgiving brings a noble contentment. The Qur'an draws our attention to this, as follows:

Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is the Great Victory. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 119)

The most striking expression of what believers feel when they win Allah's good pleasure is that He will manifest Himself to them in a way that they can see Him. This is impossible in the world because, as the Qur'an says: "Eyesight cannot perceive Him" (Surat al-An'am, 10) But according to the Qur'an, in the next life and in a certain way Allah will manifest Himself to His believing servants. Only Allah knows how this will happen. But we are informed in the Qur'an that the believers' "faces that Day will be radiant, gazing at their Lord" (Surat al-Qiyama, 22-23) and "'Peace!' A word from a Merciful Lord" (Surah Ya sin, 58) will be heard. Believers will be "on seats of honor in the presence of an All-Powerful King" (Surat al-Qamar, 55).

In other words, the greatest possible blessing that believers can have is the deep sense of Allah's mercy and will. By winning His good pleasure, they experience a joy and a happiness that cannot be compared with any material blessing.

Actually, it is Allah's will that gives value to Paradise's other blessings. The same blessings may exist on Earth to a certain extent, but they have no meaning for believers as long as they surpass the limits Allah established.

Believers should think carefully about this extremely important point. The real thing that gives a blessing its value is something far beyond its intrinsic pleasure and delight, for its real value lies in the fact that Allah "granted" it. Believers who use the blessing and thank Allah for it feel that they have received Allah's gift; that the Lord loves, protects, and looks after them; and gives them a taste of His mercy. They take real joy from this.

A blessing is not an end; rather, it is a means to an end. As its purpose is to encourage men and women to offer greater thanksgiving to Allah, all of Paradise's blessings have only one goal: To lead believers to offer eternal thanksgiving to Allah. This is what gives them their value. In short, the blessings of Paradise are no more than a means whereby believers can approach Allah and attain the indescribable joy of winning His eternal friendship, love, and approval. This is why Allah's good pleasure is the greatest blessing of Paradise and far above all other material pleasures.

Let us consider one of Paradise's most striking blessings, one that is frequently mentioned in the Qur'an: beautiful women, who represent the height of the aesthetic idea. Just to be with them is a great blessing. The Qur'an describes the beauty of their faces, their skin, and even their bosoms. With these magnificent women, one of Allah's greatest material blessings - sexuality - can be experienced eternally in the most wonderful way. In the same manner, unmarried women will be married to young palace servants. This also is a free gift to them from Allah.

However, what makes these women so valuable is not merely their beauty, but the fact that they are known to be a gift from Allah. Indeed, the greatest pleasure that can be had is that which comes from receiving the love, closeness, grace, and benevolence of the Giver. No matter how valuable a gift may be, Allah's gift is more valuable for the pleasure it gives in being deemed worthy to be of the gifts of Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and in receiving it.

Accordingly, if they were not Allah's gifts, all blessings would lose their meaning for a believer. Prophet Yusuf's (as) great nobility orients a believer's moral sense in that direction. The Qur'an tells how the wife of an Egyptian governor, desired Yusuf (as) and even forced herself on him. We are told that Yusuf (as) found her attractive, but avoided this forbidden relationship due to Allah's sign to him. When she continued to press him, he preferred to go to prison rather than to commit adultery. He said: "My Lord, prison is preferable to me than what they call on me to do" (Surah Yusuf, 33).

The fact that he found the prison's extremely difficult conditions preferable to what the governor's wife wanted him to do shows the importance that a believer places upon Allah's good pleasure. To act in such a manner and to know that you have gained His approval is the most important thing in a believer's heart. If material blessings present themselves to a believer in a way that goes against Allah's good pleasure, they lose their value.

In Paradise, all material blessings are approved by Allah. He especially created beautiful women and gives them as a gift to believers. Houses, food, natural beauty, and everything else are blessings that Allah offers, and this is what makes them valuable.

Thus, the human heart can be satisfied only in Paradise, for it was created to serve Allah and takes pleasure only in His generously given gifts. In this world, it takes refuge in places that are reminiscent of Paradise; that is, in places whose blessings are used with thanks and in a way that gains Allah's good pleasure. This is why Paradise on Earth, the ideal long cherished by unbelievers and atheists, is impossible. If you were to take things in this world that resemble Paradise's material beauties and gather them in one place, they would have no meaning without Allah's approval. Moreover, He may also destroy the pleasure that might be derived from such material beauties.

In short, Paradise is a gift of Allah and is valuable only because of that. The people of Paradise experience eternal happiness and joy because "they are honored servants" (Surat an-Anbiya', 26).

The wisest word that can be spoken there is a word that praises Allah's mighty name: "Master of Majesty and Generosity" (Surat ar-Rahman, 78).


CONVERSATIONS IN PARADISE

They will say: "Praise be to Allah, Who has removed all sadness from us. Truly our Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Thankful: He Who has lodged us, out of His favor, in the Abode of Permanence, where no weariness or fatigue affects us." (Surah Fatir, 34-35)

The Qur'an contains detailed accounts of conversations among believers, to whom Allah has given an exalted position in Paradise. These conversations are important, because they provide a good example for believers in this life. The verses: "They will hear no idle talk in it, nor any call to sin. All that is said is: 'Peace! Peace!''' (Surat al-Waqi'a, 25-26) show the importance of avoiding empty talk. Elsewhere, the same point is expressed as:

They will hear no idle talk nor any lying there, as a recompensation from your Lord, a commensurate gift. (Surat an-Naba', 35-36)

Now, let us look at every word of wisdom in the conversations taking place in Paradise.

After giving their account, believers are sent to Paradise in groups. The gates of Paradise are opened for them, and they are greeted by the gatekeeper, who says to them:

"Peace be upon you! You have done well, so enter it timelessly, forever." (Surat az-Zumar, 73)

In another verse, it is said that angels who will come in to welcome them from every gate will say to them:

"Peace be upon you because of your steadfastness! How wonderful is the Ultimate Abode!" (Surat ar-Ra'd, 24)

Believers answer:

"Praise be to Allah, Who has fulfilled His promise to us and made us the inheritors of this land, letting us settle in the Garden wherever we want. How excellent is the wage of those who work!" (Surat az-Zumar, 74)

"Beforehand we used to live in fear among our families. But Allah was gracious to us and safeguarded us from the punishment of the searing wind. Beforehand we certainly used to call upon Him because He is the All-Good, the Most Merciful." (Surat at-Tur, 26-28)

"Praise be to Allah, Who has guided us to this! We would not have been guided had Allah not guided us. The Messengers of our Lord came with the Truth." (Surat al-A'raf, 43)

This verse continues:

It will be proclaimed to them: "This is your Garden, which you have inherited for what you did." (Surat al-A'raf, 43)

In another verse, the believers' thanksgiving in Paradise is described as:

Their call there is: "Glory be to You, O Allah!" Their greeting there is: "Peace!" The end of their call is: "Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds!" (Surah Yunus, 10)

Another verse says:

They will say: "Praise be to Allah, Who has removed all sadness from us. Truly our Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Thankful: He Who has lodged us, out of His favor, in the Abode of Permanence, where no weariness or fatigue affects us." (Surah Fatir, 34-35)

The conversation between believers in Paradise is related as follows:

They will turn to one another, asking each other [about their past lives]. One of them will say: "I used to have a friend who would say to me: 'Are you one of those who say that it is true, that after we have died and are turned to dust and bones, we will face a Reckoning?'"

[And] he will add: "Would you like to look [and see him]?"

So he will look down and see him in the midst of the Blazing Fire and say: "By Allah, you almost ruined me! If it were not for the blessing of my Lord, I would surely be [now] among those who are given over [to suffering]. But then [Omy friends in Paradise,] is it [really] so that we are not to die [again,] beyond our previous death and we shall never [again] be made to suffer? Truly this is the Great Victory!" (Surat as-Saffat, 50-60)

As we see from these verses, believers are aware that they have arrived at this final happy end only by Allah's merciful will. Their consciences are keen, and they remember the past. Perhaps their whole lives are shown to them in detail, where they see the members of their intimate circle trying to make them deviate from the right path. And they understand that if Allah had not protected them with His endless grace, they could have followed the wrong path. Believers who come to this awareness give thanks to Allah in Paradise, just as they did in the world.

The verses below tell about the words spoken between the people of Paradise and those in Hell, and give expression to the latter group's sorrow:

In Gardens they will ask the evildoers: "What caused you to enter Saqar [Hell]?"

They will say: "We were not among the prayerful, and we did not feed the poor. We plunged with those who plunged, and denied the Day of Judgment until the Certainty came to us." The intercession of those who intercede will not help them. (Surat al-Muddaththir, 40-48)

So, the people in Hell confess the evil that they did during their earthly lives, and understand that there is no escape from their new abode. Another such conversation is related in these verses:

The Companions of Paradise will call out to the Companions of Hell: "We have found that what our Lord promised us is true. Have you found that what your Lord promised you is true?" They will say: "Yes, we have!" Between them a herald will proclaim: "May the curse of Allah be upon the wrongdoers, those who bar access to the Way of Allah, desiring to make it crooked, and reject the hereafter." (Surat al-A'raf, 44-45)

The Companions of Hell will call out to the Companions of Paradise: "Throw down some water to us, or some of what Allah has given you as provision." They will say: "Allah has forbidden them to the disbelievers." (Surat al-A'raf, 50)

So, the suffering of those in Hell increases several fold. In addition to the many pains they endure, they can see the blessings of Paradise and speak with the people there. However, they cannot attain the blessings that those people enjoy, and it is too late to be sorry. This spiritual suffering is described in another verse:

On the Day when those who were unbelievers are exposed to the Fire, [it will be said to them]: "You dissipated the good things you had in your worldly life, and enjoyed yourself in it. So today you are being repaid with the punishment of humiliation for being arrogant in the earth without any right, and for being deviators." (Surat al-Ahqaf, 20)

So, disbelievers are imprisoned forever in Hell as a "reward" for the evil that they committed during their earthly lives. But believers have found their perfect happiness and salvation.



SOME SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT PARADISE

The verses depicting Paradise awake in the reader today the same sense of grandeur, quality, beauty, richness, bounteousness, well-being, and prosperity as they did 14 centuries ago. All of the values associated with Paradise have been desired by people of every period of history and of every social class. For example, the gold, silver, and precious jewels in Paradise, as described in the Qur'an, are even more in demand today than they were in the past.

The Qur'an also mentions that silk will be found in Paradise. Today, either as clothing or for decorative purposes, silk is preferred as a high quality material. At the same time, it is a symbol of wealth and grandeur. All of the precious things used to describe Paradise are far more valuable today than they were 1,400 years ago.

Again, the beautiful residences, palaces, and mansions mentioned in the Qur'an are luxurious places desired by everyone regardless of when they live. Today's villas and mansions are all of this category, and are marks of distinction, quality, and wealth.

Similarly, the thrones, couches, and cushions of Paradise form a part of the most comfortable and grand interior decoration. This kind of aesthetically beautiful furnishing is today displayed in the grandest of places.

Allah is the owner of all material things, and it belongs to His glory to find His beloved servants worthy of all of these beautiful things, both in this life and the next.

Does Paradise Contain Things Not Mentioned in the Qur'an?

The Qur'an describes Paradise through examples and comparisons taken from this world, for people can imagine something unknown only in terms of that which is known to them. However basic the description might be, it gives a certain idea. The Qur'an's detailed and subtle descriptions of Paradise's blessings show us that these blessings and beauties are superior to the best, most beautiful, and highest quality things to be found in this world.

The Qur'an describes Paradise by giving examples of the most desirable, high quality, and rarest things. For example, women with large dark eyes have a rare quality that gives them an extremely aesthetic and attractive appearance. Therefore, women in Paradise have large, dark gazelle-like eyes. This does not mean that no women there have green, blue, or brown eyes, but only serves to emphasize the excellent quality of Paradise and Allah's statement that the finest things here are much finer there. To give another example: The Qur'an says that every kind of fruit is present in Paradise. But, in various verses, bananas and figs are generally singled out more often as the preferred fruits. Of course, these fruits are two blessings chosen from the infinite abundance of all fruits in Paradise.

The announcement that everything desired by everyone exists in Paradise for their pleasure and to fulfill their hearts' desire is enough to express the idea that Paradise's blessings are infinite and far beyond human imagination. Everyone understands the Qur'an to the degree of his or her faith, intelligence, and sincerity. Thus disbelievers who read it with ill-intentions will understand the verses about Paradise according to their own sterile ideas. However, Paradise's superior beauty is evident to anyone who thinks about such verses with an open and intelligent awareness. Allah displays a perfect design even in the smallest details of this world; surely, it would be easy for Him to create far more excellent things than these.

Indifference

Some people are indifferent to Paradise, saying: "If it comes; fine. If it doesn't, that's fine too." However, in the afterlife there are only two possibilities: Paradise or Hell. There is no option to go to a place in between.

It is clear that someone who does not appreciate Paradise as is due, who does not long for or desire to attain it, is unworthy of it and will never be admitted to it. There is only one place for such a person to go: Hell. For this reason, being indifferent to Allah's greatest grace and gift to believers and not desiring to enter it, as well as persisting in this attitude is one of the clearest signs that he or she belongs among the people of Hell.

 

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