A Description of the Ultimate Reward in Islam
Our human nature is one that acts based on pain and pleasure. Everything we do is either to avoid some kind of pain or attain a pleasure. Knowing this, God has encouraged humans to make the right decisions with the promise that we will be rewarded for them. Throughout the entire Qurʾān, there is a complete balance between the mention of paradise and hell. Each time one is mentioned, the other is mentioned alongside. This article will provide a description of paradise as it is found in the Qurʾān and statements of the Prophet peace be upon him.
The Unveiling of Paradise
When there is a new product that is about to be revealed there is usually a hype that accompanies it. People talk about it, imagine what it might be, and speculate about all of its potential features. However, once it is revealed, people are often disappointed and their initial hype and excitement wither away. They move to the next thing seeking to find that happiness. Paradise is full of surprises, but the surprises of paradise do not disappoint because the one giving the gift and unveiling its pleasures is none other than God Himself.
Paradise: Beyond Our Imagination
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: Allah has said: I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no heart has conceived (Tirmidhi). The Qurʾān also states No person knows what is kept hidden for them of delights of the eye as a reward for what they used to do (Qurʾān 32:17). The pleasures of paradise are so great and pure that no heart or mind has even thought of them. The billions of humans who walked this earth each had an imagination, wishes, creativity, and desire. However, there is not a single person who has merely imagined anything similar to what is in paradise. There are things that the eye and ear have never seen.
Think of this, if someone were blind, there is no possible way to accurately describe what color is. They simply have nothing to compare it to. Similarly, there are things in paradise that we are yet to experience and have nothing to reference them to in this world. They may be colors, sounds, food, homes, entertainment or anything else. This is why, despite the Qurʾān being full of descriptions of paradise, the Prophet peace be upon him noted that what we do not know about paradise is much greater than what we know: Never mind what God has told you; what He has not told you is even greater (Muslim).
The Ultimate Pleasure
Although the Qurʾān attempts to describe paradise, the reality is that it is beyond imagination. All descriptions of it are merely meant to provide an idea of what it might be like. The Qurʾān describes paradise as being the opposite of this world. The nature of paradise is that it is completely different than this world in terms of its pleasure, length, and purpose. And if you looked around, you would see ˹indescribable˺ bliss and a vast kingdom (Qurʾān 76:20). The Prophet peace be upon him was asked about the buildings of paradise and he said: Bricks of gold and silver, and mortar of fragrant musk, pebbles of pearl and sapphire, and soil of saffron. Whoever enters it is filled with joy and will never feel miserable; he will live there forever and never die; their clothes will never wear out and their youth will never fade. (Tirmidhi).
Painless Pleasure in Paradise
The pleasures of this world are always accompanied by some kind of pain or discomfort. For instance, if one wants to go on vacation, there is the discomfort of travelling, the pain of spending money, and also the pain that one feels when they return back to their day to day life. If one wants to enjoy food, there is the pain and discomfort of digesting it. The wine of this world results in both pleasure and pain. However, the Qurʾān describes its pleasures as being free of any harm or pain. For instance the wine of paradise only contains the pleasure and removes the pain of headache and intoxication that is associated with the wine of this world:
There will be circulated among them a cup [of wine] from a flowing spring. White and delicious to the drinkers. No bad effect is there in it, nor from it will they be intoxicated (Qurʾān 37: 45-47).
Crystal-white, delicious to those who drink (thereof), free from intoxication, nor will they suffer intoxication therefrom (Qurʾān 37:46-47)
The drinks of paradise also never go bad or become distasteful and the spouses of paradise are pure, free of any ill looks, odor, or behavior:
The description of the Paradise promised to the righteous is that in it are rivers of fresh water, rivers of milk that never changes in taste, rivers of wine delicious to drink, and rivers of pure honey. There they will ˹also˺ have all kinds of fruit, and forgiveness from their Lord. ˹Can they be˺ like those who will stay in the Fire forever, left to drink boiling water that will tear apart their insides? (Qurʾān 47:15)
Give good news to those who believe and do good that they will have Gardens under which rivers flow. Whenever provided with fruit, they will say, “This is what we were given before,” for they will be served fruit that looks similar ˹but tastes different˺. They will have pure spouses, and they will be there forever (Qurʾān 2:25).
The Prophet peace be upon him was asked how people relieve themselves in the hereafter. He responded:
They relieve themselves by perspiring through their skins, and its fragrance will be that of musk, and all stomachs will have become lean (Ibn Hibban).
In paradise, there is no sleep. Sleep and fatigue are pains of this world:
In this world, even if one is on vacation or in a beautiful environment, that could be ruined by physical tiredness, sadness, or stress of the mind. People in paradise will never get tired or stressed. The Prophet peace be upon him said: Sleep is the brother of death; the people of Paradise will not sleep (Silsilat al-Hadith as-Saheehah) Describing paradise, the Qurʾān states:
And they will say, “Praise be to Allah, Who has kept away from us all ˹causes of˺ sorrow. Our Lord is indeed All-Forgiving, Most Appreciative. He who has settled us in the home of duration out of His bounty. There touches us not in it any fatigue, and there touches us not in it weariness [of mind] (Qurʾān 35: 34-35).