I realised that I should have posted the two excerpts from Moghissi separately. There is connection between them but the flow was disconnected. Anyway, I am not particularly asking any questions here; merely explaining what I had meant to convey in the last post.
I understand that Muslims, especially women, have often not taken the concept of Huris very positively. Their concerns are more linked to jealousy. However, Moghissi, through Sabah, shows a more dangerous side of the belief in Huris.
In the comments to the last post, we saw a few different reactions. The most common reaction is that Huris are a metaphor. Certainly if you compare translations of the Quran they are seen as metaphorical from the beginning of the 20th century. Mohammad Asad believes they are the earthly spouses, ‘revirginated’ and raised as Hoor al ain. I have often compared the Hoor al ain with the metaphorical woman in the Zoroastrian text of Arda Viraf. Read this from Chapter 4 of Arda Viraf, verses 18-25:
18. And there stood before him his own religion and his own deeds, in the graceful form of a damsel, as a beautiful appearance, that is, grown up in virtue; (19) with prominent breasts, that is, her breasts swelled downward, which is charming to the heart and soul; (20) whose form was as brilliant, as the sight of it was the more well-pleasing, the observation of it more desirable. 21. And the soul of the pious asked that damsel (22) thus: ‘Who art thou? and what person art thou? than whom, in the world of the living, any damsel more elegant, and of more beautiful body than thine, was never seen by me.’ 23. To him replied she who was his own religion and his own deeds, (24) thus: ‘I am thy actions, O youth of good thoughts, of good words, of good deeds, of good religion. (25) It is on account of thy will and actions that I am as great and good and sweet-scented and triumphant and undistressed as appears to thee.
Now read these passages from the Quran:
They will have maidens with large, lovely black and white eyes. Like pearls preserved in their shells. As reward for their deeds. (56:22-24)
We shall unite them to maidens with big black and white lovely eyes. (44:54)
They will have with them loving wives with big black and white eyes. Who are as chaste as sheltered eggs. (37:48-49)
There will be well-disciplined, beautiful maidens. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? Pure ones confined to the pavilions. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? Whom no man or Jinn before them has touched; Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? They will be reclining on plain green and beautifully printed carpets. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? (55:70-77)
Reclining on thrones set in lines, and We will unite them to large-eyed beautiful ones. (52:20)
Gardens and vineyards, and maidens with swelling breasts, of equal age, and a cup that is overflowing (78:32-34)
Arda Viraf categorically calls this voluptuous “damsel”, a believer’s religion personified. This is not so clear in the Quran; in fact it has been accepted literally for fourteen centuries. Moreover, at least in Surah Rahman, Hoor Al Ain are a promise of Allah for the believer with the rhetorical question – “Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?” To treat it as a mere metaphor or an illusion to allure men to do good deeds, (I can sympathize with the traditionalists), would be a deceptive promise.
However, why I quoted Moghissi is because she links the promise and belief in Huris with fundamentalism. She writes:
The promises made to the believer of the ‘good life’ awaiting him in Paradise, a space in which sexual indulgence with ‘eternally young’, ‘fair’ and ‘wide-eyed’ women seems to be man’s only activity, can, perhaps, expose what constituted ultimate happiness for the Muslim believer (Sabbah, 1988:91-7). Decoding Islamic Paradise, Fatna Sabah, suggests that the Paradisal female model, the huri, represents the ideal female and, at the same time, the ideal society for the Muslim believer. The huri ‘is created to be consumed as a sexual partner, her value comes from her physical beauty, which God gives as a gift to the believer’. She is passive and is stripped of the human dimension. ‘She has been created for one sole destiny: to be consumed by the male believer.’ Given the fact that religious instructions in Islamic societies are at the same time state legislation, this concept of sexuality has specific legal consequences for women.
While approving of sexual pleasure, the Islamic orthodox view develops, at the same time, a justification for sexual hierarchy, with women as sexual objects at the service of men.
I’m not concerned here with how Huris have been linked to jihad. I am more concerned with their effect on the lives of earthly women. They have become the ‘ideal female’ – passive and stripped of the human dimension. They teach women to be submissive, quiet, “well-disciplined”, like “well-guarded pearls” that no man has ever touched. Huris teach women to wait for the men, eagerly reclining on cushions. They teach women to desire youthfulness, full figures and big black eyes. This concept of sexuality also has effects on ‘legal consequences for women’ by creating a ‘sexual hierarchy, with women as sexual objects at the service of men.’
Even if Huris are only metaphorical (which I am certain they are), their effects on human females are very real and so we have books like The Ideal Muslimah (some poignant excerpts here) teaching women to be obedient, pleasing, respectful, pleasing, cheerful, secretive, obliging, eager, forgiving, and one who tries to look good.
The Huri is creating the need for Muslim feminism.