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Houris in paradise, riding camels. From a 15th-century Persian manuscript.

Houris[note 2] are women who will accompany faithful Muslim believers in Paradise.[1] Muslim scholars differ as to whether they refer to the believing women of this world or a separate creation, with the majority opting for the latter.[2]


In classical Arabic usage, the word r (Arabic: ?‎) is the plural of both ?a?war (Arabic: ‎) (masculine) and ?awr (Arabic: ?‎) (feminine)[3] which can be translated as "having eyes with an intense contrast of white and black".[4]

The word "houri" has entered several European languages from around the 17th and 18th centuries.


The houris are mentioned in several passages of the Quran, always in plural form. No specific number is ever given in the Quran for the number of houris accompanying each believer.

Quranic description

In the tafsirs and commentaries on the Quran, Houris are described as:

Meaning of the term kawa'ib

Several translators--like Arberry, Palmer, Rodwell and Sale--have translated the noun ka'ib in Quran 78:33 as "with swelling breasts".[35] Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that the word has been interpreted to refer to "fully developed" or "round breasts ... they meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins."[36] Similarly, the authoritative Arabic-English Lexicon of Edward William Lane defines the word ka'ib as "A girl whose breasts are beginning to swell, or become prominent, or protuberant or having swelling, prominent, or protuberant, breasts."[37]

However, M. A. S. Abdel Haleem and others point out that the description here refers in classical usage to the young age rather than emphasizing the women's physical features.[38][39]

Others, such as Abdullah Yusuf Ali, translate ka'ib as "companions",[40] with Muhammad Asad interpreting the term as being allegorical.[41]

Hadith description

In the Hadith, Houris have been described as "transparent to the marrow of their bones",[42][43] "eternally young",[44] "hairless except the eyebrows and the head",[44] "pure"[43] and "beautiful".[43] Sunni hadith scholars also relate a number of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in which the houris are mentioned.

  • A narration related by Bukhari states that

    everyone will have two wives from the houris, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that) the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh.[45]

  • Another, reported by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri, relates that

    The first group to get into Paradise will be like the full moon during the night, and the one following this group will be like the most luminescent of the sky's shining stars shining stars in the sky; each man among them will have two spouses, the marrow of whose shanks will glimmer be visible from beneath the flesh--none will be without a spouse in Paradise.[46]

  • Tirmidhi reports

    Al-Hasan Al-Basri says that an old woman came to the messenger of God and asked, O Messenger of God make dua that God grants me entrance into Jannah. The Messenger of God replied, "O Mother, an old woman cannot enter Jannah." That woman started crying and began to leave. The Messenger of God said, "Say to the woman that one will not enter in a state of old age, but God will make all the women of Jannah young virgins. God Most High says, 'Lo! We have created them a (new) creation and made them virgins, lovers, equal in age.'"[47]

  • According to a report transmitted by Ibn Majah in his Sunan:

    A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: "Do not annoy him, may Allah ruin you. He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us."[48][49][50]

Reference to "72 virgins"

The Sunni hadith scholar Tirmidhi quotes the prophet Muhammad as having said:

The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy-two houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San'a.[51][52]

However, others object that the narration granting all men seventy-two wives has a weak chain of narrators.[53]

Another hadith, also in Jami` at-Tirmidhi and deemed "good and sound" (hasan sahih) gives this reward specifically for the martyr:

There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror, the crown of dignity is placed upon his head--and its gems are better than the world and what is in it--he is married to seventy-two wives among the wide-eyed houris (Ar. ? ) of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives.[54]

Sexual intercourse in Paradise

In the Quran, there is no overt mention of sexual intercourse in Paradise.[38] However, its existence has been reported in hadiths, tafsirs[55][56] and Islamic commentaries.[57][58][59][60]

Quranic commentators

Sunni sources mention that like all men and women of Paradise, the houris do not experience urination, defecation or menstruation.[61]

Ibn Kathir states that jinns will have female jinn companions in Paradise.[62]

Al-Qurtubi reconciled a hadith that stated that the majority of the inhabitants of Hell (Jahannam) would be women[further explanation needed] by suggesting that many of the women that will form the majority in Hell will be among the sinners that would stay there merely temporarily and would then be brought out of Hell into Paradise; thereafter the majority of the people of Paradise would be women.[63]

Gender and identity

It has traditionally been believed that the houris are beautiful women who are promised as a reward to believing men,[64] with numerous hadith and Quranic exegetes describing them as such.[65] In recent years, however, some have argued that the term r refers both to pure men and pure women (it being the plural term for both the masculine and feminine forms which refer to whiteness) and the belief that the term houris only refers to females who are in paradise is a misconception.[64]

The Quran uses feminine as well as gender-neutral adjectives to describe houris,[66][67][68][69] by describing them with the indefinite adjective , which some have taken to imply that certain passages are referring to both male and female companions.[70] In addition, the use of masculine pronouns for the houris' companions does not imply that this companionship is restricted to men, as the masculine form encompasses the female in classical and Quranic Arabic--thus functioning as an all-gender including default form--and is used in the Quran to address all humanity and all the believers in general.[71][72][73] [note 3]

In The Message of The Qur'an, Muhammad Asad describes the usage of the term r in the verses 44:54 & 56:22, arguing that "the noun r--rendered by me as 'companions pure'--is a plural of both a?w?r (masc.) and ?awr?' (fem.)... hence, the compound expression r n signifies, approximately, 'pure beings, most beautiful of eye'."[74][75]

Relation to earthly women

Regarding the eschatological status of this-worldly women vis-à-vis the houris, scholars have maintained that righteous women of this life are of a higher station than the houris.[2] Sunni theologian A?mad al-w? (d. 1825), in his commentary on Ahmad al-Dardir's work, states, "The sound position is that the women of this world will be seventy thousand times better than the dark-eyed maidens (r n)."[76] Mu?ammad ibn ?Umar Ba?raq (d.1524) mentions in his didactic primer for children that "Adamic women are better than the dark-eyed maidens due to their prayer, fasting, and devotions."[77]

Other authorities appear to indicate that houris themselves are the women of this world resurrected in new form, with Razi commenting that among the houris mentioned in the Quran will also be "[even] those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings".[78][79] Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari mentions that all righteous women, however old and decayed they may have been on earth, will be resurrected as virginal maidens and will, like their male counterparts, remain eternally young in paradise.[80]

Female equivalents

Some argue that while the term "houri" may refer to female companions, "this does not necessarily preclude the existence of handsome male companions for female believers".[81]

The absence of mention of particular companions for women has been attributed to the societal context of pre-Islamic Arabia, where references to female sexuality were considered to be inappropriate.[82][83]


Muhammad Asad believes that the references to houris and other depictions of paradise should be taken to be allegorical rather than literal, citing the "impossibility of man's really 'imagining' paradise". In support of this view he quotes Quran verse 32:17[84] and a hadith found in Bukhari and Muslim.[85]

Shi'ite philosopher Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai mentions that the most important fact of the description of the houris is that good deeds performed by believers are re-compensated by the houris, who are the physical manifestations of ideal forms that will not fade away over time and who will serve as faithful companions to those whom they accompany.[86]


Nerina Rustjomi has argued that the misuse of the term "houri" by Islamic terrorists has led Americans to have a skewed perception of the term and depict Islam as "a religion which is characterized by sensuality, violence, and irrationality".[87]

Alternatively, Annemarie Schimmel says that the Quranic description of the houris should be viewed in a context of love; "every pious man who lives according to God's order will enter Paradise where rivers of milk and honey flow in cool, fragrant gardens and virgin beloveds await home".[88]

See also


  1. ^ is also transliterated as riyyah or riyya; pronunciation: /?u:.'rij.ja/.
  2. ^ Pronounced ; from Arabic: ,?‎, romanizedriyy, r?ya,[note 1] adjectival and feminine singular formation from , plural of a?war ? or ?awr?' "having eyes with a marked contrast of black and white"
  3. ^ In these verses, God addresses the believers, male and female alike, and orders them to speak (masculine form) and listen (masculine form), using the grammatical masculine form although the addressed group includes females.


  1. ^ "Houri". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b Seyyed Hossein Nasr; Caner K. Dagli; Maria Massi Dakake; Joseph E.B. Lumbard; Mohammed Rustom, eds. (2015). The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-112586-7.
  3. ^ see Lane's Lexicon, p. 666 and Hans Wehr, p. 247
  4. ^ Wehr's Arabic-English Dictionary, 1960.
  5. ^ "Quran 36:55". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Y? S?n". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ "Quran 37:48". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir As-Saaffat". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ "Quran 38:52". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Saad". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ "Quran 44:54". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Ad-Dukhan". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ "Quran 52:20". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir At-Tur". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ http://www.quran4u.com/Tafsir%20Ibn%20Kathir/055%20Rahman.htm
  16. ^ "Quran 55:56". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  17. ^ al-Jalalayn. "TafsirAr-Rahman". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  18. ^ https://quran.com/55/56?translations=38,85,84,22,101,17,18,95
  19. ^ https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/55/58/
  20. ^ "Quran 55:72". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Ar-Rahman". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  22. ^ "Quran 55:74". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  23. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Ar-Rahman". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  24. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Ar-Rahman". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  25. ^ http://www.quran4u.com/Tafsir%20Ibn%20Kathir/056%20Waqiah.htm
  26. ^ "Quran 56:8". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Ar-Al-Waqi'a". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "Quran 56:22". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Al-Waqi'a". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  30. ^ "Quran 56:35". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  31. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Al-Waqi'a". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  32. ^ http://www.quran4u.com/Tafsir%20Ibn%20Kathir/078%20Naba.htm
  33. ^ "Quran 78:31". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 2020.
  34. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir An-Naba'". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  35. ^ Quran 78:33
  36. ^ Ibn Kathir. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 10 Surat At-Tagabun to the end of the Qur'an. pp. 333-334.
  37. ^ in Lane's lexicon.
  38. ^ a b Haleem, M.A.S. Abdel (2011). "Paradise in the Qur'an". Understanding the Qur'an: Themes and Style. I.B Tauris. pp. 235. ISBN 9781845117894.
  39. ^ "Do the words of Allah, 'And full-breasted maidens of equal age (wa kawaa'ib atraaban)' describe the breasts of al-hoor al-'iyn?". IslamQA. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 2020.
  40. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali: The Meanings of the Illustrious Qur'an, Alminar Books, Houston, TX, 1997
  41. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayah 38". The Message of The Qur'an. "As regards my rendering of kawa'ib as 'splendid companions', it is to be remembered that the term ... from which it is derived has many meanings ... one of these meanings is 'prominence', 'eminence' or 'glory' (Lisan al-Arab) ... If we bear in mind that the Qur'anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa'ib can have no other meaning than 'glorious [or splendid] beings'."
  42. ^ Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2.
  43. ^ a b c Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
  44. ^ a b Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, hadith: 5638
  45. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:476
  46. ^ Sahih Muslim, 40:6793
  47. ^ Shamaa-il Tirmidhi, Chapter 035, Hadith Number 006 (230)
  48. ^ Muadh bin Jabal. "Sunan Ibn Majah - The Chapters on Marriage". AHadith.com. Retrieved 2020.
  49. ^ "The Index of Islam".
  50. ^ "Book on the Etiquette of Marriage".
  51. ^ Volume IV, chapters on The Features of Heaven as described by the Messenger of Allah, chapter 21: About the Smallest Reward for the People of Heaven, hadith 2687
  52. ^ "Various Questions Answered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad". Living Islam.
  53. ^ Salahuddin Yusuf, Riyadhus Salihin, commentary on Nawawi, Chapter 372, Dar-us-Salam Publications (1999), ISBN 1-59144-053-X, ISBN 978-1-59144-053-6
  54. ^ "Hadith - The Book on Virtues of Jihad - Jami'at-Tirmidhi". Sunnah.com - Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad ( ? ? ? ).
  55. ^ Ibn Kathir, Tafsir ibn Kathir (Quranic Commentary), "The Reward of Those on the Right After", [Chapter (Surah) Al-Waqiah (That Which Must Come To Pass)(56):35-36], Dar-us-Salam Publications, 2000, ISBN 1591440203
  56. ^ "Will men in Paradise have intercourse with al-hoor aliyn?". IslamQA. 30 August 2000. Retrieved 2020.
  57. ^ Imam Muhammad Ibn Majah. "Volume 5:37 Book of Zuhd 4337". Muflihun.com. Retrieved 2020.
  58. ^ al-Jalalayn. "Tafsir Y? S?n". Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Retrieved 2020.
  59. ^ Bouhdiba, Abdelwahab (2008). Sexuality in Islam. Routledge. pp. 75-76. ISBN 9780415426008.
  60. ^ Abdul-Rahman, Muhammad Saed (2003). Islam: Questions and Answers: Basic Tenets of Faith: Belief (Part 2). MSA Publication Ltd. pp. 415-419. ISBN 1861790864.
  61. ^ Al Ghazzali, Ihya ?Ulum al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) Vol. 4
  62. ^ Ismail ibn Kathir (2000). "The Reward of Those on the Right After". Tafsir ibn Kathir.
  63. ^ at-Tadhkirah, al-Qurtubî, p. 475
  64. ^ a b "Are all 'houris' female?". Dawn.com. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 2019.
  65. ^ "Question 10053. Will men in Paradise have intercourse with al-hoor aliyn?". Islam Question and Answer. Retrieved 2020.
  66. ^ "Corpus Quran by the University of Leeds, Surah 56:22".
  67. ^ "Ibid Surah 52:20".
  68. ^ "Ibid Surah 55:72".
  69. ^ "Ibid Surah 56:23".
  70. ^ Asad, M. The Message of the Quran, Surah 56:22 [8]. The noun hur--rendered by me as companions pure--is a plural of both ahwar (masc.) and hawra' (fem.)
  71. ^ "Ibid Surah 2:104".
  72. ^ "Ibid Surah 2:93".
  73. ^ "Surah 2:172".
  74. ^ Ibid The Message of the Quran by M. Asad, Surah 56:22 note [8].
  75. ^ Ibid The Message of the Quran by M. Asad, Surah 44:54 note [30]. For the rendering of hur 'in as 'companions pure, most beautiful of eye', see surah {56}, notes [8] and [13]. It is to be noted that the noun zawj (lit., 'a pair' or - according to the context - 'one of a pair') applies to either of the two sexes, as does the transitive verb zawaja, 'he paired' or 'joined', i.e., one person with another.
  76. ^ al-w?, A?mad (1947) [composed 1813]. ?ashiyat ?Al? Shar? al-Khar?dat al-Bah?yah [An Annotative Commentary Upon "The Resplendent Pearl"]. Cairo: Ma?ba?at Muaf? al-B?b? al-?alab? wa Awl?duh. p. 67. ?: ? ? ? .
  77. ^ Bahraq al-Yaman?, Mu?ammad ibn ?Umar (1996) [composed 15th-16th century]. ?ilyat al-Ban?t wa'l-Ban?n wa Z?nat al-Duny? wa'l-D?n [The Splendour of Girls and Boys and the Adornment of This Life and the Next]. D?r al-w?. p. 129. ? .
  78. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayah 22". The Message of The Qur'an. Al-Hasan, quoted by Razi in his comments on 44:54.
  79. ^ Ismail ibn Kathir (2000). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah ayat 35-36". Tafsir ibn Kathir. The Reward of Those on the Right After.
  80. ^ Asad, M. (2003). "(Surah) 56 Al-Waqiah, ayat 35-36". The Message of The Qur'an.
  81. ^ Ansari, Zaynab (25 August 2011). "What Will Be the Reward of Women in Paradise?". SeekersGuidance. Retrieved 2020.
  82. ^ "Concerning The Hur al-'Ayn (Houris): Are the Hur al-'Ayn exclusively female?". Living Islam. Retrieved 2020.
  83. ^ "Does the Qur'an mention the bliss of the believing women in Paradise?". IslamQA. 12 September 2018. Retrieved 2020.
  84. ^ Quran 32:17
  85. ^ https://archive.org/stream/TheMessageOfTheQuran_20140419/55877864-54484011-Message-of-Quran-Muhammad-Asad-Islam-Translation_djvu.txt ""what is kept hidden for them [by way] of a joy of the eyes", i.e., of blissful delights, irrespective of whether seen, heard or felt. The expression "what is kept hidden for them" clearly alludes to the unknowable - and, therefore, only allegorically describable - quality of life in the hereafter. The impossibility of man's really "imagining" paradise has been summed up by the Prophet in the well-authenticated hadith; "God says: 'I have readied for My righteous servants what no eye has ever seen, and no ear has ever heard, and no heart of man has ever conceived'" (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah; also Tirmidhi). This hadith has always been regarded by the Companions as the Prophet's own comment on the above verse'(cf. Fath al-Bari VIII, 418 f.). "
  86. ^ Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, Tafsir al-Mizan
  87. ^ Campbell, Robert A. (2010). Women, War, & Hypocrites: Studying the Qur'an. Cape Breton University Press. ISBN 978-1-897009-53-6 (167-170)
  88. ^ Annemarie Schimmel, Islam: An Introduction, p. 13, "Muhammad"

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