72 Virgins in Heaven??

One of the most outrageous claims in any religion is the teaching that “martyrs” who die in the service of God will have 72 virgins awaiting for them in heaven. Some of us only heard about this after 9-11, but it is a tool that has been used for many years to recruit suicide bombers to blow themselves up in Israel.

Let me be clear here: suicide is specifically forbidden in the Koran. But the Imams who recruit young people don’t think of them as “suicide bombers,” they use the word “martyrs” instead. And there is enough in the Koran to encourage someone to engage in the struggle for God (“jihad”) and die as a “martyr.”

Also, another clarification: the Koran actually does not give a number of virgins. The number 72 shows up in a “hadith,” which collects the sayings and doings of the prophet Mohammed, as recorded by some of his followers. And the promise of 72 virgins is for all the faithful Muslims, male, of course, not only “martyrs.”

When Jesus was asked about getting married in heaven, he said, “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Mark 12:25). The idea of a sensual heaven, is, therefore, foreign to the Christian Bible. Islam, however, if the translations we have are correct, unashamedly paints a picture of a paradise where sex served up in large doses and is designed to please the faithful, the male ones, of course.

Okay, there is a part of me that wishes that the Bible said something about sex in heaven. No, don’t get me wrong. Christians have a reputation of believing that sex is a “dirty” thing. If there was reference to sex in heaven, even if it were between angels, it would clear up that misunderstanding once and for all.

But indeed the Bible doesn’t say that, which does not make sex necessarily a bad thing, only an earthly thing. And I can think of many earthly things that are incredibly good but don’t rise to the level of earning a trip to heaven, like Brazilian barbecue, for example. Oh wait, maybe we will NOT be vegetarians in heaven. Didn’t Jesus eat fish AFTER the resurrection?

But I don’t have a good “spiritual” reason why the idea of sex in heaven is stupid. The main reason I can think of why this idea is so wrong is because it is so demeaning to women. Besides being married to his current wives, traditions says, when a Muslim man gets to paradise, he is met by 72 virgins. The women are there to serve the man, not the other way around. This appears to me more like an earthly brothel than a heavenly co-habitation. And that’s why I think the idea is stupid.

Ivanildo C. Trindade

P.S. For an interesting article on this, go here.