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Reply to "Not a Sermon only a Thought"

ksazma posted:

Yes. Karma is a bitch and when you lie and is caught you are forever remembered not for the lie but for being a liar. In the future, don't be so lazy. Ascertain what people claim before pretending you actually read it.

I didn't lie about anything, I used what your teachers taught the young lads before the go off committing suicide. While dreams of celestial babes may motivate the impoverished Palestinian kids who blow themselves up on Israeli street corners, a number of the 9-11 terrorists were older and had known something of earthly delights.

Now to your question. The difficulty in determining what the quran has to say about virgins and such is establishing what the quran says, period. Translators vary widely in their rendering of the spare and often opaque text. For example, we find the following passage in a Web-based version of Islam's holy book: "Verily, for the Muttaqun or righteous, there will be a success paradise; gardens and grapeyards; and young full-breasted mature maidens of equal age; and a full cup of wine" (An-Naba 78:31-34). However, most other English translations, both online and in print, replace "full-breasted maidens" with some tame construction such as "companions." Inquiring further, we find that the Arabic word at issue is WakawaAAiba, which appears nowhere else in the quran. The French, less prudish in these matters, usually render it as something like des belles aux seins arrondis, "beautiful ones with rounded centers," so I think it's pretty clear what your prophet, or at least his stenographers, had in mind.

It's true ksazma that nothing in the quran specifically states that the faithful are allotted 72 virgins apiece. For this elaboration we turn to the hadith, traditional sayings traced with varying degrees of credibility to Muhammad. Hadith number 2,562 in the collection known as the Sunan al-Tirmidhi says, "The least reward for the people of Heaven is 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome of pearls, aquamarine and ruby."

A little hype from the marketing department, you may say. Fine. Let's return to the quran, your font of religious authority. Even if we leave out the racy detail and make allowances for metaphor, we're obliged to admit that Islamic heaven is a pretty rockin' place, with an emphasis on sensual pleasures. The provision of virgins in indeterminate quantities is alluded to at numerous points, and you know they're not just there to fluff the pillows. In fairness to your prophet, the physical quality usually attributed to the houris, as they're called, is "wide lovely eyes." The food, service, ambience, etc, are great. You're allowed to enjoy things the quran explicitly denies you on earth, such as alcohol, and you won't even get sick. "Wine delicious to those who drink it will neither dull their senses nor they will become drunk." Granted, the whole thing is skewed toward the male idea of a good time, a defect by no means confined to Islam. Were Muhammad to found a religion today, I'm confident that each female arrival in heaven would be assigned a comely stud who would provide pleasure and in addition hang the curtain rods the first time he was asked. Granted, also, the emphasis on virgins is a little weird. Think back on the first nights you've been party to. Was this your idea of great pleasure?) Still, you have to admit, heaven as Party Central sure beats the Christian idea of angels with harps.

Does this make Islamic cosmology "unsophisticated and juvenile"? Maybe. Oh, let's not be lame about this. Of course it does. But don't be too quick to judge. Christianity, after all, invented the idea of paradise in the first place. Looking at things from the point of view of a cynical materialist, which is the more outrageous proposition luring the proles with the promise of eternal life, or throwing 72 virgins into the bargain?

Have a great week dude.

Last edited by Keith

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