A Question on Bodily Pleasures in Jannah
By Mln. Yaqub Abdurrahman
My Christian friend asked me the following question: “Why will we have the same bodily desires of this world in Jannah if the body is created for this world?”
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
When Aḥmad b. Zayn al-Ḥabashī would commentate on the verse:
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً
“Our Lord! Give us good things in this world and good things in the next,”
he would elucidate that the good things being prayed for are on three levels. (1) The basic level pertains to one’s self (ar. martabat al-nafs). (2) Then, the second pertains to one’s inward spiritual reality (ar. martabat al-qalb). (3) And the third pertains to one’s intimate relationship with God (ar. martabat al-sirr).
Regarding this worldly life, praying for “ḥasanah” includes the first. This may be manifest in piously obtaining one’s material needs, like sustenance, a dwelling, a spouse, etc. As well, things like health and safety are included here. It also includes the second, which are things like God’s granting one success to perform righteous deeds, not falling into sin, regarding virtue as invaluable, and ascetically traversing through the world with reliance on God in one’s affairs. And it includes the third, which is having faithful conviction in God, possessing true love for Him, being content with Him, and yearning to leave this world for the perpetual abode of the Hereafter to meet Him.
Then, regarding our life in the Hereafter, praying for “ḥasanah” also includes the first, which are things like the maidens awaiting us in Heaven, the palaces that we will reside in, and the luxurious foods that are prepared for us there. It also includes the second, we will dwell amongst the righteous in Paradise in a state of felicity and bliss. Moreover, the third is prayed for, which is perhaps the ultimate: meeting our Lord. In Heaven, we shall experience the reality of this and witness Him; Glorified and Majestic is He.
We pray for these blessings throughout our short-lived terrestrial lives. With our earnest desire being to successfully complete the journey, at this point, we are at a waystation onwards to our actual destination. The good things we sincerely beseech our Lord to bestow upon us are multidimensional, going beyond the bodily realities of our nature into the spiritual part of our souls and our relationship with the Creator.
We experience these three levels here in the world and we shall in the next too. Bodily pleasures are a reality in Paradise, while they are not like what we experience in this world in all ways. Indeed, the coming reality of the Hereafter includes reward that will be experienced by both the body and the soul. And in some instances, that may be like our terrestrial experiences but also different.
For example, it comes in a narration that a man from the People of the Book came to the Prophet Muḥammad and asked him: ‘Is it true that you claim that those in Heaven will eat and drink?’ To which he replied: ‘Indeed, a man will be given the strength of a thousand men to eat, drink, and make love.’ The man said: ‘One who eats and drinks has to relieve himself.’ The Prophet said: ‘That need will be experienced through perspiration that comes out from one’s skin like the sweet fragrance of musk. The excretory part of one has ended.’
Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī mentioned that rejecting the resurrection of our bodies and their existence in the Hereafter is disbelief. In Islāmic theology, this is considered a necessary doctrine for one to believe in based on definitive scriptural evidence. We will eat, drink, etc., in Paradise. Rejecting this fact in tantamount to rejecting explicit verses of the Holy Qurʾān.
In Christianity, there is the concept of the “glorified body” that Man will assume. The body that we die in has, according to Christian hamartiology, been defiled by sin. Cornelius Lapide described being born into an “earthly” existence, Man’s terrestrial reality being an ancestral continuation of Adam’s animalistic life and sin. Then, he explained the “heavenly,” which includes Man’s assuming the qualities of the glorified body. Furthermore, Thomas Aquinas and others discussed the properties of the glorified body: (1) impassibility, (2) clarity, (3) subtlety, and (4) agility.
We acknowledge that there are differing approaches in Christian theology regarding the transitive nature of the guilt that is associated with the Fall. Augustine proposed that guilt extended to Adam’s progeny. Trends in Eastern Orthodoxy maintain that Adam was initially created to unify with God, eventually resulting in theosis. Then, Jesus was God who assumed a mortal existence, thereby making it possible for Man’s lineage to bifurcate into that reality: “The Second Adam.” Irenaeus’ soteriological theories regarding the Atonement and Recapitulation may be noted.
Aspects of the properties indicate to a similarity between men and that of Jesus who, according to Christian belief, is God incarnate in the flesh; and being fully human underlies the notion of being in the created image of God. “Jesus shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body […].” “Beloved, now are we the sons of God […].” The notion of God incarnate is disbelief according to us.
Perhaps this preconceived notion creates a misunderstanding on the reality of bodily pleasures in the Hereafter, as to a Christian it may seem at odds with divinity. Impassibility, for example, is seen as a divine trait. God is not subject to passions, to which we generally agree, while we disagree with divine qualities being embodied in humans, including the Prophets or anyone else.
We believe that Adam was infallible. And we believe that Jesus was an infallible prophet; and thus, he was human. He was like Adam and the rest of the prophets: a human being. Allāh says: “Verily, Jesus with God is similar to Adam, God created him from earth.”
God, through His infinite power and majesty, created both Adam and Jesus. He created Adam without a father or a mother. And He created Jesus without a father. Both are awesome events. The creation of Adam may be even more miraculous. He created Adam and then fashioned from him his wife Eve. He breathed life into Adam, and likewise into Jesus. Allāh said: “When your Lord said to the angles: ‘I am creating a man from earth. I have fashioned him and breathed into him from My soul….” And He said: “Verily, Jesus is God’s messenger and His word who was placed with Mary, with a soul given by God.”
Adam is a man and not deified. Likewise, Jesus is a man (ar. nāsūt) and not deified (ar. lāhūt). The nature of Jesus is like that of Adam and the other prophets as Allāh says: “The Messiah, son of Mary, is a messenger, and other messengers came before him.” Deification is not accepted in Islāmic theology. The Prophets are sent to call Man to God. And they are not like God in any way, not by way of essence nor attributes. “There is nothing similar to Him.” When we are resurrected and reach the Hereafter, we will experience the expansive gardens in Heaven. While we will also be there as created beings; fashioned by God, we are His handiwork; our nature shall never resemble Him. Never shall Man be God’s son(s), neither in life nor after death.
Additionally, God creating death, which some Christians view as the resultant consequence of Adam’s sin, may have predated the Fall. In a narration, it is mentioned that: “When God created Adam and his progeny, the angels said: ‘Our Lord, the world will not be spacious enough for them.’ God said: ‘I have created death.’ They replied: ‘That will be hard on them.’ He replied: ‘I have created a reason to hope.’”
Thus, death is a reality in our lives, one that is made by God, who also causes us to die. Experiencing death is one of the stages of our lives. The stages of man’s life are five. They are:
(1) God created Adam and placed Mankind into his loins. At this stage Man testified to God’s Oneness and Lordship. Allāh says: “And when your Lord took the Children of Adam from their loins and made them testify against themselves, He said: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ And they confirmed in unison: ‘Indeed!’” At this point, Adam’s progeny was in existence.
(2) Then, there is the period of our lives that spans from our birth to our death. In this span of time, the reality of our accountability to God is significant. We are duty-bound to follow His commands and avoid His prohibitions, which both reward and punishment are associated with. Heaven is prepared for those who comply and Hell for those who transgress.
Every Prophet who came reminded Man of his initial testification. They were sent, by God’s mercy, to remind us that we are created and to our Lord we shall return. The call to prayer is read into the ears of a newborn to awaken its soul to this reality: a strictly monotheistic realization that our Creator is One. Everyone who enters this world does so with the reality of the initial testification engrained in their nature. Then, however, the environment that Man experiences may shape or mold him into something else.
Nonetheless, the seeds of true faith are present in every heart. And every soul that comes into the world is naturally inclined to acknowledge this reality and profess true faith in God’s Oneness and Lordship. “There is no god except for Allāh.”
This terrestrial life may be divided into stages too: (a) infancy until pubescence, (b) youth, from pubescence until around the age of twenty-five, (c) middle-age, from around twenty-five to fifty, (d) the golden-years, from then until seventy, and (e) old-age, from then until death.
There is a significant milestone that occurs at the age of forty too. Many see this to be the point in one’s life where they must begin earnest preparations to continue their journey into the next. The saint ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Shaʿrānī said: “When one reaches forty, they should in every moment know that we are travelers headed onwards to the Hereafter. And our terrestrial existence is temporary. A single moment after forty equals a hundred years in one’s younger days.” It is also mentioned that Imām Shāfiʿī began carrying a walking stick at the age of forty. And when he was questioned as to why, he replied that it was to remind himself that he is merely a traveler in this world.
In a state of devotion and prayer, one proceeds to be released from the confined imprisonment of an earthly being and to enter Paradise’s expansive gardens. God promised to bestow on us things related to bodily pleasures in the Hereafter, He is merciful with us. We must strive to reach the next stages of our lives successfully. Our hearts must confirm our initial testification in a way that is fully absorbed in its reality; articulating this fact is imperative as we breath our last.
Reward in the Hereafter includes our wives from here being there, more beautiful than ever. And our favorite dish in this life will surely be nothing in comparison to what awaits us in the next. Moreover, the company of the righteous awaits. And moreover again, residing in proximity to the Divine Presence and witnessing our Lord are manifest realities and bounties that He bestows on his chosen servants. “Our Lord! Give us good things in this world and good things in the next.”
(3) Man has transitioned from his terrestrial life. One died and was placed in their grave. One remains in this situation until Resurrection. The grave has many realities associated with it. For the sake of brevity, we will not go into detail regarding them here. Generally, felicity or torment in the grave are indicative to the nature of one’s final state in the Hereafter. In fact, some refer to this stage in Man’s life as the Minor Judgment (ar. qiyāmah ṣughrā).
(4) Resurrection and Judgement Day until being rewarded with Paradise or punished with Hell is the fourth stage in our lives. This reality is vividly described in the Holy Qurʾān.
(5) The successful will enter Heaven and the unfortunate will be cast into Hell. This is the longest span of life that we shall live as neither place shall ever expire. Allāh says: “The transgressors are in Hell being punished forever.” May God guide us and protect us from Hell.
And our Lord said: “Give glad tidings to those who believed and did righteous deeds. They shall be given gardens with rivers flowing beneath…they will dwell therein forever.”
And He said: “Enter Paradise, you and your spouses…you shall have abundant fruit to eat.”
And He said: “The Garden of Eden that the All-Merciful promised…That is the Garden We have promised Our slaves, those who were pious.”
And He said: “They will enter the Garden of Eden…”
We mentioned the statement of the Prophet Muḥammad regarding drinking and eating. As well, he said: “It will be proclaimed in Paradise: ‘A time has come for you in which you will be forever healthy and never sick, you will live eternally and never die, and you will be vitalized through youth and never grow old. A time has come that you shall relax, enjoying complete comfort; never again will you suffer.’”
Our experiences in Paradise will be different than this world while our nature is still that of created beings. We shall never embody any divine quality nor shall we every resemble God in any way. Rewards associated with bodily pleasures in the Hereafter are a bounty He bestows on us for our faith and conviction in Him and the devotions we performed during the second stage of our lives. Allāh is merciful with His slaves.
 Qurʾān, 2:201.
 al-Fuyūḍāt al-Rabbāniyyah, 109.
 Musnad Aḥmad, #19269.
 Mafātīḥ al-Ghayb, 16:25.
 The Great Commentary, 7:395.
 Summa Contra Gentiles, 4:86.
 Mathew Hollen’s thesis, “Irenaeus of Lyons: A Defense of Recapitulation,” (George Fox University, 2015) is one place where some of his thought has been discussed.
 Philippians, 3:21.
 John, 3:2.
 Qurʾān, 3:59.
 Qurʾān, 38:71-72.
 Qurʾān, 4:171.
 Qurʾān, 5:75.
 Qurʾān, 42:11.
 Sharḥ al-Ṣudūr, 12; Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, #35222.
 See: ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAlawī al-Ḥaddād’s Sabīl al-Iddkār wa al-Iʿtibār bimā Yamurru bi-l-Insān wa Yanqaḍī lahu min al-Aʿmār. Also see: Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī’s al-Fatāwā al-Ḥadīthiyyah, 122.
 Qurʾān, 7:182.
 Sabīl al-Iddkār, 39.
 Qurʾān, 43:74.
 Qurʾān, 2:25.
 Qurʾān, 43:70-73.
 Qurʾān, 19:61-63.
 Qurʾān, 35:33-35.
 Musnad Aḥmad, #11905.