I realize that talking about religion is often considered a third rail in the public discourse in this country.  The following essay is a dispassionate view of the Muslim belief that martyrs, such as those blowing up dozens of their fellow citizens, both Muslims and Christians, will go directly to Paradise.  I am not an expert on heavenly rewards that accrue to Christians and Muslims, but I assume that the Muslim Paradise is a lovely place.  It is made more so by the promise of the Ayatollahs and the imams that martyrs will be rewarded by an entitlement to varying numbers of virgins.  The number of virgins seems to range from 20 in one case to as many as 100 in another case.
I am not a Muslim, so I do not know how to pick the best deal on entering Paradise.  But several questions occur to me.  For example, where is Paradise located?  Is it adjacent to the Christian heaven?  Is it located high up in the sky and, if so, what are we going to do about the lack of oxygen and cold temperatures that occur at high altitudes?  The next question would have to do with whether my bodily remains will be transported to Paradise.  Otherwise, how can I walk around Paradise and enjoy the company of the many virgins who will accompany me?  Until the Ayatollahs find it in their hearts to answer such innocent questions as these, I believe that I will continue to withhold my membership from their mosques.
Does it strike anyone as peculiar that martyrs are always male figures?  Even the Catholic Church has admitted female nuns to sainthood.  But from what I have read – and I do not read Arabic – it seems that Paradise is reserved for males.  The only females who have ever been mentioned in my presence have been the virgins.  This would suggest that the male domination here on earth would continue when Paradise has been achieved.
Now a particularly vexing question occurs when a prospective martyr is told that he will receive somewhere between 20 and 100 virgins.  The question has to be, “What in the world is he supposed to do with them?”  Is he supposed to hold hands?  Is he supposed to neck with them?  Is he supposed to make love with them?  According to the Koran or whatever the Muslims read those questions are left unaddressed.  If the virgins are supplied for the sole purpose of gazing at them, it would suggest that most martyrs would consider it a bad deal.  So until we know what a martyr is supposed to do with the virgins, I again will withhold my judgment.
Now it has always been assumed that the virgins who welcome the martyrs to Paradise are young.  But clearly that is absolutely not the case.  I have not done extensive research on this subject, but I assume that there are Muslim virgins in their 50s and 60s and some are even on Social Security.  Who gets to assign the virgins to the martyrs?  Does the martyr get to pick them out?  Let us say that a martyr is attracted to skinny women.  If such a virgin were assigned to a martyr who preferred fat virgins, could he reject her?  The same would apply to hefty women who might be bigger than the martyr himself.  So the point here is that in assigning virgins to the martyr, it does not follow that all of them will be young women, or thin women or fat women.
Now let us consider some practical matters about the virgins and martyrs.  If on the average there are 50 virgins supplied to the martyrs, the question is, who is supposed to keep peace among them.  Jealousies inevitably arise between women and their male counterparts as well. But I suppose that before long the martyr will soon become disgusted by the catfights that take place among his assigned virgins.  And what are we going to do with taking turns?  One of the sources of irritation would have to be that if the martyr, for example, showed some preference for one virgin over another.  Supposing he liked to hold hands or even neck with his virgin, this might become a scandal among the other virgins in the harem.
There is one thought that intrudes here.  Are we always to assume that every virgin is a Muslim?  Suppose a Christian or Jewish woman were included in the virgins assigned to the martyr.  Do you believe that if the martyr made love to such a virgin he would be committing a grave sin?  I do not know the answers to such ponderous questions as this, but it seems to me that the arrangement in Paradise is a lot like it is on this earth.  Here women are expected to provide meals and, I suppose, sexual service to the observant Muslims.  But in Paradise it would seem that much the same deal would apply with the exception that most of the residents of Paradise seem to be male martyrs.  Do you suspect that there may be some homosexuality taking place?  I can’t answer that question, but as a non-believer I try not to get mixed up in religious affairs.
Now another question comes into view.  When the martyr straps his suicide belt of explosives around his chest, and when he reaches the prescribed target, he will blow himself to smithereens.  I know a little bit about explosives and I can tell you that anyone in the vicinity of a large  explosive will be lost forever.  There is no better way to describe what happens than to say, being blown to smithereens.  If the martyr cannot enjoy the earthly existence as a man with two legs and two arms etc., and he is blown to smithereens, what is there left in Paradise for the virgins to claim as their own?  Beyond that, if it is contended that it is not the body that assumes residence in Paradise, one must assume that when the explosives go off in the belt worn by the martyr and destroy his body, he must also suffer the loss of his soul or whatever the Muslims call the inner self.
I am not ready for martyrdom either as a Muslim or as a member of any other religion.  Until all of these questions are answered, I would prefer for the imams and Ayatollahs who espouse sermons on Fridays in their mosques to retire until they have answers to my questions.
And what are we going to do about a virgin who tells the heroic martyr, “Not tonight, dear.”  Does that give him license to call on another virgin?  Or should the martyr sulk?  As a libertarian I continue to be troubled by the discrimination toward female martyrs of the Muslim sect.  What is their reward?  Do you think that in all of the Muslim lands, there are male virgins that can be collected in Paradise for distribution to female martyrs?  And, finally, I know that there are contentions that homosexuality does not exist in Muslim countries.  Don’t you believe it!
That brings up the question, “What is the reward for a gay or a lesbian martyr?”  Would the lesbians have some priority in picking virgins?  These are troubling questions for a non-Muslim infidel to master.  There is one other question having to do with celibacy.  If a celibate male ascended to Paradise, he would be assigned 50 to 75 virgins.  Would he be run out of Paradise because he rejected the use of the virgins?
Before this essay finishes, I would like to ask preachers of Muslim thought, “What rational man believes that complete virginity is the ultimate achievement in life?”  I am aware of the celibacy rules that pertain in some religions but I still shake my head at the thought that any rational man would assume that virginity is the sole ultimate achievement of mankind.
I am dictating this on a cold Thursday, which of course is the day before the Muslim Sabbath.  Tomorrow I will not attend religious services at my nearby mosque even if there were a nearby mosque.  That should not be considered a slight to the Muslims because I do not attend services on the Christian Sabbath.  May I assure all of my readers that I have no intention of becoming a martyr even though the prospects are enticing.
But until the imams and Ayatollahs answer my questions, I will withhold my adherence to their beliefs and I will try to stick around this earth to see whether or not Hosni Mubarak finally discerns that the Egyptian people no longer want his services.
February 10, 2011
Essay 533
Kevin’s commentary: you know, I actually took 2 or 3 classes at Northwestern that touched on this, because middle eastern studies fell into the scope of my major. So I can shed some light! The Qur’an talks a couple times about these “companions” that are promised in addition to the spouses you get. Said companions are supposed to have really pretty eyes and be “ideal,” but that’s pretty much all you get. The companions are gender neutral; women can make it to paradise just like men.
Now, once you get into Hadith, that’s when things start to get pretty messed up. Hadith, for the uninformed, are things that we’re pretty sure that the prophet Muhammad probably said something similar to, at some point.
You might think that it would be crazy to count on the godly reliability of literally any fucking thing that any person who knew Muhammad alleges that the guy said — not to a crowd, not in a temple, just a thing that he at one point told someone. But it’s okay! For the last fourteen hundred or so years there’s been a group of people who have wasted their lives attempting to trace the reliability of thousands and thousands of claims about hadith, much of which were recorded centuries after the death of the prophet. What this means is that if you were rich, or your cousin was related to Aisha, you could say shit like “in the market the other day, I asked Muhammad about the afterlife and he promised me that I would get to bone 70 translucent angel virgin chicks” and boom you have scripture. There are 4000 of these accepted hadith and they’re mostly comical.
(Sitenote: As if the scripture was any better… there are these amazing rules for, say, the mild penalties incurred if a man cheats on his wife, but if he cheats on his wife with the wife of the prophet then you’re supposed to die, etcetc. It’s like, if I was a six year old and someone told me that I got to be the boss, these were the types of “rules” I’d make up. Here’s how the rules work, and here’s how they apply to me.  But my point here is that Hadith are even more baseless and absurd than the rest of the religious texts because they’ve obviously been made up by people in the year 700 who needed the ultimate authority on their arguments to rule in their favor.)
So yeah, Hadith. They’re bonkers and conflict a lot because, as I’ve hopefully made clear, they’re even more horseshit than normal religious texts are, mainly because if you have two guys from pure, reliable bloodlines and one of them says “we got promised 50 virgins” and the other one is more creative and he goes “no we get 70 and also they’re angel virgins” then you basically have to roll with it. There’s a whole secondary corps of people who are, even now, wasting their time trying to mediate between this type of conflict. They take it super seriously. Like, still-put-you-to-death-in-2013-based-on-a-thing-that-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-said-that-someone-said-that-someone-said-that-Muhammad’s-brother-in-law’s-buddy’s-previous-dog’s-owner’s-nephew-heard-Muhammad-say serious.
Oh yeah the point of all this is that the Houris are almost entirely described in the Hadith, so you get gems like these, which have been lifted shamelessly from wikipedia:  “Houris 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.”
Also that “they will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their censers.”
This one’s probably my favorite though: “Houris do not want wives to annoy their husbands, since the houris will also be the wives of the husbands in the afterlife. “Mu’adh bin Jobal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘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.”
God’s word right there, if I’ve ever seen it.
I wish I could say I were making this up. I could write a whole second rant like this about suicide bombing’s permissibility (not permissible. You’re cool to die a martyr if you get overwhelmed by enemies and you blow yourself up to take some of them with you, but only if your life is 100% forfeit. If you just walk onto a bus of infidels and blow it up, you’re actually NOT in the clear. Who knew?) but it’s bedtime.
Oh PS, “Not tonight, dear” is grounds for divorce

, , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *