Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven vs Islam’s “Paradise”

In this article we will contrast both the respective afterlife of Christianity and Islam.

Comparing these two different versions of “paradise” is enough to relegate one version to an extension of man’s passions, and the other to the reality of God’s glorious kingdom, which will not be fully understood until one is assumed into it.

gardenofeden
A depiction of the Garden of Eden, where our confusion originates

“Paradise” According To Islam

One of the greatest differences in this regard is the Islamic teaching that men will have wives in paradise, or “Jannah, as it is called. “Enter the Garden, ye and your wives, to be made glad.” S. 43:70 Pickthall.

This stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ own words when He proclaimed; “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”, Matthew 22:30. It is understood that there will be no sex in Christ’s kingdom, as sex is not for pleasure but for procreation in the Christian world-view.

Islamic sources diverge here, this exchange is from Anas ibn Maalik:

“A believer in Paradise will be given the stamina to have sexual intercourse such-and-such [number of times].”

Anas said, “O Messenger of Allaah! [How] will he have the ability to do so?”

He replied:

“He will be given the stamina of one hundred [men].”

houris
Mohammed, flying over Paradise, looks at the houris (virgins) harvesting flowers and enjoying themselves. Persian, 15th century.

Zayd ibn Arqam narrated that the Muhammad said: “Nay, (I swear) by the One in whose Hand is my soul! Surely, one of them will have the stamina of a hundred men with regards to eating, drinking, desires, and sexual intercourse.” Similarly, Aboo Hurayrah recounts Muhammad as saying: “Yes, (I swear) by the One in whose Hand is my soul! Surely a man will approach one hundred virgins in a single afternoon!”

We will leave out some of the more lurid quotes, it suffices to say that the Islamic doctrine on sexuality in Jannah is almost unanimously accepted. Al-Waa’ith as-Salamaasee confirms this, saying: “Anyone who opposes any of these things [sexual intercourse in Paradise] has left Islam, due to his contradiction to the Qur’aan, the Sunnah, and scholarly consensus.”

Feasting and vast wealth are other joys of Jannah, in fact, any desire will be able to be gratified in great abundance. The dwellers of Jannah will have their own lands, often termed a “garden”, and they will enjoy the presence of Allah: Surah: 9. at-Tawbah: “72. Allah hath promised to believers men and women gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss in the Good Pleasure of Allah: that is the supreme felicity.”

This verse talks of rest, wealth, and luxurious living: Surah: 18. al-Kahf 31. “For them will be Gardens of Eternity; beneath them rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade; they will recline therein on raised thrones. How good the recompense! How beautiful a couch to recline on!” They will have: “rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine delicious to those who drink; and rivers of clarified honey (clear and pure) therein for them is every kind of fruit” Surah Muhammad, 47:15.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 the blessed Apostle Paul tells of a man who was “caught up” into the third heaven, he heard “words said that cannot and may not be spoken by any human being.” There are things in heaven too great to be spoken of on earth, this relegates worldly things to the world, and heavenly things to heaven.

Clearly we can see that “Jannah” and the Christian teaching are diametrically opposed, meaning one must be false. This difference in Christian and Islamic theology was articulated by St. Alphonsus when he declared: “The Mohammedan Paradise, is only fit for beasts; for filthy sensual pleasure is all the believer has to expect there.”

The Kingdom of God According To Christianity

“[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.” – Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.

The bible clearly states that the joys of heaven cannot be described, whereas the pleasures of Jannah are described in often too much detail. What the bible does state about heaven is how incomprehensible and holy it is:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

The beatific vision is what the blessed will receive in heaven; not orgies, feasting, or drinking. The beatific vision is “seeing God as He is”. This does not mean seeing him with our eyes, as God is pure spirit, it means knowing God completely in an intellectual “vision”. This means the blessed will know and understand God, they will be entirely fulfilled seeing clearly the perfection of God and the Holy Trinity, they will be in a state of total elation, supreme happiness, and will be engulfed in an unceasing torrent of God’s divine love.

Holy-Trinity.jpg
A depiction of The Most Holy Trinity

Saint Thomas Aquinas states the following concerning “seeing God”: “The intellect which is elevated by divine light in order to see God’s substance is much more perfected by this same light, so that it may understand all other objects that exist in the nature of things.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this statement in paragraph 1040, saying: “We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which [God’s] Providence led everything toward its final end.”

In paragraph 2548 the CCC states the following, “Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. “The promise [of seeing God] surpasses all beatitude…. In Scripture, to see is to possess…. Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.”

The blessed in heaven will be justly glorified (to various degrees) like Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, where His face “shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:2). Similarly, Jesus Himself states in Matthew 13:43 that “… the righteous will shine like the sun.”

The joy and brilliance of the Christian heaven cannot be remotely done justice with words, especially not by my words. It is enough to affirm that the happiness of the blessed in heaven will be absolute and everlasting, and of a spiritual and higher nature than worldly pleasure, which is much lower and can be understood on earth.

heavenart.jpg
A depiction of Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven

I will summarise with a quote from the Catholic encyclopedia on the “Supernatural character of heaven and the beatific vision”

“In heaven the just will see God by direct intuition, clearly and distinctly. Here on earth we have no immediate perception of God; we see Him but indirectly in the mirror of creation. We get our first and direct knowledge from creatures, and then, by reasoning from these, we ascend to a knowledge of God according to the imperfect likeness which creatures bear to their Creator. But in doing so we proceed to a large extent by way of negation, i.e., by removing from the Divine Being the imperfections proper to creatures. In heaven, however, no creature will stand between God and the soul. He himself will be the immediate object of its vision.”

To conclude…

The Christian heaven is spiritual in nature, the supreme happiness is from seeing God “as He is”, and entering into a loving union with The Most Holy Trinity, The Virgin Mary, and all the blessed. The Islamic heaven is more carnal in nature, pleasure seems to be emphasised more than spiritual joy. In Jannah, there is said to be freedom from disease, luxury, feasting, and indulgence of all human desires.

The Christian heaven is more difficult to grasp or explain, as worldly pleasure is superseded by the beatific vision and a spiritual joy of knowing God, which we cannot experience while we are alive on earth. Jannah however can be grasped quite readily by the human mind, the pleasures are entirely worldly, the only difference is that they are offered in greater abundance.

The Christian triumphs over his fleshy appetite… The Muslim’s fleshy appetite is heightened to a superhuman degree, to that of “one hundred men”.

Despite this sentiment; “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” being echoed in both Christian and Islamic teaching, we can see it applies to one heaven much more than it does the other.

In closing I ask, if a spirit of falsehood was to construct a religion with the hope of wooing men away from the truth; which version of heaven would said spirit choose?

 

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