Rewards of Heaven
The Qur'an describes a beautiful and wonderful place that awaits those who believe in God and do righteous good deeds. It is a place of peace, with rivers and fruits, sweet smells, goblets of gold, and the shade of God Himself. The Qur'an warns that the reality of paradise exceeds the limits of our knowledge and comprehension. “No person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden in reserve for them, as a reward for their good deeds” (32:17). Muhammad also reported that God said, “I have prepared for My righteous slaves that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and has never crossed the mind of any human being.”
The Qur'an is clear that both men and women will dwell in the Garden. “God has promised to believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in Gardens everlasting. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of God; that is the supreme felicity” (Qur'an 9:72).
Peace in Paradise
The people of the Garden will be happy and peaceful. “The righteous will be amid gardens and fountains. Their greeting will be, ‘Enter here, in peace and security.’ And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury. They will be like brothers, joyfully facing each other on thrones [of dignity]. There, no sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they ever be asked to leave” (Qur'an 15:45–48).
The Qur'an also describes that they will experience pure joy and no sense of wickedness. “No frivolity will they hear therein, nor any mischief. Only the saying, ‘Peace! Peace!’” (Qur'an 56:25–26). “Verily the companions of the Garden shall that day have joy in all that they do. They and their associates will be in pleasant shade, reclining on couches of dignity. Every fruit will be there for them; they shall have whatever they call for. ‘Peace!’ — a word of salutation from a Lord Most Merciful” (Qur'an 36:55–58).
The greatest reward for those in the Garden will be the company and pleasure of God. Beyond the comfortable surroundings, people will feel peaceful joy in the presence of their Lord. Muhammad said, “Then the screen will be removed and they will look towards Him. By God, He will not give them a thing more beloved to them and more comforting to their eyes, than the gaze of Himself.” Heaven in Islam is not merely a physical reward; spiritual redemption is the highest goal.
The Levels of Paradise
The Qur'an indicates that some people will be higher (more respected and closer to God) than others. There will be different levels, and people will be assigned to these levels based on the strength of their faith and the purity of their hearts. “And those foremost (in faith) will be foremost (in the Hereafter). These will be those nearest to God, in Gardens of Bliss” (56:10–12).
The idea that there are seventy-two virgins awaiting each righteous man in Paradise is a misinterpretation of Islamic teaching. The Qur'an mentions “companions” for all believers, men and women. The Arabic word for “companions” (plural of houri) does not have a sexual connotation. Indeed, the Qur'an uses the same word to refer to the disciples of Jesus.
Muhammad once told his followers that the highest level of Paradise is reserved for those who sacrifice their lives for the sake of God, martyred for a righteous cause. A person who helps widows and the poor will be at the same level. “They will have the pleasure of occupying the highest dwellings in Paradise. Your Lord will smile at them, and whenever your Lord smiles upon any of His servants, that person will not be brought to account,” he said.