Salaam, I’m currently taking a religious class and this week’s topic is on Islam. A student asked the below question and I want to provide him with the correct answer. Please guide me to the correct answer. Thank you.
“I just have to ask out of curiosity and do not feel like you have to answer if you do not feel comfortable, but because you talk about Fundamentalism, and your religion more so than others is plastered all over the media for it, where does the idea that a man will have 72 virgins waiting for him in paradise if he becomes a martyr come from? I am not trying to offend in anyway I truly am curious.”
wa `alaykum salam,
It comes from an authentic hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him, Jesus, Moses and all Prophets blessings and peace).
Hadith means “saying.” Hadiths are the second source of the Shari`ah, the first being the Qur’an. The Qur’an is all-binding and unquestionable as a source for Muslims, but hadiths need verification and authentication, hence the need to specify, when one of them is cited, that it is “authentic.” The nine most authentic compilations of hadith in Islam are Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Muwatta’ Malik, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, and Sunan al-Darimi.
The hadith in question is found in Sunan al-Tirmidhi and Musnad Ahmad and states:
إِنَّ لِلشَّهِيدِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ سِتَّ خِصَالٍ – أَنْ يُغْفَرَ لَهُ فِي أَوَّلِ دَفْعَةٍ وَيُجَارَ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ وَيَأْمَنَ مِنَ الْفَزَعِ الأكْبَرِ وَيُوضَعَ عَلَى
رَأْسِهِ تَاجُ الْوَقَارِ الْيَاقُوتَةُ مِنْهُ خَيْرٌ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا وَيُزَوَّجَ اثْنَتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ زَوْجَةً مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ وَيُشَفَّعَ فِي سَبْعِينَ مِنْ أَقَارِبِهِ
which in English means:
“Truly the martyr is given by Allah Almighty six things: (i) forgiveness of sins from the first drop of his blood to be shed; (ii) protection from the torment of the grave; (iii) safety from the Greatest Fear [i.e. the Day of Judgment]; (iv) receiving the crown of veneration, a single sapphire of which is worth more than the whole world and its contents; (v) marriage to seventy-two of the wide-eyed virgins; (vi) intercession on behalf of seventy of his relatives.”
The number “seventy” in Arabic denotes “a great number.” The reason for the wives being 72 is 70+2, seventy (i.e. many) of the Houris of Paradise and two of the women of this world, and Allah knows best.
[As far as “who is considered a true martyr, deserving of this reward, and what constitutes true Jihad in the Way of God” please see “Jihad, Terrorism and Suicide Bombings: the Classical Islamic Perspective” at the Islamic Supreme Council of America website]
Hajj Gibril Haddad