How many of us in recent years have heard that extremist terrorists, claiming to carry out their acts in the name of Muhammad (PBUH) or Islam, do so with the promise of a place in paradise surrounded by 72 virgins?
How many of us on hearing this, automatically assumed that the sources of this information are reliable, informed and correct?
If you had to guess, how many times do you think the phrase ’72 virgins’ appears in the Koran? Rather than guess, how many of us have read the Koran in order to get first hand knowledge of it’s contents?
Now, it’s not to say that reading the Koran is easy. It is not even to say that it is recommended for people who are not that way inclined.
The historian Thomas Carlyle considered Muhammad one of the world’s greatest heroes, yet even he called the Koran “as toilsome reading as I ever undertook, a wearisome, confused jumble.”
I suppose, like all religious texts, the act of reading them is not supposed to be comfortable. It is supposed to be tranformative. Enlightening even.
How can we quote (or misquote as the case may be) a book that we have never read?
How can we accept information from people who have not (and have no intention of) read the Koran? Even when you look at reviews on amazon you check to make sure the person has purchased the product before accepting their review. Why do we not treat the news we read and watch in the same way?
Back to the 72 virgins. How many times does it appear?
The answer in fact is zero. It does not appear. Just to be clear for anyone who may has misread. The promise of 72 virgins in paradise is not there.
The Koran does describe paradise of course.
36 times throughout the text it is defined as:
“gardens watered by running streams”
What a beautiful thought albeit not one you will hear via most news channels in the current climate.
A tourist in the Koran
As a non muslim, she is a self-identified “tourist” in the Islamic holy book. What she found when she did so was unexpected.
The Koran delivered grace, flexibility and mystery.
In this myth-debunking talk she discusses everything from the Koran’s description of paradise, 72 virgins and what the Koran really says about killing non-believers.
For anyone who has not read the Koran, this video is a perfect introduction into some of the major misconceptions of it’s teaching.
One of the most important messages from this talk regarding the Koran is as follows:
“Some of these verses are definite in meaning,” it says, “and others are ambiguous.” The perverse at heart will seek out the ambiguities, trying to create discord by pinning down meanings of their own. Only God knows the true meaning.
Do not allow those attempting to create discord to blur your view of any religion or faith. The cure for hate is not more hate. You cannot remove black by adding more black. Battle hate with love.