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Houris in paradise, riding camels. From a 15th-century Persian manuscript.

In Islam, a houri (English plural houris, /ˈhʊəriz/; from Arabic: حُـورِيَّـة ,حُورِيّ, romanizedḥūriyy, ḥūrīya),[Note 1] is a maiden woman with beautiful eyes who is described as a reward for the faithful Muslim men in paradise.[2]

They are described to be of equal age with the men in paradise.

Since hadith states people will be aged 30-33 lunar years in heaven, this translates to 29-32 Gregorian solar years.

The term "houris" is used four times in the Quran,[1] where the houris are mentioned indirectly several other times, (sometimes as azwāj, lit. companions), and hadith provide a "great deal of later elaboration".[1] Muslim scholars differ as to whether they refer to the believing women of this world or a separate creation, with the majority opting for the latter.[3]

Houris have been said to have "captured the imagination of Muslims and non-Muslims alike".[1] In jihadist ideology, individuals who engage in "martyrdom operations" — in Western terms, suicide attacks — are incentivized with the promise of companionship with houris, whom they can take as wives.[4]


In classical Arabic usage, the word ḥūr (Arabic: حُور) is the plural of both ʾaḥwar (Arabic: أحْوَر) (masculine) and ḥawrāʾ (Arabic: حَوْراء) (feminine)[5] which can be translated as "having eyes with an intense contrast of white and black".[6]

The word "houri" has entered several European languages from around the 17th and 18th centuries.

Arthur Jeffery and other scholars suggests an Iranian origin for the term, proposing the origins of the word to be the Middle Persian hū̆rust 'well grown.'[7]


The houris are mentioned in several passages of the Quran, always in plural form. No specific number is ever given in the Quran for the number of houris accompanying each believer.

Quranic description

In the tafsirs and commentaries on the Quran, Houris are described as:

It is thought that the four verses specifically mentioning Houri were all "probably" 'revealed' at "the end of the first Meccan period".[35]

Hadith description

Details of descriptions of houri (or ḥūr), in hadith collections differ, but one summary (by Smith & Haddad) states:[1]

they are generally said to be composed of saffron from the feet to the knees, musk from the knees to the breast, amber from the breast to the neck, and camphor from the neck to the head.[36] Working often with multiples of seven, the traditionalists have described them as wearing seventy to 70,000 gowns, through which even the marrow of their bones can be seen because of the fineness of their flesh, reclining on seventy couches of red hyacinth encrusted with rubies and jewels, and the like. The ḥūr do not sleep, do not get pregnant, do not menstruate, spit, or blow their noses, and are never sick.[37]

In hadith, Houris have been described as "transparent to the marrow of their bones",[38][39] "eternally young",[40] "hairless except the eyebrows and the head",[40] "pure"[39] and "beautiful".[39] Sunni hadith scholars also relate a number of sayings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in which the houris are mentioned.


Meaning of the term kawa'ib

Verse Q.78:33 describes Houri with the noun ka'ib, translated as "with swelling breasts"[47] by several translators—like Arberry, Palmer, Rodwell and Sale—(it is also translated as "buxom" or "full bosomed").[48] At least two Islamic Fatwa sites ( and have attacked the use of these translations by those who "criticize the Quran",[49] or who "seek to make Islam appear to be a religion of sex and desire".[50]

Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that kawa'ib has been interpreted to refer to "fully developed" or "round breasts ... they meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins."[51] Similarly, the authoritative Arabic-English Lexicon of Edward William Lane defines the word ka'ib as "A girl whose breasts are beginning to swell, or become prominent, or protuberant or having swelling, prominent, or protuberant, breasts."[52][Note 2]

However, M. A. S. Abdel Haleem and others point out that the description here refers in classical usage to the young age rather than emphasizing the women's physical features.[53][54] Others, such as Abdullah Yusuf Ali, translate ka'ib as "companions",[55] with Muhammad Asad interpreting the term as being allegorical.[56]

Reference to "72 virgins"

"72 virgins" redirects here. For the novel by Boris Johnson, see Seventy-Two Virgins.

The Sunni hadith scholar Al-Tirmidhi quotes Muhammad as having said:

The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy-two houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San'a.[57][58]

However, others object that the narration granting all men seventy-two wives has a weak chain of narrators.[59]

Another hadith, also in Jamiʽ at-Tirmidhi and deemed "good and sound" (hasan sahih) gives this reward specifically for the martyr:

There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror, the crown of dignity is placed upon his head—and its gems are better than the world and what is in it—he is married to seventy-two wives among the wide-eyed houris (Ar. اثْنَتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ زَوْجَةً مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ) of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives.[60]

(This hadith is sometimes erroneously attributed to the Quran.)[61][62]

Sexual intercourse in Paradise

In the Quran, there is no overt mention of sexual intercourse in Paradise.[53] However, its existence has been reported in hadiths, tafsirs[63][64] and Islamic commentaries.[65][66][67][68]

Houri, age

The virgins of paradise "they will be of one age, thirty-three years old," according to Ibn Kathir, (as reported by Ad-Dahhak aka Ibn Abi Asim) based on his interpretation of the word Atrab (Arabic: أَتْرَابًا) in Q.56:37).[69][11]
However, another interpretation of Atrab (in Q.56:37 and also Q.78:33) by Muhammad Haleen, describes Houri "as being of similar age to their companions".[70] An Islamic Books pamphlet also states Houri will "have the same age as their husbands so that they can relate to each other better", but also adds that they will "never become old";[71] (Translations of Q.56:37 and Q.78:33 -- for example by Mustafa Khattab's the Clear Quran and by Pickthall -- often include the phrase "equal age" but don't specify what the houris are of equal age to.)
On the other hand, the houris were created "without the process of birth", according to a classical Sunni interpretation of Q.56:35 in Tafsir al-Jalalayn,[Note 3] so that the heavenly virgins have no birthday or age in the earthly sense.

Other sources, including a tafsir of Ibn Kathir, (see above) emphasize the purpose of the use of kawa'ib in verse Q.78:33 "is to highlight the woman’s youthfulness", though she is an adult, she "has reached the age when she begins to menstruate";[73] and that she is of the age of "young girls when their breasts are beginning to appear".[53] At least one person (M Faroof Malik) translates Arabic: قَـٰصِرَٰتُ ٱلطَّرْفِ in verse Q.55:56 as "bashful virgins".[74]

Quranic commentators

Sunni sources mention that like all men and women of Paradise, the houris do not experience urination, defecation or menstruation.[75]

Ibn Kathir states that jinns will have female jinn companions in Paradise.[76]


According to Smith and Haddad, if there is any generalization that can be made of "contemporary attitudes" toward the nature of the hereafter, including Houri, it is that it is "beyond human comprehension ... beyond time", that the Quran only "alluded to analogously".[77]

Imam Reza

According to 8th Shia Imam, Imam Reza, the heavenly spouses are created of dirt (Creation of life from clay) and saffron.[78]

Gender and identity

It has traditionally been believed that the houris are beautiful women who are promised as a reward to believing men,[79] with numerous hadith and Quranic exegetes describing them as such.[80] In recent years, however, some have argued that the term ḥūr refers both to pure men and pure women (it being the plural term for both the masculine and feminine forms which refer to whiteness) and the belief that the term houris only refers to females who are in paradise is a misconception.[79]

The Quran uses feminine as well as gender-neutral adjectives to describe houris,[81][82][83] by describing them with the indefinite adjective عِينٌ, which some have taken to imply that certain passages are referring to both male and female companions.[84] In addition, the use of masculine pronouns for the houris' companions does not imply that this companionship is restricted to men, as the masculine form encompasses the female in classical and Quranic Arabic—thus functioning as an all-gender including default form—and is used in the Quran to address all humanity and all the believers in general.[85][86][87] [Note 4]

In The Message of The Qur'an, Muhammad Asad describes the usage of the term ḥūr in the verses 44:54 & 56:22, arguing that "the noun ḥūr—rendered by me as 'companions pure'—is a plural of both aḥwār (masc.) and ḥawrā' (fem.)... hence, the compound expression ḥūr ʿīn signifies, approximately, 'pure beings, most beautiful of eye'."[88][89]

Annemarie Schimmel says that the Quranic description of the houris should be viewed in a context of love; "every pious man who lives according to God's order will enter Paradise where rivers of milk and honey flow in cool, fragrant gardens and virgin beloveds await home".[90]

Relation to earthly women

Regarding the eschatological status of this-worldly women vis-à-vis the houris, scholars have maintained that righteous women of this life are of a higher station than the houris.[3] Sunni theologian Aḥmad al-Ṣāwī (d. 1825), in his commentary on Ahmad al-Dardir's work, states, "The sound position is that the women of this world will be seventy thousand times better than the dark-eyed maidens (ḥūr ʿīn)."[91] Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar Baḥraq (d.1524) mentions in his didactic primer for children that "Adamic women are better than the dark-eyed maidens due to their prayer, fasting, and devotions."[92]

Other authorities appear to indicate that houris themselves are the women of this world resurrected in new form, with Razi commenting that among the houris mentioned in the Quran will also be "[even] those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings".[93][94] Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari mentions that all righteous women, however old and decayed they may have been on earth, will be resurrected as virginal maidens and will, like their male counterparts, remain eternally young in paradise.[95] Modernist scholar Muḥammad ʿAbduh states "the women of the Garden are the good believers [al-mu'mināt al-ṣalihāt] known in the Qur'an as al-ḥūr al-ʿayn, (although he also makes a distinction between earthly women and houri).[96]

Verses that are thought to refer to women from earth in paradise (Q.2:25, 3:15, and 4:57) talk of "purified companions" [azwāj muṭahhara], which distinguishes them from ḥūr, who are by definition "pure rather than purified".[35]


Muhammad Asad believes that the references to houris and other depictions of paradise should be taken to be allegorical rather than literal, citing the "impossibility of man's really 'imagining' paradise". In support of this view he quotes Quran verse 32:17[97] and a hadith found in Bukhari and Muslim.[98]

Shi'ite philosopher Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai mentions that the most important fact of the description of the houris is that good deeds performed by believers are re-compensated by the houris, who are the physical manifestations of ideal forms that will not fade away over time and who will serve as faithful companions to those whom they accompany.[99]

According to Islamic Scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi the houri is just an adjective used to describe beauty of women from this world, who would be given a new beautiful appearance in afterlife. [100]

Similarities to Zoroastrianism

The houri has been said to resemble afterlife figures in Zoroastrianism narratives:

The Zoroastrian text, Hadhoxt Nask, describes the fate of a soul after death. The soul of the righteous spends three nights near the corpse, and at the end of the third night, the soul sees its own religion (daena) in the form of a beautiful damsel, a lovely fifteen year-old virgin; thanks to good actions she has grown beautiful; they then ascend heaven together.[101]

"Syro-Aramaic" interpretation: grapes

In The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, a 2007 book by "Christoph Luxenberg" (pseudonym of unknown author), the promise of houris is interpreted to relate to pure white grapes or raisins, not virgins, reflecting contemporary expectations of life in Paradise in Syriac Christianity.

See also



  1. ^ حورية is also transliterated as ḥūriyyah or ḥūriyya; pronunciation: /ħuː.ˈrij.ja/. adjectival and feminine singular formation from حُـور, plural of aḥwar أحور or ḥawrā’ حوراء the complete name, al-ḥur al-ʿayn Arabic: ألحور ألعين "literally means having eyes with marked contrast of black and white"[1]
  2. ^ states: "{Kawaa‘ib} means round-breasted";[49] and translates Q.78:33 as “And young full-breasted (mature) maidens of equal age”[50]
  3. ^
    • "Indeed, We will have perfectly created their mates" (Q.56:35)
    can be interpreted as "Verily We have created them with an unmediated creation namely the wide-eyed houris We created them without the process of birth", according to a classical Sunni interpretation of the Quran, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, (translated by Feras Hamza)[72]
  4. ^ In these verses, God addresses the believers, male and female alike, and orders them to speak وَقُولُوا (masculine form) and listen وَاسْمَعُوا (masculine form), using the grammatical masculine form although the addressed group includes females.


  1. ^ a b c d e Smith & Haddad, Islamic Understanding, 1981: p.164
  2. ^ "Houri". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ a b Seyyed Hossein Nasr; Caner K. Dagli; Maria Massi Dakake; Joseph E.B. Lumbard; Mohammed Rustom, eds. (2015). The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-112586-7.
  4. ^ Romero, Juan (2022). "Rules of jihad". Terrorism: the Power and Weakness of Fear. Routledge Studies in Modern History. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-032-19806-4.
  5. ^ see Lane's Lexicon, p. 666 and Hans Wehr, p. 247
  6. ^ Wehr's Arabic-English Dictionary, 1960.
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  77. ^ Smith & Haddad, Islamic Understanding, 1981: p.167-8
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  88. ^ Ibid The Message of the Quran by M. Asad, Surah 56:22 note [8].
  89. ^ Ibid The Message of the Quran by M. Asad, Surah 44:54 note [30]. For the rendering of hur 'in as 'companions pure, most beautiful of eye', see surah {56}, notes [8] and [13]. It is to be noted that the noun zawj (lit., 'a pair' or – according to the context – 'one of a pair') applies to either of the two sexes, as does the transitive verb zawaja, 'he paired' or 'joined', i.e., one person with another.
  90. ^ Annemarie Schimmel, Islam: An Introduction, p. 13, "Muhammad"
  91. ^ al-Ṣāwī, Aḥmad (1947) [composed 1813]. Ḥashiyat ʿAlā Sharḥ al-Kharīdat al-Bahīyah [An Annotative Commentary Upon "The Resplendent Pearl"]. Cairo: Maṭbaʿat Muṣṭafā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī wa Awlāduh. p. 67. والصحيح: أنّ نساء الدنيا يكنّ أفضل من الحور العين بسبعين ألف ضعف.
  92. ^ Bahraq al-Yamanī, Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar (1996) [composed 15th-16th century]. Ḥilyat al-Banāt wa'l-Banīn wa Zīnat al-Dunyā wa'l-Dīn [The Splendour of Girls and Boys and the Adornment of This Life and the Next]. Dār al-Ḥāwī. p. 129. والنّساء الآدميّات أفضل من الحور العين بصلاتهنّ وصيامهنّ وعبادتهنّ.
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  96. ^ Smith & Haddad, Islamic Understanding, 1981: p.166
  97. ^ Quran 32:17
  98. ^ ""what is kept hidden for them [by way] of a joy of the eyes", i.e., of blissful delights, irrespective of whether seen, heard or felt. The expression "what is kept hidden for them" clearly alludes to the unknowable - and, therefore, only allegorically describable - quality of life in the hereafter. The impossibility of man's really "imagining" paradise has been summed up by the Prophet in the well-authenticated hadith; "God says: 'I have readied for My righteous servants what no eye has ever seen, and no ear has ever heard, and no heart of man has ever conceived'" (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah; also Tirmidhi). This hadith has always been regarded by the Companions as the Prophet's own comment on the above verse'(cf. Fath al-Bari VIII, 418 f.). "
  99. ^ Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, Tafsir al-Mizan
  100. ^ Response to 23 Questions - Part 53 - JANNAT Ki HOOR - Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, retrieved 2023-06-08
  101. ^ Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim, 1995: p.47