Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What is the Meaning of the 70 Virgins in Paradise?

What is the meaning of the 70 virgins in Paradise?

In chapter 55 of the Qur'an (Surah 55 "The Merciful") there is a passage about beautiful virgins in Paradise known as "huris":
"Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? Therein are those of modest gaze, whom neither man nor spirits will have touched before them. Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny?"
The number of these virgins is not provided in the Qur'an, but Islamic holy Traditions - Hadith - state that there will be 70 or 72 of them, or that every man will have 70 wives.

In the Book of Certitude, Baha'u'llah explains that the Holy Books are written in two modes: One is clear and unveiled, and the other is "veiled and concealed" and according to Islamic tradition has 70 concealed meanings:
"It is evident unto thee that the Birds of Heaven and Doves of Eternity speak a twofold language. One language, the outward language, is devoid of allusions, is unconcealed and unveiled; that it may be a guiding lamp and a beaconing light whereby wayfarers may attain the heights of holiness, and seekers may advance into the realm of eternal reunion. Such are the unveiled traditions and the evident verses already mentioned. The other language is veiled and concealed. . . None apprehendeth the meaning of these utterances except them whose hearts are assured, whose souls have found favour with God, and whose minds are detached from all else but Him. In such utterances, the literal meaning, as generally understood by the people, is not what hath been intended. Thus it is recorded:  'Every knowledge hath seventy meanings, of which one only is known amongst the people. And when the Qá'im shall arise, He shall reveal unto men all that which remaineth.'"
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 254; compare Luke 8:9-10)
So here Baha'u'llah quotes a Muslim Tradition stating that the Word of God has 70 meanings. Earlier in this same Book, Baha'u'llah linked His explanations of the inner meanings enfolded within the Word of God, with the huris mentioned in the Qur'an:

"By God! however great Our desire to be brief, yet We feel We cannot restrain Our pen. Notwithstanding all that We have mentioned, how innumerable are the pearls which have remained unpierced in the shell of Our heart! How many the huris of inner meaning that are as yet concealed within the chambers of divine wisdom! None hath yet approached them; -- huris, 'whom no man nor spirit hath touched before.'"
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 70)
Similarly, in the Surih of the Temple, Baha'u'llah identifies the "huris" with the inner meanings of the Word of God, when He writes,
O Maid of inner meanings! Step out of the chamber of utterance by the leave of God, the Lord of the heavens and the earth.
(The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 13, paragraph 22)
The original word translated as "Maid" is "huriyya" which is synonymous with "huri." Therefore, it is my understanding that the 70 "virgins in Paradise" that are untouched by any man, are the 70 meanings in the Paradise of the Word of God not previously understood by any mind. Perhaps this is an example of Shoghi Effendi's statement that in the Book of Certitude, that Baha'u'llah unfolds the meaning of the "cryptic Muhammadan traditions" that have been misunderstood in the past.

Here are extracts from two more of Baha'u'llah's tablets which link the "Maids of Heaven" with the significances of the Word of God:

"O My servants! Through the might of God and His power, and out of the treasury of His knowledge and wisdom, I have brought forth and revealed unto you the pearls that lay concealed in the depths of His everlasting ocean. I have summoned the Maids of  Heaven to emerge from behind the veil of concealment, and have clothed them with these words of Mine -- words of consummate power and wisdom."
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah CLIII, p. 327)

"He is the All-Glorious. This is the garden of Paradise, wherein arise the anthems of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting; wherein ascend the soul-entrancing melodies warbled by the Nightingale of Eternity upon the twigs of the Divine Lote-Tree; wherein abide the Maids of Heaven whom none hath touched save God, the All-Glorious, the Most Holy; and wherein lieth enshrined that which draweth the needy to the shores of the ocean of true wealth and guideth the people to the Word of God."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablet of the Bell, Days of Remembrance, Tablet #26


  1. I couldn't find the quotes at this moment, but there is another very straight forward quote by Bahá'u'lláh where He calls this revealer of hidden meanings a feminine spirit. To me the very fact that a feminine spirit came to Him just as Gabriel came to Muhammad and the Dove came to Christ, supports the fact that Bahá'u'lláh came to unveil the hidden meanings of the Scriptures.

    1. I once heard a talk about various aspects of the Qur'an in light of Baha'u'llah's explanations. One perspective presented was that "houris" meant "untouched inner meanings"---NOT untouched "flesh and blood" women.
      The dangers of willy-nilly, indiscriminate literal interpretations leads to ridiculous conclusions that have disastrous consequences, as witnessed in much of the Muslim world today.
      Even among Jews and Christians, the consequences have been devastating---e.g. "Noah's Curse of Ham" and the subsequent centuries of "racial theories".

    2. Well, there aren't any disastrous consequences with a literal interpretation of houris. As a Bahá'i, I'm saddened to say that the Bahá'i vision of paradise seems dull.

  2. "The original word translated as "Maid" is "huriyya" which is synonymous with "huri." Therefore, it is my understanding that the 70 "virgins in Paradise" that are untouched by any man, are the 70 meanings in the Paradise of the Word of God not previously understood by any mind."
    Doubt most people would reach that far. Nice try!

  3. No disastrous consequences with a literal interpretation of houris?? I would consider the suicide bombers rather disastrous consequences, no? Are they not motivated to be happy to die because of their mis-perceived notions of what awaits them in the next world?

  4. Thank you Brent, It had to have - and it has - a beautiful and elevated meaning which had been obscured by base & idle fancies made of clay.