According to the celebrated translation of the Qur'an by NJ Dawood , sura 56 verses 12- 39 promise that the rewards in Paradise for those who have earned Allah's grace and favour, will be as follows:
"They shall recline on jewelled couches face to face, and there shall wait on them immortal youths with bowls and ewers and a cup of purest wine (that will neither pain their heads nor take away their reason); with fruits of their own choice and flesh of fowls that they relish. And theirs shall be the dark-eyed houris, chaste as hidden pearls: a guerdon for their deeds... We created the houris and made them virgins, loving companions for those on the right hand..."Now whilst there is no actual mention in the Qur'an of the number of virgins allotted in Paradise to these faithful men who have served Allah, it is specifically stated that 72 virgins will be the "Smallest Reward for the People of Paradise" in Hadith 2687 of the collection of the sayings of Muhammad gathered by Al-Tirmidhi (died 892 CE) . The same hadith is also quoted by Ibn Kathir (died 1373 CE ) in his Tafsir (Qur'anic commentary) :
"The Prophet Muhammad was heard saying: 'The smallest reward for the people of paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a [Yemen]'."These two places were, respectively, a suburb of Damascus and Yemen, and they lie approximately 1,500 miles apart, which suggests that either Paradise is a very big place, or else that there are few inhabitants there, especially when one recollects that a dome of a width of 1,500 miles is merely "the smallest reward" for those who attain entrance to this imaginary place.
It is also notable that whilst the carnal and lustful desires of men of the faith are catered for, women are not accorded the same consideration - unless, of course, they are to take consolation by being penetrated by the eternal, rock-hard erection that men are promised according to the Qur'anic commentator Al-Suyuti (died 1505 ), who wrote:
"Each time we sleep with a houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected [to Paradise] never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one [ie Muslim] will marry seventy [note the discrepancy in numbers] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetising vaginas."Seems rather one-sided and, frankly, misogynistic to me, but then any religion that instructs a man to beat his wife with a stick when she does not please him undoubtedly is just that. As Sura 4:34 has it:
"Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great."Seems to me that Islam treats women as anything other than equal to men, whether on Earth or in "Heaven".
Maybe it is about time that Muslim women followed the example of their Christian counterparts whose loss of loss of "faith and piety" has been blamed for the steep decline in Christian worship, as it was those very freedoms from superstition and male-enforced control and domination which enabled women to take their rightful place in this world - as equals to men.