The Problem With The 72 Virgins Theory

I was thinking about this theory of Islamic martyrs receiving 72 virgins and it doesn’t seem to add up.  This doesn’t really have anything to do with Singapore, but I’m an American who previously served in the Army and spent time in the Middle East, so it’s an issue that I have some interest in.  Extremists are constantly attacking Americans both in the US and abroad using suicide bombing tactics, presumably with this concept of martyrdom and rewards in mind.

So, I did some research and this is what I found:

The theory itself  has no basis in the Koran.  It is instead based on a supposed saying of Muhammad, but Muslim scholars have agreed that the chain of referrers for the supposed saying is fairly weak and that one of the people in the chain is known to have produced unauthentic ‘sayings’ before.  That’s from Wikipedia, so it may not be 100% spot on, but the information is usually pretty reliable.

What Muhammad supposedly said was:

‘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.’ is also some debate that if this were in fact said, the current translation is a misinterpretation and that what was meant was white raisins, rather than 72 virgin maidens.  White raisins were considered a delicacy at the time.  Also, Margaret Nydell, who wrote Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times, stated that many mainstream Muslims view the 72 virgin theory the way many Christians view the idea of getting wings and a harp and walking on clouds in Heaven.  It’s just a bit of myth and fluff, not really what you experience.  Unfortunately, the idea is being twisted and used by extremists to turn young men to a path of violence.

From the perspective of people who are far more knowledgeable in the subject, the idea of getting 72 virgins after martyrdom is a fantasy, rather than a reality.  I have to agree.  I tried to rationalize the whole thing, if it were true, but I couldn’t see how it would work.

Let’s just say that there are indeed 72 virgins waiting for martyrs in Heaven.  Where do they come from? That’s the question that I couldn’t get past.

At first, I thought that perhaps these 72 virgins are unbelievers or sinners who are serving in this position for eternity as some sort of punishment for their Earthly deeds.  However, that doesn’t stand to reason.  How many virgins do you know who’ve committed sins grave enough to be sentenced to an eternity of bodily servitude?  Besides that, how could they be serving their sentence in Heaven?  If these 72 virgins are waiting in Heaven, then they too have to be believers, or how else could they be admitted to Heaven in the first place?  And if they were believers and they were admitted to Heaven then wouldn’t they be in a position of reward?  How many women out there believe a reward in Heaven to be spending an eternity servicing a man you’ve never met along with 71 other women?  And of you who say this might be appealing to you, how many are virgins?  It could be possible that these women would be created out of thin air for this very purpose, but what just creator would construct sentient life and then sentence it to an eternity of servitude?

Perhaps I’m mixing my beliefs into this but I just don’t see it as feasible.  If these 72 virgins are live souls then there’s no way they could find themselves in that position.  If they’re created for the purpose of slavery then it’s unjust, and that doesn’t fit the description of anyone’s higher power that I’m aware of.

Keep in mind that this post isn’t meant to tear down Islam as a religion.  How could it?  I don’t understand Islam well enough to launch that kind of argument against it.  This is just my attempt to tackle a theory with common sense, and the series of thoughts I had regarding it.  Perhaps there’s a way to rationalize the existence of these virgins, but I don’t see it.

Having reached the conclusion I did, I wonder how it is that people allow themselves to be tricked into throwing their lives away?

6 thoughts on “The Problem With The 72 Virgins Theory”

  1. Actually, these extremists will NOT be considered as martyrs cos wat they did is wrong. They only think they are martyrs cos their thinking of Islam is wrong. very difficult to explain..


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