AskDefine | Define houri

Dictionary Definition



1 a voluptuously beautiful young woman [syn: nymph]
2 (Islam) one of the dark-eyed virgins of perfect beauty believed to live with the blessed in Paradise

User Contributed Dictionary



From French houri, from Persian , from Arabic in ‘(women) with eyes like gazelles’.




  1. A nymph in the form of a beautiful virgin supposed to dwell in Paradise for the enjoyment of the faithful.
  2. Any voluptuous, beautiful woman.
    Jane Eyre: by Charlotte Brontë - 1850
    I would not exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk's whole seraglio, gazelle eyes, houri- forms and all!




Extensive Definition

In Islam, the ḥūr or ḥūrīyah () are described as "(splendid) companions of equal age (well-matched)", "lovely eyed", of "modest gaze", "voluptuous", "pure beings" or "companions pure" of paradise, denoting humans and jinn who enter paradise after being recreated anew in the hereafter. There are graphical descriptions of physical pleasures in heaven. Islam also has a strong mystical tradition which places these heavenly delights in the context of the ecstatic awareness of God.


The houri have variously been described as being "chaste females", "restraining their glances", "modest gaze", "wide and beautiful/lovely eyes", "like pearls", "virgins", "voluptuous/full-breasted", "companions of equal age", "non-menstruating/urinating/defecating and childfree", "60 cubits [27.5 meters] tall", "eternally young", "hairless except the eye brows and the head", "splendid" and much more besides.


Classical Arabic usage

According to classical Arabic usage in the time when the Qur'an was recited by Muhammad, Hur'in is made of two words Hur as well as In. The word 'Hur' is the plural of both Ahwar (Masculine) and Hawra (Feminine) which literally translates as "white-eyed", or persons distinguished by Hawar, signifying "intense whiteness of the eyeballs and lustrous black of the pupils." (ref: Qamus ), hence 'the purity' (ref: Tafsir al'Tabari, and Tafsir al-Razi in 3:52). And as for the phrase, "In it is the plural of both 'Ayan' (Masculine) and 'Ainao' (Feminine)", it was used to refer to the beautiful eyes of the wild-cow whose eyes are blond. In general, this word implies 'most beautiful eye' irrespective of the person's gender. Thus, the most appropriate English rendering of the compound word Hur'In will be: "Companions pure, most beautiful of eye." and it is applicable to both male and female.

European usage

The word "houri" has entered into several European languages (French - 1654, English1737) with a meaning of a "voluptuous, beautiful, alluring woman"

Corresponding Hebrew root

In Hebrew the corresponding adjective חיוור hiwer has the same root h-w-r, meaning "pale, whitish".

'Houri as Whore' misconception

The English word "whore" (German Hure, Danish hore, Swedish hora, Dutch hoer, Gothic hors, Proto-Germanic *hōrōn) stems from the Indo-European verb root *kā- "to love" (thus, the original meaning was "lover") and is not etymologically related to the Arab non-Indo-European word "houri"



The houri are mentioned in several places in the Qur’an, although in plural no specific number is given to the amount of houries available. Likewise it does not appear from the Qur’an that only girls should be available; both sexes are mentioned. And they are made available to all Muslims, not just martyrs.
"Thus shall it be. And We shall pair(zawajnahoom: pair them, marry them). Note zawj (lit., “a pair” or - according to the context - “one of a pair”) applies to either of the two sexes,a man to a woman and a woman to a man, as does the transitive verb zawaja, “he paired” or “joined”, i.e., one person with another)them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye."[Chapter (Surah) Ad-Dukhan (The Smoke)(44):54]
"In these [gardens] will be mates of modest gaze [qasirat at-tarf: Lit., “such as restrain their gaze”, i.e., are of modest bearing and have eyes only for their mates (Tafsir Razi).This phrase applies to both genders.], whom neither man nor invisible being will have touched ere then." [Chapter (Surah) Ar-Rahman (The Most Beneficent(55):56]
"[There the blest will live with their] companions pure and modest, in pavilions [splendid] [Chapter (Surah) Ar-Rahman (The Most Beneficent)(55):72]
"reclining on couches [of happiness] ranged in rows!” And [in that paradise] We shall mate them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye [Chapter (Surah) At-Tur (The Mount)(52):20]
Here are verses that refer to one’s spouse renewal to a pure state :
"And [with them will be their] spouses, raised high: for, behold, We shall have brought them into being in a life renewed, having resurrected them as virgins [Chapter (Surah) Al-Waqi'a (The Event)(56):34-36]
And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind [min anfusikum azwajan, Lit. “from among yourselves mates (spouses, one of the pair)”]''' so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! … And He it is who creates [all life] in the first instance, and then brings it forth anew: and most easy is this for Him, since His is the essence of all that is most sublime in the heavens and on earth, and He alone is almighty, truly wise. [Chapter (Surah) Ar-Rum (The Romans)(30):21…27]
There are also verses regarding both genders explicitly:
God has promised the believers, both men and women (Lit., waalmuminoona (male believers) waalmuminatu (female believers), gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual bliss: but God's goodly acceptance is the greatest [bliss of all] -for this, this is the triumph supreme! [Chapter (Surah) At-Taubah (The Repentance) (9):72]
As for anyone - be it man or woman [Lit., min (from) thakarin (male) aw (or) ontha (female)][16:97] - who does righteous deeds, and is a believer withal - him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life, and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did. [Chapter (Surah) An-Nahl (The Bee) (16):97]
A verse regarding other companionship:
“And, O our Sustainer, bring them into the gardens of perpetual bliss which Thou hast promised them, together with the righteous from among their forebears, and their spouses, and their offspring - for, verily, Thou alone art almighty, truly wise [Chapter (Surah) Ghafir (The Forgiver)(40):8]


The Islamic traditions (hadith) also mention the houries.


Muhammad al-Bukhari (810 - 870) was a famous Sunni Islamic scholar most known for authoring the most authentic hadith collection named Sahih Bukhari
  • "[E]veryone will have two wives ([in a version of this hadith: waa li kul-li wa ahidin minhoom zawjataani = and to every single (everyone) among them zawjataani. The expression kulli wa hadin''-each one (everyone) includes both males and females. Note: the feminine ending -at(un) (feminine ta-marbuta, -ah in modern Arabic language) is also added to distinguish a person in an exemplary manner as in allamun = scholar, allamatun (-ah) = distinguished scholar [not "female scholar"], or as in rawin = narrator, rawiyatun(-ah) = narrator(of poems) [not "female narrator"]. These forms ending in -at(un) (modern -ah), as they designate the individual, are treated as masculines.][zawjatan: dual connotation (Classical Arabic Idiom - which can be used to refer to two different things calling them by the same name: two paired persons or things can be expressed by the dual of one of them (eg. abawaani [dual of aba (father)] = parents (father and mother, not "two fathers"; qamarani [dual of qamar (moon)] = sun and moon (not "two moons"); usage in "Qur'an in Surah Al-Furqan(25):53" bahrayn [dual of bahr (sea)] = sea "salty and bitter" and river "sweet and thirst-allaying" (not "two seas"); sometimes the word with the female gender is chosen to make the dual form, such as in the expression "the two Marwas", referring to the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwa (not "two hills, each called Al-Marwa") in Mecca;) ( (i.e. Husband - zawj and wife -zawjah can be referred as zawjatan in the dual form)] from the houris, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that) the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh." (Sahih Bukhari, Book 54 "The Beginning of Creation", Hadith 476)
  • ''"They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their centers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in statute), sixty cubits tall."(houris: inferred from Sahih Muslim, hadith 6795 through another chain of narration) and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise. (Sahih Muslim, Book 40 “Pertaining to Paradise, Its Description”, Hadith 6793)
  • Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported (the Prophet of Allah said): "I was shown Paradise and I saw the wife of Abu Talha (i. e. Umm Sulaim) and I heard the noise of steps before me and, lo, it was that of Bilal".


Al-Tirmidhi (824 - 892) was a medieval collector of hadiths, some deemed controversial and unreliable.
  • Al-Hasan Al-Basri says that an old woman came to the messenger of Allah and made a request, O’ Messenger of Allah make Dua that Allah grants me entrance into Jannah. The messenger of Allah replied, O’ Mother, an old woman cannot enter Jannah. That woman started crying and began to leave. The messenger of Allah said, Say to the woman that one will not enter in a state of old age, but Allah will make all the women of Jannah young virgins. Allah Ta’aala says, Lo! We have created them a (new) creation and made them virgins, lovers, equal in age. (Surah Waaqi’ah, 35-37).
  • ''"[Muhammad] was heard say: "The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy two wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from [Damascus] to San'a".(This hadith has a weak chain of narrators)
  • "A houri is a most beautiful young woman with a transparent body. The marrow of her bones is visible like the interior lines of pearls and rubies. She looks like red wine in a white glass. She is of white color, and free from the routine physical disabilities of an ordinary woman such as menstruation, menopause, urinal and offal discharge, child bearing and the related pollution. A houri is a girl of tender age, having large breasts which are round (pointed), and not inclined to dangle. Houris dwell in palaces of splendid surroundings."

Ibn Maja

Ibn Maja (824 - 887) was a medieval hadith collector, not all authentic. His collection is named the Sunan Ibn Maja.
  • "Houris do not want wives to annoy their husbands, since the houris will also be the wives of the husbands in the afterlife. "Mu’adh bin Jobal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: Do not annoy him, may Allah ruin you.” He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us."''


The sahaba were the companions of Muhammad.

Abu Huraira

Abu Huraira mentions houri between a dispute of if there were more women or men going to paradise.

Abu Ubayda

Abu Ubayda said that the recreated women of this life referring to
"We have created [their Companions] of special creation, and made them virgin-pure [and undefiled after their old age in this life] (Qur’an, Surah Al-Waqia(56):35-36)
were mentioned in the previous verse:
"And Hur (fair females) with wide lovely eyes. Like preserved pearls."(Qur'an, Surah Al-Waqia(56):22)
quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (Qur'anic Commentary) of Surah Waqia (56), ayah (verse) 35-36

Damrah bin Habib

Artat bin Al-Mundhir said:
"Damrah bin Habib was asked if the Jinns will enter Paradise and he said,`Yes, and they will get married. The Jinns will have Jinn women and the humans will have female humans. ' "
quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (Qur'anic Commentary) of Surah Rahman (55), ayah (verse) 56:
"In these [gardens - paradise] will be mates of modest gaze, whom neither man nor invisible being [Jinn] will have touched them then [after they have been created again]."


The Tabi'een are generation of Muslims who were born after the death of Muhammad but who were contemporary of the Sahaba.

Al-Hasan Al-Basri

Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that the word houri implies the righteous women among mankind who are rewarded with paradise as related in the Tafsir of Tabari quoted by Muhammad Asad in his tafsir "Message of Quran" concerning the following ayah:
"We have created [their Companions] of special creation, and made them virgin-pure [and undefiled after their old age in this life] (Qur’an, Surah Al-Waqia(56):35-36)

Ibn Sirin

Ibn Sirin mentions Abu Huraira using houri to solve a dispute of whether there are more women or men going to paradise.

Qur'an commentators


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.

Ibn Kathir

Ibn Kathir says that the houri "are delightful virgins of comparable age who never had sexual intercourse with anyone, whether from mankind or Jinns, before their husbands." by commenting,"in the other life, after they became old in this life, they were brought back while virgin, youthful, being delightfully passionate with their husbands, beautiful, kind and cheerful."


Al-Qurtubi reconciled between the hadith of making the majority of the habitants of Hell and Paradise women by suggesting that the women that will form the majority in hell will be among the sinners that will stay there temporarily and will be brought out of Hell and enter Paradise. Thereafter the majority of the people of Paradise will be women.


Fakhr al-Din al-Razi comments that the companions of paradise mentioned in Qur'an 44:54 include “[even] those toothless old women of yours whom God will resurrect as new beings” and observes that inasmuch as a person’s eye reflects his soul more clearly than any other part of the human body in Qur'an 52: 20.

Round/swollen breasts

In relation to the mention of virgins in Quran, several translators like Hilali-Khan, Arberry, Palmer, Rodwell and Sale have translated to refer to "swelling breasts".
In addition, Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir, writes that verse in the Qur'an describes the physical attributes of the women. He says the following about the verse: "''This means round breasts. They meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age."

Alternative Interpretation

It should be noted that the original wording in Arabic is وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَاباً (Transliteration: WakawaAAiba atraban''')[78:33]
Muhammad Asad has said regarding the above verse:
As regards my rendering of kawa’ib as "splendid companions", it is to be remembered that the term ka'b -from which the participle ka’ib is derived - has many meanings, and that one of these meanings is "prominence", "eminence" or "glory" (Lisan al-Arab); thus, the verb ka'ba, when applied to a person, signifies "he made [another person] prominent", "glorious" or "splendid" (ibid.) Based on this tropical meaning of both the verb ka'ba and the noun ka'b, the participle ka'ib has often been used, in popular parlance, to denote "a girl whose breasts are becoming prominent" or "are budding" hence, many commentators see in it an allusion to some sort of youthful "female companions' who would entertain the (presumably male) inmates of paradise.
Then he continues:
...this interpretation of kawa’ib overlooks the purely derivative origin of the above popular usage - which is based on the tropical connotation of "prominence" inherent in the noun ka'b - and substitutes for this obvious tropism the literal meaning of something that is physically prominent: and this, in my opinion, is utterly unjustified. If we bear in mind that the Qur'anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa’ib can have no other meaning than "glorious [or "splendid"] beings".

Sex in paradise

Ibn Kathir mentions Muhammed saying that men in heaven would have sex with one hundred virgins in one day. In another version of the hadith, Muhammad is reported to have said"In Paradise, the believer will be given such and such strength for women." Anas said, "I asked, `O Allah's Messenger! Will one be able to do that' He said, "He will be given the strength of a hundred (men)".. Ibn Kathir says that the houri "are delightful virgins of comparable age who never had sexual intercourse with anyone, whether from mankind or Jinns, before their husbands."
Imam Suyuti is reported to have said, "each time we sleep with a houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected 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 [sic] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetising vaginas."). And when it is finished she will return pure and virgin again.'"

Alternative Interpretations

Ibn Kathir relates concerning the following verses:
Verily, the dwellers of the Paradise, that Day, will be busy with joyful things. They and their wives will be in pleasant shade, reclining on thrones. They will have therein fruits and all that they ask for.[Chapter (Surah) Ya Seen (O Thou Human Being)(36):55-57]
Although Ibn Kathir relates the opinion of some companions of Muhammad being reported to have said concerning "will be busy with joyful things" that means in heaven people will be "busy in deflowering virgins", he continues to relate other alternate meanings. Another companion, Ibn Abass has said that it refers "listening to stringed instruments".

"72 Virgins"

The concept of 72 virgins in Islam refers to an aspect of paradise. In a collection by Imam at-Tirmidhi in his "Sunan" (Volume IV, Chapters on "The Features of Heaven as described by the Messenger of Allah", chapter 21: "About the Smallest Reward for the People of Heaven", hadith 2687) and also quoted by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (Qur'anic Commentary) of Surah , it is stated that:
"It was mentioned by Daraj Ibn Abi Hatim, that Abu al-Haytham 'Adullah Ibn Wahb narrated from Abu Sa'id al-Khudhri, who heard Muhammad saying, '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.


Margaret Nydell states that mainstream Muslims regard this belief about 72 virgins in the same way that mainstream Christians regard the belief that after death they will be issued with wings and a harp, and walk on clouds.
Another interpretation of the relevant passages of the Qur'an is The Syro-Aramaic Reading Of The Qur'an written by Christoph Luxenberg. In respect of this particular point, Luxenberg argues that the relevant passage actually translates to a portrayal of paradise as a lush garden with pooling water and trees with rare fruit, including white raisins (considered to be delicacies at the time that the Qur'an was written), not virgin maidens.


Regarding the above statement, Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf has said: "The narration, which claims that everyone would have seventy-two wives has a weak chain of narrators."

"White Grapes"

Some modern day philologists such as Christoph Luxenberg have argued that the word huri, has been misinterpreted by generations of Muslim readers as wide-eyed virgins (who will serve the faithful in Paradise; Qur'an 44:54, 52:20 ,55:72, 56:22) actually means white grapes. He suggests that the word is actually a misread from its actual meaning of "white grapes", a word often found in many Christian descriptions of Paradise as abounding in pure white grapes. This theory sparked much joking in the Western press; Muslim suicide bombers would be expecting beautiful women and getting grapes.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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