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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word hur occurs four times in the Koran (44:54, 52:20, 55:72 and 56:22), three of which appear in connection with the adjective in (sing. Feminine ayna, masculine a'yan), meaning white-eyed with a deep black pupil. It is a plural of ahwar (applied to a man) and of haura (applied to a woman), signifying one having eyes characterizd by the quality termed hawar. The word hawar means originally whiteness (a symbol of purity), and the word haura is applied to a woman who is of a white colour and whose white of the eyes is intensely white and the black thereof intensely black. Ahwar, besides being applied to a man of a similar description, also signifies pure or clear intellect. In fact, purity is the prevailing idea in hawar, and therefore hawar, which is derived from the same root, means a pure and a sincere friend. Hence, "pure ones" is the nearest rendering of the word hur in English. The word entered in Europe through the Persian singular (huri or huri beheshti) and the Turkish huree.

The four occasions on which the women of paradise are spoken of as hur are quoted below: "Surely, the righteous are in a secure place, in gardens and springs........and We will give them the company of pure (hur), beautiful ones" (44:51-54), "Surely, the righteous shall be in garden and bliss.......Reclining on thrones set in lines, and We will give them the company of pure (hur), beautiful ones" (52:17-20), "In them (i.e., the gardens) are goodly women, beautiful ones.....Pure ones (hur) confined to the pavilions" (55:70-72) and "And the foremost are the foremost, these are they who are drawn nigh (to God). In the gardens of bliss.........On thrones inwrought.........And pure (hur), beautiful ones, the likes of hidden pearls: a reward for what they used to do" (56:10-24).

In three other verses (37:48-9, 38:52, 55:56), the paradise virgins are described as qasirat al-tarfi (of modest gaze). In all seven verses the paradise virgins are promised as a reward for God-fearing believers and sincere servants of God. In two occasions the verb "to wed" is used; "and We shall wed them unto fair ones" (bi-hurin inin) (44:54, 52:20). Of the paradise virgins, it is described "neither man nor jinn has touched them" (55:56; where lam yatmithhunna means still not deflowered); they are like hidden pearls (56:23), and closely guarded in pavilions (55:72).

Are hur the women that go to paradise, the wives of the righteous? A hint to this effect is given in a hadith. The last of the occasions on which the hur are spoken of is 56:10-24, and in continuation of the subject there occur the words: "Surely, We have made them to grow into a new growth, then We have made them virgins, loving, equals in age, for the sake of the companions of the right hand" (56:35-38). In connection with this, the making them "to grow into a new growth," the Prophet is reported to have said, that by this are meant women who have grown old here. The meaning, therefore, is that all good women shall grow into a new growth in the new life of the resurrection, so that they shall all be virgins, equals in age. The Prophet's explanation shows that the word hur is used to describe the new growth into which women of this world will grow. An anecdote is also related that an old woman came to the Prophet when he was sitting with his Companions, and asked him if she would go to paradise. In a spirit of mirth, the Prophet remarked that there would be no old woman in paradise. She was about to turn away rather sorrowfully, when the Prophet comforted her with the words that all women shall be made to grow into a new growth, so that there shall be no old woman in paradise, and recited the verses quoted above.

The conclusion to which this hadith leads is further supported by what is stated in the Koran. The description of hur, as given in the Koran, contains the best qualities of a good woman, purity of character, beauty, youthful appearance, restrained eyes and love for her husband. But even if the hur are taken to be a blessing of paradise, and not the women of this material world, it is a blessing as well for men as for women. Just as the gardens, rivers, milk, honey, fruits, and numerous other things of paradise are both for men and women, even so are hur. What these blessings actually are, no one knows, but the whole picture of paradise drawn in the Koran strongly condemns the association of any sensual idea therewith. It may however be asked, why are these blessings described in words which apply to women? The fact is that the reward spoken of here has special reference to the purity and beauty of character, and if there is an emblem of purity and beauty, it is womanhood, not manhood.

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