Islam: Maidens of Paradise

A houri, in Islam, is a female virgin companion created as a reward for men in Paradise. Houris are described in the Islamic sacred texts as being beautiful, voluptuous, loving, modest, and faithful. Their eternal age is given as 33. According to the traditions, every man will be married to at least two houris; another figure given is 72. Martyrs are said to go to Paradise and receive 72 houris immediately upon dying. Houris will not bear children unless they want to, nor will they menstruate, urinate, defecate, or spit.

Houris are mentioned a number of times in the Quran and described in more detail in the hadith, which are narrations containing the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.


According to Muhammad Asad, the Arabic word “hour” or “houri” is the Arabic plural of “ahwar” or “hawra”, which both mean “a person who possesses the quality of hawar”; “hawar” designates whiteness of the heart, as well as the clear whiteness of the eye in contrast to the blackness of the iris. Some early Quran commentators, including al-Hasan al-Basri, understood the term “houri” to designate all righteous women.

Physical appearance

In the Quran, the houris are compared to rubies and coral. They are also repeatedly mentioned as being of equal age, and the word used can also be interpreted as meaning “well-matched.” They are described as having large, beautiful eyes, and “large” or “full” breasts. The age of the houris given in the hadith is 33. The hadith indicate that everyone in Paradise will be sixty cubits tall.

Houris are described as being light-skinned, although there is also mention in the hadith of a black woman for someone who desires one. Houris are also described as being transparent, so that the marrow of their bones can be seen through their legs. One hadith mentions that a man will place his hands behind a woman’s shoulders and see his hand through her.

Another quality mentioned in some hadith is that the bodies of houris will be like mirrors. Some hadith indicate that the houri’s cheek will be like a mirror in which the man can see his face; some mention the houri’s liver having this quality. A hadith says, “his inside will be a reflection of her and her inside will be a reflection of him.”

The houri’s clothing will include a veil or hijab. The houri’s veil is described in the hadith as being “better than this world and everything in it.” Another hadith mentions a houri being dressed in seventy garments, all of which will be transparent for the man.

Romantic and Sexual Relations

The houris and their men will be in love with each other. For example, one hadith mentions that houris will say to their husbands “I swear by Allah, there is nothing in the Garden more handsome than you and there is nothing in the Garden more beloved to me than you.”

Sexual relations in Paradise are described in the hadith as well. Men will go from pavilion to pavilion, enjoying sexual relations with their wives one at a time. One hadith mentions a man deflowering a hundred virgins in one morning. Another mentions a man being occupied in intercourse with one woman for forty years. It is specified that men will have endless sexual energy and will not suffer from impotence or fatigue. The houris are eternal virgins, meaning that their hymens will regenerate after intercourse.

The houris are not only sexual partners, but they are also romantic companions with whom men will cohabit eternally. Houris are described as sitting on thrones, couches, or cushions, alongside their husbands. They reside in houses of pearls along with their husbands, and also may inhabit pavilions as they wait for their turn in amorous relations.

Houris and Other Religions

Some other religions feature descriptions of heavenly brides or maidens as well. Houris are also featured in Baha’ism, which acknowledges the Quranic descriptions as true. In Zoroastrianism, a righteous person is said to encounter a beautiful virgin maiden (Daena) after death; yet in Zoroastrianism the virgin is said to be an image of the person’s own moral qualities and behavior. Parallels can also be drawn between the houris and the Nymphs of Greek tradition, the Valkyries of Norse tradition, and the Apsaras of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.


Article written by me for Lunyr