Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “Paradise, Hell and all that which lies beyond death properly belong to the category of what is known as al-ghayb (the Unseen). Allah tells us in the Qur’an that the true believers are those “who believe in the unseen…” and “those who have firm faith in the next world.” (see Qur’an, Surat Al-Baqarah: 1-5). Accordingly, we believe in the existence of a world that is not immediately visible to us because it has been veiled from us. The realities of this world transcend the confines of the material world surrounding us. Although they have been kept hidden from us in this present state of our existence, we will certainly be exposed to them at a later stage in our life, i.e., after death.
The realities of the other world are beyond human cognition. To state differently, we cannot access or know anything about them through the ordinary means of perception or sources of knowledge that we have at our disposal such as reason, experience, empirical study, observation and analysis. Although such tools and methods are truly beneficial for gaining knowledge of the mundane world, they are simply useless or worthless as far the realities of other world are concerned. People make serious mistakes when they use such tools or methods to speculate on such realities. Their behavior is not at all different from that of an imbecile who is trying to weigh a mountain with a scale intended for gold.
Since we cannot use the above methods for knowing the realties that properly belong to the realm of ghayb, the only safe method of gaining any knowledge about it is through the divine revelation alone. The Qur’an, by all accounts, is the most authentic of such revelations, and therefore the most trusted source of knowledge that we possess in our hands. Next comes the Sunnah or the authentic traditions transmitted from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), which further elaborate on the words of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an and Hadith provide sufficient details about the nature of Heaven and Hell, but while reading those details, we must always be cautioned against the tendency of making excessive comparisons between the things of the two worlds, those of the mundane and those of the Hereafter. Such descriptions of the other world in the sources must be properly understood as referring to the experiences of a realm that is not accessible to us and which is incomparable in its essence; for the tools and languages of the mundane world are utterly limited in scope and therefore inadequate to describe the indescribable. This is why Ibn `Abbas, the inspired commentator of the Qur’an is reported to have said about Jannah (Paradise), “There is nothing in the other world of the things of this world except names!”
It is in this spirit we must speak of the realities of the experiences of Paradise.
When we look in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, we can conclude the following about the experiences of Paradise:
Paradise is where all our wishes and dreams are materialized; Allah says: “They will have (in Paradise) all that their souls could desire, all the eyes could delight in. And you remain perpetually therein.” (Az-Zukhruf: 71)
“No soul knows what is kept hidden for them of delights of the eyes, as a reward for what they used to do.” (As-Sajda: 17)
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) elaborated on this saying:
“In it (i.e. Paradise) is such bliss the like of which no eyes have ever seen, no ears have heard about, and no mind has ever conceived.”
In light of the above, we can safely conclude that those who say that Paradise is only spiritual or intellectual in its nature are guilty of committing an act of ultimate arrogance, as they are pretending to know better than the Creator Himself. Therefore, instead of committing such blatant errors, we prefer to be humble before the revelation and refuse to speculate about the mysteries of the other world with our reason.
Let us conclude: The experience of Paradise as described in the Qur’an and the Sunnah involves the total human person, including his physical, intellectual and spiritual faculties. For Paradise is where all possibilities are materialized in an infinitely perfect and impeccable manner. While the pleasures of this world are rather tainted by imperfection and are ever vanishing, the pleasures of Paradise are eternal; whereas the pleasure of this world are always followed or preceded by pain and suffering, pleasures of Paradise are pure, indescribable bliss. We pray to Allah to make us all worthy of entering this supreme and abiding state of bliss after we have left behind us the toils and trials of this fleeting and transient world. Ameen.”