30 – Paradise and Eternity

Another returned emigrant who required help against his own people was ‘Umar’s brother-in-law, ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un of Jumah, for he knew well that his cousins Umayyah and Ubayy would persecute him. This time it was Makhzum who safeguarded a man of another clan: Walid himself took ‘Uthman under his protection, but, when ‘Uthman saw his fellow Muslims being persecuted while he remained safe, he went to Walid and renounced his protection. “Son of my brother,” said the old man, “hath any of my people harmed thee?” “Not so,” said ‘Uthman, “but I would have protection of God and I desire not the protection of any but Him.” So he went with Walid to the Mosque and publicly absolved him of his protection.

Some days later it happened that the poet Labid was reciting to Quraysh, and ‘Uthman was present at the large gathering which had assembled to hear him. At a level somewhat higher than that of the general giftedness of the Arabs for poetry, there were the many distinctly gifted poets like Abu Talib and Hubayrah and Abu Sufyan the son of Harith. But beyond these there were the few who were counted as great; and Labid was by common consent one of them. He was perhaps the greatest living Arab poet, and Quraysh felt privileged to have him amongst them. One of the verses he now recited began:

“Lo, everything save God is naught”

“Thou hast spoken true,” said ‘Uthman. Labid went on:

“And all delights away shall vanish.”

“Thou liest,” exclaimed ‘Uthman. “The delight of Paradise shall never vanish.” Labid was not accustomed to being interrupted; as to Quraysh, they were not only astonished and outraged but also exceedingly embarrassed, for the poet was their guest. “O men of Quraysh,” he said, “they who sat with you as friends were never wont to be ill-treated. Since when is this?” One of the gathering rose to proffer the tribe’s excuses. “This man is but a dolt,” he said, “one of a band of dolts that have left our religion. Let not thy soul be moved by what he saith.” ‘Uthman retorted with such vehemence that the speaker came and hit him over the eye, so that his brow turned green; and Walid, who was sitting nearby, remarked to him that his eye need never have suffered if he had remained under his protection. “Nay,” said ‘Uthman, “my good eye is indeed a pauper for want of what hath befallen her sister in the way of God. I am under His protection who is mightier and more determining than thou.” “Come, son of my brother,” said Walid, “renew thy pact with me.” But ‘Uthman declined.

The Prophet was not present at the gathering. But he heard of the poem of Labid and of what had ensued. His only recorded comment was: “The truest word that poet ever spake is: “Lo, everything save God is naught.”[1] He did not blame Labid for the words which immediately followed. The poet could be credited with meaning that “all earthly delights away shall vanish”; and on the other hand, all Paradises and Delights which are Eternal can be thought of as included in God or in the Face of God. There had come, about this time, the Revelation: Everything perisheth but His face[2] and in an earlier Revelation are the words: Eternal is the Face of thy Lord in its Majesty and Bounty.[3] Where this Eternal Bounty is, there its recipients must be, and also their delights.

There now came a more explicit Revelation which contained the following passage. The first verse refers to the Judgment: On the day when it cometh no soul shall speak but by His leave, wretched some, and others blissful. As for the wretched, in the Fire shall they be, to sigh and to wail is their portion, abiding therein as long as heaven and earth endure, except as God will. Verily thy Lord is ever the doer of what He will. And as for the blissful, in the Garden shall they be, abiding therein as long as heaven and earth endure, except as God will -a gift that shall not be taken away.[4]

The closing words show that it is not the Divine Will that the gift of Paradise to man after the Judgment shall be taken away from him as was his first Paradise. Other questions relating to this passage were answered by the Prophet himself, who continually spoke to his followers about the Resurrection, the Judgment, Hell and Paradise. On one occasion he said: “God, who bringeth whom He will into His Mercy, shall enter into Paradise the people of Paradise, and into Hell the people of Hell. Then will He say (to the Angels): ‘Look for him in whose heart ye can find faith of the weight of a grain of mustard seed, and take him out of Hell’ … Then they will take out a multitude of mankind and will say: ‘Our Lord, we have left therein not one of those whereof Thou didst command us’, and He will say: ‘Return and take out him in whose heart ye find an atom’s weight of good.’ Then will they take out a multitude of mankind and will say: ‘Our Lord, no goodness have we left therein.’ Then will God say: ‘The Angels have interceded, and the prophets have interceded, and the believers have interceded. There remaineth only the intercession of the Most Merciful of the merciful.’ And He will take out from the fire those who did no good and will cast them into a river at the entrance to Paradise which is called the River of Life.”[5]

And of those in Paradise the Prophet said: “God will say to the people of Paradise: ‘Are ye well pleased?’ and they will say: ‘How should we not be well pleased, O Lord, inasmuch Thou hast given us that which Thou hast not given to any of thy creatures else?’ Then will He say: ‘Shall I not give you better than that?’, and they will say: ‘What thing, O Lord, is better?’ and He will say: ‘I will let down upon you My Ridwan.'”[6] The ultimate beautitude of Ridwan, sometimes translated “Good pleasure”, is interpreted to mean God’s final and absolute acceptance of a soul and His taking of that soul to Himself and His Eternal Good pleasure therein. This supreme Paradise must not be taken as excluding what is known as Paradise in the usual sense, since the Qur’an promises that for each blessed soul there will be two Paradises,[7] and in speaking of his own state in the Hereafter the Prophet likewise spoke of it as a twofold blessing, “the meeting with my Lord, and Paradise”.[8]


[1] B. 63, 26
[2] Qur’an 18 : 88
[3] Qur’an 55 : 27
[4] Qur’an 11 : 105 – 108
[5] M. 1, 79; B. 97, 24
[6] M. LI, 2
[7] Qur’an 55 : 46
[8] I.I. 1000

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