The Great Koran Controversy: Will Muslim Martyrs Get 72 Raisins Instead of Virgins, & Other Speculations

According to an Islam tradition, Muslim martyrs will go to paradise and marry 72 black-eyed virgins. But some Koran scholars point to a less sexy paradise. While beautifully written, Islamic texts are often obscure. The Arabic language was born as a written language with the Koran, and growing evidence suggests that many of the words were Syriac or Aramaic.

Specifically, the Koran says martyrs going to heaven will get “hur,” and the word was taken by early commentators to mean “virgins,” hence those 72 concubines. But in Aramaic, hur actually meant “white” and was commonly used to specifically mean “white grapes.”

The exact number of virgins (or raisins) is not specified in Koran, but the number 72 comes from a quotation of Muhammad recorded in one of the lesser-known Hadith. (“Hadith” is an Arabic word meaning traditions.) After Muhammad’s death, several collections of his deeds and sayings were collected to form the Hadith, which is the second most authoritative document is Islam, after the Koran.

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