The Myth Of The 72 Virgins


I think by now most folks realise that Islamic fundamentalism (Islamism) is a political and social issue – not part of mainstream Islam at all. Extremists exist in every religion and you can’t reason with people who claim to know exactly what God wants. In fact, mainstream Islam is as much a target of extremists as the west.

So why does western media persistently apply phrases and concepts to muslims as a group, that have more in common with extremist nonsense than real Islam? Most muslims don’t go around referring to Christians and Jews as infidels or unbelievers. Most muslims aren’t operating undercover to secure islamic world dominion. Most muslims just want to get on with their lives, study, work, get married, raise kids. Most muslims have no interest in establishing a religious state or seeing sharia law implemented – some of them have left countries for those very reasons. That muslims have the same human concerns as anyone else shouldn’t have to be stated.

Take for example, the promise of 72 virgins (houris) to muslim martyrs entering Paradise that terrorism has made us all familiar with.  The lurid imagery of the waiting virgins apparently began with Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka and isn’t even found in the Qur’an. The descriptions of “swelling breasts”, “transparent skin” and an “eternally young” appearance are all the cheesy work of human interpretation and desperation, but to my knowledge, it’s never been refuted. Its use by extremists to motivate the uneducated masses seems validation enough for the West, despite the fact that the majority of Islamist followers are poorly educated and believe whatever they are told – a concept difficult for those of us with the luxury of an education to grasp. Their slightly better-educated self-styled leaders, use this to their advantage in pushing their political/power agendas – to gain followers and increase their influence they give their political struggle a religious covering.

Recent British census data revealed muslims are just as likely to value democracy and British identity as any one else. But the media actively encourage the public to view an entire demographic with fear and suspicion. The Leveson enquiry admonished the British press for manufacturing stories that painted muslims in a bad light, but when prominent public figures like Lord Pearson, former leader of the UK Independence Party are broadcast making statements like this…


“Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us… if we do not do something now, within the next year or two, we have, in effect, lost.”


… it makes you wonder just how far down the slippery mud-track of racial and religious intolerance the UK has already gone. References to “breeding”, are a tool used to reduce the humanity of a group and establish a clear gulf between “them” and “us”. It’s well-known that part of the Nazi propaganda machine’s slow and deliberate destruction of the Jews included comparison with “lower species”, namely rats. And we all know how that situation played out.

Because I’m muslim I’ll naturally draw cries of “Taqiyya” from the non-muslim, armchair Islam-experts. You’ve never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I stood accused of it when I last wrote about the differences between real and perceived Islam in the West. I had to go and look it up. It’s the practice of concealing one’s beliefs in dangerous circumstances, referred to in the Qur’an when the early believers – who had broken away from the tribalistic, idol-worshipping majority – found themselves at risk from torture or pressed to deny their new faith under duress  (much like events in the Spanish Inquisition). It seems to be the current buzzword in Islamaphobic circles, I guess there’s nothing like the feeling of intellectual superiority the knowledge of a single Arabic word gives you, no matter how inaccurately applied. Anyway, as they would have it, I’m only seeking to conceal Islam’s true aim of world domination by portraying it in a more benign light. And people wonder why more muslims don’t speak out…

I’ll leave you with two quotes to mull over:


لَکُمۡ دِیۡنُکُمۡ وَلِیَ دِیۡنِ

        “To you your religion and to me mine”

The Qur’an 109:7

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Things Fall Apart – W.B.Yeats


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By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Extremists on the lunatic margins of every faith hold some seriously scary views. Muslims are no more guilty of this than any other religious group. Muslims get a bad press because of the association with terrorism, something fuelled by the bigger geo-political games played out in the Middle East and beyond. It’s as much the West’s fault as it is the young men prepared to be suicide bombers (perhaps more). I don’t worry too much about UKIP. It’s the beneficiary of protest votes by people who want to give the Government a well deserved kicking during the worst recession since the 30s. Most people realise that UKIP only bang on about what they’re against and not what they’re for. Political parties don’t win elections on that basis.

  2. Twitter surfing led me to this blog post and I was surprised to see the constant denials that the “liberal” Muslims live in when it comes to issue of confronting the virulent elements of Islam.

    The problem that non-Muslims have with Muslims, IMO, is most Muslims put their religions identity ahead of their national identity. And it is not just related to external characteristics as growing a beard, wearing a niqab or making a mess in public washrooms. But the problem is more related to the radical thinking, and refusal or meekness to question the tenets of a 2000-3000 year old book. Why should a Muslim in India feel more close to an obscure Muslim in Chechnya than a next door Hindu neighbour? Why a strong refusal to accept Indian or Canadian culture – whether singing “Vande Mataram” or celebrating Hindu or Christian festivals – since their religion won’t allow it

    I am an Indo-Canadian, and the changes I have seen in Muslims in India and in Ind-Canadian Muslims over the years are appalling – maybe the so called result of “Wahabi” moment resultant from pumping of Saudi dollars in madrasas. I have a first hand account of two intelligent engineers, who believe that every single solution to life’s problem lie in Quran. One of them refuses to believe The Big Bang Theory. Also, as per him, a 13 year old boy is not allowed to masturbate but is allowed to marry four times. And this is just a tip of the iceberg that I mention. How many Muslims have the courage to accept the fact that such medieval thinking is their own problem. How many Muslims have the courage to accept the homophobia that prevails in their religion? How many Muslims have the courage the question the ban on alcohol or pork or non-halal products?

    The issue will be solved when Muslims will realise that they owe it to the society and the country that they live in, that it is their duty to blend in the society and accept its values rather than segregating themselves just because a medieval book won’t allow them to accept 21st century values. Canadians have welcomed Muslims with open arms. In turn, it is moral obligation of Muslims in Canada to accept and stand for the Canadian values.

  3. It is quite a biased piece of rubbish saying that concept of 72 virgins came from Hindus. They have no such concept.
    Please own up to rubbish that’s spewing out of Aran funded madrasas instead of blaming others. That won’t solve a thing.

    1. The point I’m making (that seems to have eluded you) is that ALL religions plagiarise aspects of themselves from elsewhere, thus rendering their claim to ‘the Truth’ wholly risible. It doesn’t matter so much where the myth of the 72 virgins originated, as the fact that it’s a load of bollocks people are happy to accept without question.

      1. Great article. It’s obvious that some of your readers fail to understand the underlying message of this article.

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