2: The Cow (Part III — Oooh heaven is a place on earth)
Ha! Belinda Carlisle is stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Sorry. The devil made me do it.
When I was 13, I got my first kiss ever. A pre-marital kiss. From a white guy. From a white non-Muslim guy. It was innocent enough — we were talking, hormones were raging, and he suddenly leaned and planted one on me mid-sentence. Caught me completely off guard.
That night when I got home from school, I felt so guilty about the whole thing. We were taught that even being alone with a guy was a slippery slope that would quickly lead to premarital sex, and ohhhhh, lawsie mercy, what a delightful slippery slope that turned out to be. But I digress.
When I got home from school that day, I looked up “hell” in the index of my Quran and I read every single reference. There is verse after verse after fucking verse gruesomely detailing what would happen to people like me in hell. We’ll have all our skin burned off and we’ll have nothing to drink but boiling water, which will scald our insides, etc. It ain’t pretty. Incidentally, I was so scared of what I read that I didn’t kiss a boy again for a few years. That’s the magic of religion.
There’s a lot of hell and damnation in the Quran. Heaven, however, is conspicuously missing. They talked about it a little in mosque and in Islamic Sunday school — something about rivers of honey and an all you can eat buffet, but even there we talked mostly about hell. I was pretty geeked when I came across my very first reference to heaven in the Quran:
25. Announce to those who believe and have done good deeds, glad tidings of gardens under which rivers flow, and where, when they eat the fruits that grow, they will say: “Indeed they are the same as we were given before,” so like in semblance the food would be. And they shall have fair spouses there, and live there abidingly.
And *poof* just like that, any excitement vanished right there.
The fuck? That’s it?! Heaven will have gardens with rivers, and fruits just like the fruits on earth? Weak! It’s the all-powerful, all-knowing God’s heaven, goddammit, the thing all Muslims are striving for, the reason people fight and die in Allah’s name. That can’t be all there is! I read and re-read the chapter, but that’s it. That’s all it says about heaven.
Heaven. Ha! I went on vacation last weekend to a friend’s cabin in the country. There were gardens and rivers there. The rivers had waterfalls and swimming areas. (I don’t see anything about waterfalls or swimming areas in the Quran.) Sure, we had to buy fruit at the grocery store in town, but we also got meat there, and meat is way awesomer than fruit. There were a ton of trees and mountains, and my dog was there with me, running in the grass leashless and free. Every night we could look up to see stars staring back at us. And when we got sick of craning our necks up, we could look around and see thousands of fireflies blinking on and off, on and off in the pitch black, silent night. It was like being surrounded by stars on all sides. We slept in every day and cooked fabulous meals three times a day. And the cabin has cable. CABLE! I don’t have cable at home, and I glued my ass to the couch to watch “Deadliest Catch” and “Dirty Jobs” on Discovery Channel for four days straight.
THAT, ladies and gentlemen, was heaven. Heaven on earth. And it’s a four hour drive from my place. So what the fuck? God can’t top that? All-powerful, most benevolent, most blahblahblah God? Lame lame lame.
Plus the “fair spouses” bit — I looked it up in other translations, and it’s more like “fair maidens” or “pure companions.” Ta-da! Virgins! In heaven! Waiting for you to get your sweet ass up there! Screw this world, think I’ll go blow myself up.
In 5:65, God calls heaven, “gardens of delight.” And it basically says that same thing in different words in the other verses, too. I consulted my index again:
61. In the gardens of Eden promised by Ar-Rahman to His creatures in the unknown (future). Verily His promise will come to pass.
62. They will hear no vain talk there, but only salutations of peace, and they will have their sustenance morning and evening.”
63. This is the Paradise those of Our creatures will inherit who take heed and fear the displeasure of God.
58. We shall admit those who believe and do the right to empyreal gardens with rivers rippling by, where they will abide for ever.
51. Surely those who fear and follow the straight path will be in a place of peace and security
52. In the midst of gardens and of springs,
53. Dressed in brocade and shot silk, facing one another.
54. Just like that. We shall pair them with companions with large black eyes.
55. They will call for every kind of fruit with satisfaction.
More gardens, more water, more fruit. But now with no gossip, fancy clothes, black-eyed babes, and two square meals a day. Gee, heaven sounds great, thank you Allah. I would say that Mohammed had no imagination, but then I read his descriptions of hell. This one is also from chapter 44:
43. The tree of Zaqqum will indeed be
44. The food of sinners.
45. It is like pitch. It will fume in the belly
46. As does boiling water.
47. “Seize him and drag him into the depths of Hell,” (it will be said),
48. “Then pour over his head the torment of scalding water.”
49. “Taste it,” (they will be told). “You were indeed the mighty and noble!
50. This is certainly what you had denied.”
That’s at least a little more exciting, don’t you think? Why wouldn’t God spend more of his time talking about heaven in greater detail? Where’s this talk of “rivers of honey” I remember so vividly from Islamic Sunday School? What’s the obsession with fruit?
I saved the best for last. I found my favorite description of heaven in chapter 76. It is by far the most detailed, and I bet it was pretty damn impressive if you lived in the middle of a desert 1400 years ago:
11. So God will protect them from the evil of that day, and grant them happiness and joy,
12. And reward them for their perseverance Paradise and silken robes,
13. Where they will recline on couches feeling neither heat of the sun nor intense cold.
14. The shadows will bend over them, and low will hang the clusters of grapes.
15. Passed round will be silver flagons and goblets made of glass,
16. And crystal clear bottles of silver, of which they will determine the measure themselves.
17. There will they drink a cup flavoured with ginger
18. From a spring by the name of Ever-flowing-Salsabil.
19. And boys of everlasting youth will go about attending them. Looking at them you would think that they were pearls dispersed.
20. When you look around, you will see delights and great dominion.
21. On their bodies will be garments of the finest green silk and brocade, and they will be adorned with bracelets of silver; and their Lord will give them a purest draught to drink.
Fancy silk robes, couches, climate control, grapes? Oooh ahhhh.
An endless supply of ginger flavored spring water? Little weird, but OK, I’ll give him that one.
Gorgeous boys of everlasting youth attending to your every need? …you know that sound in the Flintstones where everything is all quiet and all you can hear is the sound of Barney or Fred’s eyes? *Blink blink…..blink* That just happened right here. Is it just me, or does heaven sound like a hip new gay bar in Chelsea?
I’m sure someone at some point will read this and say, “Whatever, Kafir, God was obviously talking to women.” No. He isn’t. The Quran is written for men, and women are spoken to by proxy. God tells Mohammed to tell the women to do A, B, and C. God wouldn’t stoop so low as to speak directly to a woman (they’re only 1/2 a man, dontcha know). He is talking, as he always does, to men. And what is his vision for heaven? Hot gay sex (and the couch on which to have the hot gay sex) for any and all good Muslims…just as long as they don’t have that hot gay sex while they’re actually alive. Obviously.
I know I’m not as merciful, benevolent or powerful as God, but I have an idea: how’s about gay people have hot gay sex down here on earth, and God can keep his couches and his grapes and his totally fucking bullshit idea of heaven?
Next time: The reason The Cow is called The Cow. It’s a trip. Stay tuned!