Buying a Bed in Paradise

The practice of booking a berth in heaven with a payment may have been reduced to a historical curiosity among Christians now, but it seems to be thriving among many mainstream Muslims.

At a recent fund-raiser in Sydney organized by the Islamic Forum for Australian Muslims, banners, slides and speeches were focused on selling to Australia’s Muslims “a house in jannah” through a donation towards the building of a new mosque. 

And speaking of jannah (paradise), my generation grew up calling it jannat, as did our forefathers, until a successful Salafist campaign in the late 1970s and 1980s displaced many Urdu/Farsi words from the Urdu lexicon, replacing them with Arabic words.  The best known victim of this linguistic cleansing is good old Khuda hafiz, supplanted by Allah hafiz.

The Reformation of Christianity which transformed Europe and laid the groundwork for Europe’s astounding progress was triggered by the “Ninety Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” written by the German Martin Luther in 1517.  Martin Luther not only rejected the efficacy of Indulgences, which supposedly washed away sins and eased the holder’s passage to paradise, but also denounced the corrupt practice of the selling of Indulgences by some Catholic priests.

The practice of booking a berth in heaven with a payment may have been reduced to a historical curiosity among Christians now, but it seems to be thriving among many mainstream Muslims.

The website of the Bankstown mosque project is seeking donations with an offer that one would be utterly stupid to refuse: “Palace in Paradise; Book Now: You can buy 1 square metres of masjid land for yourself, for your family members and even for a deceased relative @ $1,254 and Allah will reserve a palace in Paradise for this noble deed, inshaAllah.” (

The main speaker at the Sydney fund-raiser was Maulana Yusuf Islahi, an eminent Islamic scholar and speaker and a member of the central Shura of Jamaat-e-Islami in India.  He was introduced with much fanfare and bombast as a larger than life figure by the presenter, who further instructed the audience to rise to its feet and chant Allah-o-Akbar when the maulana walked to the podium.  Not impressed with the effort, the presenter kept demanding more exertion from their vocal chords until the chants reverberated through the hall and resembled those at highly charged political meetings in the subcontinent.

The first speaker was introduced as a professor at two universities in Karachi, which were not named.  He began by defining the “West” which, he said, is no longer a geographical concept but defines a civilization, rather the lack of it. 

He cited Australia as an example, for while it is in the east, it is of the West.  Then he systematically summed up for Muslims living here half a dozen or so golden rules to follow in order to adhere to their religion and avoid becoming like the “jaanwar” (animals) of the West.

Maulana Yusuf Islahi in his speech emphasized that every Muslim had a duty to propagate his religion to the people of the West, show them the light of Islam and guide them to the “right path”.  He conceded that historically Muslims had made one big mistake by not educating their women. 

For the moment, though, the maulana’s thoughts and efforts were fixated on raising money for one more mosque in Australia.  And even as he spoke of the need for educating women, there was no mention of women’s participation in the work force.  Nor did he raise the issue of moral standards, character-building, truthfulness, trust, etc, in relation to fellow citizens and society. 

In answer to a question later Maulana Islahi did mention, but only cursorily, the need for good citizenship.  Replying to another question about whether Muslims should still follow the Quranic injunction not to befriend Christians and Jews, the maulana said that these verses in the Quran had a specific historical context and there was no reason to apply them when the circumstances had changed.  One would have preferred that Maulana Islahi had emphasized these themes in his lecture.

When the presenter invited us to listen to a “very special talk” from a university professor with “two doctorates” in mathematics, I braced for a discourse on religion and Islam from a scientific perspective.  In the event, I surely wasn’t the only one to be disappointed, for the connection the learned professor drew was not between mathematics and religion, but rather between dollar amounts and plot sizes in jannah 

He spoke in the strident tone of a village maulvi giving a waaz (sermon) and exhorted his listeners to “dig deep into your pockets” to donate to the mosque project.  Using the technique of a story-teller which, he claimed, professors employ to drive home a point, he invoked the imagery of motherly love and threw the bait of heavenly bliss. 

The listener was asked to think of the mother he had left behind in his motherland to seek a better future for himself in the West – the lonely, weeping, ageing, forlorn lady for whom nothing was dearer than her son, who had chosen to emigrate to distant shores far from her for worldly gain.  But the son could now redeem himself – he had a god-given opportunity, so to speak.  Thanks to the Bankstown mosque project, he could now make amends for his selfishness by buying his mother a place in jannah! 

The long-winded oration of the mathematics professor milked the “mother” to the last drop.  The donor-to-be was advised to mail a copy of the receipt to his “mother” giving her the good news – the loving and dutiful son had bought her a bed in jannah, no less, by way of thanking her for the love and care she had bestowed on him throughout his life.  Surely that would make for one very happy mother!

But what of the donor himself?  I mean, what about his own place in heaven?  After all, he is the one who has made the monetary sacrifice. Leaving nothing to chance, the good professor comforted the donor-son by assuring him that he too will have indirectly bought himself a bed in paradise – by virtue of the prayers of his grateful mother. 

In the West they call it “buy one, get one free”.  Acquisition of two luxury beds in jannah with just one donation! Today’s Muslims have learned a thing or two from the “decadent” West, after all.  When it comes to marketing, apparently they can do one notch better than those wayward Westerners.

(Published in Daily Times, 26 May 2011)

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2 Responses to Buying a Bed in Paradise

  1. Hameed says:

    To me Paradise and concept of paradise appears like a dream. Ghalib has described Paradise rightfully and does not require further elucidation.

  2. Prof Dr Ashraf says:

    Wow sir absolutely beautiful piece… I am also dead against disrespectful words for a host country and this is also strongly denounced by Ghamdi sahab… I will support ur take on this in any public gathering if needed in future on return …

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