Average people think that muslims are rewarded in heaven with virgins (houris) for sexual gratification, etc. I just watched yesterday on youtube a video about that. There is such misunderstanding of holy scriptures in this world.. I’m not expert in islamic spirituality or mysticism, neither in Koran, but I’ve searched about this subject in google to find the answer, what is the spiritual (mystical) meaning of these virgins, because I believe that Koran doesn’t speak about anything material, anything in time and space, but about spiritual realities (higher worlds), about spiritual consciousness, etc. This is always the main thing in holy scriptures. And it doesn’t matter if this is Koran, Vedas or Torah, there is always a hidden message behind the simple text (for example in Judaism, Torah has 4 levels of understanding, pshat, remez, drash and sod). And this message is not something far away from us, but it’s hidden inside us, in our very soul. So I found one quote that is very interesting, because it speaks about this subject from sufi perspective. I think that everyone should have proper relation to the religion of Islam, and know that there is always inner meaning and our attention should be directed toward it.
Baha Walad constantly tells us that every sweet and desirable thing in both worlds rises up from the experience of God’s presence, though people are confused by the multiplicity of the names and think that the things are the realities. He questions the well-known proposition that paradise is the prison of the Sufi, who desires only God himself.
I was describing the houris and talking about the gardens and the paradises. A shaykh from among the Folk of Gnosis said, “Those who are busy with these things in this world will be busy with them in that world too. When will they go back to God? When will they see God?”
I answered, “It is proper that the ‘houris, palaces, gardens, fountains, and ginger’ [mentioned in the Koran] consist of the states of seeing God. Each time you see, you find a different taste. So, look upon the meanings — how God constantly keeps you in the palm of His hand and His breast. Belong to your Lord and be His companion! Be a stranger to other things and other states. Keep your gaze upon your Sovereign. Whatever you want, ask it from Him. Rub yourself against Him. Mix with Him like milk and honey. Then you will find all the houris, palaces, and sweetnesses of paradise in ready coin. You will find God. Your felicity is for this door to be opened to you — for you to know that He is with you wherever you are. For Baha Walad, as for Rumi, the vision of God in all creation takes place in infinite variety and never-ending joy.
— Sufism – A beginner’s guide by William Chittick
There is also a talk about 72 virgins in paradise.. But from the mystical perspective, for example in kabbalah the number 72 is related with the 72 names of God. Virgins are probably kelim (spiritual vessels) through which higher light of God can be perceived, because light is always perceived inside the vessel (kli), otherwise it can’t be known. And aspect of sexual union with these virgins mentioned in many sources is really about spiritual union or coupling (zivug), between female aspect of God consciousness (vessel) and male (light). The places like Jerusalem, Gan Eden (higher and lower), Paradise, etc. really talk about different states of consciousness. This is obvious for the spiritual seeker, but worldy people will always see what they want to see.
Five stations mentioned earlier are probably related to the five levels of soul or five lights: nefesh, ruach, neshama, chayah, yechida. As I know there is similar concept in sufism (islamic mysticism), and they call it, if I remember correctly: ‘hearing’, ‘smelling’, ‘touching’, ‘seeing’ and ‘tasting’ as a levels of closeness to God.
I’m not going further with this subject, but I wanted only to give some hints what it may be about. This is my intuitive direction and interpretation with such things from the perspective of kabbalah. Because every tradition talks about one reality and there are similar concepts everywhere. At least I can have respect for other spiritual traditions and see inside them true wisdom, instead of perversions or political matters.