The Arabic word حُورٌ (ḥūrun) occurs four times in the Quran. It comes from the root ح و ر which occurs thirteen times in the Quran. Five of the occurrences are in regards to “the disciples” of Jesus. Three occurrences are in the context of talking or discussing, and one occurrence to infer a thing that “returns”.
In the case of the word حُورٌ (ḥūrun) the four occurrences always occur in context of Paradise, with three of the occurrences paired with the Arabic word عِينٍ (ʿīnin) which comes from the root ع ي ن which is the root for the word eyes.
Let’s start by looking at each of these occurrences in context.
[44:51] The righteous will be in a secure position. [44:52] Enjoying gardens and springs. [44:53] Wearing velvet and satin; close to each other. [44:54] We grant them wonderful spouses. [44:55] They enjoy in it all kinds of fruits, in perfect peace.
[44:54] We grant them wonderful spouses.
كَذَٰلِكَ وَزَوَّجْنَاهُمْ بِحُورٍ عِينٍ
[52:17] The righteous have deserved gardens and bliss. [52:18] They enjoy what their Lord has reserved for them; their Lord has spared them the retribution of Hell. [52:19] Eat and drink happily, in return for your works. [52:20] They relax on luxurious furnishings, and we match them with beautiful spouses.
[52:20] They relax on luxurious furnishings, and we match them with beautiful spouses.
مُتَّكِئِينَ عَلَىٰ سُرُرٍ مَصْفُوفَةٍ وَزَوَّجْنَاهُمْ بِحُورٍ عِينٍ
[55:62] Below them are two gardens (one for the jinns and one for the humans). [55:63] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:64] Side by side. [55:65] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:66] In them, wells to be pumped. [55:67] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:68] In them are fruits, date palms, and pomegranate. [55:69] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:70] In them are beautiful mates. [55:73] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:74] No human ever touched them, nor a jinn. [55:75] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:76] They relax on green carpets, in beautiful surroundings.
[55:72] Confined in the tents.
حُورٌ مَقْصُورَاتٌ فِي الْخِيَامِ
[56:17] Serving them will be immortal servants. [56:18] With cups, pitchers and pure drinks. [56:19] They never run out, nor do they get bored. [56:20] Fruits of their choice. [56:21] Meat of birds that they desire. [56:22] Beautiful mates. [56:23] Like protected pearls. [56:24] Rewards for their works.
[56:22] Beautiful mates.
It is worth noting that all the descriptions of Paradise and Hell in the Quran are purely allegorical, this includes any descriptions of spouses and mates.
[2:25] Give good news to those who believe and lead a righteous life that they will have gardens with flowing streams. When provided with a provision of fruits therein, they will say, “This is what was provided for us previously.” Thus, they are given allegorical descriptions. They will have pure spouses therein, and they abide therein forever.
وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ كُلَّمَا رُزِقُوا مِنْهَا مِنْ ثَمَرَةٍ رِزْقًا قَالُوا هَٰذَا الَّذِي رُزِقْنَا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَأُتُوا بِهِ مُتَشَابِهًا وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا أَزْوَاجٌ مُطَهَّرَةٌ وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
The reality is that we lack the capability to perceive how wonderful Paradise and horrendous Hell will be so God provides us wordly comparisons to give us a sense of what to expect.
[32:17] You have no idea how much joy and happiness are waiting for you as a reward for your (righteous) works.
فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَا أُخْفِيَ لَهُمْ مِنْ قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
The word حُورٌ comes from the root (ḥūrun) comes from the root ح و ر and in addition to the meanings mentioned above it has another meaning when in conjunction with the word “eyes” which is in reference to the whiteness around the eyes.
In addition, the Arabic word عِينٍ (ʿīnin) doesn’t just mean “eye” but specifically something wide eyed.
So what do white eyes have to do with mates in Paradise?
While different individuals may have different preferences to what they find attractive in a mate, there is one element that is universally recognized as attractive which is the whiteness of the eyes. This portion of the eye is known as the sclera. Studies have shown that people who have whiter, rather than redder, sclerata are rated as 25% happier, 42% healthier, and 17% more attractive.
So it is befitting that when God is describing the allegorical mates in Paradise that are beautiful and attractive that the description is in regards to their eyes, but specifically the whiteness of the eyes.
But there is more, by describing these spouses as “بِحُورٍ عِينٍ” “with white wide-eyed” it is providing us with even more detail of the attractiveness of these mates. Another universal signifier of attractiveness in addition to white eyes, is large eyes. Humans for whatever reason portray large eyes with stark contrast between the white and colored part of the eye as universally attractive. Think of the expression of puppy dog eyes, or any cartoon depiction of cuteness and this portrayal of the eyes are always obvious.
But there is more, when humans see something they like, their eyes get big and their pupils dilate. This is because the eyes are indicators of our attractiveness towards the things we find appealing. So describing the spouses in paradise as “بِحُورٍ عِينٍ” signifies not only that they are attractive, but they are attracted to their spouses as well. This aspect is critical in true companionship, not only to be in love, but to feel loved as well.
Two Heavens (Lower Heaven & Higher Heaven)
The Quran describes two Heavens for the believers: the lower Heaven for the righteous, and the Higher Heaven for the elite of the elite (56:10). For instance, the High Heaven will have immortal servants providing them water, while the Lower Heaven will have springs to be pumped for water.
[56:17] Serving them will be immortal servants. [56:18] With cups, pitchers and pure drinks.
[55:66] In them, wells to be pumped.
So we see that while both are indescribably beautiful and an amazing triumph for anyone to achieve there is a slight difference between the two. This same goes for the mates. In the description of the Lower Heaven we see that God used the term “بِحُورٍ عِينٍ” but when it comes to the High Heaven another term is used which is “قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ” which translates to “restraining the glance.”
So what is the difference between these two expressions? While both spouses in High Heaven and Low Heaven are attractive, when it comes to the spouses of the High Heaven they are so attractive that one needs to restrain the eyes in order to not look at them. This is a acknowledgment to the testament of their attractiveness.
[37:43] In the gardens of bliss. [37:44] On furnishings close to one another. [37:45] Cups of pure drinks will be offered to them. [37:46] Clear and delicious for the drinkers. [37:47] Never polluted, and never exhausted. [37:48] With them will be wonderful companions. [37:49] Protected like fragile eggs.
[37:48] With them will be wonderful companions.
وَعِنْدَهُمْ قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ عِينٌ
[55:55] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:56] Their beautiful mates were never touched by any human or jinn. [55:57] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:58] They look like gems and coral.
[55:56] Their beautiful mates were never touched by any human or jinn.
فِيهِنَّ قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ لَمْ يَطْمِثْهُنَّ إِنْسٌ قَبْلَهُمْ وَلَا جَانٌّ
[38:49] This is a reminder: The righteous have deserved a wonderful destiny. [38:50] The gardens of Eden will open up their gates for them. [38:51] Relaxing therein, they will be given many kinds of fruits and drinks. [38:52] They will have wonderful spouses. [38:53] This is what you have deserved on the Day of Reckoning. [38:54] Our provisions are inexhaustible.
[38:52] They will have wonderful spouses.
وَعِنْدَهُمْ قَاصِرَاتُ الطَّرْفِ أَتْرَابٌ
Are Hurun Male or Female?
In Arabic every word is either masculine or feminine. This does not signify the sex necessarily, but this is just the way the Arabic language is constructed. For instance, the word for angel in Arabic is الْمَلَائِكَةِ (l-malāikati) is feminine, yet they are neither male or female. As God specifically specifies that they are not feminine despite their names.
[53:27] Those who disbelieve in the Hereafter have given the angels feminine names.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ لَيُسَمُّونَ الْمَلَائِكَةَ تَسْمِيَةَ الْأُنْثَىٰ
The Quran does not signify that the Hurun are men or women. Some speculate that they are women as they are used in conjunction to eyes, and in Arabic the word for body parts that come in pairs is feminine. But aside from that there is no indication that the wonderful allegorical companions that the believers in Paradise will be paired with are either male or female as these worldly concepts may not apply in the Hereafter.
[3:66] You have argued about things you knew; why do you argue about things you do not know? GOD knows, while you do not know.
هَاأَنْتُمْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ حَاجَجْتُمْ فِيمَا لَكُمْ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلِمَ تُحَاجُّونَ فِيمَا لَيْسَ لَكُمْ بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ