The prosaic and impoverished male fantasy that is the Koranic view of heaven - big breasted virgins and lying around eating and drinking all day - has been much discussed and derided, and is of course a reason to strongly suspect it is the product of a very human (and rather hormonal) author.
There is another aspect to the Islamic paradise which is, however, often neglected and yet is equally confusing for those who are told these are the words of our Creator. It concerns the "waiters" in paradise - surely a strange idea in itself.
They will pass from hand to hand a cup inspiring no idle talk, no sinful urge, and there shall wait on them young boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls. 52:24Ignoring for a moment the question: what sort of sinful urge one could possibly have - given that God has apparently provided booty-licious totty for an eternity of lustful bonking in this warped vision of a perfect eternity - the impartial reader must surely ask himself why the author feels the need to stress the attractions of the young serving boys.
For we of course all know what God apparently thinks of any relationship that isn't strictly heterosexual. The seven references to the "people of Lut" (Lot) in the Koran, the abundant descriptions of punishments meted out to gays in the hadith and the near universal death penalty for those caught in flagrante in the Islamic world bear ample testament. So surely I'm not suggesting there is anything improper in the promise of these delightful young men, fair as pearls, who are going to to be our personal servants in paradise ... am I? Well, the question is not so strange and becomes entirely pertinent when we learn of the long and disturbing history of pederasty in the Islamic and pre-Islamic world.
It would be a blinkered and ignorant person indeed who sought to deny that young boys have been used and abused for tens of centuries in the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa. Not only do we have first hand testimony, but the literature of the area is rich in references to the "joys" of young boys.
Love poetry by men about boys more than competed with that about women, it overwhelmed it. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, MacMillan Reference USA, 2004, p.316 (my bolding)Those who have traveled through Afghanistan, for example, will be aware of the term bacha bazi to describe the tradition of selling boys to rich patrons for their sexual pleasure. How such activities can take place in a culture whose religion states homosexuality is terrible sin would be a mystery were it not for the many sociological and historical studies which describe how sexual relations between men and boys in many Islamic societies is not regarded as homosexual as long as one is not the passive partner.
The reference to being waited upon by young men as beautiful as "virgin pearls" should thus perhaps be seen in its historic context of societies where sexual relationships between older men and boys was seen as something normal. Hence perhaps, in his desire to persuade his followers that becoming a Muslim would be rewarded by every conceivable male fantasy, Muhammad simply wanted to cover all the bases of the known proclivities of his followers.
As a reader coming to the Koran without having to believe it is the words of God, I find this a credible explanation. Certainly more credible than God creating beings whose sole purpose is to spend an eternity waiting upon men who move off their brocaded couches (how naff, my dear!) only to bonk other beings created solely to pleasure them.