What gets lost in translation
Q: I’ve heard the thing about suicide bombers being promised 72 virgins and paradise once they die. But I’ve also heard that it was a mistranslation and that it actually means they’ll get raisins. What’s up with that?
A: Yes, you’ve heard both parts correctly. According to some Islamic leaders, passages in the Quran promise “martyrs” that upon entering heaven, they will receive six dozen “huris,” which are defined as “maidens of modest gaze, whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them.”
Now, the meaning of the word “huri” is where the problems — and the raisins — arise. When translated from the Arabic, it means, more or less, “virgin.” But when translated from Syriac languages, it means “white raisins.” We’ll leave it to your own devices to gauge which — virgins or raisins — would be more tempting to a martyr.
The online “Explainer” column from Slate magazine offers an answer to another twist. What happens to a woman who martyrs herself? What does she get? According to the experts found by Slate, a woman who martyrs herself gets her husband in heaven. Those who had multiple husbands could pick which one, and some Islamic commentators have decreed that an unmarried woman can marry any man she chooses in paradise.
Got a question about goings-on in the Mideast? E-mail Stripes at: firstname.lastname@example.org