The Food of the Garden
In both the Qur’an and the hadith we are told that there are many delicious foods in the Garden. In particular meat and various fruits will be offered in abundance to the inmates of the Garden. Allah tells us in the Qur’an about the quality of these gifts to the People of the Garden:
And any fruit they specify and any bird-meat they desire… (Surat al-Waqi‘a: 20-21)
… as recompense for what they did. (Surat al- Waqi‘a: 24)
We are also told that some of the blessings offered to the People of the Garden resemble things in this world. In one verse, Allah says:
Give the good news to those who have iman and do right actions that they will have Gardens with rivers flowing under them. When they are given fruit there as provision, they will say, “This is what we were given before.” But they were only given a simulation of it. They will have there spouses of perfect purity and will remain there timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-Baqara: 25)
Every kind of food offered in the Garden is aesthetically pleasing and delicious. Especially wonderful are the appearances of the fruits and their colours, smells and particular tastes.
For example, many people like the taste and smell of strawberries. In spite of this, some people have an allergic reaction when they eat them. This is one of the drawbacks of this life. Like all the blessings of this world, fruit also has imperfections. They have to be grown, bought, washed and cleaned. In spite of this care they sometimes go bad and sometimes have no taste. In short, when we eat food, we must deal with some problems and deficiencies. As usual in this world, food is created with some imperfections so that people will yearn for real blessings. No matter how much a person appreciates a particular food, the delight in its taste diminishes if he eats it constantly.
The food and fruits of the Garden come to the people there without flaw, and without effort on their part. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that these fruits are very accessible. “Its shading branches will droop down over them, its ripe fruit hanging ready to be picked.” (Surat al-Insan: 14) When they are picked from the trees they are not dusty but already clean and have a wonderful taste. In another verse, Allah says the following about the fruits of the Garden:
That is the Garden you will inherit for what you did. There will be many fruits in it for you to eat. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 72-73)
In the Garden, food is not eaten out of necessity, but as a blessing and free gift from Allah. People will be freed there from weaknesses such as hunger and thirst.
A quality of the blessings of the Garden mentioned in both the Qur’an and the hadith is their abundance. Allah revealed in Surah Sad that provision there will be without cost and will never be used up:
This is what you are promised on the Day of Reckoning. This is Our provision which will never run out. (Surah Sad: 53-54)
The Abundance of Fruit:
In this world, fruits are pure foods that clean the body of toxins and give resistance to disease; they are very rich in vitamins and minerals, and are refreshing and give health and even beauty. The Messenger of Allah said the following about this blessing of the Garden:
When opened, each fruit of the lote-tree of the Garden yields seventy-two colours and types of food, and no colour or type is like any other. (Mukhtasar Tadhkirah al-Qurtubi, p. 312/517)
The Messenger drew attention to the colour and variety of fruit in the Garden. The fact that they are so different from one another will be pleasing to people. They will not always have the same shape, smell, taste or colour; they will be created in such a variety that people will be surprised and excited because every time they see them will be like the very first time. These are only one of the manifestations of Allah’s endless creative power and artistry. This variety, which in the world is already overwhelming, will be without limit in the Garden.
The blessings of the Garden will be presented to its people in the most pleasant way. Allah will give them a banquet and servants created for this service will serve the various fruits to them on gold and silver trays, doing so with pleasure and attention. In one verse, Allah says:
We are your protectors in the life of this world and the Hereafter. You will have there all that your selves could wish for. You will have there everything you demand. Hospitality from One Who is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surah Fussilat: 31-32)
A Bedouin came to the Prophet and asked him “Is there fruit there?” He said, “Yes, and there is a tree called Tuba,” and he mentioned something which I do not know what it was. The Bedouin asked, “What tree of this land does it resemble?” He said, “It does not resemble any tree of your land. Have you been to Syria?” He said, “No.” He said, “It resembles a tree in Syria called al-Jawzah (walnut) which grows with one trunk then spreads out its branches higher up.” The Bedouin asked, “How big is its trunk?” He said, “If one of the camels of your people was to go around it, it would not complete one circuit before its neck broke of old age and exhaustion.” The Bedouin asked, “Are there grapes there?” He said, “Yes.” He asked, “How big is a bunch?” He said, “The distance a crow could fly without stopping in a month.” He asked, “How big is one grape?” He said, “Does your father ever slaughter a he-goat from his flocks?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “And does he skin it and give the hide to your mother, and say, ‘Make me a bucket’?” He said, “Yes.” The Bedouin asked, “Is one grape big enough to satisfy me and my family?” He said, “Yes, and your whole tribe.” (Reported by ‘Utbah ibn ‘Abdin al-Salami, Ahmad ibn Hanbal)
When we consider the fruits of the Garden, we must not think in terms of this world’s limitations. In the above hadith, the Prophet gave examples of only a few fruits, but the Garden is a place where everything desired will be provided in a most wonderful way; there are many other blessings there that do not occur to our minds but will give us great pleasure.
Here are some verses from the Qur’an in which Allah mentions the fruits of the Garden:
Amid thornless lote-trees and banana-trees [with fruits]. (Surat al-Waqi‘a: 28-29)
In them are fruits and date-palms and pomegranates. (Surat ar-Rahman: 68)
And fruits in abundance never failing, unrestricted. (Surat al-Waqi‘a: 32-33)
They will have preordained provision: sweet fruits and high honour in Gardens of Delight. (Surat as-Saffat: 41-43)
Examples of the Food in the Garden:
There is a story about dates in the hadith:
Someone asked, “O Prophet! Are there dates in the Garden? Because I love dates.” And the Prophet replied: “Yes, there are dates… the dates of the Garden have golden branches. They have golden shoots. They have leaves as beautiful as the finest clothing anyone has ever seen. There are golden bunches of dates. Even the stalks of these bunches of dates are of gold. At the base of each golden date are sticky scales. They have fruits like giant jars, softer than foam, sweeter than honey.” (Mukhtasar Tadhkirah al-Qurtubi, p. 315/522)
We notice here that every detail of the Garden is compared with the most attractive things that we know and understand, and the descriptions of their appearances and delicious taste show what blessings they are. For example, beneath the branches of the date trees in the Garden, the leaves look like beautiful silk fabric.
Another hadith tells about the size of the dates:
The branches of the date trees in the Garden are green emerald. Their shoots are reddish gold. Their leaves are clothing to be worn by the People of the Garden. One part are undergarments, one part are lined over-garments. The fruits of the date of the Garden are like great jars and jugs. There are no seeds within them. (Mukhtasar Tadhkirah al-Qurtubi, p. 314)
In the above hadith the dates are likened to jewels and it is said that, by Allah’s will, their appearance and their taste will be perfect.
According to one hadith, our Prophet said the following about figs:
If I had to mention a fruit that descended from the Garden I would say this is it… (Mukhtasar Tadhkirah al-Qurtubi, p. 313)
Figs are also mentioned in the Qur’an (Surat at-Tin: 1). Figs have one of the highest mineral contents of all fruits and have a special place as a food that is high in energy.
In one of his hadith, our Prophet says the following about melons:
Benefit from the watermelon and respect it, because its juice is from the Garden and its taste is from the Garden … the watermelon is [one of the fruits] of the Garden. (Mukhtasar Tadhkirah al- Qurtubi, p. 313)
In a verse in which the Garden is described, Allah speaks of bananas in this way:
Amid thornless lote-trees and banana-trees [with fruits], one above another and extended shade and water flowing constantly and abundant fruit, neither intercepted nor forbidden. (Surat al- Waqi‘a: 28-33)
With their aroma, delicious taste and numerous benefits, bananas are a favourite fruit of many people. But, as with all other blessings, the bananas in the Garden are much more wonderful, delicious and aromatic than in this world.
Besides fruit, meat is also mentioned in the Qur’an and the hadith. In one verse of the Qur’an, Allah tells us that meat is a blessing of the Garden:
We will supply them with any kind of fruit and meat that they desire. (Surat at-Tur: 22)
The Messenger says the following about meat:
… The most delicious of the food accompanying the bread of the People of the Garden is meat. Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. [Tezkireti'l Kurtubi, s. 363/654]
In the Qur’an and the hadith, flesh of fowl is the kind of meat that is particularly mentioned.
Bird meat is mentioned in verse 21 of Surat al-Waqi‘aBird meat is mentioned in verse 21 of Surat al-Waqi‘a “any bird meat they desire” as well as in hadith:
If on seeing a bird, one desires to eat its meat, it will be brought immediately, tastily fried. (Buyuk Hadis Kulliyati (Great Ahadith Collection), Cem’ul-Fevaid min Cami’il-usul and Mecma’iz-zevaid, Imam Muhammad ibn Muhammad
Among the kinds of meat mentioned in the Qur’an, quail has special significance because it was the food with which Allah miraculously fed the Children of Isra’il in the desert.