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The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture

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ISBN-13: 978-0231140843
ISBN-10: 0231140843
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Hardcover, November 19, 2008
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Editorial Reviews


A timely publication, highly recommended for specialists and non-specialists alike.

(Youssef Choueiri Times Higher Education Supplement)

This gem of a book offers a thorough, evocative study... Essential.


A delightful book.

(David Reisman Journal of Islamic Studies 1900-01-00)

A wide-ranging... welcome addition to a small and growing body of scholarship.

(Brannon Wheeler American Historical Review)

Rustomji has filled a real gap in the secondary literature.... [The Garden and the Fire] is one of the best introductions to the Islamic eschatological literature.

(Walid Saleh Journal of the American Academy of Religion)

Highly useful not only to students and educated lay people but also to comparativists and specialists.

(Frederick S. Colby Journal of Religion 1900-01-00)


Nerina Rustomji vividly depicts how the Muslim understanding of the afterlife evolved in the centuries following the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Through a meticulous, well-organized, and easy to follow exploration of such broad-ranging themes as earthly and heavenly gardenscapes, the rewards and pleasures of paradise, the inhabitants of heaven and hell, the torments of hell, and the experience of human bodies in pain and pleasure, she has written a highly original and fascinating study based on a sensitive treatment of sources. Her book is essential reading for university students and professors as well as general readers who want to gain a deeper understanding of heaven and hell in Islam.

(Josef "Yousef" Meri, fellow and special scholar in residence at the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought)|

This splendid jewel of a book offers invaluable insight into the multifaceted afterworlds that Muslims fashioned during the first seven centuries of their history. Nerina Rustomji effectively traces the polyvocal idioms of heaven and hell by exploring a vast array of sources-from the Quranic commentaries to mosque mosaics, from the Prophetic traditions to mausoleums and books of illustrations—with consummate grace and interdisciplinary discretion. An intellectual and aesthetic treat of the first order, The Garden and the Fire transcends the domains of eschatology and comes as a boon to scholars working in cultural studies, religious studies, Near Eastern history, art history, and ethics.

(Syed Akbar Hyder, associate professor of Asian and Islamic studies, The University of Texas at Austin)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (November 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231140843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231140843
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,668,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Stevenson VINE VOICE on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Nerina Rustomji has collected many sources of Islamic ideas about the Garden/Paradise and the Fire/Hell. She has drawn on the Qur'an, hadiths and eschatological manuals. She traces the development of these ideas from their beginnings in the Qur'an through ever greater elaborations, with more and more details filled in over the centuries.

An interesting feature of Islamic thought about the next life is that it envisions what Rustomji justly calls an "afterworld," which is somewhat different than the usual Christian idea of an "afterlife." While Christians tend to see the afterlife of the saved as primarily existence in the direct presence of God, with little elaboration of the physical conditions of heaven, Muslims have many detailed concepts about the physical characteristics of Paradise and its inhabitants, both human and non-human. The final chapter includes reproductions of numerous paintings that represent life in both Paradise and the Fire.

This book is a useful source of information for those curious about Muslim concepts of life after death. There is a lot more to it that the "72 virgins" that seem to be about the only bit of (mis)information that circulates in popular lore in America these days.

This book, like many other academic books from many publishers in recent years, sadly suffers from a lack of proofreading. It is riddled with small errors on many pages, and has a few larger ones too. Academic publishers, please go back to using editors and proofreaders!
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