What is meant by rivers of water, milk, and wine in heaven?
The Garden promised to the righteous is as if it has rivers of water that corrupts not; and rivers of milk of which the taste changes not; and rivers of wine, which do not inebriate, a delight for those who drink; and rivers of pure honey, which has no impurity [47:16]. It is clearly stated here that heaven should be understood as metaphorically comprising inexhaustible streams of these bounties. This means that the water of life which a person of spiritual understanding drinks in this life will be manifested visibly in the hereafter. The spiritual milk by which he is sustained like a suckling in this life will become physically visible in heaven. The wine of God's love which inebriated him all the time spiritually in this life, will be manifested in the shape of rivers in heaven. The honey of the sweetness of faith which a person possessing spiritual understanding swallowed spiritually in this world will be manifested and felt physically in heaven. Every dweller of heaven will proclaim his spiritual condition openly through his gardens and rivers. God will unveil Himself on that day for the dwellers of heaven. In short, spiritual conditions will not remain hidden in the hereafter but will be physically visible and perceptible.
The third insight concerning the hereafter is that there will be unlimited progress therein. As God Almighty has said: The light of the believers will run before them and on their hands. They will supplicate: Lord, perfect our light for us and cover us with Thy grace, surely Thou hast power over all things [66:9]. Their supplication that their light may be perfected is an indication of limitless progress. It means that when they have arrived at one stage of illumination, they will perceive a higher stage ahead of them and viewing it they will consider the stage in which they are as being inferior and will supplicate for the attainment of the higher stage, and when they arrive at that stage they will perceive a still higher third stage ahead of them and they will supplicate for its achievement. Thus their yearning for constant progress is indicated by the expression: Do Thou perfect our light. In short this state of progress will continue indefinitely. There will be no falling away, nor will they be expelled from heaven. But will daily advance further forward.
It may be asked that as they will have entered heaven and all their sins would have been forgiven then what further need would there be for supplicating for forgiveness: The answer is that the true meaning of maghfirat (seeking forgiveness), is to suppress and cover up an imperfect or defective condition. Thus the dwellers of heaven will seek the attainment of perfection and their complete absorption in light. Observing a higher condition they will consider their condition defective and would desire its suppression, and then observing a still higher condition they would desire that their lower condition should be covered up and thus they will continuously seek unlimited maghfirat.
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