This is a short story that I wrote a while back. It was first posted on Eteraz.org.
72 Virgins: A Thought Experiment
Some called the new invention Descartes’ evil daemon, others called it Satan’s workshop. Then there were those who thought that this was the greatest invention of all time although even its inventors were not quite sure about how it worked. Regardless of whatever people thought about the invention, it was the talk of the town for it allowed one to experience a world of virtual reality distilled from the unconsciouses of a community or many communities that one had come across in one’s life. It was called the Neural-calibrator or neuro-cal for short. Most people in the world had not used it but those who had used it found it disturbing to put it mildly. Dr. Akbar Baihisab was perhaps the only person of Muslim background who was associated with the this invention but he had never tried it until that fateful night. Most of the people had left early that day, Christmas was approaching so people were getting busy in other activities. Around midnight Akbar saw the opportunity and went into the control room. After calibrating the neuro-cal he plugged in the wire coming from it to the brain-computer interface at the back of his head and sat down on a chair to experience what happens. Nothing happened for a minute or two and then all of a sudden he sensed that something was terribly wrong because instead of seeing visions he felt powerless and weary, his vital stats began to drop. He could see his head bleeding but strangely did not feel any pain. The end was nigh and the whole world grew dark. When Akbar opened his eyes he saw himself in a large, lavish and brightly lit room sleeping on the most comfortable bed imaginable. “Could this be afterlife?” he wondered.
He rose and noticed for the first time that he was attired in extravagant clothing. “This must be it? May be I should ask someone if someone is here.” He said to himself and took a few steps when he saw a silhouette of a person from a distance. He approached the person, it was woman and not just any woman but the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. She was well built, smelled like rose and seductively attired i.e., scantly clad. He asked her where he was and she replied, “You are in heaven, master.” She came closer and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Where are the others?” He inquired, to which she replied, “All of us are here for your pleasure master.” And the next instant a whole group of women was visible on the other side of the wall, one more beautiful than the other. He was somewhat taken aback but further inquired, “I mean other people from Earth.” “Aren’t you Glad that you have us. How shall I please thee today?” she replied. He was almost speechless and as she proceeded to give him a hug, he told her to stay back and she obliged to his command. He felt disoriented. He remembered hearing about such visions of heaven from the time when he was a teenager and people in his mosque still talked about visions of heaven in such explicit details and now that he was actually in heaven he felt as if something is not right. He proceeded to the hallway he came across the group of women that he had seen through the wall, scattered here and there. They were similarly attired in came in all colors and hues. He inquired about other people but they never really answered his question and so a seductive smile was usually their answer; then he asked one of them, “How many of you are there?” and she replied. “72 of course master. All virgins!”
Many days passed, he tried to make conversation with these women but it seemed that it was not possible to have a conversation with them since they could not answer most of his questions and just smiled like Barbie dolls when they did not have an answer. All that the women did was to be in their stations all day long and would be ready for any types of physical intimacy that he desired but he was not really interested in that so he never asked anyone. There were lush gardens and wonderful creatures but it did not feel right. He longed for closeness with God. He forbade all the virgins to come near him and spent most of his time in one of the rooms contemplating the meaning of life and the rewards and blessings that God had given him while he was alive. He repented until one night he realized what he had done wrong in his life. That night he prayed and asked Allah for forgiveness, he made a promise to himself that he will stop worshiping houris, heaven, his Sheikhs etc and start worshiping Allah – the most Gracious, the most Merciful. For the first time in many weeks he fell asleep.
“Akbar, can you hear us?” He hared someone calling his name. “Where am I?” He asked. You are in the neuro-cal room. “How long has it been, how long was I out?” He seemed somewhat confused. Then someone replied, “What do u mean, I am guessing that you plugged yourself into the machine right around midnight, so it must have been just five hours I suppose.”
“the mullah’s Paradise is eating and sleeping and singing,
the lover’s Paradise is the contemplation of Being.”
– Muhammad Iqbal in Javed Nama