HEAVEN Arabic Sama’ سماء; Persian Asman اسمان
which expresses the firmament as distinguished from Firdaus, or Paradise, the abodes of bliss. [PARADISE.] In the Qur’an it is stated that there are seven paths, or stages, in heaven. Surah xxiii. 17: “And we have created above you seven paths, nor are we heedless of the creation.” By which the commentators understand that they are paths of the angels and of the celestial bodies. The creation of the heaven is declared to be for God’s glory and nor for His pastime. Surah xxi. 16: “We created not the heaven and the earth and that which is between them, by way of sport.”
It is the general belief that at the last day the heavens will fall, but that they are now upheld by God’s power. Surah xxii. 64: “He hold up the heaven from falling on the earth save his bidding.”
According to Muslim traditions (Mishkat, book xxiv. ch. vii.), Muhammad during the mi’raj or nigh journey, passed through these seven heavens, and they are stated to be as follows: (1) That which is of pure virgin silver and which is Adam’s residence; (2) of pure gold, which is John the Baptist’s and Jesus’; (3) of pearls, which is Joseph’s; (4) of white gold, which is Enoch’s; (5) of silver which is Aaron’s; (6) of ruby and garnet, which is Moses’; (7) which is Abraham’s. These accounts are, however, most confused; for in some books and according to popular tradition, the fourth and not the second heaven is assigned to Jesus.
This view is in harmony with the seven spheres of Ptolemy, the first of which is that of the moon, the second Mercury, the third Venus, the fourth the Sun, the fifth Mars, the sixth Jupiter, the seventh Saturn; each of which orbs was supposed by the ancients to revolve round the earth in its proper sphere. Muhammad said the distance between each heavenly region is five hundred year’s journey. (Mishkat, book xxiv. ch. i, pt. 3).
The Rabbis spoke of two heavens (cf. Deut. X. 14), “The heaven and the heaven of heavens,” or seven Clem. Alex. Strom., iv. 7, 636). “Resch Lakisch dixit septum esse coelos, quorum nomina sunt, 1. velum; 2. expansum; 3. nubes; 4. habitaculum; 5. habitation; 6. sedes fixa; 7. Araboth. (See Wetstein, ad. 2 Cor. Xii. 2). St. Paul’s expression, , 2 Cor. xii. 2, has led to some discussion, for Grotius says that the Jews divided the heaven into three parts. (1) Nuubiferum, the atmosphere; (2) Astriferum, the firmament; and (3) Empyreum, the abode of God. But the statement, however, does not seem to be supported by any known Rabbinic authority.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam