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Seven levels or divisions of Heaven in religious or mythological cosmology
The concept of seven heavens as developed in ancient Mesopotamiasymbolised both physical and metaphysical concepts. In the Sumerian language, the words for heavens (or sky) and earth are An and Ki. The ancient Mesopotamians regarded the sky as a series of domes (usually three, but sometimes seven) covering the flat earth.:180 Each dome was made of a different kind of precious stone.:203 The lowest dome of the heavens was made of jasper and was the home of the stars. The middle dome of heaven was made of saggilmut stone and was the abode of the Igigi. The highest and outermost dome of the heavens was made of lulud?n?tu stone and was personified as An, the god of the sky. The celestial bodies were equated with specific deities as well.:203 The planet Venus was believed to be Inanna, the goddess of love, sex, and war.:108-109:203 The sun was her brother Utu, the god of justice,:203 and the moon was their father Nanna.:203 Ordinary mortals could not go to the heavens because it was the abode of the gods alone. Instead, after a person died, his or her soul went to Kur (later known as Irkalla), a dark shadowy underworld, located deep below the surface of the earth.Sumerianincantations of the late second millennium BCE make references to seven heavens and seven earths. One such incantation is: "an-imin-bi ki-imin-bi" (the heavens are seven, the earths are seven.)
The understanding that the heavens can influence things on earth lent heavenly, magical properties to the number seven itself, as in stories of seven demons, seven churches, seven spirits, or seven thrones. The number seven appears frequently in Babylonian magical rituals. The seven Jewish and the seven Islamic heavens may have had their origin in Babylonian astronomy.
In general, the heavens is not a place for humans in Mesopotamian religion. As Gilgamesh says to his friend Enkidu, in the Epic of Gilgamesh: "Who can go up to the heavens, my friend? Only the gods dwell with Shamash forever". Along with the idea of seven heavens, the idea of three heavens was also common in ancient Mesopotamia.
I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows--was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.
The description is usually taken as an oblique reference by the author to himself. The passage appears to reflect first-century beliefs among Jews and Christians that the realm of Paradise existed in a different heaven than the highest one--an impression that may find support in the original Greek wording (closer to "caught away" than "caught up").
In the second century, Irenaeus also knows seven heavens (see his Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching 9; cf. Against Heresies 1.5.2).
The Quran and Hadith frequently mention the existence of seven sam?w?t (), the plural of sam (?), meaning 'heaven, sky, celestial sphere', and cognate with Hebrew sham?yim (?). Some of the verses in the Quran mentioning the samaawat are Q41:12,Q65:12 and Q71:15.
There are two interpretations of using the number "seven". One viewpoint is that the number "seven" here simply means "many" and is not to be taken literally (the number is often used to imply that in the Arabic language). But many other commentators use the number literally.
One modern interpretation of "heavens" is that all the stars and galaxies (including the Milky Way) are all part of the "first heaven", and "beyond that six still bigger worlds are there," which have yet to be discovered by scientists.
In other sources, the concept is presented in metaphorical terms. Each of the seven heavens is depicted as being composed of a different material, and Islamic prophets are resident in each. The names are taken from Suyuti's Al-Hay'a as-samya fi l-hay'a as-sunmya:
Raqi'a: The first heaven is described as being made of water and is the home of Adam and Eve, as well as the angels of each star. According to some narratives, Muhammad encountered the angel Habib here.
Ma'una: The fourth heaven is described as being made of brass (alternatively white gold); Idris (conventionally identified with Enoch) and the "Angel of Tears" resides there.
Di'a: The fifth heaven is described as being made of silver; Aaron holds court over this heaven. Sometimes, the guardian of hellfire is assigned to this place.
Daqua: The sixth heaven is described as being composed of gold (alternatively garnets and rubies); Moses can be found here.
'Ariba: The seventh heaven, which borrows some concepts from its Jewish counterpart, is depicted as being composed of divine light incomprehensible to the mortal man (alternatively emerald). Abraham is a resident there and Sidrat al-Muntaha, a large enigmatic Lote tree, marks the end of the seventh heaven and the utmost extremity for all of God's creatures and heavenly knowledge.
^E. W. Bullinger A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek "2, 14, To this "Third heaven" and "Paradise" Paul was caught away, 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4, (not "up", see under "catch") in "visions and revelations of the Lord", 2 Cor. xii. 1. One catching away--with a double revelation of the New heaven and the..."
^Pickthall, M.M.; Eliasi, M.A.H. (1999). The Holy Qur'an (Transliteration in Roman Script). Laurier Books Ltd. ISBN81-87385-07-3.
^Anton M. Heinen Islamic Cosmology 1982 Beirut Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden isbn 3515-03177-4 p. 86
^ abname="State University of New York Press">Colby, Frederick S (2008). Narrating Muhammad's Night Journey: Tracing the Development of the Ibn 'Abbas Ascension Discourse. State University of New York Press. ISBN978-0-7914-7518-8.
^Richard Webster. "Living in Your Soul's Light: Understanding Your Eternal Self". Missing or empty |url= (help)