Thursday, April 28, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 3

The subheading for this one is 'The Wife as a Possession'. It's really very short. First we have the old standard:

surah al-Baqarah 2:223: " Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe."

I point out, again, like a broken record, that the author only uses the first part of the verse, ending with 'approach your tilth when or how ye will'. I admit that this one gave me problems too, especially before I read the entire verse. I, on my own, decided that this was an example of the mentality of the age. Wives, in all cultures and religions of the time were essentially property. Valuable only for the prestige they might bring, if they were exceptionally beautiful or had some other quality, or for the number of sons they bore. Sons, not daughters. Because girls were burdens. It's not an attitude limited to one culture or another.

The tafsir I've read, however, has this explanation, basically. This verse follows on the verse that prohibits sex between a married couple while the wife is menstruating. Anal sex, by the way, is also considered forbidden. Just in case you were wondering. Anyway. The two verses, 222 & 223 are connected. First the Qur'an says that men are forbidden from having/asking for sex from their wives while they are menstruating (which, depending on the woman is either a good thing or just annoying), then it explains that once she has cleansed herself (I think the word is ghusl) the man is permitted to come to her in any way that Allah has allowed. Which is where the 'tilth' or 'field' comes into play. The field is a fertile image, reminding/hinting at the vagina and the womb. So the verse, along with the preceding is informing the men that they should only have sex with their wives in the proper time and orifice. Which is what a *lot* of Christians will tell you as well. We may not like the imagery, but it is what it is. The Qur'an was written in an agricultural society 1,400 years ago. What they would find understandable and meaningful is not necessarily what we do.

The next surah she cites as making the wife a possession is surah al-'Imran 3:14 (but not all of it, just the part she wants...): " Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to)."

This is one of those cases where 'I do not think that means what you say it means' comes into play. Yes, women are listed as amongst the things that men covet. Is that really a surprise to anyone? Is it a statement of approval? I think not. Merely one of fact. Men want women, sons, money, land, cool toys, fast cars and lots of all of them. "Such are the possessions of this world's life" - these are the things we can have in this world. But they don't last into the next, and that's reflected in the next section "in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (to return to)". Don't Christians say that closeness to Christ, to God, is the true goal of our lives? It seems to me that this is saying the same thing. There are the riches of the world and the riches of eternity.


  1. I was going to ask you to link to this book or tell me the author, because when I found a book with that title on Amazon, it seemed totally different. The description and most of the chapter titles made me think it was pro-Islam and had to do with interfaith cooperation...Then I flipped to the first pages, read the reviews, and checked the chapter titles again. -.- Amazing how well they managed to dress up what amounts to a proselytizing guidebook in a way that I almost wanted to buy it. (Or maybe it's not even that well disguised and I just wasn't paying enough attention, not sure.) Anyway. Enjoying your comments on it. It's really interesting to see you point out the things people might miss and explain how the information is being mis-represented. Thanks!

  2. I think they did a good job of making it seem like one thing so that people with an honest desire to learn about Islam and no knowledge to start with will buy it and then get into it and get all this crappy information. Hell, that's how *I* picked it up! I'm just glad that I didn't get around to reading it for years, until I knew better.

    I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)

  3. I really hate how they are only quoting half the verses!

    And I agree with you, that the verse about your wife being your tilth is a metaphor, same as the stories Jesus told, for example the one with the seed that is being sown and hits different kinds of soil - it doesn't literally mean that humans are dirt.

    I love your comments and explanations! You have a very good perception and understanding of these things :)

  4. I'm enjoyed these reviews! Thanks for sharing the fully explanations of these verses. You are making the Quran more likable for me. Maybe you can do wonders for some of the OT passages next? :)

    I'm always reminded "The past is another culture. They do things differently there." And that - to borrow a phrase - covers a multitude of sins for me. Or at least makes them easier to swallow.

  5. Sorry I did not proofread before sending that grammatically-incorrect first comment. *sigh*

    Oh, and I like what you've done to your blog! Looks nice!

  6. Becky,

    It is both obnoxious and terrible scholarship. It, more than almost anything else, helps to show to clear bias and goal of the writers. They don't care about presenting the truth, just giving enough fuel and information so that people will come to the conclusion they want them to come to.

    *nods* Have none of these people heard of poetic language or metaphor?

    Thank you!

  7. Susanne,

    I told you! You stayed up too late last night and now your brains all mushy! The elderly need their rest! ;p

    I'm glad you're enjoying these.

  8. Yes, yes..we do. On that note, I think I'll go take my mid-morning nap now. Thanks for the reminder... :)

  9. I really like this series that you are doing. Just wondering ... with all this lingo of the past, does Quran seem to you as a document that all people would relate to forever? Does it convince a reader who is not Muslim that God is speaking?

  10. I'm glad you're liking it Suroor.

    does Quran seem to you as a document that all people would relate to forever? Does it convince a reader who is not Muslim that God is speaking?

    I don't know if there's a simple answer to that, or even if what I'm going to say will make a whole lot of sense. But here goes anyway.

    I think that there are core elements inside of the Qur'an that appeal to people and will do so forever. It's the difference between the letter of what is written and seeing the spirit of what is behind it. Islam, as I understand the history, was frozen in its progression and interpretation centuries ago. They decided to cling to the letter in order to preserve their culture and society against what they saw as a destroying influence. In doing so they killed the spirit behind the letter, in my opinion. Things seem to be changing, but it's a slow process and one that has to come from within rather than pushed from outside. That being said, there is still the spirit behind the words which does attract people.

    Here's one of the things that I see as a main 'selling' point of Islam. Barring all the 'extra' bits, it's very simple. And appealing in it's simplicity. There aren't a thousand and one million rules that guide how you have to do everything (yes, I know that there are Muslims who do live such complicated versions, but I don't believe that that was how it started - the shariah was codified much later in Islam's existence, the hadith and the sunnah as well) in order to assure your salvation. And the concept of Divinity is simple as well. There is one God. You don't have to twist into knots trying to understand the Trinity, or how part of God could come down and be incarnated as a human being yet still remain entirely God as well as entirely human. There is only God and His prophets through which He speaks. But it all boils down to God and you. No one else is responsible for you and you're not responsible for anyone else.

    I think it does, clearly, convince some non-Muslims that God is speaking. They're the ones who convert to Islam. But it doesn't convince everyone. Why is that? Different people are looking for and need different things. And sometimes people may refuse to see something because it goes against what they want or expect to see.


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