Wednesday, January 2, 2013

ARQ Project: Surah an-Nisa

In which it is all about the women. So there. Let's get right into this.

2. Give orphans what is theirs and do not substitute your worthless things for their good ones, and do not devour their substance along with your own, for verily it is a great sin.

Let me just say how amused I am reading this first ayah. Not that it's a silly ayah or unimportant, because I think it is very important that people who have charge of orphans who come with, perhaps, an inheritance that you are keeping in trust for them not treat that trust ad though it belongs to you. It's not yours. What I find amusing is the mental image I get of someone dividing things into two piles, the orphans' belongings and the guardians, and going, 'Your shit', pointing to one pile, 'Not your shit.' and pointing to the orphans' things. Could just be a me thing though.

3. If you fear that you cannot act justly among orphans, then marry women who seem good to you, two or three or four, and if you fear that you shall not deal justly (with many), then (marry) only one, or whom your right hands have acquired; that is more proper for you else you should err.

Okay, at first I read this and I thought that it was telling the men to marry the orphans, and that was giving me issues because I picture orphans as like...Little Orphan Annie, you know? Definitely not marrying material. Then I was typing it out for the post and I had this thought: what if it's just saying, if you become responsible for an orphan and oh don't think that oh can act 'justly' which I assume means keeping up your responsibility to not touch use their shit like it's yours, then get married and our wife/wives will keep you on line. Slacker.

Also, *points up* I know that technically the Qur'an allows for polygamy, so does the Bible, I don't care what oh say about Jesus changing that, unless you can point me to where Jesus (or one of the prophets speaking for God) specifically says 'One wife at a time.' then polygamy is still on the Biblical table. But. There's a very important caveat up there; 'if you feel that you shall not deal justly (with many), then (marry) only one' - it goes on about 'right hand possessions' but since we all agree that slavery is *wrong*, we're not going to go there. No one should have slaves anymore, but you could maybe have multiple wives (or spouses). The idea being, to my mind, that it's permissible/allowed for someone to have more than one wife but *only* if they can deal justly (fairly) with all of them. This comes back later, so just keep it in mind.

4. Give women their dowry freely (without any) restraint; but if they of their own accord are pleased to give up to you anything thereof, then (you may) spend it with pleasure (and it shall be) wholesome (to you).

Womens' money/property is theirs, not their husbands. If the women decide to share it or to put in for expenses, then that's their business. But it doesn't automatically become the husbands' property once they marry. Just...throwing that out there.

5. Do not give away your property which God has made for you (a means) for sustenance to the weak-minded, but maintain them therewith, and clothe them, and speak to them with words of kindness and counsel.

So I have a question about the above ayah. Does anyone else think that it's referring to dependents who are never going to be mentally mature? People with Down's Syndrome, for example, or similar conditions. 

Inheritance laws are covered in ayah 11 and 12. Here's an accurate visual representation of my face reading these: @.@ I hate math. Maybe that's my problem. I start reading about half of this and one eighth of that and I start going LALALALALAAAAAAAAA until the numbers stop. Does anyone understand the inheritance laws set out in the Qur'an in a way that they can explain them to me? Fractions man. Fractions.

15. As to those who are guilty of lewdness among your women, bring four witnesses against them from among yourselves, and if they bear witness, confine them to their houses till death takes them away or God makes some way for them.

What's the definition of 'lewdness' here? When I hear 'lewdness' I think of flashers, maybe, or people having sex in public. Both are 'lewd' behaviors in my mind. And they get, I guess it sounds like permanent house arrest here.

18. Repentance is not for those who (continue to) do evil until, when death comes to one of them, he says: "Now surely I repent," nor for those who die unbelievers; these are they for whom We have prepared a grievous torment.

So no death bed conversions in Islam? Or just no converting because of fear of death maybe. I would assume that someone who converted shortly before their death, through sincere reasons that had nothing to do with being afraid of death, their belief would be accepted.

The 'no fly zones':

22. Do not marry women whom your fathers had married, except what has already passed, for it is shameful and abominable and an evil way. 23. Forbidden to you are your mothers, daughters, sisters, paternal aunts and maternal aunts, the daughters of your sister, your foster-mothers and your foster-sisters, the mothers of your wives, and your stepdaughters in your guardianship (born) of your wives to whom you have had cohabitation-but if you have not cohabited with them, it shall not be a sin on you (to marry them) - and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins, and that you combine two sisters (at one and the same time in wedlock), except what has already passed; God is Forgiving, Merciful. 24. All protected (married) women (are forbidden unto you) save those whom your right hand possesses. (This is) God's written guidance to you. Other women are lawful for you, provided that you seek them with (dowries from) your own property, taking them honorably, not in debauchery. Those whom you marry for a fixed period of time (i.e. in mut'a), give them their dowries, and there is no blame on you concerning whatever you mutually agree after what is appointed. Verily, God is all-Knowing, Wise.

I actually have a question only about a short part of the next ayah, but I don't want to not quote the whole thing:

25. Whoever of you does not have enough means to marry believing women, then (let him marry) from among those whom your right hands possess (slaves or captives) from among your believing maidens; God has full knowledge of your faith. You are one from the other, so marry them, with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, being chaste, not committing lewdness, nor receiving lovers (secretly), and after they are protected (in wedlock), if they are proved guilty of lewdness, then on them shall be half the punishment (prescribed) for free women. This is permission for him among you who fears falling into evil; and that you show self-restraint is better for you, and God is Forgiving, Merciful.

My question is about the half-punishment for married slave women. From earlier, the punishment for wives caught in lewdness is house arrest until their death (or until God finds another path for them, which I'm not sure what that means). So what would half of that be? House arrest for half their life?

31. If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden, We will remit from you your misdeeds, and We will admit you into Paradise, an honorable place it is indeed.

I read this as saying if you manage to avoid the Big Sins (like shirk, I assume), then God will forgive you any minor sins that you haven't repented of/made amends for.

32. Do not covet that whereby God has raised some of you above others; for men shall have the benefit of what they earn, and women shall have the benefit of what they earn, and ask God of His Grace; surely God knows all things.

Women keep what they earn. It does not automatically become the property of their husband. Which is an attitude that I have seen in certain extreme Christian groups, by the way. And it used to be the law of the land. Women belonged to their husbands (and by 'land' I mean the US just so you don't get confused) and everything that they made belonged to their husbands.

34. Men have authority over women on account of that with which God has caused one of them to excel over the other, and for what they spend of their sustenance; therefore, righteous women are obedient, guarding the unperceivable just as God has guarded. As for whose whose disloyalty you fear, admonish them, then keep away from them in bed, then beat them (lightly), and if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; God is ever-High, ever-Great.

In the first part of this ayah we have the 'reason' that men are in authority is because God has said so. But a part of that is that they're responsible for the upkeep of their household - they have to pay for everything and their wives can have jobs and earn money and they don't have to contribute any of that money to the house. So in appreciation of the men running and paying for everything, women aren't pains in the asses and guard what God would have them guard. The...sanctity of the house, maybe? Like the story of Ishmael's wives?

As for the beating (lightly). Well. No. I'm reading that as a time/culture thing because you don't beat your wife. Not ever. Not anymore. And I guarantee you, any husband of mine ever tries to beat me he's not going to wake up the next morning. I have Strong Feelings about abuse, okay?

36. Worship God and do not associate anything with Him, and do good deeds to your parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the close neighbor and the neighbor who is a stranger, to a companion by your side and to the wayfarer, and to that whom your right hands possess; surely God does not love the proud, the boastful.

I read this as something similar to the lesson learned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Do good deeds for *everyone*, not just the people nearest to your heart or your geography.

48. Verily God does not forgive that anything is associated with Him, but He forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases, and whoever associates anything with God has indeed committed a great sin.

What about people who don't realize that they're associating anything with God? In the Islamic viewpoint Trinitarian Christians are associating partners with God which, according to this verse, is something God does not forgive. But if you speak to Trinitarians they believe that the three Persons make up One God and so to their minds there are no 'partners' with God, just God. So would God forgive people like that if they realize their error do you think?

129. You will never be able to do justice between your wives, even though you may be intent (on it), so do not turn away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as if it were) hanging (in the air), and if you effect a reconciliation and guard yourselves (against evil), verily, God is oft-Forgiving, Merciful.

Remember above, in ayah 3, where it said you can marry up to four but only if you can deal 'justly' with all of them? Boom. You can't. So it's probably better to only marry one. But the Qur'an, or at least my reading of this, doesn't want these men to just abandon wives once they realize this which is what I see with the whole 'don't turn away from them altogether' part here.

Okay, I'm doing a bad thing by pulling out just one ayah out of a section but:

156. And for their disbelief, and for their utterance of a grievous calumny against Mary;

I'm wondering what the 'grievous calumny' is here. The ayah before it is talking about the Jews' hearts being covered  and breaking their covenants and the ayah after it is talking about them claiming to have killed Jesus when they really didn't because God didn't allow it. I'm not seeing the calumny against Mary in those.

And that's what I've got for this surah. Any thoughts? Questions? Things I missed or didn't address?


  1. Curses! Blogger lost my comment when I hit "publish." So I'll try it again. And copy it before I hit anything.

    25: maybe half punishment is house arrest only at night?

    34: I got caught up with the semantics on this one. "guarding the unperceivable just as God hs guarded"
    Does that mean the just we're guarding is unperceivable or are we to guard it in the same way God has guarded it?

    48: It's my personal opinion that God holds people accountable for what He has revealed to them in the way of truth.

    1. Blogger does evil things like that all the time. I make a habit of copying any long comments I make for just such a moment. :)

      25: So...normal life then? I don't imagine there was a whole lot of night life in ancient Arabia. :)

      34: I don't know. I guess it would depend on what the 'unperceivable' actually is. Because if it's something that God has given instructions on, in Islam, then I'd guess this would mean to guard it the way God told you to since as humans we can't do things the way God does them. God. Human. Two different things with different capabilities.

      48. Hmmm...but according to Islamic thought, the Qur'an was revealed for all people - the same message has been sent down to all the prophets. And any 'revelation' that contradicts the Qur'an is false. So that would mean, if God holds people accountable for what He's revealed to them, that God holds us accountable to the standards of the Qur'an even if we (through geography or what have you) have never heard or read it.

  2. I think its interesting that there are groups where the woman's money becomes the mans. In American culture its (at least was until women started working) seen as the man's money becoming the woman's. If his wife stays home he is expected to share his money. Though I knew a few families where the wife got an "allowance" since she didn't work. And some who still have their own bank accounts because they do. It will be very interesting to see what happens with our generation as no one can afford to be a stay at home mom anymore. Every culture works differently with marriage and money.

    I always thought it was interesting that the Quran does discourage polygamy simply because most men won't be able to do it right. The Quran was right.

    1. *laughs* Actually I was thinking of American culture here too. Women worked long before they entered the workplace the way we think of it now. And everything that they had belonged to their husbands. I don't think it was the man's money becoming the woman's, but the wife being treated basically like a possession/child of the man. Everything was his and she got only what he decided to give her.

      Yep. The Qur'an definitely got the polygamy thing right. Which hasn't stopped people from doing wrong anyway. People. Bah.

    2. You are correct. I was thinking more of my parents generation. My Dad's money became my mom's bc she didn't work. She stayed home but spent his money freely. I know that isn't everyone but nowadays I know a lot of couples that don't share all their money because they are both working. They have a joint account for expenses and then keep the rest of their money for themselves. The husband isn't paying for his wife's shopping spree in this situation lol.

  3. So much stuff in this one, and my computer has been awful at copying and pasting lately so I won't even try.

    I asked Samer about the inheritance maths one time, and he said it was very complicated. Not sure if he just didn't want to tell me or if it truly is.

    Lewdness -- the online dictionary says things that I would associate just as much to men doing as women. So where is the punishment prescription for lewd men? Maybe it's in the "Men" chapter...oh, yes.

    I like your idea of mental maturity for that one verse.

    156 -- I imagine it was Jews talking about Mary not being married yet having a child. Calling her an immoral woman. The Quran - in my experience - made me fill in the gaps quite a bit with knowledge from Bible stories.

    1. I read/saw someone explain the inheritance maths once in a way that made sense. And immediately went out of my head once I stopped looking at the page. But I couldn't find it again to link to it here. It's all *waves hands*. Algebra or something. Muslims. Always ruining plain, simple math. ;)

      *laughs* Well. I promise if I come across a lewdness for men ruling, I'll mention it!

      re: Mary: Yeah, that's what I was thinking but I didn't want to guide anyones hand there.

  4. Re: 4:34-35. This is basically part of Allah's rules for divorce - you talk, sleep in separate beds, then live separately. All the while, you keep talking and trying to resolve things. If neither person is willing to reconcile, you bring a person from each person's family to help mediate. Once the three month separation period (to ensure no pregnancy, or if she is pregnant, that the paternity of the child is unquestioned), you are divorced and can go your separate ways. The three-month waiting period also allows for people to cool down, think rationally, and gives additional opportunity to reconcile and remain together.

    You will note that the Monotheist (Quranist) translation of the Qur'an translates the ayat 4:34 like this:

    "As for those females from whom you fear desertion, then you shall advise them, and abandon them in the bedchamber, and separate from them. If they respond to you, then do not seek a way over them; God is Most High, Great."

    The root of the word commonly translated as "to beat" is D-R-B, and out of the many other meanings, you have "to separate". Honestly, I think people have translated it as "beat" to "justify" cultural crap where spousal abuse is accepted and (sadly) expected. Just stopping and thinking about the logical progression of a divorce brings you to a totally different conclusion once you realize that there are many other translations of this root. No thinking person would agree that beating your spouse would be incentive to her to come back to you, yet we have Muslims and non-Muslims who think, because of human failure or twisted male-centric attitudes, that Islam allows wife beating. It doesn't. The Qur'an tells us that spouses are to be like garments to one another, to live together in kindness and mercy. Spousal abuse is the very opposite of that.

    4:16 addresses men who commit "lewdness" (like you, Amber, I see this as public sexual intercourse and the like - the Qur'an also refers to adultery as lewdness).

    The Qur'an on says:

    "And the two who commit it among you, dishonor them both. But if they repent and correct themselves, leave them alone. Indeed, Allah is ever Accepting of repentance and Merciful."

    Basically, the men get blacklisted - nobody will talk with them or be near them, they lose their standing in the community.

    Not really equal. Many people will say that 4:15-16 is talking about homosexuality, but I see no proof of this.

    1. 34: That is a logical progression, but why is the word that is translated as 'disloyalty' in other translations read as 'abandonment' in the Quranist translation? Actually, that words seems to get translated a whole lot of ways: I ask because if it's 'abandonment', then it could make sense as a fear that the wife is about to ask for divorce/leave. But some of these translations have 'arrogance', 'ill-conduct', 'rebellion', etc.

      No thinking person would agree that beating your spouse would be incentive to her to come back to you, yet we have Muslims and non-Muslims who think, because of human failure or twisted male-centric attitudes, that Islam allows wife beating.

      Not that this is a commentary on the Qur'an, but just think of how many battered spouses *do* go back to their abuser after a beating. There are also people who believe that Christianity allows for 'disciplining' a wife in a similar fashion. Basically, people suck.

      Basically, the men get blacklisted - nobody will talk with them or be near them, they lose their standing in the community.

      Not very equal, no.

      Many people will say that 4:15-16 is talking about homosexuality, but I see no proof of this.

      I know the Yusuf Ali translation translates ayah 16 to say that if two men commit lewdness they're to be punished, but if they repent then they're to be forgiven. But that is, as I look at other translations side by side, a rather different translation than the rest of them. Most leave out any mention of gender at all.

  5. I think I once read that women in slavery are punished less, because they aren't seen as having autonomy of themselves and of their bodies? I.e., they can't consent to a marriage in a first place, and so also, they can't be fully punished if they commit adultery. Although I'm not sure.

    1. I actually had that thought, that the punishment was easier on slave women because they had even less agency than a free woman but it got to be a very convoluted thought.

      The ayah specifically says to marry among believing slaves if you can't find a free believing woman to marry. And it's my understanding that in Islam no one is to be coerced or forced into marriage (theory vs. practice, of course, as in so many things from every culture). But if a slave turned wife is to be punished less because she lacks the agency of a free born wife, then how can she have had the agency to freely agree to the marriage?

  6. This has been super interesting! I really like your interpretations and the way you take the best meaning/understanding of the verses.


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