Blog posts seem almost entirely to be comprised of editorials passed off as factual, journalistic endeavors, when they’re more likely just opinion pieces with some presumed facts scattered within — and I’m certainly no saint in that regard. In my formal journalism training, though, I was taught to offer both sides of the story without picking a side — and the vast majority of articles I’ve seen that list verses from the Qur’an in a series of subject-sorted lists, tend to be overtly anti-Islam in nature.
I had just found an interesting article about “10 Qur’an Quotes Every Woman Must See” (Jan.11, 2008; Infidels Are Cool) and looked through them. A bunch of them seemed pretty stretched and raised a dozen questions instead of answers. I’m a bit more of a researcher, and would much rather open up the Qur’an for some context than to just let the post remain as-is.
It turns out, though, that I’d missed the fact that the post was instead just a hastily-assembled summary of a different post, “Top ten rules in the Quran that oppress women” (Nov.13, 2005, American Thinker) that went into greater detail — but was still a bit peculiar in its interpretation.
In the spirit of balanced reporting, I’d like to take defense on these, as a counterargument to the one-sided battle here. It might rightly be noted that I am not Muslim, but trust my righteousness to be replaced by Christ’s. In the parable of the Unforgiving Servant in the Christian New Testament, a master forgave a servant of an unpayable debt, but then that servant turned around and did not forgive a fellow servant of a tiny debt. The master learned of this, and sent the first servant away to punishment until he could pay the unpayable (presumably forever). In the spirit of that, would it not be proper to defend the accused, when I myself have been shown mercy of a rightful defense?
I try to run a family-friendly site here, so forgive me for rewording some of the more explicit descriptions to be more tactful. The bolded sentences are not quotes from the Qur’an, but are the error-filled arguments of the articles above.
10. A man sleeping with his wife is like a plow to the field, so plow it however you want. Referenced Passage – Sura 2:223. My copy of the Qur’an (see end of article) has a footnote: “It is compared to a husband’s [plow]; it is a serious affair to himl he sows the seed in order to reap the harvest. But he chooses his own time and mode of cultivation. He does not sow out of season nor cultivate in a manner which will injure or exhaust the soil. He is wise and considerate and does not run riot.”
9. Husbands are a degree above their wives. Referenced Passage – Sura 2:2228. Again, a footnote explains that the degree is more a matter of greater responsibility to assist in maintaining the wife, than she to him. They are equal under the law, but economically women are subject to special protections that men are not. The verse doesn’t imply that husbands are better per se, but that they have a more significant burden to uphold in maintaining the relationship.
8. A male gets a double share of the inheritance over that of a female. Referenced Passage – Sura 4:11 (also 4:176). I don’t really have any refutation of this, as all of the sources I can find seem to indicate this same, but at the same time don’t offer anything as to why that is — meaning that “because men are better than women” isn’t a valid conclusion to draw.
7. A woman’s testimony counts half of a man’s testimony. Referenced Passage – Sura 2:282. I don’t have any footnotes about it, but the passage could be taken one of a few ways, and the interpretation American Thinker takes isn’t what seemed to jump out at me. The context has to do with making a written agreement about something that will come to pass in the future, such as a transaction where payment would be due (instead of an immediate exchange), and having witnesses present as the contract is written — having two men as witnesses, and if there is only one man around, then the man and two women will work, “so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.” As with #9, this seems to put more weight of responsibility upon the male, and making polite concessions to women — instead of saying that women are less trustworthy. A key aspect of the moment is that “so the other can remind her,” in that, perhaps the burden of recollection is on the two separate parties, in that a man is legally bound to recall the matter squarely upon himself individually, without assistance — and that the two-woman party is its own legal entity whereby the burden might be shared. There doesn’t seem to be any party which the male may be reminded, so the greater burden for proof is upon the male. Not necessarily that women can’t handle the burden, but they are offered greater protection from error in the matter.
6. A wife may remarry her ex-husband if and only if she marries another man, they sleep together, and then this second man divorces her. Referenced Passage – Sura 2:230. There’s a footnote that indicates that the particular variety of divorce described here is the third “irrevocable” kind. Earlier in 2:229, “A divorce is permissible only twice: after that, the husbands should retain their wives together on equitable terms, or let them go with kindness.” The footnote remarks that 2:230 refers to a third divorce — after the two have split up twice and have reunited again, than the third one is not permitted to occur until she has married someone else first, been divorced again (a fourth time total, for her). “In that case, there is no blame on either of them if they reunite..” The issue seems to center specifically on permission to reunite again after the third divorce, rather than an implied inequality that the man unfairly will not also have to remarry to a different woman and be divorced in order to marry her again. This might have to do with legal permission for males to have more than one wife. I don’t see any reference, at all, to the suggestion that the woman must sleep with the different husband first. The footnotes very thoroughly indicate that the marriage separation is not a light matter, that the consequences are very important, and the man should not so hastily issue a divorce over slight matters of temper — placing the burden of the fault moreso on the male for its failure.
5. Slave-girls are property for their male owners, in a lusty sense. Referenced Passage – Sura 4:24. At this point the list seems to take a drastic turn for stretching interpretation, without even bothering to examine much of the context at all. American Thinker goes specifically to an interpretation of rape (citing [a]4:3; [b]23:5—6; [c]33:50; and [d]70:22—30) but the phrase, “provided ye seek them in marriage … desiring chastity, not lust,” in 4:24 flies directly in the face of that. It also says the male needs to pay the dowry and such as necessary. The other passages cited as reference: [a] refers specifically to marriage, not lustful pursuits; [b] refers specifically to marriage, as an exception to a list item of “believers who eventually win through,” “..who abstain from sex; [c] a footnote in my copy states that a condition about paying a dowry for a slave is is a moot issue since slavery has been disbanded by international agreement; [d] a footnote restates that there is now no sense of “captives of war” because the practice has been made obsolete. Previously a wife who had been such a captive had lesser status as a wife within a multi-wife scenario until she was made free (by bearing a child of the male).
4. A man may be polygamous with up to four wives. Referenced Passage – Sura 4:3. The conditions for this particular passage refer specifically to the care of orphans, in that basically (paraphrased), “if you’re not sure you’ll be able to manage the orphan and his/her property rightfully and appropriately, you may take additional wives.” This is moreso an effort to relieve the burden of properly and respectfully caring for orphans over which the male finds himself guardian (through a relative’s death, etc), emphasizing that the matter is not about lustful endeavors of having more ladies to party with, but that the orphan would be genuinely taken care of, in an honest way.
3. A husband may simply get rid of one of his undesirable wives. Referenced Passage: Sura 4:129. American Thinker states, flat-out, opposite of what this passage indicates. It says it’s not humanly possible to be identically fair between all of your wives (if more than one) but to never favor one over another and share your affections equally as best you can, with earnest attempts at doing so, and not to leave the other in limbo. I’m not sure how that could possibly be taken any differently.
2. Husbands may hit their wives even if the husbands merely fear highhandedness in their wives. Referenced Passage: Sura 4:34. This passage actually gave me a bit of a chuckle because of the English translation offered — “As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them first, next, refuse to share their beds, and last, spank them lightly; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means of annoyance.” A footnote states, “…if this is not sufficient, some slight physical correction may be administered; but Imam Shafii considers this inadvisable, though permissible, and all authorities are unanimous in deprecating any sort of cruelty, even of the nagging kind…”
1. Mature men are allowed to marry prepubescent girls. Referenced Passage – Sura 65:1,4. The passage is talking about divorces, and that a divorce shouldn’t be considered final until certain “prescribed periods” have completed (meaning, sections of time reserved for something, like fasting, in consideration of the divorce ahead — not periods in the sense of menstruation). In that context, treat both varieties of women — who have their “monthly courses” (menstrual cycles) and who don’t — as to having a prescribed period of 3 months. The passage does not suggest that pre-menstrual females are what it means, but immediately following indicates that women who are with child have that prescribed period extended until after the child is born, since pregnant women do not menstruate. The reason for the 3-month period is to ascertain as to whether there is a pregnancy or not (such as if there is doubt as to whether a pregnancy exists) by which time a pregnancy should be obvious if there was one. The context indicates that the lack of “monthly courses” would be indicative of an existing pregnancy, not from “not yet having” monthly courses after what American Thinker obscenely leaps.
If you’d like a copy of an English-translation Qur’an for yourself (or another language you specify), for free with no shipping charge, pop on over to (a) AMANA.net (American Muslim Association of North America) and request one, as well as any of the many topical pamphlets also offered; or (b) Explore The Qur’an, sponsored by CAIR (Council for American-Islamic Relations) which is where I got my copy for free, no shipping charge. I’ve had mine for a few years now, and it’s a terrific, hardback (ISBN 1-59008-025-4) edition with parallel English and Arabic, with extensive footnotes. I think you’ll really be surprised about how non-controversial it is. What strikes me most about it is that it is truly filled with reminders at every turn, “do not twist this into your own benefit, because Allah knows what you’re thinking” (paraphrased) very very very frequently. I have not read all of it, but most of the passages are perfectly reasonable.
Addendum (added Monday, Dec.7, 2009) – I corrected a misplaced modifier unto which it seemed as if the master forgave a “fellow servant”, rather than the first servant who was forgiven — for clarity. Also, I’ve received mail from a rather disagreeable gent who writes for an Islam hate site to which I shall not link, attempting to refute my post by suggesting that my knowledge of Arabic is deficient.. something I will freely admit. However, to consult a hate site about the proper translation of Arabic would be peculiar reasoning, at best. To add more clarity (despite giving the ISBN), the version of the Qur’an I used was the 2004 version (11th edition) of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s English translation. I have avoided (to my knowledge) using any hadith to assist in interpretation, other than this specific text. I do however, find the concept of hadith to be rather clever and a well-planned, forward-thinking idea ^_^