According to The Quran: FAMILY AND SOCIAL LIFE
FAMILY AND SOCIAL LIFE
According to Al-Tabari, verse 4:34 was revealed following an incident when Habibah bint Zaid came to consult the Prophet after her husband slapped her face. The Prophet wanted to allow Habibah to slap her husband’s face with the same severity as retaliation. But at that point the above verse was revealed whereupon the Prophet is reported to have said: “I wanted one thing, but Allah has willed another—and what Allah has willed is the best.” It is remarkable to see that the Prophet’s verdict regarding the situation was for the wife to slap the husband with same severity as had been used against her, and Allah did not approve his verdict.
If one still prefers to interpret the multi-meaning verb “daraba” as “beating” in the context of verse 4:34, then they have to consider the following facts. The act (of beating) takes place between a husband and a wife, and not between an ordinary woman and an ordinary man. The Qur’an guides the counterparts mentioned in the verse to a better and more humane conduct than that which prevailed in society at the time of the divine revelation. We can understand from the circumstances, which precipitated the revelation of the verse, that it appears to address the type of husbands for whom wife-beating is the first thing that comes to mind when a conflict arises in marriage. The verse proposes more humane methods of dealing with conflict as a first resort.
One of the recommended ways is “to leave the woman alone in the bed.” However, this method can only be a punishment in case of polygamy, otherwise it would also be a punishment for the man himself. Therefore, the purpose of the recommendations listed in verse 4:34 is to prevent men from wife beating in the patriarchal Arab society of the time, whose initial response to an offending spouse was violence. The Messenger of Allah never allowed this and nor did he ever hit a woman. “Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?” (See al-Bukhârî, (67) Nikâh, (93). The prophet intensely detested and forbade beating women (see Abu Dawood, Nasâi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal).
It is historically evident that the Prophet reached the brink of divorce himself, but he never thought of beating any of his wives. Allah advised him to divorce them in a fair manner (‘Ahzab 33:28-32), but he was never advised to beat them.
If we put verse 4:34 in context and understand it in the light of the conduct of the Prophet, then we need to interpret the verb “daraba” as “to separate” and not “to beat.” To conclude, the Qur’an tells husbands to distance from their wives if they are disloyal or display immoral conduct or have a persistently intolerable manner.
What is the nature of permissible
relationships between a man and woman?
According to the Qur’an, the relationships between a man and a woman are not based on gender and sexuality but on personality and humanity. The boundaries of the relationship between an individual man and an individual woman are set by the following verse, in which the Qur’an considers first-degree relatives as members of a family, and prohibits marriage between them:
“Forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your aunts paternal and maternal, and a brother’s daughters, and a sister’s daughters; and your milk-mothers, and your milk-sisters; and the mothers of your wives; and your step-daughters—who are your foster children—born of your wives with whom you have consummated your marriage; but if you have not consummated your marriage, you will incur no sin [by marrying their daughters]; and [forbidden to you are] the spouses of the sons who have sprung from your loins; and [you are forbidden] to have two sisters [as your wives] at one and the same time – but what is past is past: for, behold, Allah is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.” (Nisa’ 4:23)
Islam, however, does not prevent relationships between women and men suitable for and available to each other for marriage. But it strives to prevent these relationships from becoming poisonous and takes a number of precautions to prevent lustful desires and seductive impulses from corrupting relationships between eligible men and women. Thus Islam brings in a reasonable distance between the sexes to protect and maintain mutual respect. The key measures that are defined in order to not exceed the limits of legitimate relationship are:
1. The command of not coming near adultery (‘Isra’ 17:32) thus providing a buffer zone in which adultery may not be committed – and may not even be approached;
2. The command of lowering gazes (Nur 24:30-31) thus prohibiting men and woman looking at the opposite sex lustfully, as uncontrolled gazes would allow the relationship between men and women to spiral out of control; and
3. The command of “hijab” (Muslim women’s dress code, covering body from head to toe), which involves both genders with a special emphasis on women (Nur 24:31; ‘Ahzab 33:59). This topic is covered in more detail below.
Why do Muslim women cover their entire bodies?
The verse about hijab in the Qur’an reads as follows:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms. And [always], O you believers – all of you – turn unto Allah in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state!”
The body parts, which “may (decently) be apparent” are the face, the hands, and the feet. Those who choose to cover these parts of body (face, hand and feet) do so as a cultural norm and traditions; it is not a Qur’anic command.
The extent of feminine charm and beauty is rendered personal in Islam and ought to remain private and not displayed in public. The are two main reasons for this are:
1. To prevent the abuse of women by putting her personality before her femininity.
2. To include women in wider society, who are excluded by the prevalent tradition.
The contrary stance (that of encouraging display of beauties) would turn a personality-based relationship into a gender-based relationship. The purpose of hijab is to protect the morality of the woman, the man and the society. In summary:
1. A woman: Will not display private aspects of her femininity (defined above) in public.
2. A man: Will not interact with the opposite sex in sexuality-orientated and exploitative manner
3. Society: The relationship between men and women is placed on respectful and healthy grounds.
The noun “khimar” (khumur, pl.) refers to the headscarf. The root of this noun also forms words such as “khamr,” which is used to describe intoxicants and carries the meaning of concealment, to cover and something which clouds or obscures the intellect. The commonality between “khimar” and “khamr” is that they both point to the head. By contrast, “kufr” also means to conceal or cover something. But it derives from a different root, since it refers not to the head but to the heart.
The khimar (head-covering) was customarily used by free Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. In pre-Islamic times, it was worn as an ornament and was let down loosely from top to over the wearer’s back. It was not used to cover the breasts or cleavage. Thus the statement “let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms” instructs women to extend the covering to include their necks and bosoms.
What is the status of the family in Islam?
Islam considers the following three elements essential in order to establish wellness of society as a whole.
1. The construction of the personality;
2. The construction of the family; and
3. The construction of the society.
The etymology of the word “family” (“âila”) is that of an element with multiple fragments that cannot remain standing if one of its pieces is pulled away. The geometry of the family does not consist of two parallel panels [||] but of two planes that lean on each other [Ù]. The family is the womb in which the personality is nurtured and it forms the building block of the structure of society.
According to the Qur’an, a woman and a man are two halves that are incomplete without each other. These two parts constitute a whole only when they come together. The two halves cannot substitute one another. The Qur’an uses the term “zawj” (a couple or a spouse) for both the woman and the man who constitute the two fundamental elements of a family. Like a pair of shoes, they are a pair but not equal. Wearing shoes in reverse is both bad for the foot and for the shoe itself.
The Qur’an invites men and women to act responsibly:
“O mankind! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of it created its mate (‘zawjaha’), and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. And remain conscious of Allah, in whose name you demand [your rights] from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, Allah is ever watchful over you!”
The Qur’an emphasizes that women and men are not opposites (“azdad”) of each other, but are “azwaj”—a couple. Answering the question of why humans are created in two genders, the Qur’an states so that “you may dwell in tranquility with them.” This purpose can only be fulfilled with “love and kindness”: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Rum 30:21)
The Qur’an assigns a responsibility to the leader of a family to make a continuous effort to prevent themselves and their loved ones from straying towards the way that leads to the hell-fire:
“O you who have attained faith! Ward off from yourselves and those who are close to you that fire [of the hereafter] whose fuel is human beings and stones…” (Tahrim 66:6)
Two families are held up in the Qur’an as examples to mankind—the family of Abraham and the family of Imran: “Behold, Allah raised Adam and Noah and the House of Abraham and the House of Imran above all mankind”:
The family of Abraham: This family consists of Abraham, his wives Hagar and Sarah, his children Isaac, Ishmael and his nephew Lot. All of these people are exemplary characters whose faith has been tested and who withstood the test (Saffat 37:100-105, 83-113).
The second family consists of Imran, his wife Hannah, and their daughter Mary and her son Jesus. Zachariah, his wife Elizabeth and their son John are also included in this family (‘Ali`Imran 3:35-55).
The Qur’an also considers the faithful as parts of a big family. Furthermore, it considers the entirety of mankind as part of a human family and refers to them as “O son of Adam!” It aims at preventing people from being enslaved by fellow human beings and seeks to bring mankind together on the common ground of servanthood to Allah alone.
What is the Islamic viewpoint on polygamy?
The advice in the divine revelation is monogamy under normal circumstances: “If you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [only] one – or [from among] those whom you rightfully possess” (Nisa’ 4:3). However, polygamy is permissible in exceptional circumstances, such as during times of war where the number of widows and/or orphan girls who need to be taken care of is disproportionately large (Nisa’ 4:3).
In the pre-Islamic society, no limitations were set on a man’s right to marry or on the number of wives he wanted to marry. Men used to marry as many women as they wished, looking after those they liked and abandoning the others. They invented unlawful and inhumane treatments in order to use women as they wished.
“Allah has indeed heard the words of her who pleads with thee concerning her husband, and complains Unto Allah. And Allah does hear what you both have to say: verily, Allah is all-hearing, all-seeing. As for those of you who [henceforth] separate themselves from their wives by saying, ‘Thou art as unlawful to me as my mother,’ [let them bear in mind that] they can never be [as] their mothers: none are their mothers save those who gave them birth: and so, behold, they but utter a saying that runs counter to reason, and is [therefore] false. But, behold, Allah is indeed an absolver of sins, much-forgiving: hence, as for those who would separate themselves from their wives by saying, ‘Thou art as unlawful to me as my mother,’ and thereafter would go back on what they have said, [their atonement] shall be the freeing of a human being from bondage before the couple may touch one another again: this you are [hereby] exhorted to do – for Allah is fully aware of all that you do. However, he who does not have the wherewithal shall fast [instead] for two consecutive months before the couple may touch one another again; and he who is unable to do it shall feed sixty needy ones: this, so that you might prove your faith in Allah and His Apostle. Now these are the bounds set by Allah; and grievous suffering [in the life to come] awaits all who deny the truth. Verily, those who contend against Allah and His Apostle shall be brought low even as those [evildoers] who lived before them were brought low after We had bestowed [on them] clear messages from on high. And [so,] for those who deny the truth there will be shameful suffering in store” (Mujadila 58:1-5)
In pre-Islamic society, one of these inhumane treatments constituted pronouncing an arbitrary oath known as “dhihar” on one’s wife. (Dhihar: an insult proffered by a husband upon his wife which likens the wife to some prohibited female relation of his and thereby is used to divorce the wife). The iniquitous custom of dhihar was condemned and abolished by the Qur’an (see Surah Al-Mujadilah, 2-4). The Qur’an stands against this practice by requiring men who divorce their wives using dhihar to undertake redemptive action. In another words, dhihar is no longer considered a divorce as in pre-Islamic times, but is now seen as a reprehensible act, which must be atoned for by sacrifice and redemption (see Surah Al-Mujadilah, verses 1-5).
Why was Prophet Muhammad polygamous?
The Prophet’s polygamy was not due to human desire or lust. If it had been so, he would not have married 40-year-old Khadija when he was only 25. Khadija already had three orphan children and had been married twice before she wed the Prophet. The Prophet’s monogamous marriage to Khadija lasted twenty-five years until Khadija’s death. How would those who claim the Prophet’s marriages were conceived due to lust explain why he spent twenty-five years of most fervent years of his life in a monogamous marriage with a woman who was already a mother of three and fifteen years his senior?
The Prophet’s polygamy had nothing to do with his prophethood. If it did, he would not have remained single for two and a half years after Khadija’s death and he would have not waited to marry Aisha until after the migration to Medina (hijrah).
The Prophet’s polygamy stems from his responsibilities as a leader. All of his marriages in Medina were motivated by compassion and were part of his mission, not a result of lust.
When we examine the status of the women Prophet Muhammad was married to, we have a better understanding of the purpose:
Sawdah bint Zam’ah was the first woman whom Prophet Muhammad married after Khadija’s death. Sawdah was 50 years old at the time and had 6 children, her husband had died and she needed a safeguard. Prophet Muhammad provided this through marriage.
Aisha bint Abu Bakr was the only virgin whom Prophet Muhammad married. Although some reports suggest she was married to him in her young age, other reports indicate that she was a fully formed young woman in her late teens at the time of marriage.
Hafsah bint Umar al-Khattab was a 22-year-old widow when she married Prophet Muhammad. Her husband was martyred in the battle of Uhud and the Messenger married her in order to give solace to her and to honor her father Umar, a close friend and companion of Prophet Muhammad.
Zaynab bint Khuzaymah had three marriages before she wed Prophet Muhammad. She did not have any children. Her second husband died in the battle of Badr and the third died in the battle of Uhud.
Umm Salamah was a widow who had been married more than once in the past before she married Prophet Muhammad. She had five children from her previous marriages. Prophet Muhammad married her because she had become homeless with four young children in her care.
Zaynab bint Jahsh was a 36-year-old widow when she married the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet asked Zaynab to marry Zayd ibn Haritha (her first husband) in the past. Zaynab married Zayd ibn Haritha not to let Prophet Muhammad down. She turned down all marriage proposals until the age of 35.
Juwayriyah bint Harith was a prisoner of war whose husband died in a battle against Muslims. The Prophet’s marriage to Juwayriyah was undertaken to establish ties of kinship and as a gesture of goodwill to her tribe. The marriage was used to invite her people to Islam.
Umm Habibah was a 38-year-old widow with children at the time of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad. Her husband left Islam and later died, leaving her alone with her children. The Prophet married her out of compassion and again as a gesture of goodwill to her family who were heads of their tribe.
Safiyyah bint Huyay was a widow with two previous marriages. She was the daughter of the chief of the Jewish tribe Banu Nadir. She was captured in a war and subsequently emancipated.
Maymuna bint Al Harith married Prophet Muhammad when she was 36 years old. She had been married twice before. The Messenger of Allah married her in Mecca whilst he was performing an ‘umrah, once again as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Mecca.
Rayhana bint Zayd was a widow and a prisoner of war at the time of her marriage to the Messenger. She became a Muslima, and her conversion led her tribe to embracing Islam.
Maryam al-Qibtiyyah: Muqawqis, the vicegerent of Byzantine in Egypt, sent Maryam to Prophet Muhammad. According to several sources, she accepted Islam on her way to Medina. The Messenger of Allah married Maryam and she gave birth to a son.
Taking all the information above into consideration, it becomes obvious that Prophet Muhammad’s polygamy was not a result of lust but was undertaken out of compassion and as a means of invitation to Islam.
Above contents from the book “ According to The Quran What is Islam? “ By Mustafa ISLAMOGLU
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