Being a Muslim in the West

7 Jan

I was born into a Christian family, although only by name, since my parents aren’t really religious. After years of reading and research, I converted to Islam last summer (alhamdulillah). I’ve been familiar with the Islamic lifestyle for a while longer though, because I purposely started to spend time with other muslim girls. And in the end, I was so familiar with it that it seemed to become my own lifestyle. I still didn’t convert at that moment though, because I was thinking about my parents, family,…just everyone except myself really. I believed in God, and I felt at home with the Islamic lifestyle, but I was afraid of the consequences of my decision. I was waiting until I suddenly had the courage to tell my parents I wanted to do this. Courage that never came, and that still hasn’t come.
In the end, I came to the realisation that it was my life, and that I should live it for me (not very original, I know).

I converted in August, and something strange happened for a short while. All the things I hadn’t been doing voluntarily for a while, because of my interest in Islam, suddenly became compulsory for me not to do (not drinking, not wearing T-shirts, but long clothes, not going to parties, etc.). I don’t know about humans and their inclination to fight against any obligations, but I was starting to feel afraid I made the wrong decision, because of all this obligations that “suddenly” fell on me (while I had been living by this obligations for a year or more). Luckily, it was just a feeling, and it passed, when I started to look again at all the beauty that Islam is. I realised it was not an easy choice, but it was MY choice, and I felt proud of myself.

But I live in an European country, and the majority here has a very different lifestyle. I’m not complaining. It’s not because I’m muslim, that I think everyone should suddenly follow me. I also think the West has achieved a lot of great things, like freedom of speech, critical thinking, and democracy. But it does mean that it was my job to set boundaries for myself, in my dealing with others. I’m a student, and I’m staying in a student-house, where I’m the only muslim. There were going to be a lot of times I would have to say “no, thanks” to other people. Luckily I have friends who respect the way I want to live my life, and not press me to drink alcohol for example.
I developed this kind of compass inside of me, that pointed me in the right direction. It’s my guide in knowing what’s acceptable to me as a muslim, and what isn’t. And at times, when I ignore this compass, I feel it very strongly, because I end up feeling bad, and not wanting to repeat the experience again. It’s still challenging, and sometimes I find myself longing to live in an Islamic country, to not always feel like the odd one out. Maybe I will someday, God only knows.

More and more people start to know about my conversion, but I still haven’t found the courage to tell my parents yet. I’m scared of how they would react. They haven’t done the same research that I have about Islam. They only came in touch with it through the media, and I think I can safely say that that’s not a good thing. I’m also not very good at explaining things, like expressing the knowledge that I have inside of me, and I fear their questions and my inadequate answers.
I also want to wear headscarf, but I know this is impossible, until I’ve told my parents. They might never accept, but at least they would know.
It’s still a long way to go, but I don’t regret my decision, because I think this lifestyle really suits my nature. Religion is also very important to me, and I consider myself a religious person. Not as in conservative and strict, but a person who needs God in her life.
I just hope that one day I can live my life fully, as I want to live it, and not feel afraid of other people’s judgement anymore.

 

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31 Responses to “Being a Muslim in the West”

  1. Medinian Breeze January 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    I cannot think of something that deserves standing ovation and applause more than how well you’re doing and have done, despite all the difficulties and circumstances that surround you.
    My darling, I could never wish for something more noble than wishing that all of the hardships and obstacles facing you would diminish and vanish. You deserve my full respect and utmost love and I know that you’re better than me on so many levels.
    It’s such a painful feeling to know what you are going through and not being able to ease them off, and offer you support from where I am now.
    May God hear our prayers and grant my ultimate wish in this life, and that is to be your significant other, so I could share some of your burdens and strive to give you the happiness and the life you deserve.

  2. goldenraindrop January 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    You write so well, hayati 🙂 You really should start a blog of your own!
    I don’t think I’m better than you, I just think we both face our own challenges 😉 I hope to be with you soon too, my love, and that God may hear our prayers. Thanks for your nice words!

  3. Clara January 8, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    hello there 🙂

    you know it doesn’t cease to amaze me how people can look at the same thing and have totally different feelings/thoughts about it 🙂
    you see there was time not so long ago that I wanted to convert to islam… but in the end I didn’t. I felt exactly the same about questions that I might receive from people. Because they would be asking questions and they would be asking me to justify my decision, that’s just the way people are 🙂 and also in this case because there is a lot of bias in the media. So I started researching more and more, trying to prepare myself for all possible questions that I might get from them (especially the ones concerning women in islam). And you know:)? they actually HAD a point (at least in my opinion). At first I took to the internets to find counter arguments cause I thought – that couldn’t be so, they don’t know what they are talking about!
    I understand that you see things differently 🙂 but to me on the level of a principle there are things in the qur’an and hadiths that i could not possibly reconcile, no matter how hard I tried. No amount of intellectual acrobatics would make accept certain things.
    But anyways, sorry for a long comment! I just wanted to share my perspective with you 🙂 all the best!

    • goldenraindrop January 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      Hi Clara,

      Haha, you have the same name as my mother, so you almost gave me a heart attack the first moment I saw your comment :p
      Thanks for your comment, and I appreciate your view on things 🙂
      I’m sure you know that Islamic scholars sometimes have very different views and interpretations on things (especially when women are concerned lol). I agree that there are some scholars in Islam who have a very women-unfriendly outlook on Islam. And in the beginning I couldn’t make that distinction. I just thought that every scholar had the same opinion and the same interpretation, and I ended up feeling very put off. But then I read some very different interpretations of the same verses or hadith, and it made much more sense to me. I do follow my heart when it comes to this. I follow the interpretation that feels right to me, not to someone else.
      If you want (no pressure whatsoever 😉 ) you can share with me which verses or hadiths you find troublesome, and I’ll send you a mail if I have some interpretations that might shed more light on the matter. As I said, this is entirely up to you ;). If you closed this chapter for yourself, then I respect that, and then I wish you all the best too! 🙂

  4. Tender January 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    One day you will tell your family and they will understand it is your own choice.

    You are such courageous girl my sister may Allah blesses your life :).

    • goldenraindrop January 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

      Thank you very much, Tender 🙂 May Allah swt bless your life too!

  5. Clara January 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    thanks for replying 🙂 no worries, i’m not your mom! i’m happily childless haha 🙂

    yeah, well the chapter is somewhat closed cause I continue to research and most importantly ask people, especially women (cause I do think that islam is women-unfriendly, no offense!). my view on things might be affected by my personal experiences. to me certain things are objectively wrong, no matter how you look at things. that’s why I continue to ask people how THEY feel about certain verses, practices etc.
    you mentioned interpretations. why are they in the first place? if the quran is the final revelation it should be written in such a way that when you pick it up and read it, you know exactly what it means and how you should conduct yourself.
    and for me chapter 4 verse 34 is a deal breaker. i know the scholarly interpretations/translation including the one that says instead of ‘beat them’, ‘leave them’. this is the only acceptable interpretation for me but i think it’s not wide-spread and it didn’t receive raving reviews from other scholars 😉 i would be more interested to hear about your feelings as a female, individual about this verse 🙂
    btw do you accept hadiths or you are quran-only muslim? thanks!

  6. goldenraindrop January 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    To answer your last question first, I also accept hadiths, although of course only those who are considered “sahih” 😉
    You asked me why there are interpretations in the first place. Interesting question, Clara. I think my answer would be the following:

    First, if you read a Quran in translation, it’s already an interpretation. I don’t know if you are familiar with the Arabic language, but Arabic words can have a lot of different meanings, and it’s up to the translator to choose one, according to what he or she feels is the correct interpretation of the word. So, personally I think it’s necessary as a muslim to do an effort to study the Arabic language, and also the tafseer (explanation) of the Quran, and not rely on a translation. I’m still working on this part 😉
    I think it’s also important to take into consideration that the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) in the 7th century. That’s a very long time ago. A lot of revelations in the Quran have to do with how the situation was back then (for example the conflict with the Quraysh tribe). People had a different background than what we have now, and might have understood things naturally that are now not so easy anymore for us to understand.

    About chapter 4, verse 34 of the Quran, it’s interesting that you mention the “leaving” part, because that’s the interpretation I follow too. I read this article: http://www.flw.ugent.be/cie/bogaert/bogaert4.htm and it made a lot of sense to me. You can see here that again the meaning of the verse depends entirely on how you translate and interpret the Arabic word. After reading this, the verse personally didn’t bother me so much anymore. Also the Prophet (pbuh) said “don’t beat the believing women”, and as a muslim, we should all strife to follow in his footsteps. He also said that the best muslims are those who are best to their wife and family, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t include beating them 😉

    I’m sure that you know this, but there is also a difference between the teachings of Islam and how some muslims conduct themselves nowadays. Culture plays a big role in a lot of countries, and a lot of times things happen that are just not according to Islam, even if those Muslims say that they are. Just an example, it’s not allowed to force a woman to marry someone, yet this is widespread in the current islamic countries. I think it’s very interesting to ask women how they feel about Islam, but it’s possible that what they experienced wasn’t islam, but their culture. That’s just a remark I wanted to make. How I personally feel about Islam? I think that Islam respects women, and helps them to preserve their dignity. It makes me sad to see how some regimes think they are following Islam, while they are only following their selfish goals and culture.

    I hope you are satisfied with my answer, and if you have additional questions, please feel free to ask 😉

  7. Clara January 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    thanks for replying to my questions 🙂 i have a feeling I will be pestering you 🙂

    about interpretation/translation. your explanation is not uncommon and I respect it but I disagree 🙂 my ex bf was an Arab, and muslim, so even though I don’t speak arabic at all he explained to me how arabic ‘works’. I have a very very basic understanding. As you said words can have a lot of different meanings. I see that as both good and bad. On one hand, there will be a lot of different interpretations based of course on the resources that researchers have now. As we know languages evolve. The word that used to describe sth 100s of years ago might not have exactly the same meaning now. So different interpretations will emerge and then you end up with different sects or people following their own interpretations. Sorry for harsh words but if the divine text is so ambiguous, it is hardly divine to me. Especially if it claims to be a ‘manual’ for humanity, all people of all times. That’s just my opinion.
    On the other hand, ambiguity leaves room to wiggle. And that’s good cause you can choose to believe that it means ‘to leave’. So if it really means ‘to leave’ could you tell me why it is not the widely accepted translation of this verse? It’s so much more palatable and reasonable.

    Also, when I hear that you have to learn arabic to understand the quran… Again, if the message is so ambiguous that it’s almost impossible to convey the meaning of it in other languages then it’s hardly divine. I’ve been told that the quran has a literary value, just as reading Shakespeare in English. The difference is that Shakespeare doesn’t rule every single aspect of our lives. I’m just saying that I wish God had been far more specific and straightforward.

    Verse 4:34. I think that’s exactly the website I read it on 🙂 of course I agree with you that being good to wives doesn’t involve beating them. Can I ask how you feel about other muslims, especially men believing that it actually means ‘to beat’?
    There is a hadith that says how Mohammad struck Aisha. And one narrated by Aisha about believing women that says their faces are as green as their robes. I don’t know how reliable these hadiths are, and what the science is behind them. Some say that the hadith science is not reliable at all. Can’t comment on that since I haven’t looked into it.

    Yes, of course it’s important to separate the teachings and culture. Absolutely! Sometimes though it’s difficult cause the culture is so merged with religion it’s almost impossible to tell which is which. And i would say that’s when it would be useful to have an unambiguous text so that the effects of patriarchal culture cannot creep in.

    Thank you for taking time to reply 🙂 I might seem like another troll to you, challenging islam and its teachings but my intention is understanding 🙂 thanks again!

    • goldenraindrop January 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

      Hi Clara 🙂

      First, I don’t see you as a troll and you’re not pestering me 😉 I’m not afraid or offended to be challenged, and I respect and appreciate opinions that are different from mine, at least we can learn something from each other! 🙂

      To me, it’s not important if a certain interpretation is widespread or not. It’s every muslim’s duty to acquire knowledge, and that means researching for yourself and not just accepting whatever someone tells you! I realise that this is not possible for every muslim (some can’t read for example), and I wish this interpretation was more widespread. I think men who beat their wives are ignorant of their own religion. Or maybe they do know, but are just bad persons. You have christians, buddhist, jews, atheists etc too who beat their wives and I’m sure that at least deep down they know they’re not supposed to!

      Why, if there are different interpretations possible, a text can’t be divine? Maybe we are supposed to ponder over the Quran, to read, study and apply it, until we find a meaning that we know it’s true, in our heart. I think you should understand the Quran with your heart, and not with your mind. I also believe that the Quran has different layers of meaning, and the more you study it, the more you discover a deeper meaning behind the text.
      About the hadiths, I’m not an expert in this, and I hope God will forgive me if I make any mistakes, but if one hadith tells us how the Prophet (pbuh) said that one should not beat a believing woman, and the other tells us how he struck Aisha, I think one of the hadiths should be incorrect, no? Or at least not adequately understood. And since the Prophet (p.b.u.h) was known for his compassion and kindness, I tend to value the first hadith more. Again, I have not adequately looked into this matter, but this seems the most logical to me.

      I also think one should always take into consideration what Islam stands for generally, when interpreting a particular verse. Islam stands for peace, goodwill towards others, forgiveness, modesty (in all meanings of the word) and social justice. If a particular interpretation seems contrary to that, I think one has the right to question it. That’s my opinion anyway 😉

      A divine text like the Quran might be powerful, but if people want to misuse it, they will. You can take a verse out of context, and use it for your own goals, that’s not hard. It’s wrong, but not hard. Like for example terrorists. Have they not read the verse that says that if you kill one person, to God it’s like you killed all of humanity? And if you safe one person, it’s like you saved all of humanity? How there can even exist such a things as terrorism, if those people would know their own Quran?

      I hope I answered your questions correctly. If you have any questions left, you are most welcome 😉

  8. Clara January 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    good morning 🙂 I just wanted to say how much I enjoy and appreciate this exchange of opinions with you and say thank you!

    “To me, it’s not important if a certain interpretation is widespread or not. It’s every muslim’s duty to acquire knowledge, and that means researching for yourself and not just accepting whatever someone tells you! ” – 🙂 exactly my sentiments 🙂 not only in religious matters but in other aspects of life as well.
    You see, to me, it is important if a certain interpretation is widespread because I know that there is a number of muslims who are illiterate, as you said, or they do not have the knowledge or intellect to wade through all the nuances and they have to rely on what imams say. That’s why I think that unambiguous text would help. After all we are talking about eternal damnation or hellfire.

    I don’t quite understand why you say: ” I think men who beat their wives are ignorant of their own religion. Or maybe they do know, but are just bad persons.”. Why are they ignorant? The widespread version states ‘beat them’ so I can understand why they use the quran as a justification. They are just following what’s in the quran or what they are told in a mosque, no?
    And of course people are good and bad everywhere. I don’t think any country has a monopoly on being noble 😉

    “Why, if there are different interpretations possible, a text can’t be divine? Maybe we are supposed to ponder over the Quran, to read, study and apply it, until we find a meaning that we know it’s true, in our heart. ”
    I will respectfully disagree. If there are so many scholarly interpretations and personal interpretations, what’s the point? If the quran was meant to be a ‘manual’ or guidance for humanity then there should be no unambiguity. Remember you will be judged for everything you do in this life. I personally wouldn’t like to play a game of which rules I don’t know because what are you chances of success then? and there is quite a lot at stake, don’t you think?
    If God can explicitly forbid eating pork, why can’t He explicitly say that slavery, rape, physical violence against one’s spouse etc forbidden?

    “I also think one should always take into consideration what Islam stands for generally, when interpreting a particular verse.” – how do you know what Islam stands for in general? as a non-arabic speaker I MUST rely on translations. I have my life to live and I can’t spend a fair share of it mastering classic Arabic unless islam and quran are the field of my interest. So how is person who has not been exposed to islam know what it stands for before cracking open the quran and reading the translation?
    Ditto on questioning stuff 🙂 back in time my ex was so frustrated with me asking so many questions i asked haha

    About terrorists. yes, there is a verse you mentioned. But there is also a verse saying:
    Ahmed Ali
     4:74. Those who barter the life of this world for the next should fight in the way of God. And We shall bestow on him who fights in the way of God, whether he is killed or is victorious, a glorious reward.
    4:76. Those who believe fight in the way of God; and those who do not, only fight for the powers of evil; so you should fight the allies of Satan. Surely the stratagem of Satan is ineffective.

    2:218. Surely those who believe, and those who leave their homes and fight in the way of God, may hope for His benevolence, for God is forgiving and kind.

    one could pull out a lot other verses that are more explicit and we could get into an endless debate. i think these verses, and the surrounding ones, are pretty neutral (please do correct me if i’m wrong, here to learn 🙂 ). and they do state muslims are supposed to fight in the way of God. who are they going to fight? of course those who have not submitted to islam yet. 4:76 clearly says that if you are not with us, you are against us. so i can actually see where terrorists and fundamentalists are coming from.
    if i misunderstood sth, please point me to the right direction 🙂 gotta run for now! thank you!

    • goldenraindrop January 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      Good afternoon, Clara! 🙂

      I like discussing with you too! I don’t mind that you ask all these questions, and express the doubts you have surrounding Islam. And I’m happy to give you my interpretation, but of course I’m not a scholar, and I don’t have an answer to everything. ;-)I can only tell you how I interpret things. And it’s possible that you don’t agree and you have different view than mine. I don’t mind that either, but like you said, we could start an endless debate about this and end up nowhere.

      But ok, let’s try to give a decent reply to what you said 😉

      Personally, I’m not in favor of taking verses out of context. They belong to a certain chapter which deals with certain events that happened in the time of the Prophet (p.b.u.h). The early Muslims were people like us, with faith and strength, but also with doubts and fears. They had to defend themselves and go to war. Of course some of them were afraid.
      So,you mentioned this verse, for example:

      2:218. Surely those who believe, and those who leave their homes and fight in the way of God, may hope for His benevolence, for God is forgiving and kind.

      Don’t you think it was meant as a kind of reassurance for them? To know that God would reward them for their efforts? I’m sure they felt vulnerable, and not all were prepared to fight. Maybe these kind of verses were meant to give them hope and reduce their fears? But of course, if one takes them out of context, it might be used to say “look, Islam approves terrorism!” While the Quran also says that if their enemies stop fighting against them, that the Muslims should stop too, and seek nothing against them.

      I believe the most widespread interpretation of 4:34 is that you can “hit” your wife, but only with something like a tooth stick, so that it doesn’t cause any physical damage to her. And that a man is not allowed to hit her in the face either. It would be meant as a way to show the woman that her husband is seriously upset with her.
      So yes, I think men who beat their wives are ignorant of their religion. Because whether someone follows the widespread interpretation or the interpretation about “leaving” her, it’s not allowed to hurt your wife in any case.
      What causes a certain interpretation to be widespread? Not always the best of intentions, I’m afraid. It’s always preferable to do your own research.
      I also think, but this is personal as I know other Muslims might disagree with me, that some verses of the Quran were meant universally, for all times, and others were meant specifically for the situation the early Muslims were in. As I already said, this happened a long time ago, so I think it’s only natural that we need more information about the context to fully understand what it’s trying to say. I think the verses that are universal are very unambiguous, and easy to understand: do good, remember and praise your God, don’t put partners next to Him, respect your parents, don’t cheat on your spouse etc.

      How do I know what the general message of Islam is? I think everyone who has read the Quran in its entirety knows what the general message of Islam is 😉

      The Quran was revealed in Arabic. No matter what book you read, if you read a translation, you always read an interpretation of the translator. I think you have to make that choice for yourself: do you want to rely on a translation? That’s possible, but there always is a danger that the interpretation of the translator might not be correct. Or do you want to rely on the direct message of the Quran in its original language? If you are a non-arab, this naturally means that you have to study the language and become familiar with it. There is no other way about it. Either you choose to rely on a translation, or you don’t. Every language has a different structure, and it’s impossible to give 100 % the exact same message in two different languages.

      I tried to write a decent reply, and I hope it’s good! 😉

      Have a nice day! 🙂

  9. Clara January 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    hey hey!

    i’m glad that you don’t feel like i’m pestering you:) and thank you for your reply, really appreciate it!

    it’s interesting that you said this: Personally, I’m not in favor of taking verses out of context. They belong to a certain chapter which deals with certain events that happened in the time of the Prophet (p.b.u.h). (…) I also think, but this is personal as I know other Muslims might disagree with me, that some verses of the Quran were meant universally, for all times, and others were meant specifically for the situation the early Muslims were in.

    I understand that a lot of verses belong to specific context. Could you tell me how you know which verses are confined to the past and should be left there? Could you give me the quranic verse which says how to interpret those verses? Basically I’m asking if the quran gives guidelines on how to interpret its own verses?

    You say: “I believe the most widespread interpretation of 4:34 is that you can “hit” your wife, but only with something like a tooth stick, so that it doesn’t cause any physical damage to her. And that a man is not allowed to hit her in the face either. It would be meant as a way to show the woman that her husband is seriously upset with her.”
    So even if it means ‘hit’, it’s okay cause this ‘hitting’ should not cause any damage? I think it is meant to be done with miswak. Apart from this, there is also first part of this verse:

    Ahmed Ali
     34. Men are the support of women as God gives some more means than others, and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them).

    Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali & Muhammad Muhsin Khan
     34. Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means.

    Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall
     34. Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).

    Umm Muhammad (Sahih International)
     34. Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.

    The beginning clearly (to me) implies superiority of men over women. It sets out rules for marital relationship. Because then later it says that good women are obedient. To me it says clearly ‘who is the boss’. And the final decision belongs to a husband. This is my personal perception and I must say I don’t like it. Now when you come to beating with a miswak. Even if it’s symbolic – I don’t like it. I might be oversensitive but I believe that my husband has absolutely NO RIGHT to physically abuse me, even symbolically. It’s humiliating.
    It is clearly a show of who pulls the strings, who is the boss in charge. It’s an expression of authority over the other person.It certainly has nothing to do with partnership and treating each other with love and respect. In this particular case a woman is like a naughty child who has to be put in order… I might be beaten into obedience but the respect for my husband would be gone forever. That’s just how i feel.

    “How do I know what the general message of Islam is? I think everyone who has read the Quran in its entirety knows what the general message of Islam is” – it’s funny cause when I was reading the quran my first impression that hasn’t left me until now is a very strong appeal to fear.

    On the last paragraph… Yes, the quran was revealed in arabic. That’s fine. I’m sure you can write a text in arabic that is not going to be very difficult to translate in a sense of meaning. A text that says: you can’t do this, do that, pray 5 times a day etc etc. These are very explicit statements and no one has a doubt. Of course translations will differ, in a literary sense, but the meaning will stay the same if you know what I mean. It will read as: don’t do this, do that, pray 5 times a day. I’m sure you can write explicitly transparent phrases in arabic.
    I’m sorry but to me it’s kinda like saying that Allah can’t write, or convey his message in a simple, coherent and straightforward manner that will not leave room for abuse (as we now see with terrorists). Essentially you are saying that you need to learn arabic to understand/get the message of the quran, which directly contradicts the universality of the message.
    I’d agree with you if you said that it takes arabic to appreciate the beauty and literary value, but not when it comes to understanding what particular verses mean. That should be transparent.
    I’m sorry for being harsh and thanks for engaging in a conversation with me 🙂

  10. goldenraindrop January 10, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Good morning,Clara 🙂

    I’m sorry for replying late, but I was kind of busy yesterday 😉

    Ok, so as far as my own knowledge goes, I would say that the verses who were revealed to the Prophet (p.b.u.h) in Mekka have a more universal character than those who were revealed to him in Medina. I once read this theory, and it appealed to me. In Medina, I think the verses are more concentrated on how the Prophet (p.b.u.h) should organise his community of believers, while in Mekka it’s more about standing up against the social injustice that was committed there, and informing people of what the actual message of Islam is. That doesn’t mean that one should just discard the verses that were revealed in Medina and leave them in the past, but I think it’s good to make that distinction between them.
    Again, I’m not a scholar. Maybe there are certain rules of interpretation that I’m not aware of, that’s very possible. The only rule of interpretation that I know now, is that there are certain verses that cancel verses that were revealed previously (and that are contrary to each other), which isn’t really the topic discussed here.

    Ok, so in Islam, the man has the duty to look after his wife and children. He has to provide for them and spend his money on them. Also, if the man is rich, he is obliged to give his wife and children the same standard of living, he can’t keep them poorer than he is.
    Women in Islam have no financial duty towards their husbands,children or family whatsoever. The woman can choose to be a housewife, and her task as a mother is highly valued in Islam:

    One hadith says, “Stay with [your mother], because Paradise is at her feet.”

    Another report is the following, which is narrated by Aisha Umm al-Muminin:

    I asked the Prophet who has the greatest right over a man, and he said, “His mother.”

    And the following is narrated by the grandfather of Bahz ibn Hakim; the same incident has also been reported by Abu Huraira:

    I asked, “Messenger of Allah, to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your father,and then the next closest relative and then the next.”

    However, the woman in Islam also has the right to work, to make money, to own property in her own name (which women in the West weren’t able to for centuries), to inherit, to close legal contracts, to work in trade, and to manage her capital as she sees fit. She doesn’t have to spend anything on her family, since the financial duty rests solely with the husband. Meaning: even if the woman has an income, she is not obliged to give it to her family, she can spend it on herself, if she wishes, or keep it to have a certain independence.
    Ok, so let’s look now at the verse you presented.

    Men are the {qawwamuuna} of women as God gives some more means than others, and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them).

    Again, the translation of the word “qawwamuuna” is an interpretation of the translator.

    “Qawwamuuna” comes from the Arabic word “Qawwam”, which is an intensive form of “Qaim”. Qaim means: to take care of, to be responsible for (for the well-being of women, financially, mentally and emotionally).
    To be able to take care of women, “God gives some more means than others”. This has nothing to do with the man being superior over the woman. It only has to do with his financial duty towards his wife and female relatives. It’s connected with verse 4:11: “Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females…”
    Why do men get more? Because they have to provide for the women, while women have the right to keep their money to themselves. So that is what is meant with “God gives some more means than others”. It doesn’t give men superiority, it gives them more responsibilities.
    There is even a hadith that states that if the man is stingy and doesn’t spend enough on his family, the wife has the right to take the money from him, even without him knowing. Also, if the man doesn’t spend on his family, the wife has the right to divorce him.
    It’s also known that the Prophet (p.b.u.h) helped his wives with the housework, next to financially providing for them. So Islam also encourages men to help their wives in the house, whether the woman goes out working or not. Also, according to Islam, the wife is not obliged to do the housework. It’s a choice she makes, and which earns her rewards by God.

    I hope my explanation was good. I can’t say anything more than that. I think it’s only normal that when your husband is a good person, and provides financially for you, plus helps you with the work in the house, you can show him a little respect by taking into consideration his wishes and needs. Then doesn’t mean he has the right to “hit” you when you don’t listen, but again, I follow the interpretation of “leaving” to solve a dispute. And if you read that article again, you will see that the wife can leave her husband too if he’s the cause of marital problems, and that the adjective “obedient” doesn’t stand for obedience to the husband, but for obedience to God.

    It says in the Quran that the Quran is an “Arabic” Quran. Also when you read a translation in english for example, it’s possible that the translator will write “this is an English interpretation of the Arabic Quran”.

    I have to go and study now, I’m afraid. Have a nice day! 🙂

  11. Clara January 11, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    hello Goldenraindrops 🙂

    just wanted to pop in and say that I’m sorry I can’t reply at the mo, too much work and stuff going on! but i will have even more questions… but i need time to sit down and write them up properly so that it doesn’t look like a stream of consciousness 😉 so i hope you don’t mind 🙂
    sorry about that and best of luck with your studies!

  12. goldenraindrop January 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    That’s ok, Clara, take your time 😉
    I’m thinking about maybe making some posts about interpretation of verses in the Quran and other “misconceptions” or “issues” (choose the word that fits you best 😉 ) in Islam. Maybe that will help you too. I’m not saying I know everything, but I think it would increase my knowledge too, to do some research about it.

    Have a nice day, and good luck with your work! 🙂

  13. Clara January 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    hello Goldenraindrops 🙂

    sorry for late reply! been knocked down by a cold plus work and other things going on! but i’m back and ready to bother you haha. have an ignore button ready at all times 😀

    Thank you for replying. I hope that I didn’t you upset or came across as rude. I know I can sometimes be very straightforward and abrupt. Maybe I just had too much caffeine when I was writing my response… Again, appreciate your reply cause I learned so much from your responses.
    Just wanted to say that it seems to me you are a person of a conviction. So am I. As I said, I researched Islam and I arrived at certain conclusions. I chose not to imbrace it. As you can tell I see Islam in a compeltely different light than you do. And it’s okay for me cause at the end of the day, I live my life and you live yours 🙂 I’m not here to tell you that you chose wrong etc. You seem to be a smart young lady and I’m sure you can think critically. (I hope it didn’t sound patronizing, it certainly wasn’t my intention).
    Anyways, I like to keep an open mind and I find it fascinating that 2 people will look at the same text and see completely different thing. I’m simply curious 🙂 They say “curiosity killed the cat” but since I’m not a cat that’s not dangerous 😉 at least I hope so! To the point! 🙂

    I will reply one by one.
    [i] “I would say that the verses who were revealed to the Prophet (p.b.u.h) in Mekka have a more universal character than those who were revealed to him in Medina.” [/i]

    Oh dear I will have even more questions to you now! So the verses from Mekka deal more with the spiritual part of islam and its teachings, and that’s why they should be universal? Just asking if I understood well ☺ you know how it is online 😉 but how do we know which verses are from Mekkan period and which are from Medina? Cause traditionally the chapters in the quran are organized according to the length of each chapter right? I know that the chronological order of the quran is available online etc but before the internet, how would you know? Unless, you are being taught the history of islam etc etc and then when you read the quran you know which verse is from which period?
    So what do you think is the purpose of those verses from Medina? Are they simply historical narrations? Cause you say that they shouldn’t be simply discarded, but what do we do with them? ☺ Cause there is this verse saying:

    2:106 None of Our revelations do we abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better os similar; knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?

    Which I think applies to what you say later: [i] “The only rule of interpretation that I know now, is that there are certain verses that cancel verses that were revealed previously (and that are contrary to each other), which isn’t really the topic discussed here.“ [/i] – that’s about abrogation, isn’t it? Uhh I must say, all this gets quite confusing at times! 😉

    Women issues 🙂

    Right, so a woman has no financial responsibility towards the family. It is the husband who takes care of finances. You see… to me it plays out like this… When you don’t contribute to the household financially then your input into decision making is limited, for obvious reasons. And to me relationships ARE about power to a certain extent. Whoever is a bread-winner, to me, will have a certain advantage over the person who isn’t and it will manifest itself in decision making. So now, your husband is financially responsible for you and the household. Very well 🙂 I think it’s advisable for him to consult you when making a decision, however due to his financial responsibilities he does have a final say. That’s what I’ve been told by muslims. So consultation yes (if he has enough good will) but at the end of the day, he will be making the decision. And I have a problem with that 😉 because I’m a bouncy girl and I want to be treated like a partner. That’s why I take the ‘issue’ with this verse 😉

    So that verse for me set out rules for marital relationships. That’s why it’s clear to me that when a woman disobeys or displeases her husband, it is him who has the right to discipline her because at the end of the day it is him who brings money home, and he DOES have that tad of advantage over her. Btw, do you think that a husband can disagree with his wife going to work? Does he have any say in it? What do you think he has a right to ask for to balance out the relationship?

    Now, I believe that being a home-maker is important task, absolutely! However, if a husband wishes for his wife to be a home-maker (and she is okay with this role, doesn’t have a desire to work), he should accept the responsibility and don’t exercise authority over her only because he spends from his means. And that’s not how this verse reads out to me. Here’s an interesting hadith:
    Narrated by ‘Abullah bin Abi Awfa: Allah’s Apostle Said, “Had I ordered a person to prostrate to someone rather than Allah, I would have ordered the wife to prostrate to her husband. By Allah, who holds the soul of Muhammad in his hands, the wife will not be fulfilling her duty towards Allah until she fulfils her duty towards her husband. If he asks her (for sexual intercourse) while she is on a camel (what means, being busy), she should not disobey him.”
    They didn’t give the number so I’ll link the website: http://www.rasoulallah.net/v2/document.aspx?lang=en&doc=1389

    And as far as I know the woman has got right to roof over her head, food and clothing but not in excess (I swear there is a hadith saying that wives should be content with what their husbands spend on them but for the life of me I can’t remember).
    Here I would like to ask you: what is your view on divorce in Islam? Do you think it’s fair?

    At this point I would love to if you could point me into the right direction with regard to responsibilities and duties of women in islam. Since, she doesn’t have any responsibilities (at least financial), but I’m sure there must be some clearly set out duties (I didn’t dig deep enough on this one and would be grateful for you advice:) or just your own understanding 🙂 )

    Yes, a mother seems to be highly revered in Islam. I might have become cynical over years but what if a woman is barren? She should receive a lot of respect from her children, but what if she cannot have children? And it seems to me from the hadiths you quoted that the opinion of a man’s mother would take precedence over wife’s? It goes on to say ‘to your father, next relative etc’, where is wife in here? Sorry for being so meticulously annoying!

    [i] Ok, so let’s look now at the verse you presented. Men are the {qawwamuuna} of women as God gives some more means than others, and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them). (…) [/i] I like your explanation of responsibility a lot!! 🙂
    It’s interesting that you mention verse 4:11: “Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females…”. How does it work out in current economic situation though? When a woman simply has to work and has to contribute to the household? Is it still valid then?

    [i] Also, according to Islam, the wife is not obliged to do the housework. It’s a choice she makes, and which earns her rewards by God. [/i] it’s first time I hear that. Is it supported scripturally?
    [i] I hope my explanation was good. [/i] – as long as your own explanation is satisfying to you, it’s more than fine by me 🙂 Clearly I have a different outlook than yours, and I’m far more cynical… But it’s okay 🙂 I like hearing others opinions and it’s a lot better to engage with people who have a different opinion 🙂
    As far as translation goes… You know my opinion. If it cannot be translated clearly into other languages without unambiguity then it’s not a word of God for me (no offence). And as far as Arabic goes… if islamic scholars who are native speakers of arabic cannot agree on the meaning of certain verses after 1400 years then how I, as a non-native speaker of arabic, can discover the true meaning of islam? I just don’t have enough faith to believe it’s the word of God and follow it. Sometimes I wish I did…
    Sorry for being long-winded, thank you for reading and I hope you are having a great weekend 🙂

    • goldenraindrop January 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

      Hi Clara,

      Good to see you again!:) I’m afraid I’m starting with my exams this week, so I won’t be able to reply until after they are finished (end of January). I hope you understand 😉 Just to answer quickly on one thing you asked: at the beginning of each chapter it’s written if the chapter was revealed in Mekka or Medina.

      Take care!

  14. Clara January 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    totally understand! i used internet resources to read the Quran and i think i might have missed that information. will look out for it, thanks! good luck with your exams 🙂
    i think dutch say: sterkte! or simply succes 🙂

  15. goldenraindrop January 28, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Hi Clara,

    I hope that you are doing well and I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.
    In this reply I will start by telling you how I see marriage and partnership in Islam.
    When you get a marriage proposal from a man, it is encouraged to first do istikhaara prayer, which is a prayer to ask God for His guidance in making a decision and to ask Him to show you if the decision is good or bad. So we place the decision in God’s hands, and trust that He knows what’s best for us. In this case, that He knows that the man who comes to propose to us is a good man, and will treat us well. We don’t have to marry just any man, and we have the right to want a good husband, and to refuse if we feel that he doesn’t suit us. I feel it’s of vital importance to have a lot of conversations with your potential husband, about issues as polygamy, the wife going to work, the amount of children, how he views partnership with his wife etc. I also think it is vital that the woman uses her marriage contract as a way to guarantee her rights in marriage. A man can tell us anything he wants to get us, but a marriage contract is legally binding. In the marriage contract, there is a space where the woman can put the rights she demands to have, like the right to divorce when her husband marries another woman, the right to work, etc. I really think more Muslim women should use this space to protect themselves. And if the man refuses to sign the contract and to accept your rights, you know he’s not the right one for you.
    Of course I want my husband to treat me like a partner too, and I think every woman wants this. I think the fact that the man provides for you financially doesn’t naturally exclude that he will treat you like a partner, provided that you add to the relationship and to the marriage too. Of course he will lose respect for you if you spend your time visiting your friends and spending his money on shopping and luxuries, without contributing to the household or helping him in any way. Why would he need to take into account your opinion when you just do what you want without caring about any responsibilities?
    But when you choose to stay at home to take care of the household, and the children if there are any, and to carry the responsibilities that come with that task, I’m sure a good man will be grateful and respectful towards his wife, because it’s not an easy task to take care of everything in the home and to raise children. He would know that his decisions affects her the most, and would want to make sure she agrees with them.
    As for me, I want to work, at least part-time, and have my own income. It just personally doesn’t appeal to me to have to ask my husband for money every time I want to buy something. There are women who don’t have problems with that, and I respect that, but I strongly feel I want to be able to buy my own things. I also think that if my husband already spends a big part of his income on paying the bills and on making sure that everything is looked after, that he doesn’t need to spend his money on me too every time I’m in the mood to go shopping. And although I said before that being dependent on your husband financially doesn’t necessarily mean that he will disrespect you or treat you bad, I want to be financially independent. I want to have the security that when things go wrong, I will not be forced to stay in a situation where I don’t want to be in, just because I don’t have any money to look after myself. I will therefore never marry any man who wouldn’t allow me to work and make my own income.

    Let’s have a look now at what Islam says about marriage and sexuality.

    The meaning of marriage in Islam is that women and men would find peace and love with each other:

    “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)

    Both parties have rights and duties toward each other. The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said: “Oh people, your wives have certain rights over you, and you have certain rights over them.”

    Women can’t be forced to marry someone. There is a hadith about a woman named Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya. She went to the Prophet after her father gave her in marriage (without her permission) to a man, and she didn’t like this. The Prophet (p.b.u.h) canceled the marriage.

    A man can never lay claim on the money that his wife possesses.

    In Islam, sexual intercourse is considered a basic need, next to eating and drinking. A satisfying sexual relationship between the husband and the wife is considered essential for a good marriage. Both husband ànd wife have the right to have this need fulfilled. If this is not the case, both husband and wife have grounds for divorce.

    Divorce is allowed in Islam, although it’s encouraged that the couple first try everything in their power to solve their problems. Grounds for divorce for a woman are: physical abuse from her husband, if her husband doesn’t spend enough money on her, because he treats her in a way she can’t bear with patience, because he doesn’t satisfy her sexually, because she feels it’s in her own interest to divorce, because he hinders her faith in any way (very broad), because he doesn’t stick to his faith, because she doesn’t love him anymore, etc. In principal, the custody over children automatically goes to women when her children are under 7 years old.

    Muslims should also fear God in the way they treat their women. The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said: “Fear God regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of God” So women are protected by God from the harm their husbands can do to them. If husbands should treat their women poorly, they violate the trust God has bestowed on them, and surely this is what any Muslim would wish to avoid.

    I took the following from this site: http://www.jannah.org/sisters/womqursun.html

    ——-

    The Qur’an admonishes those men who oppress or ill-treat women:

    “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them – except when they have become guilty of open lewdness. On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something and God will bring about through it a great deal of good. “(4:19)

    The Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, said, “Women are the twin halves of men”. The Qur’an emphasizes the essential unity of men and women in a most beautiful simile:

    They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them. (2:187)

    Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other’s chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife’s company and she in his. “The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them.” Islam does not consider woman “an instrument of the Devil”, but rather the Qur’an calls her muhsana – a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of rectitude in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as a most virtuous act. He said: “When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion.” He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: “Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower).”

    The Prophet’s followers accepted his teachings and brought about a revolution in their social attitude towards women. They no longer considered women as a mere chattels, but as an integral part of society. For the first time women were given the right to have a share in inheritance. In the new social climate, women rediscovered themselves and became highly active members of society rendering useful service during the wars which the pagan Arabs forced on the emerging Muslim umma. They carried provisions for the soldiers, nursed them, and even fought alongside them if it was necessary. It became a common sight to see women helping their husbands in the fields, carrying on trade and business independently, and going out of their homes to satisfy their needs.

    ‘A’isha reported that Saudah bint Zam’ah went out one night. ‘Umar saw her and recognized her and said, “By God, O Saudah, why do you not hide yourself from us?” She went back to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and told him about it while he was having supper in her room, and he said: “It is permitted by God for you to go out for your needs.”

    Once Mu’awiyah asked the Prophet, peace be upon him: “What are the rights that a wife has over her husband?” The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied: “Feed her when you take your food, give her clothes to wear when you wear clothes, refrain from giving her a slap on the face or abusing her, and do not separate from your wife, except within the house.” Once a woman came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, with a complaint against her husband. He told her: “There is no woman who removes something to replace it in its proper place, with a view to tidying her husband’s house, but that God sets it down as a virtue for her. Nor is there a man who walks with his wife hand-in-hand, but that God sets it down as a virtue for him; and if he puts his arm round her shoulder in love, his virtue is increased tenfold.”

    ———–

    It pains me really to see how the basic teachings of Islam differ with how a lot of Muslim women are treated this day. It was clear from what is narrated about the early Muslims that Muslim women really took part in society, and weren’t confined to their homes, nor did men have the right to abuse them.

    As for the hadith you mentioned, I don’t know the context behind this saying and if this hadith is considered strong or weak. I do think women have duties too, next to rights, and shouldn’t be afraid to take advice, just as men have duties too, and shouldn’t be afraid to take advice. I think it’s very important as a woman to place your trust in your husband. I think men need to feel respected and trusted. I think it’s very beneficial to your marriage if you expect your husband to do the right thing, instead of always finding fault in him and always questioning his ability to make good decisions. If I hear women criticising their husbands in public, or making fights with him in public, I really get a bad feeling. It’s so disrespectful to him, just as it would be disrespectful if he would do the same to you. I think a bit of surrender to your husband isn’t dangerous, provided that he has good intentions, and could even soften him up and make him more attentive and receptive to your needs. Men are very competitive. So if he feels that you are constantly competing with him, constantly out on winning the fight, he will start to see you as someone he needs to compete with, someone he wants to beat in this game. I think from everything I told you before, it’s clear that I’m not advising women to become helpless towards their husbands, and to allow men to treat them like doormats. All I’m saying is that you don’t want to be in a position where you are constantly struggling for power, constantly playing games with each other, and where your husband is not thinking about your needs, but about how to best win the next fight from you. Do not make a big deal about everything, choose your fights well, and trust that your husband is a smart, nice, and responsible man.
    About the second part of the hadith, I think it justs want to stress, as I already mentioned, the importance of sexual intercourse to a good marriage. Often women have a much lower sex drive than men, and can get so caught up in things that they forget that men do need sex on a regular basis. I think it just wants to remind women to not forget this need, since it is so vital to an intimate bond with each other. To be a bit more open about the subject, it’s not like sexual intercourse is an unpleasant thing. It’s not like the hadith is saying “a wife should always scrub the house from top to bottom on her bare knees anytime her husband wishes it”. That’s my opinion anyway. Both men and women have the right to have their sexual needs met in marriage.

    I hope this helped. I’m sorry if I didn’t answer everything, but I think this (rather long lol) reply gives the general message.

    Have a nice day! 🙂

  16. Medinian Breeze January 29, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Hi Clara,

    I hope it’s OK to you if I respond to your comments regarding the “ambiguity” of the Holy Qur’an , as you described, and hopefully my comments will answer your questions. 😉

    Before I start though, I just want to give a brief introduction about myself. I’m 24, male, from Medina, Saudi Arabia. I was born in Medina, to non-Arab parents who immigrated to Saudi Arabia long time ago, so Arabic is almost my native language.
    It’s also beneficial to write about the historical background of the era during which Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Mohammed. Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) in Mekkah, where his tribe (Quraysh) was known for its unmatchable fluency and eloquence in Arabic literature. (i.e. poetry, speeches…etc), so the Qur’an being Prophet Mohammed’s miracle to them, it had to offer something of an outstanding literary value that even the best poet could never manage to imitate anything similar to it. (since it’s the word of God). And if you research and read through the biography of Prophet Mohammed in his early stages of prophethood in Mekkah, you will find that those who followed Him and believed in his message, were astounded by the level of its extraordinary eloquence and structure of its verses. You will even find that the disbelievers who opposed him could not deny the superiority of the Qur’anic verses over anything else they have ever heard before.
    Having said that, Qur’an uses a clear, comprehensible language that can be understood by everyone. When I was 8 years old, I was admitted to an evening school that teaches Qur’an. By then, my knowledge in Arabic was very limited, especially that I only used to speak my parents language, and only at school did I use to speak Arabic. However, within 4 years, and at the age of 12, I had completed memorising the Holy Qur’an from cover to cover. There are thousands of students like me who memorise the Qur’an fully at such ages every year, and that tells how easy and unambiguous Qur’an is. In fact, it’s so simple and clear, yet it’s so deep in meanings and so strong in structure that no human being ever could imitate even the shortest verse in it.
    I will give you the link to a site that talk more expansively about the miracles of the Qur’an, not only from literary aspect, but also about scientific facts, predictions, historical miracles and some more. But I will quote what’s mentioned regarding the literary value:
    http://www.miraclesofthequran.com
    “We have so far considered the miraculous characteristics of the Qur’an from the scientific and historical points of view. In addition to these, the Qur’an also possesses an astounding, inimitable style from the literary perspective.
    It first needs to be stated that the exposition in the Qur’an addresses all human groupings from all ages. No matter what the reader’s education and cultural level, the Qur’an is written in a clear, comprehensible language which can be understood by everyone. In one verse, Allah reveals the following about the Qur’an:
    We have made the Qur’an easy to remember… (Qur’an, 54:22)
    Despite having such an easily comprehensible style, it has never been possible to imitate the Qur’an from any point of view. Some of the verses in which Allah draws attention to the inimitable nature of the Qur’an are:
    If you have doubts about what We have sent down to Our servant, produce another sura equal to it, and call your witnesses, besides Allah, if you are telling the truth. (Qur’an, 2:23)
    Do they say, “He has invented it”? Say: “Then produce a sura like it and call on anyone you can besides Allah if you are telling the truth.” (Qur’an, 10:38)
    One of the reasons that the Qur’an is described as miraculous stems from the fact that, as emphasized in the verses above, nothing like it can ever be written by human endeavour: The greater the scale of that impossibility, the greater the size of the miracle which we see before our very eyes. Therefore, the fact that the style of the Qur’an has been incapable of imitation by even one out of the billions of people down the centuries is one of the proofs of its miraculous nature. In his book, The Construction of the Bible and the Qur’an, F. F. Arbuthnot makes the following comment about the Qur’an:
    From the literary point of view, the Koran is regarded as a specimen of the purest Arabic, written on half poetry and half prose. It has been said that in some cases grammarians have adopted their rules to agree with certain phrases and expressions used in it, and that though several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it as far elegant writing is concerned, none has as yet succeeded.245
    The words employed in the Qur’an are exceedingly special, both in terms of meaning and also of fluency and effect of style. However, those who are unwilling to believe that the Qur’an is a holy book in which Allah has revealed His commandments and prohibitions, have come up with a variety of excuses as to why they should not follow it. They have attempted to take refuge from its beauty by turning to denial. Allah reveals the following about the deniers’ descriptions of the Qur’an:
    We did not teach him poetry nor would it be right for him. It is simply a reminder and a clear Qur’an so that you may warn those who are truly alive and so that the Word may be carried out against the disbelievers. (Qur’an, 36:69-70)”

    Sorry for making it long Clara. Have a nice day! 🙂

  17. Clara January 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Hello Goldenraindrop! 🙂 hope your exams went well and thanks for taking time to reply 🙂 i will try to respond soon but need to reread what I wrote and your response 🙂

  18. Clara January 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Medinian Breeze 🙂 of course it’s fine by me if you reply and as long as the host doesn’t mind I think we are good 🙂
    I’m also not sure what argument you are trying to make, sorry. If you could specify your stance I would very much appreciate it 🙂 but will try to respond to what I gathered from your post.
    short disclaimer. my ex is an Arab, Arabic is his native language. I also talked to other arabic speakers and as much as I respect Goldenraindrop’s understanding of the verse 4:34 none of them shared it.
    you say:

    “You will even find that the disbelievers who opposed him could not deny the superiority of the Qur’anic verses over anything else they have ever heard before.”
    where exactly you took this information from if you don’t mind providing the sources? i’d assume that if someone sees the superiority of revealed verses, they wouldn’t be opposed anymore? they would convert to islam?
    Seems that contemporaries of Muhammad had a problem believing in the message:

    Ahmed Ali
     83: 13 When Our revelations are recited before him, he says: “These are fables of long ago.”

    you say that no one would be able to imitate it. well, i don’t think in islamic countries they would even attempt it cause their heads would roll… elsewhere people tried but of course since I don’t speak Arabic I cannot comment on the quality of such attempts.

    it’s interesting that you say the Qur’an is clear cause my ex-bf, who is an Arab, admitted he had problems understanding parts of the Qur’an because of the language. Even native speakers of Arabic have to study Arabic to understand the Quran so i’m not exactly sure why the website says it’s easy to understand. Maybe you could possibly explain why after 1400 years prominent scholars of islam, who were/are native speakers of arabic, CANNOT agree on the meaning of verses?

    You use circular reasoning and it doesn’t sit well with me. The Qur’an is a literary miracle because the Qur’an says so and you go on to support your argument with the verses from the Qur’an.
    As I said before, I cannot comment on the literary value of the Qur’an because I do not speak arabic. I guess it depends mostly on your perspective. I have no problem accepting your stance, but it’s hardly a convincing argument for me to become a Muslim.
    Can you please tell me how I am supposed to respond to the miraculous quality of the Qur’an, as a person who doesn’t speak arabic? am i supposed to take others word for it? Remember, we are speaking about afterlife, it’s not to be taken lightly.
    My impression of reading the translation: very repetitive, chopped up, jumps from one topic to another and the constant appeal to fear.
    So just to recap.
    1) I believe that the Qur’an can have a high literary value to itself. I’m not able to verify it but I will not deny it.
    2) If you tell me that I need to speak arabic to understand the Qur’an and God’s message then the message is not universal, is not meant for all people of all times, and it is not from an omniscient God. In fact, it’s not from God at all.
    3) the fact that islamic scholars cannot agree on meaning of the verses puts the entire text and its messages into serious question (for me at least).
    4) The Qur’an itself states is clear and easy to understand yet scholars and ordinary muslims cannot agree on the meaning:

    5:15 Ahmed Ali
     O people of the Book, Our Apostle has come to you, announcing many things of the Scriptures that you have suppressed, passing over some others. To you has come light and a clear Book from God.

    44:58 Ahmed Ali
     Therefore We have made this (Qur’an) easy in your tongue. They may haply take a warning.

    54:22 Ahmed Ali
     Easy have We made the Qur’an to understand: So is there any one who will pay heed?

    54:32 Easy have We made the Qur’an to understand: So is there any one who will be warned?

    54:40 Easy have We made the Qur’an to understand: So is there any one who will be warned?

    Couple that with the mysterious letters in the Qur’an:
    A few examples of Muqatta’at

    Alif Lam Mim Sura Al Baqarah
    Alif Lam Ra Sura Yunus and Surah Hud
    Alif Lam Mim Ra Sura Ar Raa’d
    Ha Mim Sura Ha Mim Sajda
    Kaaf Ha Ya Ain Saad Surah Maryam
    Ya Seen Surah Ya-Seen

    source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muqatta'at
    I’m not sure but i think mystery has nothing to do with clarity and understanding 😉
    It’s absolutely beyond me how you can call the Qur’an “Kitab Mubin” given that it’s ambiguous, leaves out important information (such as details of prayer for example), and requires years and years of studying arabic, tafseers etc. What about an average believer who cannot dedicate his entire life trying to decipher what God REALLY wants from his creation?

    Uhh and I have a question if I may 🙂 why do you have to say your prayers in arabic only? what’s wrong with praying in other languages?

    Thank you for your time and apologies for making it long! take care 🙂

  19. Medinian Breeze February 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    I’m sorry for replying late, Clara. I’m also sorry if I haven’t been clear about the point I wanted to make, but my point is that Qur’an is not ambiguous.
    Let’s get started then 😉
    You say: “my ex is an Arab, Arabic is his native language. I also talked to other arabic speakers and as much as I respect Goldenraindrop’s understanding of the verse 4:34 none of them shared it.”
    They didn’t share it because they probably don’t know about the other interpretation, as the widespread interpretation states that it’s permitted for the husband to “hit” his wife but with a tiny stick that doesn’t physically hurt, but rather would mentally imply he is seriously upset.
    Arabic is a very rich language, it has a lot of meanings to a single word, and a lot of different words for one meaning. The other interpretation which interprets that particular word as “leave” is backed by another verse that consists of the same verb mentioned in 4:34, but instead it clearly declares that the meaning here is to “leave” or to “ignore”. The verse is 43:5 “Shall We utterly IGNORE you because ye are a wanton folk?” Pickthal.
    I also believe that Qur’an uses words that can hold a combination of different meanings, yet they do not conflict with each other or change the general message of the verse.
    For example, in verse 30:3, the word “adna” “أدنى” means “nearer” and it also means “lowest” or “lowest” but it was interpreted as:
    1- [Mohsin Khan] In the NEARER land (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious.
    2- [Pickthal] In the NEARER land, and they, after their defeat will be victorious
    3- [Shakir] In a NEAR land, and they, after being vanquished, shall overcome
    4- [Yusuf Ali] In a land CLOSE by; but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious

    And that was the only interpretation used, until recently it was discovered that the lowest point on earth is actually where the battle, mentioned in those verses, took place, near the dead sea in Jordan, which also means, that the word “lowest” can be used in the interpretation too. So as you can see , Clara, there can be two different meanings for the same word with both being accurate. So I don’t see why this is not the case with verse 4:34. I would like to also say that NO one ever could know where the lowest point on earth was 1400 years ago (or do you think otherwise? ;)), so to me, it’s really the word of God, as it shows a scientific fact that no one else could ever know at that time.

    You comment: “where exactly you took this information from if you don’t mind providing the sources? i’d assume that if someone sees the superiority of revealed verses, they wouldn’t be opposed anymore? they would convert to islam?” on my reply: “You will even find that the disbelievers who opposed him could not deny the superiority of the Qur’anic verses over anything else they have ever heard before.”
    There are many sources. But I will give you two.
    1- Page No.72 – 73 of a book called “The Sealed Nectar”, it’s good that I found a PDF version of it, so here is the link:
    http://www.2muslims.com/books/alraheeq.pdf
    2- A speech on YouTube:
    part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bxfg829hug
    part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuRHzMYynYA

    If you read through the book mentioned above, you will find more evidences that back what I claimed earlier, that Qur’an’s language was undeniably superior to the literature they were proud of. But sadly, the reason (or one of the reasons) Qur’an was opposed was because those people who rejected it were afraid of losing their power and status, as Islam stands for equality between people and states that no Arab has an advantage over a non-Arab, a non-Arab over an Arab, a white man over a black man, a black man over a white man, except in piety.

    You say: “Seems that contemporaries of Muhammad had a problem believing in the message:
    Ahmed Ali
     83: 13 When Our revelations are recited before him, he says: “These are fables of long ago.””

    Again, please read through the book “The Sealed Nectar”, you will find that this was something that some of the non-believers from Prophet Mohammed’s tribe agreed upon using, to mislead pilgrims whom the Prophet used to contact in order to convery his message. And it has nothing to do with denying the superiority of its verses.

    You say: “you say that no one would be able to imitate it. well, i don’t think in islamic countries they would even attempt it cause their heads would roll… elsewhere people tried but of course since I don’t speak Arabic I cannot comment on the quality of such attempts.”
    I’m sure you are aware of the fact that not all of Arabs are Muslims. Some of them had attempted to imitate it, but no one has succeeded yet. Otherwise it could’ve been used widely by people against Muslims to prove them wrong. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet when Arabs were at the peak of their fluency and were the specialists in delivering meanings and expressions using such eloquent words in impressive styles , yet history did not record any attempts from even the best of their best poets to produce anything similar to Qur’an, despite their fierce enmity to Islam. So, in my opinion, it makes sense that those who tried to imitate Qur’an had failed in their attempts.

    You say: “it’s interesting that you say the Qur’an is clear cause my ex-bf, who is an Arab, admitted he had problems understanding parts of the Qur’an because of the language. Even native speakers of Arabic have to study Arabic to understand the Quran so i’m not exactly sure why the website says it’s easy to understand. Maybe you could possibly explain why after 1400 years prominent scholars of islam, who were/are native speakers of arabic, CANNOT agree on the meaning of verses?”
    The language used in Qur’an was the common dialect at that time, and that dialect stayed the same until probably few hundreds of years ago, and it’s what’s known today as the Classic Arabic. And as you may know, Each Arab country has its own dialects varying from a region to another. So it’s natural that there are people who don’t understand some words in the Qur’an since they didn’t encounter them in their own dialect. However, Classic Arabic is very easy. Especially to any Arab native speaker, which is why it’s used in Arab the media in every Arab country as the formal language/dialect to communicate. Could you please provide me with verses from the Qur’an which native Arabic speaking scholars are NOT agreeing on?

    Sorry for making it very long Clara. I am not done answering all of your questions, and I need more free time. But till I post my next one, take care! peace! 🙂

  20. Clara February 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Dear Medinian Breeze

    thank you for taking time to reply. Don’t worry about long replies cause I have problems myself to keep my writing short and concise. I think I’m afraid that I might be misunderstood if I formulate my thoughts in bullet points.
    Okay, let’s start.

    Your point is: “the Qur’an is not ambiguous”
    And then you go on to say that people I spoke to don’t believe/think that the verse means ‘and leave them’ rather than ‘and beat them’ because they are not familiar with the former interpretation. We’re running into problems straight away cause it means that there is MORE than one interpretation of God’s word. How come there are different interpretations if the Qur’an is clear? Sorry, I am just not following. So Goldenraindrop has her interpretation and she believes in it, and there are millions of muslims who believe that it means ‘to beat them’. How do you decide then which one is right? And if Goldenraindrop is right, why isn’t her interpretation widespread?

    May I ask what’s is your stance on this verse? Do you think it means ‘to beat’ or ‘to leave’? What is your personal belief about this verse and why?

    Then you go on to say that according to the widespread interpretation “the husband is permitted to hit his wife with a tiny stick that doesn’t physically hurt, but rather would mentally imply he is seriously upset”. So now it’s not physical abuse as such, it’s emotional abuse. Sweet! It shows very clearly who is in charge, who is the authority. And I, as a woman, stand against it with every breathing cell of my being.

    Or if you like you can take opinion of this guy:

    To be honest with you, I find going from ‘beat’ to ‘leave’ as quite a stretch. Verse 30:3 refers to an even, it’s a story. It doesn’t harm anyone if it says ‘nearer’ or ‘lowest’. To me it’s a mere physical description of surroundings. It doesn’t matter to me much whether battle took place ‘nearer’ or ‘at the lowest point’ cause it’s not affecting my life much. This is not the case with 4:34. The verse regulates a relationship between husband and wife and I would like God to be a lot more specific what my husband can and cannot do. Please note that none of the tafseers I read on this website: http://www.altafsir.com/ says that the verse could mean anything else but ‘beat/hit’. Shall I deny years of Islamic scholarship and choose to believe in unconventional interpretation? I’m being serious asking this question. What do I believe to?
    Look, I am just an average girl with access to internet and computer. What about those who don’t have it? What do they believe into? What a local imam tells them? If God holds you responsible for getting right what He wants you to do and yet he creates a book that cannot simply cracked open and understood by everyone. What’s up with those mysterious letters?

    I also feel you are hinting at scientific miracle of the Qur’an. Why is it that those ‘miracles’ are only discovered hundreds of years after by modern science? Why are the Qur’anic verses a basis for modern scientists?
    I will have a proper look at the book you mentioned once I get more time. I do try to stick to as few sources as possible. The Qur’an, hadiths by Bukhari and Muslim, plus ‘The life of muhammad’ by I. Ishaq in translation of A. Guillaume.

    As soon as I read it I will get back to you ☺

    As for producing similar verses as those in the Qur’an, I found some websites and I would be happy to provide a link but since I am unable to verify it myself, I will withhold. My point is that you cannot make a claim of literary superiority of the Qur’an to a non-arabic speaker, to someone who is unable to verify it. As I said, it’s hardly a reason for me to become a Muslim, I need a little bit more than that. So instead of focusing on the literary miracle of the Qur’an, I prefer to focus on the message it conveys. It’s the idea(l)s contained in the Qur’an that should make me come to Islam, don’t you agree? However, I will still pick up on the fact that even native Arabic speakers do NOT easily understand it.
    I’m more than happy to settle for subjective perception of the Qur’an. If you think it’s superior, great! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The only point I would like to make is that there have been numerous writers and artists throughout the years whose works are almost impossible or impossible to copy/imitate. Simply because everyone is unique and they put their own unique fingerprint into their work.

    As far as disagreements between scholars go. One issue springs to mind: hijab. As far as I’m aware there is an opinion that hijab is mandatory and some say it’s recommended. Also, there are four main schools of Islamic thought, right? I understand that if they agreed on certain aspects of islam, there would be one school.

    Thanks for reading my ramblings and wish you a great week ahead!

  21. Clara February 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Dear Goldenraindrop,

    I’m sorry for late reply. It’s been very busy. I hope your exams went well and everything is well with you. I needed to reread my own ramblings before I could respond since we touched upon so many issues! And thanks for bearing with me ☺
    I allowed myself to copy and paste particular questions from my previous post. If you don’t mind looking at them again and giving your perspective I would be grateful ☺

    • Oh dear I will have even more questions to you now! So the verses from Mekka deal more with the spiritual part of islam and its teachings, and that’s why they should be universal?

    • So what do you think is the purpose of those verses from Medina? Are they simply historical narrations? Cause you say that they shouldn’t be simply discarded, but what do we do with them? Does the Qur’an offer a way of dealing with particular verses?

    • Yes, a mother seems to be highly revered in Islam. I might have become cynical over years but what if a woman is barren?

    • And it seems to me from the hadiths you quoted that the opinion of a man’s mother would take precedence over wife’s?

    • It’s interesting that you mention verse 4:11: “Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females…”. How does it work out in current economic situation though? When a woman simply has to work and has to contribute to the household? Is it still valid then?

    • [i] Also, according to Islam, the wife is not obliged to do the housework. It’s a choice she makes, and which earns her rewards by God. [/i] it’s first time I hear that. Is it supported scripturally?

    All the conditions you mentioned such as getting to know what your future husband thinks about certain matter is pretty obvious and of course you wouldn’t marry against your will.
    You say: “there is a space where the woman can put the rights she demands to have, like the right to divorce when her husband marries another woman”. As far as I know polygamy is allowed in the Qur’an and you are not supposed to make haram what was made halal… Little confused here.
    So I will ask again: do you think that a husband can disagree with his wife going to work? Does he have any say in it? What do you think he has a right to ask for to balance out the relationship?
    He might not like the fact that you mingle with other males when you go to work, can he actually prevent you from working?

    You say: “Of course he will lose respect for you if you spend your time visiting your friends and spending his money on shopping and luxuries, without contributing to the household or helping him in any way. Why would he need to take into account your opinion when you just do what you want without caring about any responsibilities?”
    Then I will ask again: what are according to you responsibilities and duties of a wife? There must be a set/list of things she has a duty to perform.

    I very much share your sentiments about working and being independent. You go girl! ☺

    As far as divorce goes. What happens when a wife initiates the divorce? I think Islam differentiates divorce as initiated by husband and wife, talaq and khula respectively (I think). What happens with mahr if a woman initiates the divorce? Do you believe the rulings in this respect are fair for both genders?

    You speak how a good woman helps keep the husband on the right path.
    Ekhm… well, I’m not sure how to understand this verse then:

    64:14 Sahih International
    O you who have believed, indeed, among your wives and your children are enemies to you, so beware of them. But if you pardon and overlook and forgive – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
    64:15 Sahih International
    Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward.

    I need to ask this. Everywhere I go, I hear how much Islam helped women in the time of Muhammad. What about his first wife Khadija? She was a rich businesswoman who offered herself in marriage to him… How do you reconcile this and then say that women were treated badly before islam?

    And believe me, it pains me as much as it pains you to see not only muslim women mistreated, but women of all faiths and nationalities. I can’t help but conclude that a lot what we see today is based scripturally in the Qur’an and hadiths. But of course that is only my conclusion.

    Anyways, I’m sorry for a very chopped up response. I tried to keep my ramblings short and ask some specific questions to get to know your opinions and hopefully find out how islam views these issues.
    I’m sorry for snowing you up with questions! Don’t feel obliged to answer any of them although I must say I enjoy very much this exchange of views we have here. If I become tiring (a troll) please let me know (and i mean it!) 😀

    Take care Goldenraindrop ☺

  22. goldenraindrop February 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Hi Clara 🙂

    I hope my exams went well too 😉 Everything is well with me, thank you, and I hope you are well too!

    I’m sorry if I overlooked some questions before, I will try to answer them all now.

    • Oh dear I will have even more questions to you now! So the verses from Mekka deal more with the spiritual part of islam and its teachings, and that’s why they should be universal?

    – According to my humble opinion, the verses from Mekka do indeed deal with more spiritual and universal issues. It was more based on defining Islam, and fighting against social injustice.

    • So what do you think is the purpose of those verses from Medina? Are they simply historical narrations? Cause you say that they shouldn’t be simply discarded, but what do we do with them? Does the Qur’an offer a way of dealing with particular verses?

    – I beg you not to treat me as a scholar or an Islamic authority 😉 Only God knows what the exact meaning of verses are, and if they should have been discarded then God would have told us to discard them. It is my opinion however that human beings are gifted with reason and can therefore use analogy. Societies don’t stay the same. The conditions of women for example have very much changed. They make their own money now, and are not so much dependent on men to protect them anymore. I think if you know what Islam says about dealing with others, about mixing, about modesty, etc, that you can use your own compass to tell you what’s right and wrong, according to the time and place you live in.

    • Yes, a mother seems to be highly revered in Islam. I might have become cynical over years but what if a woman is barren?

    – It’s true as you say that mothers are highly revered in Islam. I also know the sad reality that in islamic countries, if a woman is barren, her husband might take a second wife to have children with. I don’t know if this is a valid reason or not for polygamy, but I do know that he should treat his wives equally, and not discard his first wife. Also, the Prophet said, as I’ve mentioned before that the best Muslims are those who are best to their wives. It doesn’t have the condition “if she can bear children” after it. An Islamic marriage should be based on compassion, kindness, and harmony. I think this might also be an important issue to discuss if a woman is planning on getting married, what her husband would do if she would not be able to have children.

    • And it seems to me from the hadiths you quoted that the opinion of a man’s mother would take precedence over wife’s?

    I think a mother’s opinion stays important. A man, like a woman, is supposed to treat his mother with respect and kindness, and of course not ignore her wishes. I think his wife should also respect and be kind to her mother-in-law (and of course her husband should be kind to his mother-in-law too!). However, I do think a good man would not allow his mother and his wife to hurt each other, or to let his mother take advantage of his wife. His mother has her duties and responsibilities as a Muslim woman too, and that includes being compassionate, obliging, fair and friendly towards others.

    • It’s interesting that you mention verse 4:11: “Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females…”. How does it work out in current economic situation though? When a woman simply has to work and has to contribute to the household? Is it still valid then?

    – I think this verse is based on the fact that men provide for their wives and if necessary, their female relatives. It’s my belief that the whole logic of this verse is based on the notion that women don’t have to pay, and that men pay for them. It would only make sense that men would get more then, wouldn’t you agree? Even in the current economic situation, where women work, she doesn’t have to contribute to the household. The man is still expected to pay. Of course, if she would be obliged to spend her money on the same things men do, it would be only fair that she inherits the same amount of money, since the condition on which this verse was build (that men provide for women and women don’t have to pay) is no longer valid.

    • [i] Also, according to Islam, the wife is not obliged to do the housework. It’s a choice she makes, and which earns her rewards by God. [/i] it’s first time I hear that. Is it supported scripturally?

    – see my previous post 😉
    Once a woman came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, with a complaint against her husband. He told her: “There is no woman who removes something to replace it in its proper place, with a view to tidying her husband’s house, but that God sets it down as a virtue for her. Nor is there a man who walks with his wife hand-in-hand, but that God sets it down as a virtue for him; and if he puts his arm round her shoulder in love, his virtue is increased tenfold.”

    * You say: “there is a space where the woman can put the rights she demands to have, like the right to divorce when her husband marries another woman”. As far as I know polygamy is allowed in the Qur’an and you are not supposed to make haram what was made halal… Little confused here.

    – If you look carefully, the woman’s right for divorce doesn’t make polygamy haram. The man can still go ahead if he wants and marry another woman, but at the same time his first wife then has the right to initiate divorce and end the marriage.

    * So I will ask again: do you think that a husband can disagree with his wife going to work? Does he have any say in it? What do you think he has a right to ask for to balance out the relationship?
    He might not like the fact that you mingle with other males when you go to work, can he actually prevent you from working?

    – Well, this is something you really need to discuss with a potential husband prior to marriage. I noticed you went rather quickly over what I said about having conversations with a potential husband before marriage, and putting conditions,but to a Muslim woman this is very important. You have to make sure you see eye to eye on these things. There are men who like their wives to stay at home, and that’s ok, but they should be open and honest about it before they marry their wives. Some women don’t wish to work either. I think if you agreed on the fact that you can go to work as a woman, then no, I don’t think your husband has the right to make you stay at home. I think he does have a say in the kind of work you would be doing, since mingling with men too much is highly discouraged in Islam and should be avoided. I think it’s also the responsibility of the Muslim woman herself to make sure she wouldn’t be in contact too much with strange men in her job.
    Your question “What do you think he has a right to ask for to balance out the relationship?” is rather vague to me, to be honest. If you meant about his wife going to work, then I think he can ask her to take on a job that doesn’t interfere with her Islamic values.

    * Then I will ask again: what are according to you responsibilities and duties of a wife? There must be a set/list of things she has a duty to perform.

    – It depends. I think if she stays at home, and her husband goes out working, then her responsibility would be to take care of the house, the children, and to cook for her husband. I wouldn’t call it a “duty”, but just a responsibility to make their life together work, just as her husband has the responsibility to provide for her and their children. If she goes out working too, then I think the couple can split the chores between them, according to who is home the most.

    * As far as divorce goes. What happens when a wife initiates the divorce? I think Islam differentiates divorce as initiated by husband and wife, talaq and khula respectively (I think). What happens with mahr if a woman initiates the divorce? Do you believe the rulings in this respect are fair for both genders?

    Well, I think a woman would only give her mahr back (khula) if she doesn’t really have a reason to divorce except for the fact that she just doesn’t love him or something. If she has a real, good reason, like that her husband abuses her or doesn’t provide for her, or doesn’t want to sleep with her, she can go to the court, and the judge will end the marriage, without her having to give back her dowry. You are right that the man always has the right to initiate divorce (talaq), but that also leaves him with a big responsibility. If he says he wants to divorce her 3 times, the couple cannot be reconciled, except when the wife would marry someone else, then get divorced, and then marry her ex-husband again. So he really has to think carefully. I can’t tell you about the fairness of it all, but I find that in general, Islam is fair. And in Christianity for example, couples were not allowed to divorce. Is that better then? That you have to stay together even if you make each other really unhappy? In Judaism, a man can leave his wife over “a bowl of chicken soup”. If her husband leaves her without divorcing her, she’s forced to stay like that forever, married but alone. In Islam, if her husband doesn’t come back to provide for her and to fulfill her needs, the woman can go to court and divorce him. I saw in class that even today in the Middle East, Christian or Jewish women convert to Islam just to get a divorce!

    64:14 Sahih International
    O you who have believed, indeed, among your wives and your children are enemies to you, so beware of them. But if you pardon and overlook and forgive – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

    This verse doesn’t say that all wives are enemies to their husband. Did you look up the tafseer for this verse? Maybe it refers to the fact that men converted to Islam while their family was still of the old faith, and they wished him bad things for converting? It’s just a guess, best to look up the tafseer 😉

    There is also this verse of course:
    O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them – except when they have become guilty of open lewdness. On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something and God will bring about through it a great deal of good. (4:19)

    I very much think Khadija was an exception to the rule. It is a fact that Arabs buried their baby daughters alive before Islam came, and that women had the same status as cattle, or even lower. Islam gave dignity and honor to women, and forbade parents to bury their daughters.(I’m sorry if you don’t see it that way but I do ;)) The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said that whoever had daughters and raised them well and with kindness would enter Paradise.

    64:15 Sahih International
    Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward.

    Isn’t wealth a trial? Isn’t trying to have many children to have status and reputation in this life a trial? It has nothing to do with the character of the children. The Quran is just advising to turn to God instead of focusing on wealth and reputation.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with you about what you said about that a lot of things we see today are a result of what’s in the Quran and the hadith. Like I said in my previous post, women in the early Islamic period participated in society, were teachers (taught men!), and were respected and honored. Abusing women is NOT allowed in Islam, trying to keep them a prisoner in their homes without any rights is NOT Islam. I think a lot of what we see today is based on culture, and not on the teachings of Islam.

    You must also not forget that Islam is not just a lifestyle that you can scrutinize. It’s also a religion, a connection between God and humanity. I believe in God, and that He is always fair. I believe that he helped women and gave them dignity when He told them to cover and dress modestly, and not to spend too much time in the company of strange men. I live in the West, in a non-muslim country where men and women go out and mix daily, and there are a lot of times that I find myself thinking “Alhamdulillah that I am Muslim”. I strongly feel that a lot of men just don’t respect women anymore, and that women are constantly trying to please men with their looks and their bodies. Is that not oppression or slavery? A woman has to show off her body in order to get men interested. Our whole media industry is based on how women can please men. I found peace and dignity in Islam, and I no longer feel I have to have a perfect body, the perfect looks, or the perfect weight to get a man. I’m happy with my decision. I respect and accept that you don’t see it that way, and that you might have other thoughts about women liberation, but really I don’t regret anything. I’m answering your questions because I don’t want to leave you in doubt or confusion, but they don’t make me rethink my decision 😉

    Have a nice day, Clara! 🙂

  23. Clara February 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Hello Goldenraindrop,

    Thanks for replying so quickly! Appreciate it. I feel that my presence here has become tiring for you judging from the last paragraph of yours. So I will just post this reply and consider the topic closed unless you want to continue. I think we could be here all year lol

    I do not treat you like a scholar but you seem to have a lot of knowledge about Islam, you study Arabic and I’m curious about your views, that’s all. I’ve been ‘harassing’ the blogosphere for long enough to notice that almost every single Muslim has got its own, private interpretation of Islam. And during my journey I’ve heard a lot of contradicting stuff. Still waiting to see ‘the true Islam’ everyone is talking about. It’s nowhere to be found so far. Besides I find your opinion of only some verses being universal not very common, hence I asked what you do with those verses that you do not consider universal.

    • if the conditions of women have changed so much, they are not as dependent on men to protect them, you can use your own compass to tell you what’s right and wrong then why do you need islam with its strong entrenchment in 7th century Arabia?
    I understand the belief in God, but I don’t understand the need to make 1400 years old laws palatable now.

    • Barren women. I think it can be used as grounds for divorce or polygamy (for the husband at least; for a woman I’d imagine the only option is divorce). I believe that not only Islamic marriage should be based on compassion, kindness and harmony but all of them ☺ I also believe that husband’s mother and wife should all respect one another, I’m all in agreement with you. But as we all know familial relationship can be quite tense 😉 Moving on.

    • Half of a man in inheritance. Before giving my opinion I asked for yours and I agree that probably in some kind of society where all men are providers and all women are home-makers it could be seen as fair. But strictly under such circumstances. When a woman works and contributes to the household then I consider it as unfair and unjust for her to inherit only half what her brothers would. No disagreement here. In an Islamic state (under shariah) I think you’d still get half (I think but I won’t let my hand to be chopped off for this statement ;-)).

    • “If you look carefully, the woman’s right for divorce doesn’t make polygamy haram”. True. It’s no longer polygamy though, is it? But essentially the choice is between accepting the arrangement or divorce. If you initiate the divorce then you lose mahr (unless your husband signed in a marriage contract that he will not take another wife and he broke that promise). However, as far as I know the husband doesn’t need to seek his #1 wife consent to marry another wife, but I might be wrong.

    • as a way of explanation. When I was writing my last response to you I didn’t have time to go into as much detail as I would have wanted. With regard to discussing what your prospective spouse expects is nothing unusual or reserved to Islam only. ‘in the wicked west’ people date and that gives them time to get to know to each other before they commit; find out their likes and dislikes, and views on family, roles in a marriage etc. Of course not everyone dates for a long time to find out, and people change etc. I believe that every reasonable person would have such discussions with a prospective spouse. So I’m in TOTAL agreement with you, that’s why I didn’t expand on it.

    • as far as wife’s responsibilities go. I understand your stance, thanks for explaining!

    • As for divorce. I thought that mahr was a gift to the bride… So okay, after 10 years of marriage she feels unhappy or whatever, and needs to give back her wedding gift, a sign of appreciation to the bride? I’m a little confused, but never mind.

    Yes the man can divorce only in front of witnesses and the wife needs a judge AND a solid reason to divorce.

    Your comparative argument about divorce in Christianity or Judaism doesn’t work for me, cause I do not believe in any of those. I need to do more thorough research but I want to compare secular divorce laws with Islamic. That should be interesting ☺

    • will skip the verse on children and families, don’t want to make this post too long.

    • Khadija and female infanticide. As a student of Arabic and Muslim, could you point me to books on preislamic Arabia? Have been looking for those for quite a while and it’s on my list to get educated about it so would be grateful for suggestions ☺
    My purely personal opinion is that it was probably part of the culture but I do not believe that it had been happening on a massive scale. Simply because if it had, there would be no today’s Arabia 😉 Nevertheless, if the verse stopped completely the practice, it definitely should be given credit.

    We certainly disagree on a fair share of issues. That is okay. To me Islam is a belief system, ideology, religion that can and should be scrutinized just like anything else. I base my understanding of it on the scripture and widely accepted Islamic sources such as hadiths (bukhari and muslim). I understand the part about connection with God but it puzzles me why God would want to be worshipped in a very particular way. Apparently God doesn’t need us, yet he demands worship 5 times a day.
    I am agnostic. And if there is God, I do believe, I would want God to be fair and just. I cannot see fairness of Allah.

    For the sake of argument consider that I accept that Islam gave women their rights, dignity etc. back in time. Do you believe that Islam and its laws are superior to what we have now in secular countries? You are living in one. Why compare Islam to other ancient civilizations, why not with modern one? It seems kinda odd to me.
    I don’t quite understand why you say: “I live in the West, in a non-muslim country where men and women go out and mix daily, and there are a lot of times that I find myself thinking “Alhamdulillah that I am Muslim”.
    I didn’t quite understand what you meant by that, sorry.

    Just quickly on the issue of the hijab. If you don’t want to be subjected to judgment, hijab doesn’t solve it. It just covers the issues but it doesn’t solve them, it certainly doesn’t make you deal with them. Besides I understand you think you are not going to receive any pressure from your new community?

    Look. I’m a woman. Just as you are. I think there is a lot of bad in our modern societies, things that I strongly disagree with and I hear the argument you make quite often from Muslims.
    I lived in the UK for a few years and I didn’t like the ‘drinking culture’, girls walking around in tight revealing clothes leaving nothing to imagination. I believe media is to be blamed to a large extent for promoting certain images. I don’t agree with it and I happen to have a circle of friends who are absolutely SICK OF IT. My point is: use common sense and all of a sudden it becomes easy! if you want to attract certain men – you go out half naked. if you want to meet a decent, down-to-earth guy – you just dress ‘normally’ without being trashy or even seductive, the kinda girl next door. has been working fine for me so far ☺

    I believe you have a CHOICE. It’s not as if anyone is going to force you to go out on Friday and Saturday night and get drunk. No one actually checks you before you leave the house whether you have required amount of skin on display, right? You make this choice every day. I found myself friends who enjoyed cooking together, watching films and having conversations rather than getting trashed every weekend. There was time that I thought I need to be this, that, wear this or that to be noticed, to find a man blah blah blah. What a load of BS! It took me some time and a lot of self-work to become confident in my own way of life. If someone doesn’t like it – tough luck, get over it! I found like-minded people and I don’t feel any pressure whatsoever to be what media tells me to be.

    Anyways, I’m not here to ‘deconvert’ you. You make your own decisions and it’s your life. Not so long time ago I would probably say similar things to my own mother trying to explain islam but there were people around me who constantly grilled me about my probable decision. I so wanted them to bugger off and let me live my life haha. I also talked to convert women of 20 years, very knowledgeable in islam, and not one of them told me to go ahead and embrace islam, but I digress ☺

    I consider this post as my last one. I don’t want to strain your hospitality ☺ If you wish to continue I will be happy to read and respond. Just wanted to say that I fully respect your right to make any decision you want about your life. I’m in no position to tell you what to do, I’m not even trying. All along I simply enjoyed exchange of so different views on exactly the same writings. I will stop annoying you now ☺ Wish you all the best Goldenraindrop and I will allow myself to drop in every now and then! Take care! 🙂

  24. goldenraindrop February 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi Clara,

    Your presence here is not tiresome to me at all, and I’m sorry if I gave that impression. It’s just that as you say, we could be here all year, discussing.
    I don’t think it’s possible to find “true” Islam, as in that all Muslims follow exactly the same interpretations. Islam is alive in Muslims, with their own personalities, own hopes and fears, and those Muslims interpret Islam according to what they think is right.

    As for polygamy, I admit that I’m having difficulties understanding why it’s still valid today, as it is my personal belief that it was a kind of social security system to protect widows and divorcées in a society where they couldn’t make money for themselves, and would live in grave poverty if someone didn’t provide for them. I don’t think I could ever accept it from my husband, and I also see very few reasons (if any) why a husband would do that to his wife.

    I don’t see the West as “wicked” 😉 As I said in my original post, I think the West achieved a lot, and I don’t think all non-Muslims are bad or irresponsible, or don’t have values.
    I agree with you that it’s not reserved to Islam only, to discuss important subjects before you get married. I do however think that when people start dating, they fall in love quickly, and don’t really pay so much attention anymore to the other person’s view on things, or they don’t let it be a breaking point in their relationship, until their feelings for each other settle down, and they suddenly realise that they can’t live together at all!
    I’m not saying I’m against love before marriage, not at all. I think it’s a beautiful way to start your married life together. However, I’m also not against “arranged” marriages, as in that the man and woman get to know each other with the specific intention of getting married if they find that their personalities suit and complement each other.

    I’m not really a specialist in pre-islamic Arabia. I do believe that there is a bit of information about it in the biography of Prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) which Karen Armstrong wrote. She’s a very good (non-Muslim) writer in any case! 😉

    It’s my believe that God doesn’t “need” us to pray five times a day. He is completely independent from us, as in that it doesn’t hurt Him in any way if we don’t pray or don’t believe in Him. I think He rather gave this command to pray and remember Him, so our hearts could find peace and rest in an often restless world. I find that peace and comfort often when I pray, and it’s a good way to stay connected with God, which should be the foundation of any religion anyway.
    I didn’t say that a religion can’t be scrutinized, I just think, like I said before that a religion is not experienced only with someone’s head, but also with someone’s heart. To me Allah is fair. I think Allah loves His creation more than we can imagine.
    I really like this article for example, about the mercy and forgiveness of Allah:
    http://quranicverse99.tripod.com/islamicways/id4.html

    I meant with “I live in the West, in a non-muslim country where men and women go out and mix daily, and there are a lot of times that I find myself thinking “Alhamdulillah that I am Muslim” that I often see how men can disrespect women here, and play with their feelings. Of course this happens in Islamic countries too, but I do believe that Islam protects women against this.
    I also don’t think that wearing hijaab will suddenly save me from judgement. People always judge. I’m very much aware that if I decide to wear hijaab, people here will judge me even more, and even look at me in a dissaproving manner. Hijaab will make my life harder, to be sure. But I want to wear it anyway. And whether it just covers the issues, or solves them, is up to the woman wearing it. I see hijaab as a sign of modesty, and I believe it will help me remember that I’m a Muslim, that I should remember God, be good towards others, and not let worldly things blur my focus.
    I already felt the pressure of my new community, so I’m quite aware of that too. However, it’s my life, and I should do things in my own way. I don’t appreciate pressure from my “old” community, or from my “new” one.

    I’m happy that you found a lifestyle in which you feel confident, and it’s a good one, by the looks of it. Of course you can make a choice. I don’t look down on non-Muslims, and if girls here choose to wear decent clothes, so much the better! I just feel the Islamic lifestyle suits me, as your lifestyle suits you. I also feel I need a lifestyle in which God is prominent.
    And it’s not like Muslim girls can’t have fun together, quite the opposite, I assure you! 😉

    I really don’t mind your presence here, and I think our discussions so far have been very interesting 🙂

    Have a good Sunday!

  25. Clara February 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    happy valentine’s day Goldenraindrop! 🙂 i know i know it’s a cheesy day but if it means that people get to express they love each other, let them 🙂

    As for the true islam I asked cause i see a lot of finger pointing: this is not islam, that is not islam etc. For the outsider is sometimes very difficult to wade through such claims and find out what true islam IS about.

    uhh i hear you on polygamy! i could never accept it from my husband. personally, the possibility that my husband might take another wife makes me feel very insecure in marriage, but that’s just me.and knowing that islam puts such a big emphasis on charity i would expect other members of the community to provide help to widows and orphans anyway, without the need for widows to get married in order to get provided for (if that makes sense).

    ahh this love thingy! it clouds one’s judgement but it feels good haha

    and i will check out karen armstrong book. thanks!

    thanks for clarifying your positions in the rest of your post 🙂
    i guess i see islam as so much more than just a ‘lifestyle’. lifestyle is sth you can adjust, mould, or abandon altogether once you get bored of it or you grow out of it, or for any other reason.
    I don’t know about girls but i know muslim guys DO know how to have fun!

    can i just have one teeny-weeny question? 🙂 i will just copy and paste: Why compare Islam to other ancient civilizations, why not with modern one?

    thank you for an interesting exchange and being patient 🙂 have a great week ahead of you! 🙂

  26. goldenraindrop February 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Hi Clara!

    I hope you had a happy Valentine’s day. I’m definitely not against people expressing their love for each other! 🙂
    I do think I will come up with another day to celebrate the love between me and my (future) husband, just so that day would be uniquely ours, and I wouldn’t feel nauseous from the start by all those red hearts jumping in my face :p
    Ok, I’m getting off topic here! 😉

    I agree with you. It’s hard to say what “true” Islam is. It’s much easier to talk about what Islam is not, then to come up with a definition that embraces all the different aspects and dimensions!
    Some things don’t belong to Islam in a very obvious way. They go against the Islamic laws and beliefs. Forcing a woman to marry someone is such a case, for example.
    Of course, as a Muslim, I can’t be very neutral on this subject, but to me, “true” Islam will always be fair, and will promote peace and harmony. I know you don’t agree with me, but long life diversity and different views on things! 😉

    There is no reason for a Muslim woman to feel insecure about whether her husband would ever marry another woman or not. I read this interesting article about the rights that Muslim women can claim in their marriage contract, and it gives me good hopes for my future married life 😉

    Here is the article, if you are interested: http://www.islamfortoday.com/prenuptial.htm

    I don’t know why polygamy is allowed, but I trust that it has a good reason. Also, if you really don’t want it as a woman, you can protect yourself from it. It’s just that a lot of women don’t pay enough attention to this very vital marriage contract, and risk ending up in misery if their husbands don’t turn out to be good and loving men.

    Of course Islam is much more than a lifestyle to me too 😉 I just meant that, on top of my beliefs, it suits my nature. And that I accept and understand that personalities differ, and that I don’t necessarily view other lifestyles as inferior or bad 😉

    I didn’t compare Islam to ancient civilizations. When I talked about the divorce part, I meant that Christian and Jewish women in the Middle East today convert to Islam to ask for divorce. As for the secular societies, the divorce laws are not always better. In the article I mentioned before, I found this excerpt:
    “In other words, under the Muslim Law, her ‘Net Family Property,’ remains hers alone and with no corresponding obligation to share with her husband (unless both husband and wife have agreed to share). This is not the case in Ontario law. So to ensure that a woman’s Islamic rights are protected in Canada, particularly with respect to the matrimonial home provision of the Ontario Law, it is suggested that both the husband and wife consult a specialist (i.e. lawyer who specializes in Ontario Family Law if they happen to live in Ontario) so as to explore with this lawyer the legal possibilities of accommodating the couple’s wishes, as much as possible, by finding ways and means to legally circumvent the (Ontario) law with regards to the obligatory special equal sharing of the matrimonial home provision.”

    I agree that it would be an interesting study to compare the Islamic laws with secular laws, and of course much more relevant! I’m afraid I haven’t done this study yet though, so I can’t help you much further with that 😉
    I do know that there remain some inequalities in secular law. Like here in Belgium, a woman gets payed less than a man for exactly the same job in some functions.

    It was good to hear from you, Clara. Have a nice week! 🙂

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