Husband and Wife in the Quran
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Islamic world has not distinguished itself over the centuries in its respect for and kind treatment of women (Austen, 2012; Thompson, 2011; Kotz, 2009; “Melbourne Islamic…,” 2009; “Missouri Couple…,” 1991; “Father of…,” 2008; Schoetz, 2008; “Raped…,” 2007). This observation is unprejudiced and hardly novel. Around the world for centuries, Islamic women have endured a subpar status with Islamic men. As General George S. Patton observed, having witnessed the impact of Islam on the countries of North Africa during World War II:
One cannot but ponder the question: What if the Arabs had been Christians? To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammed and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing. Here, I think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues of Christianity (1947, p. 43, emp. added).
No doubt 7th and 8th century Arabian culture contributed to Muhammad’s view of women. However, the Quran stands on its own for its advocacy of female inferiority. For example, in Mohammed Pickthall’s translation of the Quran, Surah 4:34 reads:
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). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great (emp. added).
A host of Islamic translations confirm this translation. The words in bold in Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation are rendered: “refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly).” Ahmed Raza Khan’s translation reads: “sleep apart from them, and beat them (lightly).” Maududi has “remain apart from them in beds, and beat them.” Wahiduddin Khan “refuse to share their beds, and finally hit them.” Shakir has “leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them.” Sarwar reads: “do not sleep with them and beat them.” Saheeh International reads: “forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.” Qaribullah and Darwish have: “desert them in the bed and smack them (without harshness).” Qarai reads: “keep away from them in the bed, and [as the last resort] beat them” (Tanzil Project, 2007-2014).
Observe two startling realizations from this passage:
(1) The Quran explicitly gives sanction to Muslim men to beat their wives. Some translators try to soften the directive by inserting qualifiers like “lightly” (Ali, Raza Kahn) and “without harshness” (Qaribullah and Darwish), but the Arabic text is unqualified. In stark contrast, the Bible, while assigning differing roles and responsibilities based on gender, nowhere suggests that men have a right to inflict physical punishment on women. The intimidating, overbearing role of men in Islam is proof that the religion was invented by a male.
(2) The command to banish a wife to a separate bed implies at least three concepts that cast Islam and the Quran in an unfavorable light.
First, the Bible and the Quran contradict each other on this point. Paul instructed the Corinthian Christians:
Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:2-5, emp. added).
The Quran says a man may sexually banish his wife, without her consent, as punishment for displeasing him. Yet Paul said a married couple is not to refrain from sexual relations except bymutual consent, and then only for a brief period. One cannot take the position that the Quran and the Bible are both from God. They contradict each other on many matters. Insisting that these differences are due to the Bible having being corrupted is an untenable and unsubstantiated explanation (Miller, 2005, p. 89; Miller, 2013).
Second, when one weighs both the Bible and the Quran’s portraits of deity, it quickly becomes self-evident to the unbiased observer which of the two books portrays the inspired view of women. The Bible contains the fair, compassionate, majestic perspective in taking into account both marriage partners as equals. As Peter stated so eloquently: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Both male and female were made in God's image (Genesis 1:27).
Third, observe further how the Quran exposes its human origin, demonstrating that it came from man, not God. Women are “wired” differently from men. They have one-tenth the testosterone of men (“Testosterone,” 2011). To suggest that a man could punish his wife by the cessation of sexual relations with her is undoubtedly written from the perspective of a man, and not from the vantage point of most women.
Comparing the Bible with the Quran is a useful exercise. The process calls the inspiration of the Quran into question. At the same time, the Bible’s superiority is reinforced.
Austen, Ian (2012), “Afghan Family, Led by Father Who Called Girls a Disgrace, Is Guilty of Murder,”The New York Times, January 29, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/world/americas/afghan-family-members-convicted-in-honor-killings.html?_r=0.
“Father of Slain Teen Girls Upset That Daughter Dated Non-Muslim, Police Records Show” (2008), Associated Press, January 9, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/01/09/father-slain-teen-girls-upset-that-daughter-dated-non-muslim-police-records/.
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Miller, Dave (2005), “Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired?” Reason & Revelation, 25:89-95,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=572&article=433.
Miller, Dave (2013), “Has the Bible Been Corrupted?” Apologetics Press,https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=4649.
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Patton, George S. (1947), War As I Knew It (New York: The Great Commanders, 1994 edition).
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Schoetz, David (2008), “Daughter Rejects Marriage, Ends Up Dead,” ABC News, July 7,http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=5322587&page=1.
Tanzil Project (2007-2014), http://tanzil.net/#4:34.
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Thompson, Carolyn (2011), “Jury Convicts Muslim TV Exec of Beheading Wife,” Associated Press, February 9, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/02/07/closing-arguments-begin-new-york-beheading-murder-trial/.