25 March, 2007

An interesting quandary...

Neil MacFarqhar in today's NEW YORK TIMES:

Laleh Bakhtiar had already spent two years working on an English translation of the Koran when she came upon Chapter 4, Verse 34.

She nearly dropped the project right then.

The hotly debated verse states that a rebellious woman should first be admonished, then abandoned in bed, and ultimately “beaten” — the most common translation for the Arabic word “daraba” — unless her behavior improves.

“I decided it either has to have a different meaning, or I can’t keep translating,” said Ms. Bakhtiar, an Iranian-American who adopted her father’s Islamic faith as an adult and had not dwelled on the verse before. “I couldn’t believe that God would sanction harming another human being except in war.”

Ms. Bakhtiar worked for five more years, with the translation to be published in April. But while she found a way through the problem, few verses in the Koran have generated as much debate, particularly as more Muslim women study their faith as an academic field.

“This verse became an issue of debate and controversy because of the ethics of the modern age, the universal notions of human rights,” said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Egyptian-born law professor and Islamic scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Hot Lemon& Honey said...

Ok, ibobo, you quote her, what is YOUR thoughts about this since you have taken the time to post it. Your opinion please?

euro expat said...

beating the wife?

This is one thing we need in west, and the time is now. How many of us are sick of our wives getting drunk every night?

How many of us are happy about the fact that our wives are using our credit cards for their lustful desires and careless spending???

and above all that, we get to see desperative housewife attitudes from them.

I have reached a point that I wouldn't mind even having the Taliban like law against these women.

hallodubai said...

seems the new york times has a special talent to source confused writers. I suggest the lady first learns proper ARABIC, maybe that would be a sensible idea before attempting to translate any piece of text.

i, Bobo said...

Some translations I found on the internet, they're among the first that pop up in a google search (I added the bold and italics):

"Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband's absence, because God hath of them been careful. But chide those for whose refractoriness ye have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourage them: but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great!"

The Qur'ân, Rodwell edition [1876]; at sacred-texts.com

"Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others, and in that they expend of their wealth: and the virtuous women, devoted, careful (in their husbands') absence, as God has cared for them. But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bed-chambers and beat them; but if they submit to you, then do not seek a way against them; verily, God is high and great."

The Qur'ân, part I (Sacred Books of the East volume 6), Palmer edition [1880]; at sacred-texts.com

"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."

The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'ân, by M.M. Pickthall, at sacred-texts.com

"Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great."

The Holy Qur'an, translated by M.H. Shakir and published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., 1983. Available at the University of Michigan.

"Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others, and in that they expend of their wealth: and the virtuous women, devoted, careful (in their husbands) absence, as God has cared for them. But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bedchambers and beat them; but if they submit to you, then do not seek a way against them; verily, God is high and great."

From the Encyclopedia of the Orient translation.

Admonish those women whose surliness you fear, and leave them alone in their beds, and [even] beat them [if necessary]. If they obey you, do not seek any way [to proceed] against them. God is Sublime, Great.

Online Translation by Dr. T.B.Irving

So what's the deal? As a someone who's not a Muslim, I'm still trying to understand the intent of the passage. Is it saying that it's okay to beat your wife under certain circumstances? Or is there another translation of the word that makes sense? Because every English translation I've found uses the word "beat" or "scourge" (the archaic of "flail").

Also, does the book absolutely have to be taken literally? It seems that there would be an argument to be made that what was considered acceptable familial behavior in the 7th century might not translate well into 21st century society.

A said...

bobo you're back!

Lirun said...

this may be a ridiculous question and please excuse my ignorance if it is offensive..

but why can it not be the case that these words were intended for their original ears in a time when interpersonal violence was acceptable behaviour.. and therefore the words meant what they said back then.. however.. the essence captured by the words - why can it not evolve with time.. why would it be so wrong to re-evaluate the wisdom behind the original words and apply it to modern times in an adaptive manner..

humbly curious..

Lirun said...

i guess to take my question one step further.. in the (jewish) torah and in the talmud and in the gmara we have reference to technologies and tools.. back then these included animals and vehicles such as carts and ladders and there were sanctions such as stoning and social structures such as slavery.. given that these are no longer around we need to update our concepts..

people like the hamish for example clearly oppose any updating of the literal word.. is this like a debate on which way to go?

again i apologise if my ignorance comes across in an offensive manner..

btw yesterday after surfing i noticed someone drive to the beach with a cowboy hat.. while i was hosing down my board i suddenly noticed him doing stretches and then realised he proceeded to pray facing east.. when he finished he sat back down on the grass on his own and continued to watch the sunset..

he looked totally californian with no religious insignia on him at all..

to me he appeared to be someone who has aligned religion with the time.. a huge gross presumption about someone i know nothing about but that was my impression.. and based on that impression i thought it was cool how he could blend into modernity and still maintain his religious duties..

just an anecdote..

thanking you all again for your patience..

Anonymous said...

euro expat... I would rather have a wife that keeps me on my toes (not to the extent that you described though) than a wife that I would be bored with in a few seconds because she agreed with everything I thought.

Lirun, it is a held belief that the Qur'an is "saleh likul zaman wa makan" meaning that the Qur'an is right, relevant... yeah, for all places and times. so although your idea would make sense... we're talking about religion, and religion and logic are hardly ever on the same page.

Yes, I just called myself illogical... in a way.

2 flaws I see in this post. 1. any translation, any, from the little notes we leave our loved ones when they awake and we've already left for work, to translating the EU's 80,000 page laws includes some degree of personal flare.you cant translate something 100%. that is one reason why no matter where a Muslim is from, prayers must be conducted in Arabic, the original source. this is also one of the reasons Muslims discredit the Bible. take a latin version and the kin james version... some parts are not the same. this, from the get go of Islam was the point, to try to preserve what we consider "the words of God" as they were.

the 2nd problem is the fact that although the Qur'an is the greatest source of Islamic jurisprudence, it isnt the only. those on here who have studied, or at least dabbled in Islamic studies will tell you that there is an almost 1400 year old system in place to make, and indeed break Islamic laws.

the Qur'an, the SUNNAH, the IJMA'A, and the IJTIHAD are all equally important.

think of the qur'an as a book of rules, thou shall do this, thou shalt do that... well what if something (like beating your wife) isnt too clear. hell, what if (as the story goes) the prophet's wives themselves take issue with this...?

you move on to the next source, the Sunnah... and so on, till an answer is found.

"Al dharb al ghair mubrih" is what Islamic jurists (using the above system) came up with. meaning that a man can indeed hit his wife, but only after all else fails, and only if by hitting her he will 1. not make the problem worse, 2. not hurt her (in the sense that he wont leave a mark, scar, welt...) and 3. the hitting will remedy the problem.

when you take that into consideration, you can "can" slap your wife gently upside the head (my older sister would do it to me often) if she is (as woman often do) gets emotional and (as a sane man would put it) crazy.

Anonymous said...

"The Qur'an is "saleh likul zaman wa makan" meaning that the Qur'an is right, relevant... yeah, for all places and times. so although your idea would make sense... we're talking about religion, and religion and logic are hardly ever on the same page."

Ah.. yes, but it doesn't say how that is implemented. I'll tell you how.. but interpreting it according to the current conditions. You can't take everything literally..

Either way, the verse, translated or not, displays how Islam views women as inferior to men.

Lirun said...

ok.. that is interesting..

that being said.. my thought would be as follows..

(a) if the relevance is eternal.. we need to administer application carefuly in a world characterised by change..

(b) so if we are to deal with change and we continue to administer without any adaptation we may end up with a conflict between the outcome and the intention if the scenarios described no longer deliver the intended result..

(c) if we are to change anything at all NOT in our views of the holy koran but in terms of how we approach strict abidance - what is more important that we preserve? the scenarios prescribed to deal with issues or the intention and spirit and heart underlying them..

to my humble mind.. my instincts would see the reference to beating the woman as maybe being a statement about moral administration in the house rather than a statement about whether or not women as a gender should be subjected strictly to the rule of men.. (this is of course without ever having read or studied the koran but just an example of what another persepctive may be)

i would contemplate that the wisdom being captured in the verse represents times when power was a centralise concept.. and that the verse represented an extension of this concept to the family home and structure..

i think moral administration remains entirely relevant and the intention need not to change if you indeed sanctify it..

however - again to my uneducated mind - preserving the essence of the studies seems not to be less holy or important than preserving the scenarios described as outcomes that need to be accomplished..

every law in society is considered to omni-applicable.. laws only expire when they are stated to be repealed.. that is life in a regulated society.. but inevitably they fail to describe every detail of our existence and we rely on human wisdom - to supplement the divine decree or even other authority in order to fill in the gaps and honour that which we follow..

i am also wondering about the concept of "al-Wassatieh in Islam" - having just read an article about a political movement in the palestinian terrorities that is founded on that principle..

Anonymous said...

How did this thread turned into Quran bashing? Check ur so called holy books and u'd see that the Quran is the one which gave women rights the most.

As for the topic,I wouldn't give a weight to her interpretation. She as a start should know arabic well.

If she wants to explain the Quran she should do it with the intention of explaining what Gods really wanted and not what she wants from the Quran.

@A Blessing in Tragedy

You arent right by saying that Quran, sunnah, ijtehad and ejma are equaly important. The Quran is the first source and anything that contradict with isnt not taken into consideration.

@euro expat

Do you want me to beat ur wife too? :weirdo:

Lirun said...

please make no mistake on my part at least - im certainly not koran bashing.. just inquisitive.. again if i have been in any way disrespectful i apologise.. if what i have written is genuinely bad - ill gladly remove my comments..

genuinely curious thats all..

and wishing you all a good week..


Anonymous said...

Inferior to men? is that why they are given special treatment in almost every aspect of daily life? a woman UAE citizen (depending on where she works) gets more money than me, more leave, and more incentives. only if I were a married male would I match what the woman is given. and why is that? not because she is superior... but DIFFERENT. Hell, if you work in the Sharjah Government and are a UAE woman, you are given a "marriage monus. 70k the second you get married.a guy gets... to pay 200-500k for a wedding. yeah, really bad treatment.

a western (or purely western, us 1/2 breeds can grasp both) mind cant get it because you are force fed a stale lie. "Equality."

And I'm not talking about people shouldnt own people. that is for sure something that most people agree with. but to say that, blindly, a man and woman are equal is as absurd as saying an apple and orage are the same. sure, both are fruites. and both are pretty yummy, but they are different. yummy in different ways, Orange makes yummy juice, apples I prefer to eat.

Men and woman are the same. Islam makes provisions for this difference. Its not saying that Men are better, smarter, or superior, and neither is the opposite the case. it is simply stating the fact. men and women are different

Yes, Men are the "shepards" of women in Islam. but a man is also responsible two fold in the end. (again, bear with me)

If a married woman cheats on her spouse she will be punished come judgement day, but the man who did the same will probably never see paradise. something that the woman will at some point.

The same is "supposed" to happen in this life. a man's punishment is supposed to be double that of a woman. not because a woman is better, but because the 2 are different.

No the fact that some (or many) places calling themselves Muslim dont know jack about their own religion isnt my problem, and it sure as hell (yeah, I curse alot) isnt the religion's fault.

I didnt say they were all of the same importance. I said they were all important, and that they all had a turn, 1st the Qur'an, then the Sunnah and so forth. learn to read.

I was lucky enough to actually pay attention in Islamic Studies class growing up, I was even more lucky to take religion classes in the US where Islam is taught from an outsiders view.

I have a firm understanding of my religion and cant see ANY Qur'an bashing here. you're just paranoid. seek help. there is NOTHING wrong with a conversation like this one.

Lirun, humble my ass, if you are an "uneducated mind" then I wonder what an educated mind looks like (thats a complement btw)

This is the type of conversation that needs to be continued in person as our posts are getting way too long.

fake balushi said...

women are inferior to men,

Women can do things but so does a monkey if trained!

So that wouldnt mean that a Monkey is equal to a Man!

or... maybe... could... ???

Anonymous said...

@ i bobo and everyone else : Laleh Bakhtair is following Islam which was created by confused people..pease go through her biography...she is practicing sufism ...and sufism is not islam... so please post something from the real islam not from people who have no identity of themselves and for their happiness sit and degrade islam..... sufism is a deviant sect and is not considered islam and this women is not a muslim.considering she is following sufism ... so end of topic i guess for atleast muslims who practive mainstream islam ... no use of discussing something which is written by a non muslim...and a person who is following a deviant sect

Fahad said...

i remember a time when i posted harmless islamic posts and people were talking about relevence... and now i can see people posting something against islam ..and its totally relevent ....no body from non muslim community is pointing a finger cause this degrades muslims and they are happy about it and my posts somehow were always pointed out and i was asked to post something of relevence To UAE..it cleary shows biased opinions of some people around here in UAE community ... isnt it hypocrisy? just wondering

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

@ last anon. You maybe right about bakahtir, I didn't check her biography, but you are wrong about not disucssing this with non Muslims.
Do you know I got to know two people who converted to Islam while they were going through the Qu'raan' to find faults.
There is nothing wrong in clarifying things and educating others about our religion.

Fahad, lol I was waiting for you to say something. You should just write relevance???
And someone will say "it is related to the previous topic where this (mad, muslim) Emarati who killed his sister".

Write what you want, you are a member and Sam did not delete your posts, and just ignore those who find it "tasteless" or whatever.

Anonymous said...

fake balushi...in the eyes of your mother a monkey is a gazelle.

Fahad said...

HL&h lol yah i should write something on it, i have heard this word alot lately and its only relevent that i post another one of my islamic post :)

fellow atheist said...


You are absolutely right. This post is completely irrelevant here. Why are still talking about someone who has nothing to do with the UAE?

samuraisam said...

fellow atheist, Islam is the religion of the UAE. I don't remove posts about Islam. This post in particular is related to a previous news event, but even so, it's an interesting topic.

i, Bobo said...

"she is practicing sufism ...and sufism is not islam...

Okay, I'm officially confused at this point. I was just starting to get a handle on this whole sunni/shia thing and now you guys throw me a curve ball about Sufism.

So what's the difference between Sufism and the other two? Is it like the difference between Catholics and Protestants?

Anonymous said...

Not exactly. Sufism is... well... a bunch of made up stuff. and I dont mean it in a bad way... or a good way. it was an attempt to make Islam more... epic. more Catholic-ish. some parts of sufism goes against mainstream Islamic thought... (sort of like the She'a) but most of their beliefs are harmless (and in many instances pointless) additions.

My view is they arent hurting anyone... and their dancing and screaming is enjoyable to watch.

Now, in my PERSONAL opinion, sufis, abadhis, and the She'a are NOT muslim, although most of the differences are small, the little big differences are big enough for me to feel this way. so I think of those religions as just that, different religions. sort of like Judaism or Zoroastrians.

Fahad said...

@I bob - this is where people of different faith get confused... Islam should be followed by the book that is Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, whoever deviates from thm are on of the non believers muslims included ...so its better to understand islam the religion from Quran and Sayings of Prophet rather then learning it from people who add up ideas of thier own and try to show up a different picture altogether cause some aspects of Islam dont suit their lifestyle....

mawlawi said...

anonym0us @1:39 and a blessingintragedy @ 15:09: your views about sufism and other non-sunni (or non-mmainstream) muslim groups is among the most ignorant statements I've seen in a long time. Sufis and shi'as are integral part of islam and muslims. Only fanatics (such as the Wahhabis) and ignoramuses (such as you) would consider them non-muslims.

Lirun said...

i have another question..

while ana ma bitkalem arabi like i speak hebrew or english.. i know enough to know that your language is a rich semitic tongue that gives rise to endless poetic inuendo.. at least as much as hebrew if not more..

we have 7 linguistic "buildings/structures" meaning ways to conjugate the verb to give the verbs meaning - i think you guys have like 10 or something.. also.. you - like us - have roots for each verb that i assume carry intrinsic meanings and connotations as do ours..
(for people who speak neither this means that you can take a 3 letter root and you can conjugate so it means (a) you did it yourself (b) it was done (c) you did it to yourself (d) it was done by others (e) it was done by others to itself etc etc)

as a result of this our languages are beautifully poetic and emotional.. because they dig deeper than surface and every word carries secondary and tertiary meanings.. but the other result is a lack of accuracy - a least in hebrew.. english on the other hand is rasor sharp and dry.. which is why as lawyers we delight in its use and in israel most commercial legal documentation is drafted in english so that we can benefit from this accuracy denied by the floral nature of our mother tongue..

as a result i cringe when people tell me that the bible is translated.. i question immediately - how can they possibly purport to capture the infinite number of meanings that every hebrew word has or can be seen to have.. when we studied the bible at school we would read the text and then spend hours delving in the great interpretations conceived by the wisemen of our culture over the past 3,000 years..

the flip side is that when i read the bible.. i swim in its meaning and find the hidden treasures on goodness that i look for.. the spots of wisdom and the moments of intellectual greatness..

i am not devout or orthodox but i love my heritage and can understand anyone's passion for their own..

i would very much appreciate you telling me - are the koran and arabic not similar in this way?

Fahad said...

@mawlawi - with all due respect to your statement that we are ignorant of of the fact that sufis are part of islam... why dont you for a change let us know how do sufi's pratice islam and which islam do they practice...? do they follow quran and prophets sayings if they do please give us a proof and then come and tell us that we are ignorant....

Fahad said...

@ Lirun: please visit www.rediscoverquran.blogspot.com may be you can get some help there ..its one of my blogs thanks

Anonymous said...

mawlawi said...
anonym0us @1:39 and a blessingintragedy @ 15:09: your views about sufism and other non-sunni (or non-mmainstream) muslim groups is among the most ignorant statements I've seen in a long time. Sufis and shi'as are integral part of islam and muslims. Only fanatics (such as the Wahhabis) and ignoramuses (such as you) would consider them non-muslims.

You are the exact type of ass that made me put PERSONALLY in my message.

When God said the Arkan al islam were the 5 that they are, and one is to pray 5 times a day in their currect timing, and then you have the Shi'a praying 3 times a day (Jam'a wa qasr) yeah, call me ignorant for acting on God's words. no more, and no less.

Prostitution is LEGAL in Shi'a Islam. to them, you can technically meet a girl tonight, do as you wish with her, and never see her again PROVIDED you 1. PAY HER (a dowry) and 2. 2 people SEE YOU pay her. and 3. The next morning you "Divorce" her.

Dont tell me "They dont do that" some of my best friends are Shi'a. they do, and they arent proud of it. in fact, most of the newer UAE shi'a generation shun their shi'a upbringing.

Have you ever heard the Shi'a call to prayer? not the same one the profet accepted from Bilal 1400 years ago..

No my friend, I am not ignorant. I said what I did because i know. you do not. that is the shame. an ignorant person pointing fingers. I can believe as I wish, and you can yours, but dont tell me my beliefs are wrong, you have no right.

lirun - You're jewish? we then MUST meet up and talk one day. my 2nd roomate in college was Jewish, he would come to the mosque with me and I would go to temple with him (They were both on campus right next to each other) and I learned alot. He was one of the reasons I took so many philosophy and religion classes.

Yes, Arabic is ALOT like Hebrew in that everything can mean a great many things and even then depending on usage it could mean so many more.

For Islams 1st... I want to say 600 years (someone correct me if I am wrong) scholars (and good ones) did nothing but read, re read, understand, write about, interpret, and DEBATE the Qur'an (And invented pointless shit like Algebra).

Our problem today is that around the time of Al Ghazali, all the releventness (yeah, not a word) of the qur'an for THAT time had been discovered. because so many people took up the task in such little time. Imam Ibn Hanbal, and Imam Shafi'i... and so many others, they all did such great jobs that the next generations decided, hey! we have everything we need!

A schesim happened between those who thought that Islamic philosophy needed to continue (and indeed, discovering the meanings of the qur'an further) I believe Ibn Sina led this group... A SHI'A scholar, I know, but I have read MANY of his works and I pray for him always. and the other group, who believed that the past scholars had done such a great job that no one else could ever do as good a job and so the "doors of Ijtihad" (doors to... understanding, discovering...) should be closed.

The masses, the sheep that they were read both Ibn Sina's and Al Ghazali's books, with their opposing points of view... AND FROM THAT DAY TILL THIS ONE no one has re opened that door.

why? because, we have no more scholars. every decent scholar in on some corrupted government's payroll (KSA, Egypt, Iran...) and the ones in countries like the UAE or Bahrain have no clout...

One day those doors will burst open again.

Lirun said...

hey A.B.I.T

i live in israel.. but you are certainly welcome to visit and yes i am jewish.. :)

when i worked in australia one of my best friends was a muslim syrian and he would join me to every israel australia chamber of commerce function as a full member of the organisation..

i must say after reading all of these comments i may well have come away more confused then i was to begin with..


Anonymous said...

Yeah, someone who can actually talk about religion without cursing in this country would be too good to be true. sigh.

One day the political climate will be such that I can visit. Jerusalem is on my list... and Istanbul... and the vatican (yes, the vatican) and Romania. but not for their religious importance... they are all places of importance to Vlad the 3rd. (Huge Dracula fan)

wait a minute... 3000 years? I though the Jewish calendar was around 5700 years old! see, now you have gone and confused me!

Lirun said...

i count from king david.. ;) but yeah our calendar goes back way further.. our faith is older..

Anonymous said...

The term "wahabi" is a shiite invention anyway. The use it when they want to indirectly curse muslims.

The whole Shiisim and Sufisim religions are based on false, weak and unauthenticated hadiths. I'd turn to a shiite if u proved me wrong.

ichin hans said...

Hmmm...interesting discussions...

But may we, or may we not, beat our rebellious wives?

What does the Arabic original say?

Mohammed UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fakebalushi said...

It is better to have Monkeys flying into the Space Than a Women!!!!

Atleast the Monkey won't drive 5000KM Just to kill another monkey for the Love of an Impotent old chimpanzee!

While women do that.

I guess even monkey are superior to women. i guess

samuraisam said...

fake balushi: STFU.

Anonymous said...

@Mohammed UK

Howz ur id name Mohammed but u dont know much about Islam?

Mohammed UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohammed UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ichin hans said...

So the verse clearly says that men CAN, indeed, MUST beat their wives, if they FEAR THAT their wives are, or will be, rebellious.

Thanks. It's clear now.

ichin hans said...

P.S. Before you all jump on me, I am merely interested in what the verse says, not in how various people choose to interpret it or misuse it.

Mohammed UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ichin hans said...

"Hypothetically, IF...an honest decent practicing man...he will struggle to prove all the above in a court of Islamic Shariah!"

Honestly, Moe, I ain't interested in hypothetical musings...I just wanted to know if the verse permits, or encourages, me to beat my rebellious wife. (i'm not partial to long words like "chastise", discipline", etc., so i say "beat".)

Once I'm through with that phase, she'll have seen the light, so I don't think she'll be running along to the li'l ol' Shariah Court to contest my actions. All I wanna do is what the verse says. It's with the best of intentions, after all.

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