Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 236-242 Reminds Us that Using Our Reason with God in Mind Will Lead to the Effective Execution of Social Justice

Again, these divorce laws never cease to amaze me in their understanding of social justice. A man, according to his means, must provide for his divorced wife (presumably, so long as she is not being supported by another). I would like to point out though that these laws are most effective and necessary in a society in which men work and women, well, women work too but not necessarily for a paycheck. In many societies today I would argue that, barring a prenuptial agreement, a woman should get diddlysquat when she is divorced (if she initiates it or doesn’t keep up her end of the marriage) because she is entirely capable of making her own way, getting a job, supporting herself, etc.

Okay, perhaps diddlysquat is a little harsh. It’s not easy to live 40 years unemployed and then suddenly work to support yourself, with no 401k (not that anybody has those anymore anyway) or experience. However, I do think that a divorced woman in a society that allows her to, should be required to work to support herself, even if she still requires assistance from her previous husband. But those are my opinions which are only relevant in certain societies. In the days that the Quran was revealed, for a long time afterward and in many places today, this is still a necessary law. It’s also spun in a surprisingly nice way: if it happens that things don’t work out with your wife, be a good person and support her in whatever way you are able.

The God-Consciousness in reference to the social injunctions again underscores the importance of interacting with each other in such a way that God would approve. As this has been a theme so far I imagine that it will continue to be one, and Asad’s note points out that prayer is the most intimate form of God-consciousness – hence its place here.

This entire talk then ends brilliantly: with God providing commands this way so that people can use their reason. In what way, I would ask? And then answer, vaguely. The amount of alimony hasn’t been specified, the acceptable legal behavior hasn’t been specified (so far), and I think that’s because of exactly what the Quran states here: that God doesn’t want to solve all of our problems for us and sort out every little detail. He wants us to use our reason and be good people. We can do this most effectively by keeping Him in our minds and always acting in accord with the knowledge that he is watching us and knows what’s in our hearts.

Please feel free to comment, correcting or adding to what I’ve said here.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read More Quran Read-A-Long.

The Cow 236-242

236. You will incur no sin if you divorce women while you have not yet touched them nor settled a dower upon them; but [even in such a case] make provision for them – the affluent according to his means, and the straitened according to his means – a provision in an equitable manner: this is a duty upon all who would do good. 237. And if you divorce them before having touched them, but after having settled a dower upon them, then [give them] half of what you have settled – unless it be that they forgo their claim or he in whose hand is the marriage-tie* forgoes his claim [to half of the dower]: and to forgo what is due to you is more in accord with God-consciousness. And forget not [that you are to act with] grace towards one another: verily, God sees all that you do. 238. BE EVER mindful of prayers, and of praying in the most excellent way;* and stand before God in devout obedience. 239. But if you are in danger, [pray] walking or riding; and when you are again secure, bear God in mind – since it is He who taught you what you did not previously know. 240. AND IF any of you die and leave wives behind, they bequeath thereby to their widows [the right to] one year’s maintenance without their being obliged to leave [the dead husband’s home].* If, however, they leave [of their own accord], there shall be no sin in whatever they may do with themselves in a lawful manner.** And God is almighty, wise. 241. And the divorced women, too, shall have [a right to] maintenance in a goodly manner:* this is a duty for all who are conscious of God. 242. In this way God makes clear unto you His messages, so that you might [learn to] use your reason.

Advertisements

Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 232-235 Speaks of Child Support and Waiting After Divorce

Note

I would like to begin by noting that the translation provided below is that of Asad, who is often quoted by some of Quran Read-A-Long’s finest participants. I figure I should switch to his translation and see if that helps facilitate my understanding a little. I think that my copy of the Quran is very nice, but let’s mix it up a bit.

Child Support

Verse 233 seems to support precisely the modern notion of child-support. Not only is the woman allowed to continue to nurse her child for two years regardless of having divorced the child’s father (I’m guessing that the implication here is that the child belongs to the father, not the mother, when the parents part ways and so the woman has to be allowed to see the child), but the father must be able to provide for all the children he sires.

Today we try to hold fathers accountable for their children, but it can be hard to do so due to lack of funds for paternity tests or even being able to find those fathers. By making it part of the Quran, this obvious social necessity becomes linked to God, final judgment and the afterlife, thereby providing in most cases the necessary incentive for becoming responsible for one’s children. We’ve seen this already – making a necessary social action part of a holy text from God means that it is more likely to be obeyed.

Post-Marriage Behavior

Verse 234 releases the woman from her husband after an appropriate period of time, and I imagine this is referring to a sexual situation. Not intercourse, per se, but based on an earlier verse the waiting period between her divorce and being with another man seemed to be very practical – enough time to make sure she wasn’t pregnant with the original husband’s child. Are there other reasons for this particular period? So after this proper waiting time the woman can do what she wants pending that it’s legal. Does that include sexual intercourse? What is Islam’s policy on premarital sex when you’ve already been married once? What if you had divorced the man do to sexual disatisfaction? Wouldn’t it be prudent to investigate that situation a little more thoroughly before diving into another marriage? I imagine that what would be legal is discussions about marriage with another man. Is flirting acceptable? What about kissing (for each of these things I mean after the prescribed period)?

Interesting that this leads into a talk of what a man can do in this situation: appropriately insinuate his interest in a woman (if it’s long-term and marriage guided), but not anything blatant because that would be a violation of the period post-divorce. However, God knows what you intend. The interjection of God is appropriate here (not that it would be inappropriate anywhere in the Quran or in life!) but particularly because the verses are telling us to behave properly while being the appropriate judges of what is proprietous behavior. We can do that, the Quran tells us, so long as we keep God in mind as we act. Certainly, that is a rule of thumb for all behavior. Keep God in mind as you make decisions and choices and you should make the right ones. God knows what you’re thinking and will be merciful and forgiving.

Thanks for reading along! Can you answer any of my questions? Correct anything I said erroneously or just add anything helpful for me and other readers?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read More Quran Read-A-Long.

The Cow 232-235

232. And when you divorce women, and they have come to the end of their waiting-term, hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair manner. This is an admonition unto every one of you who believes in God and the Last Day; it is the most virtuous [way] for you, and the cleanest. And God knows, whereas you do not know. 233. And the [divorced] mothers may nurse their children for two whole years, if they wish to complete the period of nursing; and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing. No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear: neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it. And the same duty rests upon the [father’s] heir. And if both [parents] decide, by mutual consent and counsel, upon separation [of mother and child], they will incur no sin [thereby]; and if you decide to entrust your children to foster-mothers, you will incur no sin provided you ensure, in a fair manner, the safety of the child which you are handing over. But remain conscious of God, and know that God sees all that you do. 234 And if any of you die and leave wives behind, they shall undergo, without remarrying,* a waiting period of four months and ten days; whereupon, when they have reached the end of their waiting-term, there shall be no sin in whatever they may do with their persons in a lawful manner. And God is aware of all that you do. 235 But you will incur no sin if you give a hint of [an intended] marriage-offer to [any of] these women, or if you conceive such an intention without making it obvious: [for] God knows that you intend to ask them in marriage.* Do not, however, plight your troth with them in secret, but speak only in a decent manner; and do not proceed with tying the marriage-knot ere the ordained [term of waiting] has come to its end. And know that God knows what is in your minds, and therefore remain conscious of Him; and know, too, that God is much-forgiving, forbearing.

Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 229- 231 Talks of Divorce Laws

It’s nice to see healthy divorce laws in a religion, just as it was nice last week to discuss healthy sexual laws within a religion. I would reiterate that living in a post-Puritanical culture means that divorce was only legal because people had “irreconcilable differences” within the past 50 years. And for such high divorce rates, we’re not talking about a country that handles marriage particularly well – nor its dissolution. In Catholicism, it’s still not kosher, so to speak, to get divorced, and I think it’s important that the Quran has such a healthy attitude towards the whole affair.

When it says in 230 that “you are not allowed to take away the least of what you have given your wives” does it simply mean that you can’t take away everything and leave – you have to leave her with a means of supporting herself (i.e. alimony, in a sense)?

What are these limits set by God that are spoken of? Are they how many times you can divorce and get back together (two acceptable, three not). Interesting that a marriage can be legal again between a man and a woman once that woman has married another man. That is a lot of back and forth. How common is this situation? It seems like one that would be far less common in the early years of Islam (though the very existence of this verse contradicts that, I think) and far more useful in modern Islamic societies today (I don’t pass a cultural value with the word modern – I simply mean that the mobility of today’s life, the lack of more local tribal affiliations, the comparative plethora of options make divorce and husband-hopping a more plausible situation).

Thoughts about these verses and their historical context and modern application would be most appreciated. All other comments welcome as well!

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read More Quran Read-A-Long.

The Cow 229-231

230. Divorce is (revocable) two times (after pronouncement), after which (there are two ways open for husbands), either (to) keep (the wives) honorably, or part with them in a decent way. You are not allowed to take away the least of what you have given your wives, unless both of you fear that you would not be able to keep within the limits set by God. If you fear you cannot maintain the bounds fixed by God, there will be no blame on either if the woman redeems herself. Do not exceed the limits of God, for those who exceed the bounds set by God are transgressors. 231. If a man divorces her again (a third time), she becomes unlawful for him (and he cannot remarry her) until she has married another man. Then if he divorces her there is no harm if the two unite again if they think they will keep within the bounds set by God and made clear for those who understand. 232. When you have divorced your wives, and they have reached the end of the period of waiting, then keep them honorably (by revoking the divorce), or let them go with honor, and do not detain them with the intent of harassing lest you should transgress. He who does so will wrong himself. Do not mock the decrees of God, and remember the favors God has bestowed on you, and revealed to you the Book and the Law to warn you of the consequences of doing wrong. Have fear of God, and remember, God is cognizant of everything.

Love is in the Air in “Clubhouses,” South Park Episode 212, When the Boys Go For It in Truth or Dare

Though the over-arching plot of this episode is about Stan and Kyle competing against Cartman and Kenny for who can build a clubhouse faster, get girls up there and play truth or dare, there is an important sub-plot as well: Stan’s parents getting a divorce.

Stan has no idea what’s going on and why his parents are getting divorced. When he asks his dad whether or not, because he hates Shelley, he can divorce his sister, his father tells him no because they’re family.

Stan replies:

“But you and Mom are family; how come you can just split up? You know what I think? I think that when you and Mom got married, you became family. And now that you are, you shouldn’t be able to leave her anymore than I can leave my sister.”

Later he says, “Divorce is stupid!”

Poor Stan. Though of course we can understand his sentiments, there are good reasons for people to get divorced – probably more good reasons than getting married, and maybe people should have thought of that in the first place. Say no to marriage! Vote yes on prop 12!

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.