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?

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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.

Fun with the Bible: Abraham’s Trip to See Sigmund Freud

The Situation

Everybody knows about Father Abraham right? That patriarch of all monotheistic people who everyone likes to trace his or her roots to? You remember: God spoke to him, gave him descendants and Canaan and all that jazz?

Do you remember the story where he goes to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test from God (Genesis 22) but before he can do it God stops him? It’s a great story. Rather popular, and boy is there a lot to say about it. But do you know the story of Abraham and his other son, Ishmael?

Well, in Genesis 21, (yes, the chapter immediately before he tries to off Isaac), Abraham sends his other son (and his mother) out into the wilderness to, presumably, die. Why? Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is getting testy about Ishmael, the son of a slave woman, playing with her son. Jealousy? Maybe. But no matter the reason, we have two back to back stories of Abraham doing things that will kill his sons.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear things like this, I start thinking of everyone’s favorite mother fucker, Sigmund Freud. Now, there’s no real indication that Isaac or Ishmael was trying to sleep with either of their mothers or subsequently tried to murder their father, Abraham. But perhaps this was a preemptive strike on Abraham’s part while his sons were still young.

The Approach

There’s little that annoys me as much in scholarship as a reductionist approach. That is, the attempt to understand and explain information all through a particular lens without taking account of the entire situation. For instance, like attempting to interpret everything through a Freudian, Oedipal Complex, eye. (By the way, interpreting the entire Old Testament like it’s forecasting Jesus is also reductionist.)

However, with two back to back stories about killing sons, I can’t help but wonder if we’re not getting glimpses of some very long standing emotions about familial relations. We know that the ancient Greeks thought about these things – why not Ancient Near Eastern people as well?

The Questions

One big question internal to the story is, how can Abraham get everything that God has promised him (descendants and land for them), if he is killing his sons (while claiming that God is telling him to kill them – sounds delusional, no?)? So, if these Freudian drives are correct, is this in part a story about Abraham overcoming his internal drives (son-murder) in order to acquire his long-term goals: Id v. Superego? Should he smoke a cigar?

If you like this family murder stuff, Genesis is filled with some great fratricide and attempted fratricide stories too (e.g. Cain and Able, Joseph and his brothers).

Have you read Genesis 21 and 22? What do you think about this Freudian interpretation on the whole thing? What are your thoughts on Abraham’s psyche? Are there other places you can think of in the Bible that lend themselves to Freudian interpretation? God does let his only son get murdered, right?

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