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.

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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.

Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 222-229 Talks about Family Planning, Oaths and Women’s Special Time

No, no, no – Don’t Touch!

In Judaism it’s also proscribed from nearing the womenfolk during their special time of the month. What’s interesting is that only the latter half of verse 222 implies that the “staying away” is of a sexual nature, saying that men may go near their women as “God has enjoined” when they are done with their womanly ways. The first half of the verse almost makes it seem like you should stay away from women altogether during this time. Is that what it’s saying? If the Quran says that men should stay away from women altogether during their monthly time then I must conclude beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is a man – and that he was, at some point, married.

Planned Parenthood – Quran Style!

I’m having a tough time beginning my thoughts on verse 223, which effectively is God telling people to undergo family planning but that the man makes the family planning decisions. The intended listener of the verse is interesting also, “Women are like fields for you,” which means, for you men – as in, this book is directed at men (or at least these verses). Now, it was my understanding that women were meant to hear the Quran, too; if so, how should this verse be taken? More importantly, what’s the family planning policy?

The reason I find this so interesting is because of the value of family planning to stable societies. However, the key to family planning being efficacious is when women have the control over that family planning and are the ones that decide when to have children and how many to have. Apparently women, in many cases (and largely for biological/evolutionary reasons) make different decisions than men (the whole, they have to nurture for the whole childhood thing while men can go seeding many fields at once – or four wives, as the case may be – thing) when it comes to family planning. So, unstable societies are those in which women have fewer rights (often a result of theocracies that support such a policy) and little control over their own reproductive processes. That results in a lot more children and a lot more adolescent males of ‘warring ages’ who ultimately get restless in societies that also happen to generally be poorer – and that all turns bad. The book I’d recommend on this is one I’ve reviewed on this blog: Sex and War. The end of the verse does note women’s rights but it’s unclear how it pertains to this issue and it is noted that men have an edge over women. How to take that in this work-a-day world?

Swearing up and down

In verse 225, it says that God won’t hold us accountable for what is senseless in our oaths, but only what is so in our hearts. Does that include oaths in which we include God’s name or is this saying that oaths – no matter their form – are invaluable because God cares more for what is in our hearts rather than what leaves our lips? I ask because in the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus (in the Ten Commandments) the Bible forbids using God’s name in oaths that will not be kept. It’s bad business. Does that mean that the Quran doesn’t share the same concern or am I misreading?

A Note on Quran Read-A-Long

Please feel free to answer and address any and all questions and comments below or add anything that I’ve left out. I would like to let everyone know that I have learned a ton from Quran Read-A-Long, which isn’t to say from my own readings of the Quran as much as the wonderful contributors who give their time and minds, week after week, to make this a worthwhile experience and a fruitful endeavor. Without them the verses of the Quran, to an amateur reader such as myself, might appear repetative and their richness and diversity of thought and wisdom would hardly be so apparent. Thank you to those of you who contribute, and to those of you who are still just reading along, feel free to join in whenever you have something to say.

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The Cow 222-229

222. They ask you about menstruation. Tell them: This is a period of stress. So keep away from women in this state will they are relieved of it. When they are free of it, you may go to them as God has enjoined. For God loves those who seek pardon, and those who are clean.” 223. Women are like fields for you; so seed them as you intend, but plan the future in advance. And fear God, and remember, you have to face Him in the end. So convey glad tidings to those who believe. 224. Do not implicate God in your oaths to avoid doing good and being pious and keeping peace among men, for God hears all and knows everything. 225. God will not call you to account for that which is senseless in your oaths, but only for what is in your hearts; for God is forgiving and forbearing. 226. Those who swear to keep away from their wives (with intent of divorcing them) have four months of grace; then if they reconcile (during this period), surely God is forgiving and kind. 227. And if they are bent on divorce, God hears all and knows everything. 228. Women who are divorced have to wait for three monthly periods, and if they believe in God and the Last Day they must not hide unlawfully what God has formed within their wombs. Their husbands would do well to take them back in that case, if they wish to be reconciled. Women also have recognized rights as men have, though men have an edge over them. But God is almighty and all-wise.

Zen Talk: Dogs and Men Running Their Mouths

A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.

This quote kind of makes me think that I should keep my mouth shut about it…..

…..but where would be the fun in that.

The advice is to be heeded, however. Though many judge us by our ability to converse, talking does not make us good people. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes none is the most.

Good people are judged by their actions and not by their words, though to be fair, words can inspire amazing action in others. For all the good talking you may do, if you want to be judged well, make sure that each of those words is equaled by an action.

What do you think about this Buddha quote?

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Book Review: Sex and War, by Potts and Hayden, is a Fascinating Look at the Biological Bases of War

I have to thank the BenBella Book Publishers for cluing me into this gem of a book. Generally, when we think of gems we think small. Think big. This is a big book. But if I was going to lay out the case for why men are inherently violent at a basic biological level, how empowering women is the solution to world peace, and how we can overcome our genetic predisposition towards outgroup violence, then I would probably need a fair amount of pages too.

Malcolm Potts, an obstetrician and research biologist, and the journalist Thomas Hayden, take up the remarkable challenge of setting out to show the average person, who is not particularly well-versed in the biological bases of behavior, the genetic code, chimpanzee behavior or a million fascinating and germane examples throughout history, how and why men are violent and how we can overcome our natural predispositions. The solution: become aware of them and empower women.

Rather than do this book an injustice by attempting to summarize its intelligent and very well-argued points, I will liken it to Guns, Germs and Steel, the wonderful work by Jared Diamond that set out to demonstrate how the world’s power structure is based on where people started and therefore what technology and weapons they had access to and what diseases they were immune to. In the same way, this book describes the state of our world based on fascinating and uncontrollable factors and has an epic task at hand.

I must admit that the author’s disapproval of President Bush and his actions did shine through as a prominent motif, and though I generally don’t appreciate political opinions intervening in works such as these, if I were writing a book during the presidency of a man who had created so many apt examples then I could hardly deny myself the luxury of using them. If you removed these examples it would actually do the book and the argument an injustice and I believe that their inclusion truly was not politically motivated. That, however, doesn’t necessitate the footnotes of stupid Bush quotes (which were at least funny).

In short, an excellent book and a must read for anyone who loves to see the complex interplay of so many fascinating factors in this world and their results.

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Fun with the Bible: Was the Author of the Gospel of Luke Really a Woman?

Who Really Wrote the Gospels

It is a common scholarly contention that the author of the Gospel of Luke was actually a woman. Now, it is definitely accepted that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not the authors of the respectively named gospels. Indeed, there’s no claim of authorship in the gospels, but similar to the Five Books of Moses, people wanted to attribute authorship to credible sources.

Thus, the third gospel was attributed to Luke, “the beloved physician” of Col. 4:14. As scholars and religious people alike agree, the author of Luke is also the author of Acts, hence Luke-Acts, though neither mentions Luke’s name or the “acts of the apostles.” But no matter – I said we were here to talk about Luke’s gender.

Ways that Luke Could be a Woman

So why might Luke be a woman. A few brief reasons that I’m going to mention and then I’ll leave the rest to you to read yourself.

1. There are more female characters in Luke (and when I say this I include Acts because of the similarities) than any other gospel. And it’s disproportionate – not just a couple. (e.g. the extended scenes with Mary and Elizabeth in chapter 1).

2. Luke speaks on multiple occassions of things that only concern women (menstration, pregnancy, etc.) and seems to understand and compare events to the pain and beauty of childbirth.

3. Woman have active and important roles for main events throughout the story, being the first to see Jesus, care for him, talk to him, etc. after key happenings. Women also believe in Jesus more often than men. (e.g. the poor widow in 21:1-4 whose offering is more important than anyone else’s; 24:10 when the women believe in and share the ressurection and the apostles don’t believe at first).

Reasonable Skepticism

If you doubt what I’ve written I understand. My examples are minimal and my case not made particularly well. However, there are many more examples of these things and more reasons that the author of Luke-Acts could have been a woman. The best way to start to see these reasons (aside from scholarly literature) is to read Luke-Acts with this in mind and start to recognize the huge and important role of women and the imagery related to women that exists.

It is possible, of course, that a male author could have a view of women that made them necessary characters in his telling, but his understanding of female experiences would be quite impressive. In either case, just read for yourself and see what you think about the role of women. Even if you disagree, what do you think about the place of women in Luke-Acts? Did you notice anything that you didn’t before?

Summary

Remember, Fun with the Bible is not about destroying people’s understanding of the Bible but about enhancing it by questioning our established beliefs and making us rethink how much there is to read about beyond what we’ve been told. Feel free to ask any questions and leave any comments about these and other issues.

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Indiana Jones, cont. but really about Sex and the City

Thanks to Erica for her comment. I would love more anecdotal evidence about men you’ve seen and/or talked to at Sex and the City showings. Please post them as comments if you have any stories. Thanks!