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.

Fun with the Bible: 6 Great Reasons that Moses Could Never Have Written the Bible

I was asked during the first Fun with the Bible post to talk about the authorship of Genesis-Deuteronomy, also known as the Pentateuch, the Torah or the Five Books of Moses. The question was, is Moses the author of the books whose collective title bears his name. The answer is no.

What Are Our Premises?

Now, numerous religious people will be popping their lids right now and claiming that I’m wrong, a blasphemer, a moron, evil, Satan, etc. And who would I be to deny most of those appellations. But as for the first one, I must object. Moses is not the author of any part of the Bible.

How do I know such things? Well, I must admit that my criteria for investigating the Bible are reason, logic, linguistics, archaeological evidence and the actual words of the Bible. I’m not concerned with what religious authorities say unless they are basing their arguments on these criteria and not just tradition, which is the only thing that could contend for Moses’ authorship.

Though I can’t supply a full list of reasons right here, I will offer a few examples as food for thought to get you started, and then send you on your way to read the first books of the Bible yourself.

A Few Good Reasons

1. Reason number one is that the Bible NEVER claims to be authored by Moses or anyone else for that matter. No one internally claims authorship. If Moses authored the Bible, you think he’d have said something – or anyone who wanted to be remembered for doing so for that matter. Only later religious people, hoping to attribute authorship and lend validity, claimed that Moses was the author.

2. Another issue is time. The Pentateuch is written in such a way – and doesn’t try to hide the fact! – that implies looking backward. It refers to the present day by saying things like “until this day” or “that was current then.” For instance, Genesis 23:16 refers to weights and measures as they were current in the time of the story, not the author’s time. Things are said in Moses’ time that they are there until this day.

3. Getting things plain wrong is a problem too. Presumably if God was telling Moses the way things were, he wouldn’t get facts wrong. For instance, in Genesis 21:32-34, the Bible speaks of Abraham residing in the land of the Philistines, a people that, archaeologically speaking, weren’t in the land until hundreds and hundreds of years after the supposed time of Abraham.

4. Mistakes and inconsistencies exist in the text, problems that surely Moses, if God were telling him what to say, would not have created. The reason for these problems, scholars have discovered, is that there are multiple authors’ voices and texts in the Pentateuch. In fact, Genesis through Deuteronomy is the weaving together of multiple texts to create one story. It was done very well but the originals were not changed. Some characters have multiple names, contradicting or repeating stories, etc. We don’t have to get into the details here but this is called the Documentary Hypothesis. If you want to know more, we can talk about it. Just ask.

5. Logical inconsistencies exist. Read the first verse of Deuteronomy. “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan.” Well, it’s logically impossible for Moses to have written such a sentence. “Beyond the Jordan” means on the other side of the Jordan (though some crappier translations try to gloss over this wording, the original biblical Hebrew has precisely this meaning) and it is a biblical fact that Moses never went into the land of Canaan. Therefore, if he was only on the eastern side of the Jordan River and the person said he spoke on the other side of the Jordan River the person writing must logically be writing from inside of Canaan (approximately modern day Israel). That person can’t be Moses. Get it?

6. Moses can’t speak of his own death, right? In the end of Deuteronomy, Moses talks of his own death – saying, “Moses died.” The author also says that Moses was “unequaled” after we are told earlier that Moses was the most humble man ever. Seems illogical that he could say both things about himself, huh?

Where to Go from Here

There are numerous other reasons besides and many more examples for each of the points I’ve mentioned but this should get you started. If you read Genesis through Deuteronomy from the beginning without the usual religious biases that people have trouble with then you’ll see all this for yourself.

Read the Bible like any other book that you would read, not affording it the privilege of not making sense simply because it doesn’t and because it’s the Bible. Ask questions and see what’s wrong. I’m here to help if you get stuck or don’t understand something.

This is having fun with the Bible – reading it on our own to see all the great things we can learn from it while trying to get at the truth about its history and origins.

Do you have any questions? Do you disagree with everything I’ve said and want to tell me why? Do you think Moses wrote the Pentateuch? Why?

Can you give any other examples of why Moses couldn’t have written the Pentateuch?

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