God has perfected a manual to direct the relationship between a man and woman who share the intention of staying together as a couple. In this case, He specified two institutional bonds: engagement and marriage. He emphasized that these two bonds would be the lawful parameters within which a couple is recognized in a righteous community. He also indicated that this is the righteous foundation of starting a family and having children (16:72, 25:54, 2:235).
For both engagement and marriage, God has detailed certain ethics and commands to be observed by righteous men and women. Via a thorough analysis of such teachings and the factual and distinct traits of both men and women, a student of Quran must conclude that women are afforded absolute protection from abuse and neglect under the laws of the Most Gracious. That analysis should also reveal that God's expectations of a righteous man are set high to ensure that his wife is emotionally, physically, and financially cared for. Furthermore, a righteous husband would persevere in maintaining the sacred bond of marriage at all times. Women are also obliged, with the guidance of Quran, to maintain marital harmony, and abide by the arrangements of the Most Gracious. The distinct traits of men obligate them to different responsibilities in a relationship, but this does not rank them differently or give them authority over women (4:32).
This reminder is intended to describe such obligations and to shed light on those highest moral standards which govern the divine relationship between a man and woman under all circumstances arising from marriage. This includes separation or divorce, and the emotional turmoil which often accompanies them. It is also intended to clarify three misconceptions about the treatment of wives during marriage and after divorce: polygamy (4:3), wife beating (4:34) & and staying in marriage against the wife's will under any circumstance ( 2:228).
- In choosing a spouse, we must remember God prohibits the marriage of believing men and women to idol worshipers (2:221). God emphasizes that spouses ideally would encourage the advancement of the soul (2:221). Believers care about each other’s souls. Such care would not be provided by a disbelieving spouse. We thus must keep in mind that God's guidelines are divinely designed for a man and a woman who are sharing the same fundamental belief in one God, and are willing to adopt His path and obey His commands.
The three basic elements to validate a marriage in the sight of God are:
- Mutual attraction/agreement, implied by the context of 4:24; no party is forced to be with the other.
- a set financial agreement to take care of the wife for the duration of marriage (ujooruhunna, fareedah and sadaqatuhunna are the three words used in the Arabic text of Quran and translated as "dowry", the three together mean and imply constant, generous, kind and decreed/set financial commitment so long as the couple is together. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime gift as the word dowry used in the English translation would indicate, 4:24-25)
- Announcing the marriage. God intends that relationships are perceived by the community as sacred not secretive. Enhancing morality, and setting a righteous example through the institution of marriage is behind the divine wisdom of announcing the marriage (4:24-25).
- Engagement is a divinely ordained optional step that describes the premarital stage of mutual attraction. It is stated in Quran that chastity is to be maintained until marriage. God knows that emotions are naturally high at this early stage and He urges the couple to be patient and to maintain righteousness. Keeping the engagement secret is not a justification for unrighteous meetings (23:5-6, 2:235). The fruit of building up the family on such a righteous foundation would be that God will bless the righteous couple with compassion and kindness towards one another (30:21)
- The path of righteousness established by God as detailed in Quran dictates equitable behavior towards women during engagement, throughout marriage, and even during and after divorce. God is the source of all justice and He advocates justice at all times towards fellow humans, including wives. We see this emphasized as we read about both monogamy and polygamy in Quran.
- God supports monogamy and discourages polygamy. The only legitimate basis for polygamy in Quran is the care of orphans - if they need that care (4:3). Even in the case of taking care of orphans, polygamy remains discouraged. God states that it is impossible to be equitable to more than one wife. It is justice towards the existing wife's well-being and emotions which precipitates such discouragement. That care and protection for the wife's emotional needs is clearly expressed in 4:129. We have witnessed widespread abuse of these verses by Muslim men practicing polygamy against the ethics and the spirit of Quran, and against the free will of their existing wives.
- Men are responsible for providing for their wives. This is stated in a portion of 4:34; 'The men are made responsible for the women, and God has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners.' It is also stated in 65:7.
- The inheritance laws found in Quran, if observed, guarantee provisions for wives/women in the family from both their own parents/families and their husbands. A son/man would always inherit double of what a daughter/woman would inherit- if a will is not left to specify otherwise- which enables better care for their wives (4:11, 2:180).
- Striving to preserve marriage is a duty for both husband and wife, even in extreme cases of misbehavior (4:34,128). Divorce is discouraged in the Quran. However, its laws are issued for believing men and women in cases when resolving disputes becomes impossible. The discouragement of divorce is understood in the light of 2:226-227 where a 4-month cooling off period is issued before considering the decision of separation, in 4:35 where it is decreed that an arbitrator from each side should be appointed to try to reconcile the couple, in 4:22-23, where God is stating that unlawful marriages (out of ignorance) are not to be broken, in 2:232 where it states that reconciling after divorce is purer and more righteous choice, and in 2:229 where two chances are given to the divorced couple to get back together.
- Once divorce becomes an essential process to go through, there are certain ethics that God expects both a righteous man and woman to adhere to. Those who strive to grow their souls on the path of God would adopt such ethics and follow the Most Gracious' recommendations:
* Providing for the wife after divorce is the husband's obligation. 2:241 institutes that as a duty upon the righteous. If the marriage wasn't consummated, compensating the woman and righteously dealing with any gifts or set financial arrangements remains an obligation and a righteous duty as explained in 2:236-237. Trusting God and overcoming our human selfishness especially while under such emotional stress demonstrate strength of belief, and would be greatly rewarded by God:
[2:241] The divorcees also shall be provided for, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous.
* Divorced women are to be allowed to stay in the homes they lived in during marriage - if they so wish:
[2:231] If you divorce the women, once they fulfill their interim (three menstruations), you shall allow them to live in the same home amicably, or let them leave amicably. Do not force them to stay against their will, as a revenge. Anyone who does this wrongs his own soul. Do not take God's revelations in vain. Remember God's blessings upon you, and that He sent down to you the scripture and wisdom to enlighten you. You shall observe God, and know that God is aware of all things.
[65:6] You shall allow them to live in the same home in which they lived with you, and do not make life so miserable for them that they leave on their own. If they are pregnant, you shall spend on them until they give birth. If they nurse the infant, you shall pay them for this service. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. If you disagree, you may hire another woman to nurse the child.
* Husband should not take back anything that was given to the wife during marriage:
[4:20] If you wish to marry another wife, in place of your present wife, and you had given any of them a great deal, you shall not take back anything you had given her. Would you take it fraudulently, maliciously, and sinfully?
[4:21] How could you take it back, after you have been intimate with each other, and they had taken from you a solemn pledge?
* Divorced women must wait for three months before considering another marriage (2:228) to be sure they are not pregnant. If they are pregnant, it is unlawful to hide this information from the fathers. The fathers are more preferred for them if they wish to reconcile. Also, in that case, wives will have rights and obligations but the husbands (as a matter of a fact) have more. This is what the Arabic text of 2:228 is stating. One must notice that the verse DOES NOT by any means force the woman to get back to the husband, against her will, if she finds out she was pregnant as is greatly misunderstood in many of the Muslims/submitters' communities.
[2:228] The divorced women shall wait three menstruation's (before marrying another man). It is not lawful for them to conceal what God creates in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. (In case of pregnancy,) the husband's wishes shall supersede the wife's wishes if he wants to remarry her [ Arabic text says: husbands are more preferred for these pregnant divorcees if they wish to reconcile]. The women have rights, as well as obligations, equitably. Thus, the man's wishes prevail (in case of pregnancy) [ Arabic text says in that case of reconciliation, women will have rights and obligations, but men will have more than them]. God is Almighty, Most Wise.
Logically speaking, forcing a wife to stay in marriage after divorce because she is pregnant would contradict the Quranic spirit of justice, freedom, and equality. It would also nullify one of the elements to validate the marriage which is mutual attraction and agreement stated earlier in 4:24. God doesn't contradict His divine systems. It is we who fail His systems by our aggression and ignorance. He has indicated that divorced women must mutually agree in the case of pregnancy to reconcile in 2:233, 65:4, and 65:6.
2:233 indicates that in case of pregnancy, both parties are committing no error if they mutually agree to divorce and after due consultation. No one should be burdened beyond his/her ability. This only implies the importance of mutual agreement in handling the relation in case of pregnancy. No party should be harmed because of the baby:
65:4 adjusts the interim for re-marriage of the pregnant divorcee until birth which again implies that there is NO error if both parents mutually agree to part in case of pregnancy.
65:6 instructs the EX husband to care for the pregnant EX wife until she gives birth and to pay her if she is to nurse that baby or hire a nursing woman. This again implies NO error whatsoever in continuing with the divorce if the woman was pregnant, and they both mutually agree to separate.
The terms "prevail" or "supersede" do not exist in the text of 2:228. There is not a command in 2:228 for the woman to stay in marriage against her will if the husband wishes so. No error is committed if the couple would mutually agree to continue with the divorce. 2:228 only presents a divine recommendation for a righteous couple but it is God's divine law that no one should be burdened beyond his means (23:62, 7:42, 6:152, 2:286, 2:33), and that mutual agreement is a must in any transaction (4:29), including both marriage (4:24) and divorce (4:35, 2:233), and that oppression is worse than murder (2:191, 2:217). A righteous mother would do her best to follow God's guidance in 2:228 for the best interest of the baby when the husband wants to reconcile, if she mutually agrees with that, and if this wouldn't be a burden on her, or would subject her to any form of harm or oppression.
- Many of the enemies of Quran hold 4:34 as a red flag against Islam and many of the so-called Muslim men wrong their souls by abusing their wives due to the misinterpretation of this verse:
The Arabic text states:
[٣٤:٤] الرِّجالُ قَوّٰمونَ عَلَى النِّساءِ بِما فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعضَهُم عَلىٰ بَعضٍ وَبِما أَنفَقوا مِن أَموٰلِهِم فَالصّٰلِحٰتُ قٰنِتٰتٌ حٰفِظٰتٌ لِلغَيبِ بِما حَفِظَ اللَّه وَالّٰتى تَخافونَ نُشوزَهُنَّ فَعِظوهُنَّ وَاهجُروهُنَّ فِى المَضاجِعِ وَاضرِبوهُنَّ فَإِن أَطَعنَكُم فَلا تَبغوا عَلَيهِنَّ سَبيلًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ كانَ عَلِيًّا كَبيرًا
Unlike the traditional and polluted interpretation, the above translates as:
[4:34] Men are the care givers for women BECAUSE of the certain qualities that they are exclusively given AND BECAUSE they are the ones who provide for living and spend from their money. Righteous women would always accept that and they would always guard such an arrangement even in their privacy, when alone, as dictated by God. If you fear rebellion from the women, you shall advise them wisely, then you may stay away from them in bed, then you may disregard them entirely. If they follow your advise, you should not make life difficult for them. God is Most High, Supreme.
The word that is commonly and traditionally translated as "beat them up"/idreboohunna, has extensive volume of meanings! One of its meanings is with no doubt physical blow, hitting or beating. That could apply to all kinds of violent and forceful interactions. It indicates hitting the road either to travel, immigrate, or to seek God's provisions (mentioned in Quran several times). It could also imply stamping, making coins, making commercial deals, using force or motion to mix elements together. Another meaning that God has used numerously in Quran is to bluntly set or introduce debates or explaining/clarifying examples. An additional meaning which is the crucial one in this matter is to disregard, ignore, discontinue interaction. God used that meaning in Quran in 43:5.
If the approach detailed in 4:34 does not work, then 4:35 must be applied and arbitration must be sought. There is no such thing as wife beating in Islam or Quran. Even in extreme cases of behavior for both women and men (4:34 and 4:128), there is only amicable advise, amicable desertion, arbitration, reconciliation or amicable and equitable separation.
The use of physical force to counteract behavioral problems, attitudes, ethics or manners has no place in the entire Quran. The use of physical force to deal with personal disagreements and disputes between individuals has no place in the entire Quran. What is listed in Quran in regard of violence is in self-defense; react to violence by an equal amount of violence (2:194). An example of that is in cases of kicking the believers out of their homes, killing them and oppressing them to prevent them from worshiping God and observing His decreed rites, freely (2:191-193, 8:39, 42:39-41, 26:227). God has decreed that oppression is worse than murder (2:217). Within the institution of marriage, and based on the divine concepts of standing for our rights and defending ourselves against aggression or violence, it is fair to state that both wives and husbands are equally entitled to those rights.
Throughout Quran, we read and understand that men and women are created equally and are both free to choose (3:195, 49:13). No where in Quran God discriminates against women or men. The differences between men and women, which God acknowledges, do not entitle men to oppress, humiliate or use any kind of force, mental, emotional or physical, towards their wives. Furthermore, there is no compulsion in our religion (2:256, 2:148) ; a soul-liberating and powerful divine decree granted truthfully and equally to all humans of all genders and races. Such freedom encompasses everything and all matters- we are here on earth free to choose right or wrong, righteousness or evil, faith or no faith. We are free to sin, repent, reform or plunge deeper into sinning and deviation. All along, God has never decreed force or physical violence as a way of reform. Reform is a choice and a manifestation of our free will. Violence never leads to real reform- it leads to shame, fear, oppression and destruction.
In conclusion, man & woman relationships are delicately dealt with by the Most Gracious using the highest standards of ethics, and the most eloquent and detailed manner, based on the distinct factual qualities of both men and women. In general, women are offered the utmost care and respect in Quran. Polygamy is strictly limited to only one case: taking care of orphans in need, period. Even in that case, polygamy is discouraged for the sake of justice. There is no command in Quran for a woman to stay in marriage against her free will because she is pregnant, or for any other reason. Mutual agreement is decreed by God for all kinds of transactions. The sacred bond between a man and woman who have shared the intention to be together is divine and should be honored at all times. Even in extreme cases of behavior for both women and men (4:34 and 4:128), there is only amicable advise, amicable desertion, arbitration, reconciliation or amicable and equitable divorce. There is no such thing as wife beating in Quran. Both husband and wife are obliged to preserve the institution of marriage - the healthy building unit of a righteous community.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.