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Judging Islam

Reader comment on item: Uncovering Early Islam
in response to reader comment: THE 10 MOST DIABOLICAL EVIL TEACHINGS IN ALL HUMAN HISTORY

Submitted by Annonymous (Canada), Jun 23, 2015 at 17:30

Many Islamic scholars have quietly been offering compelling non-violent and non-hierarchical interpretations of 4:34 for years. One alternate reading posits that if a couple experiences marital troubles, they should first discuss the matter reasonably. If that does not resolve the problem, the couple should experiment with a trial separation. If that fails, the couple ought to separate, but if it works, then they should have makeup sex. This alternate interpretation works with the Koran's original Arabic, which lends itself to multiple, equally valid readings. But if it is so easy to come up with new interpretations, why have the non-violent ones not gained more widespread acceptance? The answer lies in a key truth: Religious texts mean what their communities say they mean. Texts do not have a voice of their own. They speak only through their community of readers. So, with a community so large (1.3 billion) and so old (1,400 years), Islamic religious texts necessarily speak with many voices to reflect the varied histories and experiences of the many communities that call themselves Muslim. The fact is that 4:34 can legitimately be read both ways – violently and non-violently, either as sanctioning violence against wives or as offering a non-violent, non-hierarchical means for resolving marital conflict. Muslims may follow whichever interpretation they choose, and the inescapable truth is that the interpretation chosen says more about the Muslim in question than it does about the verse. This marvellous agency comes with a heavy responsibility: Rather than holding 4:34 responsible for what it means, Muslims can and must hold themselves responsible for their interpretations.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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