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All interpretations of 4:34 but the right one

Reader comment on item: Uncovering Early Islam
in response to reader comment: Judging Islam

Submitted by Prashant (United States), Jun 25, 2015 at 15:22

Dear Dr Pipes,

Your reader Anonymous from Canada explained how people interpret or should interpret Quran 4;34. Quite objectively, Quran 4:34 tells us that men are in-charge/protectors and maintainers of women. It further says that good women are obedient to their husbands but if they are not obedient, they should be advised to obey, left alone in their beds and, strike/chastise themthey may be struck or chastised. If you put yourself in the 6th or seventh century, there is nothing much wrong in this sura. In those days, men were the main bread winners and decision makers and for the family to run correctly they could be allowed to have the last word ('father knows best' in America is not even a century old.). The phrase will indeed be bad if we interpret 'strike' as violent hitting. If it means anything else (as many people have suggested) then this verse is not worth wasting much time on!

But the problem is that people do all sorts of interpretation of the quranic texts but not do the right one. The right interpretation is that Quran may be a word of God but it is hardly the last, most-correct or the best word of God. And it is certainly not true for all times to come (did I just commit a blasphemy?) For example, in today's world women can easily be the bread winners of the family. Old protocol of 'obeying' has been now replaced by 'negotiations'. Ironically, if we treat Quran as a well-intentioned book applicable to its the then locale, we will do Quran a huge favor. You see, in a village in the seventh century some Jews could indeed be bad and some idolators --like me-- could indeed be sinners. But by no means those observations must be assumed to be true centuries and miles seperated from their original contexts. But who can explain it to ISISes, Talebans, Boko Harams and Al-qaedas of the world.


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