Why did Allah change the Qibla?

Why did Allah change the Qibla?

Hatun and Daniel examine  Sura 2:142-150 where Allah changed the qibla – the direction of Islamic prayer – from Jerusalem to the Al-Masjid-al-haram. But why? Where is Al-Masjid-al-haram? Is there any evidence that it was in Mecca? Why would Allah choose the Kaba, in Mecca, home of 360 idols?

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Polygamy in the Qur’an

Man with four wives
Photo courtesy of lifeinsaudiarabia.net

In our last post, we discussed polygamy in the Bible. In summary, polygamy was permitted under God’s sovereignty during Old Testament times, but even then it contravened His blueprint for marriage given in Genesis 2:24. Jesus re-instates monogamous, heterosexual marriage in Matthew 19:4-6, even using the analogy of the Bridegroom (Christ) being united with his Bride (the church) in an exclusive, faithful, lasting covenant in the new creation. Nor was polygamy taught or practised by the early church, although there was debate about divorce and re-marriage (1 Corinthians7.)

Jesus summarises the Christian view of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

One man and one woman are joined together spiritually by God, just as they become one through sexual intimacy. It’s a holy union, which is why dissolving it is such a serious matter. Compare this with Sura 4:1

“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.” (Sahih International)

Adam and Eve come from one (genderless?) soul for the purpose of procreation rather than relationship. Allah is distant, to be feared. Always watching, he creates them, but doesn’t celebrate their gender distinction or their coming together as ‘one flesh.’ The ‘wombs’ in this verse, according to the tafsirs, aren’t referring to the wife’s unique reproductive function, but more loosely to ‘ties of kinship’, meaning something like ‘remember your family ties’. Verses 2 and 3 continue:

“And give to the orphans their properties and do not substitute the defective [of your own] for the good [of theirs]. And do not consume their properties into your own. Indeed, that is ever a great sin.” (Sahih International)

“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” (Sahih International)

It’s not clear from the text who the man is to marry in verse 3 – whether the orphans themselves or more wives to act as additional guardians for the orphans. Influential twentieth century scholar Maududi takes the latter view, that these verses were sent down as a corrective to the pre-Islamic practices of marrying orphans and plundering their inheritance (verse 2) to support an unlimited number of wives – hence Allah limits the number of wives to four. And if you can’t do justice to four, then better stick to one wife. But this doesn’t include “those your right hand possesses” i.e. your slave girls. So even if you decide to stick with one official wife, you can have an unlimited number of sex slaves. A far cry from the exclusive sexual intimacy between man and wife Jesus teaches about. Notice also the lack of mutuality – it’s all about the man’s requirements, not what’s best for the man and the woman.

Not only that, the Qur’an actually contradicts itself on this issue within the same Sura. Sura 4:3 tells believers to only marry one wife if they are afraid they won’t be able to treat their wives equally. But Sura 4:129 tells men they will never be able to treat their wives equally!

“Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self- restraint, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. – 4:129″(Yusuf Ali)

Maududi summarises the classical tafsir writers’ interpretation of this verse, that while the husband is bound to provide equally for his wives, he will never hold them in equal affection:

“Allah made it clear that the husband cannot literally keep equality between two or more wives because they themselves cannot be equal in all respects. It is too much to demand from a husband that he should mete out equal treatment to a beautiful wife and to an ugly wife, to a young wife and to an old wife, to a healthy wife and to an invalid wife, and to a good natured wife and to an ill-natured wife. These and like things naturally make a husband more inclined towards one wife than towards the other….

In such cases, the Islamic law does not demand equal treatment between them in affection and love. What it does demand is that a wife should not be neglected as to be practically reduced to the position of the woman who has no husband at all. If the husband does not divorce her for any reason or at her own request, she should at least be treated as a wife. It is true that under such circumstances the husband is naturally inclined towards a favorite wife, but he should not, so to say, keep the other in such a state of suspense as if she were not his wife.”

Allah is clearly not that bothered by the wives’ emotional needs. Not only that, but Muhammad, the best example to mankind (Sura 33:21) flagrantly disregarded Allah’s injunction to show “self-restraint” and come to “a friendly understanding” with his wives, for example in this hadith. (More on Muhammad’s special privileges in another post.)

Are we just taking these verses out of their historical context? Don’t they only apply to 7th century Arabia? Have they been abrogated? No. Polygamy is acceptable in both Sunni and Shi’a schools of Islamic law. Polygamy matchmaking service Second Wife , quotes Sura 4:3 on its website. “We believed this is a Sunnah we needed to revive,” it says. Apparently it has 100,000 users.

The reason polygamy persists in Islam, apart from the fact that it is sanctioned forever by Allah’s eternal speech, the Qur’an, is because Allah is not a personal, covenantal god. Allah doesn’t make men and women in his image or interact with them personally, let alone make or keep his promises to them. The Qur’an’s teaching on marriage is confused, over-sexualising men and diminishing women. And there is no great wedding feast to look forward to in a new creation. Just as Allah prioritises men’s sexual needs on earth, Islamic paradise is more of the same – lots of sex for men (Sura 55:70-6). How different to the God who kept His covenant with us, died to rescue us and waits as a faithful Bridegroom for all who love Him.

“Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)

With grateful thanks to James M. Arlandson for his article, from which all the Maududi quotes come.

Polygamy in the Bible

Elkanah, Peninah and Hannah

Last week we had some lively discussions at Speaker’s Corner about whether Muhammad treated his wives fairly. The response was: there is polygamy all over the Old Testament, and God didn’t have a problem with it. How do we answer that objection?

God approves?

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5)

This was the verse that one of our Muslim friends gave us to justify polygamy as an acceptable Biblical practice. His argument went: if God praises David for doing everything right in the sight of the Lord, that means He must have approved, tacitly if not explicitly, of the fact David had multiple wives and concubines.

Not necessarily. Firstly, are we to infer from the phrase “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” that David only, ever, exclusively did what was right in God’s sight, apart from the Uriah episode? The phrase doesn’t make that claim, nor is it borne out in David’s life. Take his census of the fighting men (1 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21), which brings God’s judgement against him. “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing” he says (1 Samuel 24:10). Obviously, this was not right in the eyes of the Lord. So is the Scripture contradicting itself? No, just making a valid generalisation rather than an exhaustive claim about all David’s actions. In fact, if we look at verse 3, and is confirmed in other verses, e.g., 1 Kings 9:4, we see that David is being praised for his integrity of heart, rather than his actions:

“He [Abijah] committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” (1 Kings 15:3)

God himself makes this same generalisation to Solomon about David: “as for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did..” (1 Kings 9:4)

Nor did he fail to keep any of the LORD’s commands, according to 1 Kings 15:5. Was David commanded to marry multiple wives? No, this a straw man argument. Having said that, it’s still a fact that David took multiple wives and concubines, as did others before him – men of God like Moses, Abraham and Jacob. Polygamy was the rule rather than the exception. And while God doesn’t explicitly approve it, he doesn’t condemn it either. So where did Christians get this idea of monogamous marriage from?  Let’s go back to the beginning.

Marriage – the template

In Genesis 2:21-24, we’re told “no suitable helper was found” for Adam:

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Note the singular form: man (not men), woman (not women), ONE flesh. And this is before the Fall, when everything was as God intended. Hence we can conclude that monogamy was God’s original plan.

The Law

One of the many consequences of Fall was human beings rejection of God’s pattern for marriage; in the 13th-century BC Near East, polygamy was its replacement. But the Mosaic law gave the practice some measure of regulation. Deuteronomy 21:15-17 (ESV):

“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.

This passage enshrines the rights of the offspring of an unloved wife. It doesn’t mean God approves of the practice of polygamy. If anything, the implication is that it’s preferable to have one wife and therefore no conflict of interest. God also gives specific instructions to Israel’s King, that he should not

acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:17, ESV.)

God’s warning, that polygamy is a step on the road to idolatry, violating the first commandment of God, should have been salutary enough to make people avoid the practice. But they didn’t listen.

Polygamy in the Old Testament

Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah. David, Abigail, Michal, Bathsheba, plus concubines. Solomon and his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. In short – it never works out. Each scenario has its own pain and misery: Sarah’s mistreatment of Hagar, Jacob’s lack of love for Leah, Peninah’s provocation of Hannah for her inability to conceive; Michal’s husband’s tears as she is given to David. And of course, Solomon, whose heart was indeed led astray from true worship of YHWH by his wives:

For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Loving multiple wives – loving multiple gods. Loving one wife – faithfulness to one God. This link between marriage and faithfulness to the one true God is developed in the New Testament.

Marriage in the New Testament

Muslims tell us prophets were sinless. But this is not what the Bible teaches. So we don’t take Abraham or David or Solomon as out moral examples. We go to Jesus, the only sinless man that ever lived – something which Islam also affirms. What did He teach about marriage? Matthew 19:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Although the context of the discussion is divorce, Jesus’ answer is also applicable to polygamy. Jesus quotes Genesis again – one male, one female, the TWO shall become ONE flesh. Note the sexual analogy – a man and women joined together in sexual union, makes one. The physical analogy doesn’t work with three or four women at the same time. And it’s a spiritual union, not just physical- “what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Paul also uses the sexual analogy to illustrate the believers’ relationship with Christ himself – united to Him, to the exclusion of others. Paul’s response to sexual immorality in the Corinthian church was:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)

In other words, if you sleep with “prostitutes” (used figuaratively here for sexual activity with anyone who is not your one and only spouse), you are making a mockery of the marriage union where two become one: if you say you love Jesus while continuing to follow other gods at the same time, you are making a mockery of your exclusive union with Christ.

Marriage between Christ and His Church

Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride. This analogy is used by Jesus himself (Mark 2:19, Matthew 25:1-13), the Apostle Paul and John in Revelation. In fact, notice how closely Paul uses the analogy of Christ and his Church in his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5: 21-32:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church30 for we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

The Bridegroom, the bride. Jesus was faithful to His bride by coming to earth and laying down His life for her. He will never share his love for us with another. His church is made acceptable to Him through His blood shed for her on the Cross. His church is to love Him with the same exclusive faithfulness that He loves us, not dividing our affection between Him and other gods – just as we wouldn’t divide our affection between multiple spouses.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:2. Come, Lord Jesus.

Next up: Polygamy in the Qur’an.

Did Allah protect his Word?

Did Allah protect his Word?

Daniel talks to Muslims on the reliability of Christian Scripture. The Muslim in this video asserts that Allah didn’t preserve the Torah, but Sura 3:3 and 18:27 say otherwise.

Sura 3:3 He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.

Sura 18:27 And recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord. There is no changer of His words, and never will you find in other than Him a refuge.

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How did Muhammad handle marital strife?

How did Muhammad handle marital strife?

Lizzie talks to Islamic Dawah Team on Muhammad’s responses to disputes between his wives. Was it in keeping with Allah’s revelation in Sura 4:3 and Sura 4:129 (even though they contradict each other?)

Sura 4:3 And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].

Sura 4:129 And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.

Bukhari Book 47, Hadith 755 Narrated ‘Urwa from ‘Aisha: The wives of Allah’s Apostle were in two groups. One group consisted of ‘Aisha, Hafsa, Safiyya and Sauda; and the other group consisted of Um Salama and the other wives of Allah’s Apostle. The Muslims knew that Allah’s Apostle loved ‘Aisha, so if any of them had a gift and wished to give to Allah’s Apostle, he would delay it, till Allah’s Apostle had come to ‘Aisha’s home and then he would send his gift to Allah’s Apostle in her home. The group of Um Salama discussed the matter together and decided that Um Salama should request Allah’s Apostle to tell the people to send their gifts to him in whatever wife’s house he was. Um Salama told Allah’s Apostle of what they had said, but he did not reply. Then they (those wives) asked Um Salama about it. She said, “He did not say anything to me.” They asked her to talk to him again. She talked to him again when she met him on her day, but he gave no reply. When they asked her, she replied that he had given no reply. They said to her, “Talk to him till he gives you a reply.” When it was her turn, she talked to him again. He then said to her, “Do not hurt me regarding Aisha, as the Divine Inspirations do not come to me on any of the beds except that of Aisha.” On that Um Salama said, “I repent to Allah for hurting you.” Then the group of Um Salama called Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle and sent her to Allah’s Apostle to say to him, “Your wives request to treat them and the daughter of Abu Bakr on equal terms.” Then Fatima conveyed the message to him. The Prophet said, “O my daughter! Don’t you love whom I love?” She replied in the affirmative and returned and told them of the situation. They requested her to go to him again but she refused. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh who went to him and used harsh words saying, “Your wives request you to treat them and the daughter of Ibn Abu Quhafa on equal terms.” On that she raised her voice and abused ‘Aisha to her face so much so that Allah’s Apostle looked at ‘Aisha to see whether she would retort. ‘Aisha started replying to Zainab till she silenced her. The Prophet then looked at ‘Aisha and said, “She is really the daughter of Abu Bakr.”

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Oneness of God in Islam?

Oneness of God in Islam?

Godwin speaks to a Muslim on tawhid and questions how the Qur’an manages to intercede for mankind? Allah’s Eternal Speech is a separate conscious entity to Allah? So much for tawhid!

Abu Umama said he heard Allah’s Messenger say: Recite the Qur’an, for on the Day of Resurrection it will come as an intercessor for those who recite It. Recite the two bright ones, al-Baqara and Surah Al ‘Imran, for on the Day of Resurrection they will come as two clouds or two shades, or two flocks of birds in ranks, pleading for those who recite them. Recite Surah al-Baqara, for to take recourse to it is a blessing and to give it up is a cause of grief, and the magicians cannot confront it. (Mu’awiya said: It has been conveyed to me that here Batala means magicians.) (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1757; *)

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Did Muhammad treat his wives equally?

Hatun & Lizzie question whether Muhammad treated his wives justly as Sura 4:3 states?

We look at how  Sura 4:129 contradicts Sura 4:3 and discuss the Ibn Kathir’s tafsir and supporting ahadith.

Sura 4:3. And if you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among [other] women such as are lawful to you – [even] two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [only] one – or [from among] those whom you rightfully possess. This will make it more likely that you will not deviate from the right course.

Sura 4:129. And it will not be within your power to treat your wives with equal fairness, however much you may desire it; and so, do not allow yourselves to incline towards one to the exclusion of the other, leaving her in a state, as it were, of having and not having a husband. But if you put things to rights and are conscious of Him – behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

Bukhari Book 47 Hadith 755 .

Narrated ‘Urwa from ‘Aisha: The wives of Allah’s Apostle were in two groups. One group consisted of ‘Aisha, Hafsa, Safiyya and Sauda; and the other group consisted of Um Salama and the other wives of Allah’s Apostle. The Muslims knew that Allah’s Apostle loved ‘Aisha, so if any of them had a gift and wished to give to Allah’s Apostle, he would delay it, till Allah’s Apostle had come to ‘Aisha’s home and then he would send his gift to Allah’s Apostle in her home. The group of Um Salama discussed the matter together and decided that Um Salama should request Allah’s Apostle to tell the people to send their gifts to him in whatever wife’s house he was. Um Salama told Allah’s Apostle of what they had said, but he did not reply. Then they (those wives) asked Um Salama about it. She said, “He did not say anything to me.” They asked her to talk to him again. She talked to him again when she met him on her day, but he gave no reply. When they asked her, she replied that he had given no reply. They said to her, “Talk to him till he gives you a reply.” When it was her turn, she talked to him again. He then said to her, “Do not hurt me regarding Aisha, as the Divine Inspirations do not come to me on any of the beds except that of Aisha.” On that Um Salama said, “I repent to Allah for hurting you.” Then the group of Um Salama called Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle and sent her to Allah’s Apostle to say to him, “Your wives request to treat them and the daughter of Abu Bakr on equal terms.” Then Fatima conveyed the message to him. The Prophet said, “O my daughter! Don’t you love whom I love?” She replied in the affirmative and returned and told them of the situation. They requested her to go to him again but she refused. They then sent Zainab bint Jahsh who went to him and used harsh words saying, “Your wives request you to treat them and the daughter of Ibn Abu Quhafa on equal terms.” On that she raised her voice and abused ‘Aisha to her face so much so that Allah’s Apostle looked at ‘Aisha to see whether she would retort. ‘Aisha started replying to Zainab till she silenced her. The Prophet then looked at ‘Aisha and said, “She is really the daughter of Abu Bakr.”

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