Is rape allowed in Islamic marriage?

 

Hatun and Godwin question Qur’anic teaching on surah 2:223 sex within marriage . Your women are a tillage for you; so come unto your tillage as you wish, and forward for your souls; and fear God, and know that you shall meet Him. Give thou good tidings to the believers. (s2:223) Narrated Jabir: Jews used to say: “If one has sexual intercourse with his wife from the back, then she will deliver a squint-eyed child.” So this Verse was revealed: “Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when or how you will.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6:60:51) Ibn Abbas said: Ibn Umar misunderstood (the Qur’anic verse, “so come to your tilth however you will”)—may Allah forgive him. The fact is that this clan of the Ansar who were idolaters lived in the company of the Jews who were the people of the Book. They (the Ansar) accepted their superiority over themselves in respect of knowledge, and they followed most of their actions. The people of the Book (i.e. the Jews) used to have intercourse with their women on one side alone (i.e. lying on their backs). This was the most concealing for (the vagina of) women. This clan of the Ansar adopted this practice from them. But this tribe of the Quraish used to uncover their women intensely, and seek pleasure with them from in front and behind and laying them on their backs. When the Muhajirun (the Immigrants) came to Medina, a man married a woman of the Ansar. He began to do the same kind of action with her, but she disliked it, and said to him: We were approached on one side (i.e. lying on back); do it so, otherwise keep away from me. This matter of theirs spread widely, and it reached the Apostle of Allah. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: “Your wives are a tilth to you, so come to your tilth however you will,” i.e. from in front, from behind or lying on the back. By this the verse meant the place of the delivery of the child, i.e. vagina. (Sunan Abu Dawud 2159)

Rape in marriage

Rape in marriage.

Does the Qur’an sanction marital rape?

Hatun discusses Sura 2:223 with Muslims.

“Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.”

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Did Muhammad have good moral standards?

Did Muhammad have good moral standards?

Godwin questions Islamic Dawah Team about whether Muhammad had good moral standards. Fondling virgins? Tongue sucking during fasting? Looking at a baby girl and promising to marry her when she grows up? Marrying pre-pubescent girls?

It was narrated that Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah (may Allaah be pleased with them both) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked me, ‘Have you got married?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘A virgin or a previously-married woman?’ I said, ‘A previously-married woman.’ He said, ‘Why not a young girl, whom you could play with and she could play with you?’ I said, ‘I have sisters and I wanted to marry a woman who could gather them together and comb their hair and take care of them.’ He said: ‘You will reach, so when you have arrived (at home), I advise you to associate with your wife (that you may have an intelligent son).’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1991; Muslim, 715)

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin: The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to kiss her and suck her tongue when he was fasting. Sunan Abu Dawud 13:2380

(Suhayli, ii.79: In the riwaya of Yunus I.I recorded that the apostle saw her (Ummu’l-Fadl) when she was baby crawling before him and said, ‘If she grows up and I am still alive I will marry her.’ But he died before she grew up and Sufyan b. al-Aswad b. Abdu’l-Asad al-Makhzumi married her and she bore him Rizq and Lubaba….(ref.10, p. 311)

And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease. (Sura 65:4)

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Was Muhammad a good father?

Was Muhammad a good father?

It’s Father’s Day in the UK; Hatun and Godwin are asking if Muhammad was a good father. What kind of father lusts after his adopted son’s wife and then marries her?

And [remember, O Muhammad], when you said to the one on whom Allah bestowed favor and you bestowed favor, “Keep your wife and fear Allah,” while you concealed within yourself that which Allah is to disclose. And you feared the people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him. So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them. And ever is the command of Allah accomplished.” Sura 33:37

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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.