Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 4, “Women,” verses 35-104

posted at 9:00 am on September 2, 2007 by Robert Spencer

After v. 35 recommends arbitration for a quarreling couple, verses 36-42 of Sura 4 enjoin kindness toward relatives, friends, neighbors, and slaves (“what your right hands possess,” v. 36), and denounce pride and miserliness.

Then v. 43 tells believers not to come to prayers while drunk. Ibn Abi Hatim says this was revealed because one of the Muslims began to recite sura 109:1-3: “Say: O disbelievers! I do not worship that which you worship; nor do you worship that which I worship.” But the leader of prayer was drunk, and so he said: “Say, O disbelievers! I do not worship that which you worship, but we worship that which you worship.” 4:43 was revealed shortly thereafter. It was the first stage of the three-stage Qur’anic prohibition of alcohol. First Allah commanded the Muslims not to pray while drunk in this passage; then he told them that alcohol was a “great sin, and some profit, for men” (2:219); and finally there came the revelation that alcohol was “Satan’s handiwork” (5:90), and thus to be shunned altogether. The last of these verses is considered to have abrogated the other two. Muhammad himself became quite stern about drunkenness, saying that drunks should be given three chances and then executed: “If he is intoxicated, flog him; again if he is intoxicated, flog him; again if he is intoxicated, flog him; if he does it again a fourth time, kill him.”

Verses 44-59 are an invective against the People of the Book in general and the Jews in particular. The Jews “traffic in error” and, and wish that the Muslims would “lose the right path” (v. 44). They “they believe in sorcery and evil, and say to the unbelievers that they are better guided in the (right) way than the believers!” (v. 51). They twist Allah’s words, and Allah has “cursed them for their unbelief” — كُفْرِهِمْ, kufrihim, (vv. 46; see also 52).

Says Ibn Kathir: “Allah states that the Jews, may Allah’s continued curse fall on them until the Day of Resurrection, have purchased the wrong path instead of guidance, and ignored what Allah sent down to His Messenger Muhammad. They also ignored the knowledge that they inherited from previous Prophets, about the description of Muhammad, so that they may have a small amount of the delights of this life.” They are called to accept Islam or face terrible punishment, including being cursed “as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers” (v. 47) – that is, being transformed into apes and pigs (2:63-65). Allah will forgive anything except shirk, the associating of partners with him (v. 48). Because the People of the Book are accursed, they shall soon be “cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty” (v. 56).

According to Maududi, in saying that “Allah doth command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due,” v. 58 warns the Muslims not to make the same mistake the Jews made: “One of the fundamental mistakes committed by the Israelites was that in the time of their degeneration they had handed over positions of trust (i.e. religious and political leadership) to incompetent, mean, immoral, corrupt and dishonest people.” Maududi, a foremost exponent of political Islam who was writing in the mid-20th century, is implying that Muslims have gone astray by putting up with authoritarian regimes that do not govern according to Islamic law, rather than implementing full Sharia government. Another 20th century theorist, Sayyid Qutb, writing in a similar vein about the same verse, adds that jihad is “a fulfillment of a specific trust.” A third, Maulana Bulandshahri, explains that contemporary governments in Muslim states have betrayed their trust by allowing their “legislative assemblies to make laws” instead of “following the guidelines of the Qur’an and Ahadith.”

The believers, meanwhile, are exhorted to “obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you” (v. 59). To obey Muhammad today is, many Islamic authorities say, to obey his dictates in the Hadith, which some contemporary Muslims wish to disregard and say that only the Qur’an has authority. And Muhammad himself is quite clear about the necessity to obey earthly rulers: “You should listen to and obey your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.” Verses 60-70 continue the theme of obeying Muhammad, chastising the hypocrites who pretend to believe in Muhammad and Islam but refuse to come to him to judge their disputes. Allah tells Muhammad: “by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them” (v. 65).

Verses 71-104 exhort the believers to go forth courageously to jihad warfare. Ibn Kathir explains v. 71 in this way: “Allah commands His faithful servants to take precautions against their enemies, by being prepared with the necessary weapons and supplies, and increasing the number of troops fighting in His cause.” A warrior should fight fearlessly, for “whether he is slain or gets victory” he will be rewarded (v. 74) – here again is the promise that has made Muslims fight with such tenacity throughout history. For the contrast is stark: the believers fight against oppression (v. 75) and for Allah, while the unbelievers fight for Satan (v. 76). One will not escape death by declining to fight, for “all things are from Allah” (v. 78). And in any case, Allah will “restrain the fury of the unbelievers” (v. 84). V. 90 is sometimes adduced as proof that Muslims have no open-ended mandate to fight unbelievers, but the Tafsir al-Jalalayn makes clear that this refers only to unbelievers who submit to Islamic rule: “And so if they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, reconciliation, that is, [if] they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them.”

Verses 92-3 forbid Muslims to kill fellow believers intentionally; if one kills a Muslim accidentally, he should free a Muslim slave. How is it, then, that Muslims can kill each other with such apparent impunity in Iraq and elsewhere? They pronounce takfir on one another – declare the opposing group to be unbelievers – despite the gentle discouraging of this practice in v. 94. V. 95 says that those believers who stay home and risk no injury are not equal to those who wage jihad.

Passages such as this, which are often overlooked in discussions of the Qur’anic view of jihad, demonstrate definitively that what the Qur’an means by jihad is not an interior spiritual struggle, but warfare. Why should anyone fear death or the fury of the unbelievers, or shorten his prayers in view of an impending attack by the unbelievers (v. 101), in a spiritual struggle? How can one kill a fellow Muslim by accident in a spiritual struggle?

Next week: What really happened at the Crucifixion of Christ.

(Here you can find links to all the earlier “Blogging the Qur’an” segments. Here is a good Arabic/English Qur’an, here are two popular Muslim translations, those of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, along with a third by M. H. Shakir. Here is another popular translation, that of Muhammad Asad. And here is an omnibus of ten Qur’an translations.)


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Thank you! I was flipping through channels this morning and saw you on the Corral Ridge hour. (sp?). I missed most of it, but they apparently had a pretty big piece on Islam. Those on the West Coast might be able to catch it.

Canadian Infidel on September 2, 2007 at 9:29 AM

Alcohol is the devil’s handiwork … unless you’re gonna die in a suicide attack the next day, right Mr. Atta?

On a semi-related note, Howard Dean is telling American muslims to run for office to “achieve their goals”. CAIR’s goal is to replace the Constitution with the koran. Do we need any more proof that the Dems are on the wrong side of islam’s war of world domination?

Tony737 on September 2, 2007 at 9:58 AM

It would appear that Sura 4 is the basis for a lot of, *ahem*, bad behavior.

flipflop on September 2, 2007 at 10:22 AM

I have heard shirk described as the assignment of deity to a human being. Since it is the “unforgivable sin” in Islam, it’s an interesting topic.

Is the above description valid? Assigning partners to Allah may be the rough equivalent to deifying those partners, if the understanding is that they are equivalent to God.

It seems to be to be an obvious attack on the Islamic redefinition of the Trinity into 3 separate gods. And/or on the deity of Jesus, if the former definition is also valid.

TexasDan on September 2, 2007 at 10:28 AM

v. 94. V. 95 says that those believers who stay home and risk no injury are not equal to those who wage jihad.

So if some Muslims disagree with the jihad declaration, or they prefer a peaceful and/or diplomatic approach to issue resolution, then they are deemed lower than the Muslims who want to kill.

Yet, we’re somehow suppose to implement a foreign policy to improve relations with those who prefer jihad.

jediwebdude on September 2, 2007 at 10:34 AM

Nice Jab to the ribs, reminding everyone of that “Ethiopian whose head looks like a raisin” hadith. I love that one.

Jimmy the Dhimmi on September 2, 2007 at 10:58 AM

Whater ya gonna do with a drunkin’ sailor, earl-eye in da mornin’?

I guess the betty ford mosque is out of the question. But monkey stomping him to death is halal. Isn’t murder a sin somewhere in this koran?

Ol mo better watch his back though. Race riot Al will skewer him for those bigot ‘raisin head’ statements. Haram!

You know, I think I got this applied muslim philosophy down pat: if in doubt, resort to death & destruction – even against fellow believers – cause they got an ‘out’ for that one too.

I’m sorry. I’m not feeling too generous this morning. Thank you, Robert Spencer for another interesting lesson.

PS: a poster mentioned ‘coral ridge ministries.’ They have a great online audio library for down load with messages from Phillip Johnson, Duane Gish, Ravi Zacharrias, David Barton, et al. Great stuff for those who like applied Christian philosophy. I’m outta here…………

locomotivebreath1901 on September 2, 2007 at 1:47 PM

From Shakir (seems easiest for me to understand), 4:89-90

They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.

Except those who reach a people between whom and you there is an alliance, or who come to you, their hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting their own people; and if Allah had pleased, He would have given them power over you, so that they should have certainly fought you; therefore if they withdraw from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not given you a way against them.

In verse 89, it says to kill them, even if they turn back. But in verse 90, it exempts these killings if an “alliance” is formed. How can the Muslims form any alliance with an enemy and not be in contradiction to verse 89? Or the previous verses that we’ve studied here? That the “non-believers” must submit to Islam, or face consequences…

This is the line that I don’t quite get: “…therefore if they withdraw from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not given you a way against them.”

Still find that contrary to what the previous verse states.

JetBoy on September 2, 2007 at 2:17 PM

“And so if they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, reconciliation, that is, [if] they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them.”

So much for running away to hide and expecting that Muslims will then leave us alone.

Is there anyplace in the Qur’an that defines the form that a Jihad should take or is any method of attack permissible?

Speakup on September 2, 2007 at 3:40 PM

And Muhammad himself is quite clear about the necessity to obey earthly rulers: “You should listen to and obey your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.”

But what if he was a Jooooooo? Or what if he was a she?

infidelpride on September 2, 2007 at 4:49 PM

Speakup:

Is there anyplace in the Qur’an that defines the form that a Jihad should take or is any method of attack permissible?

There is wide latitude:

“Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.” — Qur’an 8:60

Robert Spencer on September 2, 2007 at 5:48 PM

Robert Spencer

Thank you

but whom Allah doth know.” — Qur’an 8:60

since Allah is everything, that’s pretty all encompassing.

I suppose the more proper question might be, is any form of attack prohibited?

I’ve been been doing a little research into Qur’anic mechanisms for forgiveness.

“Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it was thy friend and intimate!” (Quran: 41:34).

“Never aspire for confronting your enemies (in a fight). Pray to God to be among those who seek living peacefully with others.” (Bukhari).

And let not hatred of a people, having prevented you [O you who believe!] from visiting the al-Haram [1] mosque, cause you to commit transgression. And help one another in [practicing] righteousness and dutifulness, and do not help one another in [committing] sin and transgression. And act dutifully toward Allah. Surely, Allah is severe in punishment (from 5.2).

O you who believe! Stand firm for Allah, [as] witnesses with justice. And let not hatred of a people cause you not to act equitably; act equitably; that is nearer to dutifulness. And act dutifully toward Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do (5.8).

And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you [O you who believe!], and do not transgress. Surely, Allah does not love the aggressors (2.190). And kill them wherever you find them and drive them out whence they drove you out; persecution is severer than killing. And do not fight them at the al-Haram mosque until they fight you in it, but if they do fight you, then kill them. Such is the reward of the disbelievers (2.191). But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (2.192). And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is Allah’s. But if they desist, then there should be no hostility, except against the wrongdoers (2.193).

I guess what I’m looking for is anything that might equate to “turn the other cheek”.

Thanks again

Speakup on September 2, 2007 at 6:27 PM

Speakup:

I guess what I’m looking for is anything that might equate to “turn the other cheek”.

You will look in vain.

“Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another but ruthless to the unbelievers.” (Qur’an 48:29)

Robert Spencer on September 3, 2007 at 8:56 AM

“Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another but ruthless to the unbelievers.” (Qur’an 48:29)

Robert Spencer on September 3, 2007 at 8:56 AM

Religion of peace.

Thanx Robert Spencer for your work!

Ordinary1 on September 3, 2007 at 11:56 AM

You will look in vain.

“Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another but ruthless to the unbelievers.” (Qur’an 48:29)

Robert Spencer on September 3, 2007 at 8:56 AM

Thank you, I needed to ask an expert.

That is as I always understood it to be, I Also feel the inability to forgive unbelievers is a very specific reason why every society which is not Muslim should not just be aware but also place strict sanctions on the practice of Sharia Islam.

In my view, forgiveness promotes closure and peace, disallowing forgiveness promotes vengeance and violence, forever.

I might go so far to say that turn the other cheek provided the thread to modern civilized society in the west but I would say it is a very important part of the weave.

Speakup on September 3, 2007 at 2:01 PM

OOPS

I might go so far=I might not go so far

Speakup on September 3, 2007 at 2:03 PM

I’ll drink to that!

(At least three times.)

A toast (Gimlet or Gewurztraminer):

To the the end of militant Islam, everywhere!

profitsbeard on September 5, 2007 at 9:54 AM