Friday, October 27, 2006

Quran Surah 4:34

Surah 4-34: A Sufi Interpretation.

"As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct: First, admonish them; second, refuse to share their beds, and finally, beat them lightly."

Does the Qur’an encourage wife beating? Do men have the right to inflict physical violence upon their wives?

We put forward that Surah 4:34 does not condone wife beating. On the contrary! Unfortunately, this verse has been used by men for centuries to validate domestic violence.

According to the Rose Crescent tradition, Surah 4:34 has various meanings, depending on the station of the soul the reader is on (or from what particular chakra it is being refracted through).

Let us recall that the Qur’an has at least 18,000 interpretations, and is interpreted differently in different worlds, at different stations, and differently when read by angels, jinn, wali (saints), sinners, demons and devils. In the Glorious Qur'an Allah speaks to all beings, reaching them at their levels, attempting to provide them with the means to advance to higher stations. Thus, the Qur'an is like a ladder, extending from the highest heavens to the deepest pits of hell.

The Station of Hell

If a man is in hell, and his life is consumed with power, violence, anger and hate, and the devil has his soul in his clutches, then he will no doubt read this verse and believe that it has given him permission to beat his wife. If you are reading this right now, and you belong to those who think you have the right to beat your wife, then, dear friend, you should wake-up and realize that you are spiritually in hell. And if you wish to crawl out of that position and towards the light, then reflect on the following:

First – Surah 4:128 gives the wife who fears ill-treatment from her husband the right to divorce him. Why would Allah grant the man the right to beat his wife and then grant the wife the right to divorce him?

Second – if you follow the Sunnah, even to the point of how you clip your beard, then why haven’t you realized that the Prophet (PBUH) never beat or mistreated his wives?

Oh, you Taliban man! Do you not recall how the Prophet (PBUH) acted when He suspected Aisha’s (may all of the angels of heaven sing her praises) betrayal? How dare you who scourge your wife/wives claim to follow the sunnah, you despicable fool! You, oh Taliban man, you who are more concerned with the length of your beard and the times of your prayer than the manner in which you treat your wife/wives, you should know that even now the serpents of hell have wound themselves around your ankles and are drawing you deeper into the abyss of which you are blind to. Those who persist in beating their wife/wives are the true hypocrites, and should take Surah 4:145 to heart. But even in hell there is hope, oh man. Reach out and grasp the ladder that the Light has provided, move to the next station.

The Station of Egotism (Maqam an-Nafs):

At this station the verse actually sets boundaries and a process of reconciliation. Let us recall that it was delivered in a culture in which killing your wife for adultery (which is what is implied here) would have been quite common. In such an environment, the Qur’an encourages men to first speak with their wives and then withhold sexual favors. The final rule is to withdraw for a period of time from your wife. This is supported by verse 35 in which the break is on the verge of being permanent, and arbiters must be called in before the divorce. Thus, at the Station of Egotism, the passage reads:

“As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct: First, admonish them; second, refuse to share their beds, and finally, retreat from them for a time. (35) But if you fear a permanent break, appoint arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, God will cause their reconciliation. For God has full knowledge of all things.”

(Note also the gender equality as the arbiters are called from each family). Of course, one could argue that there are problems here. The text seems to position men above women. Let us review the opening to the passage:

"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women..."

For the man in hell, the text is understood to mean his superiority. He reads it as positioning his power over women. However, when he moves to the Station of Ego he finds that the verse calls for him to use his strength, not to beat but to protect. Let us recall that the Recital was introduced in a culture where women were routinely beaten, killed, and traded like cattle. The Qur'an, at the Station of Ego, thus attempts to have men see themselves as protectors (both physically and economically) of women. In that society and in that era, this thought, coupled with the process of reconcilliation outlined above, was truly revolutionary for the common man!

But what of the person who is spiritually advancing?

The Station of the Heart (Maqam ar-Ruh):

At this Station the passage encourages the man to overcome his own self, his hurt, anger, resentment and, leaving himself, to fly to his beloved wife, abandoning his egotistical self in the process:

"As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct: First, admonish them; second, refuse to share their beds, and finally, (fly from yourself and) beat a path back to her. But if you still fear that a permanent break is inevitable (after you have forgiven and loved), then call arbiters…"

The Station of the Pure Spirit (Maqam-ar-Ruh):

At this station the passage is no longer about marital problems, but is about the relationship between the Spirit (Ruh) [– the higher self] and the Soul (naf) [– and lower terrestrial self]. Here the text reads:

"The Spirit (Ruh) is the protector and maintainer of the Soul (Naf)...As to the Soul which is prone to disobedience and ill-conduct: First, apply reason (logos) to yourself [in other words, be mentally grounded in the law, ethics, etc.]; second, follow the path of abstinence (including fasting); and finally scourge yourself with ordeals [in order to gain mastery over your flesh]. But if you fear that your soul and spirit are irreconcilable, then call counselors to assist you, individuals of wisdom drawn from both those versed in the law and those of the emotions (e.g. poetry, art, music, etc)."

Because the Holy Qur’an has 18,000 known interpretations, each spiraling deeper and deeper towards the Divine Center we could continue. For those who would like, we suggest that you take this verse and do a shamanic journey (Surah 6:35) to your personal Sufi master in the higher spiritual realms to uncover deeper interpretations.

So mote it be!

For more Rose Crescent commentary on the Qur’an, click here.


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