>> Wednesday, February 4, 2009


As most of you know I started classes again last week hence I am not updating consistently. My classes Alhamdulliah are Arabic 202, World at War (history), Islam (Religion 322) and Politics of Islamic Resurgence (Political science). The last two classes are the reason I am posting this up.

Where ever I go today or whoever I speak to I keep on hearing, "that Muslims need to reinterpret Islam." And that great "modern" scholars are reinterpreting Islam and no longer allowing four wives and slaves etc.

So in the political science class I am learning that a new wave of Islamic resurgence "reinterprets" disallows four wives. And that Islam said four wives because it was really limiting the amount of wives to one (using some messed up logic). Or that they "reinterpret" the verse to mean that it is only to help the poor widows. Then to top it off these "modern" Muslims speak ill of our traditional teachers and say they need to also follow these "reinterpretations."

Now my question is, "are these reinterpretations?" Because Aisha (rA) the wife of the Prophet (pbuh) the greatest faqhi (Islamic Jurist of all time) said about surah nisa ayah 3 (the verse that speaks on the issue of four wives), “that men tended to marry orphan girls who were under their guardianship out of consideration for either their property, beauty or because they thought they would be able to treat them according to their whims, as they had no one to protect them. After marriage such men sometimes committed excesses against these girls. It is in this context that the Muslims are told that if they fear they will not be able to do justice to the orphan girls, then they should marry other girls whom they like.” And Ibn Abbas the companion who was an expert at Quran commentary [Chosen by the Prophet (pbuh) himself to explain the Quran to others] said, “that in the Jahiliyah period there was no limit on the number of wives a man could take. The result was that a man sometimes married as many as ten women and, when expenses increased because of a large family, he encroached on the rights either of his orphan nephews or other relatives. It was in this context that God fixed the limit of four wives and instructed the Muslims that they may marry up to four wives providing they possessed the capacity to treat them equitably.” I further encourage you to read the interpretations of ibn Jubayr who was of the second generations of Muslims and when he died it was said that knowledge has went into the earth that will never come again and of Imam Qurtobee an Andulsian scholar. And you will see that these “reinterpretations” are not new, rather they are returning to the original interpretations.

Finally for all these “modern” Muslims who call for a reinterpretation I ask them to do two things: One to read the original interpretation before they start to preach their own interpretation. And more importantly not to fear the false criticism from the criticizer for your religion is from Allah and Allah sees nothing wrong with it. To further clear up the second request I quote Maududi’s explanation of the ayat dealing with four wives, “This verse stipulates that marrying more wives than one is permissible on the condition that one treats his wives equitably. A person who avails himself of this permission granted by God to have a plurality of wives, and disregards the condition laid down by God to treat them equitably has not acted in good faith with God. In case there are complaints from wives that they are not being treated equitably, the Islamic state has the right to intervene and redress such grievances.
Some people who have been overwhelmed and overawed by the Christianized outlook of Westerners have tried to prove that the real aim of the Qur'an was to put an end to polygamy (which, in their opinion, is intrinsically evil). Since it was widely practised at that time, however, Islam confined itself to placing restrictions on it. Such arguments only show the mental slavery to which these people have succumbed. That polygamy is an evil per se is an unacceptable proposition, for under certain conditions it becomes a moral and social necessity. If polygamy is totally prohibited men who cannot remain satisfied with only one wife will look outside the bounds of matrimonial life and create sexual anarchy and corruption. This is likely to cause much greater harm than polygamy to the moral and social order. For this reason the Qur'an has allowed those who feel the need for it to resort to polygamy. Those who consider it an evil in itself may certainly denounce it in disregard of the Qur'an and may even argue for its abolition. But they have no right to attribute such a view to the Qur'an, for it has expressed its permission of polygamy in quite categorical terms. Indeed, there is not the slightest hint in the Qur'an that could justify the conclusion that it advocates abolition of polygamy. [For further elaboration see my (Maududi’s book) book, Sunnat k A'iniHaythiyat, Lahore, 3rd edition, 1975, pp. 307-16.]”


S.Haddad February 5, 2009 at 2:23 AM  

I agree, and I think its because people try to be on the "This is not Islam" defensive. What's haram is haram and what is halal is halal. There are things up for interpretation based on situations (relatively minor in the big picture) but most of it is laid out for us, no matter the time, place, or issue. So no need for reinterpretation, just a need to relearn.