Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
The subject matter of yesterday’s reading is ongoing today. Some of you who did the Reading in Arabic may have noticed that the ‘waiting-period’ of widows/divorcees to remarry was NOT called ‘iddat’ "عِدة in these verses, although that is the term commonly used among Muslims, (Yusuf Ali put ‘Iddat’ between brackets). To better understand the concept we call ‘Iddah,’ we should seek guidance from the Qur’an.
1. The term ‘Iddat’ "عِدة"-actually appears in the Qur’an 7 times: twice with regard to the number of days one should make up for in Fasting Ramadan (HQ 2:184, 185), twice in informing us of the ‘number’ of months in a year (HQ 9:36, 37), once regarding a certain number of angels (HQ74:31), and twice with regard to the number of months to count before a divorcee is free to remarry(HQ 33:49; 65:4).
In other words, ‘Iddah’ means ‘a tally, a number, a calculation.’
2. As for the terms used in yesterday’s and today’s reading, the Qur’an uses two words: ‘tarabbus*’ literally meaning ‘to wait,’ and ‘ajal*’ meaning end of term, both very well-explained by Muhammad Asad: (See HQ2: 228 "يتربَّصن"/ 2:231, 232: "أجلهن"/2:234: "يتربَّصن" & "أجلهن" (.
What does that mean?
It means that when we use the word ‘Iddat,’ we give it a much broader connotation than the Qur’an. ‘Iddah’-‘tarabbus’-‘ajal’ mean quite simply, keeping tally of the exact number of days/months a widow or divorcee should wait before she can remarry (or be spoken for). The number is 4 months & ten days for a widow, 3 menstrual cycles (if she menstruates) or else 3 months for a divorcee, and childbirth for a pregnant widow or divorcee (who could arrive at the end of her term within hours or in nine months).
The Qur’an does not elaborate further on this matter, and much of what widows or divorcees ‘should or shouldn’t do’ has been relegated to Tradition. Nevertheless, it would be sound advice for any of us, to rise to the higher standards of a fair-minded, God-conscious community. It is Community which ultimately upholds the honor and dignity of its members.
3. Some of you who did the Reading in Arabic may also have noticed that these verses are in large part addressed to authoritative figures who can help with divorce OR reconciliation, whether parents of the estranged couple, or members of the community who hold the couple’s best interest at heart, or even judges who might enforce rulings. They are not all addressed to husbands. This is more apparent in Yusuf Ali’s translation of these verses than in Muhammad Asad’s because at least Ali puts what he understands between brackets (‘your wives’ in this instance). This is helpful since the Qur’an spoke in general terms and did NOT, in fact, say ‘your wives’ here, or limit the address to husbands. Despite that, we find in Muhammad Asad’s translation of 229:
“…And it is not lawful for you to take back anything of what you have ever given your wives unless both (partners) have cause to fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by God…”
Some might ask: What’s so important about such small inaccuracies?
The answer is that every word in the Qur’an is important because inaccuracy results in the misapplication of instruction, which could lead to grave wrongdoing in God’s name. We draw attention to this issue here only as an example; NOT seeking to detract from our commentators’ and translators’ admirable work, but to highlight the fact that we are all human and will, indeed, make mistakes. It is OUR human mistakes which have reflected negatively upon our wonderful Faith, but with the Qur’an, in its original Arabic, we can make amends. It is, after all, our ultimate source of Guidance.
4. Muhammad Asad shows us in Verse 234 that it is the community who is addressed, and not the husbands alone, and he quotes Zamakhshari in note 222.
5. Verse 233 deals with mothers nursing their babies after divorce, and states that suckling may continue upto the complete two year term, with full paternal support. Here we read this beautiful Qur’anic principle for the first time:
“….No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear…” (Y.Ali)
The next time we read this principle will be at the very end of this Chapter.
6. The last verse in today’s reading calls for generosity and Awareness between divorcing couples, as well as a call to act with grace towards each other, for God sees all.
Tomorrow’s reading is from verse 238-248.
* ربص: الراء والباء والصاد أصلٌ واحدٌ يدلُّ على الانتظار. من ذلك التربُّص.
*الأَجَل: غاية الوقت في مَحَلِّ الدَّين وغيره... والاسم الآجِل نقيض العاجل والأجيل المُرْجأ، أي المؤخَّر إلى وقتٍ.
*عد: العَدّ: إحصاء الشيء. تقول: عددت الشيءَ أعُدُّه عَدّاً فأنا عادٌّ، والشيء معدود. ومن الباب العِدَّة من العَدّ.