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A BREAKTHROUGH project which helps understand the Qur'an AS REVEALED -not just 'as explained.'


Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 40; HQ 4:11-19, pages 79+80

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
What can I say about yesterday’s posting except, ‘Thank God it is done!’
Readers will note that I am trying to offer as linguistically-accurate a translation as I can, but we must bear in mind that translations are like explanations, and are therefore ALWAYS biased; they are a reflection of an interpreter’s understanding and leaning, not only in choice of words, but in any additions, omissions and also in punctuation.  That is why it is best to look at two translations -or more- at the same time.  If you understand Arabic, never rely on any ‘translation.’  Please Read the Important footnote.

1.     These verses fall under the initial Qur’anic address to Cognizant Humans (Naas) in the first verse of this chapter, when they were called upon to be aware of God and of the ‘womb-bond.’ 
After having discussed the issue of orphans in verses 1-10, which touched briefly on marriage, the Qur’an discusses in Verse 11, what fathers and mothers should bequeath their children.  It follows here in English, as I understood it.  This is ‘God’s communication/instruction وصية*’ on how to divide inheritance among one’s children, and the verse speaks to society saying:

“God communicates/ instructs you regarding your children, to the male the share equal to two females, however if they were women (numbering) more than two, then theirs is two thirds of what he left, and if she was one then hers is one half.  And to his parents to each of them is one sixth of what he left if he had a child, but if he did not have a child and his parents inherited him, then to his mother one third, while if he had siblings then to his mother one sixth, subsequent to a communication/ instruction by which he communicated/ instructed, or a debt. 
Your parents and your children, you do not know which of them is of nearer benefit to you, an Allotment from God, indeed God is All-Knowing, Wise.”

2.     It is helpful to remember HQ2:180-181and important to note the meanings of two words here:
·        ‘Wasiyya’(وصية)  which Y. Ali calls legacy and M. Asad calls ‘bequest.’  ‘Wasiyya’ literally means something ‘adjoined, related, communicated,’ also by way of instruction.

·        ‘Fareedha*’  (فريضة) literally means something etched or engraved as if by a knife so that it is clearly marked.  I will call it here ‘allotment,’ but let me know whenever you can think of a better English word to fit the Arabic meanings. 

BTW: The Qur’an does NOT call our prayers or fasting ‘Fardh’ or ‘Fareedha.’  They are all ‘kitaab,’ but you can only see that in the original Arabic. 
Fasting has been ‘kutiba’ compiled or convened upon us, (HQ2:183) the last words indicating duty, while Prayer is a timed ‘kitaab’ (HQ4:103); a compilation that is set to certain times when only then do all its parts come together as one valid unit. 
Indeed, if you asked Muslim scholars or jurists, what the Book of ‘Fara-edh’ (plural of ‘fareedha’) is, they’ll correctly point you to the Book of Inheritance!  ‘Fara-edh’ is the ‘Allotment of Inheritance’ and how it is distributed in the Qur’an.

3.     Muhammad Asad leaves the analysis of legal implications to the Jurists, as explained in note 8, while Yusuf Ali tells us (note 516):

 “The principles of inheritance law are laid down in broad outline in the Quran; the precise details have been worked out on the basis of the Prophet's practice and that of his companions, and by interpretation and analogy.  Muslim jurists have collected a vast amount of learning on this subject and this body of law is enough by itself to form the subject of life-long study.  Here we shall deal only with the broad principles to be gathered from the Text, as interpreted by the Jurists.”

It is of great IMPORTANCE to note that, although the verses start with a male child’s share being equivalent to two females, that only happens in 45% of cases, and there are instances when a female’s share is double.  Plus the fact that any wealth a female gets is entirely hers to keep, and she is not required to spend any of it on the household.  A publication of Darul Ihsan University explains:

“Some people claim that Islam is unjust towards women because it entitles them to inherit half of what men get. In fact, those people only know one side of the truth. First, the principle of women inheriting half the money is only applicable in 45 percent of the cases. In the other 55 percent, women inherit the same amount or sometimes even more. For example, a mother and a father each inherit the sixth of their son's property when they are not the only inheritors.”

4.     The following is also a literal translation of verse 12, continuing the Qur’anic address to society:

“And for you (m. pl.) is half of what your spouses have left - if they (f. pl.) had no child- but if they had a child, then for you is the fourth, subsequent to a communication/ instruction by which they (f. pl.) communicate/ instruct, or a debt. 
And for them (f. pl) is the quarter of what you (m. pl.) have left -if you (m. pl.) had no child- but if you had a child then for them is the eighth subsequent to a communication/ instruction by which you (m. pl.) communicate/ instruct, or a debt. 
And if a man was being inherited but has no direct heir and has a brother or sister, then for each of them is the one-sixth, but if they are more numerous than that, then they are partners in the one-third in subsequent to a communication/ instruction by which you (m. pl.) communicate/ instruct, or a debt undamaging; a communication/ instruction from God, and God is All-Knowing, Forbearing.”

Verses 13 and 14 help us understand the gravity of injustice with regard to the distribution of inheritance.  As many of us know, no matter how tight-knit a family is, one genuinely needy (or genuinely greedy) person could break it up.
5.     Verses 15-16 continue the Qur’anic address to society:

“And those of your (pl.) women who are coming unto ‘faahisha,’ consequently procure (pl.) witness against them from four of you (pl.), and if they do bear witness then hold them ( in the houses until death claims them or God renders for them a passage.

Verse 15 is about ‘women’ who are coming unto ‘faahisha’ (فاحشة) ‘Faahisha*’ is an unlawful yet openly committed sexual act (HQ4:19; 33:30; 27:54). 

Those who desire such acts to spread amongst the Faithful are severely warned (HQ24:19).  If you copy paste the word (فاحشة) in Tanzil you will find the word appearing 13 times; referring 3 times to the people of the Prophet Lot, peace upon him (as in HQ7:80), and 5 times with regard to women. 

Quite significantly in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah we find the verb ‘ataa’ (أتى) in ‘to come unto faahisha’ in the present continuous tense, as we do here in verses 15 and 16.  This means that it is persistent fornication, taking place even as we speak (which makes sense, or else why would the Qur’an ask any of us who dare accuse a woman, to produce four witnesses, failing which, we would face our own flogging?) 
In one case only is the production of four witnesses possible, and that is prostitution.

6.     Verse 16 :

“And those two from amongst you who come unto it, then hurt them both, but if they repent and make amends, then overlook them, for God is an Acceptor of repentance, Most Compassionate.”  

These verses mention two unmarried people of this society, a ‘couple’ who ‘are coming unto it.  These two, when found out, must feel society’s disapproval so as to repent and make amends.  Repenting is by asking God’s forgiveness and making a conscious decision not to go that way again, and amending is by taking a positive course in their lives, which might begin by marrying each other (which could explain verse HQ24:3).  And God forgives for He is Most Compassionate.  Readers will note that the 'hurt' which society is told to inflict upon these two is not specified.  It is left up to society to decide what helpful measures to take to put this unwed couple back on the right path. 
Some have postulated that these verses are about two men in a homosexual act, and after linguistic research, I realize that it simply cannot be so.  (Yusuf Ali says 'two men' while Muhammad Asad understands it as relating to the previous verse.)  We must never lose focus on gender-equality with regard to 'reward and punishment.'  Just to think that the Qur'an would give women who are proven to commit 'faahisha' life imprisonment, while the men who are also doing it get reprimanded 'as society might see fit' makes no sense at all.  Such an explanation has lost its focus on several consistent threads which follow from the very first to the very last verse in this magnificent Compilation, one of which is justice.
Dear Readers… another consistent thread is the protection of what is dearest to a society, its wellbeing and its Treasure, its Future, its Children. 
The ‘womb-bond’ is what this is all about.
Do read Y. Ali's and M.Asad's verses; time does not permit us to do so together today, but I have given you my reading on these verses as linguistic research has helped me to understand a few of them differently.  But no matter how you read these verses, one thing will always be very clear.  Underlying God’s commands is our well-being and that of our children.  There is no treasure as valuable as our children for whom we compromise to uphold a marriage, for whom we sacrifice as parents to make sure they have the very best we can offer for the limited time they are in our charge, until they become part of our society and take us all forward to levels we could not reach.  That is how the best of societies evolve.  Sex is a mature person's responsibility, one which makes our Treasure or breaks its backbone.  Remember the nurturance ‘rahmah’ we spoke of in ‘The Marriage Union’ and Sternberg’s Love Triangle?  Parents, especially mothers (who continue to hold their young as if in their wombs till they die), often put their own dreams on hold to make sure they satisfy their young children’s requirements towards self-fulfillment.  As Yusuf Ali so eloquently said, "sex, which governs so much of our physical life, and has so much influence on our emotional and higher nature, deserves-not our fear, or our contempt, or our amused indulgence, but our reverence in the highest sense of the term."  It is only because of this reverence that irresponsible sexual acts are to be repulsed by society.  It is also why Awareness is a major component in the male-female relationship.

7.     Verses 17-18 are about Repentance, from whom it is accepted and from whom it is not.  How could someone who commits a wrongful act in ignorance and then is quick to seek repentance, be similar to another who keeps up his wrongful ways till, when death approaches he pays it lip-service- or chooses to die in Denial?
The wording of this verse is beautiful, especially when the Qur’an says that indeed, the ‘Tawba’ is ‘upon’ (على) God…  When applied to anyone else, ‘upon’ indicates binding obligation.  Here God makes it seem as if it is ‘incumbent’ upon Him, while it is not; it is part of His attribute as The Most Forgiving!  

Enough said!

Our next Reading is from HQ4:19-26.

Peace unto all!

The only punctuation in the Qur’an are the ‘stars’ marking the end of each verse (and the beginning of the next) so each verse should be considered one full sentence from beginning to end.  This is why partial quoting of any verse is unacceptable, because one missed word could corrupt Qur’anic intent by changing the entire context- yet the partially quoted verse would sound complete! 
In Arabic, ‘feminine plural’ is when the group consists of females alone.  Whenever both men and women are concerned, the plural is always ‘masculine.’
I will point to gender when the verse necessitates differentiation, however when it is addressed to society I’ll just point out that it is plural (but remember that it will be in the masculine, also addressing the females in their midst).

*في معجم المقاييس: (وصي) يدلُّ على وَصلِ شيءٍ بشيء. ووَصَيْتُ الشَّيءَ: وصَلْتُه. ويقال: وطِئْنا أرضاً واصيةً، أي إنَّ نَبتَها متَّصلٌ قد امتلأَتْ منه. ووَصَيْتُ اللّيلَةَ باليوم: وصَلْتُها، وذلك في عملٍ تَعمَلُه. والوصِيَّة من هذا القياس، كأنّه كلامٌ يُوصَى أي يُوصَل. يقال: وصَّيْتُه توصيةً، وأوصَيْتُه إيصاء.
*وقال الراغب الأصفهاني: وصى: الوصية: التقدم إلى الغير بما يعمل به مقترنا بوعظ من قولهم: أرض واصية: متصلة النبات، ويقال: أوصاه ووصاه. ووصى: أنشأ فضله، وتواصى القوم: إذا أوصى بعضهم إلى بعض.
وفي لسان العرب: وصي: أَوْصى الرجلَ ووَصَّاه: عَهِدَ إِليه؛ والوَصِيُّ: الذي يُوصي والذي يُوصى له، وهو من الأَضداد.

*(فرض) يدلُّ على تأثيرٍ في شيء من حزٍّ أو غيره. فالفَرْض: الحزُّ في الشَّيء. يقال: فَرَضْتُ الخشبةَ. والحَزُّ في سِيَة القوس فَرْضٌ، حيث يقعُ الوتَر. والفَرْض الثّقب في الزَّند في الموضع الذي يُقدَح منه. والمِفْرض: الحديدة التي يُحَزّ بها. ومن الباب اشتقاق الفَرْض الذي أوجَبَه الله تعالى، وسمِّي بذلك لأنّ لـه معالمَ وحدوداً. وعلى معنى بَيَّنَّا وفَصَّلْنا ما فيها من الحلال والحرام والحدُود. وقوله تعالى: قد فرَضَ اللّه لكم تَحِلّةَ أَيْمانِكم؛ أَي بيَّنها. وكذلك الفَرائضُ بالمِيراثِ

*The term ‘faahisha’ is from (فحش) 'fahasha' (which we talked about on Jan 26th and we said denoted the spread of something corrupt and repulsive(.

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