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The Rights of Women in Islam

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Salman Hassan Jabbaar

Some have heard of the custom among pre-Islamic Arabs of burying the newly born female child. There was a feeling of shame among those Arabian tribes if one's wife bore him a girl. When Islam came it utterly prohibited this killing of innocent babies. This measure gave a special distinction to the new religion and enhanced Muhammad's reputation in the eyes of all his people. Actually the custom was not universal; maybe just among those tribes who were unstable and relied largely on raiding, pillaging and fighting with others. And so when these tribes became Muslim they abandoned their ancient custom. However there still persisted a negative feeling towards the female throughout the whole region.

Here, while I would like to express my deep respect to Muhammad for his part in banning the murder of innocent babies, I wish he had also granted the female more than her mere right to life. Evidently she was given hardly any rights to protect her and uphold her dignity and worth in the eyes of Islamic society. For we have seen earlier in our discussion how Islam, definitely lowers women's station in society. Even the Prophet himself declared that woman is deficient, both mentally and religiously.

Mentally, because Islamic jurisprudence does not accept the witness of one woman whom it considers incapable of a reliable testimony. Therefore, where necessary it prescribes the witness of two women to be equivalent to one man.

This is how the text reads: and call to witness two witnesses of your people; but if there be not two men, let there be a man, and two women of those whom ye shall judge fit for witnesses: if the one of them should mistake, the other may cause her to recollect. (The Cow verse 281).

The reason why she is deficient religiously is due to her condition during her monthly period; she is considered to be in a state of imbalance spiritually and thus incapable of proper prayer or sustained fasting. Her menstrual period would interrupt that, even though it is the very thing, biologically which gives her fertility and thus the vehicle for continuance of the species. However, one presumes that she continues to be a woman and effective, after her own fashion... One reads of a saying by the Prophet, related in the "Sahih" by Al Bukhari: Oh ye women I have yet to find anyone swifter to the heart of a resolute man than one of you half-witted and irreligious lot! They asked: 'How are we irreligious and half-witted, oh Apostle of God' He replied: Isn't the testimony of the woman equal to that that of the man? They said: 'Yes'. He countered: That is due to her inferior mind; adding isn't it true that during her period she neither prays nor fasts? They said: 'True' Then he said: That is due to her lack of religion!

And since the woman has so much deficiency it is incumbent to direct her from on top. You suppress her when she is recalcitrant, expect total obedience from her without the least protest and to be led like a lamb wherever the father, brother and, later the husband wishes. A questioner might ask: "Does the woman have any rights at all?" You reply: "Yes", but it is not for us to decide where these lie!

Once the Prophet was asked about this subject: "What rights does the woman have with the man?" He replied: He should feed her if he eats, clothe her when he dresses, avoid disfiguring her or beating her excessively or abandoning her except at home.

These then are her rights: To be beaten but not enough to disfigure her (even though it might disfigure her spiritually and mentally) and to abandon or desert her at home - meaning shunned confinement in bed - at times when she is in most need of her only man. You remember, she does not have the right to marry four husbands... She will be fed and clothed like any other member in the household of her husband. Nothing special. She is accrued of no higher value beyond that! (See surat Women verse 33) As for the rights of the man with the woman; all things both the possible and impossible. The wife has to keep her husband happy no matter what it costs. It is everything to her. She also has to respect him and place him in a very elevated position in her spiritual and temporal life. The Prophet even mentioned that if it were decreed to kneel in worship to other than God, he would have ordered that women kneel before their husbands! The woman is also duty bound to be ready any time of night or day to satisfy her man's sexual needs, regardless of circumstances even if she is sick... It is attributed to Abu Huraira in the "Tayalisi", that he said: The man has the right to approach his wife even if she were menstruating.

So much for sexual matters. What about social affairs?

As we have mentioned earlier, no single woman's testimony is accepted in a court of law. The same is true of all other legal transactions. The woman is treated in a far inferior manner than the man. For example she cannot inherit the same amount as the man because the latter has the lion's share of the inheritance since he is complete mind and religion. As for her, No! Therefore she only receives one third. We find in the surat of Women: To the male a portion twice the female's, etc. where there is also a list of women's civil rights in Islamic society.

The Veil

What is the veil and why is it necessary for the Muslim woman to wear one? I recall when I was still in my homeland that many of my Muslim brethren used to regard the Christian woman as degenerate and loose in her morals for she would go out immodestly dressed often in clothes which revealed her physical attractions... And although this description only applies to some, yet I tend to agree with them. But I categorically object to the label "Christian" or "believer" being applied to such. Indeed, Christianity has nothing to do with these persons. For I believe in my religion with such conviction that I know it is the religion of holiness and chastity. When it enters a person's life and heart it ennobles and purifies it and lifts it above all uncleanness. For that reason the Christian person becomes, in the words of Scripture "a New Creature". As for those who have inherited their religion from their relatives and society, it does not follow that they are adherents of that religion nor bound by its precepts. These days there are millions who follow Islam but it is evident that not all Muslim women are veiled or follow the precepts or are bound by the fundamentals of their faith. What do you think; are they Muslims or no?

Regarding those nominal Christians, both women and men, they will attract to themselves the greater judgment because in their lifestyle they dishonor and crucify Christ again, in a manner of speech. But the true Christian woman is the one who is beautified by the presence of the Lord in her life. She is of neat appearance, careful what she wears, choosing only modest dresses so as not to be a temptation for other men, and so on. She has within her personality that quiet, meek spirit enjoined by the Bible. At the same time she is careful to keep her husband happy and attached to her physically and spiritually (see First Epistle of Peter chapter 3). This is the Christian woman, in God's sight, the woman who does her duty towards God by prayer, fasting, and godliness with knowledge and not by blind tradition. If she attends church, she stores God's words in her heart, memorizing them, and worships with fear and reverence. She covers her head for the sake of the angels and because God's presence fills the place. She does not enter the church dressed in anything less than modest. What really baffles me is that some modern women object strongly to this way of life in spite of the fact that the subject in the Bible is plain and clear. Some argue that these restrictions applied to the ancient world. We are now towards the end of the twentieth century, which is marked by its progress, prosperity and culture. Surely, they argue it is no longer necessary for the female to cover her head in the presence of God. I say, this is a gross error. The One who decreed this is the eternal God in whom there is no variability or change. He is Lord of yesterday, today and tomorrow; the God of the first century and the twentieth and he is Lord of all. The issue here is very plain but anyone who wants to do as he wishes let him do so without attributing it to God. We have the letter of the beloved Paul to the citizens of Corinth which explains this divine subject, leaving no room for doubt. In chapter eleven and starting at verse five we read: And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. Thus we see that the Apostle did not leave a choice; either the head should be shaved or covered. He mentions shaving the head here because the women of that culture used to despise those with shaven heads because it was the style of the harlot. Observe carefully that he leaves no room for choice: either the woman is a follower of Christ or Satan. If she is Christ's she must obey his commandments not what the world dictates, in the way of alluring modern fashions and hair-styles. So it is clear that during a woman's attendance at church she should cover her head.

Now that we know what our Christian position is let us discuss this sensitive subject in Islam. Where did the veil come from? It was not known among the women of Quraish nor in the early stages of the Islamic religion when dress and ornament were in the traditional Arab styles. When the new religion moved from Mecca to Medina and Muhammad began to make consistent strides in his revolution laws were enacted for the residents of that city. Also the Koranic suras came down more frequently, regulating the people's rights and duties in the new society. As Muhammad began to marry one wife after another it gave rise to a certain jealousy from his distant followers vis a vis his wives. Such jealousy is not uncommon when a man has that number of spouses and since he cannot be with them a lot of the time... We have already alluded to the fact that Muhammad used to spend most of his time in his main house with Aiysha his favorite wife. It therefore became necessary to provide sufficient protection for his other wives by way of keeping them confined in their houses and not allowing them to venture out at all without permission. One day, a follower and relative of the Prophet named Talha was discovered visiting one of Muhammad's wives. This angered the Prophet and he ordered him not to be seen there again, to which the man responded: "She is my cousin and, by God, nothing improper took place between us!" The Prophet retorted: "None is more jealous than God and none is more jealous than me!" This sentiment was repeated more clearly on another occasion when he forbade his followers from entering his house without a specific permission from him. It is recalled that his servant 'Ans who was one of his honored followers stalked him about something he needed. Muhammad asked him to desist and forbade him from entering his house. This is how the sure reads: O believers, enter not the houses of the Prophet, except leave is given you for a meal, without watching for its hour. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have had the meal, disperse, neither lingering for idle talk; that is hurtful to the Prophet, and he is ashamed before you; but God is not ashamed before the truth. And when you ask his wives for any object, ask them from behind a curtain; that is cleaner for your hearts and theirs. It is not for you to hurt God's Messenger, Neither to marry his wives after him, ever; surely that would be, in God's sight, a monstrous thing (Sura The Confederates vs. 52 ff.)

The fact is that no matter how many layers of clothes a woman may wear, even thick cloaks, etc. covering all that may give rise to lust in the beholder, the problem remains with the person of the woman herself. How many well draped ladies from all denominations and sects do not possess a draped or hidden spirit! If a woman does not fear God and has not his presence in her life, neither a veil nor doors or locks will stop her from doing what she wants, barriers notwithstanding... There have been many examples of this phenomenon.

However, if the heart of the woman is graced with the fear of God and filled with his wonderful light, one finds the believing woman without order or threat will reverence God's presence in her life. She will always appear as an honorable lady whether at home or abroad, preserving within her the meekness of the holy Lord and remaining faithful to her family to the end of her days.

Divorce

This subject is considered one of the most important in any human society and is frowned on generally in all religions. Moreover, divine authority has forbidden divorce in the family but some people's intolerable situations have made divorce necessary.

In the Bible, in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 24 we read: If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. (Deut. 24:1-4)

It is plain then that God does not permit divorce except when a real, clear indecency is found in the woman such that she is no longer wanted by her husband. However, no sooner does he allow her divorce than he immediately bans her from her first husband after she has had intercourse with another man. The word 'defiled' is used to make it clear that in God's sight divorce is an abomination, after he had blessed the family and the two become 'one body'. She no longer has the option of taking another 'body'. Thus came the clear injunction regarding her non-return to her former husband after divorcing him; she has become another 'body' for another man. On the face of it, this scripture appears to be too harsh on the subject. The truth is that God desires that there be no loathsome situations in society nor division in the home!

But in spite of that some Jewish sects legislated their own special rules for divorce. Some schools of thought allowed it, for instance in the event that the wife could not cook or perform adequately in bed. The matter degenerated into a kind of game; a man would marry one day and divorce the next. Consequently, when Jesus came on the scene he wanted to save the family and to end the decline and disintegration of society, hence he banned divorce, except for the sin of adultery. If a woman committed adultery and been unfaithful to her husband the first punishment would be abandoning and divorcing her. She has not respected the presence of God in her life but went after her physical lust. The same prescription and consequences applied to the husband. And because in these cases, unfaithfulness is regarded as primarily directed to God, there is first a spiritual divorce between the body of the adulterer and the Holy Ghost, followed by a physical divorce between the two partners. This is the only situation where divorce is permitted; other than that, No! In the gospel of Mark chapter ten there is a comprehensive treatment of this subject. Jesus had been asked a pertinent question by a very dogmatic Jewish group. His reply was full and convincing. Here is the whole narrative: Some Pharisees came and tested him (i.e. Jesus) by asking, "Is if lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

"What did Moses command you?" he replied. They said, "Moses permitted a us to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.

"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied.

"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female'.

'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

And in the gospel of Matthew Jesus deals with the same problem in chapter five and verses thirty one and thirty two: "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce." But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced commits adultery.

One asks, "Was God unjust here?" - God forbid! He wanted to elevate the status of the woman and her value and keep her presence as a wife and not a divorcee... God stressed the inadmissibility of divorce except for a fatal flaw, namely marital infidelity. Therefore the divorces due to anger, incompatibility and inadequate sexual performance are not legitimate divorces in God's sight. Any man or woman who divorces for such reasons, then remarries is viewed as an adulterer by God. Therefore this is the Bible's view of divorce. What about it in Islam? It is common knowledge among all sects of Islam that a man can divorce his wife for any reason notwithstanding it being in God's eyes a most hateful remedy.

There are a number of classifications here. For example, a man can divorce his wife twice without her knowledge and take her back. If he divorces her the first time and leaves her he can return to her whenever he wants without seeking her opinion. This is known as 'Al Bainoona as Sughra' i.e. Minor Separation. However, if he divorces her the second time it is incumbent on both parties to wait a while. If no signs of love or returning to the marital home are evident, the wife has to observe a probationary period of three months for fear she may be pregnant. That is called 'Al Bainoona al Kubra' i.e. Major Separation. Should the wife be pregnant the husband must bear the expenses of her confinement if he insists on leaving her. After the childbirth they will divorce. If she returns to him and he divorces her again she is no longer permissible to him since she is now in a major separation.

If the divorcees insist on returning to one another the woman has to first consummate a marriage with another competent man who will then divorce her through a minor separation. In that case she can return to her first husband. And so the same cycle is repeated if the man divorces her again she finds herself going through a minor separation, and so on!

In the sure The Cow in verses 225-232 there is a description of this process. It is worth mentioning that a certain man named Rufa'a al Kurthi had a wife who went to complain to Muhammad. She said that her husband divorced her 'by the three', that is by repeating orally the words: "I divorce you" three times. After that she married Abdul Rahman ibn Al Zubair but they had not consummated the marriage yet. After hearing her, the Prophet smiled then said: "do you want to return to Rufa'a, you cannot do so till after you have had your honeymoon with your new husband!" This principle is clearly enunciated in that same sure verse 229 where it says: If he divorces her finally, she shall not be lawful to him after that, until she marries another husband. If he divorces her, then it is no fault in them to return to each other, if they suppose that they will maintain God's bounds. This kind of remedy has created many problems in society. The man who divorces his wife in a fit of anger by uttering 'the three' finds it hard for himself to see his wife physically subject to another man overnight, then being re-united to her again... Muslim scholars are in agreement about this phenomenon of 'muhallel'. The term usually refers to any man who consents to marry a divorced woman for one day only then divorces her the second day so that she can return to her former husband. However, many do not permit their newly divorced wives to go to bed with the 'mohallel'... It may well be that they are right because in the sight of God she is still her husband's wife. It is known that in a fit of anger a man may say something he does not mean. If that should result in the sudden loss of his spouse to another man she would have committed adultery and that is brazen godlessness. As a result she is no longer fit to return to her original husband since she has become an adulteress, deserving indeed of divorce!!

Islam also permits a man to divorce his wife in order to offer her to another as was the case between Zaid bin Haretha and the Prophet. You may recall that once Muhammad needed something from Zaid so he went to his house. There he saw Zeinab, Zaid's wife, cleaning the house. Noticing the beauty of her body he was strongly attracted to her. He exclaimed, "Praised be God who changes men's hearts!" Zeinab reported the incident in detail to her husband. He was very upset and went at once to the Prophet and asked him permission to divorce her. Muhammad concealed what he felt in his heart and urged Zaid to keep his wife. Now this was a noble posture. However, Zaid could not bear to see his adoptive father so infatuated with his only wife. He went ahead and divorced her and Muhammad quickly married Zeinab. Thereafter she would boast among the other wives of Muhammad that God married her to him despite all the odds... Let us allow the Koran to tell us this story in the surat Confederates verses 36-37: When thou saidst to him whom God had blessed and thou hadst favoured, 'Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear God, and thou wast concealing within thyself what God should reveal, fearing other men; and God has better right for thee to fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her, then We gave her in marriage to thee, so that there should not be any fault in the believers, touching the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished what they would of them; and God's commandment must be performed. It follows that his is God's adjudication of this matter: lifting the ban from Muhammad, therefore from all Muslim men to marry the divorced wives of their adopted sons or a servant or follower if the master fancied her! When one examines these texts closely one notices here that the matter is: "...fear God" originating from the lesser (the Prophet) to the one beneath him (Zaid bin Haritha). In truth, there is nothing more generous, more chaste or even more detached than this! The Prophet here wanted to preserve his follower's family from ruin and appeared to be helping to build up the family instead of destroying it... But what really puzzles me is the command issuing from the higher authority (God Almighty) to the lesser (Mohammed), without hiding what was in his heart of strong desire for that follower's only wife. He is not satisfied with that but goes on to chide him over the bounty and grace he was receiving from God and his Prophet. We do not know just the depth of emotional pain Zaid underwent during that tragedy but certainly his strange behavior proves that he was greatly distracted and fearful. He even went himself to notify his divorced spouse of the Prophet's intention to wed her.. He told her: "Rejoice oh Zeinab, for the Messenger of God has betrothed you to himself." That showed his complete impotence in the face of the bounties and graces which the Prophet bestowed upon him when he adopted him as a child. But we do know that man is a sinner by nature and therefore is bound to commit sin wherever he is found because he was born with it. So we can understand the Prophet's reproach to his follower. However, I stand amazed at God's reproach to that simple servant and why he should permit another to take his wife. Truly this is a baffling situation.

I well know that our God is the Father of all Lights. He is also Lord of majesty and bounty and that every good gift from him comes to us from a pure heart free from reproach or partiality. The Apostle James teaches us this lesson clearly in the first chapter of his epistle. He says: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Let us return to the heart of the matter in the text. We see that God dealt with the Prophet according to the desire of his heart. He did not, for instance check him or turn him from his path yet he blamed him for hiding the matter, for fear of the people. Evidently the case is reversed here; in Muhammad's lust for Zeinab he did not really fear God but men. Yet he was instrumental in her prompt divorce!!

But beloved, we notice that Almighty God, Lord of all holiness and master of every authority has a different view in the Bible. It is very easy for God to make of His prophet a martyr and pluck him from this earth rather than make a laughingstock of him in the eyes of people. He also had, in addition to His mercy and nobility a justice which had to prevail; spiritual values superseding physical ones, and heavenly issues overruling earthly ones. For the things of earth were created for the One in heaven and not the opposite!

I, as a humble and ordinary observer fail to discern any heavenly principles in this whole story as related in The Confederates despite my stated deference. On the contrary the incident and its justification all appears to be physical and earthy. By contrast, if we refer without bigotry and with the same degree of neutrality to the gospel of Mark chapter 17 we shall find a story similar to what transpired between Muhammad and his follower Zaid but quite different in principle with regard to the divine intervention!

It recounts how the prophet John the Baptist (corresponds to Yahya bin Zacharia in the Koran) was strongly opposed to the marriage of the King Herod to his brother's wife since the latter was still living. He argued with him, in the name of God, denouncing him vehemently at other times. He was quite unafraid in his protest - until it cost him his head, literally. He paid the ultimate price for standing up for the truth. Here, as a simple observer I would say this shows God's justice displayed in His majestic and unique and impartial holiness. There is no compromise. No other position is tenable!

And now, If I may ask of my dear Muslim reader a question: "Suppose you are a simple working man, laboring to spend on your home and wife. You are also very loyal to your boss and to the firm. Assume your boss, who is the source of all your income were to visit your home one day during your absence as a sign of his affection and humility. His eyes fall on your beautiful wife and her charms captivate him... He conveys his feelings to her. She too relays to you what had happened. Tell me, in all honesty and integrity, how would you feel and how would you treat your financial benefactor in view of his shameful behavior. Please do not answer now. However, think about it and review the above mentioned texts carefully. The rest is up to you. While you are thinking about this allow me to mention to you what God says to us in the Bible on this subject, since he regards it as a great sin. We read in I Thessalonians chapter 4: vs. 3-7 the words:

It is God's will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

It should be added that Islam also sanctions divorcing the wife if the parents do not approve of her. Quoting Ibn Amr: I once had a wife whom I loved but Amr hated her and asked me to divorce her. I refused Amr then went and told the Prophet of God and he ordered me to divorce her.

Here, the father's dislike, for whatever reason of his daughter in law caused him to divorce her. And the judge in this case was no less than the Prophet himself. We do not know what happened to this poor woman who was the scapegoat of someone just hating her! But we can imagine the unbearable anguish she felt having to part from her husband. She may even have been driven to a life on the streets. For divorce - God preserve us - destroys homes, causes deviancy among family members and drives children away. This is why the Lord God forbade it, except for the sin of adultery by one spouse or the other or both. Divorce for any other reason is ruled out!

It comes as no surprise to you that Muhammad enjoyed immense spiritual authority among all his friends; hence his attribution of some of his deeds to divine providence, including his sexual adventures as well as his fickle behavior towards his legal wives. Whenever he angered any of them by an unseemly action he would invoke God's sanction in a text of the Koran. That would silence them and he was able to put the matter finally to rest. Let me wind up this topic by mentioning a typical case, where Muhammad claimed God's 'justification' on his behalf. It concerns his wife Hafsa in the incident quoted earlier but illustrates a broad principle:

It is possible that, if he divorces you, his Lord will give him in exchange wives better than you, women who have surrendered, believing, obedient, penitent, devout, given to fasting, who have been married and virgins too.
The Forbidding, verse 5.

What is worth noting is that the occasion for the coming down of this verse was when Omar told some of Muhammad's wives, in his presence: "It may be, if he divorces you that God will send him better ones." To which the Prophet replied: "God couldn't agree less, oh Omar!"

Adultery

Both the Christian and Muslim religions rejects the existence of adultery in society. In the Old Testament days the penalty for adultery was death by stoning. The person was considered to have surrendered himself or herself to satan and strayed from the love of God. What follows is a description of the sentence for the sin of adultery, found in Leviticus chapter 20: If a man commits adultery with another man's wife - with the wife of his neighbor - both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (verse 10) It is repeated, in the same vein in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 22 and verse 23: If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them the gate of that town and stone them to death...

This was God's law before Christ who when He came, embodied God's love for mankind. And since He preached love and forgiveness to all people, He forgave the woman who had been caught in adultery and whom the people wanted to stone - in accordance with the law. But God wanted to give this woman another chance to take stock of her life, an opportunity to become a new creature! After forgiving her, Christ told her to go her way but to "sin no more". While we are on this subject, let us see how the disciple John described this incident in the Gospel: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning him, He straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said.

Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared.

"Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:3-11)

Therefore we see clearly that God's view of this woman differed completely from that of the crowd. They saw her as a criminal, deserving death by stoning. He, however saw her as a victim of that society. The townspeople had apprehended her alone, allowing the other adulterer to escape and find refuge!! Jesus forgave her, giving her another opportunity and the record suggests that this woman was among those who followed Jesus wherever He went, adoring, nurturing in her heart the fear of a holy God; which leads naturally to the question: "Did Jesus' handling of the case mean that he sanctioned adultery in some cases and under special circumstances?" We would emphatically reply: "NO, God forbid!" For God is holy and cannot accept uncleanness wherever found. The Bible too warns categorically against this sin, as we have seen. In fact it orders us to 'flee adultery' and to 'boycott the corrupt one in our midst'. It exhorts us to keep our bodies pure because they are the temple of God; his Spirit dwells in us. Thus, in the case of the man who had committed adultery with his father's wife - mentioned in I Corinthians- God did not forgive him. On the contrary He was angry with him and ordered the church to excommunicate him. He was to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the body in order that, perhaps his soul might be saved. (look up I Corinthians chap. 5)

Then, in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5 he confirms the prohibition against this sort of thing. It reads: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving, etc.

You notice here that the apostle grouped adultery with some other vices, considering all of them to be sin. The Lord repeats to us this prohibition in the words of the Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians chapter four. Indeed He commands us there to keep our bodies (vessels) in holiness and dignity and not in 'passionate lust' like people who do not know God. Last, but not least we have in the letter to the Romans a strict censure from the Lord against this practice in order to stamp it out among the believers. In chapter 13, God Almighty calls on the children of men to, Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (verses 13,14)

But for the lack of space here we would have mentioned many examples where adultery is forbidden in the Christian faith and where one is commanded to keep holy both body and soul in a complete union with God. Finally the words of Jesus Christ Himself tower above all the rest. In the gospel of Matthew, chapter five, we read: You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell vow that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (verses 27,28) These words, from the Master himself are meant to put an end, not only to physical adultery but the spiritual and mental as well. Do you now see what God means by holiness? What does Islam have to say on this subject?

We have already noted that adultery is also forbidden in Islam. The Koran in the various suras condemns this ugly and repugnant act and addresses the believers with warnings and threats against it. That is most admirable in my view. But the amazing thing I find is that this position contradicts the situations we have examined earlier, notably the practice of Temporary Marriage (Zawaj Al Mut'aa). But even in this case the punishment of the parties is unequal: the man's is limited to a flogging while the woman has to be imprisoned until death. This law was later abrogated to just eighty strokes for the man and one hundred strokes for the woman. But this law is not enforced in all Islamic countries. For instance, Egypt - a large Islamic country sentences the woman to a prison term ranging from six months to three years, not exceeding that. But the question which comes naturally to people's minds is: "How effective is the flogging or imprisonment? And do the beatings, torture and bodily confinement rehabilitate the wrongdoer or the fear of these punishments limit the occurrence of adultery? The answer is left to my readers. But I can tell you that no whip or prison or sword can stop a person from committing shameful deeds. Unless a person is born again - made a new creature - as God intended him to be he will continue in a vicious circle lost, as in a maze and unable to get out of its confines... We know that physical pleasure, like all other earthly pleasures is transitory. It is, as the Bible describes, like a garment which is folded up and discarded. By contrast, God's majesty and beauty are eternal. Therefore it behooves us to listen to His voice rather than the voice of our carnal natures! For if we do the latter we only feed it with death and corruption, whereas, if we listen to the voice of God's Spirit within us we attain to God's beauty, power and joy. Truly, how weak man is and how miserable when his main preoccupation is in the body. And here, we don't mean just sexual pleasures but everything which an uncontrolled person's nature seeks. What is one to do? Do we fight and keep under check our bodies or allow them free rein to hoard and possess and thus destroy all that is beautiful in us? How much better it is for us to restrain and reign in our physical natures, rising above them; instead of these natures controlling and leading us we should direct and channel them in a way well-pleasing to God.

I am thrilled at the words of the beloved apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian Christians, chapter five:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions and envy: drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:16 ff.)

Therefore, if we are led by the Spirit we are in complete control over the operation of the sinful nature. As such, we have no need of the whip or the jailer because there is a higher authority in control. It is the Spirit of God within us. There is then no need for threats or suppression from others who, themselves are under the sway of the same sinful nature. The conclusion of the matter is that whoever wants God's love and fear to rule in his heart must leave behind the old life and press on to what is new where there is no fear, threat or spiritual 'bribery' ... Instead, there is a full life, marked by holiness and striving upwards to reach the full stature of Christ. He is the Christian's model.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature dictates but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace... (Romans 8:5,6).

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