Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
There is a commonly known verse of the Quran: “If you fear that you cannot treat orphans with fairness, then you may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three, or four. But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them, marry one only or any slave-girls you may own. This will make it easier for you to avoid injustice.” (4:3)
You don’t have to trust my translation of the verse and right now you can read almost fifty different English translations of this verse.
This verse talks to the Muslim men, how to find a wife and how many. There is no verse in the holy Quran that tells women to go about and find a man of their liking and when and if he brings a second wife or already has a wife, what to do!
I am not talking about polygamy here, not even a little bit, not at all.
Point I am trying to make is very simple. Very often the Quran talks to men and address to women is implied only indirectly and they are often not the first addressee of the scripture. So, as regards the women we are always interpreting the text for them.
The Quran was not revealed in ‘he or she’ idiom as its first addressee was a male dominant society of the seventh century Arabia, where young daughters were buried alive. No doubt, it was a very progressive text in its time. Today, in the context of emphasis on the women rights for the last century or more, we have to read the text in the present day needs and demands of our age.
When Islam or the Quran is criticized by advocates of human rights and women rights, in the West, often the problem is not of the Quran, the left leaning philosophers or the feminists, but of those zealot Muslims and the so called religious scholars, who have such severe nostalgia that they are not open to modern reading of the Quran.
For every believing Muslim lady, who wants to stand on her own two feet, let me help by providing some readings for a more progressive understanding of the Quranic text: