Blogging the Quran: Sura 4

When Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq the videos of this helpless woman pleading apparently for her life ran shockwaves around the world; well at least in my living room. Despite being treated "well", as we hear in the aftermath, my response was "Monsters!" or something like that. They murdered her friend and interpreter during her kidnapping and then stuffed her into a room…

"You are to stay in this room. And this window, don't put one hand on this window," he continued. "I have a place underground. It is very dark and small, and cold, and if you put one hand on this window, we will put you there. Some of my friends said we should put you there, but I said, 'No she is a woman.' Women are very important in Islam." — One of Jill Carroll's kidnappers

I am curious to know just how important women are in Islam outside of the 70 virgins that horny martyrs are supposed to get for murdering non Muslim women and children. That's why I was at least partially excited to open the fourth sura and find out that it's title was "women". So what does the Quran teach about women in this Surah? let's begin our meandering journey. There in the first verse we at least acknowledge that God created one man and one woman. Following that are a number of warnings. Treat orphans equitably – don't try to rip them off. But if you can't be nice to an orphan marry a few wives; up to four of them. (I remember reading that Mohamed had nine wives?)

Ayat (verses) 1-18

Women are permitted to inherit from their parents as are the men (The same occurs in Numbers 27:1-7). There's a lengthy section dealing with orphan's rights here which really boil down to don't cheat them, treat them equitably, be nice to them, don't forget to speak to them about Allah. When it comes time for the inheritance though men get twice what the women get if there is two or 2/3 if there are three. Whatever the case men get more than the women. Immorality however is given an equal shake. Men and women must both die, but curiously enough it is only mentioned that the women are to be locked up and given a chance to repent. But even then repentance is only accepted if they sinned out of ignorance. (How could you commit adultery ignorantly? Ok it might be possible but I think not entirely probable.)

v19- 21 Divorce

Divorce is not exactly shunned but if you're going to divorce a woman, you can't renig on the dowry you gave her. If you divorce one woman in order to marry another you have to let her keep her bride money. I'm not sure why you would divorce #1 when you're allowed up to four wives. I suppose if number 5 was a hotty under that burkha you might consider it. Or just go blow yourself up and get 70 virgins if you're so inclined. v22 – 28 Inappropriate marriages This section is reminiscent of Leviticus 18 in it's list of immoral sexual relations. You can marry a woman and her daughter as long as you don't have sex with mom until after you've married and had sex with the daughter. Another twist is that concubines are out; if you sleep with a slave woman it had better be after you married her. As we come to the end of this section there is a curious comment that "man is created weak". Biblically too there is some truth to that statement in that we were created weaker than the angels. But here I have to say that the Quran apparently teaches that mankind was created sinful. That's a pretty gross departure from Genesis' picture of perfect in creation. The weakness of man is not due to creation but to Adam's awful choice.

v29-35 Beat them!

I've found the secret to Muslim salvation, well maybe, but the thirty-first verse says

Sura 4:31 If you shun the great sins which you are forbidden, We will do away with your small sins and cause you to enter an honorable place of entering.

I'm guessing that "we" means Allah and Mohamed. At any rate it's clearly a mirror of Catholicism's seven deadly sins. Avoid the big ones and the small one's won't matter much. That's a far cry again from the perfection which the True God demands (and provides in Jesus' sacrifice.) In this section we discover that men are the caretakers of women; which is to say that men are supposed to make sure their needs are met. However if you fear that a woman is going to leave you, beat her. Yes, you read it here folks, wife beating is perfectly justified in Islam. I cheated again and read a footnote on this verse. Apparently in a few places throughout the Koran the prophet says don't beat her. Of course this latter speech causes then quite a tizzy, even with Mohamed I guess. It's kind of hard to get past the clarity of this particular text though. vv36 – 44 Good morals. As I keep moving through, I am continually noticing how many injunctions to worship Allah are scattered throughout this book. It's really hard to find the doctrines of a given passage when I have to keep trying to figure out if this verse is a scattered worship verse or an integral part of the teaching. Muslims I suppose would say I'm splitting a hair because you can't have one without the other. Many verses are reminders to not be stingy, selfish, mean, dishonest, self-centered, self-glorying and the like. Don't pray when you're drunk or having sex. Thus far I'd call this the "moral chapter".

vv45- 100 kill the Unbelievers (and Jews)

Well maybe not yet so moral, Allah has cursed the Jews. in sura 4:47 we come again to the warning to the Jews to either repent and accept the Koran or "before we alter faces then turn them on their backs…" I believe that means kill them. Either way a lengthy diatribe begins against anyone (notably the Jews) who are not Islam. Eventually they'll be thrown into hell and when their skin burns through they'll be given another skin to burn through. Talk about graphic. However if they repent now and become Muslim the Jews can have gardens and virgins too! Farther down around the 71'st verse we begin injunctions for the [Islamic] believers to go out in bands (raiding parties?)

Sura 4:74 Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world's life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.

Dying for Allah is again a good thing. And in a war, any war – there are only two sides. The side of believers (Islam) and the side of Satan (non -Muslims)

Sura 4:76 Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the [Satan]. Fight therefore against the friends of the Satan; surely the strategy of the Satan is weak.

Despite all the really good moral teaching found earlier it is, for me, completely obliterated in this section of militant orders to go out and fight for Allah. Those who would deign to claim that the Quran is a peaceful book haven't read it or are lying. It is indeed a peaceful book to the Muslim, but for the non Muslim it is a book of warning and war. If you are not Muslim you must die, that is the message of the book. Of course all these warnings I mention are not written to the unbelievers but they are warnings to Muslims to not refuse to fight for Allah. In fact don't even allow yourself a friend who is not Muslim. And if a Muslim turns away from Islam "Kill them" (Sura 4:89) It is always Allah's will to fight people unless they turn away from you. If people back down in front of Islam it is a sign that "Allah has not given you a way against them. " (4:90) Whatever the case, kill the unbelievers; but don't kill a believer. If you kill a Muslim on purpose – hell is your only option. So the unforgivable sin for a Muslim is killing a Muslim intentionally. (4:93).

v101- 126 Prayer

Even shortening your prayers as a Muslim is ok if the reason you do is is because you're afraid of the unbelievers. And lest you forget:

Sura 4:101 "…the unbelievers are your open enemy."

I think this section is the first one I've seen on prayer – at least the first extended treatment of prayer. It's here we discover that

Sura 4:103 "…prayer is a timed ordinance for the believers."

Even here the prayer doctrine is wrapped in war. Everything else in this section seems to me to be random. There are warnings against making Allah idols. Warnings against the desires of unbelievers

v127 -130 Women

It's hard to summarize this section but it comes down to a repeating of the earlier injunctions to treat your wives well (without repeating the "beat 'em" lesson from earlier.)

v131-176 The Bible

I cannot help but notice that many times in Sura 2,3 and 4 that "the book" or the Bible is frequently praised as a revelation of Allah. As Christians we should surely use this to help bring Muslims to Jesus.

Sura 4:136 "O you who believe! believe in Allah and His Apostle and the Book which He has revealed to His Apostle and the Book which He revealed before…"

Even the last several verses of this Sura is spent as a diatribe against Jews and Christians for holding to the trinity (v171) for calling Christ "God" (v171) and many more things. The larger part of the argument is that the Bible contains pointers to Allah (so they say) but that Jews and Christians are choosing Christ over Mohammed. Ah, I think therein lies the problem does it not? Mohammed, like any dictator wanted power; what better way to gain it than to elevate yourself to demigod status? It seems that the Bible itself which Muslims are told to obey is enough to guide them to truth. Judgement day is another often repeated theme. Like the hellfire and brimstone preachers I have known, every few sentences is punctuated with warnings of hell. Hell for killing Muslims, for backing down from Jihad, for being mean to orphans, for not praying with the right motive, or for failing to believe all of the Quran/Koran and on and on it goes. Finally or rather near to finally the Quran places a number of charges against Jews and Christians. Which is not surprising. If I were going to make up a new religion, I would have to rail against the ones already in existence. One of the accusations leveled is that the Jews boast in crucifying Jesus, but Mohammad claims that Jesus was not even crucified. But rather Mohammad claims that Jesus was taken in the same manner of Elijah and Enoch."

Sura 4:157-158 "…they did not kill him nor did they crucify him… Nay! Allah took him up to Himself…"

Allah has accordingly sealed Jews and Christians out. There is no longer a doubt in my mind that Strict Islam demands the death of any non Muslim. We are not in a battle against people who have "hijacked a peaceful religion" (bleh!) We are being pursued to death by a people who are taking their religion seriously. When Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq her captors made her watch video's of them killing American Soldiers.

One video showed all these men who were going to be suicide car bombers. They interviewed them, and then showed a field, with cars lined up, and each man getting into a car – waving, just euphoric – and then driving off. Others had pictures of an American Humvee driving along – and then it would blow up, and they'd cut to a graphic of a lightning flash, and thunder clapping. To [my captors]… this was their mission, a righteous path; this was their work for God….They hate Americans so much, they're proud of these attacks. It's normal to them.
Jill Carroll, commenting on videos which her captors made her watch.

And what would happen if we Christians would take our religion seriously? We would hold more firmly to Christ and we would despise the trappings of this world. We would jettison our Televisions or at least shut them off more frequently. We would train our children in the scriptures and we ourselves would know them. But we would not kill our enemies. No, we would pray for our enemies – loving them even though they persecute us. It is here then that I find my greatest challenge. I am moved somewhere from seething anger and tears when I remember 9/11. But am I moved to love? It is the doctrine of Satan to hate those who disagree with you. It is the doctrine of God to love them in the name of Jesus and to plea with God the almighty one for their hearts to be changed and their souls redeemed.

Dear Father in heaven,
I see that those taken by the deception of Islam are held captive by the enemy of our souls. How I plead with you O my God to show them whom is the real God. Remember, my Lord, when you showed the prophets of Baal who could answer by fire and who could not. Show them, O dear Father, show them your love! Open their eyes to see Jesus Crucified for their sin – open their eyes to see his resurrection and ascension. Open their eyes and touch their lips that they might yet in this life confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And Father, this is my prayer for me: Teach me to love them as you love them. This is my desire which I ask for in the name and authority of your Son Jesus Christ. So be it. AMEN.