As you may know, I have started reading through a Juz of the Quran each day of Ramadan. I've been reading through An-Nisa, and have come across a few things that I don't quite understand.
Here are some of the problematic passages:
1. If any of your women is guilty of unnatural offense, bring four of your witnesses to give evidence; if they testify against them, regain them in the houses until death, or until God provide some other way for them. (An-Nisa 15)
a.) What is the unnatural offense? It seems to suggest homosexual behavior in the context of the next verses.
b.) What would the witnesses have to say that they had witnessed for this to be prosecuted?
c.) What is meant by until God provide some other way for them?
The passage continues:
But if two men among you are guilty of such acts then punish both of them. But if they repent and reform, let them be, for God accepts such repentance and is merciful. (An-Nisa 16)
b.) What is the required amount of witnesses for the men? The text doesn't say, and what is the punishment for them?
c.) Let them be?! So men don't have ANY punishment if they just promise to never do it again?
It just isn't setting well with me at this point.
2. Unlawful to you are your mothers and daughters...(other list of women prohibited for marriage) and the daughters of the wives you have slept with who are under your charge; but in case you have not slept with them there is no offense (if you marry their daughters);
a.) So the text seems to be saying that you can marry the daughter of your wife (who is not presumably your own daughter), but only if you hadn't slept with that particular wife yet. Why would one have a wife with whom he hadn't yet consummated the marriage yet?
While we're on this topic let's head back to Surah al Baqarah's teaching on divorce in v. 230:
If a man divorces her again ( a third time), she becomes unlawful for him (and he cannot remarry her) until she has married another man.
Then if he divorces her there is no harm if hte two unite again if they think they will keep within the bounds set by God and made clear for those who understand.
a.) So a man is allowed to fully divorce his wife 3 times and yet take her back to him as a wife. However if he has divorced her a third time, she has to marry and divorce another man in order for them to re-unite again!
This one is problematic to me for 2 reasons. First, it seems to condone easy divorces, which are not socially positive in any culture. The woman might already know that she wants her husband back, but she has to find another man, marry him, have sex with him, and they have to be divorced in order to get her husband back. She would have to wait the obligatory 4 mos, and then she could marry her original husband. What if the husband wanted her back and they arranged the marriage to the other man basically as a sham so they could marry again. Is that not immoral?
The second reason it bothers me is that it directly contradicts this teaching about divorce from the Torah:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hands and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her and and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, for she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD, you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. (Deut 24:1-4)
You see, even if the 2nd husband died of natural causes, she could never marry the first man again.
Jesus set a higher standard for divorce in the Gospels:
It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality , makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matt. 5: 31-32)
What do you guys think about divorce in general? I think that it can be necessary, even in cases where one party is not necessarily unfaithful. What if the husband is abusive or prone to anger? What if he is lazy and refuses to provide for the family? What if the woman is abusive to her children or endangers them? I think those types of cases are definitely enough reason to divorce. People can change, but the sad truth is that sometimes they don't.
Is Jesus teaching on divorce too strict? I don't think that he's saying that there is never a case where remarriage can happen (although some churches do teach this). I think that he was using harsh language because divorce was too common and easy in the Judean culture of the 1st Century A.D. We're leaning back that direction again. My parents are one of the few their age I know who are still married. I don't think that marriages should be rushed into or out of unless there is a reason of someone's safety or sanity.
I will add to this if I come across anything else confusing in my reading.
And please, I welcome comments of all kinds as well as links to good sources of commentary.
May God be with all of you each and every hour!