Qur’an 4: The Women

The fourth chapter, or book, or the Qur’an is called “The Women.” It is thematic but not linear. The Qur’anic author cares about Natural Law, Revealed Law, the relationship between God and the sinner, and the sinner’s calling on earth. The attacks on the Catholic Church escalate in metaphysical significance. Together these form of guide to what the Qur’anic author views as the good life.

The Natural Law

The Theme

We are sinners who find ourselves in the wrong places at the wrong times. To go from the right space, whether geographical or metaphysical, to the right one, is a migration:

Whoever migrates in the way of God will find many havens and plenitude in the earth.
And whoever
leaves his home
migrating toward God and His Apostle,
and is then overtaken by death,
his reward shall certainly fall on God, and
God is all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 4:100

Man has migrated in this manner since Seth, the son of Adam and Eve:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh…
Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died.
Genesis 2:24, 5:6-8

The destination of this migration is “God and His Apostle.” Let’s put aside the identity of His Apostle for now…

Avoiding Chaos

According to the Qur’an, God so loves the world that he provides a logos that exists in the world that helps the sinner wherever he is. This logos is the Book, and is not ashamed to help a sinner in any step. Even prostitution is regulated and proscribed:

As to others than these, it is lawful for you to seek with your wealth, in wedlock, not in license. For the enjoyment you have had from them thereby, give them their dowries by way of settlement, there is no sin upon you in what you may agree upon after your settlement. God is indeed all-knowing, all-wise.
Qur’an 4:24

In the moral or psychological sense of the scripture, the unordered world that is outside the Logos brings chaos, but the unordered world inside the Logos brings wisdom. Thus, the Qur’an’s regulation of chaotic aspects of human life provides wisdom for navigating life:

This system of legalized and controlled prostitution is described in the Old Testament. What Muhammad brought after Christ is what Moses brought before Christ. The catch is even with Moses this chaos is not limitless — the temporary marriage contract can be entered into once per woman. (Lawyers may enjoy the complicated procedural process here)

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. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Christ emphasized this law was given for the frailty of man. It is within the Logos not because it is an end-point, but because of the depravity that exists. Moses presents a stepping stone to Christ for those with heard hearts. Christ emphasizes this is not the final step. (And, like the Qur’anic author, he implicit references Genesis 2:24):

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:3-9

Christ says “It was not this way from the beginning” because rules were given to man because of

Moreover I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not executed my ordinances, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols. Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life; and I defiled them through their very gifts in making them offer by fire all their first-born, that I might horrify them; I did it that they might know that I am the LORD.
Ezekiel 20:23-26

Paul makes the same point. Pursuing the Law for itself is not good, because the law is not meant to be a rule-unto itself (there is no celestial “rule of law”), but a sign pointing to faithful allegiance to the Logos:

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Romans 9:30-32

Paul is concluding by quoting Isaiah:

He will be as a holy abode, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of stumbling over To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 8:14

An example of this interactive nature of giving the Law to the Jews was Christ’s noting that Moses gave the Jews a law of divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. And the same focus on Israel’s faults occur in this chapter of the Qur’an too:

Then because of their breaking their covenant, their denial of God’s signs, their killing of the prophets unjustly and for their saying, “Our hearts are uncircumcised,’ … Indeed, God has set a seal on them for their unfaith, so they do not have faith except a few.
Qur’an 4:155

Paul mentions this same blocking of faith by a covering placed by God, and the eventual solution for it:

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened;

for

to this day,
when they read the old covenant,
that same veil remains unlifted,
because only through Christ is it taken away.

Yes,

to this day
whenever Moses is read
a veil lies over their minds;
but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Indeed, all who believe will see Christ:

There is none among the People of the Book but will surely believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them.
Qur’an 4:159

Desiring the Good

Yet, the mercy of God does not imply confusion of the good or the bad. Virginity is better than whoredom. And the virginity of Mary Mother of Jesus is enthusiastically defended:

And for their faithlessness and their uttering a monstrous calumny against Mary
Due to the wrongdoings of the Jews, We prohibited them certain good things that were permitted to them, and for their barring many from the way of God.
Qur’an 4: 156, 160

This appears to be reference to an encoded section of the Babylonian Talmud, which to Jews is something like Patristic writings are to Catholics. The Babylonian Talmud reads in part:

Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, [did the children of Israel slay with the sword]. A soothsayer? But he was a prophet! — R. Johanan said: At first he was a prophet, but subsequently a soothsayer. R. Papa observed: This is what men say, ‘She who was the descendant of princes and governors, played the harlot with carpenters.’
Sanhedrin 106:39-41

A contemporary Jewish commentary on this passage reads:

‘Shipdraggers,’ (v. Rashi). Herford, Christianity in the Talmud, p. 48, suggests that Balaam is frequently used in the Talmud as a type for Jesus (v. also pp. 64-70). Though no name is mentioned to shew which woman is meant, the mother of Jesus may be alluded to, which theory is strengthened by the statement that she mated with a carpenter.

The God of the Qur’an is merciful and forgiving, but not blind. A weakness is not a strength, and a whore is not a virgin.

Avoiding Tyranny

If Order within the Logos is of God, the Order that is outside the Logos is just tyranny. The tyrannical nature of anti-Logos order can be seen by a mechanical interpretation of the rules for an Orderly life given by Moses:

“If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.
Deuteronomy 22:22

Christ, the Logos as shown by Christianity, mediates the relationship of man to God by removing tyranny. The law is not nullified, but what it means in practice is changed by its passages through the Logos:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
John 8:3-8

The Qur’an’s advice is parallel. “Four witnesses,” is a lot for any crime, and even more for a “lewd” crime which, even in a menage-a-trois, would leave only two witnesses against each participant!

Should any of your women commit an indecent act, produce against them four witnesses from yourselves, and if they testify, detain them in houses until death finishes them, or God decrees a course for them.
Qur’an 4:15

Just as the Logos defeats Chaos by providing wisdom to unordered activity, the Logos transforms Tyranny into the experience of God. Anyone could have executed the whore caught by the pharisees. Christ transformed the situation into an opportunity for penance.

Revealed Law

The Theme

The Qur’an is a post-Arian religious text and asserts the Unity of God and the created nature of his Son. But while this passage may seam to be an attack on the Trinity:

Indeed, God does not forgive that a partner should be ascribed to Him, but He forgives anything that to whomever He wishes. Whoever ascribes partners to God has indeed fabricated a great sinfulness.
Qur’an 4:48

It’s not, at least not in this passage. Elsewhere as we’ll see the Qur’an makes clear it is female partners which are being denied. And the Qur’an’s veneration for Mary makes it unlikely it is attacking the Holy Mother. Rather, the Qur’an is consistently against the one female or females that virtually all Christians consider to be totally necessary in salvation history, and which almost all Christians treat as a partner for God.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4

God Alone

“The Women” contains a creed that is the clearest summary of Qur’anic religion I have found:

O People of the Book! Do not exceed the bounds in your religion, and do not attribute anything to God except the truth.

The Messiah,
Jesus son of Mary,
was only an apostle of God, and
His word that He cast toward Mary, and

a Spirit from Him.

So have faith in God and His apostles, and do not say “Three,” Relinquish! That is better for you.

God is but the One God.
He is far too immaculate to have any son.
To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens
and whatever is on the earth,

and God suffices as trustee.
Qur’an 4:171

It is interesting that this is parallel to the original Nicene Creed . The procession is changed from Father, Son, and Spirit, to Son, Spirit, and Father (reverse of the procession presented in The Shepherd of Hermas). The Nicene Creed, re-ordered to be parallel to the Qur’an, would read:

We believe in

One Lord Jesus Christ God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father

And in the Holy Ghost.

But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.

In one God
the Father Almighty
By whom all things were made both in heaven
and on earth

[Christ] for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;

But do you notice the partner that is added to the Trinity by the Nicene Creed, but rejected by the Qur’anic creed?

A first hint: it’s the only entity mentioned in the Nicene Creed consistently described as feminine in both Scripture and Church writings.

Indeed, God does not forgive that any partner should be ascribed to Him, but He forgives anything besides that to whomever He wishes. And whoever ascribes partners to God has certainty strayed into far error.

They invoke none but females besides Him, and invoke none but some froward Satan.
Qur’an 4:116-117

The Qur’an rejects the Bride of Christ, the Church.

You and God Alone

In Christianity not only are all Christians part of Christ:

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:27-28

This is a partnering like the partnering of a man and a woman in marriage, an analogy that goes back to John the Baptist:

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.”
John 3:27-29

Christ extended this analogy:

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”
Matthew 25:1

In the Qur’an the struggle to find God is fundamentally individualistic. It is closer to Jordan Peterson’s intellectual system than either Catholic tradition or, perhaps, Peterson’s own works. The relationship is between the individual and God. Intercession, either of the saints or even of sinners by prayer, is non-existent. The Logos of the Qur’an is fundamentally passive and does not plead or intercede as does the Logos of Christianity, Christ.

Indeed, We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, so that you may judge between the people by what God has shown you; do not be an advocate for the traitors, and plead to God for forgiveness; indeed God is all-forgiving, all-merciful.

And do not plead for those who betray themselves; indeed God does not like those who are treacherous and sinful.

They try to hide from people, but they do not try to hide from God, though He is with them when they conspire overnight with a discourse that He does not approve of. And God encompasses whatever they do.

Aha! There you are, pleading for them in the life of this world! But who will plead for them with God on the Day of Resurrection, or who will be their defender?
Qur’an 4:105-109

This sounds harsh, but the very next verse emphasizes three-fold aspect of Divinity, Forgiveness, and Mercy. God saves souls, because He made them. Humans didn’t, goes the logic, and so don’t.

Whoever commits evil or wrongs himself and then pleads to God for forgiveness, will find God all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 4:110

Others are on the same journey as you. But you do not need them, you do not need their prayers, you do not need their prayers. They are with God, where you want to be, but your destination is to God, not to them.

Whoever obeys God and the Apostle — they are with those whom God has blessed, including the prophets and the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous and excellent companions are they! That is the grace of God, and God suffices as knower.

O you who have faith! Take your precautions, then go forth in companies, or go forth en masse.

Among you is indeed he who drags his feet, and should an affliction visit you, he says, ‘It was certainly God’s blessing that I did not accompany them! But should a bounty from God come to you, he will say, — as if there were no affection between you and him — ‘I wish I were with them so that I had achieved the great success!’
Qur’an 4:72

God’s control of the cosmos is absolute. He has the power to destroy humanity if he wishes:

If He wishes, He will take you away, O mankind, and bring others; God has the power to do that.

Whoever desires the reward of this world, with God is the reward of this world and the Hereafter, and God is all-hearing, all-seeing.
Qur’an 4:133-134

Though he has promised not to do so, provided that man keeps the Commands given to Noah:

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with
you and with
your descendants after you, and with
every living creature that is with you:
the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you,
of all that go out of the ark,
every beast of the earth.

Thus I establish My covenant with you:
Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
Genesis 9:8-11

This extends to the death of the Messiah. Christ did not die because of Jewish actions:

And for their saying, ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the apostle of God — though they did not kill him nor crucify him, but so it was made to appear to them. Indeed, those who differ concerning him are in doubt about him: they do not have any knowledge of that beyond following conjectures, and certainly they did not kill him.
Qur’an 4:157

But because of God’s actions:

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
Colossians 2:13-19

But note the end of that excerpt, where Christ is the Head and the body are the members. In the Qur’an, your hopes and prayers do not matter to any soul except your own.

It will be neither after your hopes nor the hopes of the People of the Book: whoever commits evil share be required for it, and he will not find for himself any friend or helper besides God. And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, should he be faithful — such shall enter paradise and they will not be wronged the speck on a date-stone.

Who has a better religion than him who submits his will to God, being virtuous, and follows the creed of Abraham, a hanif! And God took Abraham for a dedicated friend.
Qur’an 4:123-125

This Message Is For You

The Theme

The lack of intercession radically changes the understanding of the Messiah’s greatest work It was not salvation for others, God has no son and no one except God can save. Rather, the Messiah was a perfect Apostle who, in spite of all the power he was given, humbled himself before God:

The Messiah would never disdain being a servant of God, nor would the angels brought near. And whoever disdains His worship and is arrogant, He will gather them all toward Him. Qur’an 4:172

Aryan Christians believed this interpretation was in keeping with the Bible, as long as phrases that would seem to indicate equality between Jesus and the Father instead emphasized similarity. For instance, the Christology of Paul’s letter to the Philippians hangs on the meaning of the phrase “form of God”:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-9

For You

Somewhere in the middle of the below passage I realized that “you” did not just refer to some Jews who lived 2,000 years ago. The text’s “you” is the reader’s “me.” And everything he said about me is true:

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…

And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
John 5:24-25,37-39

John the Evangelist uses the alienation effect to force the reader to realize he is reading a book, but the book has a message for him, right now, today. The Qur’anic author imitates this style. Superficially, “you” is the anonymous transcriber of the Qur’an. But you are “you”:

Say, ‘The enjoyments of this world are a trifle, and the Hereafter is better for the Godwary, and you will not be wronged so much as a single date-thread. Where-ever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you were in fortified towers.

If any good befalls them, they say, ‘This is from God:’ and when an ill befalls them, they say, ‘This is from you,’ Say, ‘All is from God.’ What is the matter with these people that they would not understand any matter?

Whatever good befalls you is from God;
and whatever ill befalls you is from yourself.

We sent you as an apostle to mankind, and God suffices as witness.”
Qur’an 4:77b-79

You will not be harmed. You will die. You are a messenger from God. And you are seen by God.

The Message

As Peter taught, we are all vicars of God’s grace:

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another,
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.

If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies,
that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:8-11

Similarly, “you” are interrogated for your belief, and the pattern is that the faithful man who is interrogated is given authority:

The People of the Book ask you to bring down for them a Book from the heaven. Certainly they asked Moses for greater than that, for they said, ‘Show us God visibly,’ whereat a thunderbolt seized them for their wrongdoing. Then they took up the Calf after all the clear proofs that had come to them. Yet we excused that, and we gave Moses a manifest authority.
Qur’an 4:153

It is to “you” that believes:

O you who have faith! Have faith in God, and His Apostle and the Book that He has sent down to His Apostle and the Book He had sent down earlier. Whoever disbelieves in God and His angels, His Books and His apostles and the Last Day, has certainty into far error.
Qur’an 4:136

As Paul believed:

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
Acts 23:6-8

We can follow Christ

Indeed, God raised him up toward Himself, and God is all-mighty, all-wise.
Qur’an 4:158

And be gathered to God:

God — there is no god except Him — will surely gather you on the Day of Resurrection, in which there is no doubt; and who is more truthful in speech than God.
Qur’an 4:87

In the Qur’an the relationship of the believer and God is direct, one-way, and unmediated. Only you can pray for your salvation. And only you can take it away…

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
James 1:13-18

… because God is all-forgiving, and all-merciful.

Conclusion

The most obvious, or at least pruriently interesting, features of “The Women” are regulations around prostitution, lewdness, and a clear pain at insults against Mary. But beyond and behind the women are a clear hierarchy — God, the Book, and you — which obviate the need for any society or any females in the work of salvation.

Some criticisms of Jordan Peterson have attacked him for not having elucidated the role of grace in his system. But reading “The Women” made me think a more serious problem is the lack of a role of the Church. In Maps of Meaning and later works he has tried to envision a Christianity without a church, whether based on alchemy or on a direct connection to the Holy Spirit as predicted as the Blessed Joachim of Fiore. It is that view of the Holy Spirit, a view that frees it from the Church,

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Matthew 12:31-32

This is a fundamental difference between Qur’anic religion and Christianity. The Church is a partner to God, a created and lesser partner, one on earth that is tainted by sin, one that is essentially feminine to Christ’s masculinity.

The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.
Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Unity of the Church,” circa AD 250

In the Name of
God,
The Son,
the Holy Spirit,

God, you who have established the foundations of your Church upon the holy mountains: Grant that she may not be moved by any wiles of error which would fain compass her overthrow, nor may she be shaken by any earthly disquietude, but ever stand firmly upon the ordinances of the Apostles, and by their help, be kept in safety.

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