Quotations from the Quran must be understood in context
Stabroek News
November 21, 2001

Dear Editor,

I was surprised to read a letter in your esteemed publication (l5.ll.200l) [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] from Oliver Barclay in which he quoted from the Holy Quran out of context.

Islam does not countenance aggressive wars. It is stated in the Holy Quran 'And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely Allah loves not the transgressors. And slay these transgressors wherever you meet them and drive them out from where they have driven you for persecution is worse than slaying..... But if they desist, then surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is professed only for Allah. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the wrongdoers.......So, whoso transgresses against you, punish him for his transgression to the extent to which he has transgressed against you' (2:191-195).

It is clearly stated in the Holy Quran why the Muslims were given the permission to fight, as it should be remembered that before the permission to fight was granted, they bore patiently all the atrocities which were committed against them. The Holy Quran states: ' Permission to take up arms is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged and Allah, indeed, has power to help them. Those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly, only because they said, 'Our Lord is Allah'. And if Allah had not repellled some people by means of others, cloisters and churches, and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft remembered, would surely have been destroyed'. (22:40-41).

It may be noted that Islam is a universal religion and as such, it supplies ample directions and laws to be applied as the occasion demands. The texts are absolutely clear as to the applications. When there is no hostility and war is not in the air, it is a mistake of critics to regard the passages which give permission to fight, that Muslims are required to go about killing unbelievers at all times. Mark the words 'But do not transgress. Surely, Allah loves not the transgressors' (2:191) and 'But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the wrongdoers' (2:194).

The subject matter of the last mentioned quote of Oliver Barclay (55:54) refers to the faithful in a Jihad being wedded to 'celestial, pure and beautiful virgins.' This is self-explanatory and it takes only a warped mind to imply otherwise. Virginity, symbolises a state of purity of the sexual state and had the writer read on, it would have been noticed that the Holy Quran states 'They will not hear therein any vain or sinful talk, Except only the word of salutation Peace, peace' (56:26 & 27). The objective of Paradise is not a place of gratification for the material and physical senses but a state of spiritual exaltation and the object of procreation is not an achievement which is intended there. In reference to 'spouses or companions' it does not imply marriage as humans may understand in this life, but the companionship in Heaven among its inmates will be a noble one.

As for Barclay's reference 'In Paradise are, also, "boys like hidden pearls",though no reference to the Holy Quran is given, yet will it be treated. The Holy Quran states 'There will wait on them youths, who will not age' (56:18) This is a pointer to the innocence and perpetuality of those in Paradise where age will not change. In respect to 'hidden pearls', the Holy Quran states 'Like pearls, well preserved' (56:24) This refers to the purity of the inmates of heaven.

Now we shall turn to the 'Status of women in Islam'. We shall expose the false impression which Oliver Barclay wishes to convey

(1) 'As for women, the Quran says that they are inferior to men (4:34)' is what is written by the author. The Holy Quran states 'Men are guardians over women' (4:35). There is no sense of inferiority being implied. The Arabic word used for 'guardians' is 'Qawwamun' and it means 'maintainers, managers of affairs, protectors' (Lane & Aqrab). Is it not a fact that in the vast majority of cases men are the maintainers, managers of affairs and that they protect their women-folk?

(2) It is continued 'Your women are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth as you will (2:223)'. The author fails to understand the meaning of the word 'tilth' in his rage of discrediting Islam with out of context quotations. A woman is indeed like a 'tilth' in which the seed for the continuation of the human species is developed for the survival of the human race. Men are not placed in this unique position, they cannot bear children, this has been reserved exclusively for women. Thus homosexuality, lesbianism and promiscuous intermingling of the sexes has no place in Islam and the scourge of HIV/AIDS does not find its way into the Islamic fabric. This fact was ascertained by the well-known writer and scholar Eric Margolis when he stated to a TV audience recently, that in the Muslim world this epidemic is not found and as Shahabudin McDoom has quite rightly stated (l8.ll.200l). 'Let Mr Barclay take note that the only people unafraid of AIDS are Muslims and Catholics who practise the guidance on this all-important subject ..... and others who guard their chastity'.

(3) 'As for those of your women who are guilty of indecency, call to witness against them four persons. Confine them to the houses until death' (4:15) Again we have to turn to the Arabic word translated here as 'indecency'.

It is 'Fahayshata' and is derived from the root 'Fa-hay-sha', and means foul, evil immodest or lewd, therefore, it would mean 'flagrant impropriety' and to convict someone of the charge, not even two witnesses are needed, but four, hence it places a heavy burden of responsibility upon the prosecutor to establish a case and their being confined to the houses would prevent the convicted person from continuing a breach of the peace and cause mayhem for the society.

(4) Oliver Barclay then goes on to quote 'The adulteress and the adulterer, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity for them detain you from obedience to Allah (24:2)'. In Islam, adultery is a punishable crime, on the other hand, chastity is a moral virtue and holds a very respectable place in the code of Islamic laws that govern the relationship between the sexes, hence the punishment prescribed for the offence of the commission of adultery. It is Islam's sensitiveness to the role of chastity among the Muslims that reflects the punishment.

(5) Now to the last of the statements

(a) 'Women do not have equal rights with men to their inheritance (4:11-2)'. The Holy Quran stipulates and guarantees the share of inheritance each member of the family (male and female) is to receive (4:12 & 13). This is novel in the realm of religions and cultures. As explained before in this section (1) that men are guardians for women. Women are, therefore, not expected to spend for the welfare and well-being of the family. This responsibility is vested with men. It is stated in the Holy Quran 'because men spend on them (women) of their wealth'(4:35), although she may condescend to help in sharing the responsibility (Holy Quran 4:5 & 25). Thus according to Islam, the relationship between husband and wife is a bounty from Allah through love, tenderness and comfort (Holy Quran 7:90; 16:73; 30:32) So where is there inequality?

(b) 'Their evidence in a court of law has less weight than that of men' Oliver Barclay imputes. Again as pointed out before in this section (1) that men are the guardians and protectors of women, hence they have to be doubly reponsible for every affair. Women are not to be forced to go out to seek for their needs as they are to be provided by the male members of the family, hence should the need be for their bearing evidence then Islam requires that if two men are not available then one man and two women

would suffice. Allah gives the reason why two women are required to replace one man. He says 'So that if either of the two should err, then one may remind the other' (Holy Quran 2:283). This gives support to the women and adds credibility to their evidence. The more credible the evidence the stronger the case.

A basic function of women, and this should not be readily dismissed, is that they are the custodians of the home, responsible in the provision for the health and welfare of the family, producers and upbringers of the future generations as useful members of society and this places on their shoulders a heavy responsibility, so that the reality of remembering events and transactions takes a heavy toll, that being the need for their having the opportunity of being reminded, if the occasion demands.

There are many other issues relative to women which has been bestowed on them by Islam and which has been lacking in 'civilised' societies. Women in non-Islamic societies had to fight relentlessly for their rights, which were only in recent times grudgingly accorded them through the Women's liberation movements of the latter part of the last century. Needless to say, a religion cannot be judged by the actions of some individuals but on the basis of what that religion teaches.

Yours faithfully,

Yusuf Khan (Kenneth Moakan)