Monday, May 02, 2016

Doctrine - Muhammad's rules on marriage - Divorce and Remarriage (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Along with rules on divorce, the Koran gives us rules pertaining to remarriage.
"Divorce is twice; then honourable retention or setting free kindly [put them away with kindness]. If he divorces her finally, she shall not be lawful to him after that, until she marries another husband. If he divorces her, then it is no fault in them to return to each other, if they suppose that they will maintain God's bounds." (Koran 2:229-230)
OK, so let me see if I get this right. A man can divorce his wife twice and then remarry her (apparently during the time of waiting while she is still in his possession). However, on the third time, he must wait until she gets married and divorced again from someone else before he can remarry her once more. Then he can divorce her three more time and the process starts all over again. Its not clear who this rule is meant to benefit, although the wife appears to be merely a pawn in the proceedings. What is most interesting regarding this law is that it stands in direct conflict to the law of God as delivered through Moses. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that 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 hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Moses strictly forbade the remarriage to a woman whom one has divorces after she has been the wife of another man. Obviously Muhammad did not know about this law.

If, however, the husband divorces his wife angrily and then, after cooling down, decides to take her back, then he must make some offering for his anger.
"And those who say, regarding their wives, 'Be as my mother's back,' and then retract what they have said, they shall [must] set free a slave [captive], before the two of them touch one another [come together again]. But whosoever finds not the means [findeth not a captive to set free], then let him fast two successive months, before the two of them touch one another [come together]. And if any man is not able to, then let him feed sixty poor persons [men]." (Koran 58:4-5)
It's interesting that some of the possible offerings include freeing slaves, fasting, and feeding some poor people. As for the curse, "Be as my mother's back," Rodwell writes, "The Arabians had been accustomed, before the time of Muhammad, to divorce their wives with the words, 'thy backs be to me as the back of my mother.'" (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, footnote 33.2)

Once a woman was divorced, she was then available for anyone to marry. Muhammad even allowed the marrying of one's adopted son's wife, once the divorce had been properly executed.
"So when Zaid had accomplished what he would of her [settled concerning her to divorce her], then We gave her in marriage [married her] to thee, so that there should not be any fault [a crime] in the believers, touching [to marry] the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished what they would of them [settled the affair concerning them]; and God's commandment must be performed." (Koran 33:37)
Zaid was Muhammad's adopted son. However, this verse was probably added by Muhammad to justify his desire to marry his adopted son's wife and to legitimize his marriage to her.

So how do these rules of divorce line up with the Jewish and Christian scriptures? Moses allowed a husband to divorce his wife by merely giving her a certificate of divorce. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that 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 hand and sends her out from his house." (Deuteronomy 24:1) However, Jesus tells us that, while God did allow this, it was never his intent. "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way." (Matthew 19:8) God hates divorce, especially by those who aught to know the truth. God condemned those of the Jews, who knew the laws of God, yet perpetrated divorce unjustly upon their wives. "'This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit... Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,' says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'and him who covers his garment with wrong,' says the Lord of hosts. 'So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.'" (Malachi 2:13-16) Jesus further taught that to divorce and remarry another woman, or for a divorced woman to remarry another man, caused them both to commit adultery. "but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32) This does not mean that a divorced person can not be forgiven, or that a couple who marries after divorce can never find the blessing of God, but divorce is permanent, meaning that you can never completely remove the effects of you previous marriage. They will always be a part of you in some way and, for many, this inclusion of a third party into their marriage can become a constant source of sorrow.

Marriage is God's plan. Divorce is the results of man's hardness of heart. However, in my opinion, Muhammad failed to properly understand the divine nature of marriage and the restraints God recommends towards divorce. Divorce should never be simply because one desires to exchange his wife for another, as Muhammad permits. I believe that much of Muhammad's teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage came from his own carnal desires and his insatiable desire for women. In this he was not consistent with, nor conforming to, to what God had instructed in the past.

David Robison

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