Patriarchy: the God-ordained order of affairs between a husband and wife.

quranI am reading parts of the phenomenal new Study Quran (which I cannot recommend highly enough). Discussion of individual verses is thorough, academically sober, and highly informative. It does not attempt to explain away passages that are clearly contrary to the Western zeitgeist. This is no modernist or liberal commentary on the Quran (sorry Quilliam). Here is an example concerning men’s roles vis-à-vis their wives and families.

First the new translation of verse 4:34 and then the commentary:   

Men are the upholders and maintainers of women by virtue of that in which God has favoured some of them above others and by virtue of their spending from their wealth.

This verse is the clearest statement of a man’s role and authority in the martial relationship as head of the household in relation to his responsibility to provide for his wife. Other verses suggest mutuality in the relationship between husband and wife (2:187, 233), but this verse indicates a hierarchy from a certain perspective between the two, at least on the social plane (see also 2:228). This verse identifies men as the upholders and maintainers (qawwamun) of women (the Arabic may also be translated “managers” or “guardians,” although not in the sense of guardians over minors or the mentally incompetent), and this has traditionally been understood to mean that men are entitled to expect certain kinds of behaviour on the part of their wives and that they have the right and duty to supervise, educate, and discipline them or to command or prohibit them.

Men have this position by virtue of that in which God has favoured some of them above others, which, because it repeats the almost identical phrasing v.32, likely refers to men’s greater share in  inheritance relative to women, and by virtue of their spending from their wealth, that is, to support the women. Thus many interpret the verse as referring to the greater financial assets of men and their spending of these assets on the bridal gift and maintenance for their wives – that is, these additional assets constitute a favour (combined with responsibility) God gives to men, but one that, in principle, comes back to women in the form of marital support.



Categories: Quran, Recommended Reading

6 replies

  1. Just to lightly interject, but if I recall correctly, The Study Qur’an does sort of “explain away passages that are clearly contrary to the Western zeitgeist” for 24:2, but it’s still definitely and overwhelmingly a welcome resource that only superbly rarely offers commentary that is to watch for, in my opinion.

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  2. Thanks for give us some insight br. Paul, I finally decided to order this book. 🙂

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  3. “Men are the upholders and maintainers of women by virtue of that in which God has favoured some of them above others and by virtue of their spending from their wealth.”

    People will read texts according to the age they live in—today “western feminism” has made a war on Men so that any behavior can appear suspect of patriarchy—-but….there was a time when there was “Chivalry”, when behavior such as opening doors etc…was considered positive rather than negative.

    But what is correct/incorrect?… simply because we live in an age where one group of people dictate the behavior of genders? What is negative about men taking care of and protecting women? Modernity emphasizes rights and authority—but Quran has always balanced rights with responsibility and authority with restraints and obligations…..therefore, it (above passage) can be interpreted that some men who have been given more physical strength (favor) have the responsibility (care-giver) of using it for the protection of women—but also of RESTRAINING its use in any harm to women. Both use and restraint are important components. The same can be applied to any favor/blessing God gives to human beings of any gender, for example, wealth should be used for benefit but also its potential to abuse for harm should be restrained……
    Regardless…one thing is true—we can only strive for respectful, peaceful living in balance and harmony—and that applies to all human relationships—including gender….

    It is our destiny as human beings to morally progress towards the good. If we interpret the Quran in the direction of good/betterment…then we have respected its spirit—the purpose for which it has been offered to humanity.

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  4. anon:
    “western feminism” has made a war on Men

    Well, I managed to walk home today safely and I haven’t been attacked by warrior western feminists since… er never. Where is this “war” happening?

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  5. I was being a deliberately literal in order to provoke anon into elucidating his or her comment about ‘war on Men’.
    Anon: what exactly do you have in mind ?

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