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In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Introduction to the Sublime Quran: Arabic-English

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Introduction to the Sublime Quran translated by Laleh Bakhtiar
The Quran is the eternal Word of God for those who are Muslims. Prophet
Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him, did not believe that he was
bringing a new religion. Rather, as the Last and Final Prophet, he was teaching: the
manifesting of humility and sincerity and outward conforming with the law of God and
the taking upon oneself to do or to say as the Prophet has done or said, something that the
First Prophet had initiated. Therefore, for those who follow sincerity in religion without
hypocrisy or Islam as their way of life, Prophet Muhammad, peace and the mercy of
God be upon him, completed the message of a way of life that has existed continuously
from ancient times.
This way of life is an open system with no beginning and no finite end. It has
existed in the past, but begins again in the present and goes on for an eternity making it
an example of an open historyno beginning and no endeternal. The message for the
present, as it was for Prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus, may God bless them
all, is: There is no god but God, Who alone is to be worshiped. This is the central
message of taw=id or the Oneness of God. The concept of sincerity in this way of life or
subscribing to His way of life1 connected itself little by little through transition from one
Prophet to another, culminating in the message of the Quran.
The Quran was revealed to the Prophet in the Arabic language in the early 7th
century AD and it is the Arabic of the Quran that is considered to be the eternal Word of
God. It is only the recitation or reading of the Arabic that has spiritual efficacy. Any and
every translation is considered to be an interpretation of the Quran and not the Quran
itself. The questions that the translation of the Sublime Quran pose relate to the way some
verses have been interpreted over the centuries, interpretations which oppose the Sunnah
of the Prophet.
For the Muslim, the person who subscribes to His way of life, the Quran, meaning
Recitation, is the eternal Word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and
the mercy of God be upon him, over a period of twenty-two years and five months. This
is considered to be the greatest miracle of Prophet Muhammad. As he was unlettered, yet
he was chosen to receive the Arabic Recitation (Quran), which is considered to be unique
in style, possessing a sense of unity of language and level of discourse.
One of the greatest acts of worship for a Muslim, then, is to memorize the Arabic
Recitation. One who does so is called a =[fe&. But in order to recite the Quran in Arabic
(til[wah)2 one must study the Quranic sciences which are studied through many
sciences including: tajw\d, qir[>[t and tafs\r. Tajw\d teaches how the text is divided
together with its rhythm and phonetics. The reciter must understand the meaning of the
Signs or verses in order to determine how to recite, where to pause, where to take a
breath and so forth so that the meaning of the Quran is preserved. Many verses do not end
when the verse ends but continue on to the next verse or verses. Without understanding
the meaning, one cannot place emphasis where it is needed. The study of tajw\d teaches

the particular usage and spelling of many words in the Quran. The science of qir[>[t
teaches proper pronunciation, the prayers to recite at the beginning and end of the
recitation, the divisions, punctuation and correct intonation of the various verses. Tafs\r
is the science of interpreting the Quran.
During the month of Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God
be upon him, divided the eventual 6000+ Signs or verses in the Recitation (Quran) into
114 Chapters or Enclosures (singular, surah). These 114 Chapters each begin with the
words: In the Name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate, except for the ninth
chapter where the same words appear in the text instead of at the beginning of the
chapter. The chapters of the Quran were eventually divided into 558 sections, literally
bowing of the head (ruk]>). The text is organized more or less by length of chapter
and is not in chronological order. For one who wants to begin to savor the Quran, it is
best to read it randomly and not from beginning to end.
While the Quran was revealed in the oral tradition and oral transmission remains
important even after it was compiled into the written form we now have, once it was
compiled into a Book form, the Quran became the first book-length example of Arabic
literature.3 It is the bridge between the pre-Islamic oral tradition that focused on narrative
or poetic traditions and the written language that rapidly produced great works of prose
and poetry. It was compiled into the form of a Book by scribes who had written down the
verses as they were revealed to the Prophet, verses written on pieces of parchment,
leather, stone tablets, animal shoulder blades, palm leaf stems and pieces of cloth.
The particular details and practices to be followed are found in the Sunnahthe
exemplary practice of the Prophet. A Muslim considers himself or herself a good
example of a Muslim if he or she follows the example or Sunnah of the Prophet. The
Sunnah consists of the actions and sayings of the Prophet and is considered to be an
accepted source for interpreting the Signs of the Quran. The Sunnah has been compiled in
six canonical works, that which the Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafii schools of law
follow; the Jafari school has a different but similar in content set of canonical works.
The Quran refers to the Recitation by different names, one of which is the
Sublime Quran (al-qur>an al-a&\m, 15:87), the name chosen for this present
translation. Being sublime refers to the Qurans spiritual value. In its sublimity it guides
and inspires beyond the material world that it transcends.
One can only understand the sublimity of the Quran if one begins with some
standard that establishes a system based in justice and fairness in order to be able to enter
the world of the spiritual and intuition. One has to begin with some criterion, that is
another of the names the Quran gives itself, al-furq[n or The Criterion: The discernment
between right and wrong, good and evil, lawful and unlawful, truth and falsehood. The
Quran as The Criterion, is the standard by which to determine the correctness of a
judgment or conclusion. It is the measure, the reference point against which other things
may be evaluated.
The most conclusive arguments in Islamic tradition to prove or disprove
something is to use the Quran to prove another point in the Quran. The method is called
tafs\r al-qur>[n bi-l-qur>[n. This I will do. I will show how the present erroneous
interpretation of 4:34 and the verb i#rib creates a contradiction not in the Quran itself
and denies, at least in two cases, rights that the Quran clearly gives to women.4

For the Muslim, the Prophet is the living Quran; that is, he practiced exactly
whatever God revealed in the Quran. If it was a command to good: Fasting, daily formal
prayers, pilgrimage, alms, charity, he performed these commands. If it was to prevent a
wrong like drinking alcohol, gambling or eating pork, he refrained from these things. As
the living Quran, the life, behavior and sayings of the Prophet serve as a model for all
As the Quran refers to the Prophet as a mercy to humanity and the model whose
example should be followed, it is clear that he would have carried out any and all of the
commands (imperative forms of the verb) in the Quran that related to his life (there are
commands specific to other Prophets as well) yet we find an exception in # r b according
to the interpreters over the centuries.
The root letters # r b means to propound or to strike (a parable), to smite, stamp
(or stomp ones foot), beat or strike; or to cite (an example or a dispute). Others meanings
without any special preposition include: To encompass; to cast, throw or fling upon the
ground; to set a barrier; to engender; to turn about; to make a sign or to point with the
hand; to prohibit, prevent or hinder from doing a thing one has begun; to seek glory; to
avoid or shun or leave; to turn away oneself; to be with shame; to be in a state of
commotion; to be in a state between hope and fear; and to go away. With special
prepositions, #araba fil-ar# means to travel; with the preposition <al[ it means to
stomp; with the preposition <an it means to turn something away; with preposition bayn
it means to set up between, to separate. As a verbal noun, it means striking; with
preposition f\ it means traveling or journeying.
Of the twelve times it appears as a command in the Quran, two are commands to
angels in the same verse, namely, Mention when thy Lord revealed to the angels: I am
truly with you, so make those who have believed firm. I will cast alarm into the hearts of
those who were ungrateful. So strike above their necks and strike each of their fingers
from them. (8:12); three are followed by the word for parable so they become the
command: And propound to them the parable . . . . (18:32); And propound for them
the parable . . . . (18:45) and And propound a parable for them . . . . (36:13).
Four times the command appears to as commands to Moses: Strike the rock with
thy staff. . . . (2:60); Strike the rock with thy staff. . . . (7:160); Then strike for them a
dry road in the sea. . . . (20:77); Strike the sea with thy staff. . . . (26:63).
The command is given once to the Children of Israel. Here the imperative form is
used it relates to the story of the cow. So We said: Strike him [the dead man] with some
of it [the cow] (2:73). Muhammad Asad, a Jewish convert to Islam, therefore familiar
with Jewish tradition, rejects this interpretation and declares that the story as told by most
interpreters is not true. He believes that the Sign should be translated: We said: Apply
this [principle] to some of those [cases of unresolved murder] (2:73). He then explains in
a footnote to the translation of the Sign why he feels this Sign has been misinterpreted
over the centuries.5
The eleventh use of the imperative form of #araba, namely i#rib, relates to the
story of Job (Ayy]b) (38:44). The verse is most often translated as And take in thy hand
a bundle of rushes and strike with it and fail not thy oath. It is clearly unspecific as to
what aspect of Jobs life this verse refers to. Early commentators and interpreters took the
story from the Old Testament. There Jobs faithful and long-suffering wife, Rahmah, at
some point in Jobs patiently bearing his afflictions, tells him to end his suffering by

means of suicide. Quranic commentators pictured her differently saying that at some
point out of desperation for money, she sold her hair in order to buy bread for Job. Satan
hurried to Job and to increase his grief and anguish, saying that his wife had committed
adultery and as a punishment, her hair was cut off. Once Rahmah returned to Job, Job
saw her hair was cut. He became angry and swore an oath to beat her with 100 strokes.
His wife was in despair because Job, whom she dearly loved and whom she vowed she
would leave, has falsely accused her. Once God healed Job and returned his fortune to
him, Job became reluctant to carry out his oath. Muslim commentators then say that the
angel Gabriel then told Job of her innocence and that Job should honor his oath by
striking his wife lightly with a bundle of 100 rushes.
It does not take much for one to see how outside the pale of the Quran this story
from commentators and interpreters is that Gabriel would tell Job that it was more
important to carry out his oath than to beat an innocent person, even lightly. Rahmah had
been the most exemplary wife. Once Job lost all of his material wealth, she did not leave
him as his other two wives did, but instead began earning money as a cleaning woman in
order to be able to provide food for her husband. When others in the village found Jobs
state so disgusting, they were not even prepared to help Rahmah carry him to a garbage
heap. Yet she remained faithful throughout his long ordeal and then to be punished by a
bundle of 100 rushes for whatever someone may have said that she had said or done goes
against so many Quranic verses that listing them would only be tiresome to the reader!
To apply any aspect of this story as rationalization for i#rib in 4:34 being interpreted as
beat (lightly) goes against the rest of the verse for another reason as well. The first
statement in 4:34 is that husbands are supporters of their wives because God has given
some of them an advantage over others and because they shared their wealth. In the case
of Job, his wife Rahmah was the support of the family so the rest does not apply to their
That is a strong enough in argument to be the basis for some commentators to
suggest that Job was supposedly told to strike his wife lightly in order not to fail his oath
whereas 5:89 says that God will not take you to task for what is unintentional in your
oaths or Job could have chosen the more humane way and paid an expiation for an oath
that he could not fulfill. In addition, the root letters of = n th in the first form mean not
only fail not in your oath, but also according to T[j al-Ar]s, to retract or revoke
ones oath. As we have seen the root letters # r b also mean to cast, throw or fling to the
ground, the verse can be translated as: And take in thy hand a bundle of rushes and cast
them upon the ground and retract thy oath.6
Therefore it is a misinterpretation for commentators to use the story of Job and his
faithful wife in any sort of justification for a husband to beat his wife even lightly. In The
Old Testament: An Islamic Perspective, Jay R. Crook (Muhammad Nur) adds in
conclusion to this story: Nevertheless there will always remain a suspicion that the
original oral tradition [of the story of Rahmah and Job] was lost or distorted and the later
Muslim commentators, unable to retrieve it, adopted the story of Jobs wife from the later
Jewish Job cycle to meet their exegetic needs.7
The twelfth usage of # r b in the imperative form is in 4:34 allowing husbands to
strike, beat, hit, chastise or spank a nush]z wife. Yet in all of the canonical works
there is no reference to Prophet Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him,
having ever beaten women. It is the misinterpretation of the word i#rib in 4:34 that this

translation challenges and emphasizes that this misinterpretation must revert back to the
way the Prophet understood it through his behavior when facing the exact same situation.
Therefore it is not a personal interpretation but one that calls for a return to the Sunnah.
The misinterpretation is not in the Arabic of the Quran, the eternal Word of God
revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him, but it is how
commentators over the centuries have interpreted the Word of God that is at issue and
whether ijti=[d or strenuous endeavor to reason an issue has to be applied or ta=qiq, as
I prefer, reviving the intellectual tradition of Islam, the proponent being a mu=aqqiq
to know by verifying and realizing The Truth and Reality of something for oneself.
Normally ijti=[d with a capital I is a method of legal reasoning in regard to
criminal laws and punishment (hud]d laws) reserved for the highest legal authorities.
However, this does not apply in this case. Here it is possible to use ijti=[d with a small
i because the issue of beating a wife has not been declared criminal as it should have
been. It is clearly a criminal act to beat another person and an expiation is required for
having done so.8 This has not been the interpretation of jurists over the centuries in
regard to 4:34. It should have been but since they have not done so, it takes the issue of
4:34 from ijti=[d to ta=qiq. This means that everyone has the right to come to a
realization about what they know to be the truth no matter what their level of Quranic
knowledge may be. All have a right to weigh in on the issue based on what they know to
be Reality.
Al-Ghazzali says very clearly that it is wrong to believe that the purpose of the
commentators of early Islam was to limit our understanding of the Quran to only that
which one hears or receives from an authority. He says this is wrong, first of all, because
it meant having heard the narration from the blessed Prophet himself which was not the
case. Many of the Companions were giving their own opinion and not what they had
heard the Prophet say. Secondly, there was disagreement among the Companions and
commentators who came after them. The various explanations were so varied that they
could not have come from the Prophet. He concludes: It is lawful for everyone to draw a
meaning from the Quran according to his understanding and the limit of his
Now we come to the point from which people assume this is a feminist
translation.10 The reader will notice that it is the use of intellectual endeavor that is
relevant, not my gender. If a Muslim jurist had produced the same arguments and logical
reasoning, the almost 1500 year mistake would be more readily admitted and changed.11
Not only is the language of the Sublime Quran translation inclusive rather than
exclusive, this translation also reverts the translation of 4:34 back to the way the Prophet
understood it as shown to us through his behavior. The part of Chapter 4 verse 34 in
question is more or less read in all present English translations: Those husbands who
fear disobedience on the part of their wives, first admonish them, then abandon their
sleeping places, then beat them.
My position is that the understanding of this verse must revert back to the
interpretation given it by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon
him, through his actions. He never beat anyone much less any of his wives. When there
was any marital discord, he went away.
We have to ask ourselves, why did the Prophet not beat his wives even though it
was a command in the Quran? First of all, when the verse was revealed to him it appears

from his behavior in the same type of situation that he did not consider it to mean beat
them referring to his wives. It might possibly be because the Quran uses three other
words for strike or beat, namely in 28:15, 38:41 and 51:29.
In 28:15 Moses struck a young man with is fist. The root letters are not # r b,
which we know also means to strike, but w k z. In the case of 38:44, the command to
Job to stomp his foot, the root letters used are r k # and not # r b which can also mean to
stamp or to stomp. In 51:29, when Sarah, the wife of Abraham was told she would
have a child, she struck or smote her face on purpose, the root letters being s k k and not
# r b which as has been stated also means to strike or to smite. Therefore just as other
Arabic words may mean to strike, so the root letters # r b may mean other than to
strike, i.e., to go away or to separate.
Based on his character, a model for all of humanity, he knew innately that it was
wrong to harm another human being. He knew that according to 16:126 one is
commanded to chastise with the same chastisement that that person has been given. And
if you chastise (<aqaba) then chastise with the like of that with which you were
chastised. . . . (16:126). Or, And whoever chastises for injustice with the like of what
he was chastised and after that again was to be wronged, God will certainly help him,
truly God is Pardoning, Forgiving (22:60).
Therefore, conceivably if a husband harms his wife by beating her, according to
16:126, his wife would be allowed to chastise her husband in return. The Prophet would
have intuitively known that if a husband were to beat his wife, she would have recourse
to her husband. He clearly believed that it was not within his Sunnah to do such a thing.
Therefore he showed by his behavior that 4:34 and the use of the word #araba means
go away from them or leave them and let the emotions subside.
Thirdly the Prophets respect for the female gender was legendary. This included
not only his wives, the mothers of the believers, but his daughters as well. He had a very
special relationship with his daughter, Fatima, the only one of his daughters to survive
him. How could he beat his wives and not consider that someone might beat one of his
beloved daughters.
Fourthly the Prophet knew that marriage was based on mutual respect and love.
The Quran often tells husbands and wives to consult on issues with each other. It would
be unfair and unjust to think that God would have revealed a verse that allowed husbands
to beat their wives instead of separating for a short period of time and allowing the anger
to subside. Then they would be able to once again consult with one another.
Therefore anyone who claims to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet must do the
same thing because the Sunnah of the Prophet is not to beat, hit, hurt, spank, or chastise
any woman. The word i#rib is a command, an imperative form of the verb, yet a
command the Prophet did not carry out if it means beat them. However he did carry it
out when it means go away from them.
What else does the Quran tell us relating to this issue? In recent translations, the
last part of the verse reads as follows: As for those of whom you fear perversity,
admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then spank them, (4:34)12 while another:
If you fear highhandedness from your wives, remind them [of the teachings of God],
then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. The words beat, chastise,
spank, and hit are English translations of the Arabic imperative form of the verb,
#araba, namely, i#rib yet the Prophet never carried out this imperative.13

This next argument, then, for why there needs to be a revert interpretation is that
the verb form of #araba and subsequently its imperative form of i#rib has many
meanings in Form I, as found in Arabic lexicons like T[j al-<Ar]s as pointed out earlier.
A legal jurist would say: We have to choose the one that suits most the general Quranic
principles and rules, not a meaning that contradicts them.14 Yet why has this not been
done in regard to 4:34? The Quran itself says in a verse to which this translation is
dedicated: So give good tidings to My servants, those who listen to the saying of the
Quran and follow the fairest of it. (39:17-18)
Now we get to the heart of the main reason why the word beat is a
misinterpretation. We begin with two premises: Islam encourages marriage and divorce,
while allowed, is discouraged. The Prophet said: Marriage is half of faith. He also said:
Divorce is deplorable.
We read in Chapter 2 verse 231: When you divorce wives, and they (f) are about
to reach their (f) term, then hold them (f) back honorably or set them (f) free honorably;
but hold them (f) not back by injuring them so that you commit aggression. In other
words, the Quran is telling husbands not to harm their wives who want to be set free, not
to hold them back by injuring them. The word injuring (#irar) also means hurt, harm,
use force or commit aggression.
Lets take an example. A Muslim wife, after many attempts to help her husbands
manage his inappropriate anger, anger that most often is taken out against her, tells her
husband that she wants a divorce. He, in his anger, does not at that moment remember
that according to 2:231 he is not to hold back by injuring a wife who wants to be set free,
and instead, being both judge and jury, beats her as erroneously allowed in 4:34. The
battered wife, becoming the victim of his anger, is then afraid to speak out again as this
last instance has caused her to seek refuge in a shelter for battered women.
Therefore, we see a disconnect between 4:34 and 2:231. Jurists have created a
contradiction that is not in the Quran by encouraging divorce and discouraging marriage
so that we can conclude, a Muslim woman who wants a divorce must be set free without
injuring, hurting, or using force against her, but a Muslim woman who wants to remain
married does do under the threat of being beaten! If Muslim wives knew their rights,
which one would want to stay married under such circumstances? Is this encouraging
marriage? Does this make sense? 4:34 as presently interpreted contradicts 2:231. How
can we eliminate this contradiction? There is a very simple solution: Revert the
interpretation back to how the blessed Prophet understood it through his behavior.
It has been a great blessing that the Sublime Quran is the first English translation
to use go away from them instead of beat them in English translation. This verse in
the Sublime Quran reads: Men are supporters of wives because God has given some of
them an advantage over others and because they spend of their wealth. So the ones (f)
who are in accord with morality are the ones (f) who are morally obligated, the ones (F)
who guard the unseen of what God has kept safe. But those (f) whose resistance you fear,
then admonish them (f) and abandon them (f) in their sleeping place then go away from
them (f) and if they (f) obey you, surely look not for any way against them (f); truly God
is Lofty, Great.
We are told by jurists that the word beat in this verse (4:34) is a transitive
verb.15 That means it can only take a direct object. As this verb is transitive it can only
mean beat them. If it means to go away from them, the verb becomes intransitive,

taking an indirect object (from them). There are two arguments against this
rationalization of an immoral act.
First of all we have to ask: When this verse was revealed to the blessed Prophet
and he heard the word i#rib, that jurists and commentators have said for almost 1500
years means beat them, did he sit back and discuss within himself whether the verb that
God was revealing was a transitive or an intransitive one? No! By his behavior, we know
that he understood it to mean go away from them. Otherwise we would have to
conclude, God forbid, that the Prophet did not understand the Quran as well as the later
legal jurists did, those who make this distinction.
Secondly, we are talking about translation, not about the original Arabic which is
the eternal Word of God. When you translate from an original text into a target language,
you have to go with the rules of the target language. There are many times when an
English word requires an indirect object whereas the Arabic word does not. Do you then
distort the meaning? No. You go with the target language. We could say in English,
leave them, and we would be following the grammar of the jurists but perhaps
implying more than what the Prophet understood.
What jurists claim is that the beating is only given to a wife whose nush]z
the husband fears. The jurists explain nush]z as disobedience. As a matter of fact,
nush]z does not mean obedience as that is a completely different word in the Quran,
derivative, a%[<a. Using resistance for nush]z, we see while in 4:34 the Quran says:
husbands who fear resistance (nush]z) on the part of their wives, in 4:128 the
Quran says: wives who fear resistance (nush]z) on the part of their husbands. In
truly a fair and just fashion as the Quran always is, however we translate the word in
regard to a wife, must be translated and interpreted the same for a husband. If nush]z is
interpreted as meaning disobedient then it must apply in both cases, a disobedient wife
and/or a disobedient husband.
Another example from the Quran as to why the word i#rib in 4:34 does not mean
to beat. 24:6-9 states: And those who accuse their wivesand there are no witnesses but
themselveslet the testimony of one of them be four testimonies sworn to God that he is
among ones who are sincere and a fifth that the curse of God be on him if he has been the
one who lies. And it will drive off the punishment from her if she bears witness with four
testimonies sworn to God that he is the one who lies, and the fifth, that the anger of God
be on her if he has been among the ones who are sincere. It is over. The oaths of the
wife prevail and punishment is averted from her.16
Now let us imagine the same situation as we did with 4:34. Before a wife has a
chance to take advantage of her right given in the Quran in 24:6-9, her husband accuses
her of adultery without witnesses other than himself and beats her. She becomes a victim,
perhaps ending up in a shelter. Now, a victim, she no longer has the will to defend herself
and instead assumes that she is in the wrong and deserves to be beaten whether she has
done anything wrong or not.
Thus wrongly interpreting i#rib to mean beat instead of go away or leave
has turned at least two realities that the Quran has given women into myths. The reality
that a wife who agrees that her husband divorce her cannot hold her back by injuring her.
This protects a wife who wants to be set free. This is a right she is given in the Quran
not to be injured! When i#rib is interpreted as beat, this reality becomes a myth as the
example has shown.

It is reality that 24:6-9 allows a wife who is accused by her husband without any
witnesses other than himself to defend herself against the accusation and God and
humanity accepts her defense but because of misinterpretation of 4:34, because of not
following the behavior of the Prophet, the best model for humanity, a reality is turned
into a myth for a wife.
In addition, in both cases of the use of the word i#rib, interpreted as meaning
beat, Muslim translators and interpreters are commanding to munkar and prohibiting
ma>ruf, commanding to immorality and prohibiting morality, the definition of a
hypocrite in 9:67. They make it preferable to ask for a divorce because then she cannot be
harmed instead of remaining married because remaining married is under the threat of
being beaten.
I have been asked: How can you go against the tradition and over 1400 years of
commentary? My response: If we study Islamic history, after the time of the four Rightly
Guided Caliphs, we Muslims have had for almost 1500 years of uninterrupted rulership
by tyrants and dictators with the exception of a few years of a pious ruler. Does that mean
that we cannot go against history and demand pious, benevolent rulers? No. Of course
not. The response is that the minute that each individual member of the Muslim
community or ummah gains consciousness of a wrong being done in the name of God, in
the name of Islam, he or she has the responsibility to speak out.
What might help those who are sincere in His way of life to join together to
overcome the inadvertent mistakes made by commentators and interpreters of the Quran
in the past? One way would be for the human self to struggle (jih[d) to attain the highest
human perfection possible. This struggle, known as the greater struggle (jih[d al-akbar),
the goal of which is moral healing.
The proof of one having attained the final stage of moral healing is:
1. When one is able to give up seeking justice for oneself at the same time that
one constantly struggles for justice for others;
2. When one does not see oneself as superior to anyone else;
3. When one recognize ones own vulnerabilities;
4. And when one manifests, shows, displays, behaves towards others with mercy,
compassion, self-sacrifice and forgiveness.
Such a person is known as a spiritual advocate or fat[ for the male in Arabic and
fat[t for the female in Arabic or jav[nmard for either sex in Turkish, Urdu and Persian.
It is a struggle between reason and the passions for the attention of the heart. If
reason succeeds in attracting the heart to itself, the self is turned towards the spiritual and
external world. If the passions succeed, the self is turned towards the material and
impermanent world.
This struggle is a significant one because it reinforces those values which the
model human being, Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him, manifested.
That is, when reason succeeds in attracting the heart towards itself, the self gains control
and mastery over the passionsinappropriate lust and anger. Gaining mastery, the self
can then process values to which it has been guided by revelation and turn away from the
disvalues which guidance through revelation has discredited. Such misguidance and
disvalues are interpreting i#rib in 4:23 as beat them instead of the meaning the exact
same word has go away from them, or leave them.

The model of the self that produces spiritual advocates is called the Presence of
God (wajh All[h). It emphasizes moral goodness and moral balance achieved through
self-examination. Traditionally, each night before going to bed, one reflects upon ones
feelings, thoughts, and actions of that day to overcome vices with virtues. The question
becomes: How do I better myself as a human being?
There are two basic causes of the need for this greater struggle within the self:
Either a person is ruled by passion rather than reason, or a person does not know God.
According to spiritual integrity, one needs to observe the moral balance in nature and
learn to read the Signs upon the horizon and within themselves until it is clear that it is
The Truth (Quran 43:51). The language of the Signs may be letters of the Arabic
alphabet, words such as the verses of the Quran, numbers, and/or geometry. Traditional
Islam, of which spiritual integrity is perhaps one of the highest achievements, sees these
Signs as so many symbols of the Presence of God.
Knowledge of God, in the case of spiritual integrity, is experiential and leads to
the sensing of the Presence of God in all that one does. In this state, the heart of the
spiritual advocate becomes the throne of God. It is a path that is open to all.
Notes to the Introduction
1 To subscribe to His way of life implies not only consent or assent but hearty
approval and active support.
2 In the Arab speaking world, in Iran and in Turkey, a man is not permitted to
listen to the voice of a woman reciting the Quran. This prevents women from learning the
traditional method of reciting the Quran. Only a few are able to learn from their father or
another close relative and then they are not allowed to recite in public. This also denies
women the right to listen to a woman reciting the Quran. This is not the case in other
Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
When it comes to a woman reciting the Quran in translation, there does not appear
to be any restrictions as to who can listen to it. As a result, I have recorded the entire
Sublime Quran on DVD. My hope is that women who translate the Quran into other
languages will then recite it themselves or find a woman to recite it so that women
throughout the Muslim world have a chance to hear a woman recite the meaning of the
Quran in their language.
3 Encyclopedia of the Quran, Vol. 1, p 316; Hanna Kassis, The Concordance of
the Quran, p xxvi.
4 According to Nevin Neda, an Islamic scholar who lives in Canada, This
classification really suited reformist agendas since they wished to break away from the
traditional, transmitted interpretations, tafs\r bi-al-ma>thur. They wanted to interpret
the Quran according to the needs of the time. Today these two expressions are very much
in use and generally accepted as the right thing to do thanks to reformist discourse.
5 Muhammad Asads footnote says: The phrase i#rib]hu be-ba<#ih[ can be
literally translated as strike him [or it] with something of her [or it] and the
possibility has given rise to the fanciful assertion by many commentators that the
Children of Israel were commanded to strike the corpse of the murdered man with some
of the flesh of the sacrificed cow, whereupon he was miraculously restored to life and
pointed out his murderer! Neither the Qur>[n, nor any saying of the Prophet, nor even


the Bible offers the slightest warrant for this highly imaginative explanation, which must,
therefore, be rejected quite apart from the fact that the pronoun hu in i#rib]hu has a
masculine gender, while the noun nafs (here translated as human being) is feminine in
gender: from which it follows that the imperative i#rib]hu cannot possibly refer to nafs.
On the other hand, the verb #araba (lit., he struck) is very often used in a figurative or
metonymic sense, as, for instance, in the expression #araba fil ar# (he journeyed the
earth), or #araba mathal (he coined a similitude or propounded a parable or gave
an illustration) or <ala #arb w[=id (similarly applied or applied to them) or
#uribat <alayhim adh-dhillah (humiliation was imposed on them or applied to
them) and so forth. Taking all this into account, I am of the opinion that the imperative
i#rib]hu occurring in the above Quranic passage [2:73] must be translated as apply it
or this (referring, in this context, to the principle of communal responsibility). As for the
feminine pronoun h[ in ba<#ih[ (some of it, it must necessarily relate to the nearest
preceding feminine noun: that is, to the nafs that has been murdered, or the act of murder
itself about which (f\h[) the community disagreed. Thus the phrase i#rib]hu biba<#ih[ may be suitably rendered as apply this [principle] to some of those [cases of
unresolved murder].: for it is obvious that the principle of communal responsibility for
murder by a person or persons unknown can be applied only to some and not to all such
cases. Muhammad Asad, Message of the Quran, p 16.
Many people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike prefer the Muhammad Asad
translation to that of Yusuf Ali or Marmaduke Pickthall yet in this case he has completely
rejected previous translations and rightfully argues that the interpreters were clearly using
fanciful thinking. In spite of this, no Islamic organization has banned the Asad
6 Some may see translating this verse this way as going against the tradition of
commentators and interpreters over the centuries. The issue is similar to the way that
Muhammad Asad translated 2:73. So let the Criterion give us a judgment as 39:17-18
says: So give good tidings to My servants, those who listen to the saying of the Quran
and follow the fairest of it.
One cannot help but recall the Biblical influence on yet another story of another
Prophet and that was the assertion that Eve was created from the rib of Adam. This found
its way into Quranic exegesis much like the story of Job.
7 Jay R. Crook (Muhammad Nur), The Old Testament: An Islamic Perspective, p.
8 Hujjat al-Islam Musavi Lari in correspondence with this translator agrees that
i#rib in 4:34 should be interpreted so that husbands go away from them or separate
from them, them referring to their wives. He adds that if the interpreters choose to
persist in seeing this as beat them, then according to the Quran, a husband would have
to pay an expiation (kaf[rah) if he harms his wife.
9 See Muhammad al-Ghazzali, Recitation and Interpretation of the Quran.
10 Feminist issues involve gender inequities and equal rights for women. Neither
of these apply in this case. There are many man who agree that the interpretation of 4:34
should revert to the way the Prophet, to whom it was revealed, understood it. However
there are many women, particularly in the Islamic world, who actually believe that it is
the Will of God that they be beaten or live under the threat of being beaten in their
marriage. I am not advocating that husbands are being allowed to beat their wives


because of gender inequity. Nor am I advocating equal rights for women to be allowed to
beat their husbands. Rather, it is that fairness and justice need to be restored to its rightful
place in the interpretation of the Quran.
It is clear that reverting the interpretation of i#rib back to the way the Prophet
understood it will not put an end to husbands beating their wives. No. It will put an end to
such actions being done In the Name of God as if God had sanctioned it. This way
hopefully the Muslim women who end up in shelters for battered women will know that
their husbands have committed a criminal act. Not only will the husband have to pay the
punishment of Islamic and Quranic Shariah laws but if he lives outside a Muslim country,
he will have to pay the punishment of those laws as well.
11 Here we recall great scholars and jurists who agree that the interpretation of
i#rib in 4:34 should be to separate or to go away instead of to beat. They are
Abdul Hamid A. Abu Sulayman, the former head of the International Institute of Islamic
Thought in his Occasional Paper called Marital Discord: Recapturing the Full Islamic
Spirit of Human Dignity; Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi in his Persian translation of the
Quran, Hujjat al-Islam Misbahzadeh in his lectures and Hujjat al-Islam Musavi Lari in his
paper on the topic.
12 See Amina Wadud, Quran and Woman, pp 66-78 for an excellent discussion
of many of the significant words in 4:34.
13 See for examples of many presently available English
translations of this verse.
14 Havva Guney-Ruebenacker, presently an S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law
School also rightly points out that the meaning of beating also contradicts the verse that
follows, namely 4:35 which suggests a way of conflict resolution among spouses that is
arbitration. There is no point in recommending a peaceful method of conflict resolution
among spouses after allegedly permitting a physical violence in the preceding verse.
15 Whereas Dr. Abu Sulayman points out that # r b is both a transitive and an
intransitive verb. When it is said: #araba fil-ar# or travel through the earth it is
16 Notice the fine nuance in the Quranic language between what the husband
must swear an oath to: the curse of God be upon him if he lies and yet the wife must
swear an oath that the anger of God be upon her if her husband is sincere. This shows
the great respect that God, his revelation through the blessed Prophet and the Quran has
for womanhood.