tells Job: "Beat your wife"
in your hand a green branch and beat her with It and do not break
your oath; (Q.38:44)
Taliban's Moral Police beating an Afghan
Woman in Kabul for not covering herself properly and showing her hand in
Muslims have complained that I was not honest in my interpretation of the
They claimed that this verse has nothing to do with
beating women and the juxtaposition of the Taliban man flogging the Afghan
woman to this verse is my deliberate attempt to mislead the readers.
is my response to them:
This is the story of
Job (Ayyub). Muhammad wrote this Surah when he was in Mekka. The Quraish
visited Abu Talib and begged him to intercede and inhibit his nephew from
insulting their gods. After Muhammad rejected Abu Talib’s intercession he
wrote this Surah telling how other prophets before him were also rejected.
But he does not tell the whole story of these prophets. He just alludes to
them. Obviously the biblical stories were common knowledge in Arabia .
That is why Muhammad did not feel the need to go through details. Today,
it is enough to mention "the emperor's naked" and we know what
the speaker is talking about. There is no need for him to go through the
whole story and give us the details because that story is common
Apparently this story
of Ayyub and God telling him not to break his oath and beat her with a
green branch was one of those popular biblical stories that everyone knew.
Without knowing that story the above verse does not make sense even when
you read it in its context. Here is the context:
Our servant Ayyub, when he called upon his Lord: The Shaitan has afflicted
me with toil and torment.
42. Urge with your
foot; here is a cool washing-place and a drink.
43. And We gave him his
family and the like of them with them, as a mercy from Us, and as a
reminder to those possessed of understanding.
44. And take in your
hand a green branch and beat her with It and do not break your oath;
surely We found him patient; most excellent the servant! Surely he was
frequent m returning (to Allah).
Remember that Quran
repeatedly claims to be a "clear book" (5:15) "easy to
understand” (44:58 , 54:22 , 54:32, 54:40) "explained in
detail" (6:114), "conveyed clearly", (5:16, 10:15) and with
“no doubt” in it (2:1). But obviously many parts of Quran are not
clear at all and this story of Ayyub is one of them.
To understand what the
heck Muhammad is talking about one must read the tafseer (commentaries) of
the Quran. You must also know the biblical stories. Muhammad often made
allusion to those stories.
From the Bible we know
that Job was a pious man. One day God brags to Satan, “have you seen my
servant Job how faithful he is to me?” Satan tells God that Job is
faithful because he is a wealthy man, has a good family, lots of sons,
lots of cattle and sheep and he assures God should Job lose these things
he would curse God in his face. God decides to test the faith of Job and
orders Satan to take away everything from him but do not lay hand on his
life. Satan kills all Job’s sons, all his cattle and sheep and takes
away all his wealth. He also gives Job a skin disease that makes him smell
foul. Job laments his fate. To add salt to the injury Job’s wife
grumbles and tells him in desperation: "curse God and die". But
Job remains faithful to God. Two of his friends come and the discussion
between these three personages makes the book of Job. This episode ends
with God compensating Job after becoming convinced of his faithfulness and
gives him back much more than he lost and more children to replace those
that died. (If I were Job I would have asked for a new wife
The Arabs learned this
story and counted it amongst themselves. Actually it is possible that the
Jews borrowed the story of Job from Arabs folklore, because the biblical
Job is an Arab and not a Jew. Remember that in those days storytelling was
the main entertainment of the people. Just as we go to theaters, those old
folks used to go to storytelling events. And because there were no TVs
fathers and grandfathers used to rehash these old tales to the youngsters,
before they retired for the night.
The story of Job in the
Quran becomes clear only in the light of the story of Job in the OT. The
verse 41 alludes to the mischief of Satan and how he took away everything
Verse 42 is not in the
Bible but apparently was part of the folklore of the Arabs. Here God
orders Job to strike the earth with his foot and a spring of cold and
clear water gushes out where Job washes his wounds and gets healed and
drinks from it.
Verse 43 talks about
the rewards that Job is given for his faithfulness. The meaning of this
verse can only be understood by knowing the history of Job in the Bible.
Verse 44 is allusion to
a part of the story that does not exist in the Bible but was part of the
Arab folk version of this story. This version says that when Job’s wife
taunted him and told him to curse God and die, Job promised to beat her
for her insolence as soon as he recovers. And this is the meaning of these
Quran Reference: THE HOLY QURAN
Translation and commentary by A. Yusuf Ali ; 1983 Published by Amana Corp.
4411 41st St. Brentwood, Marylands 20722
Yusuf Ali compares this verse similar (or same ) as verse 21:83-84
Commentary #2739 (page 840) Job (Ayub) was a prosperous man with faith in
God, living somewhere in the north-east corner of Arabia. He suffers from
a number of calamities: his cattle are destroyed, his servants slain by
the sword, and his family crushed under his roof. But he holds fast to his
faith in God. As a further calamity he is covered with loathsome sores
from head to foot. He loses his peace of mind, and he curses the day he
was born. His false friends come and attribute his afflictions to sin.
These “Job’s comforters” are no comforters at all, and he further
loses his balance of mind but God recalls to him all His mercies, and he
resumes his humility and gave up self-justification. He is restored to
prosperity, with twice as much as he had before; his brethren and friends
come back to him; he had a new family of seven sons and three fair
daughters. He lived to a good old age, and saw four generations of
descendants. All this is recorded in the Book of Job in the Old Testament.
Of all the Hebrew writings, the Hebrew of this Book comes nearest to
Commentary #4200 (page 1227) The recuperative process having begun, he was
commanded to strike the earth or a rock with his foot, and a fountain or
fountains gusted forth, - to give him a bath and clean his body; to
refresh his spirits; and to give him drink and rest. This is a fresh
touch, not mentioned in S. xxi or in the book of Job but adding
beautifully to our realization of the picture.
Commentary #4202 (page 1227) in his worst distress and constant in faith,
but apparently his wife was not. According to the Book of Job (ii. 9.10).
“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity?
Curse God and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the
foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God,
and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job with his lips.”
He must have said to his haste to the woman that he would beat her: he is
asked now to correct her with only a wisp of grass, to show that he was
gentle and humble as well as patient and constant
Yusufali softened this verse for the Western readers who have a great
disdain for any kind of physical punishment. Still, Yusufali could not
hide the truth that beating one’s wife with green branches (grass?) is
Muslims have tried
to explain away these obtuse verses about Job in the most bizarre ways.
One person said that the green branch actually is “medicinal herbs”. Another
Muslim claimed that Job was riding a horse and the order came "to
beat the horse with a bundle of twigs to make him run fast that he may be
out of danger". Apologetics abound but none of the claims are
supported by facts. The story above is the only story that is supported by
the biblical narration of Job and the commentary of the Quran. The
Sha'ne nozul (the reason of the revelation) of these verses
also make it clear that the intent is to show that all prophets were
rejected by their people and medicinal plants or beating the horse are
irrelevant to the intent of the whole Surah. Here, obviously Job's wife
doubts and is scornful of her husband. Her punishment therefore, according
to Muhammad's god idiosyncrasy, is well deserved.
Muslims make desperate attempts
to deny the brutal and misogynistic nature of the religion of Muhammad.
But as one can see in verse 4:34
beating women is prescribed in the Quran in a very