‘In the Book We have left out nothing’ (Q 6:38)”: The Ethical Problem of the Existence of Verse 4:34 in the Qur’an

Comparative Islamic Studies 2.2 (2008):  171-180.

Medieval Muslim mystic and thinker Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1240) claims all mean- ings drawn from within the semantic boundaries of the language of the Qur’an are intended by God. If so, how do Muslims concerned about violence against women reconcile their faith with verses such as 4:34 which can be read as a prescription to beat women to control their rebelliousness? This paper will explore the problem posed by the existence of verse 4:34 in the Qur’an through the lens of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s ontology and ethics and the traditionally received example of the Prophet Muhammad. God’s self-disclosure through the macro- cosm, logocosm, and microcosm demands the full expression of his beautiful and terrible attributes as well as the human responsibility to cultivate the proper balance between the two. I argue that Muhammad’s example demon- strates that cultivating that balance requires resisting divine prescriptions that are ultimately not worthy of us as children of Adam.

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