“Retain them not to their hurt so that ye transgress…”


I have had this framed page from the Quran hanging on my wall for a number of years now. I got it as a present but I believe it was sold at Willingham auctions. It was given to me, I assume, because it is an attractive item and the Arabic script looks nice. Perhaps it is just a random page of the Quran framed by someone who didn’t know what it said but liked the look of it.

But, looking at it more closely, I think you can read more significance into the precise page that the original owner decided to frame. It comes from Surat al-Baqara: 231-233. In Marmaduke Pickthall’s translation, the verses say (bearing in mind it is cut off at the beginning and the end):

“… in kindness. Retain them not to their hurt so that ye transgress (the limits). He who doeth that hath wronged his soul. Make not the revelations of Allah a laughing-stock (by your behaviour), but remember Allah’s grace upon you and that which He hath revealed unto you of the Scripture and of wisdom, whereby He doth exhort you. Observe your duty to Allah and know that Allah is Aware of all things. **

And when ye have divorced women and they reach their term, place not difficulties in the way of their marrying their husbands if it is agreed between them in kindness. This is an admonition for him among you who believeth in Allah and the Last Day. That is more virtuous for you, and cleaner. Allah knoweth; ye know not. **

Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes…”

It is the section of the Quran that allows women to divorce and tells their husbands not to prevent them from leaving or marrying another man. It is the fact that Islam allows divorce, which has led people to compare Islam favourably to Christianity, in this respect.

This is not a theological debate that I particularly want to get involved in. I am interested the fact that someone framed it and, no doubt hung it from my wall. I don’t know anything about who framed it so can only guess. I like to think that a triumphantly divorced woman put up this religious sanction for her new found freedom in pride of place somewhere in her house. Of course, there are more depressing possibilities. Perhaps, it was the futile rebellion of a woman trapped in an awful marriage. I hope not.

An interesting side note: the verse directly preceding this (230) says that if a man and woman are divorced they cannot remarry unless she has married again and divorced. It forms one of the central plot points in Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers in which a woman who has been divorced by her abusive drunken husband (whom she still loves) needs to find someone else to marry for a very short period before she can return to him.


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