God allows humanity the freedom to sin or make mistakes even as he is patiently pushing us toward his ideal. God meets us where we are at. We will always be free to sin, and God will always try and work with the mistakes that we make. In 1 Samuel 8 God’s people demand that he give them a monarchy even as he warns them of the corruption and violence it will create. Even in the most obscene instances of our injustice God tries to make the world a little more just. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29 God commands that if a man rapes a woman, he must marry her. From our perspective today this is seen as a horrific injustice. Yet in the historical context of the ancient scripture a woman’s virginity was her central possession, and it would be more of an injustice for her to lose it without the promise and protection of marriage.Despite how unjust we may make society, God is always looking for a way to bring justice, however limited that justice may be in order to allow us our freedom to sin.
Muslim theologian Amina Wadud is in agreement with many Christian theologians today that men and women were originally created equal based on her reading of the creation story in the Quran. Sura 4:1 declares men and woman to be created from the same divine substance and they are equal in the eyes of God. Yet just one verse later in Sura 4:2 the Quran states that man can marry up to “two, three or four” women who have no homes to protect them. The central condition of this is that the man must treat all of them fairly and justly, and if they cannot do so then they are called to marry “only one, to prevent you from doing injustice.” For Wadud God’s ideal marriage is about harmony “which is mutually built with love and mercy.” However, God is also patient with society’s “cruel heart” and “inability to submit to truth and justice.” The Quran is doing something similar to Deuteronomy 22:28-29 in this instance. In the patriarchal context of a woman being primarily an economic resource, those who have no protection through marriage should be provided protection by the grace of God. The ideal is that men and women are equal, however God will once again allow us to operate out of our sinful context, even it means there will be some measure of injustice for the time being. From this perspective, Wadud declares that:
Evolution in society which is indicated in the Qur'an that explains why many Muslim countries have instituted further legal and social reforms with regard to women. These reforms operate outside the literal content of some Qur'anic passages and make modifications on the basis of greater Qur'anic intent with respect to such issues as repudiation, polygamy, inheritance, and the rules for witnessing, etc.
For Wadud it only makes sense that countries trying to be faithful to the ideal of the Quran would continue to push toward a greater sense of gender equality. Most of what the Quran and the Bible depict is not the ideal, but it is alluding to a greater telos in God’s story of redemption. Slavery and the oppression of women are a reality throughout the Bible, yet we can see signs of God pointing toward a larger story of justice and love throughout the Biblical narrative in both the Old and New Testament. Yet both Scriptures point toward a creational beginning where there is peace, justice, and a proper social order.
William J. Webb, Slaves, women & homosexuals : exploring the hermeneutics of cultural analysis (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 2001) 14
Phyllis Trible, God and the rhetoric of sexuality, (Fortress Press, Chicago, 1978) 15-22; Amina Wadud, Quran and woman: Rereading the sacred text from a woman's perspective. (New York, Oxford University Press.) 19-21; N.T. Wright Women’s service in the church: The Biblical Basis. (September 4 2004) http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm
Sura 30:21; Sura 4:128
(Wadud 1999) 82
(Wadud 1999) 82