So recently I was led to a post in which these verses were used as an example of “women as the property of men.”
Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. (Qur’an 2:223)
I was pretty surprised to see this used in this way, because I thought the context was very well-known. These verses were delivered when a man asked the Prophet (P) if it was harmful to future generations if he entered his wife from the back. (There was a myth during that time that penetrating the vagina from the back would borne cross-eyed children.) It is not a sign of ownership, but the permission to have sex in whatever way the couple pleases. And other translations of the verses read as, “Your wives are tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when and how you will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand…” to basically encourage foreplay.
The Quran is timeless. Timeless does not mean that context doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, it is precisely the context that makes it timeless, in emphasizing that these actions are only to be taken in the following conditions. This allows us continuous reference.
It is the interpretation, unfortunately, that changes once the contexts of the Quranic verses are forgotten and instead interpretation is derived from culture rather than the actual historical conditions and issues being addressed at the time of revelation. Because these conditions are actually outlined in the Qur’an, they are as important as the rest of the parts. The conditions are a part of the orders, and it is the inclusion of these in part of the whole, the recognition that certain actions are called for in certain conditions, that make the Qur’an timeless.
Much of my efforts here involve attempting to shake culture off Islam. I feel many Muslims have forced their practicing of Islam to bow to culture, (like during weddings, for example, instead of “This isn’t our cultural practice,” we hear things like, “This isn’t Islamic!” when Islam dictates nothing about what color the dress should be) and I feel that this is the reason there is so much conflict. Culture, after all, is the very reason there are so many sects and divisions in Islam that fight violently amongst themselves, divisions that would otherwise be completely unsupported!