What is the reason for wearing gold

Why should only women wear gold in Islam

If you come to paradise, you can look forward to bowls made of gold. In Islam, gold is primarily a woman's thing: men shouldn't wear gold. And eating with gold and silver cutlery is forbidden.

Raphael Rauch

What role does gold play in the Koran?

Reinhard Schulze *: The Koran recalls the biblical story of the golden calf without fully telling it. It is mentioned that the calf, actually like a young bull in the Torah, was made of jewelry. This should have meant gold, but this fact did not play a role in the narrative. It was more decisive that the young bull apparently slurred or mooed as if it were alive - and thus demanded to be worshiped.

What does that mean?

Schulze: In the exegetical narrative tradition, there was a lot of speculation about what this babbling is all about. It was often concluded from this that the calf was actually made of dust. In the Koran, however, the creator of the golden calf is not Aaron, but a rebellious companion of Moses named Sāmirī. It is unclear who it is.

What other meaning does gold have in the Koran?

On the one hand, gold symbolizes ephemeral earthly recognition: Moses is laughed at by Pharaoh because he was not given any gold bracelets. On the other hand, those who enter Paradise will receive bowls of gold and adorn themselves with bracelets made of gold. This motif appears again in a Medinan revelation. Otherwise gold is seen here more secularly, namely as that which one longs for, with which one would like to buy oneself free from guilt - or that one likes to hoard instead of using it godly. In short: gold appears as the lure of false worship, as a transitory symbol of earthly rank, as an economic value and freed from it in paradise as an aesthetic delight.

© Stefan Maurer
Muslim symbol at the House of Religions

What role does gold play in Arabic literature?

Schulze: In premodern Arabic literature, gold played a major role in denoting the noble, the valuable and the pure. Therefore, quite a few books had the term gold in the title, the best known of which was probably the "gold meadows" of the writer al-Masʿūdī, who died in 956. In 1001 Nights there are numerous references to golden objects when it comes to denoting wealth and prestige. Since there are many allusions to alchemy in the pre-modern literature, there are often references to gold. Mostly as the hoped-for result of a transmutation of common metals into silver and gold. Gold therefore had no independent creative character like the philosopher's stone or the elixir. However, the sun was considered to be the eponym for “gold” from an early age.

Otherwise, in the pre-modern era, gold was primarily spoken of as a currency: since the coin reform of Caliph ʿAbdalmalik in 696 and until the dawn of modern times, the gold dinar was a kind of key currency.

"In the event of divorce, the wife actually received the value of the bride price that had been agreed upon when the marriage was concluded."

What role does gold play in Muslim weddings? Should the wedding ring be gold?

Schulze: The bridal gift (mahr) is often deposited in gold. That had to do with the fact that gold was regarded as stable in value and that therefore the wife in the event of divorce actually received the value of the bride price that had been agreed upon when the marriage was concluded.

The wedding ring - as anulus pronubis basically a Roman invention - did not find its way into European Christian marriage traditions until the High Middle Ages. In the 19th century it also gained importance among Christian marriages in the Middle East, where it was always worn on the left. The ring was then also introduced into Muslim marriages as a sign of civil marriage - although it is almost always only the woman who wears the gold wedding ring.

Radical Orthodox Muslims refer to the wedding ring as an “imitation of the unbelievers”. Yet some of them consider wearing a wedding ring with the intention of symbolizing the covenant of marriage to be permissible. Of course, gold rings for men are then at least "to be avoided", others see this as "forbidden" or as a "breach of a taboo". Since men in Turkish families also wear gold wedding rings, this taboo is becoming more and more weak.

© pixabay.com cinya75 CCO
Minarets of a mosque in Urumqi

How important is gold in Islamic art?
Schulze: Decorating objects with gold was often seen as a “look into paradise”. Lettering decorated with gold, especially verses from the Koran written in this way, were assigned to the divine, but at the same time the decoration with gold also served as an ornament for earthly pleasure, both aesthetically and socially.

Is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem the most famous mosque with gold?

Schulze: The first cathedral, which was completed in 691, already had a gold-plated dome. The building was commissioned by the Caliph ›Abdalmalik Ibn Marwan. The workers finished the project after a little over four years, ahead of schedule and under budget. The caliph took the 100,000 gold coins that were not issued and melted them down to gild the dome. The original shell disappeared over the years and was then fully restored again in the early 1990s. Especially in the modern era, the Dome of the Rock was often seen as an aesthetic model and was repeatedly imitated, for example the "Gold Mosque" opened in Manila in 1976. Also to be mentioned are the Sunehri Mosque in Lahore (Pakistan), the Sunehri Mosque in Delhi (India), the al-ʿAskari Mosque in Samarra (Iraq) and the Dian Al-Mahri Mosque in Depok / Java (Indonesia).

Why are only women allowed to wear gold in Islam?

Schulze: The prohibition on men to wear jewelry made of gold or silk is based on early Islamic traditions, according to which the Prophet Muhammad described gold as glowing coal and saw a disrespectful attachment to extravagance in his love for gold. It was also said that he attributed the wearing of gold to the female nature. He thought women were less prone to worship gold than men. They knew how to handle gold and silk.

"Dental gold is allowed because it is a means of repairing physical damage."

So are men not allowed to wear a gold ring?
Schulze: There is no clear interpretation of how the traditions are to be understood, according to which men are prohibited from wearing a gold ring. There is a consensus among devout Muslims that men are only allowed to wear rings made of sheet metal or iron. Rings made of silver or preferably iron are only allowed with the Orthodox if they are valuable and if the ring does not have the meaning of a wedding ring. In their opinion, wedding rings are prohibited in principle.

However, there were other voices among the Orthodox. The Wahhabi scholar Ibn ʿUthaymin said: “The engagement ring is a kind of ring and there is basically nothing wrong with rings as long as they are not accompanied by some kind of conviction. So with some people, if the man writes his name on the ring he gives his fiancée, and she writes her name on the ring she gives him, both believing that this creates a strong bond between them is generated. In this case, the ring is taboo because it stands for something that has no basis in Islam and that makes no sense. "

What about dental gold?

Schulze: Dental gold is allowed because it is a means of repairing physical damage. The lawyers argued on the basis of a tradition of the Prophet, which was about someone who in pre-Islamic times had lost his nose in battle and had replaced it with a prosthesis made of silver, but it did not work.

Why are Muslims forbidden to eat meals with gold or silver cutlery?

Schulze: Traditions that sound pretty clear are at work here. “A person who drinks from gold and silver cups only fills their belly with hellfire”, said Muhammad, or “do not drink from gold and silver cups and do not eat from gold and silver plates, these are for the unbelievers in this one World, but for you in the hereafter. " Both cases are moral imperatives to refrain from action. Failure to comply with this prohibition was not punished.

There is a connection between gold and zakat, solidarity with the poor. What do you mean with that?

Schulze: The background is the famous Koran verse 9:34, in which it was stated: "And those who hoard gold and silver and do not use it for God's way - you promise them painful punishment." The lawyers are by no means unanimous about the consequences. It all depends on what is meant by “hoarding”. Usually gold is not hoarded when it is used for personal adornment, for example as jewelry or dental gold. Some lawyers, however, demanded the zakat levy in this case as well. Whenever the gold could potentially be included in trade, the zakat must be paid. If you have gold worth CHF 100,000, you would have to cede around CHF 2,500.

"The three kings do not appear in the Koran."

Is there a metaphor of a golden age in Islam?

The metaphor was first used by the Lebanese Maronite Ibrahim Sarkis (1834–1885) in his short «History of Antiquity», which he published in Beirut in 1875. Since then, the term has also appeared to denote the early Islamic period, sometimes the wedding of the Abbasid caliphate.

Do the Holy Three Kings appear in the Koran - as magicians who, of course, pay homage to a prophet, not the Son of God?
Schulze: No, the three kings do not appear in the Koran.

What else do you think of on the subject of gold and Islam?

Schulze: The so-called Islamic State wanted to score morally with its currency policy, which was based on the reintroduction of the gold dinar. In fact, it failed terribly.

* Reinhard Schulze is professor emeritus for Islamic Studies at the University of Bern. He is the director of the Forum Islam and the Middle East.

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© Catholic Media Center, January 4th, 2021
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