Afghanistan’s liberal, West-supported president Hamid Karzai last week endorsed a “code of conduct” issued by an influential council of clerics that allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances. This has opened up a can of worms. Could the humane, compassionate feminist religion that Muslims believe Islam is, possibly allow wife-beating?
By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
6 May 2012
بعض النساء لا يمكن العيش معهن بدون عصاة
“I do not want this husband...He does not dominate me”? Said a woman, according to a rather weird preacher of his version of Islam. Is There Really a Need to “Admonish”, “Refuse” and “Beat” wives? What is Islam’s view on the subject of wife-beating? Does the Quran really allow it, as many Muslims claim?
One of the more controversial issues in Islam is the Quran’s authorization for husbands to beat disobedient wives. This is found in chapter 4, verse 34. Additional references on wife beating are found in Prophet Muhammad’s traditions (hadith), and biographical material (sira). Many people condemn Islam because of this harsh “sanction”; many Muslims seek to mollify or defend it and many Muslims use this to their advantage to “rule over” their wives.
Before jumping to any conclusion, the best thing would be to understand the context of the verse. The verse of Surah Nisa says:
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given them one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance) for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all)”
The historical background on 4:34
The reason behind the revelation is detailed by various Muslim scholars. The quote below comes from Razi's commentary, "At-Tafsir al-Kabir," on 4:34
"A woman complained to Muhammad that her husband slapped her on the face, (which was still marked by the slap). At first the prophet said to her: "Get even with him", but then added: "Wait until I think about it". Later on, Allah revealed 4:34 to Muhammad, after which the prophet said: "We wanted one thing but Allah wanted another, and what Allah wanted is best."
According to some, the historical background is a bit different: When Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him ruled in Medina after migrating to it from Mecca, the social life issues and concerns began to be discussed by the Muslim community, and the Muslims started to approach our Prophet 9peace be upon him0 more often with questions and problems to be solved by either him or by a revelation from Allah Almighty (GOD).
Once, our Prophet (peace be upon him) was approached with questions "What if the wife intentionally disobeys her husband in what Allah Almighty has permitted for him upon her? And what if the wife flirts with other men, or can't be trusted to honour her husband's dignity? How should it be dealt with?" The answer to those two questions was the Noble Verses 4:34-35.
Verse 35 is:
“If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint two arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: for Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things”.
Command, forbid, control and rule
A so-called Sheikh from www.arab-jarab.com says:
“A woman does not feel comfort and is not happy unless she's under a man who commands, forbids, controls, and leads.”
He also quotes verbatim from his fantastic memory (sarcasm intended):
“I do not want this husband. He does not command me, or order me or lead me or rule me. He does not overpower me in a loud voice.”
I fail to understand how these kinds of ideas crop up inside someone’s minds. A woman is bound to feel suppressed and oppressed when her husband “commands, forbids, controls, and leads” her all the time. A woman too has the equal right to do things she thinks is right for her and her family; only following the “orders” of the husband equate her with slaves.
He says that Quran is a manual guide for the entire humankind and in the Quran itself Allah gives permission to beat your wives so it is our duty to “use the rod”.
Who is to be beaten?
Concluding his message, the so-called Sheikh, the preacher explains to his listeners the three types of women who must be beaten:
"[The Koran says:] 'and beat them.' This verse is of a wondrous nature. There are three types of women with whom a man cannot live unless he carries a rod on his shoulder. The first type is a girl who was brought up this way. Her parents ask her to go to school and she doesn't – they beat her. 'Eat' – 'I don't want to' – they beat her. So she became accustomed to beatings; she was brought up that way. We pray Allah will help her husband later. He will only get along with her if he practices wife beating.
"The second type is a woman who is condescending toward her husband and ignores him. With her, too, only a rod will help. The third type is a twisted woman who will not obey her husband unless he oppresses her, beats her, uses force against her, and overpowers her with his voice."
For all the three “types” of women, love and compassion is more than enough to solve the problem. Instead of beating, one can treat her kindly with respect and veneration. The Quran gives the answer to this problem in other verses too.
In ch 2 v 231
“Do not retain them (i.e., your wives) to harm them”
In ch 4 v 128
“If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement (separation, divorce) between themselves.”
In ch 4 v 19 Allah says:
“Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and God brings about through it a great deal of good.”
In several hadidths, the Prophet forbade wife beating.
Narrated Mu'awiyah al-Qushayri: "I went to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) and asked him: What do you say (command) about our wives? He replied: Give them food what you have for yourself, and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them, and do not revile them. (Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 11, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Number 2139)"
In another hadidth the Prophet said:
“Approach your tilt when or how you will, give her (your wife) food when you take food, clothe when you clothe yourself, do not revile her face, and do not beat her. (Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 11, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Number 2138)"
Islam gives us a solution to the problem through various means; it is for us to choose which way is the best. For example: for blasphemy some scholars say that death penalty should be given; while some scholars, with whom I agree with, quote:
“Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them and reason with them in the ways that are best and most gracious.”
So instead of giving death penalty we can talk to them and “come to common terms”. Similarly the Quran does say that a man can lightly beat a woman, but on several other places it also says that it is best if you deal with them “kindly” and “with equity.”
Women Around the World
All around the world, especially in the Islamic world, women are treated harshly, even brutally.
Saudi Arabia: A TV presenter who says she was beaten by her husband has allowed newspapers to show pictures of her swollen face to highlight domestic abuse. Rania al-Baz said her husband, Mohammed al-Fallatta, beat her so hard that he broke her nose and fractured her face in 13 places.
Spain: On January 14, 2004, Sheikh Muhammad Kamal Mustafa, the imam of the mosque of the city of Fuengirola, Costa del Sol, was sentenced by a Barcelona court to a 15 month suspended sentence and fined € 2160 for publishing his book 'The Woman in Islam.' In this book, the Egyptian-born Sheikh Mustafa writes, among other things, on wife-beating in accordance with Sharia law.
A shocking survey in Jordan- According to the report:
• 83% of Jordanian women approve of wife beating if the woman cheats on her husband
• 60% approve of wife beating in cases where the wife burns a meal she's cooking
• 52% approve of wife beating in case where she's refused to follow the husband’s orders
In Palestine, 56.9% of Palestinian Arabs "believe that a man has the right to beat up his wife if she underestimates his manhood."
Man’s Ego or Woman’s Personality
This is what needs to be taught and tutored, that a woman is better and stands on a higher ground than a man’s ego or “manhood”. Men must learn to accept that on some occasions women can be better than them so they should throw their ego in the bin.
Without doubt Islamic wife beating is a significant problem because it is supported and practiced in the worldwide Muslim community. It is not looked down upon in the Islamic world, rather it is extolled!