Br. R. wrote:
"While many of us are horrified by such crimes, wife burning, mutilation and beating is a norm in most Muslim countries. ... Dear Friends, howver you want to deny it or turn a blind eye the above is the reality in most of what you call the Ummah. And it has been that way for a very very long time."
Understanding and recognizing the reality is the critical first step. I do agree with Br. R. wholeheartedly in this regard. Most of us seem to have a lack of sensitivity in regard to such problems. Securalists, anti-muslim establishments as well as religion-neutral groups (such as the Grameen Bank) have much more sensitivity in this regard.
Obviously, Muslims in general are lot more sensitive to issues related to Halal meat, avoidance of pork, details of Islamic ritual worship than such gender-related or other broad issues. It is also unfortunate that many such malpractices and abuse in muslim societies are under a PRESUMED cultural AND religious sanction.
Br. R. wrote:
"In most places the household is also private place, and societies often dont have any incentive to interfere in domestic issues. However, you want to look at it the roots of wife beating, and seclusion of women to the point that crimes against them often become a "private domestic matter" guarded by the conventional Purdah customs."
I also concur with Br. R. on his observations related to muslim societies, although I might have to understand what precisely Br. R. means by conventional Purdah customs. That we take note of the reality and understand the nature and extent of the problem are critically important.
Br. R. further wrote:
>The beating aspect in particular is justified under Shariah.
I completely and categorically disagree with Br. R.'s statement here. If he is suggesting that people have religious impressions based on which they act or others conduct themselves using religion as pretext, then I understand the reality, but that has to be stated differently. However, if this is the understanding of Br. R. himself, illustrating his earlier point of conflicting Dalil for contradictory life-styles, then once again I categorically disagree with that. This disagreeing is not because I find support in the Qur'an/Sunnah for my views. Rather, in studying the Qur'an/Sunnah, I do not find that conflicting Dalil supporting contradictory life-styles.
First, let us have the ground rules agreed upon.
1. No verse in the Qur'an or Hadith should be taken, interepreted, and used to draw conclusions from in isolation.
2. Hadith or Qur'an should not be considered in isolation.
3. The Qur'an or Hadith should be understood in light of the Prophet's (p) life to identify and establish norms.
4. Islam allows us to enact laws and shape social norms using available, acceptable means of education, social conditioning as long as such law and other means are not inconsistent with the intent of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, especially in specific contexts where such laws and social conditioning enhance the materialization of Islamic and Prophetic vision.
5. We as new generations are essentially bound to only the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In understanding and interpreting Sunnah as individuals we have to be conscientious (not merely pragmatic). We also have to be conscientious as a generation. We as a new generation can respect older generation's - it does not matter how far it goes back - and conscientiously accept or reject the opinion or understanding of the past generation. Also, except the Prophet, (s) our adherence is not to any specific individual or a group, when conscientiously we differ in understanding and interpreting Islam.
My subsequent discussion is based on the above points. If you don't agree with these, then we should discuss those points first.
Now, the specific topic of wife-beating. In Islam, there is no wife-beating. Period. That is not just the intent and vision of Islam and the Prophet (s). To clarify myself, it might be worthwhile to point out that the only Qur'anic reference one can bring in this regard is Surah #4/an-Nisa/34. I will ignore the fact that the reference here is NOT UNCONDITIONAL.
Although we usually know and understand what beating is, let us not leave it to any ambiguity. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (for example), to beat is:
- to strike REPEATEDLY - to hit repeatedly so as TO INFLICT PAIN
- to strike directly against FORCEFULLY and REPEATEDLY
- to flap or thrash at VIGOROUSLY
If this is what beating is, then in light of Prophet's (p) life, his authentic and undisputed statement in hadith, and a clear consensus among the religious experts, there is NO beating in Islam. Period. There is NO conflicting Dalil/evidence in Islam about this. I also want to emphasize that I am not making an apologetic, defensive, modernist statement here.
We still have the reality where beating could be the norm, but not because of Islam, but despite Islam. We all are partly responsible for it. More than misunderstanding, I believe that it is our lack of sensitivity to articulate, educate as well as create necessary social pressure against it that is perpetuating the problem. Proper understanding of Islam should take care of this problem. If not, there is no reason why muslim society, not because of pressure and propaganda of the non-muslim or anti-Islamic camps, but within the Shariah and inspired by Islam, enact appropriate laws against such uncivil, unIslamic conduct. Within the domain of Islamic law, such conduct can be criminalized.
Now, if Br. R. or anyone else among us thinks that the beating aspect in particular is justified under Shariah, then why blame the world or the mass?
Br. R. wrote:
"How many "Islamic" organizations come forward to defend women's rights? Or prevent such crimes? Except Br. Farooq I have not seen or heard of any (except those who eloquently speak of how Islam gave women so many rights"
I only partially agree with Br. R. in this regard. Increasing number of people are becoming conscious about these issues. What is still lacking is the necessary sensitivity to turn such matters as a (or a part of a relevant) movement. In my view, I would not consider any movement a relevant Islamic movement, if they themselves are not SPEARHEADING campaigns about such issues as FOCAL part of their movement.
Even at the risk of trying your patience, I am appending a relevant article on this subject of wife-beating. If you would like to read later at your convenience, you can go to:
If you have time now (or can't wait till tomorrow, next month, or next year), here is the piece.
Mohammad Omar Farooq
GENDER EQUITY IN ISLAM
Dr. Jamal Badawi
In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not overlook her POSITIVE ASPECTS (see Qur'an 4:19). If the problem relates to the wife's behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment and expresses contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but NEVER ON THE FACE, making it more of a symbolic measure then a punitive one. Following is the related Qur'anic text:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women. because Allah has given the 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) do not share their beds, (and last) beat (tap) them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (4:34)
Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:
a. It must be seen as A RARE EXCEPTION TO THE REPEATED EXHORTATION OF MUTUAL RESPECT, KINDNESS AND GOOD TREATMENT, discussed earlier.
Based on the Qur'an and hadith this measure may be used in the cases of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then, other measures, such as exhortation, should be tried first.
b. As defined by hadith, it is NOT PERMISSIBLE TO STRIKE ANYONE'S FACE, CAUSE ANY BODILY HARM OR EVEN BE HARSH. What the hadith qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih, or light striking, was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolic) use of miswak (a small natural toothbrush)! They further qualified permissible "striking" as that which leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen-centuries-old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from "abuse" in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort, and "lesser of the two evils" measure that may save a marriage does not meet the definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence, " or "wife battering" in the 20th century law in liberal democracies, where such extremes are so commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.
c. The permissibility of such symbolic expression of the seriousness of continued refraction DOES NOT IMPLY ITS DESIRABILITY. In several ahadith, Prophet Muhammad (P) discouraged this measure. Among his sayings are the following: "Do not beat the female servants of Allah;" "Some (women) visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you;" and"[It is not a shame that] one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her at the end of the day." (See Riyadh Al-Saliheen, op.cit,p.p. 137-140). In another hadith the Prophet(P) said:
...How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?... (Sahih Al-Bukhari,op.cit., vol.8.hadith 68,pp.42-43).
d. True following of the sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (P), who NEVER RESORTED TO THAT MEASURE, regardless of the circumstances.
e. Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures and circumstances. Some measures may work in some cases and cultures or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. by definition, a "permissible" act is neither required, encouraged or forbidden. In fact it may be BETTER TO SPELL OUT THE EXTENT of permissibility, such as in the issue at hand, rather than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified, or ignoring it all together. In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way, which can lead to excesses and real abuse.
f. Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any "Muslim" can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an or hadith). Such EXCESSES AND VIOLATIONS ARE TO BE BLAMED ON THE PERSON(S) HIMSELF, as it shows that they are paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and failing to follow the true Sunnah of the Prophet (P).