Domestic Violence - Misogyny and Wife Beating Among Muslims

 

By

 

Imam Syed Soharwardy

January 29, 2011

 

Mahfooz Kanwar’s column, “Yes, Islam condones wife beatings, misogyny” (Calgary Herald, January 16, 2011) tells me why domestic violence takes place in a Muslim family  while clear guidance of Islam forbids this abuse.  The reason is very clear. People like Kanwar are convinced that Islam condones wife beating.  I never believed that my religion allows me to beat-up wife. Therefore, more than 22 years ago I married a woman and I am still happily married to the same woman only.  I am sure those who beat up wives must have different experience.  One of the major reasons of failed marriages is the abuse by the spouse.

 

Kanwar’s column did not do any good except for providing more opportunities to those who do not want to build bridges among different communities of Canada.  Kanwar’s column has also shown the level of knowledge he has about Qur’an and Islam. 

 

I have written many times that each and every verse of the holy Qur’an has a context and that, in most cases, the context is outside the Qur’an. Taking a literal translation of the verses to try to make a point only shows one’s ignorance. In my Christmas Fund column (Calgary Herald, Dec 22, 2010), I wrote that some Muslims do interpret the verses of Qur’an as Kanwar did. They end up beating their wives and face failed marriages.

 

The translation of the Qur’anic verse (4:34) Kanwar provided in his column is not only wrong but he has even added several sentences of his own.  I was shocked to see that he tried to quote verse 4:62 which is completely related to a different topic.  His translation of verse 4:62 is completely absurd. It’s not a Qur’anic verse at all. This shows a clear intention of bias and misguidance.  I have read eight different translations of Qur’an, but I did not find Kanwar’s translation in any of them.  Is he qualified to translate Arabic verses? A correct translation would be as follows.

 

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 loyal, and guard in (the husband´s) absence what Allah would have them guard (private parts). As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) hit them (with tooth brush); but if they return to loyalty, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all) (4: 34).

 

This verse refers to a situation when a married woman develops sexual relationships outside marriage. It is a reminder to such women that your husband has been loyal to you. He is the bread earner and maintainer of the family. In spite of all his hard work and loyalty why should the wife not be faithful to her husband? 

 

People quote this verse and two other verses from Qur’an to prove the superiority of man. In fact, there is no superiority of anyone over another based upon gender. In Islam, superiority of a person is based upon piety.

In this verse, what Allah has described are the higher responsibilities of a man. A man is responsible to earn, to pay the bills and take care of the family. Although women are allowed to work in Islam, it is mainly a responsibility of the husband.

Therefore, there is no gender-based superiority in Islam. In fact, the relationship between a husband and wife is based upon mutual love, respect and care: “They (wives) are your garments. And ye are their garments." (Qur’an 2:187)

Regarding "strike them with tooth brush", it is an extreme situation. If a married woman establishes intimate relationship with another man, in that extreme case Allah is asking her husband to educate her first.

If she does not listen and continues having intimate relationship outside marriage, then separate your bed with her. And if she still continues, then express your frustration in a symbolic fashion by touching her with the toothbrush.

There is no killing or beating to cause pain and bruises to a wife, even in an extreme situation. Some scholars disagree with the translation of Arabic word “Fadhreboo hunnah” as "strike" or “hit” or "beat". They have also translated this word as "separate them". It means divorce them as a last resort.

Domestic violence is a huge problem in Canada. It is not, specifically, a Muslim problem. It is a human problem. Even a person who is not a Muslim, or does not believe in any religion, will not tolerate his wife having a sexual relationship with another man.  In this extreme situation Qur’an is asking man to educate wife first. Tell her that this conduct is wrong. If she still does not listen, do not sleep in her bed.  And if she still insists on maintaining a sexual relationship with another man, then express your anger by hitting her with “miswak” (a tooth brush).

 

One of the most important requirements of Islam is to save marriage. Therefore, when an adulterous relationship occurs, Islam does not encourage the husband to beat his wife or divorce her immediately.  Rather, Qur’an says try to educate her, then peacefully protest and finally express your frustration in a symbolic manner.  No beating as Kanwar understood it.

 

Qur’an does recognize gender equality. The idea of superiority is based on honesty / piety only.

 

"O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you" (Quran 49:13).

 

The Shari’a that Kanwar described in his column is not Shari’a.  Just like terrorists who quote verses of Qur’an to kill people, there are fanatics who cause injustice and cruelty in the community by misinterpreting the verses of Qur’an and calling it Shari’a. I have studied and taught Islamic jurisprudence in Pakistan. What is Kanwar’s qualification in Islamic Shari’a?   What does he really know about Islamic laws?

 

I invited Kanwar for a dialogue on the same topic. He has not only refused, but even started a campaign of my character assassination. If he has knowledge of Islamic Shari’a why doesn’t he debate with me? 

 

If the cases Kanwar quoted in his column were decided by a clergyman, why is this a surprise? Didn’t the pastors and evangelists of KKK and white Supremacists do the same thing in the name of Christianity?  Who calls them right?

In Islam it is Haraam (forbidden) for a man to hurt his wife even if she is involved in activities that go against Islam.

What Islam requires from its followers is to inform people about the teachings of Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). No family member (including parents, husbands, brothers, etc.) is allowed to hurt any family member for committing sins. They are required to educate and inform, without violence or force.

In Islam, no apparent obedience of Allah is acceptable to Allah unless the person does it with his or her heart. Therefore, beating or abusing a family member in order to force them to follow Islam is not acceptable to Allah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “help the oppressed and the oppressor”. People asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): We understand how to help the oppressed, but how should we help the oppressor? He replied, “by stopping him from the oppression”.

In Islam, if a person commits illegal or illegitimate actions an institution with authority such as the police, courts or government can punish the person - not family members or other people. Honour killing is a major sin in Islam. Those who commit honour killings they should face the justice in this world and they will face Allah’s justice soon too.

In case you think a person needs to talk with someone from the Muslim community, you should have the contact info of some of the Muslim organizations who are working in the area of domestic violence. For more information, you can also e-mail contact@islamicsupremecouncil.com.

In short, Islam considers misogyny, racism, discrimination, and gender superiority OR superiority based upon colour of skin, language, ethnicity or nationality wrong and sinful.  Domestic violence is very un-Islamic practice and honour killings is a major crime in Islam.  In his last Sermon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,

 

"O People! just as you regard this month, this day ,this city as sacred ,so regard the life and property of every Muslim a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds."………………………………

"O People it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.” ………………………….

 

May Allah give us a wise and kind heart. Ameen