I am a student of Islam and have been learning about what the Qur’an says from a non-Western perspective. I’ve been looking into Qur’an 4:34 and what it says about beating one’s wife. Here is Ali Gomaa’s teaching. Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt,
Gomaa comes across to me as saying, Muslims must first ask what is acceptable in the culture they are living, “If wife beating is culturally acceptable, do it. If not, don’t. This is confusing to me because Qur’an 4:34 doesn’t indicate that the command is culturally conditioned.
In some cultures, wife beating is something women respect and desire. “Women in some cultures are not averse to beatings. They consider it as an expression of masculinity and as a kind of control, which she herself desires.”
In other cultures women don’t like it when their husband physically punishes them.
The Grand Mufti then discusses a question he received from Canada. This Canadian said “Here, it is a crime to beat a wife, even with a toothbrush.”Is this prohibition acceptable in Islam?”
The Grand Mufti responded, “Yes, Islam accepts that the beating of Canadian wives, in this culture and ambience…From childhood they are taught that beating women is a type of barbarism, savagery, and so on. There is nothing wrong with taking this into consideration and adapting to society because Islam did not command us to be aggressive towards women. If in their culture, this constitutes aggression towards women, then we are forbidden to be aggressive towards women. But when Allah permitted wife-beating, He permitted it to the other side of culture, which considers it as one of the means to preserve the family and as one of the means to preserve stability.”
Questions for Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and other Muslims:
- Have you ever beaten your wife to preserve the stability of your marriage ? If so, how?
- If you haven’t ever beaten your wife, why not? Qur’an 4:34 sounds like a command. If it is a command, does culture override obedience to the Qur’an? Would you beat your wife if you moved to another culture where it was acceptable?
- How does culture affect Islam’s interpretation of the Qur’an? How much of the Qur’an interprets our culture?