Muslim Women, Islam, and Wife Beating
In previous posts we looked at Ali Gomaa’s teaching about women in Islam. I mentioned that there is a lot of misunderstanding and it is not easy to learn about the role of women in Islam because : (1) I am not Muslim; (2) I am not a woman; (3) and situations differ around the world. In this series I would like to look at “wife beating” in Islam and a passage in the Quran that sounds problematic.
Here are three translations of the Quranic passage in question:
YUSUF ALI: 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 ye 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).
PICKTHAL: Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.
SHAKIR: Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great
Here is Ali Gomaa’s interpretation of this text.
“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.”
My take on the Grand Mufti’s answer about wife beating, “Ask your culture.”
Admittedly there may be a problem with the above clip because it is only a snippet of an interview. Is it taken out of context? If so, please help me by filling in the larger context by commenting below.
Here is another Egyptian perspective (“Allah Honors Wives With Beatings”); albeit from a cleric with less recognition than Ali Gomaa,
Notable quotes from Sa’d Arafat,
Sa’d Arafat: Allah honored wives by instating the punishment of beatings.
Interviewer: Honored them with beatings? How is this possible?!
Sa’d Arafat: The prophet Muhammad said: “Don’t beat her in the face, and do not make her ugly.” See how she is honored. If the husband beats his wife, he must not beat her in the face. Even when he beats her, he must not curse her. This is incredible! He beats her in order to discipline her.
In addition, there must not be more than ten beatings, and he must not break her bones, injure her, break her teeth, or poke her in the eye. There is a beating etiquette. If he beats to discipline her, he must not raise his hand high. He must beat her from chest level. All these things honor the woman.
She is in need of discipline. How should the husband discipline her? Through admonishment. If she is not deterred, he should refuse to share the bed with her. If she is not repentant, he should beat her, but there are rules to the beating. It is forbidden to beat her in the face or make her ugly. When you beat her, you must not curse her. Islam forbids this.
Interviewer: With what should be beat her? With his bare hand? With a rod?
Sa’d Arafat: If he beats her, the beatings should not be hard, so that they do not leave a mark. He can beat her with a short rod. He must avoid beating her in the face or in places in the head where it hurts. The beatings should be on the body and should not come one right after the other. These are all choices made during the process, but beatings are allowed only as a last resort.
The honoring of the wife in Islam is also evident in the fact that the punishment of beating is permissible in one case only: when she refuses to sleep with him.
Interviewer: When she refuses to sleep with him?
Sa’d Arafat: Yes, because where else could the husband go? He wants her, but she refuses. He should begin with admonishment and threats…
Interviewer: Allow me to repeat this. A man cannot beat his wife…
Interviewer: …over food or drink. Beatings are permitted only in this case, which the husband cannot do without.