An article in THEAUSTRALIAN.COM.AU recently had the following to say about family violence in Muslim family units;
“Muslim men who abuse women take advantage of misconceptions about Islam and use it as an excuse for their actions, say advocates who have called for greater efforts to fight domestic violence in the Muslim community.
Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights director Joumanah El Matrah said men who cited their faith in efforts to excuse their abusive behaviour might not even have any relationship with Islam itself, relying on the religion solely to avoid blame.
“What we know with Muslim men is, where they are perpetrators of family violence, religion is used to justify that violence, that is one of the excuses they use,” she told The Australian.
“It’s a way, really, that they can sidestep any responsibility for their actions.”
It is true that Muslim men who are violent towards their wives use their religion to justify their actions, but there is good reason for this. According to Joumanah El Matrah, Islam has nothing to do with the violence seen in Muslim families, when in fact, Islam is the leading motivation for that violence. The qur’an states;
Qur’an (4:34) – “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.” Contemporary translations sometimes water down this word, but it is the same one used in verse 8:12 and clearly means ‘to strike’.
Qur’an (38:44) – “And take in your hand a green branch and beat her with it, and do not break your oath…” Allah telling Job to beat his wife (Tafsir).
Not only is the beating of a wife sanctioned in the qur’an, but it is also permitted and encouraged within the hadith;
Bukhari (72:715) – A woman came to Muhammad and begged her to stop her husband from beating her. Her skin was bruised so badly that she it is described as being “greener” than the green veil she was wearing. Muhammad did not admonish her husband, but instead ordered her to return to him and submit to his sexual desires.
Bukhari (72:715) – “Aisha said, ‘I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women‘” This is Muhammad’s own wife complaining of the abuse that the women of her religions suffer relative to other women.
Muslim (4:2127) – Muhammad struck his favourite wife, Aisha, in the chest one evening when she left the house without his permission. Aisha narrates, “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain.”
Muslim (9:3506) – Muhammad’s father-in-laws (Abu Bakr and Umar) amused him by slapping his wives (Aisha and Hafsa) for annoying him. According to the Hadith, the prophet of Islam laughed upon hearing this
Abu Dawud (2141) – “Iyas bin ‘Abd Allah bin Abi Dhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when ‘Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them.“ At first, Muhammad forbade men from beating their wives, but he rescinded this once it was reported that women were becoming emboldened toward their husbands. Beatings are sometimes necessary to keep women in their place.
Given that the practice of beating a woman was not only practised by, but encouraged by, Muhammad and Muslims are to emulate Muhammad in every way according to their faith, it becomes clear why Muslim men in modern society cite the qur’an and Islamic teachings as a justification for the abuse the inflict on their wives. It is false and dismissive of the larger issue to deny the direct link between Islam and wife beating. It does not address the problem on any front, which can and does have dire consequences.
This does not mean that only Muslim men engage in family violence, men from all walks of life are found guilty. But there is great importance in identifying the motivating factors behind family abuse, getting down to the root cause that these men feel they have the right to lay their hands on their wives in violence, and for the Muslim man, there is this justification not just in 1400 year old texts, but in the modern day as well; let’s examine what leading Islamic scholars and clerics have to say on the matter:
– Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradhawi, one of the most respected Muslim clerics in the world, once made the famous (and somewhat ridiculous statement) that “It is forbidden to beat the woman, unless it is necessary.” He also went on to say that “one may beat only to safeguard Islamic behavior,”
– Dr. Muzammil Saddiqi, the former president of ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America), a mainstream Muslim organization, says it is important that a wife “recognises the authority of her husband in the house” and that he may use physical force if he is “sure it would improve the situation.”
– Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the head of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution says that “light beatings” and “punching” are part of a program to “reform the wife”
– Dr. Jamal Badawi endorses corporal punishment as “another measure that may save the marriage”
– Egyptian cleric, Abd al-Rahman Mansour, said in a 2012 televised broadcast that in addition to discouraging the wife from filing divorce, beatings would inspire the wife to“treat him with kindness and respect, and know that her husband has a higher status than her.”
Unfortunately for Muslim women, wife beating is a deeply ingrained “right” of the Muslim man, as the man is the keeper and authority of the family and household. Should the man feel displeased or disrespected in any form, it is not only his right, but according to Islamic clerics, his duty to beat his wife into submission. After all, Islam is submission. Denying this element of Islam and its effects on the family unit hurts the victims further.