Gender equality in Islam vs the menace of domestic violence – 2

Part 1

By Ayeza Haider

(Continued)

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاء بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُواْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِّلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللّهُ وَاللاَّتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلاَ تَبْغُواْ عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا {34

Now we come to the verse 34 of An Nisa which should be understood with this background in mind. “Men are responsible for their women”, their caretakersقَوَّامُونَ  .The word Quwaam has the same root word of Allah’s name Qayyum which means, “Allah is the caretaker of everything.” Do we imagine Allah hitting or breaking others as a part of this care? No! That is not meant by taking care.

Next: “Because Allah gave preference to some over others.”  بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ Allah did not say “He gave preference to men over women”. He could have said it clearly but He did not, so it is a criminal act if we write that down in the translation of the verse as if Allah has said that. Men were given some preferences and benefits and women were given some preferences and benefits. In this case, men have been given the responsibility to take care of women or maintaining them. “…..and because of what they spend from their money….” وَبِمَا أَنفَقُواْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ Spending their money on women is the duty given to them by Allah and anyone from our materialistic society today will not take it as a privilege but as a burden as every material necessity would be provided to the wives instead of asking them to go out and earn for themselves. “……Good women are subservient to Allah” فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ Here again, not subservient to their husbands but to Allah because that is how the word Qanoot is used everywhere in the Quran whether its Dua e Qanoot or it is ordered, “qunoo lillahi qaaniteen”. “…..Good women are subservient to Allah, they are guardians to what is in the unseen” meaning they guard their dignity and faith even when their husbands are not around, “…. on account of what Allah has decided what should be guarded” بِمَا حَفِظَ اللّه and then He said “…for whom you are afraid of their uprising” تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ .What is uprising? This word is again used in the same surah for men; a man going against his wife, abusing or hitting her is also nushooz and makes a woman afraid of her husband’s uprising meaning some kind of outrageous behavior. What is outrageous behavior for women? It is definitely not putting three spoons of sugar instead of two in a tea cup of her husband or raising her voice in an argument which qualifies her for nashooz. The sad reality is, these are the simple mistakes where a husband can hit his wife and believe that he has a right to do that according to this verse.

NAK asked his teacher Prof Abdul Haleem about this verse and he explained that this verse deals with a contrast between good women and bad women who are uprising. They do the opposite of what good women do. Good women are subservient to Allah and bad women will defy Allah’s Commands. Good women are loyal to their husbands and bad women will cheat on their husbands. Next the verse states “…. If you are afraid that she is cheating on you” تَخَافُونَ which grammatically means that you are continuing to be afraid instead of meaning that you were afraid, not that she is doing it but if you become suspicious that she is acting weird and that suspicion is getting stronger and stronger “……give them advice” فَعِظُوهُنَّ sit with them and talk. Ask them about their weird behavior, air your suspicion without losing control, tell them you need to know what is going on and counsel them. But if it does not work, “….leave the bed” وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ. Abandon them in beds, put a space between yourself and them, distance yourself. You are disgusted, upset and afraid that something is not right but you have not seen anything and the fear is growing.

Now the worst case scenario, you actually catch her cheating on you! You see her with someone or some convincing evidence so now you lose your mind and actually hit her in a fit of rage “…so hit them” وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ This is the place in Quran which creates a storm in the minds of all secular, progressive, emancipated intellectuals who simply cannot digest this. Now let’s take the “Muslim” out of it and see what would a non-Muslim do in such a situation? People usually snap in such a situation like this and even commit murders in a blind fit of rage. This is illegal all over the world with strictest of punishments yet there are thousands of such cases in even advanced countries like the US or UK where violence takes place if a husband or a boyfriend catches his partner cheating on them.

I am not justifying it yet this behavior arises when emotions take over your common sense. The best behavior should have been to break your ties with an unfaithful woman yet you decide to injure her and land in jail for her unfaithfulness. Now after hitting the women husband feels bad so Allah gives him some kind of license in this particular case scenario keeping his emotional state in mind. So in its harshest of interpretation, this verse deals with the case of repeated perpetual infidelity from the wife which drives a husband nuts and he finally loses it. This is an exceptional case and does not concern with normal circumstances and is definitely not a norm.

Muslims should have absolute faith in their miraculous Quran because these are the words of the Almighty Allah who is the most Just. We should drop our apologetic behavior towards our divine message and clarify the Deen instead of hiding the truth. Next the verse states “…. if they start obeying you again, do not make a case against them” فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلاَ تَبْغُواْ عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً forgive them and start over for the sake of your family!

Subhanallah. Even if her crime is too hurtful, do not let your egos come between you and move on if she wants to repent and you really want to forgive her. The fact is that after spending a long time with your wife, watching your kids grow up and your house turning into a home, you will not be ready to undo everything because of one mistake, no matter how unacceptable, so Islam advises you to be generous and lenient. “Verily, Allah is the Greatest, most High” إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا

This is one interpretation of the verse which allows hitting a wife in an exceptional case. What is most remarkable about it is that the word wadriboohuna does not simply mean ‘hitting’ in Arabic and has served other meanings. The softest interpretation of this word is that if you find your wife cheating on you, simply ‘walk away’ and leave her as in a temporary separation. There is no grammatical evidence that the word wadriboohuna is being used literally because there is no proposition in the verse. The 2007 translation The Sublime Quran by Laleh Bakhtiar, who is an Ameriacan convert, she translates iḍribūhunna not as ‘beat them’ but as ‘go away from them’. The introduction to her translation discusses the linguistic and shariah reasons in Arabic for understanding this verb in context. The root letters d r b, translated as ‘beat’ when accompanied by a preposition, have multiple meanings: with preposition ‘fi’ it means to travel; with the preposition ‘ala’ it means to stomp; with the preposition ‘an’ it means to turn something away; with the preposition ‘bayn’ it means to set up between, to separate.

Without any modifying preposition (as is the case with 4:34) other meanings become possible, including to encompass; to cast, throw or fling upon the ground; to engender; to make a sign or to point with the hand; to prohibit, prevent or hinder from doing a thing one has begun; to seek glory; to avoid or shun; to be with shame; to be in a state of commotion; to be in a state between hope and fear; and to go away.

Laleh also elaborated that the Prophet (PBUH) never beat his wives and his example from the Sunnah informs the interpretation of this verse where in one instance when there was some domestic trouble in his household, he just separated from his wives for a short period of time. Judging from the way he has been portrayed, the Prophet knew innately that it was wrong to harm another human being. He knew that according to 16:126 a verse that was revealed before 4:34, one is allowed to settle the score in case any harm is done to them. ‘And if you punish, then punish with the like of that with which you were punished’ (16:126). Therefore, conceivably if a husband harms his wife by beating her, according to this verse of Surah An Nahl, his wife would be allowed to punish her husband in the same way. In addition, the Prophet’s respect for the female gender was legendary. This included not only his wives, the mothers of the believers, but his daughters as well. He had a very special relationship with his youngest daughter Fatima. How could he ever beat his wives and not consider that someone might beat one of his beloved daughters? Moreover, he knew that marriage was based on mutual respect and love. Quran often tells husbands and wives to consult on issues with each other. It would be unfair and unjust to think that God would have revealed a verse that allowed husbands to beat their wives instead of withdrawing for a short period of time and allowing the anger to subside.

The Islamic scholar Tahir-ul-Qadri has given a very similar translation in his translation of the Quran “Irfan-ul-Quran” “…and (if they still do not improve) turn away from them, striking a temporary parting” This translation is further supported by the fact that the word darabtum is used in the same surah 4:94 which means to ‘go abroad’ in the sake of Allah and which is derived from the same root word daraba as idribuhunna in 4:34. So in harshest case it is allowed for infidelity and in the softest sense it would mean that you should simply leave your wife and walk away.

From the context of this surah we realize that this verse is not at all about domestic violence rather it deals with protecting the fidelity and loyalty inside a marriage. It is the ignorance about what the divine words really mean that has given the Muslim a license to hit their wives on trivial issues. It is about time that we educate them and stop this abuse once and for all. Even a child can understand that husbands hit wives when they are angry so how would the word takhaafoona, ‘you were constantly afraid’, be justified? You were not afraid but angry when you hit her for spoiling your dinner or misplacing an important document so that verse is not giving you any authority to raise your voice or your hand on your equal life partner. Sure it can happen in some circumstances but then it should be correctly understood that it was a mistake and has consequences so that behavior should be corrected as soon as you calm down.

If your wife has raised her voice in anger and is arguing with you, you jump ahead and term it as uprising or nushuz but again, were you afraid of her raised voice or did that anger you? You were angry and Allah has not given you any authority to hit her if you were first not afraid of what was happening, or talked to her, or left her in bed before hitting her. One simply cannot pick and choose words from one single verse and justify ones wrong behavior. The whole procedure should be done first in order to qualify for eventually hitting her. This would be termed as abuse of Allah’s Commands and that is what is being done in Allah’s name by Muslims.

The verse 34 started with the word quwamoon or caretaker who by definition nurtures his family so even if the children just witness their father abusing their mother, it would be a traumatic and emotionally scarring experience for them which could distort their fragile personalities and a father should never do that to his own kids. Only one verse later in ayah 36 Allah is ordering us to be best towards our parents, best to our close relatives, best to our neighbors, best to orphans, best to poor segments of society, best to the ones who travels with you etc. but we still think that husbands should not be best towards their wives and they can hit or abuse them whenever they feel like it? That simply just does not add up and makes no sense. This is abuse of Allah’s words and this sick behavior can be understood when Quran says that people like these take the Quran and tear it to pieces, Qurana izzeen. They tear a piece out and the rest of the speech does not count!

If one wants to hit people, he has got an issue and that is not normal. Do not drag the Quran into this mess. People like these need psychiatric help because when there is physical abuse, there will also be psychological abuse. In this case, if Muslim women believe the common explanation by ignorant mullahs, they would start thinking that they were somehow responsible for the abuse they got and they deserved it. The husband would justify his actions from Quran and make her feel that other people don’t care what is happening to her. This could lead to self-loathing and eventually extreme behavior abnormalities where the victim is unable to seek outside help and can have suicidal tendencies in order to escape. So sisters, get out of abuse and seek help! This is not patience or sabar in order to be a good wife and this is not what Allah has asked you to bear.

There is no tolerance in Islam for abuse and our noblest Prophet (PBUH) who was otherwise a mercy for all mankind, was very strict about it. Leave the matter of injustice to a fellow Muslim, he once saw a mark on a donkey which was made when someone had hit him and he said, “May Allah curse the one who did that to him”. Ali (r) advised people to marry their daughters to people fearing Allah so if they love them, they would honor them and if the dislike their wives, at least they would not abuse them. NAK says, if your daughters come home to you after a divorce in one piece, not abused, don’t be angry rather be thankful because Allah protected her from bodily harm. There are several fatwas in place that state that a marriage can be nullified by a counsel if the husband has physically abused his wife, so domestic violence can easily end in an ugly divorce.

Dear brothers in Islam, learn the correct commands of Allah and do not be misguided by ignorant mullahs who have completely distorted the most beautiful relationship that comes into existence by taking Allah as you witness. It is the strongest bond if you act upon Allah’s instruction which would turn you into a happy family who love each other and support each other in good times or bad times and yet it is also one of the weakest of bonds if taken casually that can be broken easily by merely uttering a few words. So beware of Allah and don’t take His commands or this relationship lightly. I sincerely pray that all Muslim men and women find joy and peace in this most beautiful and satisfying relationship and thus turn our society into one that radiates that love and positivity to the whole world. Ameen.

(Concluded)

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