16 September 2006

And Beat Them Lightly

Having first heard of this via Popbitch, I didn't know how seriously to take a report that Islamic Society of North America's recent convention in New York offered a workshop on the properly Islamic way to beat your wife. But on taking a quick look around the interweb, I discovered that this "Analysis and In-Depth Discussion of Verse 4:34" had been widely reported.

I also discovered a thoughtful commentary by one scholar, Dr Ahmad Shafaat, urging that before using physical violence to discipline recalcitrant wives, husbands first "admonish them," and then "separate them in beds." But, he goes on to say:
If even separation fails to work, then it is suggested that men use beating. To this suggestion of the Holy Qur'an there have been two extreme reactions on the part of some Muslims. The first reaction is being apologetic or ashamed of the suggestion. The second is to use it as a justification for indulging in habitual wife battering. Needless to say that both these reactions are wrong. The Quran as we believe is the word of God and is thus every word in it is full of wisdom and love. To be apologetic about any part of the Quran is to lack both knowledge and faith. As for the second response, the suggestion to use beating is made specifically to deal with nushuz on the part of the wife, that is, to deal with her deliberately nasty behaviour that poses a threat to the marriage. Beating is to be done after due admonition and separation in beds and therefore by husbands who have some moral standards and have sufficient control over their sexual passions. Moreover, this beating is not to go on and on but is to be tried as a last step to save the marriage. Once it is clear that it is not working it is to be abandoned in favour of some other steps involving relatives of the husband and the wife mentioned in the next verse (4:35). There is therefore, absolutely no license here for the type of regular and continual wife beating that goes on in some homes, where each time the husband is angry with his wife or with someone else he turns against her and beats her up. In most such cases, the husband has no moral superiority over the wife: the only rule of Shariah that he cares about is this suggestion about beating. He also does not have the kind of control over his sexual passions needed to separate the wife in bed and often beats her the day before or the day after making love to her, an action specifically condemned by the Prophet.
He also offers some helpful suggestions on proper technique, noting that:
According to some traditions the Prophet said in his famous and well-attended speech on the occasion of his farewell pilgrimage that the beating done according to the present verse should be ghayr mubarrih, i.e. in such a way that it should not cause injury, bruise or serious hurt. On this basis some scholars like Tabari and Razi say even that it should be largely symbolic and should be administered "with a folded scarf" or "with a miswak or some such thing". However, to be effective in its purpose of shaking the wife out of her nasty mood it is important that it should provide an energetic demonstration of the anger, frustration and love of the husband. In other words, it should neither seriously hurt the wife nor reduce it to a set of meaningless motions devoid of emotions.
In a perhaps unrelated, but still amusing footnote, Popbitch also reports the tale of one Mustafa Moufaden from Brentford, West London, who:
was flying from Shanghai to London when Virgin Atlantic staff refused to serve him more alcohol as he was so drunk. Mustafa did what every right thinking Muslim chap would do under the circumstances...he shouted at them that he knew Osama Bin Laden, and would tell on them if they didn't give him booze. He's now in trouble.


Anonymous said...

Come on, Larry, enough cheap shots.

That's the standard for judging whole religions and societies?

Quotes from individuals at some stupid fundamentalists convention?

They don't speak for everyone, do they?

If we're going to apply that logic, then let's be consistent about it. Here are the views of Christians in their own words:

1. On stoning disobedient children: The Rev. William O. Einwechter's article, "Stoning Disobedient Children," appeared in the January issue of Chalcedon Report, a monthly journal published by the Chalcedon Foundation in Vallecito, Calif.

In the article, Einwechter cites Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which advises parents to take "a stubborn and rebellious son" before city elders to be stoned to death if he will not change his ways.

2. On slavery: "Kidnapping is forbidden as a method of acquiring slaves, and deserves capital punishment (Exodus 21:16). Basically, there are only four legal ways to get slaves. They may be purchased (Leviticus 25:44-46), captured in war (Numbers 31:32-35; Deuteronomy 21:10-14), enslaved as punishment for theft (Exodus 22:1-3), or enslaved to pay off debts (Leviticus 25:39; Exodus 21:7)."

David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1981), pp. 61-62.

3. On religious liberty: "So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."

Gary North, "The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right" in Christianity and Civilization: The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, No. 1 (Spring, 1982), p. 25.

4. On democracy: "The church today has fallen prey to the heresy of democracy."

R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), p. 747.

Wesley said...

Oh, come on, I doubt either of you are even married. Don't knock it before you've tried it. I find dancing around with a folded handkerchief does wonders for strengthening the marital bond.

Larry Livermore said...

"Some stupid fundamentalists convention?"

I don't know, the Islamic Society of North America looks pretty mainstream to me. Progressive, even: they just elected their first woman president. Don't know where she stands on the beating issue. Maybe she'll press for a modernisation conferring equal rights for wives to beat their husbands.

Seriously, check out their website (http://www.isna.net/) and tell me they're just "stupid fundamentalists."

Anonymous said...

Evangelical Christians like Jerry Falwell have a larger following than "the Islamic Society of North America," do they not?

So if you're going to impute the views of one speaker at one conference of "the Islamic Society of North America" to all Muslims everywhere in the world, then shouldn't you also impute the statements of Jerry Falwell and "The Rev. William O. Einwechter" to all Christians everywhere in the world?

The Rev. William O. Einwechter says it's Christian to stone children! Therefore it must be Christian to stone children. Therefore Christianity is a backwards, barbaric religion. That is your logic as applied to Muslims.

Larry Livermore said...

Going on in this vein is about as useful as teaching a pig to tap dance: it wastes time and annoys the pig.

I have said repeatedly that I am opposed to extremism and fanaticism in all religions and that I am well aware that many Muslims are not extremists and fanatics.

If you're unable or unwilling to understand what I've said, or, worse, are so intellectually dishonest that you're going to go on ad infinitum accusing me of things I haven't said, there's no point in responding to you at all.

So go on being annoyed, outraged; sputter with righteous indignation, and keep Google in business with your voluminous citations. I still don't think you're ever going to be much of a tap dancer.

Anonymous said...


Are you really suggesting that your writings apply that same level of scrutiny to Western extremism as they do to Muslim extremism?

Besides not engaging in any serious criticism of the West for any of its current misdeeds, to the contrary, you rationalize the misdeeds and dismiss any criticism of them as biased demogoguery conducted by "stodgy old lefists."

Are you going to deny that this is your modus operandi?

Do I have to go back and count how many of your posts took issue with Muslim extremists versus European extremists?

Ethereal Being said...

Late in the game, I know but if I may take the liberty of directing you to this link:


Just to give you a different perspective. As a Muslim, I was always taught to treat women with dignity and respect.