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Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Topic initiated on Friday, March 05, 2004  -  12:40 PM Reply with quote
The Right to Beat Wives


<p align=justify> <font color=green>The following discussion posted by Mr Hashmi is actually the correpondence which he has had with a lady. This discussion was prompted by one of earlier responses to the issue <i> Right of Husbands to beat their Wives </i>. This discussion has been posted to the forums with the view to obtaining opinion of our forum mates on the issue which Mr Hashmi and this lady (AZ) have been discussing.__Jhangeer </font id=green>


<p align=justify> Why does the Qur'an give husbands the right to beat their wives? This sounds like pure savagery. Are we women to be treated as animals? I have seen my own father misusing this right on my mother. This has always distressed me. Please allay my apprehension.
<b> Answer: </b>
<p align=justify> Before your question is answered, a few basic premises need to beunderstood beforehand in this regard:
It is a common observation that every human individual born on this earth has to remain dependent on a number of relationships throughout his lifetime and without these he cannot embark on the tempestuous voyage of his life. In
the prime of his youth, he might consider himself to be the king of the world but during his childhood and old age he needs the love and affection of the near ones which must not cease with time. In both these periods of life, he must be looked after by those who have warmth and compassion for him. In other words, his life demands relationships which should be permanent in nature so that his parents, children, brothers and sisters -- all can play their role in his life. Keeping in view this all important aspect, Islam lays its social structure on the basis of a permanent relationship between a man and a woman. This relationship comes into existence in the form of an everlasting marriage bond and the two constitute the basic ingredients of a family. On the permanence and well being of the institution of the family stands the whole fabric of a society. In other words, if this institution looses its stability, the whole society is shaken from its roots and reduced to a state of communal anarchy. Islam wants to preserve this set-up as much as possible. For this very reason, the Prophet (sws) has regarded the severing of marital ties in the form of divorce as a most unpleasant happening. The right granted to a husband to physically admonish his wife in a certain situation is a last resort to preserve this set-up. It needs to be appreciated that this right has been given to the husband as the head of the family. As such, it is a requisite of authority. In other words, it is not 'gender specific' it is 'authority specific', that is whoever has the authority to head a family must be given this right. In
other words, had a wife been made the head of the family, she would have had this right.
<p align=justify> However, there are several details regarding this right which must be understood. Before they are mentioned, it is essential that the family set-up envisaged by Islam be first understood. In this regard, what needs to be appreciated is that a husband and a wife complement one another. Complementing one another means that they complete certain voids present in each other. Each has certain dominant characteristics peculiar to it. The Qur'an says that for a healthy society, both sexes should acknowledge each other's inborn qualities and characteristics and not become jealous:

<p align=justify> And in no way covet those things in which Allah has bestowed you His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: Men shall be given a share from what they earn and women shall be given a share from what they earn, and ask Allah of His bounty. For Allah has full knowledge of all things. (4:32)

<p align=justify> In other words, what the Qur'an is implying here is that the real sphere of competition is not natural abilities for they have been bestowed by the Almighty; it is the sphere in which one uses these abilities to earn for one's self some reward in the Hereafter in which men and women should strive and compete with each other. The Qur'an then goes on to describe the organization of the family set-up by saying that a husband is the appropriate choice to head a family:

<p align=justify> Men are the guardians of women because Allah has given one superiority over the other and because they [--- men ---] support them from their means. (4:34)

<p align=justify> According to this verse, men are more suited to head a family because of the fact that they are physically and temperamentally more suited. This suitability has been ingrained in their nature by the Almighty. Their physical strength and mental disposition make them more appropriate of the two to carry out this responsibility. The word qawwam (guardian) combines in it the concepts of physical protection and moral responsibility. The second reason pointed out by this verse for this choice is that on a man lies the responsibility of earning for his wife and children. It is but natural for one who financially maintains and looks after the individuals entrusted to him to be at the helm of their affairs. In this regard, however, it must remain clear that Islam does not forbid women to earn a living. It has only freed them from the responsibility of earning, which lies upon men. It also needs to be understood that the verse does not say that the one among the husband or wife who supports the family should become the head; husbands, whether their wives earn or not, are liable for this responsibility. A woman may earn if she likes or if some need arises, but since she has not been entrusted with this duty she has not been given the governing position in the family. Moreover, the verse very clearly states that men's superiority to women is not absolute; it is only relative and confined to certain spheres. Consequently, there are certain spheres in which women by nature -- physical, physiological as well as psychological -- are far superior to men and much more suitable to do certain tasks.

<p align=justify> Next, the Qur'an urges pious women to adopt two attitudes in order to promote harmony and well-being within the set-up of a family:

<p align=justify> So, pious women are obedient [to their husbands] and keep their secrets for Allah also keeps secrets. (4:34)

<p align=justify> Firstly, they should adopt an attitude of submissiveness and docility before their husbands. Just as law abiding citizens obey the rules and regulations of the state they are a part, wives should follow the code of conduct of the family set-up they constitute. Generally, all differences of opinion should be resolved in an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence. The husband and wife should try to win over one another through love and affection and convince each other through arguments and reasoning. A husband who tries to impose his opinion on his wife is a long way from the art of governing a house, and a wife who makes it a point to differ with her husband is a long way from the art of dealing with him. However, whenever there arises a situation of anarchy and disorder which threatens to disrupt the whole family set-up, the wife, according to the Qur'an must adopt an attitude of submission and adjustment.

<p align=justify> Secondly, women should be very faithful to their husbands as far as keeping secrets is concerned. The shortcomings of a husband's personality need to be concealed. Women who hide the flaws and mistakes of their husbands promote an atmosphere of mutual trust in the family and many a time are able to reform them. Men, of course, should reciprocate in this attitude.

<p align=justify> After mentioning the attitudes which promote a healthy family set-up, the Qur'an then goes on to vest a husband with the authority of gently chastising his wife. This admonishment, as mentioned earlier is a last resort to preserve the family structure since breaking up a family has many serious consequences for both parties, the children and the society. A house which has two masters is a house which is bound to doom. Whenever a wife begins to stand up against her husband, the only way out perhaps is to separate the two. This right of chastisement is a final step to avoid this separation. However, as pointed out before there are several details regarding this matter which must be understood.

<p align=justify> Firstly, this right should only be resorted to, if the wife begins to adopt a rebellious attitude and starts to challenge the authority of her husband as the head of the family. The Qur'an terms this attitude as nushuz. It says that when a husband fears such an attitude from his wife which threatens to disrupt the whole family set-up should he adopt this procedure. It should be noted that the Qur'an has not used the word 'disobedience'. Any difference of opinion or altercation is not to be resolved by this procedure. Disagreements and disputes must be settled mutually. It is only when the wife stands up against the authority of her husband should this procedure be employed. Anything less than this does not pertain to this procedure of admonishment.

<p align=justify> Secondly, the Qur'an has laid down a complete procedure which must necessarily be followed in this regard. It says:

<p align=justify> As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them [first] and [next] refuse to share their beds and [last] beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. (4:34)

<p align=justify> It is clear that a good time should elapse in each of the stages mentioned in the verse. The husband should first of all admonish his wife and convince her to give up her defiant behaviour. He should exercise all the patience he can muster to urge and beseech her to change her stance. If after repeated pleas and continuous admonition in a considerable span of time, the wife continues to persist in her rebellious attitude, he has the authority to go on to the second stage by avoiding marital contact with her. This detachment, it is clear, is a form of reproval, and a very strong appeal to the wife to correct herself. Again, this attitude should continue for a substantial period of time so that the point is driven home. It is highly unlikely that most wives would persist in their arrogance after these two initial stages. In all probability, patience, forbearance, and restraint would have conquered their hearts. However, even after this stage, if a wife refuses to accept the authority of her husband, the husband has the right to finally resort to gentle physical affliction.

<p align=justify> Thirdly, if the husband is left with no alternative but to physically punish his wife, he must be very careful in this regard and must not wound or injure her. He should bear in mind that the Prophet (sws) in his last sermon has emphatically directed the husbands to refrain from striking severely (darban ghayra mubbarihin). He should remember that this physical chastisement is similar to the one a mother gives to a rebellious son or the one a teacher gives to an unruly student. He must be aware that in case he misuses this authority in any way, he would be held responsible before the Almighty on the Day of Judgment. In this world also, his wife has the right to report his behaviour to the authorities who can punish him for any misconduct in this regard.
<b> Shehzad Saleem </b>




Edited by - jhangeer hanif on March 06 2004 11:32:16
Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Friday, March 05, 2004  -  12:47 PM Reply with quote
Respons:

I am dismayed at your response. You talk about a human individual and then proceed to define this individual as a man, not as a woman. The way you describe Islam, it is from the erspective of a man and for me, as a Muslim woman, this is unacceptable. Allah is neither male nor female and yet, when His laws are discussed on earth, they are inevitably gendered.

Please do not tell me that when you say "he", you also mean "she". I have heard this response before. Why dont you say "she" and also mean "he'???? This kind of approach DOES have an impact on the way Islam engages with women and the way in which Muslim men perceive their position vis a vis women. To say that something is mutual means that you must truly engage in the discussion with a mutual perspective in mind and you must adopt a MUTUAL gaze. This means, for a start, imagine the "human individual" to be a woman, at least for some time, before you imagine her to also be a man. Do you understand how women feel? I dont think so. You lack awareness and sensitivity to the creation of gender roles in society whereby people think automatically that an individual is a man. Secondly, I am appalled at the way in which you distort facts. Women are head of households and were the head of households during the time of the Prophet Mohammad, May peace be upon him. Just read history, the the history that is written in the way that you have written about the "human individual" as a man, but history that is sensitive to women and gender. I dont have time to go into it, but if you search -- as a true Muslim with a conscience -- you will find enough examples of women being responsible for their husbands. YES. So that argument does not hold water. Throughout history, and in many parts of the globe, man has NOT been the sole breadwinner. It is only the capitalist society, where labour is exploited for capital and production and there is a commodification of all goods and services, has women's work been regarded as "informal" and monetary benefits have been gained by men. About two hundred years ago, in a barter economy, women were equal to men in economic terms. In the farmland of Bangladesh, where I come from, without women, farmers could not survive. And there are more and more single female headed households around the world. Why cant we accept that the social, political, economic laws in the Quran are guidelines which must be amended from time to time, as was done consistently until the 10th Century AD and more recently, as an example, by the Family Laws Ordinance in Pakistan, with respect to the number of wives a Muslim could have. To amend guudilines is NOT to question Allah but to follow the spirit of His message which is to be just to all humankind. The five pillars of Islam are not guidelines but injunctions that are the foundation of my faith. They have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR INTERPRETATION OF FAMILY AS A KEY TO ISLAM!!!!! The five pillars are known to all of us and they do not discriminate, they are not gendered, they are universal: Belief in Allah and the Prophet Mohammad as the messenger of Allah; prayer, fasting, zakat and Haj. All have to do it, whether they are male, female, married, divorced or widowed!!!RIGHT????

These are foundational principles. You should not take something from the Quran and Hadith that suits the way YOU perceive reality. Think of the millions of poor women in the world you have condemned to be abnormal because you have declared 'family' in the way you see it, to be the one and only desirable social arrangement in Islam. And if that were not enough, you take the admonitions of one incident in the Quran and apply it to all women, for all time. As though "authority" has the same meaning in this day and age. Allah is Merciful and Allah is Compassionate and He is also the most Liberal. You say "Islam wants to preserve this set-up as much as possible" I say, Muslim men want to believe in this set up as much as possible! Come on. Open your eyes and start believing in Allah. Not in your patriarchal visions. No more will Muslim women keep quiet and take this kind of paternalistic, prejudiced interpretations! I am my own authority and I bow ONLY TO ALLAH. So all this talk of "authority" is simply out of place.
AZ

Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Friday, March 05, 2004  -  12:53 PM Reply with quote

Thank you for the comments. I would like to respond to some of the points you have made. You think that the author has committed gender discrimination even in his expression by not bifurcating between the genders In this connection you write:

“Why dont you say "she" and also mean "he'????”

I am afraid there is not much to do in this regard. We need to communicate our message to the people who already use the word individual for a human being irrespective of their gender. Therefore one who goes for using ‘she’ instead of ‘an individual’ will not be able to communicate with the rest of the world for the whole world has the same usage. I don’t understand that roots of this style of expression lie in intentional gender discrimination. Therefore, you have to wait for the time when this usage and implication is replaced with the one you desire. Man has been always using the male gender in their communication in the oldest known literature and historical and religious records.


Some of your remarks are really heart rendering and not befitting in academic world. Of course every one has the right to disagree with others but please consider the fact that we have presented our viewpoint duly argued not on the basis of our status etc. Therefore you can very rightly oppose and reject these and present a counter opinion, which we are supposed to analyze on the yardstick of the religious sources with true intent using the faculties of our sense and reason.

You write:

“Women are head of households and were the head of households during the time of the Prophet Mohammad, May peace be upon him. Just read history, the the history that is written in the way that you have written about the "human individual" as a man, but history that is sensitive to women and gender. I dont have time to go into it, but if you search -- as a true Muslim with a conscience -- you will find enough examples of women being responsible for their husbands.”

This is sure to negate the Qur’anic and historical evidence in this regard. Apart from the historical account the fact has been transmitted down to us through generation-to-generation mode of transfer and Muslims have always been clear on the issue over the history that they are made responsible to provide for the family. The fact that some women are reported to have entered into business does not mean that the women were considered the head of the families. You need to prove that whether the fact we present is an established reality. Or I need to understand what you say is a proven fact and what the world knows is distortion of facts?

I would request you kindly to give your explanation of the Qur’anic exhortations in this regard. I would love to know your interpretation of the following verses of the Holy Qur’an.

1. Men are the guardians of women because Allah has given one superiority over the other and because they [--- men ---] support them from their means. (4:34)

2. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them [first] and [next] refuse to share their beds and [last] beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. (4:34)

How would you explain the family structure that has existed ever since the conception of human civilization on earth? If we suppose for the sake of argument that Qur’an does not consider the element of physical and psychological set up of members of different genders then how can we explain that women are excused from attending the congregational prayer and are not obliged to offer obligatory prayer and observe fasts during menstrual periods etc. Do you have me believe that the Qur’anic statement given in number two above is a directive not a factual statement? If yes then does the Qur’an give a statement in general term that is bound to be proved false in another culture and time?

We try to present our views duly argued and expect you to do the same. Otherwise all this exercise will be meaningless. I assure you that we will be reluctant to accept the truth even when it runs contrary of our views. This in fact is binding upon us and we will never fail to acknowledge the truth in any circumstances.

I pray to the Almighty that he guides us the right path and bestows us with the courage to remain steadfast in the truth.

Tariq Mahmood Hashmi

Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Friday, March 05, 2004  -  1:00 PM Reply with quote
AZ
Dear Sir,

Thank you for your response. You say that regarding the use of the pronoun "he" or "she" (I quote you below) I am afraid there is not much to do in this regard.

I dont think this is an adequate explanation. There is much to do in this regard and I believe since you are taking such an important responsibility, you must be aware of what you say and imply. Each of us is responsible for what we say or do. You seem to be saying that nothing can be done. Why not? My objection is that you are a source which we -- myself particularly -- have been relying on as a source of balanced guidance on Islam. You have a responsibility to use the correct term or word. Your email messages go far and wide. Let me give you an exampleto explain why the term we use is important: I am 55 years old, I remember when in the early 1980s, the forces that were fighting against Russian occupation of Afghanistan were referred to as 'terrorists'. Then, in the mid 1980s there was a move, led by Pakistan's government, to start referring to them as "mujahideen". I was a journalist then and remember clearly the day our editor told us to start using this term as it was more appropriate. We made the change and slowly, others followed and today, no one recalls that awful term "terrorist" was once used for the freedom fighters in Afghanistan. Even the American media, when they refer to that time, they still use the term "mujahideen". A similar case applies to the freedom fighters in Palestine, they too were called "terrorists".

Today, when the western media are labelling all Muslims as terrorists, dont you feel the word is used misguidedly, prejudicially, dangerously? If you agree, you must also appreciate that the use of a single word can mean a great deal. I could go on and on, but I am confident you will have understood my point.

I give you this example to explain why it is important to 'name the word correctly". You have further stated that:

We need to communicate our message to the people who already use the word individual for a human being irrespective of their gender.

I wish to explain: in many parts of the world, what people do is the following, they write: he/she or they write he or she. They use both words as both words are necessary!

I also refer you to Surah Al Ahzab ayah 35. I am sure you know this ayah, I dont need to tell you. I am fully aware that the Quran is the only known revealed scripture to directly address women as well as men. No other revealed religion addresses women directly. This ayah in which Allah subhanat'ala addresses man and woman is very important.

According to my humble knowledge, Umm Salamah asked the Prophet may peace be on him why women were not mentioned in the Quran and the revelation that came in the surah mentioned above answered both her question and the questions that other believing women might have had. If Allah in the Quran has made it clear that we must say women and men, not just men and think by this word we are also addressing women, WHY DO YOU THINK people dont follow this guidance? Why do you think, as you say in your response:

Therefore one who goes for using ‘she’ instead of ‘an individual’ will not be able to communicate with the rest of the world for the whole world has the same usage. I don’t understand that roots of this style of expression lie in intentional gender discrimination.

I suggest and argue that it is culture and tradition as developed by male thinkers and scholars that has become accepted as authentic . The word for this kind of thinking is "patriarchy", it is something so deep and entrenched that most people are not even aware it is there. If you allow yourself to be guided by patriarchal values instead of Islam, you will say that it is okay to keep on using the term "man" when actually we mean woman and man, or women and men.

I am sad to read what you have to say after this:

Therefore, you have to wait for the time when this usage and implication is replaced with the one you desire. Man has been always using the male gender in their communication in the oldest known literature and historical and religious records.

Yes, "man has been using the male gender"? What have women been using? Why did Umm Salamah ask the Propher (pbuh) about women not being mentioned in the Quran? When you state that Man has been always using the male gender in their communication in the oldest known literature and historical and religious records, I beg you to reconsider your statement. Man has not been living alone in this world and hence he is not the only gender to be considered. Yes, women are not visible in the same way as men, in public life, in "official" history and so the impression is that what man says, women agree totally with him. The "oldest' record, the Quran, addressed women directly, to make it clear that women are distinct from men and must be seen to be individuals.

Please read Amina Wadud's work on the Quran. She is a scholar of Arabic and she has done some excellent seminal work on the words used in the Quran, especially the inferences of masculine and feminine. Also, Fatima Mernissi has written at lenght on "The Forgotten Queens of Islam'. I suggest you read that book as well. She is also an Arabic scholar, known best for her work, "The discourse of the veil".

I appreciate what you have said about the Quran and I do not have time to discuss these in detail with you. I do suggest you read some more and widen the scope of your basis for what you regard as history. Historical evidence as recorded by men is not necessarily the 'truth". And what has been transmitted from generation to generation is not known to you or me either. What we know is what we hear today: we cannot swear that it was the same in the days of of our ancestors. As a scholar of history, believe me when I tell you this is reality. We have been influenced by colonisation and what we believe to be the truth is often what others want us to believe.

Yes, Muslims have always been clear that they are made responsible to provide for the family. But Each person has to answer to Allah. Will a husband take responsibility for his wife's sins? If she does not pray or fast, will the husband be asked by Allah or will the woman be asked? If she is responsible for her actions to Allah, how can anyone be her authority in this world? Yes, we have to live in mutual understanding, there must be give and take and a man must be able to trust and rely on his wife, so should his wife trust and rely on her husband. The Quranic verses you cite, are to my mind, responses to a social environment in Arabic in the 8th century. They are not immutable laws, they were not meant to be.

You write:

The fact that some women are reported to have entered into business does not mean that the women were considered the head of the families.

Firstly, it is not "some women". Booty was shared equally between men and women in Arabia during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) -- this is a historical fact, which many male written history books have conveniently left out -- and also, women worked for a living, owned property, took part in matters to do with the community, even lead prayers when they were the head of their households. You may not have read the history books, but I have. I am too tired now to give you a full list, but inshallah, I will do so soon.

Meanwhile, please read Surah Al Imran, ayah 195:

And their Lord hath accepted Of them and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female, You are members, one of another..

The labour of men is the same as that of women. Yes, it is sad that women get paid nothing in this world, but the Quran is clear on the autonomy of women.

You write:

I would request you kindly to give your explanation of the Qur’anic exhortations in this regard. I would love to know your interpretation of the following verses of the Holy Qur’an.

1. Men are the guardians of women because Allah has given one superiority over
the other and because they [--- men ---] support them from their means.
(4:34)


Please refer to Mohammad Asad's translation of this ayah:

Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which Allah has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter.

Asad explains: The grammatical form qawwam is more comprehensive than qa'im and combines the concepts of physical maintenance and protection as well as moral responsibility: and it is because of this that I have rendered this phrase as "men shall take full care of women"

This is an injunction to men to undertake responsibility. To misuse it as a means of controlling women is quite wrong.

2. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them [first] and [next] refuse to share their beds and [last] beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. (4:34)

Regarding this ayah, please read ayah 128 in the same surah. Here the reference is to possible bad behavior on the husband's side. Regarding beating, please read Asad's notes on this, pages 109 and 110. I cannot go into it in detail, but I would say that the guidance was to chastise a wife symbolically, not to actually beat her. (there are many sources to support his view and also to show us that the Prophet himself abhorred the idea of beating a wife).

The point also is, there are many details in the Quran that are not taken literally by us. For instance, we do not actually see the sun set before we pray at maghrib. We follow our watches and nowadays, what the computer tells us! But in the Quran, there is no mention of this, nor of a time, such as 6.15 p.m. Does that mean that we are breaking a Quranic law? Of course not!

My point is, that Allah left many matters to our individual conscience. Fasting, for instance, is something we do: there is not way of testing or policing our fast. Furthermore, the Quran is in Arabic and the language has many inflections and inferences. Every language has different cultural and time-bound characteristics. The word "programme" did not exist in urdu until it was borrowed from English. The word "ghareeb" in Arabic means stranger; in urdu it means poor. And so on.

How would you explain the family structure that has existed ever since the conception of human civilization on earth?

Which family structure are you talking about? There are hundreds of ways in which people have arranged their lives, socially, politically, economically and have lived as couples, as single people, as large groups, with women as leaders. Matriarchal socieities existed in the past and still do today. "Family" could mean a single woman, a widow, with many children. That, too, is a "family". The assumption that "family" means a man taking care of his wife and children is correct but it is not the only arrangement known to humankind.

If we suppose for the sake of argument that Qur’an does not consider the element of physical and psychological set up of members of different genders then how can we explain that women are excused from attending the congregational prayer and are not obliged to offer obligatory prayer and observe fasts during menstrual periods etc.

The Quran, to my knowledge, does not excuse women from fasting. Women have to fast later. Please correct me if I am wrong. This is not an excuse, it is a postponement.

Why did Allah make it compulsory on women to say their prayers five times a day? If He had thought of women as less than men, he could have said that women should pray half the times that men pray? That is a preposterous suggestion. Right? Women are excused from congregational prayer and ritual prayer during menstrual periods because of social and hygenic reasons. I am ashamed that you bring this point up in a discussionon whether women are under the authority of their husbands, or whether they can be beaten! Surely, biology is not the only way in which we should approach an understanding of women. Whether a woman has her menstrual periods or not, she can pray to Allah ALL THE TIME. SHE CAN RECITE ANY SURAH SHE WANTS. There is not a single sentence in the Quran that says that a woman cannot recite verses from the Quran, or pray to her Lord, Allah, just because she has her menstrual periods!!! Yes, she cannot stand and pray in ritual prayer. But this is purely for social and hygenic reasons that are obvious.

When you bring up biology, it saddens me. You look only at the biological differences, not at the similarities between men and women. Men have two eyes, women have two eyes. Men have two hands, a nose, two legs. Do women have a different number of bodily parts? Man has one heart. Do women have two hearts? Men have a soul. Woman have a soul. Men are born. Women are born. Men will die. Women will die. We will all have to face our Creator.

I pray to the Almighty that He guides us on the right path and bestows us with the courage to remain steadfast in the truth.
[b] AZ [b]




Edited by - tariq hashmi on March 05 2004 13:12:24

anajee

USA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  1:07 AM Reply with quote
As-Salaamu Alaykum!
I would like to draw your attention to the same ayah that you quoted.(An-Nisa`a; ayah 34). The word the everyone uses to justify beating women is totally taken out of context. It comes from the Arabic root 'Daraba' which not only means to physically beat, but also to go away from or leave. The way the word is used in the ayah, it becomes 'Idribuhunna'. If one where to consult a modern Arabic/English dictionary, one would see that this word is a command in the fourth tense of the verb. To quote from the Hans Weir Dictionary of Modern Arabic this word means to leave, abandon or forsake. In enlightened terms, separation. Some say that this word'Daraba' means specifically to strike. Look in the same surah at ayah 101, and you will see the same word in the Arabic as 'Darabtum'. In this ayah, Allah, ta`ala, is commanding the believers that when they going out(daraba) in the land and they feel that they are threatend and unsafe, they should not all pray at once. Do you think that Allah, ta`ala, is saying when they 'beat at the Earth' that they should be cautious? Of course not! All ayah should be taken into TOTAL context to see what Allah, Ta`ala, is trying to impart to the believers. And Allah is Well Aquainted with all that we do.
locust

CANADA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  3:46 AM Reply with quote
Assalam Alaykum brothers and sisters, I was just recently deliberating on this topic and haven't really come to a conclusion but I would like to offer some thoughts.

A reality: There can be no question that something of the male centred thinking (and often times misogyny) of bygone eras has influenced the way we engage with our tradition. This is a simple historical fact, and ignoring it can only exacerbate the situation our sisters are in.

An example: Students of the Quran wil note that while it doesn't outlaw slavery in a decisive and immediate manner it establishes a clear moral trajectory that inculcates in believers a desire to manumit them, and history vindicates muslims in that, although slavery was as prevalent in Islamdom as it was in the West, the treatment of slaves was much more tolerable (for the most part). However, no sane person would in hindsight even dare to suggest that slavery was a good thing, it was clearly a human failing, a moral blindspot that existed for altogether too long.

I have noticed, and please brothers and sisters, correct me if I am wrong (we are all students here), that the same sort of moral trajectory exists in commandments of Allah with regard to women. The Quran limited the number of wives a man could have to four against the jahilliyah custom of a man marrying as many women as he pleased (there was some polyandry too I believe, not sure). So in this case there was a limit imposed on the endless appetites born of ignorance, and wisdom in encouraging men to marry widows in times of need (this is the impression I get). Also, in every sphere of life where a jahilliya custom oppressed a woman, Allah in his mercy provided respite. So much so infact that, that the Quran could be seen as an agent of liberation for women of that era; the unequivocal assertion of the Quran that men and women are equal,the right to be a part of the commmunity in an active manner (including having audience with the leaders!), the right to independant property (unheard of), the right to expect and demand provision from the husband, the right to work for herself and keep her profits (for women had always had the right to independant work in the cosmopolitan trading nexus of Mecca), and the right to inheritance all point towards the same sort of moral trajectory implied in the verses of the Quran dealing with slavery.

It seems clear that the Quran adresses the minds of those in it's direct audience. That is to say, as the scholars of this wonderful site have noted, we cannot understand the Quran without understanding the nuanced details of the milieu in which it was revealed by Allah(swt) through his prophet Muhammad(saws). The Quran seems to tell Arab men, who were literally like the owners of their women(mirroring the general male-female relationship prevalent in the worldat that time) that once they came to Islam beating thier wives was an absolute last reort and even then it should be light tapping to emphasize a point, and only after other circumvantive measures have been taken to restore order. This strategy sought to reduce the otherwise agressive behaviour towards womenfolk adopted in the age of ignorance. A clear victory for women's rights....at the time.

Wife beating: I don't know. Let me say first that the Farahi/Islahi/Ghamidi approach to understanding Islam has revolutionized my own understanding and day to day application of the faith. In this regard I am eternally grateful. I cannot wait for the day that more muslims become aware of this beacon of light in the otherwise dreary world of Muslim hermeneutics. However.....with regard to the issue at hand, I'm just not convinced by the reasons offered for acceptance of this (as far as I'm concerned) disgraceful act.

The importance of family is paramount in Islam, I will certainly not argue against this idealized concept. The concept of authority as expressed by my brothers at UI/and studying islam pertaining to the family setup seems a bit dated to me but this is besides the point. I'm mainly arguing agianst an intrepretation of the relavent verses that encourages physical admontion of wives(as a last resort). Some reasons for my cautious attitude towards this interpretation:

1. We know through many well authenticated reports that the prophet(saws) himself never laid a hand on his wives and excercised the utmost patience and loving kindness. Is he not our guide? Even if we acknowledge that Allah has taken the weak amongst us men into account and limited any physical admonition they may give to their wives so as not to cause to much damage, why not preach that the time for wife beating is over just as the time for slavery is clearly over.

2. Basic psychology has shown us conclusivley that beating (even light tapping) of children is uneccessary and the goals of discplining a child can be acheived without raising a finger, although light tapping to emphasize a point is still considered OK, it's certainly not necessary. If it is unecessary to reprimand a child (over whom parents weild uncontested authority) then how much more absurd does it seem to hit a woman(even lightly) who is your partner in the journey of life and who is not at all like your child.

3. I will admit that as much as I try to remind myself that my own wishes and desires must be subdued in order to arrive at an understanding of Islam that is accurate and unsullied by my own Hawa(desires), I find myself repulsed by the idea of hitting a woman. No matter what the justification it just feels wrong. Moreover, intellectually I find the arguments in support of it unconvinicing. The moral trajectory of the Quran (my own reading, which may be wrong..may Allah guide me to what is most correct) seems to suggest that eventually men should come to realize that restoring order can be acheived by other means, and no doubt the expiation (of light tapping as a last resort) made for men of the 7th century can no longer in good faith apply to men living in the 21st century just as no sane person could possibly condone slavery.

These are my thoughts on the matter dear sisters and brothers, they are certainly open to revision and I would like to discuss this more. Peace.

P.S. as far as the linguistic constructions noted by the above poster, I have nothing of knowledge to offer intelligent comments on this subject however I would like to hear some knowlegable classic arabic speakers/students opinions on this.

Jazak'Allah khairoun
locust

CANADA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  4:09 AM Reply with quote
Just wanted to add that I do find anajee's thesis regarding the word 'Daraba' plausible and I believe that this is Muhammad Asad's rendering of phrase as well.

Also, since we are discussing alternative linguistic renderings of this verse, I remeber hearing the erudite Shabbir Ally offer comment on these ayah and he gave an altogether novel (and surprising) rendition. According to him the adressee of the verse in question is not the individual husband (in relation to his wife) but rather the community as a whole, and that they have been commanded to seclude and as a last resort lightly beat rebellious sexually immoral women (and men?...I don't remember much from this talk) anyhow, I'll stop now before I do more violence to his intresting interpretation. I may have fudged the points he was making, but what I do remember specifically is that he felt it was linguistically innacurate to assume that the Quran is addressing individual men...and he rejected wife beating entirely. I halven't the arabic credentials to judge the accuracy of this, but I will say that I was very surprised by brother Shabbir.

Edited by: locust on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 4:17 AM
Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  5:37 AM Reply with quote
Can we discover new meaning in the words used in the Qur'an or we have only to restrict to the meaning of the words known to its first addressees? Please comment. Can we say that the Qur'an uses certain words the meaning of which have recently been discovered and have never been known by any till today and still consider it a CLEAR BOOK; a claim that Qur'an repeatedly asserts?
Can this we say of any other work of the old times?
locust

CANADA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  6:25 AM Reply with quote
quote:

Can we discover new meaning in the words used in the Qur'an or we have only to restrict to the meaning of the words known to its first addressees? Please comment. Can we say that the Qur'an uses certain words the meaning of which have recently been discovered and have never been known by any till today and still consider it a CLEAR BOOK; a claim that Qur'an repeatedly asserts?
Can this we say of any other work of the old times?




Hey thanks for your reply!

You know, this is the source of my dillema with regard to these verses and their interpretation.

Of course the clear Arabic of the Quran needs to be rendered as it was understood by it's initial adresees. I am in complete agreement with you. In fact it is this emphasis on the message as it was understood by the meccan arabs of the prophet's(saws)time that initially attracted me to the work of you and your colleagues at Understanding Islam/Studying Islam and Renassaince MOnthly.

So please understand that I have nothing but respect for the intellectual integrity of the position taken by you. However in this particular instance It seems to me that the thrust of the Quran (and Allah knows best) is aiming at limiting
the scope of abuse that men of the time may have been prone to.

I offered Shabbir Ally's commmentary as an example of a novel linguistic understanding that I have absolutley no knowledge to sufficiently argue for or against. Moreover, I am unsure at how he arrived at his understanding and whether or not he rigourous in determining the meaning of words as understood by 7th century meccan arabs. I was simply giving an example.

I am however assuming that the rendering Mr. Ghamidi gives of the arabic in these verses is the correct one. But even so. Is it impossible Mr. Hashmi, that the permission to lightly admonish 'rebellious' wives after no other recourse was an expiation for arab men of the time who were already being inundated with (from teir perspective) an alarming number of rights for women? BTW this is an actual question not rhetorical.

Furthermore, what say you about my notes on slavery, is this example at all relevant to the discussion?

Also as far as the example of our prophet(saws), It really has seemed odd to me that although we find him refraining from hitting his wives, we are not encouraged to follow him in this regard. Any reason?

Looking forward to your response brother.

Edited by: locust on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 6:27 AM
locust

CANADA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  6:37 AM Reply with quote
And to answer your question more fully, No I do not think it is appropriate to read new meanings into the words of the Quran, where they would not have lent themeselves to such a rendering to the minds of it's initial adresees.

This is the trap that mysticism oriented groups fell into and in general this kind of grafting of meaning onto the Quran from without is responsible for much of the sectarianism that exists today.

In order to arrive at an authentic reading of the Quran we must strive with utmost care to understand it's "clear" Arabic as it was understood when it was revealed.

Peace.
Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  7:31 AM Reply with quote
salams
This means that the only correct interpretation would be that which was understood by its first addressees. Then we need to know what does the verb in this context mean in classical Arabic language- (by classical i mean the language the Arabs of the time of the Prophet (SwS) spoke and not of latter times).
How do you suggest we can get to know the implication of the verb in their language?
I will in ShaAllah respond to the things you referred to in your resposne latter.
Jhangeer Hanif

PAKISTAN
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  4:20 PM Reply with quote

Correct understanding would instead be a better word to use in this context. The Holy Qur'an, since it has been revealed in Arabi Mubeen , Quintessential Arabic, was understood by its addressees only too clearly.

The meaning of words does evolve. Therefore, we cannot take meaning of a word, which has evolved today, but were inexistent in the time when Qur'an was revealed though there remains the task to know which is a modern meaning and which was classical.

anajee

USA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  4:48 PM Reply with quote
As-Salaamu Alaykum!
I am suprised that anyone would think that language shouldn't evolve. Br. Hashmi suggest that the only interpretation would be the one understood by the Arabs of that time. Allah says that this message is for all humanity, right? And, surely Allah speaks the Truth! Society has evolved along with, and because of, the evolution of human expression: Speech. Case in point: Think about the prohibition of alchohol. Allah did away with in stages because the conditions of society were different and the people were not ready for a complete ban. Later, He commanded the believers to completely stay away from it. Now, the Arabic word used for wine is Khamr. The root of this word means to cover or conceal. In the modern tense of this word it not only applies to alchohol, but to any type of mind altering drug. Did the Arabs of that time have any knowledge of cocaine, heroin, or LSD? No! But by Allah being the All-Knowing, he prohibited these things centuries in advance. We as humanity are just now catching up liguistically to what Allah revealed to us. Need I remind everyone of surah 96. The meanig of the word Alaq at the time of Rasulullah, p.b.u.h, was a leech. Now do we have any problem excepting the modern definition of a 'leech like clot'? No, we do not. I think many of the scholars cling to the definition of beating because of cultural practices that have nothing what so ever to do with Islam. If we say that we follow the Sunnah of Rasulullah, p.b.u.h, then we must ask ourselves an all important question: Did he ever lay a hand on any of his wives?
locust

CANADA
Posted - Wednesday, July 07, 2004  -  7:41 PM Reply with quote
Hmmm. Good points anajee.

I'm inclined to agree somewhat with the idea that some concepts would become clearer with the passage of time(this is clearly the case with slavery). This, inspite of the fact that I fully agree with Mr. Hashmi and Mr. Hanifs' contention that we must be clear about how the words of the Quran were understood by the arabs of the prophet's(saws) time.

You're correct in pointing out that we are all aware that the prophet(saws) himself never hit his wives. I've posited this question to Mr. Hashmi earlier, namely "how are we to reconcile the fact that the prophet never hit his wives with a verse in Quran that purportedly encourages physical admonition as a last resort".... Could it be possible that although these men of the time were given this expiation, which after all was a big leap forward from the unqualified right of jahilliya men to do with their women as they pleased , in order to limit the damage they would do?

I just find it overwhelmingly plausible that the limit that was imposed on wife beating was to act as detterent and a sort of "setting the stage" for the eventual decline of this activity. In the same manner that slavery was initially "discouraged", is it not possible that wife beating has been given the same treatment in the Quran?

Also remember brothers that I am not arguing for a linguistic reformulation of the verse in question, only that Allah(swt) has in some instances(slavery for instance) made an expiation for the social conditions of the time.....and it seems to me there is a clear trajectory in Quran that endeavours to reform men(of the prophet's time) in their conduct with women.

Salaam

Edited by: locust on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 7:43 PM
Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Thursday, July 08, 2004  -  5:41 AM Reply with quote
I am suprised that anyone would think that language shouldn't evolve.

Of course laguages evolve and the words acquire new meanings but an author writes a word or a phrase only to convey a single meaning which is clear to the addressee. He cannot accept the new meaning the word has acquired and will never be comfortable with them for his message then will continuously be enriched with new implications thus distorting his message. So the actual meaning of the words are the one which the author has in his mind and he leaves many indicators in a piece of discourse to suggest the true meaning. I think this is a very well known principle of interpeting a text and it is indeed really surprizing that anyone should deny it. The Qur'an or any book cannot use a word a meaning of which are discovered centureies later and then claim to be 'a clear message'. How could it be one when even the primary addressees could not understand the meaning implied. Many opposed the messenger and his book the Qur'an but none ever said, 'How strange is the Book and how empty its claim to be a clear book.' If the Qur'an uses the word alaq and the direct addressees knew that the word meant a leech then the only acceptable interpretation of the word is the one understood by the people it was sent to. We may have grown able to discover why did the Arabs and the Qur'an used the word but we cannot say that the actual meaning of the word were something different from what they took it to be. For then it remains no more clear to them.

Tariq Hashmi

PAKISTAN
Posted - Thursday, July 08, 2004  -  5:56 AM Reply with quote
"how are we to reconcile the fact that the prophet never hit his wives with a verse in Quran that purportedly encourages physical admonition as a last resort".... "

Had the Almighty enjoined the Muslims to beat their wives at prescirbed intervals then certainly we would have been at loss knowing that the Prophet (Sws) never discharged this obligation. My dear brother, the verse only allows people to use physical admonition if all other efforts fail. Even if one sees that this actoin will not do any good he must not proceed for the basic purpose is to correct the state of affairs and not to beat the wives.
(please refer to the following discussion on meaning of the word Alaqah: http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=article&aid=102


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