This hadith states that the wife should obey her husband, but to what extent? Obviously, she cannot disobey her husband in anything that is haram. Not only that
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1The Verse of Abuse Or the Abused VerseAl-QurÕan 4:34!ÒMen shall take full care of women with the bounties Allah has bestowed on them,and what they may spend out of their possession; as Allah has eschewed each withcertain qualities in relation to the other.! And the righteous women are the truly devoutones, who guard the intimacy which Allah has ordained to be guarded.As for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; thendistance yourself in bed, and the tap them; but if they pay you heed, do not seek toharm them.! Surely, Allah is indeed the Most High, the Greatest.ÓRole of familyThe role of family in the overall social structure of Islam is great and if we fail to graspits importance, the whole edifice will collapse.In Islam there is no family without union or marriage and there is no marriage withoutrules and discipline.! The family in Islam is a unit in which two independent personsunite and share life together.! The husbandÕs dignity is an integral part of his wifeÕsdignity.! Accordingly, neither of them is better than the other.! To unite and share, theremust be mutual love and compassion Ð a genuine feeling which; unless translated intoaction and behavior, would be mere illusion.WomenÕs rights in the familyFrom the very outset, Islam has been a liberating religion that uplifted the status ofwomen and gave them rights that were considered revolutionary 1400 years ago.! In spiteof this founding spirit, Muslim practices today often oppress women and deny them theequality and human dignity granted in the QurÕan.! The family should be the firstessential area in which womenÕs rights have to be secured.The question that arises is that if Islam liberated women centuries ago, then why is it thatmaltreatment of wives is not a rare occurrence among Muslim people?! Most likely, Isuspect, it comes from misinterpretations of a QurÕanic verse and of some ahadith.The institution of marriageWhen Allah mentions marriage or the relationship between husband and wife in theQurÕan, He describes it as one of love, mercy, and harmony between two human beingswho have entered into a mutual contract.! For example, ÒAnd among His wonders is that;He created fro you mates out of your own kind, so that you may incline toward them, andHe engenders love and tenderness between you; in this, behold, there are messagesindeed for people who think.Ó (Q 20:21) And, ÒIt is He who has created you out of oneentity, so that one might incline (with love) towards the other.Ó (Q 7:189)
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2Expression of loveAccording to the QurÕan, the relationship between husband and wife should be one oflove, mercy and mutual understanding.! Allah also commands men to treat their wives,ÒAnd consort with your wives in a goodly manner, for if you dislike something aboutthem, it may be well that you dislike something which Allah might yet make a source ofabundant good.Ó (Q 4:19)The QurÕan speaks of the intimate and close relationship of the two spouses in thesewords: ÒThey are like garments unto you as you are like garments unto themÓ (Q 2:187).!This verse; by using the simile of garments, has explained two basic facts.! First, dress isconsidered to be one of the most fundamental needs of human beings in all stages of life.!Second, dress covers the nakedness of human beings and hides those parts which are tobe kept hidden.! Every person has his weakness and frailty and does not want them to bedisclosed to others.!The two sexes working together, not only cover each otherÕs weakness and frailty, butalso enhance each otherÕs capabilities and help each other make up their deficiencies.!Men are told to be generous and liberal in their treatment of women under allcircumstances, especially when the relations between the two are not very amicable.!Surah al-Baqarah refers to this in these words: ÒAnd do not forget liberality betweenyourselvesÓ (Q 2:237). Even in divorce, men are enjoined to be just and fair (MaÕruf) totheir wives.! We read these words also in Surah al-Baqarah: ÒWhen you divorce women,and they fulfill the term of their waiting (Òiddah), either take them back honorably onequitable terms or set them free with kindness and goodness.Ó (Q 2:229)So, it is through the institution of marriage that true expression is given to what theQurÕan refers to as Òlove and mercyÓ (Q 30:21) between men and women; thatmen andwomen are like each otherÕs garments (Q 2:187), that Òbe you male or female, you aremembers of one anotherÓ (Q 3:195), and that Òmen and women are protectors, one ofanother.Ó (Q 9:71)Clarifying the terms Darajah, Qawwamun, and FaddalaDarajah, (step, degree or level) is something that is earned; acquired with responsibility.When a level is granted to male or female on the basis of their good deeds or piety, thereis no discrimination.! This is demonstrated by the following QurÕanic concepts: ÒUntomen a fortune from what they have earned and unto women a fortune from that whichthey have earnedÓ(Q 4:32).! ÒWhoever works righteously; man or woman, and has faith:verily to him/her will We give a new life, a life that is good and pure.! And We will bestowon such their rewards, according to the best of their actionsÓ (Q 4:124). So when itcomes to who has greater advantage with Allah in terms of deeds, there is no level ordegree given to the male or female over the other.!
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3The darajah for men over women occurs in the QurÕanic verse thus, ÒÉAnd(Walahunna) women shall have right similar to the rights against them according to whatis equitable.! But men have a degree (of advantage) over them.! Allah is Exalted inPower, Wise.Ó (Q 2:228)This verse occurs among a series of verses referring to the required period of separationbefore claiming a divorce.! The degree of advantage refers to manÕs being able toindividually initiate divorce, whereas a woman can seek divorce only after intervention ofan authority.! So the advantage is limited to the circumstances of divorce only.! Why thisadvantage?! Most likely, because it is he who is duty- bound to support to the wife andunborn baby, and the previous verses are referring to the possibility that during separationthe woman may be expecting, and if so, the man needs to give due consideration to takingher back because of his responsibility towards the unborn child.! Hence, he has theresponsibility/ decision about validating the divorce or taking his wife back.! Yet, inMuslim cultures, an unrestricted value attach” to this concept of ÒadvantageÓ and mengeneralize it to all aspects of life, claiming superiority over women.This form of unrestricted value for all circumstances contradicts the equity established inthe QurÕan, Òthat each ÔnafsÕ (man or woman) is responsible for what it earnsÓ (Q 4:32).The QuÕran has emphasized the femaleÕs rights (Q 2:228) with the words Òwa lahunnaÓin order to neutralize the possible impression that could be created by the previoussentence of enhancing the position of men over women.! Truly, it is the wondrous andmiraculous expression of the QurÕan that enables it to maintain the delicacy of theproblem and at the same time solve the most complicated issues in a! very noble andsubtle way.Thus, in a superb manner, the QurÕan has untied the knot of this problem by saying thatwhile men have a degree of darajat (advantage) in holding the key to divorce; in theenjoyment of human rights, both men and women stand equal.Qawwamun does not convey the sense of governorship or rule over women, but rathersignifies menÕs role as maintainers of women, because they support and meet theirmaterial needs from their wealth.! The ShariÕah has entrusted the responsibility ofwomenÕs material needs to men, who are held liable for meeting all the economic needsof the family, while women are held responsible for looking after the children, theirnourishment, education, training, etc.! this division of the work of the household betweenhusband and wife is based on their respective natural abilities.! Fulfilling theseresponsibilities are the primary duties, though not exclusive, yet allowing free and fullparticipation in all social, political and ethical activities with due propriety.Now the concept of ÒFadlÓ, the verse reads; ÒMen shall take full care of women withthe bounties Allah has bestowed on them, and what they may spend out of theirpossession; as Allah has eschewed each with certain qualities in relation to theother.! And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacywhich Allah has ordained to be guarded.
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4As for those women whole ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first];then distance yourself in bed, and then tap them; but if they pay you heed, do notseek to harm them.! Surely, Allah is indeed the most High, the Greatest.Ó (Q 4:34)This verse is often quoted for justifying the ruthless dominance of patriarchal malesdemanding obedience from their wives- to the point of disciplining them through physicalpunishment!But let us analyze it with QurÕanic wisdom. Firstly, the ÒfadlÓ or preference is related toresponsibility, so there is reciprocity between this privilege and responsibility.! The factis that it is through AllahÕs benevolence that he gets this ÒfadlÓ should make a man God-conscious.! So, if he is given this authority or preferential responsibility, it isaccompanied by a heavy mandate and obligation.! He cannot abuse the ÒfadlÓ.! Thepurpose of this ÒfadlÓ could be attributed to the fact that a family functions harmoniouslywhen there is leadership and authority in it, manifested through fulfilling duty and mutualco- operation.It is wrong to conclude from this that as men (or women) have some ÒadvantageÓ in onerespect, they are therefore superior to the other.! The right attitude should be for each sexto think that it is deficient in certain aspects, which can only be complimented by thecollaboration and co-operation of the other as essential for its perfection and healthygrowth.! In other words, it should never fancy such ideas as its own excellence, butshould consider itself dependent upon the other for its own perfection.! The QurÕan hasbeautifully described this relationship of the two sexes in these words: ÒAnd among Hissigns is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell intranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).! Surely inthat are signs for those who reflect.Ó (Q 31:21)The issue of NUSHUZVerse 4:34 has commonly been used to Justify Wife beating.! How can this can beexplained?NUSHUZ could be defined as animosity, hostility, rebellion, ill- treatment, discord,violation of marital duties on the part of either husband or wife.! In this context, a wifeÕsÒill-willÓ implies a deliberate, persistent breach of her marital obligations.The verse of Surah NisaÕ has attracted great attention from both within the Belivingcommunity and without: ÒAs regards those women on whose part you fear defiance andill- conduct, admonish them (first), (next) separate in bed, (and last) tap them (if theystill persist in their defiance); but if they cooperate and pay you heed, do not look forexcuses to harm them.! Note well that there is Allah above you all.Ó (Q 4:34)In the context of the above verse the most appropriate meaning for nushuz is maritaldiscord (ill- will, animosity etc.)! The process suggested is necessary, otherwise it is
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5inviting the likelihood of divorce without any reconciliation procedure, and this willcontravene the QurÕanic guidance.! The separation could be temporary or permanentdepending on the reconciliation procedure, and this fits in very well with the divorceprocedure outlined in the QurÕan.! Therefore the more accurate understanding of theabove verse would be: (4:34) ÒÉAs for those women whose animosity or ill- will youhave reason to fear, discuss the mater with them, then separate in bed, then tap; and ifthey pay you heed, do not seek a way against them.ÓThe verse following the above verse gives further weight to the above translation.! (4:35)!ÒAnd if you fear a breach between them (the man and the wife), appoint an arbiter fromhis folk and an arbiter from her folk.! If they desire amendment, Allah will make them oneof mind.! Lo! Allah is Ever Knower, Aware.ÓAn added weight to the meaning outlined above is given by verse (4: 128), where in thecase of man the same word, nushuz, is also used. Note too that as ill- treatment emanatinghere is from the husband, a process of reconciliation is encouraged!ÒIf a wife fears ill- treatment (nushuz) or desertion (iÕraad) on her husbandÕs part, thereis no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and suchsettlement is bestÉÓ (Q 4:128)In the same surah, we read, ÒWhoever among you; men or women, are guilty of thiscrime (impropriety/ obscenity), punish them both; then if they both repent and reformthemselves, leave them alone, for Allah is Most Generous in accepting repentance, andMerciful in forgiving sins.Ó (4:16)As previously mentioned, women could only be taken to task when they were guilty ofopen obscenity.! The verse (Q 4:16) clearly states that whoever commits openlicentiousness, man or woman, must be punished.! It may here be mentioned that thisopen obscenity or licentiousness (nushuz) means obscenity short of adultery andfornication.If a wife fears that her husband is going to be excessive, there is the same process for thewife too.! She can advise him first.! Psychological pressure of withdrawing closeness andintimacy?! But why is there no reference to physical pressure, like a symbolic slap or thelike?! The wife is not required to slap her husband, guarding against the possibility ofphysical retaliation and its dire consequences.! But she has use of an injunction, which isbetter than that; to sit down with respected members of the community, (if need be with ajudge), and draw up a contract with the man, which says: You have done this or that- ifyou do it again, these will be the consequences.! In other words, she is getting thecommunity behind her.Three steps for regaining marital harmony or an amicable settlementWe note that in the event that there is disruption of marital harmony, the QurÕan suggeststhree steps for regaining harmony.! In order of preference, they are:
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6(Step 1) WaÕz (admonition, consultation and discussion).! This is the preferred methodsuggested for regaining marital harmony and is the same mechanism discussed in theQurÕan for the coordination of affairs between all groups of people.! Consultation can bebetween the parties (as in 4:34) or between the two parties with the help of arbiters orhakim (4:35, 4:128).! WaÕz or admonition implies advising and reminding one of theconsequence of oneÕs actions; this in a way that softens the heart of the listener (16:125)and making him/ her incline favorably to your words.(Step 2) Wahjur (to separate in bed; time and space boycott, at least one night).! Ifconsultation does not lead to marital harmony, the second suggestion is of time-out, aphrase to denote a separation in time and/ or space between two people.! This is a form ofpsychological pressure.! Note that it is avoidance in the house or in front of the family,children and so forth.The purpose of that act is to solve the problem well- known not to belittle the woman oruncover the secrets that are going on.! However, it is a reaction to her act of nushuz andrecalcitrance by avoiding her and turning away from her in hope that this will lead toreciprocity and togetherness.! It can be for an intermediate cooling off period only, orcould presumably continue indefinitely, which in the context of marriage could onlymean divorce.(Step 3) Daraba (a gentle strike or tap: an expression of physical pressure) If the first twomethods are used in their preferred order to the fullest extent, the need for the thirdmethod of a strike would not be reached.A famous Multi- meaning word ÒDarabaÓThe problem of abuse comes from the word ÒIdribuhunneÓ which is usually translated asÒbeat themÓ.! The root of this word is ÒDarabaÓ.! If one consults an Arabic dictionaryyou would find a long list of meanings ascribed to this word!The list is one of the longest lists in the whole Arabic dictionaries and has so manydifferent meanings.! In the QurÕan, depending on the context, one can ascribe differentmeanings to it, i.e:To travel to get out: 3:156; 4:101; 38:44; 73:20; 1:273To strike: 2:60; 7:160; 8:12; 20:77; 24:31; 26:63; 37:93; 47:04To beat: 8:50; 47:27To set up: 43:58; 57:13To give (examples): 14:24-45; 16:75,76,112; 18:32,45; 24:35; 30:2858; 36:78; 39:27,29;43:17; 59:21; 66:10-11
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8women and men as being each otherÕs protecting friends and guardians (Ôawliyya) whichemphasizes their cooperation in living together as partners.In addition, this spirit can be used in viewing the Hadith and classical commentaries byMuslim jurists on the strike or daraba.! Ahadith on striking in such a way as not to causepain (ghayr mubarrih) are reported by Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, NasaÕie and IbnMajah.! The authorities stress that if a strike is resorted to, it should be merely symbolicsuch as a strike with a toothbrush or folded handkerchief (Tabari and Razi).! ImamShafÕie is of the opinion that striking should preferably be avoided completely.It can thus be concluded that the call for the (single) strike is a restriction and not arecommendation; as when the first two steps are practiced effectively, there is no need fora third step.Obedience misconstruedThe QurÕan does not order women to slavishly obey their husbands.! It says good womenare qanitat (have qunut).! Qunut is used for both women and men (3:17, 33:35) and non-humans (39:9, 2:117).! Qunut does not refer to the obedience of a wife to a husband or ofany human to another.! It refers to the spirit of humility before Allah.! When the versegoes on to say Òif they obey you,Ó the QurÕan uses the term taÕa, which means for onehuman to follow the orders of another, referring not just to women obeying men, but menfollowing orders as well (4:59).! TaÕa is not used here in the command form for women,rather the QurÕan places a firm admonishment on the men: ÒIf they (female) pay you heed(male)Ó the males commanded Ònot to seek a way against (the women)Ó.! ÒIf they obeyyouÓ does not mean that women have an obligation to slavishly obey men.! Nor does itmean that if a woman disobeys, a husband can beat her.! The focus is on theresponsibility of men to treat women fairly, especially when women follow theirsuggestions.!Most of the women beaten nowadays are not beaten because the first two conditions havebeen met with, but are in fact beaten because of the husbandÕs anger over some pettyissue.! Such behavior is not that of a sincere Muslim and obviously has no sanction in theQurÕan whatsoever.It is evident from many authentic traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detestedthe idea of beating oneÕs wife, and said on more than one occasion, ÒCould anyone of youbeat his wife as if she is a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?Ó (Bukhari andMuslim).! According to another tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman with thewords, ÒNever beat GodÕs handmaidensÓ (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, IbnHibban, on the authority of ÔAbd Allah Ibn Abbas; and Bayhaqi on the authority of UmmKulthum).Next to piety, the believer finds nothing better for him than a virtuous wife.! If he bids hergood, she obeys.! If he looks at her she gives him pleasure.! If she gives him a promise,she fulfills it.! If he is absent from her, she guards herself and his property! (Ibn Majah).
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9This hadith states that the wife should obey her husband, but to what extent?! Obviously,she cannot disobey her husband in anything that is haram.! Not only that, but theobedience of the wife is in those duties listed above, viz. Éwith regard to cohabitation,domestic matters, guarding his property, and not allowing others to violate her/his dignityor their belongings.In summary, there is the following hadith from the Prophet on the rights of a wife.! Aperson asked the Messenger of Allah, ÒWhat right does the wife of one among us haveover him?Ó! His answer was, ÒIt is that you shall give her food, you shall not slap her onthe face, nor revile her, nor leave her alone except within the houseÓ (Ahmad, AbuDaÕud, Ibn Majah).! This implies provision, residence, respect and security.AppreciationSome husbands get upset when their wives refuse to do this or that around the house.!This has subjected many wives to physical mistreatment.! But the following incidentclearly shows that it is not the duty of the wife to tend after the house, and therefore, itcan in no way justify any sort of retort on the part of the husband.! In fact, the followingquote would make it seem that many women nowadays should be the oneÕs complainingas they are forced to do work that they are not truly totally responsible for:It is reported that a man once came to ÔUmar, the second Caliph, with the intention ofbringing to his notice certain complaints he had against his wife.! When he reached thedoor of ÔUmarÕs house, he heard the CaliphÕs wife railing against him.! Hearing this hewent back as he though that the Caliph himself was in the same predicament and couldtherefore hardly be expected to set matters right for him.! ÔUmar coming out of his house,saw the person going back.! So he called him back and inquired as to the purpose, whichhad brought him to his house.! He said that he had come to him with some complaintsagainst his wife, but turned back on finding that the Caliph himself was subject to thesame treatment from his wife.! ÔUmar said to him that he patiently bore the excess of hiswife because she had certain rights over him.! ÒIs it not true that she cooks my food,washes my clothes and suckles my children, thus relieving me of the necessity ofemploying a cook, a washerman and a nurse, although she is not in the slightest degreeresponsible for this?! Not only that, I enjoy peace of mind on account of her and I amprotected from committing the sin of adultery.! In view of these advantages, I put up withher excesses.! You should also do the same.Having clarified some of the misconceptions, countered some distortions, weacknowledge, of course, that! not all men or women are following the teachings of theQurÕan in their relationships.! Rather than looking at the verse holistically, they onlyfocus on it with a bias to their advantage and abuse it.! Men exploit and women rebel.!Where men have done so, and women have remained ignorant, injustices have takenplace even to the point of physical abuse.! Some women, in their ignorance on the issue,have taken this as their Islamic plight.! So, for their own benefit, women need to acquire
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10knowledge from the QurÕan, become more aware, rally around it and assert themselvesfor fairness and justice.Men should also understand the QurÕan with a fair and just mind without cultural filtersand communicate with each other about it so that they can strive together for bettermentin their spiritual path.Prophetic ExampleThe Hadith, which we must realize is a record of the sayings and doings of the Prophet(pbuh), and the second source of Muslim law and practice, records the Prophet (pbuh) assaying: ÒThe best of you is he who is best to his wife.Ó! Aishah (RA) narrates that the holyProphet never hit a servant or a woman.The demeanor of the Messenger (pbuh) toward women, his attitude toward conflictresolution among couples, his exemplary treatment of his wives, his practice of gender-neutral consultation, his abhorrence of violence towards women, his love for all and hispersistent efforts to alleviate the human condition; all bring us to the conclusion that hewanted to usher in freedom, dignity and equality; making everyone conscious of only oneGod- the God of all human beings, not a chauvinistic God.The QurÕan does not discriminate between the two sexes in any way that underminestheir full worth as equal human beings, nor does it give either of them; men or women,priority or superiority over the other in any manner whatsoever, neither does in endorsespouse abuse nor does it encourage spouse battering.! Just as men have rights overwomen, likewise women have rights over men.! Just as women have certain duties andobligations, likewise men have certain duties and obligations.Research has shown that oppressive interpretations of the! QurÕan are influenced mostlyby cultural practices and values which regard women as inferior and subordinate to men.!It is not Islam that oppress women, but human beings that have failed to understandAllahÕs directives.The honor or superiority of any person cannot be established on the basis of color,race,nationality, gender or family.! It must be judged on the basis of his or her piety, conductand excellence of character, which must be good and virtuous in word and deed.! Themore a person is good and virtuous in word and action, the greater is his/her excellence;ÒSurely, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the pious, the most righteousÓ(49:13).This excerpt was taken from Dimensions of the QurÕan, Volume 1; by SaÕdullah Khan.Sheikh SaÕdullah Khan is currently the Director of the Islamic Center of Irvine.!
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