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Punishing Disobedient Wives
Ghada Al-Hori • Al-Watan

find it unacceptable when some people twist the meaning of a particular
verse in the Holy Qur’an — especially the one which permits a husband
to beat his disobedient wife. Those who do the twisting must understand
that the permission is only given under certain circumstances and that
the beating is intended as a remedy for specific situations. It is
unfortunate that some well-known and respected Muslim scholars have
either willingly or unwillingly joined a campaign seeking to distort
the meaning of that particular verse.

In many cases, they have
given a different meaning from the one actually intended. The verse —
number 34 in Surah IV — reads as follows: “Men are the protectors and
maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more (strength)
than the other, and because they support them from their means.
Therefore, righteous women are devotedly obedient and guard in (the
husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. And to those women
on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first)
and (then) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly),
but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means of

It is quite obvious here that Islam adopts a
gradual approach starting with verbal admonishment of the wife, then
seeks a period of refraining from conjugal relations and, finally, if
the husband finds the situation very serious, he may strike his
disobedient wife.

Some scholars have even suggested that the
punishment (beating) cited here is not of the physical nature and that
what the husband is required to do is stay away from the disobedient
wife. In short, they say the husband should leave the house and go to
another place. This is not what is actually intended in the verse.

beating which is only prescribed in the case of disobedient wives is
intended to serve as a remedy in an unusual situation. If the husband
feels the wife is behaving in a disobedient and rebellious manner, he
is required to rectify her attitude — first by kind words, then gentle
persuasion and reasoning. Beating as a last resort must never be
understood to entail using a stick or any other instrument that would
cause pain or injury.
Islam, Culture and Women
by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood


can anyone justify Islam’s treatment of women, when it imprisons
Afghans under blue shuttlecock burqas and makes Pakistani girls marry
strangers against their will?

How can you respect a religion
that forces women into polygamous marriages, mutilates their genitals,
forbids them to drive cars and subjects them to the humiliation of
"instant" divorce? In fact, none of these practices are Islamic at all.

Anyone wishing to understand Islam must first separate the
religion from the cultural norms and style of a society. Female genital
mutilation is still practised in certain pockets of Africa and Egypt,
but viewed as an inconceivable horror by the vast majority of Muslims.
Forced marriages may still take place in certain Indian, Pakistani and
Bangladeshi communities, but would be anathema to Muslim women from
other backgrounds.

Indeed, Islam insists on the free consent
of both bride and groom, so such marriages could even be deemed illegal
under religious law.

A woman forbidden from driving a car in
Riyadh will cheerfully take the wheel when abroad, confident that her
country’s bizarre law has nothing to do with Islam. Afghan women
educated before the Taliban rule know that banning girls from school is
forbidden in Islam, which encourages all Muslims to seek knowledge from
cradle to grave, from every source possible.

The Koran is
addressed to all Muslims, and for the most part it does not
differentiate between male and female. Man and woman, it says, "were
created of a single soul," and are moral equals in the sight of God.
Women have the right to divorce, to inherit property, to conduct
business and to have access to knowledge.

Since women are
under all the same obligations and rules of conduct as the men,
differences emerge most strongly when it comes to pregnancy,
child-bearing and rearing, menstruation and, to a certain extent,

Some of the commands are alien to Western tradition.
Requirements of ritual purity may seem to restrict a woman’s access to
religious life, but are viewed as concessions. During menstruation or
postpartum bleeding, she may not pray the ritual salah or touch the
Koran and she does not have to fast; nor does she need to fast while
pregnant or nursing.

The veiling of Muslim women is a more
complex issue. Certainly, the Koran requires them to behave and dress
modestly – but these strictures apply equally to men. Only one verse
refers to the veiling of women, stating that the Prophet’s wives should
be behind a hijab when his male guests converse with them.

modernists, however, claim that this does not apply to women in
general, and that the language used does not carry the textual
stipulation that makes a verse obligatory. In practice, most modern
Muslim women appreciate attractive and graceful clothes, but avoid
dressing provocatively.

What about polygamy, which the Koran
endorses up to the limit of four wives per man? The Prophet, of course,
lived at a time when continual warfare produced large numbers of
widows, who were left with little or no provision for themselves and
their children.

In these circumstances, polygamy was
encouraged as an act of charity. Needless to say, the widows were not
necessarily sexy young women, but usually mothers of up to six
children, who came as part of the deal.


English convert to Islam, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, is the author of over thirty books on Islam and other subjects.

Email: Ruqaiyyah@aol.com

Islam and Honor Killings (Revised)

By Imam Zaid on 13 December 2007


that reason, we ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever kills
a soul for other than murder or spreading corruption in the land, it is
as if he has killed the whole of humanity… Qur’an 5:35

One of
the gravest charges levied against Islam, in terms of its alleged
antipathy towards women, is the claim that it encourages a phenomenon
known as honor killings. This un-Islamic practice consists of the
murder of female family members who are seen as dishonoring their
families through real or perceived acts of indiscretion, such as
premarital sexual relations or unapproved dating. This charge has been
intensified recently due to the tragic murder of a Pakistani Canadian
teenage girl, Aqsa Parvez.

The practice of honor killings has
absolutely no sanction in the Qur’an, the Prophetic practice, or in the
evolved systems of Islamic law. In the case of fornication or adultery,
the only way a charge can be levied against an individual, male or
female, is through confession, which is discouraged, or by four people
actually witnessing the male organ penetrating the female. Even if four
people witnessed a naked man engaged with a naked woman, but could not
actually testify that they witnessed penetration, their testimony would
be rejected.

In a somewhat related issue, it should be noted
that in three of the four Sunni schools of law, as is the case with all
of the major Shiite schools, pregnancy is not a proof of fornication,
as the possibility of rape exists in such a case. Therefore, if a
single woman were to become pregnant, according to the overwhelming
majority of Islamic jurists, there is no basis for punishing her. In
the few well-publicized instances where a pregnant woman has been
threatened with death, the minority opinion of the Maliki School of law
was unjustly evoked, as occurred in Nigeria, or criminal malfeasance
occurred as is the case in Pakistan.

In the case of dating,
there is no Islamically-mandated punishment for a male or a female
seeing a member of the opposite sex against the wishes of their
families. Such situations should be handled with counseling, compassion
and a healthy dose of common sense. Muslim immigrants who have migrated
to the West should realize that they have placed their children in an
environment where there is a tremendous amount of anti-Islamic peer
pressure. This is especially true if they have placed their children,
as was the case of the young lady who was recently murdered in Canada,
in public schools. Children who succumb to that pressure should not be
seen as “bad” kids, for by the standards of the society that has shaped
them, no matter how strong their home environment is, they are normal.
To kill a female guilty of an offense such as dating or dressing like
her peers under such circumstances is nothing short of cold-blooded
murder, and no Islamic authority can argue otherwise.

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