The Muslim Marine Minute
Does Islam Allow a Man to beat his wife?
First it should be noted that Islam defines certain roles for men and women that are different from one another yet complementary, essential, and equally important to the functioning of a thriving and peaceful society. The Quran states that it is a book for the righteous and that only those gifted with understanding will be able to benefit from it.
3:8 - “He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book; in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning — they are the basis of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and seeking wrong interpretation of it. And none knows its right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding.”
I’ve bolded extremely important parts of this verse. The verses of the Quran must be understood in the entirety of the Quran and not just individually in a vacuum. Therefore, we must look at all the verses related to subject matter together to understand the correct interpretation of any single verse. But those individuals who have perversity in their hearts, will find the wrong interpretation of these verses. I think of so many Mullahs (extremist Muslim clerics) these days who have no knowledge and bring shame to Islam by promoting a perverse understanding of this pure teaching.
Anyway, here are just some of the verses that talk about the relationship between men and women in the Holy Quran.
1. 2:229 - women have certain rights over men in equity, but men have a rank above them.
2. 2:188 – a husband and wife are a garment for one another.
3. 4:2 – God created men and women from a single soul as mates for one another.
In Chapter 4, there is also great emphasis laid on the management of wealth – particularly as it relates to the orphans – because the mismanagement of wealth and usurpation of the rights of orphans creates a society where injustice becomes the norm and poverty and desperation ultimately destroys the peace of the community. It is to preserve stability and peace that a man is given the permission to marry more than once – in the service of providing a stable home to the orphans:
4. 4:4 “And if you fear that you will not be fair in dealing with the orphans, then marry of women as may be agreeable to you, two, or three, or four; and if you fear you will not deal justly, then marry only one or what your right hands possess. That is the nearest way for you to avoid injustice.”
This verse clearly articulates the expectation that men are to adhere to justice in all matters – but especially when it comes to women and providing a stable household for the children. If they are not able to observe justice, then they do not have permission to marry more than once. This means that anyone who is able to marry more than once must adhere and demonstrate a higher level of moral character and must be a beacon of justice as compared to an average Muslim.
5. 4:5 – Marriage between a man and woman is a contract in which the husband gives a dowry (gift) to his wife. A woman does not give any dowry to her husband.
6. 4:6 – Men are not to waste their wealth by giving it to foolish people – but that wealth is to be used for them to spend on their spouses, families, and charity. Men are commanded to treat and speak to their wives with kindness and love.
7. 4:20 – A man is not to marry a woman without her expressed permission. A woman is free to choose her husband just as the man is free to choose his wife. Again men are to treat the women with kindness and goodwill because they are making a life-long contract with them. Men are reminded that if there is something about the woman that they don’t like, then perhaps the fault lies with him and not her.
Then the chapter talks about the laws of inheritance in which Allah clearly lays out what is to be expected if someone passes away. The Quran divides the inheritance in a way that the males get twice what females get. There is great wisdom behind this teaching which I will explain in a little bit.
Then the Quran talks about punishment for women who are guilty of lewdness. One of the most dangerous social and immoral diseases that can destroy a peaceful community is prostitution which is typically committed by a female perpetrator. To prevent a situation where there is an imbalance between men and women and there are not enough men to go around (like in case of post war situation) Islam allows justice-minded God fearing men to marry more than once and thereby take responsibility to provide for them. This avoids the situation where widowed women with children become so desperate to provide for their children or their own sustenance that they start to sell their bodies. So the main focus of the Quranic teaching is to promote peace and justice in a society and to prevent social discord or immorality that will ultimately result in the destruction of a peaceful society.
It is in this context that we should study the verse 4:35, one that is oft questioned about by critics who try to suggest that Islam allows for a man to beat his wife. As I will explain, there is no permission in Islam for a man to beat his wife under any circumstances. Let’s look at the verses in question.
4:35 - “Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others, and because they (men) spend of their wealth. So virtuous women are those who are obedient, and guard the secrets of their husbands with Allah’s protection. And as for those on whose part you fear disobedience, admonish them and leave them alone in their beds, and chastise them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Surely, Allah is High, Great.”
4:36 - “And if you fear a breach between them, then appoint an arbiter from his folk and an arbiter from her folk. If they (the arbiters) desire reconciliation, Allah will effect it between them. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”
Men are given the responsibility of being the guardians and protectors of the family – which includes their wives – from anyone or anything that will do them harm. The man can discharge this responsibility like a Just King who genuinely cares for the well-being of his people and who because of his kind actions toward his people becomes worthy of their love and respect towards him. Or he can act as a despotic tyrant who barks orders all day long, treating his people as mere peasants not worthy of his time, love or affection – who in return will receive no respect, or love, or care from his people. The Quran clearly expects believing men to follow the path of the Just King vs. the Despotic Tyrant.
Men are also given the responsibility to provide for their families including their wives. This means that men must work (or at least must put forth the needed effort) to earn a living. From those earnings, the Quran has made it clear that the women and children have a right to what a man earns, because that is a requirement of the marriage contract. This responsibility does not extend to the woman. In other words, the husband must pay for the shelter, food, clothing, and all other necessities of life for the entire family. The wife (if she works and earns a living) has NO obligation to pay for any of those necessities, unless she chooses to do so of her own free will. Anything she earns is hers to keep entirely and do with whatever she chooses. This is the reason why a man gives dowry to a woman and a woman does not give any dowry to a man. This is also the reason why a male received twice what the female receives in inheritance. Whatever inheritance a woman receives, she has no obligation to spend any of it on her family or children – it is all for her to keep and do whatever she wishes. But any income a man earns or inheritance he receives, his wife and children have a right to that wealth.
In a situation where the wife earns more than the husband, Islam allows for the two to come to an agreement on how to manage household affairs so that the moral and educational training of the children (which typically is done by the mother when the children are young) is discharged in a satisfactory way. But even in those exceptional cases, the men are held accountable for ensuring the needs of the family are being fulfilled, even though he is not the primary earner of the family.
Once the men have discharged their responsibility then the women are commanded to be virtuous, and listen to and cooperate with their husbands wishes (which must be in line with the moral and righteous teachings of Islam), and to safeguard their interests – which will safeguard the interests of the family and preserve the peace in the home creating a heavenly environment for the children to thrive and grow. If despite doing everything right, the wife engages in behavior that has the potential to destroy the marriage, then the man is given the permission to follow a defined protocol of escalation to restore the peace and harmony of the home.
1. First step is to “Admonish them”. This means to make clear to the wife that what she is doing is having a negative impact on the household, the children, husband, etc. and that the man as her equal partner in marriage, does not approve of her behavior. This step is to make the woman aware that what she is doing could ultimately lead to the destruction of their marriage.
2. Second step is to “Leave them alone in their beds”. If the woman continues to engage in the destructive behavior then the man should not sleep in the same bed with her and should not be intimate with her. Such a step by the husband should send a clear signal to the woman that something is in disarray and force her to reflect and correct her behavior.
3. Third and final step before divorce is to “Chastise them”. To chastise does not necessarily mean to beat. If we reflect on the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) we can learn much about how we should handle such cases in our own lives. He experienced situations where his wives (due to ignorance of the teachings of Islam or some other reason), made mistakes but he never behaved in a violent manner towards any of them. On the contrary, he always treated them with kindness even when they were at fault. We can write a book on the subject of how the Holy Prophet (pboh) treated his wives so I won’t spend too much time here except to say that there is not even a single instance when any of his wives objected to how he treated them, let alone beating them. He is the ultimate example for all Muslim men to follow. If our Prophet did not engage in this behavior, then we have a responsibility to follow his example and his example alone. Net, to chastise means to rebuke, to reprimand, to criticize, to express in a forceful manner your displeasure. Unfortunately, our male dominated culture resorts to this step first, and then we wonder why things go off-track in our marriage.
4. Then the Quran says, “if they obey you, seek not a way against them.” This is critical. If the wife finally realizes how serious this matter is, and she corrects herself and comes back toward justice and starts to discharge her duty as a wife, a husband must immediately stop the escalation process and forget anything has happened. Sadly, in some eastern cultures if a wife does something wrong, she is made to suffer for the rest of her life with taunts and constant threats from her husband or his extended family. The Quran rejects this behavior and tells the believers that as soon as the person is reformed, you must immediately stop any critical action towards them because doing so is a form of injustice. Given that justice is the primary goal of the Quranic teaching, Islam puts the discharge of justice primarily on men and then on women.
5. But let’s suppose none of the escalation steps lead to a resolution, what should happen next? Verse 4:36 explains that in such a case where the husband and wife are in a deadlock disagreement, then the next steps is arbitration. This requires a representative for the husband and a representative for the wife to meet and discuss the matter. The reason arbitration is prescribed is because often if a situation has reached such serious levels, it is probably and likely that husband and wife are both emotionally charged and so invested in their positions that they are incapable of having a rational dialog with one another directly and so are unable to resolve the matter on their own. Therefore, the role of the arbitrator is to remove the emotion and focus on the issue in question and to try to bring about a rational and fair resolution. Arbitration is also warranted because often in such cases it is revealed that the husband might be physically abusive towards his wife and this allows the wife to receive the necessary support to either leave the marriage or to put pressure on the husband to reform himself.
On the other hand, let’s say that the husband is engaging in behavior that could destroy the family peace, the teaching for the wife is simple: She can divorce him. He does not get the benefit of an escalation process that the wife gets. If he reforms himself, he can ask her to come back but she has no obligation to come back to him. In such a case, she will keep the dowry money AND he will still be responsible for costs related to the welfare of his children. Even if she marries someone else, the father of the children still must pay to support his children.
There are many other verses in the Quran that stress the equality of men and women in the eyes of God. However the Quranic teaching is also practical. We can observe from real world examples that any well-functioning organization or group ultimately has one decision maker who is the ultimate authority. This is the concept of the Imam. The Holy Prophet taught that even when two or three Muslims are traveling together, that they should appoint an Imam who will be the leader of the group. In a family, that imam is the father or husband. This practical benefit is the primary reason why the Quran teaches that: 2:229 “And they (the women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in equity; but men have a rank above them. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.”
It must be understood that men having a rank above women is NOT a judgement that their value is above women but rather simply a practical matter that is observed in all of nature. In the animal kingdom we observe that in a herd of lions, wolves, tigers, elephants, etc., there is always one alpha male. In a Muslim family, that alpha is the husband. This is not a position that automatically obligates the wife to do everything he wants even if it’s wrong or immoral. This is a position of great responsibility for which he will have to answer to God. Because just as the CEO is held responsible for the misdeeds of his employees or receives credit when his employees out-perform the competition, so is the husband responsible for the misdeed or good morals of his family members. A husband cannot be successful at creating an Islamic home environment all by himself without the willing and proactive assistance from his wife. In fact, a good righteous wife is THE MOST CRITICAL factor in creating a peaceful and just home environment which then results in a peaceful society. Sadly, too often we witness people in such positions misuse this power and trust for their own low desires and personal benefit. Their actions result in the destruction of peace in the home and ultimately destroys the peace of the broader society. The current state of the world is the result of the actions of such men. For such people the Quran has a strict warning:
4:139 Give to the hypocrites the tidings that for them is a grievous punishment.
Net, the Quranic teaching is perfect and completely in harmony with the natural world God has created. It is the human understanding that is imperfect. And the pursuit of a better understanding and its adoption is the epic journey called life.
Love A Muslim Day
4/3/2018 - A couple of weeks ago a social media friend sent me a picture of a letter entitled: Punish a Muslim Day - April 3rd 2018. The letter encouraged the reader to show their hate towards Muslims by attacking a Muslim in various suggested ways to earn points ranging from 10 to 2500. Needless to say, this tasteless and racist propaganda raised concerns for all people of decency. In my mind, this blatant and shameful display of racism and bigotry has no place in modern society anywhere in the world. Thankfully, an overwhelming majority of people in the US, Canada, UK and other Western Nations hold the same opinion on this matter.
I was thrilled to see the internet respond to such hate with #LoveAMuslim hashtag and people sharing stories of love and support for the Muslim community. I received several personal messages of support from my friends on social media who were equally disgusted with the concept of #PunishAMuslim as I was. This reinforces my belief that the people of western nations are decent, fair, kind, and loving people who desire for humanity what they wish for themselves. They reject hate and bigotry in preference to Love, Tolerance, and Understanding. They reject the racist propaganda against Muslims that is full of lies and deliberate misinformation. From the bottom of my heart and the hearts of all Muslims around the world, I thank you.
If you want to show your support for Muslims in your personal network, here are some helpful suggestions:
1. Talk to them. Tell them that you are there to support them and that you reject the hate perpetuated by a very small minority against people of Islamic faith.
2. Fight Islamophobia and hate within your own personal networks. Don't remain silent when you hear someone make a racist or bigoted comment towards Muslims. Remember, apathy towards such hate is equal to endorsing it. All of us must speak out against bigotry because by doing so, we deter future spread of this cancerous racist attitudes.
3. Sign up to become a #MuslimAlly by signing up and endorsing the #TrueIslam campaign at trueislam.com. The best way to combat Islamophobia and extremism is to learn what Islam actually teaches for yourself. I also encourage you to download a free copy of the Holy Quray and read it for yourself to see what it actually contains. Don't just take someone's word for it.
4. Go visit a mosque. Any of the 74 mosques belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are ready and willing to welcome you with open arms. The more you get to know the Muslim Community and understand what Islam actually teaches, the better equipped you will be in fighting Islamophobia and hate.
In the end, I thank you once again for being a #MuslimAlly. Thank you for recognizing that the strength of our country lies in the unified diversity of our citizens. Muslims are an integral part of the American and western society. We love the nations in which we live, and we are loyal to our countries of residence. And we stand with you against all forms of hate. Thank you! God Bless you!
My Prayer for Pakistan
4/1/2018 - When my family decided to leave Pakistan, it was a bittersweet moment. Even though I was only 10 years old, I could feel the internal struggle within me and the mixed emotions I had as I rode in the back of a horse carriage watching my home slowly disappear as it turned on to the main road in Rabwah, Pakistan. I could sense the feeling of loss for what I was leaving behind pull at the feeling of excitement of living in America, the land of freedom and opportunity. We packed up, leaving the only life we'd ever known to emigrate to the United States. The United States became my country. More than that, it became my home, one that I grew to want to protect and serve in accordance with the true teachings of Islam.
Sadly, I sometimes wish that I could have served my birth country of Pakistan like I have served my adopted country of the United States of America. But Pakistan did not want me. It does not want many others like me because I am an Ahmadi Muslim. Over the last 40 years Pakistan has become the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. In their effort to promote bigotry and hate against the Ahmadi Muslims, they Mullah's of Pakistan have turned the nation into a land of ignorance, completely depriving it of it's best talent. The pitiful condition of Pakistan today is the result of the absence of Islamic principles of Justice, Kindness, and Kinship. I pray that the people of Pakistan will recognize their folly and one day return back to True Islamic teachings which champion freedom of Religion for all - Muslims as well as non-Muslims and Absolute Justice, so that Pakistan can be restored back to the glorious vision of what it was supposed to be when it was first created in 1947. Amen.