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Part 1 of a Continuing Series.......

Topic: The Status of Women in Islam-Part 1

Some mistakenly believe that Islam honors women and dignifies them for the simple reason that they have not read the Qur'anic verses, and the sayings of Muhammad and all Muslim scholars concerning women. Thus they take at face value all the claims of Muslim missionaries in this respect. We seek to excuse those who have converted to Islam and are deceived because no one would expect a religion which claims to be divine (at the same time) to treat women so disgracefully.

We found on the other hand, some thinkers (even among Muslim Arabs) who have realized that women are not treated equal to men in Islam, though only a few of them occasionally dare to claim that publicly. Still, since their knowledge of Muhammad's sayings and the commentaries of the scholars is limited, they present a few examples related only to the subjects of polygamy (marrying four women) and easy divorce. Therefore, we seek to discuss here several issues to clarify the point under discussion and to remove the deceitful veil of Islam concerning women.

The Qur'an Commands Men To Beat Women

While the New Testament commands men to love their wives and even to sacrifice their own lives for their sake as Jesus gave His life for us (Ephesians 5), we see that the Qur'an plainly and disgracefully commands men to beat their women as soon as they show any sign of disobedience to man's authority and orders. It states in Chapter 4:34:

"As for these from women, fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart and scourge them."

Without any exception, all the Qur'anic expositors agree upon the meaning of this verse because it is so obvious. In their famous commentary, page 69, the Jalalan said:

"Those of you who are afraid of their disobedience which symptoms become evident to you, threaten them with the fear of God and banish them to beds apart and scourge them."

The Zamakhshari reiterates the same opinion (al-Kash-Shaf Vol.1, p.524). Both Imam Baydawi (p.111), and Al-Tobari (p.92) repeat the same explanation. If we also search Ahkamal Qur'an (the Ordinances of the Qur'an) by the Imam Shafi'i (Vol. 1, p.211), we read:

"In case of a husband's ill-treatment [of his spouse], the Qur'an permits reconciliation of the spouses and arbitration, but in the case of the wife it allows scourging her."

At the inception of Islam, we come across a very famous incident which all the Muslim chroniclers record (refer to Imam al-Nawawi: Riyad al-Salihin, "The Orchards of Righteous Men", p.107-108),

"Umar Ibn al-Khattab came to Muhammad saying, 'Women have dared to disobey husbands.' He allowed their husbands to scourge them. Many women approached Muhammad complaining against their husbands because Muhammad received a verse for the Qur'an which commands their husbands to scourge them."

In the Kash-shaf (the revealer) of al-Zamkhshari (Vol. 1, p. 525), we read the following,

"On the authority of Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him), he said: 'Hang up your scourge in a place where your wife (or wives) can see it.'"

Also, on the authority of Asmaa the daughter of Abu Bakr El Sedik:

"I was the fourth wife (among four) of al-Zabayr Ibn al-Awwam. Whenever he became angry at one of us he struck us with a hook rod until it was broken."

This hemistich was composed by al-Zabayr:

"If it were not for her children, I would have hit her."

The command to scourge women is repeated in Sahih al-Bukhari, "The Sound Tradition of al-Bukhari" (Vol.7, p.100). Ponder for a moment over Muhammad's order to the husband: "Hang up your scourge where your wife can see it." This is intimidation and threat, as if a husband were telling his wife:

"Beware of disobedience, for this is the scourge which is ready to fall upon you!"

There is no security or love in Muhammad's words or in the deeds of al-Zobayer Ibn al-Awwam, who was a relative of Muhammad, one of his companions, and one of those models whom every Muslim imitates and vies with all over the world. He was one of the ten whom Muhammad assured of paradise and one of the six whom Umar recommended for the Caliphate. This man used to scourge his wife until the wooden hook was broken, as Asmaa (the daughter of Abu Bakr El Sedik who was one of his four wives) tells us. Is there greater wife abuse than that?

Contemporary Scholars

All contemporary scholars attest to this fact which is obvious in the Qur'an. In the book, "You Ask and Islam Answers" (p.94 for example), Abdul-latif Mushtahiri says,

"If admonishing and sexual desertion fail to bring forth results and the woman is of a cold and stubborn type, the Qur'an bestows on man the right to straighten her out by way of punishment and beating provided he does not break her bones nor shed blood. Many a wife belongs to this querulous type and requires this sort of punishment to bring her to her senses!"

In his book, "The Individual Guarantee In the Islamic Law" (p.63), Ahmad Ahmad, a professor at the college of Law at the University of Qatar, denotes the following under the title of "Family Problems' Solution",

"If a woman is afraid that her husband may turn away from her or detest her, she will hasten to bring understanding and reconciliation. But if the husband is afraid that his wife may rebel against him, he hastens to bring mutual understanding by means of exhortation, then by abandonment of the bed, then by the scourging which deters."

Did you read it?- "By the scourging which deters". This is if the symptoms of disobedience became apparent exactly as the Jalalan, Baydawi, Zamakhshari have said and as the Saudi scholars indicated in AI-Muslimun magazine in its issue of March 17, 1989 (page 12). I can also easily list dozens of references, both ancient and contemporary, which explain this verse (4:34). Actually, it does not need any exposition because it is self-explanatory-- "...and scourge them." It is evident that Christian countries regard wife abuse as a crime punishable by law because nature itself (as well as the simplest human principle) teaches us that it is not permissible for a man to beat an animal-much less his wife!

Yet according to the Islamic faith and by distinct orders issued by the Qur'an and Muhammad, a man is allowed to scourge his wife with a peaceful conscience because he is carrying out God's command as recorded in the Qur'an. Muhammad, the prophet of mercy and humanity who claimed that he honored women, said: "Hang up your scourge where your wife can see it."

The Story of Job and his Wife in the Qur'an

In Chapter 38:44, the Qur'an declares that God has commanded righteous Job to beat his wife. We read:

"And (it was said unto him), 'Take in thine hand a branch and smite therewith and break not thine oath.'"

All Muslim scholars agree on the exposition of this verse. Both Jalalan (page 383), and Baydawi (page 604) say:

"When Job's wife was slow (to do something for him) one day, he swore to scourge her one hundred times. God told him, 'Do not break .... oath, but take a bundle of grass in your hand or rods to beat her up with."'

The Jalalaan say that Job took one hundred sticks and scourged her once. The Baydawi says that Job's wife's name is Liyya, daughter of Jacob or Rahmeh, daughter of Aphraim, son of Joseph.

Who among us would believe this ridiculous story of the Qur'an about Job, the righteous man, who was famous for his patience? Who among us would believe that God encouraged him to beat his wife with a bundle of grass or sticks so that he would not break his oath?

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