This past Sunday was Father’s Day. I suspect it has never truly been easy to be a father. Perhaps in the past in some ways being a dad and a husband was somewhat easier in that the general society recognized the important role that fathers play in their children’s lives. Today, fatherhood is ridiculed and even trivialized in our society, and fathers are deemed in many circles to be mostly unnecessarily and are mere providers of the “Y” chromosome.
The detachment of fatherhood from marriage has a great cost, and its implications will not be fully understood and manifest for decades to come. Although the Bible has relatively few admonitions for the husband or the wife in their dealings with one another, there are powerful examples of both wonderful marriages and blessed fatherhoods. Of course, St. Joseph and the Holy Mother are a prime example of Christian marriage and child-rearing.
Islam often takes radically different views of marriage and the marital relationship from Christian views. One of the foundational verses in Islam that deals with marital relations is Sura 4:34, which provides in pertinent part:
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them (which should not pain for her, e.g., given as small Mishwak stick in Tafseer). But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them.
You might not realize that a “mishwak” is essentially the size of a toothbrush, and thus, some Islamic scholars interpret beating the wife as merely a light tap with the toothbrush-sized weapon for beating a disobedient wife. Some Moslems, including Islamic feminist groups, argue that Moslem men often use this Koranic text as an excuse for domestic violence.
However, there is a sold-out book that provides useful guidance to the Moslem married couple. A Gift for the Muslim Couple, authored by famous Islamic “scholar” Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, offers some helpful wisdom and insight for those Moslem husbands with impertinent and disobedient wives. This charming book also makes a great wedding gift idea, and is available at Amazon and on online Islamic bookstores. According to a recent article regarding this book in the Toronto Sun:
In the book’s opening pages, it is written that “it might be necessary to restrain her with strength or even to threaten her.” Later, its author advises that “the husband should treat the wife with kindness and love, even if she tends to be stupid and slow sometimes.” Page 45 contains the rights of the husband, which include his wife’s inability to leave “his house without his permission,” and that his wife must “fulfill his desires” and “not allow herself to be untidy … but should beautify herself for him … ” In terms of physical punishment, the book advises that a husband may scold her, “beat by hand or stick,” withhold money from her or “pull (her) by the ears,” but should “refrain from beating her excessively.”
In keeping with the Islamic spirit of taqiyya, followers of Islam in the United States and other non-Islamic countries will deny that there is any sanction either in Islam or the Koran for wife-beating or any violence against women. Moslems realize that to contend otherwise is quite embarrassing and puts Moslems in a bad light, and even suggests a primitive nature of the Islamic faith. Of course, what is, in the eyes of a Moslem male, a light beating could be viewed as domestic violence to his victim and in the eyes of other non-Moslems. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America, once famously observed that “in some cases, a husband may use light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife. . . The Koran is very clear on this issue.”
In Islamic nations, there is a permissive sanction for domestic violence, growing out of the Koran and hadiths. During 2005, when the African nation of Chad sought to enact changes to its civil law that would outlaw wife beating, Moslem clerics led resistance to the proposed law as un-Islamic. According to a United States Agency for International Development study, a 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey noted that 47 percent of ever-married women reported having experienced physical violence since the age of 15. The majority of those women identified an intimate partner (their current or previous husbands) as the perpetrator of at least one episode of violence, and nearly half (45 percent) had been subjected to physical violence by a male perpetrator other than their husband.
Notwithstanding the pattern of violence against married women, in keeping with the psychological phenomenon of traumatic bonding, this same study also found that one-half of ever-married Egyptian women agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons: She goes out without telling him (40 percent), neglects the children (40 percent), argues with him (37 percent), refuses to have sex with him (34 percent), or burns food (19 percent). Seventeen percent of the women surveyed agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife for all five reasons.
Substantially comparable questions on health surveys conducted in Morocco, Jordan, and Turkey reveal some cultural or gender differences: In Jordan, 87 percent of the women agree with one or more reasons (with 60 percent of women agreeing that burning food is a justification for wife-beating but only 4 percent agreeing with the justification of arguing with him); in Turkey, only 39.4 percent of women agree with one or more reasons (with only 6 percent agreeing that burning food and 29 percent agreeing that arguing with the husband justify wife-beating). In Turkey, a survey of hospital workers in Turkey found 69 percent of women and almost 85 percent of men agreed that under some circumstances a husband was justified in beating his wife. Among the acceptable circumstances justifying wife-beating was criticism of the male.
Yes, violence against women, and particularly against married women, is a present factor in Islamic countries, and also exists in the United States and Europe as many tragic cases have shown. Any violence against women, whether done with a mishwak or other instrument of violence, is primitive, reprehensible, and a grave embarrassment to Islam. I would urge Moslem women to strongly consider the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, who invites all of us in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 11, verse 28, to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” And for those Moslem men who have been abusive, whether physically, sexually, or psychologically, to repent of their sins and to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for salvation.