Friday, December 28, 2007

Islamic Law and Wife Beating (Updated)

Well, I'm glad the Mufti of Egypt set that straight.
Note: video has been removed from YouTube, but can still be view at MEMRI
Here is a brief transcript:
Mufti of Egypt Sheik Ali Gum'a: Wife-Beating Is Permitted by Islam in Muslim Countries, but Is Forbidden in the West

Following are excerpts from an interview with the Mufti of Egypt Dr. Ali Gum'a, which aired on Al-Risala TV on May 26, 2006:

Ali Gum'a: Wife-beating is associated with the cultural status of women in the different societies. Women in some cultures are not averse to beatings. They consider it as an expression of masculinity, and as a kind of control, which she herself desires. In other societies, it is the exact opposite. We must follow reason. When we are dealing with certain societies...

I got a question from Canada. The man said: "Here, it is a crime to beat a wife, even with a toothbrush. Is this prohibition acceptable in Islam? Yes. Islam accepts that the beating of Canadian wives, in this culture and ambience... From childhood they are taught that beating women is a type of barbarism, savagery, and so on. There is nothing wrong with taking this into consideration, and adapting to society, because Islam did not command us to be aggressive towards women.

If in their culture, this constitutes aggression towards women, then we are forbidden to be aggressive towards women. In this situation it is inevitable but to consider [beating] this way, and accepting the society, because Islam did not come and command me to be aggressive towards women. But when Allah permitted wife-beating, He permitted it to the other side of culture, which considers it as one of the means to preserve the family, and as one of the means to preserve stability.

In the comments, B. James Stinson writes:
Two Michigan State University law students have written a scholarly article on wife beating and wife discipline in Islamic Law, posted on the Cienfuegos blog at and I have posted brief comments on my Therapeutic Family Law blog [see comment here]
That is all well and good, but keep in mind you have the Mufti of Egypt--who is supposedly some kind of Islamic scholar and interpreter of Sharia--publicly saying differently.

More than that, the article at Cienfuegos concludes:
In essence, the Islamic approach (of the majority opinion) to wife discipline for her disobedience involves first, admonishing the wife, second, sexually boycotting the wife, and, lastly, physically disciplining the wife through a non-violent symbolic act.

These types of discipline are to be administered sequentially. Furthermore, the husband is to cease discipline as soon as his wife reconciles with him. If discipline does not work to restore marital harmony, then the last-resort of arbitration should be used to bring it about. Ultimately, if arbitration fails, then the husband and wife should divorce amicably as Islam prescribes. One cannot overemphasize that the husband may only discipline his wife with the intent to reconcile with her.

Stated differently, wife discipline may only be used as a means to marital reconciliation. Wife beating not only contravenes this reconciliatory purpose but flies in the face of the Islamic marital relationship as a whole.

In the final analysis, wife beating is so antithetical to Islam that those who believe it endorses such behavior are misinformed or malevolent. We hope that this paper eliminates the former and marginalizes the latter accordingly.
Just how is this Islamic approach to dealing with one's wife different than dealing with one's child and disciplining him through 'admonishment' (Websters: to indicate duties or obligations to; to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner) and negative reinforcement?

There is a clear implication in this article that the wife is second to and not equal to the husband--reminiscent of the the dhimmi second class status of non-Muslims under Muslim rule.

The dhimmi status of non-Muslims leaves a long history of abuse and pogroms behind it; the second class status of women in Islam--as revealed in the article at Ciefuegos--provides the foundation for the beating of women in Islam today.

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