«Nada Ibrahim and Mohamad Abdalla Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia A Critical Examination of Qur’an 4:34 Abstract This article examines ...»
Lodge them where you lodge according to your means; and do not injure them in order that you may straighten them; and if they are pregnant, spend on them until they lay down their burden; then if they suckle for you, give them their recompense and enjoin one another among you to do good; and if you disagree, another (woman) shall suckle for him (Qur’an, 65:6).
When the classical Muslim jurist Ibn Rushd was asked whether a man who caught his wife performing lewd acts with a foreign man in bed could beat his wife and imprison her, he responded that the husband may forgive his wife or divorce her and anything beyond that would be considered a transgression (Abou El Fadl, 2006). This is based on Qur’an 2:231, “And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then either retain them in good
fellowship or set them free with liberality, and do not retain them for injury” and Qur’an 65:2
mentioned earlier. Given the above, it seems evident that wife beating is not only “immoral”, but is inconsistent with maqasid, namely, the preservation of life, honor, and intellect. It is also inconsistent with the Prophet’s example and many traditions that describe beating as “hateful and detestable” (as cited in Abou El Fadl, 2009, p. 111).
practitioners to inform practice efficacy with Muslim clients. Once the practitioner recognizes that Islamic law in general, and verse 4:34 of the Qur’an in particular, does not sanction IPV or wife beating, he or she can intervene to prevent future IPV-related injuries. Understanding the distinction between IPV and nushuz provides practitioners with the necessary knowledge to contextualize a client’s specific case, especially if verse 4:34 is quoted as religious evidence for wife beating by perpetrators (FTI, 2007). Since IPV cannot be sanctioned under any circumstances in Islam, perpetrators should be held accountable for their violent behavior rather than being allowed to masquerade behind their misuse of religious texts and awareness created for victims on how faith can be used against them as a means of maintaining power and control over them (FTI, 2007; Hassouneh-Phillips, 2003). Thus, increasing awareness of the contexts in which IPV occurs in diverse cultural settings is important in improving the health and well-being of IPV victims (Hassouneh-Phillips, 2001).
Practitioners can facilitate an informed understanding of kind treatment, gentleness and care of women and wives required under Islamic law by encouraging couples to draw on their religious beliefs, texts, practices, leaders, and religious communities to assist them in preventing, addressing, and reconciling marital conflict (Ellison et al., 2007; Lambert & Dollahite, 2006). As an effective clinical tool, and to optimize healing, it would be conducive for practitioners to recognize that religious factors play an essential part in the way a religious client may cope at times of difficulty to resist and recover from abuse (Gillum, Sullivan, & Bybee, 2006;
Practitioners also need to recognize the integral role that Muslim scholars, imams, and leaders can play in the prevention or intervention of cases of wife beating, given that they are
Therefore, an effective resolution for IPV issues in Muslim families would see a reconciliation of services provided by practitioners and Muslim leaders facilitating a process of referral and treatment.
As some clients go through a crisis of faith at times of abuse, the role of the practitioner is important in sorting through the client’s complex emotions of confusion, anger, guilt, fear, and sadness as a result of IPV (Gillum et al., 2006). Without a value-based practice that respects and is sensitive to Islamic principles and teachings, it is possible that practitioners may fail in providing proper treatment. In certain Muslim societies it is important for practitioners to help victims and perpetrators identify cultural practices that are contrary to legitimate Islamic principles, and not to confuse cultural customs with religious teachings and core spiritual concepts (Hassouneh-Phillips, 2003).
There are many factors that contribute towards IPV. Research shows that religion can be a protective factor in preventing violence against women, and Islam is no exception. This article demonstrated that Islamic law and views of leading jurists and scholars are clearly against all forms of IPV, as it creates havoc in marital harmony. Verse 4:34 does not condone violence against women, and a proper understanding of its implications can only be achieved through a contextual deliberation of the verse. Verse 4:34 addresses a specific case of nushuz and a proper understanding of what constitutes nushuz is vital. English translations of the contentious word wadribuhunna must not mean “beat them”, or anything similar, for this gives a misleading connotation to the legal meaning and intended implication. Within the Muslim community, there are individuals who are unaware of the actual intent of verse 4:34. Many of the cases of wife
The objectives of the shari’ah are to protect life and foster marital harmony, not condone violence. Similarly, verse 4:34 can only be utilized to foster marital harmony and to prevent marital breakdown when there is an established case of nushuz.
On the arguments presented, it is safe to postulate that it is not Islamic law that is the cause of IPV found in Muslim societies, but that others factors are at play, including cultural norms and practices, heterogeneous influences (such as race, cultural themes and values, class, language, socioeconomic status, nation of origin, migration pattern, age, and strength of religious beliefs) and misinterpretation (and, indeed, mistranslation) of verse 4:34. The cultural norms and practices of some Muslims, particularly those from strongly patriarchal societies, may assign an inferior status or secondary role to women that may subject some women to abuse in their relationships. It is our contention therefore, that most of the cases of wife abuse can be explained by the husband’s ignorance of the basic teachings of Islam on the kind and just treatment of women. Concurrently, the imposition of unfair imported cultural norms and practices that counteracts religious teachings can often be aimed at subjugating women in some Muslim families. Possibly, the problem is not only with the ignorance of basic teachings of Islam, but also with the pseudo and inappropriate application of verse 4:34. To fully understand the meaning of wadribuhunna in 4:34, a contextual deliberation of the verse together with the law of the land is necessary. In Western countries, and in countries where the laws forbid violence against women, Islamic law respects and embraces these laws to make such acts completely prohibited. In seeking ways to prevent or reduce cases of IPV, it is important to develop culturally and religiously value-based treatment models that are sensitive to the needs of culturally and religiously driven communities by taking into consideration the correct
Notes Intimate partner in the Muslim societies can only be married partners, given the Islamic prohibition of relationships outside of marriage (Al-Qaradawi, 1982).
To obtain a complete picture of the violence, it is important to view it in the context of these inter-related factors where the socio-cultural context of the relationships influences the individual life realities, meanings attributed and behaviours within it. It is the socio-cultural context that identifies the complex system of beliefs, values and formal and informal norms (among other things) that regulate human relationships in a particular situation. Culture, in this article, refers to those prevailing customary practices, norms and/or beliefs that may be different to religious beliefs and teachings. For example, if a particular culture’s views of IPV as part of male supremacy are culturally acceptable and a normal part of marriage, such incidents are less likely to be reported (Antai & Antai, 2008).
Other related terminology used in literature to indicate IPV includes domestic violence and spouse abuse. For the sake of consistency this article will use intimate partner violence to refer to violence experienced by female victims by an intimate male partner.
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For text of Prophet Muhammad’s words in farewell pilgrimage please refer to Abu Khalil (2003). p. 249.
The marriage contract is considered to be a covenant that two people make with Allah (Qur’an, 4:21; Sahih
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