By Peter Burrows 3/13/20 firstname.lastname@example.org and silvercityburro.com
You may be unaware that the Koran, the eternal word of Allah, permits men to beat their wives under certain circumstances. The question is, when those circumstances arise, are Muslim men required to beat their wives or risk apostasy if they don’t beat them?
This is important because apostasy gets the wayward Muslim the death penalty, so we’re not talking some trivial nonsense here, and willful failure to obey the Koran constitutes an apostasy. (There are a great many other apostasies.)
Let’s read the relevant verse in the Koran, Verse 4:34. This is from the Sayyid Mawdudi translation, pages 113-114:
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made one of them excel over the other, and because they spend out of their possessions (to support them). Thus righteous women are obedient and guard the rights of men in their absence under Allah’s protection. As for women of whom you fear rebellion, admonish them, and remain apart from them in beds, and beat them.”
Mawdudi’s footnote helpfully notes, “This does not mean that a man should resort to these three measures all at once.” These three steps should be done in sequence: first scold her; then don’t sleep with her, which is no problem because Verse 4:3 allows Muslims up to four wives; and only when all that fails can she be beaten.
In my opinion, that verse doesn’t leave the Muslim husband much choice. If one of his wives gives him a nasty look when he orders her to do something, then he can reasonably “fear rebellion” and must start the three-step command.
However, Islam doesn’t allow “opinions” about verses in the Koran, my opinions or anybody else’s. Sharia law is unequivocal: “Never explain a verse of the Holy Koran by your own opinion, but check on as to how it has been understood by the scholars of Sacred Law who came before you. If what you have understood contradicts the Sacred Law, forsake your wretched opinion and fling it against the wall.”
With that in mind, I consulted “Tafsir Ibn Kathir,” written in the Fourteenth Century by Ibn Kathir, one of Islam’s most noted scholars. According to Wikipedia, “Tafsir is the Arabic word for exegesis, usually of the Quran. A Quranic tafsir attempts to provide elucidation, explanation, interpretation, context or commentary for clear understanding and conviction of God's will.”
Good news! Tafsir Ibn Kathir says men are “ALLOWED” to beat their wives, not REQUIRED to. Hopefully, most Muslims don’t beat their wives anyway because they are decent human beings who knowingly disobey Verse 4:34. As long as they keep that willful disobedience to themselves, they are safe from the deadly accusation of apostasy.
Thus, if an imam or other Islamic authority asks why a Muslim didn’t beat his wife after she was seen disobeying him or was guilty of some other sign of disrespect, the Muslim can accurately say he is not required to beat his wife, only allowed to. Furthermore, if the Muslim wishes to avoid the stigma of being unmanly, he can say that he DID beat her even though he didn’t.
This little white lie is made possible by Islamic law that says the wife-beating husband “may hit her, but not in a way that injures her," which means no bruises, no broken bones, no bleeding and no hitting in the face. Only compassionate wife beating is allowed in Islam!
So, a decent Muslim could tell an inquisitive imam, “I did give her a good whuppin’, you just can’t see it. I beat my wives by the book, imam, by the book!”
As an aside, a Westerner could read the first line in Verse 4:34, which refers to men and women, “Allah has made one of them excel over the other,” and reach the opinion that it’s the women who were made to excel. After all, men are commanded by Allah to protect and support women, not the other way around, so which is the superior?
Alas, Tafsir Ibn Kathir’s discourse on Verse 4:34 leaves no doubt: If you have that opinion, you must fling it against the wall IF YOU ARE A MUSLIM.
Well, I’m not a Muslim, and in my opinion it’s the Koran and all the tafsirs that should be flung against the wall. If that makes me an “Islamophobe,” so be it. My question is: Why aren’t we all Islamophobes?