Thursday 30 August 2012

How to Beat Women's Rights into Submission

'Pakistan is failing to live up to one of the tenets of Islam which guarantees rights to all women...' - Sayeeda Warsi

First off I completely applaud Sayeeda Warsi and her work trying to stand up for minorities in nations like Pakistan. I'm only picking on her reference to Islamic women's rights that I feel are inherently in conflict with her work and are ideologically opposed to the Christian and Western understanding of women's rights.   

It's interesting though that where-ever you see a majority Islamic state the rights of women or more accurately the western concept of women's rights are almost non-existent. I would be surprised to know of many non-Muslims in the west who would understand Islam and more specifically the Qur'an to be an advocate for women rights. Perhaps by examining the Qur'an itself we will be able to pick up some tips on how to treat women better? 

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Yusuf Ali Translation - Surah 4:34)

Obviously it would be wrong of me to claim that everything that is said in this passage is negative. However I can't help but think that many women in the west wouldn't consider being beaten by their man as one of the key rights they've been missing here in the West. Admittedly its third on the list after telling them off and then refusing to sleep with them, which perhaps says more about the husband if a women is meant to view that as punishment! I've tried that one with my own wife and it's still yet to work, yet weirdly it works on me when she uses it. Its intriguing to note that the words lightly in brackets aren't in the Arabic text as far as I'm aware and are more the artistic licence of the translator leaving the door open to a range of severities.

Just to demonstrate that I'm not trying to misrepresent what the Qur'an plainly says, here are some other equally respected Muslim translations of the Arabic text;

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme. (Dawood)
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret what Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great. (Pickthall)

Obviously trying to hide what is implied by using 'scourge' instead of beat is a poor attempt at trying distract what Muslim husbands are allowed to do in this admittedly specific situation. Along with the above Arabic to English translations the word used for beat or scourge in the above translations is translated in the following ways by the following translators; 'beat' (Committee of Muslim translators of Ibn Kathir), 'beat' (Sher Ali), 'beat' (Maududi) and I imagine it is similar in many more translations as-well. These verses are taken seriously around the world, to the point where there are discussions on how a Muslim should correctly beat his wife. Now I'm not saying all Muslim husbands beat their wives, or have done or will do in the future, I am simply demonstrating that the Qur'an contains a mandate for doing so and is therefore inherently opposed to the western concept of women's rights.

The following words are recorded by the famous early biographer of Muhammad (Ibn Ishaq) and are said to have been made during one of his pilgrimages to Mecca to many of his earliest followers;

You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them but not with severity. If they refrain from these things, they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their own persons.
This biography is a must read and is available for purchase from Amazon  here.

Now admittedly there are again some lovely verses about women in the Qur'an and I wouldn't dream of denying this but nevertheless verses that allow for women to be treated wrongly cannot be ignored. For instance how can women value themselves when taking into account that the Qur'an continually treats them as sex objects and intellectually inferior? These ideas and words have consequences, if a women is alledgidly intellectually inferior and simply created to fulfill the insatiable desires of ones husband it's hardly a logical leap to a vast range of social and moral injustices.

Wives as Sex Slaves in Surah 2:223

Surah 2:223 is essentially a euphemism for using your wife for sex when ever you please, but what about the rights of a women to say no?  This clearly doesn't help establish healthy and fair Islamic rights for women. I'm not sure it's that much of surprise if just taking into account these two verses that whether mistakenly or not women in the Islamic world are almost universally treated in a way that those of us in the west and certainly from a Christian world-view would consider wholly unacceptable.

Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear God. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe. (Yusuf Ali)
Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will, and send (good deeds, or ask Allâh to bestow upon you pious offspring) before you for your ownselves. And fear Allâh, and know that you are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give good tidings to the believers (O Muhammad SAW). (T.U. Hilali-M. Khan)

Your wives are a farm for you; so come to your farm as-and-when you please, and take steps for yourselves. And revere Allah; and know that you are going to meet Him. And give glad tidings to the Believers. (Zohurul Hoque)
Is it okay for wives to be viewed as a sexual farm, is this the ideal way husbands should view their wives? I'm not sure how such a view would help to build a view of rights for women that are equal and fair when again and again throughout the Qur'an women are viewed as sexual objects and booty to be used to fulfil a mans needs. I think the New Testament demonstrates a much better, timeless and truly Godly way for men and women to view their sexuality within marriage which clearly demonstrates the misogynistic tendencies in the Islamic revelation.

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:3-4 NLT)

Islamic women's rights may have in-itself some values and practices that are beneficial and attractive but it is still an ideological framework that mandates for domestic violence and the use of women as sexual objects. I'm not trying to offend any Muslims but I can't help but think that from what I have read and observed that the rights of women within Islam is something we should be worried about. I simply don't consider a system that treats women as sex objects, or someone to be beaten into submission as good things to have built into a system of women's rights. Especially so with the growth of Islam in the West and the growing use of Islamic Sharia courts in England and Wales where women are treated unequally in accord to Islamic law. Again I must reiterate what I am not saying is that every Muslim man treats his wife this way, as many western Muslims have been influenced by the remnants of the Judeo-Christian and secular traditions in the west as have many else-where.

Some have argued that many Muslim women are happy in their roles where they are protected by men and covered up but what about the women who don't, what about the rights of women to choose who they are seen out with or what they wear? Here are some more quotes I'll finish with that build your faith in the rights of women in Islam from the Islamic traditions (Hadith) that record Muhammad informing us that women lack the intelligence of men;

Mohammed said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife. (Abu Dawud 11, 2142)

The Prophet said, “None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.” Most of those in Hell will be women. (Bukhari 7,62,132)

Mohammed asked, “Is not the value of a woman’s eye-witness testimony half that of a man’s?” A woman said, ”Yes.” He said, “That is because a woman’s mind is deficient.” (Bukhari 3,48,826)
Some closing words from Muhammad on women;

While on his way to pray, Mohammed passed a group of women and he said, “Ladies, give to charities and donate money to the unfortunate, because I have witnessed
that most of the people in Hell are women. They asked, “Why is that?” He answered, “You swear too much, and you show no gratitude to your husbands. I have never come across anyone more lacking in intelligence, or ignorant of their religion than women. A careful and intelligent man could be misled by many of you.” They responded, “What exactly are we lacking in intelligence or faith?”Mohammed said, “Is it not true that the testimony of one man is the equal to the testimony of two women?” After they affirmed that this was true, Mohammed said, “That illustrates that women are lacking in intelligence...
(Bukhari 1,6,301)

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