Clarifying the terms Darajah, Qawwamun, and Faddala
Darajah, (step, degree or level) is something that is earned; acquired with responsibility.
When a level is granted to male or female on the basis of their good deeds or piety, there is no discrimination. This is demonstrated by the following
Qur'anic concepts: "Unto men a fortune from what they have earned and unto women a fortune from that which they have
earned" (Q 4:32). "Whoever works righteously; man or woman, and has faith: verily to him/her will We give a new life, a life that is good and pure. And We will bestow on such their rewards, according to the best of their
actions" (Q 4:124). So when it comes to who has greater advantage with Allah in terms of deeds, there is no level or degree given to the male or female over the other.
The darajah for men over women occurs in the Qur'anic verse thus, "...And (Walahunna) women shall have right similar to the rights against them according to what is equitable. But men have a degree (of advantage) over them. Allah is Exalted in Power,
Wise." (Q 2:228)
This verse occurs among a series of verses referring to the required period of separation before claiming a divorce. The degree of advantage refers to
man's being able to individually initiate divorce, whereas a woman can seek divorce only after intervention of an authority. So the advantage is limited to the circumstances of divorce only. Why this advantage? Most likely, because it is he who is duty- bound to support to the wife and unborn baby, and the previous verses are referring to the possibility that during separation the woman may be expecting, and if so, the man needs to give due consideration to taking her back because of his responsibility towards the unborn child. Hence, he has the responsibility/ decision about validating the divorce or taking his wife back. Yet, in Muslim cultures, an unrestricted value attachˇ to this concept of
"advantage" and men generalize it to all aspects of life, claiming superiority over women.
This form of unrestricted value for all circumstances contradicts the equity established in the
Qur'an, "that each 'nafs' (man or woman) is responsible for what it earns" (Q 4:32).
The Qu'ran has emphasized the female's rights (Q
2:228) with the words "wa
lahunna" in order to neutralize the possible impression that could be created by the previous sentence of enhancing the position of men over women. Truly, it is the wondrous and miraculous expression of the
Qur'an that enables it to maintain the delicacy of the problem and at the same time solve the most complicated issues in a very noble and subtle way.
Thus, in a superb manner, the Qur'an has untied the knot of this problem by saying that while men have a degree of darajat (advantage) in holding the key to divorce; in the enjoyment of human rights, both men and women stand equal.
Qawwamun does not convey the sense of governorship or rule over women, but rather signifies
men's role as maintainers of women, because they support and meet their material needs from their wealth. The
Shari'ah has entrusted the responsibility of women's material needs to men, who are held liable for meeting all the economic needs of the family, while women are held responsible for looking after the children, their nourishment, education, training, etc. this division of the work of the household between husband and wife is based on their respective natural abilities. Fulfilling these responsibilities are the primary duties, though not exclusive, yet allowing free and full participation in all social, political and ethical activities with due propriety.
Now the concept of "Fadl", the verse reads; "Men shall take full care of women with the bounties Allah has bestowed on them, and what they may spend out of their possession; as Allah has eschewed each with certain qualities in relation to the other. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which Allah has ordained to be guarded.
As for those women whole ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then distance yourself in bed, and then tap them; but if they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Surely, Allah is indeed the most High, the
Greatest." (Q 4:34)
This verse is often quoted for justifying the ruthless dominance of patriarchal males demanding obedience from their wives- to the point of disciplining them through physical punishment!
But let us analyze it with Qur'anic wisdom. Firstly, the "fadl" or preference is related to responsibility, so there is reciprocity between this privilege and responsibility. The fact is that it is through
Allah's benevolence that he gets this "fadl" should make a man God- conscious. So, if he is given this authority or preferential responsibility, it is accompanied by a heavy mandate and obligation. He cannot abuse the
"fadl". The purpose of this "fadl" could be attributed to the fact that a family functions harmoniously when there is leadership and authority in it, manifested through fulfilling duty and mutual co- operation.
It is wrong to conclude from this that as men (or women) have some "advantage" in one respect, they are therefore superior to the other. The right attitude should be for each sex to think that it is deficient in certain aspects, which can only be complimented by the collaboration and co-operation of the other as essential for its perfection and healthy growth. In other words, it should never fancy such ideas as its own excellence, but should consider itself dependent upon the other for its own perfection. The
Qur'an has beautifully described this relationship of the two sexes in these words:
"And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Surely in that are signs for those who
reflect." (Q 31:21)
The issue of NUSHUZ
Verse 4:34 has commonly been used to Justify Wife beating. How can this can be explained?
NUSHUZ could be defined as animosity, hostility, rebellion, ill- treatment, discord, violation of marital duties on the part of either husband or wife. In this context, a
wife's "ill-will" implies a deliberate, persistent breach of her marital obligations.
The verse of Surah Nisa' has attracted great attention from both within the Beliving community and without:
"As regards those women on whose part you fear defiance and ill- conduct, admonish them (first), (next) separate in bed, (and last) tap them (if they still persist in their defiance); but if they cooperate and pay you heed, do not look for excuses to harm them. Note well that there is Allah above you
all." (Q 4:34)
In the context of the above verse the most appropriate meaning for nushuz is marital discord (ill- will, animosity etc.) The process suggested is necessary, otherwise it is inviting the likelihood of divorce without any reconciliation procedure, and this will contravene the
Qur'anic guidance. The separation could be temporary or permanent depending on the reconciliation procedure, and this fits in very well with the divorce procedure outlined in the
Qur'an. Therefore the more accurate understanding of the above verse would be: (4:34)
"...As for those women whose animosity or ill- will you have reason to fear, discuss the mater with them, then separate in bed, then tap; and if they pay you heed, do not seek a way against
The verse following the above verse gives further weight to the above translation. (4:35)
"And if you fear a breach between them (the man and the wife), appoint an arbiter from his folk and an arbiter from her folk. If they desire amendment, Allah will make them one of mind. Lo! Allah is Ever Knower,
An added weight to the meaning outlined above is given by verse (4: 128), where in the case of man the same word, nushuz, is also used. Note too that as ill- treatment emanating here is from the husband, a process of reconciliation is encouraged!
"If a wife fears ill- treatment (nushuz) or desertion (i'raad) on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is
best..." (Q 4:128)
In the same surah, we read, "Whoever among you; men or women, are guilty of this crime (impropriety/ obscenity), punish them both; then if they both repent and reform themselves, leave them alone, for Allah is Most Generous in accepting repentance, and Merciful in forgiving
As previously mentioned, women could only be taken to task when they were guilty of open obscenity. The verse (Q 4:16) clearly states that whoever commits open licentiousness, man or woman, must be punished. It may here be mentioned that this open obscenity or licentiousness (nushuz) means obscenity short of adultery and fornication.
If a wife fears that her husband is going to be excessive, there is the same process for the wife too. She can advise him first. Psychological pressure of withdrawing closeness and intimacy? But why is there no reference to physical pressure, like a symbolic slap or the like? The wife is not required to slap her husband, guarding against the possibility of physical retaliation and its dire consequences. But she has use of an injunction, which is better than that; to sit down with respected members of the community, (if need be with a judge), and draw up a contract with the man, which says: You have done this or that- if you do it again, these will be the consequences. In other words, she is getting the community behind her.
Three steps for regaining marital harmony or an amicable settlement
We note that in the event that there is disruption of marital harmony, the Qur'an suggests three steps for regaining harmony. In order of preference, they are:
(Step 1) Wa'z (admonition, consultation and discussion). This is the preferred method suggested for regaining marital harmony and is the same mechanism discussed in the
Qur'an for the coordination of affairs between all groups of people. Consultation can be between the parties (as in 4:34) or between the two parties with the help of arbiters or hakim (4:35, 4:128).
Wa'z or admonition implies advising and reminding one of the consequence of one's actions; this in a way that softens the heart of the listener (16:125) and making him/ her incline favorably to your words.
(Step 2) Wahjur (to separate in bed; time and space boycott, at least one night). If consultation does not lead to marital harmony, the second suggestion is of time-out, a phrase to denote a separation in time and/ or space between two people. This is a form of psychological pressure. Note that it is avoidance in the house or in front of the family, children and so forth.
The purpose of that act is to solve the problem well- known not to belittle the woman or uncover the secrets that are going on. However, it is a reaction to her act of nushuz and recalcitrance by avoiding her and turning away from her in hope that this will lead to reciprocity and togetherness. It can be for an intermediate cooling off period only, or could presumably continue indefinitely, which in the context of marriage could only mean divorce.
(Step 3) Daraba (a gentle strike or tap: an expression of physical pressure) If the first two methods are used in their preferred order to the fullest extent, the need for the third method of a strike would not be reached.
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