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IslamiCity > Articles > The Verse of Abuse Or the Abused Verse
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According to the Qur'an, the relationship between husband and wife should be one of love, mercy and mutual understanding ..
Audio The Verse of Abuse Or the Abused Verse

The Verse of Abuse Or the Abused Verse
1/17/2013 - Religious - Article Ref: IC0407-2377
Number of comments: 22
Opinion Summary: Agree:18  Disagree:1  Neutral:2  Ignored:1
By: Sadullah Khan
IslamiCity* -

The Multi- meaning word "Daraba" 

The problem of abuse comes from the word "Idribuhunne" which is usually translated as "beat them". The root of this word is "Daraba". If one consults an Arabic dictionary you would find a long list of meanings ascribed to this word! 

The list is one of the longest lists in the whole Arabic dictionaries and has so many different meanings. In the Qur'an, depending on the context, one can ascribe different meanings to it, i.e: 

To travel to get out: 3:156; 4:101; 38:44; 73:20; 1:273 

To strike: 2:60; 7:160; 8:12; 20:77; 24:31; 26:63; 37:93; 47:04 

To beat: 8:50; 47:27 

To set up: 43:58; 57:13 

To give (examples): 14:24-45; 16:75, 76, 112; 18:32, 45; 24:35; 30:28, 58; 36:78; 39:27, 29; 43:17; 59:21; 66:10-11 

To take away, to ignore: 43:5 

To condemn: 2:61 

To seal, to draw over: 18:11 

To cover: 24:31 

To explain: 13:17 

Thus, in the Qu'ran alone we witness the verb "Daraba" having at least ten different meanings. "Daraba" has also other meaning which are not mentioned in the Qur'an. For example in the Arabic language, you do not print money-- you "Daraba" money, you do not multiply numbers-- you "Daraba" numbers, you do not cease the work-you "Daraba" the work - 

Webster's Dictionary gives fourteen meanings to the verb "strike": hit (against); ignite; (of snake) bite; (of plants) (cause to) take root; attack; hook (fish); sound (time) as bell in clock; affect; arrive at, come upon; enter mind of; discover (gold, oil etc.); dismantle; remove; make (coin); cease work as protest or to make demands. The same dictionary gives eight meanings to the verb "beat": strike repeatedly; overcome; surpass; stir vigorously with striking action; flag (wings); make, wear (path); throb; sail against wind. 

When we encounter a multi-meaning word, we select the proper meaning according to the context, form and common sense. 

Why the "Daraba"? 

Why has the Qur'an included the method of a "strike"? The Qu'ran always emphasizes doing good and abstaining from evil. If the Qur'an is looked at as an integrated and cohesive text, situations can be identified where the Qur'an calls for the prohibition of certain things in stages. For example, whereas early revelations discourage the use of intoxicants (2:219, 4:43), the final revelation on this matter clearly condemns and prohibits them (5:93-94). 

This is where there is a need to understand the historical context in which the Qur'an was revealed. It is known that in the pre-Islamic period known as the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyyah), there were gross practices of physical and emotional abuse of females such as female infanticide (killing of babies) and the custom of inheriting the wives of deceased relatives against the will of the women. Verse 4:34, which refers to a strike/tap, was revealed early in the Medinan period at a time when cruelty and violence against women were still rampant. Seen within this context the strike is a restriction on existing practice, and not a recommendation. As Muslim society in Madinah developed towards an ideal state, the final verse in the Qur'an on male female relationship (9:71) regards women and men as being each other's protecting friends and guardians ('awliyya) which emphasizes their cooperation in living together as partners. 

In addition, this spirit can be used in viewing the Hadith and classical commentaries by Muslim jurists on the strike or daraba. Ahadith on striking in such a way as not to cause pain (ghayr mubarrih) are reported by Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Nasa'ie and Ibn Majah. The authorities stress that if a strike is resorted to, it should be merely symbolic such as a strike with a toothbrush or folded handkerchief (Tabari and Razi). Imam Shaf'ie is of the opinion that striking should preferably be avoided completely. 

It can thus be concluded that the call for the (single) strike is a restriction and not a recommendation; as when the first two steps are practiced effectively, there is no need for a third step. 

Obedience misconstrued 

The Qur'an does not order women to slavishly obey their husbands. It says good women are qanitat (have qunut). Qunut is used for both women and men (3:17, 33:35) and non-humans (39:9, 2:117). Qunut does not refer to the obedience of a wife to a husband or of any human to another. It refers to the spirit of humility before Allah. When the verse goes on to say "if they obey you," the Qur'an uses the term ta'a, which means for one human to follow the orders of another, referring not just to women obeying men, but men following orders as well (4:59). Ta'a is not used here in the command form for women, rather the Qur'an places a firm admonishment on the men: "If they (female) pay you heed (male)" the males commanded "not to seek a way against (the women)". "If they obey you" does not mean that women have an obligation to slavishly obey men. Nor does it mean that if a woman disobeys, a husband can beat her. The focus is on the responsibility of men to treat women fairly, especially when women follow their suggestions. 

Most of the women beaten nowadays are not beaten because the first two conditions have been met with, but are in fact beaten because of the husband's anger over some petty issue. Such behavior is not that of a sincere Muslim and obviously has no sanction in the Qur'an whatsoever. 

It is evident from many authentic traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detested the idea of beating one's wife, and said on more than one occasion, "Could anyone of you beat his wife as if she is a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?" (Bukhari and Muslim). According to another tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman with the words, "Never beat God's handmaidens" (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban, on the authority of 'Abd Allah Ibn Abbas; and Bayhaqi on the authority of Umm Kulthum). 


Next to piety, the believer finds nothing better for him than a virtuous wife. If he bids her good, she obeys. If he looks at her she gives him pleasure. If she gives him a promise, she fulfills it. If he is absent from her, she guards herself and his property (Ibn Majah). 

This hadith states that the wife should obey her husband, but to what extent? Obviously, she cannot disobey her husband in anything that is haram. Not only that, but the obedience of the wife is in those duties listed above, viz. ...with regard to cohabitation, domestic matters, guarding his property, and not allowing others to violate her/his dignity or their belongings. 

In summary, there is the following hadith from the Prophet on the rights of a wife. A person asked the Messenger of Allah, "What right does the wife of one among us have over him?" His answer was, "It is that you shall give her food, you shall not slap her on the face, nor revile her, nor leave her alone except within the house" (Ahmad, Abu Da'ud, Ibn Majah). This implies provision, residence, respect and security.

Appreciation 

Some husbands get upset when their wives refuse to do this or that around the house. This has subjected many wives to physical mistreatment. But the following incident clearly shows that it is not the duty of the wife to tend after the house, and therefore, it can in no way justify any sort of retort on the part of the husband. In fact, the following quote would make it seem that many women nowadays should be the one's complaining as they are forced to do work that they are not truly totally responsible for: 

It is reported that a man once came to 'Umar, the second Caliph, with the intention of bringing to his notice certain complaints he had against his wife. When he reached the door of 'Umar's house, he heard the Caliph's wife railing against him. Hearing this he went back as he though that the Caliph himself was in the same predicament and could therefore hardly be expected to set matters right for him. 'Umar coming out of his house, saw the person going back. So he called him back and inquired as to the purpose, which had brought him to his house. He said that he had come to him with some complaints against his wife, but turned back on finding that the Caliph himself was subject to the same treatment from his wife. 'Umar said to him that he patiently bore the excess of his wife because she had certain rights over him. "Is it not true that she cooks my food, washes my clothes and suckles my children, thus relieving me of the necessity of employing a cook, a washerman and a nurse, although she is not in the slightest degree responsible for this? Not only that, I enjoy peace of mind on account of her and I am protected from committing the sin of adultery. In view of these advantages, I put up with her excesses. You should also do the same. 

Having clarified some of the misconceptions, countered some distortions, we acknowledge, of course, that not all men or women are following the teachings of the Qur'an in their relationships. Rather than looking at the verse holistically, they only focus on it with a bias to their advantage and abuse it. Men exploit and women rebel. Where men have done so, and women have remained ignorant, injustices have taken place even to the point of physical abuse. Some women, in their ignorance on the issue, have taken this as their Islamic plight. So, for their own benefit, women need to acquire knowledge from the Qur'an, become more aware, rally around it and assert themselves for fairness and justice. 

Men should also understand the Qur'an with a fair and just mind without cultural filters and communicate with each other about it so that they can strive together for betterment in their spiritual path. 

Prophetic Example 

The Hadith, which we must realize is a record of the sayings and doings of the Prophet , and the second source of Muslim law and practice, records the Prophet as saying: "The best of you is he who is best to his wife." Aishah (RA) narrates that the holy Prophet never hit a servant or a woman. 

The demeanor of the Messenger toward women, his attitude toward conflict resolution among couples, his exemplary treatment of his wives, his practice of gender- neutral consultation, his abhorrence of violence towards women, his love for all and his persistent efforts to alleviate the human condition; all bring us to the conclusion that he wanted to usher in freedom, dignity and equality; making everyone conscious of only one God- the God of all human beings, not a chauvinistic God. 

The Qur'an does not discriminate between the two sexes in any way that undermines their full worth as equal human beings, nor does it give either of them; men or women, priority or superiority over the other in any manner whatsoever, neither does in endorse spouse abuse nor does it encourage spouse battering. Just as men have rights over women, likewise women have rights over men. Just as women have certain duties and obligations, likewise men have certain duties and obligations. 

Research has shown that oppressive interpretations of the Qur'an are influenced mostly by cultural practices and values which regard women as inferior and subordinate to men. It is not Islam that oppress women, but human beings that have failed to understand Allah's directives. 

The honor or superiority of any person cannot be established on the basis of color, race, nationality, gender or family. It must be judged on the basis of his or her piety, conduct and excellence of character, which must be good and virtuous in word and deed. The more a person is good and virtuous in word and action, the greater is his/her excellence; "Surely, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the pious, the most righteous" (49:13). 

 

This excerpt was taken from Dimensions of the Qur'an, Volume 1; by Sa'dullah Khan.

Dimensions of the Qur'an
The lucid and clear reflections of Sa'dullah Khan, his smooth sailing in the oceans of Qur'anic wisdom and beauty is most encouraging and pleasantly inviting the English reader of the Qur'an to plunge again into the ultimate source of enlightenment and empowerment that we have.  Click Here to Buy
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