Egyptian TV channel Alhadath Alyoum hosted a debate on wife beating in Egyptian society. Sociologist Manal Al-'Assal said that the culture of wife-beating starts with the family, which encourages boys to beat their sisters. Sayyed Ali, who hosted the debate, said that battered women could "take up Taekwondo or something" to learn to defend themselves. Sheikh Sharif Al-Omari, an expert in family matters, told a brief story from the Quran and quoted a hadith to defend the practice. The show aired on October 21, 2018.
Following are excerpts:
Manal Al-'Assal: [Wife beating] is a very unfortunate phenomenon and a grave social problem. As you implied, it starts with the family. The family constitutes the nucleus of society. The family differentiates between the upbringing of boys and girls, and so do some of the moral values of society. When a boy is told that "if you break a girl's rib, she will grow 24 others," he is essentially taught that he may beat his sister, and that he is not a man until he beats his sister. He might even assault his mother. I have seen some unbelievable cases…
Sayyed Ali: A boy that beats his mother…
Manal Al-'Assal: Yes, in order to make her give up her share of the inheritance.
Sayyed Ali: How come battered women don't defend themselves?
Manal Al-'Assal: This is the culture of our society.
Sayyed Ali: No, I mean that if a woman is beaten, she should defend herself.
Manal Al-'Assal: There are many reasons. It's part of her upbringing…
Sayyed Ali: She can take up Taekwondo or something in order to be able to defend herself.
Manal Al-'Assal: Exactly. There is also the problem of institutionalized violence.
Sayyed Ali: What violence?
Manal Al-'Assal: Institutionalized violence on the part of society.
Sayyed Ali: Let’s talk first about physical violence.
Manal Al-'Assal: It is the institutionalized violence that makes women tolerate the physical violence.
Sayyed Ali: What do you mean by institutionalized violence?
Manal Al-'Assal: It means that if she files for divorce, she loses her rights. So she tolerates the beating because she cannot provide for herself.
Sheikh Sharif Al-Omari: We have a great example in the story of Job. Job was sick for 18 years, and his wife stood by him during this struggle. She became a role model for women – the great woman, wife of Job. Not many people know the story about when she sold her hair. She cut off her hair and sold it. She did it, of course, out of compassion for him. But because she did not ask for his permission, Job vowed to beat her a hundred times with a stick.
The shari'a, of course, is forgiving, and would not allow her to be beaten because of her sacrifice. A verse in the Quran solved the problem: "Take in your hand a bunch [of grass] and strike with it, and do not break your oath." What does this mean? Job was a prophet, and in the law of his time, one could not go back on one's oath. So our Lord, out of mercy, told him to take a soft stick that consists of 100 sticks, and strike her once, and this will count for the 100 strikes. Mercy!
Sayyed Ali: It was like a stalk of rain, and he hit her with it just once.
Sheikh Sharif Al-Omari: [The Prophet Muhammad said:] "If you beat your wife, do it with a siwak." I brought you…
Sayyed Ali: A siwak is nothing but a…
Sheikh Sharif Al-Omari: I brought you as an example a twig from the pure Arak tree. The Arabs use it to clean their teeth. Some ignoramuses have the audacity to abuse the religious texts… Why do I call them ignoramuses? Such a man does not use a stick like this. After he admonishes his wife in a serious manner, and after he leaves her bed, he does not use a stick like this… I have a little surprise here for you… He uses this.