The following are excerpts from a discussion on wife beating on the private Egyptian channel Dream TV. Particiapting in the discussion are Dr. Mabruk 'Atiya, professor of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University, who hosts a religious show on Dream TV, Dr. Malka Zarrar, an Islamic law lecturer, and Iqbal Baraka, editor of Hawa women magazine:
Host: Dr. Mabruk, why did you laugh? Dr. 'Atiya:
I laughed at the claim that an honorable man doesn't beat [his wife], because only an honorable man would beat her. A man with no honor would beat his wife in a way I'd call "barbaric." There are disciplinary beatings that are permitted by Islam, which are practiced by honorable men.
Host: Just a minute, an honorable man would beat his wife?
Dr. 'Atiya: Of course, an honorable man beats [his wife] in the manner decreed by Allah.
Dr. 'Atiya: Of course, of course.
Dr. 'Atiya: A man who comes to admonish his wife shouldn't behave like a Friday preacher, but he should say: "Be God fearing, you have a duty towards me." The admonishing is over! He shouldn't go: "God says…," "the Prophet says…," "as the poet says," "So-and-so says…," "you're not observing your religion…," "you're an infidel..." This is not admonishing. He should say: "Be God fearing, you have a duty towards me."
Dr. 'Atiya: The Koranic verse "and beat them" means he should lift a toothpick to her. It is enough to lift a toothpick or the like in order to humiliate her. The Koran doesn't say he should beat her with his fists. Such a man should be taken to the police. He shouldn't have been allowed to marry her in the first place. We must understand the words of our Lord: "…and beat them" means that he says to his wife: "what you did was wrong." These are the beatings. The beatings are over.
Dr. Zarrar: What is happening in the Arab and Islamic societies has nothing to do with Islam, because this law, decreed by Allah was not intended for discipline, but to straighten out the wife's deviance. There is a big difference between straightening out and disciplining. Allah made laws for human beings, who have inclinations and urges, strengths and weaknesses. Not all women are alike. There are good women for whom a glare is enough. It is enough for her husband to glare at her, and she feels the whole world is angry with her. But there are women who are not deterred by anything - not by words, not by admonishing…
Dr. 'Atiya: And not by beatings...
Dr. Zarrar: And not by beatings.
Dr. Zarrar: Allah knows his creations best, explains and makes it clear that according to the rules of straightening out [the wife], the moment a man feels… The moment he senses any kind of deviance in his wife – and the early signs of deviance are clearly evident in a wife – he shouldn't wait until she is entirely deviant, and only then come and say to her: "You did this and that." No way.
Dr. 'Atiya: If she says "no" when he calls her to bed, this will lead to… What Mrs. Iqbal is saying - and it's a shame you don't give a chance to finish a sentence… This "no" is the beginning of a snowball effect. She starts by saying "no" when he calls her to bed. This will lead to condescension, and then to her corruption.
Iqbal Baraka: This interpretation is your own. The story that he tells her to come and she says "no" cannot be found in the Koran. I have encountered this interpretation many times. We must understand the reasons for the wife's behavior. The wife is exhausted, falling off her feet, and the master comes in from the coffee shop and wants to "exercise" his marital rights. If she says "no" and he forces her to do it, it is more of a rape than exercising rights, because she needs to comply.
Dr. 'Atiya: Throughout Islamic history there has never been a case like the things that are happening today and were mentioned by Dr. Malka. Not a line has been written about this, not even in the most exceptional stories. By Allah, never in Islamic history has a man grabbed a woman and beaten her black and blue, because he asked her to bring him water.
Iqbal Baraka: In Ibn Kathir's commentary on this verse, there is a Hadith, attributed to the prophet Muhammad, according to which a women was beaten by her husband. She went to the Prophet and said: "My husband beats me," and the Prophet said, "He must be punished." Then the verse came down without the word "punishment", and this story is repeated six times. In the commentary of Ibn Hadith, which I'm presenting to everyone…
Iqbal Baraka: Can anyone say I'm lying?!
Dr. 'Atiya: I can give you the man's name. You don't even know the man's name. The name of Muhammad's friend who beat his wife is Sa'ad bin Al-Rabi', who was one of the martyrs of the battle of Uhud, and he slapped her, and didn't beat her harshly. She went to her father, and her father brought her before the Prophet and said to him: "Oh messenger of Allah, Sa'ad bin Al-Rabi'a slapped me." Slapped her, like this… And then the Prophet decreed that he must be punished.
Iqbal Baraka: How do we know if he slapped her this way or that way?
Dr. 'Atiya: I'll tell you how we know that he slapped her…
Iqbal Baraka:Were you there?
Iqbal Baraka: The problem is not Sa'ad bin Abi Rabi'a or his likes.
Dr. 'Atiya: Not Rabi'a, it's bin Al-Rabi'.
Iqbal Baraka: The problem is that the commentators encourage wife beating. The problem is that the early commentators believed that beating is one of the husband's rights, and this opinion is now spreading in the Mosques.