The late comedian-violinist Henny Youngman’s emblematic one-liner was “Take my wife–please!” Now an Islamic Bookstore in Toronto, Canada was discovered selling a book titled A Gift for Muslim Couple, which promotes a brutal variant on Youngman’s comedic theme. Illustrating the medieval obscurantist, yet tragically persistent canons of authoritative, mainstream Islam, to this day, the book’s misogynistic Weltanschauung could be aptly summed up as, “Beat my wife–please!”
Touted as the definitive Muslim primer on “how to run the institution of marriage successfully,” A Gift for Muslim Couple was written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (d. 1943)–known as “Sage of the Ummah“–a prolific (pre-partition) Indian scholar of Islam’s foundational texts (i.e., Koran and hadith), and Islamic jurisprudence. Upon reading this Muslim guide to matrimonial bliss, penned by a mainstream Muslim legist widely recognized for the profundity of his understanding of Islamic doctrine, one learns, from a Daily Telegraph report:
“[R]ights of the husband” include his wife’s inability to leave “his house without his permission.” She must then “fulfill his desires” and “not allow herself to be untidy … but should beautify herself for him.”…[T]he book advises men that they should scold their wives…[T]hey may also “beat [the wife] by hand or stick, withhold money from her or pull (her) by the ears.” It the adds that men should “refrain from beating her excessively.”
Indeed, Thanwi’s guide–as per its billing–is entirely consistent with Islam’s most important canonical sources, the Koran (along with its most important interpretative commentaries), and hadith (i.e., the words and actions of Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, as recorded by his earliest pious Muslim companions).
Koran 4:34 (Arberry, translation, below) is an unabashed statement of Islam’s male supremacy, which concludes with an equally clear endorsement of wife beating for alleged “rebelliousness”:
Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All high, All great.
The seminal, mainstream Koranic commentators, Tabari (d. 923), and Qurtubi (d. 1273)–the latter renowned for his Islamic law acumen–make plain that beating disobedient wives in accord with verse 4:34 is not only licit, but recommended. Qurtubi adds that even severe–i.e., lethal–“accidental complications” are permissible.
[Tabari]: It means: admonish them, but if they refused to repent, then tie them up in their homes and beat them until they obey Allah’s commands toward you.
[Qurtubi]: Allah ordered that men begin by admonishing their wives as a first step, then abandonment, then beating if they refused to repent. This is because men are responsible to straighten their wives up. The beating mentioned in this verse has to do with the kind that is not severe and used for discipline. The kind that does not break the bone. However, it is not a crime if it leads to death.
A canonical hadith (Sunan Abu Dawud, chapter 709, number 2142; vol. 2, p. 575) attributed to Umar (the lionized early companion of Muhammad, and Islam’s second “Rightly Guided” Caliph), affirms the de facto impunity with which Muslim women may be beaten by their husbands–as justified by Islam’s behavioral prototype, Muhammad. Also discussed by Qurtubi in his commentary on 4:34, while noting that Umar beat his wife, this hadith states simply:
Umar reported the prophet as saying: “A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.”
The narrative of an elaborate description of wife-beating from the most important canonical hadith collection (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Number 715) elucidates how this practice became sanctioned in Islam. A woman is beaten and bruised for alleged “disobedience”–claiming her husband’s impotence–absent any illicit sexual activity on her part. One of Muhammad’s favorite wives, Aisha, “mother of the believers,” observes, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!”, acknowledging that Muslim women suffered more from this abuse than their pagan counterparts. Muhammad fails to rebuke the wife-beating husband and chastises the beaten wife, tacitly maintaining she deserved the abuse for suggesting her husband was impotent.
The living legacy of Islam’s sacralized, misogynistic violence is borne out by appalling contemporary data: 90% of Afghan women, 80% of Pakistani women, and 80% of Turkish women, report violent marital abuse.
Ominously, such Sharia (Islamic law)-based mores are penetrating Muslim enclaves in Western societies. Author and veteran television journalist Joachim Wagner has recently published his analysis of the parallel Sharia-based Islamic “legal” system burgeoning in Germany, entitled Richter ohne Gesetz (“Judges without Laws“). Wagner’s alarming investigation -summarized in English during a two–part Der Spiegel series–elucidates how what he terms “Islamic shadow justice” undermines Germany’s Western constitutional legal system, ultimately abrogating even German criminal law. The parallel, indeed superseding application of Sharia within Germany’s Muslim community is a widespread, dangerous phenomenon according to Wagner’s research.
Sheikh Abu Adam, the wife-battering polygamist imam of the Darul Quran Mosque in Munich, illustrates the tragic, dangerous perversity of Germany’s tacit acceptance of Sharia as a “communal” alternative legal system. Sheikh Adam gave a lecture at Munich’s Catholic University entitled “An Islam which distances itself from violence,” shortly before being arrested (12/10) for allegedly assaulting his spouse so violently that she suffered a broken nose and shoulder and numerous cuts and bruises.
Media reports claimed the woman, who had borne one of his ten children, wanted to live a more “western” lifestyle, and was allegedly attacked by him after expressing this wish to her husband. An icon of Germany’s parallel Islamic “justice” system, Sheikh Adam purportedly shouted Koran 4:34 at his wife as he beat her.
Sheikh Adam’s brutally misogynistic behavior–despite his ecumenical words–and the sale of a misogynistic violence-promoting, albeit authoritative, Islamic “marital primer” by an Islamic bookstore in Toronto–should serve as cautionary tales. Western nation’s must disabuse themselves of their cultural relativist torpor, and refuse to tolerate Islam’s “sacralized” violence against women, lest they sink into the same moral abyss which plagues the Muslim world.