”Wife here does not mean a husband’s wife, but all women that are under his protection”
By Mohammad Asghar
It is a question that has vexed many minds. The Muslims claim that the Qur’an does not sanction such a brutal act against the women. The critics of Islam say that it does sanction harsh punitive measures against, and beating of, wives, who defy their husbands and do ugly things that they are not at all supposed to do. In this connection, they cite verse of the Qur’an, which reads:
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).” (Trans. by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
The translation of the same verse by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall reads:
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.”
A close reading of both the translations draws our attention to one important point, it being: Yusuf Ali’s translation has the words “the husband’s” in it, but Pickthall’s translation does not. That Ali has added this word in a parenthesis proves the fact that it does not exist in the Arabic version of the verse and that he has added it to his translation in order to hide a truth of gigantic proportion. We shall discuss this truth momentarily.
We find that Allah has mainly done the following three things through the Qur’an: (1) prohibited idols worshipping; (2) retained certain Pagan practices that were to His liking; (3) abolished certain social practices of the pagans, which He disliked, and (4) introduced some customs or practices that were not present among them, but He wanted them to follow them in their lives after they became Muslims.
We have stated the above facts so that the readers can easily understand what we are going to state in the following paragraphs of this narrative.
In the pre-Islamic days, the eldest sons of the Pagans inherited their fathers’ widows with the flocks and the tents. Incest between sons and stepmothers thus was not only lawful but obligatory.1 Since this pagan practice was highly obnoxious, Muhammad retained it in the Qur’an to subtly, systematically and effectively avenge the betrayals, insults and hardships the women in the homes of his grandfather and uncle had inflicted on him, when he was living with them. With this intention in his mind, he had Allah reveal verses, permitting all Muslim men to punish all the women under their control, be they their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. One verse reads:
“Your wives are as a tilth unto you: So approach your tilth when or how ye will: But do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah, and know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter) and give these (good) tidings to those who believe.2
The translator was dishonest here. He intentionally rendered nisaa as “wives” rather than “women” to mislead the Muslims and other readers of the Qur’an. The word “nisaa” in the verse includes wives, slave-girls, and all other women over whom men exert financial control.
Effectively permitting the Muslim men to rape their women (”Approach your tilth “where,3 when or how ye will”), but only after doing some good to compensate for the heinous crime they are about to commit, Allah also told His beloved followers what we read in verse , quoted above.
Though this verse has received notoriety due to the notion that it allows the Muslim men to beat their “wives,” but hardly anyone has truly understood its true meaning and implications. To make our contention clear, we emphasize the following:
- This verse, , is part of a Sura that is titled “Women,” or “An-Nisaa” in Arabic.
- The word ‘husbands” is not in the original; instead, we find “men” in it.
- The word “wives,” or azwajaka in Arabic, is not in the original either; instead, we see “Nissa” or “women.”
- This verse has no connection with those that precede and follow it. In other words, it is not contextual and the instruction it contains stands on its own.
Keeping these facts in mind, what do we find in the verse? It says that the Muslim men are the protectors and maintainers of women, as they support them financially (and in Muhammad’s time and in many parts of the third world today, men commonly support their fathers, mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters, if they cannot support themselves). Therefore, women under the men’s patronage should obey them and guard what Allah wants them to guard (that is, their private parts). But if men simply “fear” disloyalty and bad behavior from their women, they must first warn them. If they still feel fear, they must refuse to sleep with them. And if their fear persists, the men must beat them. However, if the women “return to obedience” - presumably, extinguish the fear - then the men must not seek “means of annoyance,” - presumably, further punishment - against them.
Question is: Could Allah have given such an open and obnoxious permission to men to beat, and not to have sex with, those women who depend on them for their survival?
We leave the question to the readers’ imagination for an answer. But as far as we are concerned, we are sure this instruction came from the mind of a sick man, who not only consigned his Pagan blood relatives, including his father and mother, to the fire of Hell, he also permitted the Muslim men to beat, and have sex with, all the women they support with their means.
1. Cf. R. V. C. Bodley, op. cit. p. 226.
2. The Qur’an, 2:223.
3. Cf. The Qur’an, 2:222.