Islam vs. Domestic Violence

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ALLAH describes Mercy and Compassion between a man and his wife in several places.  How can this be reconciled with a man physically and psychologically injuring someone’s sister, daughter, cousin or niece, who is also the mother of his children, with … Continue reading

stockholm syndrome

 Excerpt of a letter from a friend:

“I have only read the Quran in English so the translation might be bad, but what i read says that a man can rape his wife and his slave girls who are unmarried and married. And since a husband can punish his wife for having sex with somebody else, this is really bad. Then there is also the fact that women is not found as mentally fit as a male when it comes to giving legal testimony. Not that the Bible is any better, I would say worse. The Quran doesn’t say beat your children and kill them if they are disrespectful, nor does it promote genocide and it promotes slavery more. And not that the west does a good job either. Its amazing in Canada, the % of political leaders that are slightly chubby, grey haired white men. And it was only recently that the age of consent for sex was raised from 13. And, raping your wife has only been a crime for about 20 or 30 years or so. However, still better than Saudi which has now had to ban maids from Indonesia the Philippines because they kept fighting back when being raped.”

Dear Friend,

Thank you for taking the time to write this.  I’m glad you trust me enough to be honest about thoughts that you probably assume I will not like.  It is useful and enjoyable to hear your impressions and views about Islam and the Qur-an, and I think I’ve learned a lot about what some people may think or feel.  I can see that you’ve taken pains to say what you know I won’t agree with in a way that does not insult me, and to show that this is a general criticism rather than a grudge against Islam.  I thank you for the respect and consideration you have shown, and most of all the honesty.

From what your message contains, either your translation of the Qur-an’s meanings was scandalously (and singly) inaccurate, or you have succumbed to that all-too-human phenomenon of memory fading with time, and being replaced with impressions of things we think we remember…

I have been blessed enough to have read the entire Qur-an in its original Arabic, along with the entire translation of its meanings.  Simply put, the Qur-an does NOT:

(a) say that a man can rape his wife,

(b) say that a man can rape slave-girls, married or unmarried,

(c) say that a husband can punish his wife for having sex with somebody else,

(d) say that women are not as mentally fit as males, or

(e) promote slavery.

It does touch on all of these subjects.  I am not a scholar, but I read and listen to the words of people who are known as scholars.  From that, my limited knowledge, I will do my best to address these and your other points.

stockholm syndrome 2: marital rape

(a)    Spouses’ sexual rights.

A man has the right, freedom and duty to have sex with his wife, and a wife has the right, freedom and duty to have sex with her husband.  This is clear, and considering what comes from other religions and their sects, as well as some Muslim sects, this is one of the beauties of Islam and the Qur-an.

The Qur-an, Chapter 23, Sign 1 may be translated as

“The believers have succeeded.” 

This sign is followed by a list of qualities of these believers, including Signs 5-7 which can be translated as

“who guard their private parts, except from their wives, or those whom their right hands possess, for with regard to them they are free from blame.  As for those who seek beyond that, they are transgressors”

So it is clear then, that a man is permitted to have intercourse with his lawful wife (“those whom their right hands possess” shall be discussed in point (b)).  To state it bluntly, a man can have sex with his wife.  But nothing in the original Arabic, or English attempt at translation implies force.  Not in this or any verse is force implied.  Being able to do something with someone, and being allowed to force that person to do that thing are entirely different and separate matters.  It does not seem to need an explanation.

Now, the ahadeeth, or narrations of Prophet Muhammad- May Allah Pray for him and Give him glad tidings of peace- contain a hadeeth, or single narration, on this subject.  Unfortunately I do not have the book that contains it in front of me, but I remember the wording as something like “If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses, the angels will curse her until the morning.”  Let us assume for the sake of argument that this narration is authentic.  It means that a wife who refuses to have sex with her husband will be cursed by the angels for some time, i.e. that such a thing is blameworthy or discouraged.  But does it say or imply that a man can force his wife to have sex if she does not want to?  No.

Another narration is remembered as stating that a woman should answer her husband’s call to bed even if she has just saddled herself on a horse.  Again, if this is authentic, it is an encouragement towards sex, or even a claim of a man’s right to it, but it does not imply the use of force.

The so-called “right” to rape simply has no textual basis, and therefore no place in Islam.

Whether or not marital sexual rights as I have outlined them are found to be objectionable by some or many, it is clear that rape has no place in them.

stockholm syndrome 3: slave-girls

Slave-girls’ sexual rights

Referring back to Qur-an 23.5-7, Muslim men are permitted to have sex with “those whom their right hands possess” which is a reference to captives of war after there is no exchange of prisoners between the two sides.  Well, again, there is no linguistic basis in the Arabic or any worthwhile translation behind the use of force.  There is no linguistic or logical way to deduct rape from this or any of the statements regarding war-captives in an Islamic state.  So if it is asked how a man would have sex with a war-captive without raping her, my answer, and mine alone, would be with consent, as the use of force is not sanctioned in the Qur-an or any authenticated Prophetic narration.

Whether or not war-captives’ sexual rights as I have outlined them are found to be objectionable by some or many, it is clear that rape has no place in them.

stockholm syndrome 4: punishing females for adultery

There is a punishment for adultery, but it is not a husband’s duty or right to carry out.  And the punishment for a man who commits adultery is equal to a woman’s.  In either case, a trial, with specific standards of evidence, must take place.

Qur-an 24.2 can be translated as

“Those who commit unlawful sex- whether male or female- flog them with a hundred lashes”

So the punishment for males and females is equal.  Since we all know that there is a double-standard when it comes to men’s and women’s sexual activity and its effects on their reputations, it should be a relief to know that Allah Commanded that

“those who accuse honorable women, but do not produce four witnesses, flog them with eighty lashes, and do not admit their testimony ever after” (Qur-an 24.4)

This applies even to husbands, as Qur-an 24.6-9 illustrate. 

“As for those who accuse their wives, and have no witnesses except themselves:  the testimony of such a one is that he testify, swearing by Allah four times that he is truthful, and a fifth time, that the curse of Allah be on him if he is lying.  And the punishment shall be averted from the woman if she were to testify, swearing by Allah four times that the man was lying, and a fifth time that the wrath of Allah be upon her if the man be truthful.”

The calling of witnesses implies an audience.  As such, it is not the husband’s prerogative or “right” to punish his wife.  Rather, a public trial must take place that has witnesses and a chance for the accused to defend themselves.

Now, can a woman accuse her husband of adultery?  Qur-an 24.2 makes it clear that men are also liable, so obviously anybody can accuse anybody of fornication or adultery, but there have to be four witnesses, except when the accuser is a spouse.

stockholm syndrome 5: female intelligence

Women’s mental fitness as compared to males

I’m assuming that you were referring to the idea that the testimony of two women is equal to that of one male.  That idea most likely comes from Qur-an 2.282, the Qur-an’s longest verse, which deals with what we might call “contract law”.  It’s really too long to quote in its entirety, so I’ll tell you that it begins

“O you who have believed, whenever you contract a debt from one another for a known term, commit it two writing”

A translation might go on to eventually say

“and call upon two of your men as witnesses;  but if two men are not there, then let there be one man and two women as witnesses from among those acceptable to you so that if one of the two women should errs, the other might remind her.”

Obviously, without referring to all the rulings surrounding this and their evidences, when a woman is called to witness a contract involving debt, or to testify about it, she should have another woman with her, whereas this is not required for a man.  There is nothing in the language to imply “mental fitness”.  If one says the implication is that women are more likely to be err in testimonies about debts and contracts, that is also incorrect.  The wording in Arabic is strictly “if” as in “if she errs”, not “when she errs” or “because she will err”.  The text is not saying that a woman will err, it is only saying that if she does, another woman should be there to remind her.  Either way, there is neither a linguistic nor logical basis to infer that women are seen as less “mentally fit” (intelligent, capable, intellectually mature, reliable) than men.

stockholm syndrome 6: the slaves

As far as I know, slavery only exists in two contexts in Islam:

(1)   Societies that already have slaves when Islam reaches them

(2)   War-captives in a society after a trading of captives has not taken place

In the first instance, the freeing of slaves is rigorously encouraged as an act of charity and expiation of sins.  Further, slave-holders are encouraged to make a contract for emancipation with their slaves who ask for it.

In the second instance, the context of war is narrowly defined.  In Qur-an 2.190 it is a reaction to being killed.  The next sign adds the situation of Muslims being driven out of their homes or lands.  This sign also points out the fact that “fitnah” is worse than killing.  The word fitnah here is said by some to refer to people being prevented from Islam or forced out of it, so that too may be a context.  The first 15 or so verses of chapter 9, as well as 8.58, deal with the killing that takes place when other groups betray their covenants with Muslims.  I use the word “killing” here because that is the most direct translation of the word used in the Qur-an, to my limited knowledge.  After all, killing is what takes place in war anyways.  The greater point is that every time someone known as a Muslim fights or kills is not legal, and it can be very illegal.  Incidentally, the word “jihaad”, in any of its grammatical forms, is not used in any of the aforementioned verses.  The word jihaad, or its grammatical, is overwhelmingly used in the Qur-an to refer to a Muslims bettering themselves and their implementation and knowledge of Islam.  Finally, this has been a very quick and admittedly incomplete survey of what war is in Islam.  Among many other things, the Qur-an is a constitutional text that is a foundation of a complete legal code, which it takes true scholars to fully expound.

Moving back to the point of war-captives, in the very limited contexts that war can happen in will necessarily lead to the taking of captives by all sides.  The results of this may be the trading of captives, the ransom of captives, the execution of captives (only combatants in Islamic law), or the keeping of captives.  The word “captive” is a bit misleading, of course.  Everyone who falls under an enemy’s control may not see them as an enemy.  A government may be at war with a polity whom some of its constituents may welcome.  Whatever the case, when people move from one state to another because of war and stay there, they live in a household where they must be clothed as their keepers dress, eat what their keepers eat, etc. under Islamic law.  This is not fortunate or comfortable, or obviously agreeable, but neither are the circumstances that led to it, and considering that, this is the best and fairest way to incorporate them into the society that they are in.

So Qur-an does not contain statements that promote slavery.  It only allows the “taking” of “slaves” in the extreme and unusual circumstance of war.  And even then, there are several possible fates besides captivity.  When this happens, male captives may be assigned to the households of either females or males, and females may be assigned to males or females.  In the case of males possessing females, rather than raping them, men are encouraged in at least 2 places to marry them, so as not to commit fornication or adultery (Qur-an 4.3, 4.25).  Where those women have previously been married

 As for slavery in Muslim-populated lands, slavery was and is a worldwide phenomenon that Muslims have and still do engage in.  This was and is wrong, and I remember hearing a narration to the effect that the slave price is cursed.  Unfortunately I’m on vacation and do not have any books beside the Qur-an at my disposal.  That notwithstanding, I am sure from what I have read that there is no circumstance that justifies the taking of slaves, most certainly not the slave trade.

To clarify that with an example, just as most world economies involve usury, most of those in Muslim-majority countries do as well.  That does not mean that Islam promotes usury.  In fact it forbids it.  The examples of Muslims dealing in slavery is no different.