Tuesday, August 3, 2010

America's Founding Fathers on Islam

Today, we see many Americans go out of their way to indirectly denounce the first amendment usually when it comes to Islam. This is born of the erroneous belief that America was founded on the principles of Christianity, and allowing Islam to flourish in America will prove competitive for Christian evangelism.

However, based on scrutiny of some documents written by Americans during the era in which the founding fathers of America lived, we see that there was considerable tolerance of Islam, and respect for the Prophet(PBUH). According to this article written by James Huston where he pointed to the fact that many of the Africans brought to America as slaves were Muslims, with numbers probably in their thousands, we see some accolades showered on Islam. From Thomas Jefferson, to George Washington, to Richard Henry Lee, there was tolerance for Islam.

Many people are not interested in learning about history, or it's implication in the contemporary world. It just feels comfortable to be spoon fed with information, and taught whom to hate. Unfortunately, there is enough guilt to go around as far as that is concerned.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wife Beating in Islam: What's the fuss all about?

The occurrence of men beating their wives certainly predates the prophet-hood of Muhammad(pbuh). This also happened across cultures, and still does. Allah(SWT) confirms this in the Qur'an and critics of Islam jump all over it, but fail as many Muslims, to see that this protects a woman from being physically abused by her husband.

The verse in question is the 34th verse of Surat Al Nisa (Qur'an 4: 34), which says;

Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter,and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the right­eous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded. And as for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!

I have highlighted some words from the Arabic text that would be further addressed later in this post. First the text would be broken down to show that there are five(5) different commandments in that single verse, and one(1) affirmation.

First Commandment: "Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter,and with what they may spend out of their possessions." This is a commandment by Allah(SWT) to Muslim men, that they are responsible for the maintenance of their wives financially, and are also responsible for their security. According to the sunnah of the prophet(pbuh),

Narrated Mu'awiyah al-Qushayri: "I went to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and asked him: What do you say (command) about our wives? He replied: Give them food what you have for yourself, and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them, and do not revile them.”
(Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 11, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Number 2139)

It is clear that the responsibility of the Muslim man includes caring for his wife, spending his money for her upkeep, honoring and protecting her.

One Affirmation: "And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded." The Arabic word highlighted above, صَّالِحَا

Second Commandment: "And as for those women whose ill-will(rebellion) you have reason to fear, admonish them..." The Arabic words highlighted from the text are نُشُوزَ which is literally "rebellion," and فَعِظُوهُنَّ which literally means "admonish them." This is referring to rebellion in the sense that a woman (who is mentioned above as a devoted Muslim) has abandoned her duty as a wife, and is not acting in a way to ensure that what Allah(SWT) has deemed private between her and her husband remains private. A Muslim woman who is doing things that can compromise her marriage, be it emotional, or psychological abuse of her husband is deemed to be in rebellion. This however, is unbecoming of a God-fearing woman.

Nevertheless, if a devoted Muslim woman gets carried away, and get involved in actions that threaten her marriage, the Muslim man(her husband) is commanded by Allah(SWT) to "admonish her." There are many men around the world who would respond to their wives with violence and intimidation when such "rebellion" occurs, and Allah(SWT) is well aware of this. Instead of allowing the men to respond however they deem fit, by being silent on the issue, Allah(SWT) commands admonishment. To 'admonish' means to 'gently disapprove of.' There is no way to gently disapprove of someone when you are in a rage, so by default, a Muslim man to be able to follow this commandment, has to find a way to calm down before addressing his wife on the issue of contention, even though she may be clearly in the wrong. It is only through such civil discourse that the husband can hear his wife out, and she can confirm or dispel his fear. Basically, Allah(SWT) is commanding the husband to let cooler heads prevail.

It is inconceivable that anyone whether a man, or woman who is God fearing and righteous قَانِتَاتٌ would respond haughtily or disdainfully to being admonished. Such is not a character expected of a Muslim. As the prophet mentioned in his sunnah;

Sahih Muslim Chapter# 40, Book 1, Number 0164:

It Is narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. Mas’ud that the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), observed: He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enterParadise. A person (amongst his hearers) said: Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride is disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and contempt for the people.

Also in the Qur'an, Allah(SWT) frowns upon arrogance in people:

(Qur'an 7:146) "From My messages shall I cause to turn away all those who, without any right, behave haughtily on earth: for, though they may see every sign [of the truth], they do not believe in it, and though they may see the path of rectitude, they do not choose fo follow it-whereas, if they see a path of error, they take it for their own: this, because they have given the lie to Our messages, and have remained heedless of them,"

(Qur'an 40:35) " ... such as would call God’s messages in question without having any evidence therefor:[a sin] exceedingly loathsome in the sight of God and of those who have attained to faith. It is in this way that God sets a seal on every arrogant, self-exalting heart.”

(Qur'an 16:23) "Truly, God knows all that they keep secret as well as all that they bring into the open -[and,] behold, He does not love those who are given to arrogance."

So, logically, and supposing that both the husband and the wife have followed the commandments of Allah(SWT) as outlined in the verse thus far, the issue would have insha Allah been resolved at this point. This is evidence of the Supreme Wisdom of Allah(SWT), the third commandment in the verse, which is to "leave them alone in bed," would never take place, let alone the fourth commandment which is "beat them."

Even if the problem could not be resolved as a result of not following the commandments on the part of either the husband or the wife, or both, Allah(SWT) has allowed for the husband to beat his wife. This however, is symbolic that the husband is at his wit's end, not as a show of power or intimidation. It should be light and not be on the face. It is a bigger sin for the husband to jump to the fourth commandment without following the first, second, and third commandments.

In conclusion, we see that the verse of the Qur'an (4:34), is (with all parties following the commandment prescribed by Allah) a code for protection of women from violently abusive husbands. For wives whose husbands do not follow the commandments set out in this verse, and other things that cause agony for the wife, Allah(SWT) says in Qur'an 4:128;

"And if a woman has reason to fear ill-treatment نُشُوزَ from her husband, or that he might turn away from her, it shall not be wrong for the two to set things peacefully to rights between themselves: for peace is best, and selfishness is ever-present in human souls. But if you do good and are conscious of Him - behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do."