Okay to Beat Wife in UAE? Really?

This AFP article, which I read after Gawker linked to it, says that the UAE Federal Supreme Court ruled that husbands can beat wives and children.

The AFP article says:

DUBAI — The Federal Supreme Court in the United Arab Emirates has ruled that a man can beat his wife and young children as long as no marks are left, The National newspaper reported on Monday.

The court ruled that “a man has the right to discipline his wife and children provided he does not leave physical marks,” the Abu Dhabi-owned newspaper reported in its online edition.

“Although the (law) permits the husband to use his right (to discipline), he has to abide by the limits of this right,” it quoted Chief Justice Falah al-Hajeri as having written in a ruling released in a court document on Sunday.

The court ruled that a man who “slapped and kicked his daughter and slapped his wife” violated his “right” under sharia, or Islamic law, to discipline his wife and children, as he beat his wife too severely and his daughter, aged 23, was too old for such discipline, the newspaper said.

Hey, despite the inflammatory headline, you can actually tell from the article that the man in the court case was ruled to have violated the law by beating his wife and daughter.

But that’s practically the entirety of the AFP article. Let’s read the full article from the UAE’s English-language newspaper, The National, and see if it says anything that will shed more light on this.

The court ruled that the bruises were evidence that the father had abused his Sharia right.

According to Islamic law, a man has the “right to discipline” his wife and children, which can include beating them after he has exhausted two other options: admonition and then abstaining from sleeping with his wife. Although scholars differ in their definition of “beating”, all agree it must not be severe.

In the case of the wife, it was the degree of severity that put the man in breach of the law. The daughter, however, was 23, and therefore too old to be disciplined by her father.

He claimed he did not mean to harm either of them, and had hit his wife by mistake while trying to discipline his daughter.

Sharjah Court of First Instance fined the father Dh500 for abuse. The decision was upheld by the Sharjah Court of Appeals on February 14. He appealed against the verdict at the Federal Supreme Court.

and

The court also ruled that a father does not have the right to beat his children after they become adults. In Sharia, reaching the age of puberty is evidence of adulthood.

“He is not allowed, according to Sharia, to beat his daughter, who is 23 years old,” wrote Chief Justice al Hajeri.

Jihad Hashim Brown, the head of research at Tabah Foundation, said: “It’s unlawful in Sharia – if taken in its entirety – to injure one’s wife. It’s unlawful to insult the dignity of one’s wife.

“That is if we look at the tradition as a whole: the Quran, the hadith and writings of Islamic jurists.”

He said beating one’s wife was in conflict with “clear and concise” Islamic texts, which encourage Muslims to treat their wives in “love and kindness”.

He said a Quranic verse might appear to allow certain things but if the verse was not “clear and concise”, it should not enter courts of law.

“The vast majority of scholars overwhelmingly agree it is forbidden to injure or insult the dignity of one’s wife,” Mr Brown said. “If there is no clear text, then the court should treat it as a criminal act.”

He added that Islamic texts stipulated the essence of healthy marriage was constant and mutual love. When any one of the couple felt there was need for beating, he said, “it’s time for divorce”.

and

“The law does not ask husbands to beat their wives, it only means a man cannot be charged with anything if the beating did not leave any marks,” Dr al Shamsi said. “It is a beating for discipline, not a violent or a vengeful beating. The Prophet said: “Only a wicked person hits his wife.”

So the breathless headline that the supreme court ruled that a man can beat is wife, as if that were the outcome of the court case, is pretty contrary to the facts of the case. But we wouldn’t want to disabuse any Islamophobes of their cherished beliefs.

Freaky weird, huh?

Christian domestic discipline is a growing trend among very conservative Christian groups in the United States. These groups tend to be somewhat reclusive, although they can sometimes be found online. Aware that their practices would be quite controversial in the secular world, and even in many Christian circles, people who live this lifestyle tend to keep themselves anonymous.

The belief goes like this. God is the authority in the church and in the Christian family. Next in command is the husband, who has authority over the wife and children. The wife then has authority over the children. Each authority figure is responsible for the spiritual growth and development of those under his or her authority. Parents show this authority over their children through discipline, and for conservative Christians that often means spanking. Those who practice Christian domestic discipline believe that authority to discipline also extends to the husband and wife relationship.

The reason this scares many in the secular world in particular is that these same patterns of controlling behavior can be found in abusive relationships.

Here’s an eHow article on the Christian spanking of one’s wife:

If you intend to use spanking in your Christian Domestic Discipline marriage, sign a consent form giving the husband permission to spank. This may not necessarily help in the case of legal problems, but it certainly cannot hurt. It is not wise to allow your kids or many others in your life to learn you practice CDD. Since the legality of CDD has never been established, people who do not understand the relationship could cause a lot of problems for you.

This delightful page is full of Christian scriptural justifications for beating wives and children, mostly children. The best part is that some Christians today live by it!

Such as:

Pro 23:13, 14 – Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver (snatch away, defend, preserve, deliver) his soul from hell.

Why get bogged down in details? Nothing says that a beating can’t leave marks.

I will not get bogged down in the specifics of “how” discipline was carried out during Bible times, “what implements” were used, or “how” God disciplines people today. My point for this article is that in both Old Testament and New Testament, we find Scriptures which indicate that adults can be, and often were, physically disciplined. We find numerous Scriptures that indicate a loving God chooses to use physical discipline on those He loves.

The Bible indicates that Jesus never sinned. If physical discipline of one adult by another adult was a sin, then Jesus would not have done this. Jesus had the authority to discipline. I believe, in like fashion, the husband has authority, and even the responsibility to discipline his wife and children.

The mantle of authority and rod of discipline must be carried with humility, prayer and serious consideration of the inherent responsibility. Our ideas of obedience, discipline, and even love, can be drastically out of line with God’s ideals. Isa 55:9 reads, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Is CDD the be-all, end-all, the medicinal balm for marital bliss, the holy grail for all hurting marriages, the savior of all sinking relationships? Is it commanded in Holy Scripture that a husband must physically discipline his wife? I answer “no” to both questions. However, I do believe it is an acceptable tool, and well within the Scriptural rights and responsibilities of the husband to decide whether it is right for their marriage, and if it is right for their marriage, to so implement it.

From another page on the same website:

Maintenance Discipline: Discipline, usually spanking, given at regular intervals for the purpose of maintaining a submissive mindset in a wife, correcting minor faults, and/or reinforcing marital roles.

Whether to use maintenance or not is a decision best left up to the individual couple. Though it is ultimately the decision of the husband, he should be careful to take into consideration his wife’s thoughts, actions, and reactions to maintenance discipline.

Okay, I don’t want to compare apples and oranges. On the one hand we have the highest court in a country, the UAE, ruling that a man can discipline his wife and prepubescent children in a way that doesn’t leave marks. Not that he should, just that he can. And the word “discipline” rankles when we’re talking about grown women, no doubt about it.

On the other hand, we have a Christian movement that an unknown number of Christian households practice, and the supreme court of the US is not backing it up at all.

So you can’t compare the two. However, since Islam is an Abrahamic religion that’s 600 years younger than Christianity, it should be no surprise to anybody that if Christianity and Judaism sanction some form of wife “discipline,” Islam does, too.

I just thank my lucky stars that my country keeps church and state separated. Alhamdulillah!

3 Comments

Filed under church and state, Islamic relations

3 responses to “Okay to Beat Wife in UAE? Really?

  1. Thank you for this useful article, I just want to point out that domestic violence is common in many societies and it is related mainly with good manners, “Only a wicked person hits his wife”.

    Wife beating is a well-known point that many are working to use against Islam.

    and I don’t deny that there is a verse in Quran that allows men to beat their women SLIGHTLY IF it is the ONLY WAY to treat Marital Discord (http://www.islamswomen.com/marriage/fiqh_of_marriage_9.php), there are 2 other procedures that should be taken before that as you noted, and beating SLIGHTLY (I prefer saying tapping) is the third one, used to express that the woman has reached a critical level.

    After all it is better than divorce or a living hell or even badly: a relationship with another woman.

    Also you can find a nice article here:
    http://www.themodernreligion.com/women/w_abuse_badawi.htm

    Thank you really, Salam.

  2. One famous Egyptian scholar said the husband had to use a toothbrush to discipline his bad wife. A toothbrush, imagine that. I wonder if he would recommend vibrator toothbrushes such as you can fine here: http://www.tingletip.com/

    Let’s hear it for naught wives.🙂

    In all seriousness, nice work. You excel in pointing out deep-seated nifaq.

  3. Sooo, when does the wife get to ‘DISCPLINE” her husband when he is in need of such. Surely what is good for the wife is equally good for a misbehaving husband.

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