Archive for December, 2013

Q 4:34–Don’t tell me pretty lies (cont.)

Recently, I encountered the claim that wadribuhunna has some meaning other than “beat them” in a speech given by Yusuf Estes in the film, The Mosque in Morgantown.

According to the film, the back-story of that speech was that Yusuf Estes had been invited by conservative Muslims to give a speech at the university in Morgantown. Given the timing, it appears that this was intended to counter the bad press that the mosque there had recently received due to its opposition to Asra Nomani’s quest to be able to enter by the front door and to pray in the main prayer hall. The talk was about whether “in Islam” women are treated as equal or with equity.

[Just lol at the optics of that—counter “bad press” caused by a brown woman publicly protesting discriminatory treatment at her mosque… by bringing in a white male convert who is well known to be conservative (and to have come from a Southern Baptist background) to talk about… wait for it… women in Islam.  It’s the sort of thing that makes me think that a Muslim Steven Colbert would never, ever be short of material. Hell, maybe I should consider a career in comedy. I suppose it’s never too late.]

Anyhoo… Nomani googled Estes, and found a speech that he had given, in which he said that Q 4:34 allows a man dealing with a disobedient wife to “roll up a newspaper and give her a crack” or to use a “yardstick” on her, if his attempts to rein her in by admonishing her or refusing to share her bed hadn’t had the desired effect. Horrified, she wrote an article for the university student newspaper condemning the invitation of a speaker with such views.

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Q 4:34—Don’t tell me pretty lies

A recent commenter made the claim that scholars give a number of different interpretations of Q 4:34—that while some translate wadribuhunna as “and beat them”, others say that it means “leave them alone.” I said I’d discuss this issue in the next post. Well, here we are… several weeks later. Yes, I’ve been putting it off. Not just because things are crazy busy at work and with family stuff, but because this is such a difficult issue to write about.

As far as replying to that particular comment is concerned, frankly, I am torn. Torn between being honest, and being… I don’t know, realistic? As well as by the haunting feeling that I should probably leave well enough alone.

If some people want to believe that wadribuhunna means “leave them alone”, why should this bother me? Surely this is a significant improvement on the nonsense we used to be subjected to (and let’s face it, that we also used to try to force ourselves and sometimes others to believe)? Speakers (usually male, though not always) used to unashamedly stand up in public at talks with titles such as “Islam the Misunderstood Religion” and claim that “beat them” supposedly “only means” giving a “disobedient” wife a single tap with a miswak, and that this has nothing to do with “wife abuse” or domestic violence. Surely I should rejoice at any evidence that less horrendous interpretations are gradually becoming popularized? If the vague idea that “some scholars” think it doesn’t mean “beat them” is gradually percolating down to the grass roots, it might stand the chance of reaching some woman who is being hit and thinks that “Islamically” she can’t resist.

But… a couple of things.

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