Posts Tagged ‘Koran’

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife? The Quran, Hadith and Domestic Violence

January 3, 2011

Bismillah.  I began work on this at about 5am on 1st January and, Praise God, have completed it around 55 hours later.  I am grateful to all my teachers and friends who encouraged me to write this work.

My conclusion is simple: God and Muhammad, peace be upon him, clearly wished to
ban domestic violence, as numerous hadiths indicate.  The verse was always known
to be a temporary compromise, an extremely limited concession that required
minimum use of violence, if at all.  “New” findings are:

1. Numerous hadiths say emphatically, “Don’t beat your wives.”  The Qur’an
apparently says, “You may beat your wives.”  This apparent difficulty must be
resolved.  The verse is perhaps the most quoted by critics and enemies of Islam,
the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

2. The article tries to highlight a basic and serious flaw with the way many
Muslims read and teach the Qur’an, including some preachers and clerics.
Helping to correct this problem will, God-willing, open the way to dealing with
numerous other controversial issues and “problematic” ayahs and hadiths.

3. Many issues around human rights and women’s rights, gender-equality,
dhimmitude etc. may be fruitfully-addressed along similar lines.

Feedback is welcome, especially from students and scholars of Islam as well as activists and reformers, particularly those involved with women’s rights.  If you find the work of value, I would be grateful if you could help circulate it as widely as possible, and publicise its conclusions that are given in a 2-page summary at the beginning of this 17-page study, and repeated below (with additions) for easy reference.  May Allah reward you. – U.H.

Read the study here: Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife – The Quran on Domestic Violence

With the Name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful



© Usama Hasan (London, UK)

3rd January, 2011





3.1       Notes on this verse. 6

3.2       Ibn ‘Ashur’s Contextualisation of the Verse: Then and Now.. 8


4.1       An Apparent Difficulty. 10

4.2       Resolution of the Difficulty. 10

4.3       A Fundamentalist Interpretation. 10

4.4       The Normative, Orthodox Interpretation. 10

4.5       A Refutation of Alternative Interpretations of “Beat Them”. 13

4.6       A Weak Hadith That Might Otherwise Justify Wife-Beating. 15

5    CONCLUSION.. 17


  1. There is a verse (ayah) of the Qur’an (Surah al-Nisa’ or Chapter: Women, 4:34) that may appear to condone domestic violence against women.  The verse says, “You may beat your wives.”
  2. Domestic violence is a problem in most, if not all, communities and societies.  For example, current statistics indicate that approximately 1 in 3 British women experience domestic violence during their lifetime.  Although the overwhelming majority of cases of domestic violence in Muslim households are due to wider human factors such as difficulties with relationships and anger-management, a handful of cases involve the husband feeling justified in using violence against his wife on the basis of this Qur’anic text.
  3. Such an attitude is not uncommon amongst socially-conservative Muslims who are “religious” in a formal sense: for example, a conservative leader of Indian Muslims is said to have given a public statement in 2010 denouncing a new law in India that criminalised domestic violence, thus: “They are taking away our divine right to hit our wives.”
  4. This fundamentalist misinterpretation of the Qur’an is sometimes sanctioned by the legal system in Muslim-majority countries, for example, as in the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court ruling of October 2010.
  5. A large number of hadiths (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) contain the explicit, emphatic prohibition, “Do not beat your wives!”
  6. These hadiths may appear to contradict the Qur’an, if the latter is read in a superficial, fundamentalist way.
  7. A holistic reading of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadiths, taking into account the socio-historical context of the revelation of the Qur’an and of the Prophetic guidance preserved in authentic hadiths, shows clearly that God and Muhammad wished to ban wife-beating and domestic violence completely.  As a temporary measure, and as a step on the way, an extremely limited, reluctant concession was given that only allowed minimal violence as a symbolic gesture of displeasure on a husband’s part.  This was in a strongly patriarchal society that used to bury baby girls alive because of their gender and where sons would inherit their fathers’ wives.  Such practices were outlawed by Islam, which also granted rights to women in 7th-century Arabia that were only achieved by European women in the 19th century, such as the independent right to own their property upon marriage.
  8. The evidence for this interpretation is overwhelming, from the 8th-century AD Mufti of Mecca, ‘Ata bin Abi Rabah, who ruled that “a man may not hit his wife” to the 20th-century Mufti of the Zaytuna in Tunis, Ibn ‘Ashur, who ruled that the State may ban domestic violence and punish any man who assaulted his wife.
  9. The “gradualist” approach of the Qur’an and Sunnah described in this case is a common feature in Islam.  Other examples are the prohibition of wine, gambling, fornication and adultery.  Modern reformers argue that the same principle applies to the abolition of slavery and the struggle towards gender-equality.
  10. Recently, a number of Muslim thinkers and scholars, unfamiliar with the holistic approach to the Qur’an, Hadith and Shari’ah embodied in the universalist Maqasid theory of Islamic law, have attempted to re-translate the “wife-beating” verse to mean something else.  Alternative translations and interpretations include temporary separation of husband and wife, travelling and even making love as a way of solving marital disputes.  A prominent example of this is Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar’s recent translation, The Sublime Qur’an (2007) that is largely-promoted based precisely on her translation of the wife-beating verse. Although well-intentioned, such interpretations and translations are either grammatically unsound or far-fetched, or both.  Furthermore, they ignore the overwhelming evidence provided by the Hadith traditions and simply do not placate the critics of Islam.  The normative, orthodox account of the issue in this study provides a thorough, honest and principled solution to the difficulties apparently posed by the wife-beating verse.
  11. The presence of hadiths with weak isnads (chains of narration) that would otherwise justify wife-beating may be evidence that some early Muslims themselves misunderstood the issue and either fabricated or misreported traditions on the subject.  The value of the work of expert Hadith scholars throughout the ages who meticulously sifted genuine narrations from the weak ones, may be seen to be crucial.  The work of al-Albani, a 20th century Hadith scholar, is especially valuable, for example his gradings for every hadith in the four famous Sunan collections of Sunni Islam.  Albani concentrated more on the chains of narration than the meanings of the traditions, but nevertheless confirmed that all the hadiths banning wife-beating or only allowing a limited concession are authentic whereas all those justifying it absolutely are weak.
  12. This study highlights a fundamental problem with the way many Muslims, including some scholars and clerics, read the Qur’an.  Rather than being read as a “textbook” or “instruction manual” as some superficial, populist, fundamentalist or Hadith-rejecting preachers advocate, it should be remembered for what it is: a collection of divine signs, guidance and wisdom revealed by God to the heart of His Beloved, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, by God via the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril), the Holy Spirit, peace be upon him.  This guidance was transmitted by practice and oral teaching (remember that “Qur’an” means “A Reading” and hence oral transmission) at first, and only collected by the Companions as a written book after the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, for fear of this Divine Treasure being lost for ever.  Furthermore, this guidance was always supposed to be manifested by righteous people of piety, humility, good character and the remembrance of God, taking their situation and socio-historical contexts into account.  A critical awareness of hadith and history has always been required, along with the worship of God and the service of humanity, to be guided towards the true way of following the Qur’an.


Qur’an 57:25 – benefits and dangers of technology, by Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss)

September 24, 2010

Bismillah. With thanks to Dr. Ameen Kamlana for this.

The mention in verse 25 of “iron” and all that this word implies (see note 2 below) so impressed the contemporaries and successors of the Prophet that this surah (al-Hadid) has always been known as “the surah in which iron is mentioned” (Tabari).

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace

Indeed, [even aforetime] did We send forth Our apostles with all evidence of [this] truth;

and through them We bestowed revelation from on high,

and [thus gave you] a balance [wherewith to weigh right and wrong],

so that men might behave with equity;

and We bestowed [upon you] from on high [the ability to make use of] iron,

in which there is awesome power [1] as well as [a source of] benefits for man [2]:

and [all this was given to you] so that God might mark out those who would stand up for him and His Apostles,

even though He [Himself] is beyond the reach of human perception.

Verily, God is powerful, almighty! [57:25]



(1) Or: “potential evil”

(2) Side by side with enabling man to discriminate between right and wrong (which is the innermost purpose of all divine revelation), God has endowed him with the ability to convert to his use the natural resources of his earthly environment.

An outstanding symbol of this ability is man’s skill, unique among all animated beings, in making tools; and the primary material for all tool-making – and, indeed, for all human technology – is iron: the one metal which is found abundantly on earth, and which can be utilized for beneficial as well as destructive ends.

The “awesome power” (ba’s shadid) inherent in iron manifests itself not merely in the manufacture of weapons of war but also, more subtly, in man’s ever-growing tendency to foster the development of an increasingly complicated technology which places the machine in the foreground of all human existence and which, by its inherent – almost irresistible – dynamism, gradually estranges man from all inner connection with nature. This process of growing mechanization, so evident in our modern life, jeopardizes the very structure of human society and, thus, contributes to a gradual dissolution of all moral and spiritual perceptions epitomized in the concept of “divine guidance”.

It is to warn man of this danger that the Qur’an stresses – symbolically and metonymically – the potential evil (ba’s) of “iron” if it is put to wrong use: in other words, the danger of man’s allowing his technological ingenuity to run wild and thus to overwhelm his spiritual consciousness and, ultimately, to destroy all possibility of individual and social happiness.


September 17, 2010

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful



by Usama Hasan, 7th September 2010

The Introduction to the original 1988 edition of Prof. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (Bantam Press) was written by the late Carl Sagan, a leading American physicist who was also atheist. In this Introduction, Sagan put a decidedly atheist slant on Hawking’s work:

“In this book are lucid revelations on the frontiers of physics, astronomy, cosmology, and courage … This is also a book about God … or perhaps the absence of God. The word God fills these pages. Hawking embarks on a quest to answer Einstein’s famous question about whether God had any choice in creating the universe. Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do.”

Since many, if not most, people who bought the bestseller failed to make much headway into a rather difficult read for the non-specialist, Sagan’s resounding words at the beginning of the book had enormous influence, no doubt. Many people would have been left unaware that Hawking’s short, concluding chapter maintained an agnostic position, rather open to the idea of God. Just over two decades later, the publication of extracts from Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design, shows that the “greatest physicist since Einstein” has not followed the latter’s mystical view of God, but rather opted for a Sagan-like position.

Over the past week, many journalists and commentators have dug up Hawking’s concluding paragraph from 1988 (p. 175), and reasoned that he has now simply changed his mind:

“However, if we do discover a complete theory … it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

However, Hawking had made the more important, philosophical points a couple of paragraphs earlier (p. 174), points that have largely been ignored in the recent debate:

“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?”

It would now appear that Hawking has forgotten these crucial questions by claiming in his latest book (as reported in The Times, 2nd September 2010) that,

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

Here, Hawking fails to explain where the law of gravity comes from, and fails to answer his own question from 1988,

“What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

Or, as Professor Paul Davies puts it,

“A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing?”

Hawking’s “spontaneous creation” is God-by-another-name: our atheist friends, like theists, have many names for God!

Hawking’s reliance on M-theory (related to string theory) is objectionable because it goes against his own strong positivist position that demands experimental tests for any theory. Paul Davies says, “It is not testable, not even in any foreseeable future,” and Professor Jon Butterworth adds, “M-theory is highly speculative and certainly not in the zone of science that we’ve got any evidence for.” (Both quotations are from The Times)

Furthermore, the physicists Lee Smolin and Peter Woit have both written popular books about the problems of string theory (The Trouble With Physics and Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory, respectively).

As to the idea of the multiverse, the cosmos as a vast (possibly infinite) collection of universes inferred by Hawking from M-theory, Neil Manson once said that, “the multiverse is the last resort of the desperate atheist.” However, whereas some of our Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends may have objections to the multiverse, given the centrality of the Israelite people, Christ and Muhammad respectively in our theologies, others have no such problems. The Qur’an teaches that God created “seven earths” (Surah al-Talaq or Chapter: Divorce, 65:12). The great early commentator, Ibn ‘Abbas, taught that “on each earth there is an Adam, a Moses, a Jesus and a Muhammad.” In other words, there is life on other planets and possibly in parallel universes, and since all creation is there to glorify God, other forms of intelligent life may also reach the heights of spirituality amongst their species.

God as Creator (al-Khaliq, and also the intensive form al-Khallaq) is able to create as many universes as He wishes. So in answer to the question, “God or multiverse?” it is obviously possible to believe in God as Lord of the Multiverse (Rabb al-‘alamin).

In conclusion, it should be remembered that Hawking is a brilliant scientist.  Science does an excellent job of describing Nature, or as a theist would say, how God creates.  But science can say nothing essential about why we are here and how we should live our lives: only true and balanced faith and religion can answer those questions, with Messengers of God to show us the Way.

Dr. Usama Hasan is Senior Lecturer in Engineering at Middlesex University, an imam at Al-Tawhid Mosque in London and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Click here for a PDF version of this article: On God and Hawking 7-Sep-2010

Understanding Islam by Frithjof Schuon

December 8, 2009

Bismillah. A short piece from a classic book that introduces the Sufi understanding of Islam, with thanks to the friend who sent it to me.

Surah al-Fatihah (The Opening Chapter of the Qur’an)

“That which opens” (the Qur’an) has a capital importance, for it constitutes the unanimous prayer of Islam. It is composed of several propositions or verses:

[In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the Ever Merciful]

1. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds;

2. The Infinitely Good, the Ever Merciful;

3. King of the Last Judgement;

4. It is Thee we worship, and it is in Thee we seek refuge;

5. Lead us on the straight path;

6. The path of those on whom is Thy Grace;

7. Not of those on whom is Thy Wrath, nor of those who go astray.

The Shahadah (Bearing Witness, or Testimony of Faith)

The doctrine of Islam consists of two statements: first, “There is no divinity (or reality, or absolute) save the sole Divinity (or Reality, or Absolute)”, and “Muhammad (the Glorified, the Perfect) is the Messenger (the spokesman, the intermediary, the manifestation, the symbol) of the Divinity”; these are the first and the second Testimonies of the faith.

For Sufism, which is Islam’s kernel, the metaphysical doctrine is that “there is no reality save the One Reality” and that, insofar as as we are obliged to take account of the existence of the world and of ourselves, “the cosmos is the manifestation of Reality.”

Introduction to Surah 2 – al-Baqarah (The Cow), by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

August 23, 2009

As the Opening Surah sums up in seven beautiful verses the essence of the Qur’an, so this Surah sums up in 286 verses the whole teaching of the Qur’an. It is a closely reasoned argument.

Summary – It begins (verses 1-29) by classifying men into three broad categories, depending on how they receive God’s message.

This leads to the story of the creation of man, the high destiny intended for him, his fall, and the hope held out to him (2:30-39).

Israel’s story is then told according to their own traditions – what privileges they received and how they abused them (2:40-86), thus illustrating again as a parable the general story of man.

In particular, reference is made to Moses and Jesus and their struggles with an unruly people; how people of the Book played false their own lights and in their pride rejected Muhammad, who came in the true line of Prophets (2:87-121). They falsely laid claim to the virtues of Father Abraham: he was indeed a righteous Imam, but he was the progenitor of Ishmael’s line (Arabs) as well as of Israel’s line, and he with Ishmael built the Ka’bah (the House of God in Mecca) and purified it, thus establishing a common religion, of which Islam is the universal exponent (2:122-141).

The Ka’bah was now to be the centre of universal worship and the symbol of Islamic unity (2:142-167).

The Islamic Ummah (brotherhood) having thus been established with its definite centre and symbol, ordinances are laid out for the social life of the community, with the proviso (2:177) that righteousness does not consist in formalities, but in faith, kindness, prayer, charity, probity, and patience under suffering. The ordinances relate to food and drink, bequests, fasts, jihad, wine and gambling, treatment of orphans and women, etc. (2:168-242).

Lest the subject of jihad should be misunderstood, it is taken up again in the story of Saul, Goliath and David, in contrast to the story of Jesus (2:243-253).

And so the lesson is enforced that true virtue lies in practical deeds of manliness, kindness, and good faith (2:254-283), and God’s nature is called to mind in the sublime Ayah al-Kursi, the Verse of the Throne (2:255).

The Surah ends with an exhortation to Faith, Obedience, a sense of Personal Responsibility, and Prayer (2:284-286).

This is the longest Surah of the Qur’an, and in it occurs the longest verse (2:282).

The name of the Surah is from the Parable of the Heifer in 2:67-71, which illustrates the insufficiency of carping obedience. When faith is lost, people put off obedience with various excuses: even when at last they obey in the letter, they fail in the spirit, which means that they get fossilised and their self-sufficiency prevents them from seeing that spiritually they are not alive but dead. For life is movement, activity, striving, fighting against baser things. And this is the burden of the Surah.

A Balanced Islamic View on Music and Singing

June 14, 2009


Bismillah.  Based largely on the book by Sh. ‘Abdullah Yusuf al-Juday’

Biography of the Qur’an-commentator Shaykh al-Shanqiti

June 10, 2009

This is incomplete, but still of benefit insha’Allah (15 pages).  My father was honoured to learn tafsir (commentary on the Qur’an) from Shaykh al-Shanqiti at Madinah University over 40 years ago.

Biography of Shaykh Shanqiti (incomplete draft)

Principles of Understanding the Qur’an

June 7, 2009

… by my father, 11 principles given.


Oaths of the Qur’an

June 7, 2009

Chapter One of Imam Ibn al-Qayyim’s book explaining the Qur’anic oaths.  Any volunteers for translating the rest of the book? 😉

Oaths of the Quran


June 7, 2009

A must-read book by Imam al-Ajurri of Baghdad & Mecca (d. 360 H), especially for those who intend to memorise any or all of the Qur’an, or who have already memorised some or all of it.