Monday, August 18, 2008

2006 ISNA Convention: wife-beating breakout session (11 days until ISNA convention in Columbus)

Saudi women’s activist Rania Al-Baz received a first-hand lesson in Verse 4:34

With less than two weeks before the Islamic Society of North America lands in Central Ohio for their 2008 national convention, we continue our look at past ISNA conventions to see what brand of Islam they will be bringing to our city.

At their 2006 convention, ISNA hosted a curious breakout session: “And Beat them Lightly. . .” An Analysis and In-Depth Discussion of Verse 4:34.

For the uninitiated, here’s verse 4:34 in the Quran:

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.
You’ll notice immediately that there’s nothing here about beating women “lightly”. One of the speakers in this ISNA breakout session was none other than Muzzamil Siddiqui, former president of ISNA and current ISNA Board of Directors member. Here is the session description taken directly from the ISNA official program (click to enlarge):

Sunday, 11:00–12:30 pm
Room 22
Session 9G: “. . . And Beat them Lightly”: An Analysis and In-Depth Discussion of Verse 4:34

This session will discuss the following: understanding the context of revelation (asbaab al nuzuul) for this verse. Emphasis will be focused on understanding the correct meaning of the verse, with specific attention given to the words qiwamah, nushuz, and daraba as well as to understand how this verse is to be applied as a protection for women, not as an abuse.

Speakers: Muzzamil Siddiqi, Rabia Karim Khan
Moderators: Mohamed Magid Ali
Got that? This verse actually protects women! One of Siddiqui’s partners in explaining how to properly beat your wife according to the Quran is Jamal Badawi, a fellow ISNA Board of Directors member, who has published a book on proper wife beating (see our previous post about Badawi’s last appearance in our area). Siddiqui and Badawi cleared up the matter in a fatwa for Islamonline:

This verse neither permits violence nor condones it. It guides us to ways to handle delicate family situation with care and wisdom. The word “beating” is used in the verse, but it does not mean “physical abuse”. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained it “dharban ghayra mubarrih” which means “a light tap that leaves no mark”. He further said that face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush.
Ah, so I see now. If you beat your wife anywhere except her face, and the stick you beat her with is small enough that it doesn’t leave a mark, it really isn’t violence. So glad they cleared that up for us! Both Muzzamil Siddiqui and Jamal Badawi will be speaking again this year at the upcoming ISNA convention in downtown Columbus.

More moderate Islam from ISNA!

Be sure to check out some of our other recent ISNA-related posts:
The countdown until ISNA occupation continues . . .