Domestic Violence and Smoking According to Gulen

Date posted: September 30, 2010

Dr. Ahmet Kurucan

Gülen’s says, “Women beaten by their husbands should seek a divorce if they have no children. Beating is an unjustifiable physical attack and is a crime. Defending yourself against this attack is legitimate” and “Nonsmokers who share the same atmosphere with smokers should open lawsuits against smokers, seeking compensation for the damages they suffer. If the smoker is a father, his nonsmoking wife or children should be able to launch such a lawsuit.”

The beating of women by their husbands, as a specific case, and intra-family violence, as a broader problem, has long been seen as the Achilles’ heel of Islam by the critics of Islam.

The mentality of some Muslim husbands who think that they are entitled by Islam to beat their wives is one of the strongest arguments asserted by such critics. Is this true? This argument is the outcome of approaches driven by hostility that rely completely on prejudice, ideological perspective and an overall denial, in a word, completely false.

We can come up with several explanations to this. Let us first discuss the following with a dialectical perspective: the number of cases of women beaten by their husbands in Western countries is no less than those of similar cases in Islamic countries. The studies and surveys conducted in this area have clearly proven this is the case. Moreover, the theories that advocate a correlation between lack of education and male tendencies to beat their wives have been disproved by the fact that instances of beating are seen among men with higher levels of education. I do not want to inject too many statistics into the article. Those who are eager to find out more about this may conduct a search on the Internet to have access to many papers, articles, polling company surveys, human rights reports or academic theses. Thus, it is perfectly safe to argue that men beating their wives is a problem not specific to Islam or Muslim families, but one that relates to the whole of the world, past and future, and is removed from religious, linguistic or racial differences.

Leaving aside dialectics, let us return to our main topic: It is an undeniable truth that in some Muslim families, husbands beat their wives, for whatever reason or justification. However, it would be wrong to argue that this truth is specific only to Islam. It is virtually impossible to find strong evidence to support this practice from Islamic sources in the Quran or authentic traditions of the Prophet or other religious sources which bind all Muslims. As you might appreciate, not all Muslims put what Islam preaches into practice. Occasionally, theory is not translated correctly into practice. The main factors that ensure this translation include faith, the role of faith in shaping our decisions and actions, fear from hell, wish for paradise and hope to see God’s beauty in the hereafter.

From this perspective, a Muslim man beating his wife can be regarded as a deviation from the correct translation of theory into practice. Human nature and customs and traditions which are not approved of by religion provide a basis for such deviations and support existing practices.

At this point, I would like to take you to a friendly meeting that I attended last week. You, too, can see — imagine yourself as a member of that meeting to the point your imagination can go, and you will be able to hear what was spoken there. Due to its significance, I will try to convey, as best I can, the conversation.

As you might predict, this meeting was with added significance and profound meaning because it was attended by Fethullah Gülen. This was an intimate assembly of seven or eight people. Early in the morning, the exchange started about smoking, and we talked about the harm of it, the bases of different rulings by different Islamic scholars about smoking, and the impact of the harmful effects of smoking on these rulings, etc. Then I heard Mr. Gülen utter a sentence that might inspire a whole article. He said:

Nonsmokers who share the same atmosphere with smokers should open lawsuits against smokers, seeking compensation for the damages they suffer. If the smoker is a father, his nonsmoking wife or children should be able to launch such a lawsuit.” One week after this conversation, I completely accepted what he said and even found some evidence in Islamic law to support his argument, but when I first heard it, it had sounded so new and surprising to me. Not only me, but others were also surprised. The silence that followed this mind-blowing assertion assumed another question: “Isn’t this a very radical argument?” He retorted, “If it is, then I have other radical ideas as well.” In the elegant style of what older people call a “wise answer,” this meant, “No, it is not radical.”

What he said when we further inquired into his assertion, asking: “What are those other radical ideas, then?” forms the basis of this article on husbands’ beating their wives. “For instance,” said Mr. Gülen, “I would suggest that women beaten by their husbands should seek a divorce if they have no children.” This proposition was as shocking as the first one about suing a smoking father. This is because in terms of Islamic law, this represents a judicial opinion about divorce. In other words, a husband beating his wife may serve as a reason for an action to be brought by the wife seeking divorce. However, in classical or modern literature on Islamic law, you cannot find any reference to a woman being beaten by her husband as a legitimate reason for divorce. If you find this sentence too generalizing, then I can at least say that in my studies of Islamic law, I have not come across any approach to Islamic law that regards a husband beating his wife as an acceptable reason for divorce. On the contrary, I have read some rulings that have suggested that if the wife is the source of marital discord, the wife may be slightly beaten by her husband for the sake of a continuation of familial union and a reintroduction of peace.

However, his words should be not interpreted to imply that those women who have children should not divorce but continue to be beaten. Here, the important point is that beating can serve as a justification for a divorce. Naturally, the final decision about whether to bring about a divorce will be taken by the woman.

Mr. Gülen continued: “Is a husband beating his wife any different from the philosophy that upholds the strong oppressing the weak? Can you provide me with an example from the Prophet’s life showing that he, peace and blessing be upon him, beat his wives even slightly? Did Abu Bakr, Umar or other companions of the Prophet ever slap their wives after they became Muslims? Then, we can say that they abandoned everything that belonged to the time of complete ignorance.”

We knew that our Prophet did not ever touch his wives in anger, but this was the first time when it was interpreted in connection with the philosophy of “the strong oppress the weak.” Furthermore, saying that Abu Bakr and Umar did not slap their wives because of the fact that they became Muslims was another important point.

Was that all? No. He also divulged more shocking ideas. Smiling, he said: “Additionally, women who are beaten by their husbands could attend judo, karate or tae kwon do courses, and if her husband gave her one slap, she could return two.” Seeing his smile, you might perceive his words as a joke, but what comes after these sentences gives no room for this thought. “Beating is an unjustifiable physical attack and is a crime. Defending yourself against this attack is legitimate. Moreover, failure to defend yourself is another crime,” he said.

No one should be fooled by the content of these ideas, just because they are being expressed in a friendly conservation. These ideas contain profound meanings that may inspire new rulings in Islamic law and nurture solutions to our unsolvable social problems with an emphasis on the role of religion. However, this approach should not be mixed solely with a feminist perspective. There are other vital issues that should be taken into consideration about the incompatibilities that have paved the way for physical force. A loss of mutual respect and love between spouses is one of these factors, but we need another article to discuss it.

Source: Today's Zaman , Oct. 28, 2008

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