straight to the point – from different points of view

My apology to Muslims by Kevin Baldeosingh

My apology to Muslims by Kevin Baldeosingh

As a professional writer, I always correct any errors of fact I make in my articles. I realise that no other columnist does this but that is only because, unlike me, they never make mistakes.

I, however, last Friday wrote that Surah 4, Verse 34 of the Qur’an, “instructs men to beat wives who they think might horn them”: and I was immediately contacted by a couple of Muslim men who told me that I was misinterpreting their holy book. The first Muslim man, whom I will call Fazal Ali just because it sounds so Islamic, explained that the verse didn’t mean that men should beat their wives for infidelity, but for any kind of disobedience. The second Muslim man, who I’ll name Asad Yacoobali just for a giggle, explained that the husband could only hit the wife after he had warned her she was doing something wrong, and he could only hit her lightly.
Fazal A also told me that the Prophet Muhammad had specified in a hadith that the woman should only be beaten with a toothbrush. I was surprised to hear this, because Muhammad died in 633 and the first record of a toothbrush was in China in the 15th century. But Muhammad was a prophet, so he must have predicted the invention of dental hygiene 800 years later. Although, now I think about it, Muhammad must have meant the toothbrush with nylon bristles that was invented in 1938, since all previous brushes used swine bristles and that, obviously, would be a haram toothbrush.
But is there a hadith which instructs husbands how to beat their wives with a toothbrush? I’ve been using toothbrushes all my life, or at least shortly after I got teeth, and I have no idea how to beat a woman with one. Do you hold the toothbrush by the handle or the head? Is wrist action allowed? Should you use toothpaste?
And this is exactly my problem with believers claiming that their holy books are God’s word. After all, wouldn’t an all-powerful being give detailed instructions on how to beat a wife? Even the awfully written Fifty Shades of Grey tells you what parts of the anatomy to spank with what implements, and Muslims say the Quran has the most sublime language of any book.
Now I myself don’t believe that a man should hit his wife, lightly or otherwise, but I am an atheist Westerner so I obviously do not appreciate the tenets of Islam. But how can I, when in my translation of the Qur’an by Haleem Eliash, the word “lightly” does not appear at all and, although it is used in my translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Wahiduddin Khan, “lightly” is in brackets because this adverb is not in the original Arabic text. The translation by Muhammad Muhsin Khan even puts in brackets “lightly, if it is useful”, and he and Ali do, in fact, specify infidelity.
But Fazal A assures me that the Qur’an is still “perfect and accurate”, since the Arabic words are the same even if the English translations are different — yet, paradoxically, he also says that “It is not acceptable hitting anyone”, even though one hadith records Muhammad punching his wife Aisha, whom he married when she was six years old, in the chest for going out of the house without permission.
So I hope nobody puts a fatwa on Fazal A for contradicting the Prophet, but I have saved his e-mail in case any ayatollah wants to read it. Even so, I do apologise to all Muslims for using Surah 4:34 to argue that wife-beating is morally wrong, when their god Allah clearly says it’s quite all right.

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