On Sexual Abuse
By Mushfiqur Rahman
Posted June 20, 2004
[The following was written in response to a heated discussion about “marital rape”. The discussion was conducted in the AdamsNewMusilms email forum.]
The Term “Marital Rape”
As Muslims, we have to be careful about what Western terms and concepts we can carry into Islam and what we cannot. The roots of Islamic norm and culture and those of western culture is fundamentally different in that the former is from Allah (swt) Who knows what is good for us while the later is an evolution of human thoughts and experiences that are, to a large part, devoid of God. It would, therefore, be a mistake to assume that any term developed in the Western cultural context can be taken for granted to be applicable in Islamic culture.
To give an example, Muslims recognize the fact that the African Americans have suffered much injustice by the Whites, and thus we sympathize with them. But we do not agree with the slogan “Black Is Beauty”, for it implies black supremacy. Beauty is not exclusively for blacks. White is also beautiful and so are other colors or people of other colors.
I subscribe to the view of those scholars – some of them are prominent ones – who say that there is no rape within marriage. Whether it is forced sex by husband with his wife, or by the wife with his husband, that should not be categorized as “rape”. The problem needs to be addressed as marital abuse or perhaps cruelty in some cases, especially when one person’s enjoyment comes at the expense of another’s discomfort or pain. Such inhuman acts, needless to say, have no support in Islam whatsoever.
Etiquette of Issuing Islamic Rulings
Islam stresses every believer to seek knowledge. According to many scholars, it is even considered mandatory for all Muslims. Thus, each of us is encouraged to study the Qur’an and the hadith, discuss them, analyze them, and understand them as much as we can. The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that in matters of faith, a ruling regarding a particular verse or hadith should be obtained from qualified scholars. The reason is quite simple. A mufti (i.e., one who issues fatwa or ruling), considers many things before giving an opinion on a particular issue or hadith, such as:
He is knowledgeable about and keeps in mind all the other numerous hadiths that are directly or indirectly relevant to the issue.
He considers the opinions of the Companions on the issue who, being close the Prophet, understood Islam the best.
He keeps in mind the opinions of the scholars on the issue – both classic and modern scholars.
He has good overall understanding of Islam and the spirit of Islam and thus has a sound Islamic judgment.
It is after due consideration of the above and after sufficient deliberations, a scholar gives a ruling on a particular issue. Without the above skills, if one only narrowly focuses on the text of one hadith and gives a hurried opinion, that may not be the correct opinion, and, in a worse case, can mislead others.
With these two important points in mind, we can take up the issue of sexual abuse within marriage.
The text of the hadith that was alluded to in some of the postings is this:
Narrated by Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Messenger (p) said, “When a man calls his wife to his bed, and she does not respond and he spends the night angry with her, the angels curse her until morning.”
This hadith appears in both Bukhari and Muslim and thus its authenticity cannot be questioned and it must be taken seriously and followed. Both the husband and the wife should respond to each other and try to make the other happy.
There is nothing in this hadith to imply that she must respond even if she has a legitimate reason for not to, such as physical or psychological discomfort or pain. What reasonably appears in this hadith is the case of a wife who refuses due to anger or dissatisfaction with her husband. Needless to say, that will be unacceptable from the husband as well. Nowhere in the example of the Prophet (p) do we see that he ever approached his wives roughly, let alone having sex against their will. The overwhelming picture that we get from the example of the Prophet (p) is that of extremely soft approach towards his wives during intimate contacts. Despite all these examples, if one assumes, form this hadith above, that he can force him onto his wife just as he pleases, then his understanding is regrettable and pitiful – both about intimacy in particular and the concept of family life in general.
The Prophet (p) was described by his wives as like a “gentle breeze”. Let us just think about this for a moment. Is there anyone in this email forum who is so gentle that he is described by his wife as “gentle breeze”? Yet, that is how the Prophet (p) was described by his wives, and who knows more about a man’s weaknesses than his wife? The Prophet (p) did not have just one wife to keep happy, but multiple. One can now imagine the level of softness and care he needed to have in order to please them all so much so that they felt he was like a gentle, refreshing breeze to them! What a paragon of softness and love! May peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon him!
In a hadith, the Prophet (p) said:
The believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behavior, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives.” (Tirmidhi)
In other words, being best of Faith has been made synonymous with being best to one’s wife. What an honor and respect has been given to the wife in this hadith! This one hadith should be enough to change the conduct of those who are cruel and abusive to their wives.
Sex without love and tenderness leaves that essential element out which sets us apart from other creatures who also satisfy their physical needs. A believing husband and wife are ones whose hearts are full of love and respect for one another to the point that each one tries to make the other happy. They are so close to each other that Allah (swt) calls each the garment of the other:
They are your garments and you are their garments. (2:187)
This website is primarily for Muslim reverts and, therefore, they are
highly encouraged to participate in it. Please send your piece to email@example.com for
publishing consideration. Articles and letters published may not necessarily represent the
views of Welcome-Back.org or its affiliations. Letters may be edited for clarity, brevity, and grammer.
Copyright (c) 2000-02 by Welcome-Back.org. All rights reserved.