I read David's article below, titled "The Qur'an, Surah 4:34". Doing nothing more than providing some translations and a link, I figured nothing could really be said against it -- he really didn't say anything except quote translations of the Qur'an.
But lo! A Muslim friend responds, telling him to read the actual interpretation of the Quran. Taking a break from my studies, I decided to read this article. What we find is the same methodology that Muslims almost always employ in attemtping to circumvent the obvious: 1 - A labyrinthine reinterpretation of a clear verse, 2 - Examples that might support the reinterpreted view but do not exclude the clear view, 3 - An utter exclusion of evidence that goes contrary to the reinterpreted view, and my favorite part, 4 - An accusation that Christians are prejudiced diabolical Islamophobes, "hell-bent" on using improper methodology to prove their insidious agenda.
1 - The words which say "beat them" are reinterpreted as meaning "tap them lightly, symbolically showing your disproval." Interestingly, Allah saw fit to use the words "hit them" instead of "tap them". But to show that this modern reinterpretation is correct, our Muslim friends give us some supporting examples from the Quran and Islamic history. Let's look at that in point 2.
2 - The prophet Job is mentioned in the Quran as having been self-forced into a position of hitting his wife, and in order to fulfill this requirement, he hit her with some basil. The author of the article says that this is the only verse in the Quran "that categorically refers to what some people wanna label as 'wife beating'." Although I thought the verse that mentions beating wives is also talking about wife beating, apparently this is not the case.
Then, records are used to show what hitting someone without hurting them is like in modern times - Job used grass, but the author of this Muslim article refers to a tradition in which it's okay to hit with a stick used for a toothbrush (siwak).
Another tradition is quoted in which Muhammad says: "there shall be no infliction of harm on oneself or others." The author then goes on to use this gratuitously, as if to say "we cannot harm anyone at all, and that includes women!" but he ingores the fact that this hadith requires context (which he did not provide) and he is clearly using it in a false way (for the infliction of harm on others is allowed in Islam if justifiable, e.g. wars, executions, punishments, etc. Therefore, in Islam, there must be justifiable exceptions to the "do not inflict harm" rule, and wife-hitting could fall into it).
Finally, the author uses quotes from Muhammad which say "If (the women commit a manifest indecency), then refuse to share their beds and hit them without indecent violence". This is used as evidence by our Muslim friend that Muhammad does not condone hitting women! It might say "don't be excessive in your physical punishment" but nowhere does it say "do not use physical punishment." In fact, it clearly says "hitting them is okay, indecent violence is not."
These are the examples that this article uses to show that Islam does not condone physical violence against women. More often than not, they show that it is okay to hit women! Yes, don't hurt them too much, but hit them if necessary. Clearly, the defense's claim that hitting women is not allowed falls extremely short.
3 - But what about all the evidence that supports the view that Islam allows for physical violence against women?
- According to Sahih Muslim, Muhammad hit his wife Aisha, causing her pain! Aisha herself was the authority of this hadith. I always agree with Muslims about Muhammad's sincerity; he practiced what he preached, and this is no exception.
- According to Sunan Abu Dawud, when men complained to Muhammad about their wives, Muhammad allowed them to hit the women. These women came in the morning to Muhammad complaining about their abusive husbands, whom Muhammad proclaimed to be "not the best men among the Muslims". Why did he not just say hit them with basil leaves, or tap them symbolically? Must have slipped his mind.
- According to Tabari and Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad said in his farewell address that it's okay to hit your women, just don't be excessively violent, for women are like domestic animals, given to the men by God (to be taken care of, I'm guessing).
Really, the list goes on and on. The obvious evidence seems to be utterly ignored. Instead of dealing with the evidence, many Muslims use bad examples to try to prove their point. When this does not work, they will often move on to pointing fingers and calling names.
4 - Is it true that Christians are biased Islamophobes? In the article that was referred to by our Muslim friend, Christians are accused of being prejudiced, having a diabolical agenda, and using improper methodology. Let me say it (for the hundredth time): I am not an Islamophobe! If Islam can be shown to be true, I will accept it. But far from proclaiming the truth, we see Muslims reinterpreting the obvious, providing bad arguments, and ignoring the deluge of evidence against them. How can I determine Islam to be true when its defense entirely ignores the obvious?
Fact: Muhammad hit his wife!!! This is according to one of the top two sources of hadith! Do not call this hadith weak, for Imam Muslim himself did not do so! How are we supposed to properly interpret history if Muslims keep throwing out all the history that goes against their preformed conclusions? According to one of the best historical records, Muhammad hit his young wife. According to other books in the Sahih Sitah (the six most authentic books of Islamic tradition) Muhammad allowed many of his men to hit their wives, though he said it was not the best thing to do, and he admonished Muslims right before his death that it's okay for them to hit their wives if the wives are committing open indecency, and that wives are like domestic animals given by God. The early tradition screams the truth: physical violence is allowed in Islam.
My Muslim friends! Defend your religion as it is, not as you want it to be! The stance that should be defended by Muslims is: "Limited physical violence against women is not immoral." You might have a shot at that one. Or you could even say: "Though Islam allows limited physical aggression against women, this does not mean it has a low view of women. This is the way Allah has ordered the world, and it is not wrong." But to say that Islam forbids any violence against women is, yet again, ignoring the obvious, and it's this kind of flawed methodology that led me away from Islam.
Let me say it again, in another way: I never thought that Islam's provision for hitting women was evidence to leave Islam; maybe that is the way Allah intended it, and who am I to say otherwise? I thought "If God says 'If your women have been unchaste, you have the option to hit them, but only lightly' then maybe that's best." It didn't budge me at all. What caused me to wonder was the fact that defenders of Islam were denying the obvious truth: that hitting women is indeed allowed. I soon began to see bad methodology everywhere. It became clear to me, then, that I had to focus on a proper method of investigating the truth.
When I began accepting the truth for what it was, that which had been obvious to me became flawed, and what was hard to believe became the only thing I could believe. The truth set me free.