I’m A Feminist- Can I Beat My Husband?- Part 1

22 December, 2016
Q Asslam Alaikkum, Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions in my mind. I'm a feminist. I want to know why is it that in Islam a wife must obey her husband? Just them being strong shouldn't be the reason. In fact, I wouldn’t mind my husband obeying me. Women go through a lot, and still they are meant to be under someone? Why can’t we be the superior? And my other question is--why can a husband beat his wife lightly, and the wife can’t do the same? I want to know in what ways are women lesser than men that they must obey them? Both are Allah's creation; doesn't that mean we both get the same rights?

Answer

Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. 

Please find part one of the answer to your question below. Find the second and final part at the link here.

Before we can talk about the vital issues you bring up, we should probably take a moment to define the term “feminism”. I also consider myself a feminist, but it is a loaded word that has many, many different meanings to many different people, some inaccurate and some appropriate.

Defining Feminism

To me, and many other feminists who approach this term through a faith tradition, define it as the affirmation that women are fully actualized human beings, with God given intellect and agency to decide what path is best for their life.

It is the affirmation that women are not secondary and are an integral part of society.  

Feminism is also the acknowledgement that when these truths about women are denied in a society, both men and women in that society suffer. There is nothing in this definition that contradicts Islamic teachings.

Why can’t we be the superior? In what ways are women lesser?

To secular feminists there is the thought that men and women are exactly the same. But we know from modern medical science (and by looking in the mirror) that this is just not true.

But it is understandable that secular feminists feel the need to push this view of sameness because, for the majority of human history, man has told woman that she is secondary, or “less than” because she is different from man. For example, Aristotle believed women were inferior and described them as “deformed males”.

It is important to note that this finding fault and inferiority in difference is the same thought process that produces racism and all forms of bigotry. It was the same arrogance that made Iblis fall from his position as a righteous servant of Allah to the accursed Shaytan.

But Islam does not define woman in relation to man. It does not ask women to imitate men in order to gain respect. Imitation is in fact an affirmation that the one being imitated is in some way superior. We do not believe that men are superior to women, nor do we believe that women are superior to men. 

Allah says in the Quran:

{[…] The female is not like the male […]} (Quran 3:36)

No qualifiers are included in this statement. Allah Almighty does not say that the male is superior, nor does He say the female is lesser. He only says they are not alike.

We are different, unique: we have our own strengths. And men and women are interdependent, complimentary. 

However, Allah does define who is superior and it has nothing to do with sex. Preference or superiority is through righteousness only, an equal opportunity pursuit. 

Why in Islam does a wife have to obey her husband? I wouldn’t mind my husband obeying me.

I think you will find that, from time to time, your husband does “obey” you. If you give him some good advice or ask him for help, I am sure–if he is a good man–that he does “obey” you in the sense that he will listen and respond positively to you. 

However, to me, I find that the word “obey” is troublesome. It is a strong word to use. It implies that one person has a right to harshly commanding the other, which does not create a loving and tender dynamic that the Quran says a marriage should be based on.

Allah says in the Quran:

{And among His signs is this: That He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.} (Quran 30:21)

The word “obey” also implies unthinking actions, it comes entirely too close to blindly following and shirk (associating partners with God).

To me, obedience is to Allah alone. Men and women, husbands and wives, once they have put their intellect to use and discovered that Allah is in fact The Supreme, The Merciful, The Creator; they owe obedience to Allah. 

But we do owe people in our lives an elevated amount of respect. We must respect our parents. We must do as much as we can to make them happy, as long as it does not include disobeying Allah Almighty.

Similarly, husbands and wives should show an elevated amount of respect to one another, and do everything that does not approach unhealthy love to make each other happy and comfortable in this life and push each other to strive for Jannah.

If it were for one spouse or the other to obey as it is defined in the English language, this peace of mind and love and mercy that Allah advocates between spouses would not be possible. Elevated respect, I find, is a better phrase because marriage is a dialogue, not a series of commands to be “obeyed”. 

I hope this helps to alleviate your concerns. Remember Allah Almighty does not degrade you, and those who try to only do so in spite of Allah’s commands, not because of them. Please find the second part here. And please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Muslim Men Fight Domestic Violence in Australia

Domestic Violence: What Should The Victim Do? (Watch)

UK Muslims Discuss Feminism, Spirituality And Faith

Are You an Abusive Spouse? (Test Yourself)

Between Sisters – Yasmin Mogahed