Islamic cleric Abdullah Aal Mahmud gave his rules on Bahraini TV in a 2005 interview about how to 'properly' beat one's wife under sharia law. His remarks were reported by MEMRI TV (the Middle East Media Research Institute Television Project).
Here are Abdullah Aal Mahmud's three simple rules for beating one's wife as he interprets Islamic law:
- “If the husband wants to use beatings to treat his wife, he must never ever beat his wife. It must remain between him and her.”
- “He must not cause bleeding or bruise her body.... [beatings] should not break any bones.”
- “He should avoid her face and other sensitive parts of her body.”
The Muslim legal scholar then concluded:
“If the husband violates these rules, he violates the rules of Allah. If she has been hurt, the husband is held liable for what he's done, because the woman is not his merchandise, he cannot do to her whatever he wants. Even if the wife forgives her husband, it does not mean Allah will do the same on Judgment Day.”
IJReview certainly does not endorse the Muslim cleric's comments, which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. On the one hand, Bahrain is often considered to be a relatively enlightened country in the Middle Eastern region. CNN reported in 2010:
Bahrain also boasts about being the country with the lowest cost of living in the region as well as being the first Gulf state to provide education for both boys and girls from the 1920s onwards.
Bahraini women — who do not have to wear headscarves and are allowed freedom of dress — have had the right to vote and run for office since 2002.
On the other hand, the comments suggest that beating and intimidating a wife is somehow acceptable according to his interpretation of Islamic law.
It is important to understand the context of the cleric's remarks in the broader view of women's rights in the Middle East. Sanja Kelly of Freedom House puts these in perspective, based on a 2005 study (data on the subject is difficult to come by):
- As measured by this study, Bahraini women enjoy the greatest degree of freedom in the Gulf region, followed by women in Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, and Oman; Saudi Arabia lags significantly behind.
- Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have improved modestly. Women can now study law, obtain their own identification cards, check into hotels alone, and register a business without proving first that they have hired a male manager. Their overall degree of freedom, however, remains among the most restricted in the world.
- Women in Kuwait have experienced the greatest gains of any Gulf country in terms of their economic participation. The proportion of women participating in the workforce has increased by 5 percent since 2003.
- Oman instituted a new law on evidence, which stipulates that the testimony of men and women in court is now equal in most situations. If properly implemented, this law may serve as an example for many Arab countries where a woman’s testimony is given half the weight of a man’s.
Women's rights have a long way to go in the Middle East and other nations around the globe.
It is important to bear in mind that culture and religion play a significant role in determining what individual rights women are acknowledged to have. In this way, nations that do understand the importance of gender equality under the law should not be afraid to spread their influence.
This article has been edited after publication to reflect that the second rule states that a man must not cause bleeding or bruise his wife's body. The quote, as reflected in the video, was improperly transcribed.