Like last week’s article on Britain’s apparent condemnation of the entire system of Islamic law, it was the ridiculous headline of this article that got me first. “Al-Azhar backs women’s right to beat husbands“? Hardly. Scholars from al-Azhar University in Cairo have affirmed that a woman who is being abused has a right to fight back in self-defence against her husband’s violence, which is, well, not exactly the same thing as having a right to beat her husband. What on earth was the person who wrote the headline going for? Pure sensationalism?
Of course, the acknowledgment that people who are facing abuse have the right to respond physically in order to protect themselves is important and positive, and it’s good to see Islamic scholars from various countries acknowledging the reality of domestic abuse and the religious right that a woman has to defend herself. I’m really glad to see that the news station covered this.
However, that shouldn’t really be more than a last resort, and should certainly never be a long-term solution. In this sense, the article’s scope seems uncomfortably narrow. It almost implies that the scholars are sanctioning relationships in which both husband and wife are beating each other, because at least that’s equal and the husband’s abuse is being returned in kind. (Or, according to the article’s description of the Turkish scholar, it should be returned “with interest,” which isn’t really a phrase I expected to hear in the context of Islamic law!)
Also, “Al-Azhar is Sunni Islam’s highest authority”? What, like the Pope? I was pretty sure Islam didn’t have a “highest authority”…