Monthly Archives: October 2010

Domestic abuse is not condoned by Islam

Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown ~ 30 October 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

For anyone who might ask, “Does Islam condone domestic abuse?”, the answer is a resounding, “No, of course not”.

Violence committed against women by an intimate partner is a crime. Unfortunately, it is an all too common one worldwide. In the United States alone, 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by someone they know every year. It is important not to paint a picture that is tragically all too common the world over onto a single society.

For anyone, Muslims included, who operates under the assumption that Islam gives a husband licence to beat his wife, this is a misreading of the Quran.

The Quran says about itself that it comprises verses of clear and apparent meaning, muhkamat, and verses of ambiguous, unapparent meaning, mutashabihat.

The Quran goes on to say that only those in whose hearts is an illness pursue the ambiguous verses. The rule is that we understand the ambiguous verses in terms of the clear and comprehensive ones.

The single verse in question seems to allow for something called darb. This has been translated as “hit”. The problem is, the Quran said darb, not “hit”, because the Quran wasn’t revealed in English. What darb is in this single instance is ambiguous.

The situation becomes even more complicated when we see all of the more numerous references and injunctions to treat women well. “Treat them with loving kindness,” “Take heed for the good treatment of women,” “The best of you are the best of you to your families,” the purpose of the marriage bond is that “you might find peace and tranquillity in one another”. What kind of darb involves loving kindness, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t involve hitting.

The interpretation of any single instance of revelation must involve reading the entire tradition of scholarship as a whole, the Quran, the Sunnah, and the corpus of jurisprudential law.

We have explicit statements of the Prophet Mohammed reproaching anyone who might abuse his wife. The Quran states clearly that every “child of Adam” has been ennobled by the very fact of creation. This is inclusive of every human being.

The conclusion of jurisprudence is that it is unlawful in Islam to abuse, injure or insult the dignity of one’s wife.

At the same time, the Islamic view does advocate a male head-of-the-household model for the family. This demands of men that they be responsible leaders.

Leaders are also advised to take the opinion of those for whom they are responsible into consideration when making decisions that affect everyone. All the same, the leadership of any group is one, and the final decision about the well-being of the family lies with the leader.

Making the right match for marriages is important. Everyone, men included, can find someone in whose leadership they are inspired.

Injuring or abusing one’s spouse is a criminal act, full stop. When conflict and disagreement in marriage reaches a point where people feel they need to hit one another, that’s the point when it’s time for divorce. If we are ambiguous on this point, it will lead people to falsely believe that they have licence.

At any rate, we all know the real score here: we’re just asking our sisters, be gentle with the brothers, too.


Friday Sermon: Doubt & Certainty

Delivered by Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown in Abu Dhabi on 12 February 2010

To Listen: 

To Download: 12-02-10_Doubt and Certainty



Stand and Deliver, Your Religion or Your Life

Jihad Hashim Brown ~ 09 Oct 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

[Note: This is the full unedited version. Updated 10-10-2010]

One of my Shaykhs once told me that the value of the path to God is indicated by the number of highwaymen along its road. Perhaps, at the time I thought I knew exactly what he was talking about. Perhaps, at each moment in our lives we perceive at the depth for which we’re prepared. It’s this constant potential for growth that provides the eternal possibility of renewal and infinite “becoming” that makes life a terribly wonderful experience.

The “terribly” side is represented by the many down sides to life; chief among them disappointment. It is an inextricable element of this world in which we live. It is inescapable. The naïve optimist (as opposed to the critical optimist) would dismiss it entirely.  But success lies solely in how you negotiate that disappointment.

Our experience with the path to God is not different from the world in this way. It too will suffer its share of disappointments. This brings us back to our highwaymen. They know the power and attraction of religion. Religion communicates with the soul and awakens the mind that feels suffocated by tactile material experience, prevented from reaching its holistic potential. It inspires and infuses existence with meaning.

The highwayman knows that these capacities may all be mounted and ridden to personal gain. He or she himself is captivated by the possibilities that lie therein; to take hearts and minds hostage and hold them for ransom.

An encounter with a highwayman can leave a person feeling violated and betrayed. But despite this, the journey must go on. The Quran speaks of the earth becoming constricted around a person, despite its vastness, to the point of his or her own self becoming constricted; until he or she realizes there is no running from Allah except to Allah.

The journey is greater than its pitfalls. We cannot allow disappointment, betrayal, or manipulation to make us disillusioned; or better yet, dis-hopeful or divested of resolve. The end or objective of the journey is greater than the perceived enjoyments or exhilarations that obtain during the process. As Mahalia Jackson said, you’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize.

One English public philosopher has said that, “for historical reasons religions have a grossly inflated place in the public domain out of all proportion to the numbers of their adherents or their intrinsic merits.” But regardless of those who may or may not decry this fact, religion does enjoy a profound influential place in the history of human society. This because of what it comprises of intense spiritual meaning and connection to metaphysical reality; not to mention the transformative power on individual lives that is exponentially greater than any paucity in the numbers of its adherents.

Religion must be about much more than anything that could be derailed by hangers on. But it is well known that the Latin religionem is not deemed a fitting translation for the word deen, which in Arabic means “transaction”.

Al-Sayyid al-Jurjani defines deen as, “a divine convention that motivates rationally minded people – by way of their own praiseworthy choice – toward what is good in and of itself, being beneficial to them in this life and the next.”

Religion, in this conception, provides shape, coherence, and integrity to people’s engagement and interaction with their vertical relationships with the Divine as well as their horizontal relationships with one another.

But just as important, it is a source; a source of spiritual fulfillment, enlightenment, and the nourishment of healthy and balanced souls. The value of religion – or  deen – in your life depends ultimately on what you are getting out of it. When you sell it short, you are selling yourself short. And when you sell it, or allow another to hijack it, you are the one in control of your own suffering.

Friday Sermon: Rights & Responsibilities of Brotherhood Pt.9: Prohibition of Racism

Delivered by Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown in Abu Dhabi on 29 January 2010.

To Listen:

To Download: 29-01-10_Brotherhood pt 9 – Prohibition of Racism [mp3]