Your wives are a place of sowing of seed

From ‘Obedient Wives Club rep takes issue with Muis remarks’, 2 July 2011, ST Forum

(Haji Darlan Zaini): IN A June 18 report (‘Muis frowns on the Obedient Wives Club’), the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) stated that the club’s views ‘are contrary to Islamic teachings and demean women’.

To our horror, a Sunday Times editorial (‘To obey or not to obey’; June 26) also quoted the same idea: ‘In Singapore, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore has also clearly stated that the group’s views are contrary to Islamic teachings and demean women and the concept of family.’

We would like to register our disappointment with Muis, as the highest Islamic body in Singapore, for making such an irresponsible judgment in the media without even consulting us, the proposer of the establishment of the Obedient Wives Club in Singapore. In the first place, OWC has not even been set up here.

We do not want to bring up, at this juncture, Muis’ statement that the OWC’s views demean women and the concept of family. But we would like to take issue with the remarks ‘contrary to Islamic teachings’. This is unacceptable to us. It has serious implications for our reputation and integrity, especially in the Islamic community here. In the worst-case scenario, it implies that we are not part of Islam, but deviationists or kufr (disbelievers).

In what ways are our views contrary to Islamic teachings, and which aspects of Islamic teachings have we transgressed?

We find nothing un-Islamic in forming the OWC as the wife/wives’ obedience is stipulated in the Quran. For example, a surah in the Quran 4.34, a chapter on An-Nisa’ (The Women), states thus:

‘Men are in charge of women by (right of) what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend (for maintenance) from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard (translation by Sahih International).’

Muis should differentiate between fact and opinion, and appreciate differences in interpretation of the surah.

…We strongly urge Muis to clarify and retract through the same media those defamatory remarks made against us.

Not an Islamic scholar myself, I’m not sure of the reliability of the translation of the Quran by this ‘Sahih International’, but running a simple search revealed that there’s more to the surah than published in this letter, and if this is true, what OWC advocates is the lighter half of what’s clearly a treatise on spousal abuse if read in today’s context. A case of cherry picking perhaps, which calls into question how ‘Islamic’ this group claims to be if they’re following religious law only  halfway.  Of course it’s impractical to take the Quran literally in modern times, though the misogynistic phrase ‘forsake them to bed…strike them’  does leaves little to any sort of alternative interpretation. ‘Strike’ them with calming, logical words on the benefits of obedience? Double standards and contradictions are nothing new in religious texts, written almost entirely by men whichever God you subscribe to, with believers known to pick and choose what suits their agenda, whether it’s mounting a terrorist attack or using it as a marriage counselling tool.

Forsake them in bed and strike them

Translation becomes a problem too. If one opts for the ‘Yusuf Ali’ translation, the harsh ‘strike’ becomes ‘beat them (lightly)’. When you choose ‘Pickthal’, it translates as ‘and scourge them’, an action which sounds like torture out of a grotty horror movie. So, just how reliable is this really? By quoting ‘out of context’, the OWC simply dredged a deeper hole for themselves unwittingly, forgetting that other people read the Quran too.

Here’s a sample of more gentlemanly ways to treat women according to Islamic teachings and how I would interpret them, which appear to be leaning towards educating men on how to control their women with fear, rather than teaching women on the virtues of obedience and submission. Nowhere does it say, or at least as far as my search goes,  that it’s the wife’s duty to make love better than first class prostitutes. I would also expect the Quran to also advise  elsewhere in its pages on mutual respect and love for God as the secret to a happy union, and therein lies the problem of using religious texts to justify human behavior, as I’ve shown by being selective in my readings, just like what the OWC has done.

004.015: Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women – bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them [another] way.

(i.e If your wives cheat on you, it’s alright to punish them by starvation. So wives, please be obedient and not stray, or your husbands shall, under divine order, kill you)

002.222: And they ask you about menstruation. Say, “It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.”

(i.e Keep away from wives during menstruation. Just before menstruation would be a good idea too)

002.223: Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.

(i.e You have the right to have sex with your wife whenever you want to)

024.031: And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their head covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.

(Self explanatory but I’ve a few questions: Isn’t ‘their husband’s sons’ their sons as well? Are these ‘male attendants’ eunuchs of some sort? Wouldn’t Tin Pei Ling make a horrible Muslim wife?)

Of course, joining the OWC is perfectly voluntarily, if it does take off here, and may even be a last resort for failing marriages. Call it antiquated, sexist or misogynistic, but if their Quran inspired techniques work and they have proof of success, and both husband and wife are happier for it, so be it then.


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