By Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa
On February 1, 2022, the Egyptian parliament discussed increasing the penalty for wife-beating proposed by a female lawmaker, Amal Salama. Salama stated that she did not believe the current penal code provided “appropriate penalties” for domestic violence.
As it stands, women are unprotected as no law specifically criminalizes domestic abuse against women. Salama’s proposal details imprisonment of up to five years for men who beat their wives.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and former President of Al-Azhar University, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, sparked controversy when taking a religious stance on the proposed amendment.
Two years ago, Al-Tayeb appeared on an Egyptian TV program where he stated, “Wife beating is not an imposition or sunnah, but it is permissible to confront the disobedient wife and to break her pride in order to preserve the family from loss and homelessness. Also, the subject has its terms and conditions, and this permission can be overlooked if its use resulted in harm.”
[Translation: “Wife beating is not an Imposition or Sunnah, but it is Permissible to confront the disobedient wife and to break her pride in order to preserve the family from loss and homelessness. Also, the subject has its terms and conditions, and this Permissible can be overlooked if its use resulted in harm.”- Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb]
The Imam is referring to Surah An-Nisaa Verse 34 in the Quran, which states, “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. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.”
Mabrouk Attia, a Professor at Al-Azhar University, also opposes the proposed legislation, stating that “Wife beating is fixed in the Quran and Sunnah, with specific controls.”
The word used in Arabic for striking, “darb,” is open for interpretation regarding the degree to which you can do ‘hit’ or ‘beat,’ fueling some of the debate in the Egyptian legislative body. Even in English, the word ‘hit’ doesn't specify the degree of pain the person on the receiving end should receive.