Violence is not acceptable in any form, says Faishal

Violence in any form is unacceptable, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim.
Violence in any form is unacceptable, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim. PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Violence in any form is unacceptable, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim yesterday.

He was weighing in on the issue of spousal violence, after an article in Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian drew criticism online.

In the article, an Islamic religious teacher had declared it permissible for a husband to hit a disobedient wife, albeit within certain limits.

"We do not condone spousal abuse or violence in any form, whether within or outside of the family context," said Dr Faishal in his Facebook post. "Marriage is a lifelong partnership between man and wife built on mutual love and respect, and thus our duty as husbands is to love and respect our wives in the same way we ask them to love and respect us.

"It is common for couples to have conflicts and disagreements from time to time. If couples are unable to resolve these issues, they should seek help rather than resort to violence," he said.

The controversial piece, titled "How to handle a stubborn wife", was published last Friday as part of Berita Harian's weekly Tanya Ustaz - or "Ask An Ustaz" - column, where religious teachers answer questions on a broad range of matters.

Dr Faishal said he was glad to read the paper's clarifications on the piece - posted on Facebook yesterday - as well as a post by Ustaz Irwan Hadi, head of the Office of the Mufti, condemning any violence.

In last Friday's column, Ustaz Mohammad Zaid Isahak had responded to a question on whether a husband could distance himself from a wife who refuses to obey him as a means of "educating her".

Quoting a verse from the Quran, he said that husbands should first advise their wives gently about their obligations to their spouses. But if this advice is not heeded, a husband can then leave or keep a distance from his wife.

If this does not work, it is permissible to hit a wife - within certain limits - if she unreasonably disobeys her husband, said Ustaz Zaid, who works at Al-Mawaddah Mosque in Sengkang.

In his advice, he included guidelines on "beating" such wives - for instance, they should not be hit in the face and the beating should not leave marks.

This drew a rebuttal from Ustaz Irwan yesterday, who said the term "wadhribuuhunna", used in the verse quoted by Ustaz Zaid, "must not be understood literally as a licence to 'hit', hurt or abuse your spouse, be it verbally, physically or emotionally".

The interpretation of the term as only expressing displeasure and anger, instead of physically hitting, is the closest to the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who never hit any child or woman, including his wives, and had reprimanded those who hit their wives, said Ustaz Irwan.

"In fact, when the Prophet once was asked to give counsel on how husbands should treat wives, he said, 'Share with them the same food you have for yourself, and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them and do not revile them,'" he wrote.

Berita Harian yesterday posted on Facebook clarifications from Ustaz Zaid as well. The Quranic verse he had cited was not an excuse for a husband to beat or curse his wife, the ustaz said.

"It only means expressing dissatisfaction and anger," said Ustaz Zaid, adding that Singapore Muslims have to adapt the verse to today's context.

He added: "As a Muslim, we should follow the Prophet Muhammad in educating our family with love."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Violence is not acceptable in any form, says Faishal'. Print Edition | Subscribe