Wives need to listen to the husbands for what they wear, when to be romantic, with which men to speak, and which poor to supply money with, otherwise they need to be beaten up “lightly”. The Council of Islamic Ideology-Pakistan (CII), formed in 1962, has recently recommended legalizing domestic violence. I used to think that the mullahs in our country misinterpret the relationship of Allah with humans by exaggerating the element of fear. But now they are stepping in the domain of marital relationship. While I believe, the beauty of a marital relationship is in understanding of each others desires and demands and in a volunteer surrender to those,the recent recommendations by CII show the indifferent attitude of the council to this beauty.
This recent recommendation by the council is in harmony with its previous recommendations such as its opposition to the use of DNA test as an proof of rape, to the concept of political parties, and to raise the marriageable age from 16 to 18. All the recommendations by the council are expected to be based on the Quranic teaching and the Sharia law. This would require extensive scholarship and research. Interestingly, the CII website shows that the research section of the council has a staff of 17 out of the total of 28. However, only six staff members appear to be involved in research and the rest support it via IT, etc. Secondly, four members of the council need to have background in Islamic research. Accordingly, five members of the present council have a background in education, but more in administration. Only one of these members is from a university and presumably involved in research. With this attitude towards research it is not surprising to find no copy of the Ijtihad magazine of the council on its website. The url on the Table of Contents section of the magazine instead leads one to a website of some small business (http://cii.gov.pk/Usefullinks.aspx) with pictures of women in complete denial to Islamic dressing — maybe they set an example of what to beat for. Similarly, on the main page of CII website, the two sample writings by the present chairman of the council appear to be the notes for speech instead of comprehensive pieces of writing. The countries he has visited are five times to the number of his publications. With this negligence to research and writing perhaps all one can expect from their scholarship would be recommendations to beat wives on making choices for cloths, friends, and volunteer work!
These recent recommendations by the council look like an offshoot of the madrassah education in Pakistan. The madrassahs – religious schools – are a parallel education system in the country. This system stresses on memorization of Quran verses and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The non-Islamic academic subjects areignored in most of these schools. This ignorance to the skills and knowledge needed for the modern world gets transferred from the curriculum to the students. Z Ahmed (2009) mentioned the lack of student motivation to learn English as its learning does not lead to heaven (https://www.academia.edu/1790905/madrasa_education_in_the_pakistani_context_challenges_reforms_and_future_directions).
The modern ideologies and thinkers are considered to be un-Islamic and with low morality, thus are disliked. This attitude towards the knowledge and skills needed in the modern world thus results in the job-market rejection to the madrassah pass-outs (USAID, 2004). This rejection and the concept of life given in these seminaries lead to an isolated group of the pass-outs which do nothing significant except learn about a misinformed concept of jihad, go back and teach in these seminaries and reach to places like CII as the highest reward.
I believe, the recommendation to beat wives by the Council of Islamic Ideology can be understood in the context of madrassah education and a bias towards women who are viewed with mistrust. The education in the madrassah takes to view the world from the perspective of the outdated curriculum. However, this perspective does not fit the country, which offered women the right to vote since the time of its independence, and was the first Muslim country to elect a female head of state. The attitude of the mainstream educated people in the country towards these madrassahs is of negligence. The admission of students from the poor socio-economic class in these schools and the absence of the pass-outs in the job market both give the impression that the outdated curriculum and pedagogy of these schools is not a threat to the society. Things are not that straight forward. For example, CII-an organization which is responsible to provide guidance for aligning the law with Quran and Shariah-come up with recommendation to beat women if they don’t please their husbands.
The crossing of international borders by the students of these religious schools was less threat to the Pakistani society than the entrance of the rules by CII in our bedrooms. These recommendations are not law and the parliamentary system has to decide for their usefulness before making them part of the constitution. Of course, these recommendations are less likely to be validated by the parliament. However, the threatening aspect of this move is the mind-set of CII, which appears to be unhealthy and unrealistic.
To counter the mind-set of CII, the society needs to look at the root of the problem. We should not expect realistic recommendations from the council if the body is supplied with members from an isolated group of the society. Some writers are linking the recommendation with Surah Al-Nisain which the strictness is restricted to unfaithful women. The council is ambitious enough to extend that rule to any disagreement with husband. The apparent poor research at the council should not leave us with much expectations for its understanding of Quranic verses. Why do we expect the council to do research if that skill is at zero-level in the seminaries which feed the members to the council. Thus, recent recommendations to beat women should be seen in the context of madrassah education. The civil society needs to understand that the poor state of education in these seminaries can send heat to our homes.
Isbah Ali Farzan
The author is a Fulbright doctoral student at the University of Memphis. She can be reached via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter on @isbahisbah