A book discovered in a Toronto Islamic bookstore is causing an Internet uproar: A Gift for the Muslim Couple by the Islamic scholar Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi advises Muslim men that "it might be necessary to restrain" their wives "with strength or even to threaten" them. It says that a Muslim wife is forbidden to leave her husband's house "without his permission," and that she has a responsibility to "fulfil his desires." If she disobeys, he may "beat [her] by hand or stick" or "pull (her) by the ears," but should "refrain from beating her excessively." The only surprising thing about all this is that this book surprises anyone.
Nonetheless, the uproar is understandable, since so many Muslim authorities assure us that there is no sanction for wife-beating in Islam. "There is no basis in Islamic theology to support domestic abuse of any kind," declared Qanta A. Ahmed, author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, in May 2009. However, the Qur'an tells men to beat their disobedient wives after first warning them and then sending them to sleep in separate beds – a punishment that suggests that the Koran regards women as sexually insatiable and needing to be kept under control (4:34). This is, of course, an extremely controversial verse, so it is worth noting how several translators render the key word here, waidriboohunna.