THE FEDERAL SUPREME Court in the United Arab Emirates has ruled that a man can physically discipline his wife and children – as long as he has first tried other methods of punishment and providing he leaves no marks.
Abu Dhabi English-language newspaper The National reports the ruling came in the case of a man who had slapped his wife and slapped and kicked his adult daughter.
The wife had had injuries to her lower lip and teeth, and the 23-year-old daughter had bruises on her right hand and right knee.
The court ruled that while the man had the right to discipline his wife and children physically, the man exceeded his authority under sharia law.
Chief Justice Falah al Hajeri ruled:
Although the [law] permits the husband to use his right [to discipline], he has to abide by the limits of this right.
If the husband abuses this right to discipline, he cannot be exempted from punishment.
The court ruled that while a man has the right to beat his wife, he cannot do so severely enough to leave marks. Hajeri also ruled that a father does not have the right to beat his children after they become adults. Under sharia law, Hajeri said, this is when a child reaches the age of puberty.
Hajeri ruled that a man had several options for imposing discipline: admonition, abstaining from sleeping with his wife, and physical punishment. Although Islamic scholars differ on their definition of “beating”, all agree it must not be severe.
Jihad Hashim Brown, the head of research at Tabah Foundation, said that Islamic texts encourage Muslims to treat their wives with “love and kindness” and said, “It’s unlawful in sharia – if taken in its entirety – to injure one’s wife. It’s unlawful to insult the dignity of one’s wife.
CNN quotes Brown as saying:
When a situation in a marriage reaches the point where people feel like they need to hit someone, that is time for divorce. Anyone who would abuse, injure or even insult the dignity of their wife, this has now become a criminal offense which can be prosecuted in a court of law.
A page on the Guardian website that was covering a report on the story was removed for legal reasons earlier today.