"I don't like to listen to that ustazah's talks," I said.
"Sometimes what she said can't be found in the hadith."
"Well, there's this story she said in one of her talks that Fatimah the prophet's daughter was told that another woman would reach syurga before her. She was an examplary wife who used to wait for her husband's return with among all things, a cane so that her husband could beat her if she made any mistakes in her treatment towards her husband. I mean, come on la.. a cane for a husband to beat his wife if he's unsatisfied with her? Which hadith actually said so? It's amazing that there're people who actually believe the story."
"There's a riwayat or story from the hadith la, Kak Aliya."
"Really? Show me then. All I do know is that Rasulullah saw instructed husbands to treat their wives gently and patiently. And that wives are to obey their husbands. I've never come across any Quranic verse or authentic hadith that said a wife should beaten with a cane if she does not treat or layan her husband well."
"There is.. if I'm not mistaken, told by Caliph Umar?"
"Umar? Oh you mean the story that a husband went to Caliph Umar to complain about his wife and overheard the Caliph being scolded by his wife? And what did Caliph Umar tell the husband? He said that he was still grateful to his wife for her sacrifices in preparing his food, washing his clothes etc.. things she was not required to do but she did. And that husbands are to be patient with their wives. There's no mentioning that Caliph Umar beat his wife with a cane."
"Oh, go and find the hadith.. I'm sure it's there."
"Perhaps you don't really know me yet, my friend. I'm not one who will simply accept a story or an order connecting to Islam per se. I want to know the truth as is in the real teaching of Islam, not a folklore passed down through generations and connocted by a person with the intention of turning women into good, obedient wives. And sorry to say, I have yet to find any hadith actually saying that an examplary wife should wait at the door for her husband with a cane. With beautiful clothes and perfume, yes... but not with a cane."
"But the woman in that story entered syurga before Fatimah?"
"Perhaps she did but perhaps she didn't even exist. We know that there're four examplary women in Islam whom we should emulate. The quran mentioned their names. They are Asiah the wife of Firaun, Maryam the mother of Isa, Khatijah the wife of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Fatimah the daughter of prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Therefore, I suspect that story about the woman with the cane is just a story created by the Muslim Malays for their women. Strangely but not surprisingly, I can't find it in any English version."
"You're such a stubborn woman, Kak Aliya."
"My stubborness in refusing to accept everything passed down by you Muslim Malays as the teachings of Islam is actually a good thing, my friend. I'm not as easily influenced by deviant teachings and Islam ikutan ala Melayu. I find something new,I read up, and I do research. Isn't that what we're Muslims suposed to do, to refer back to the al-Quran and authentic hadith for guidance and to use the God-given brains to think? Hence, I find the story atrocious."
"But isn't it good that wives become obedient due to the story, and treat their husbands well?"
"The aim to teach goodness does not mean we have to spread falseness. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had warned us never to use his name to spread false stories. In fact, he has never taught us that husbands can beat their wives if they find the wives' treatment or layanan unsatisfying. And as far as I know, the only reason a husband can beat his wife is when she is nusyuz or disobedient. That too, after being given two warnings beforehand. Besides, in a loving marriage, there should not be any threat of harm to either spouse. I'd suggest new brides to read up about a 'Muslim Woman and her Husband' instead of this fanciful story. And I do feel sorry for the poor souls who actually believe that a husband can beat the wife if she doesn't satisfy all his needs. No wonder we often hear about wife-battery and domestic violence even in Muslim Malay households, where the wives are silent victims!"