Can a Husband Beat His Wife?

15 September, 2020
Q I have some very serious questions though? Where do people whether they be Muslim, Christian, atheist, etc. get the idea that the QURAN tells Muslim Men to 'BEAT' his wife? From what I read in the QURAN it demands husbands to treat their wives as equals! May I also please ask where people get off on saying Men are women's superiors and possessors according to the QURAN? I for one honestly do NOT think the QURAN says such things! It angers me that people say it does! The HOLY QURAN is too beautiful to say such things! PLEASE answer these questions? They are VERY URGENT!

Answer

Short Answer:

  • The teachings of the Quran are that of love, tolerance, equal treatment, justice, equity, peace and respect. It is, as you said, a beautiful book, but it has to be understood correctly and within the proper text.
  • Muslims follow the Prophet’s footsteps in dealing with their wives. The Prophet never treated any of his wives badly. This is what the Prophet taught Muslims:

    “The best among you is the best towards his wife, and I’m the best of you to my wives.”

………….

Salam Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question. Thank you also for your concern to correct the tarnished image of Islam.

You are asking about why people think that the Quran tells Muslims to beat their wives. Let us agree that there are many incidents of wife beating all over the world, but the attention is focused on those incidents carried out by Muslim husbands.

What is important here is to differentiate between what Islam teaches and what Muslims do. The individual behavior should not be the criteria to judge the overall system of Islam. To all people of other faiths, please know Islam before you judge it.

Islam respects women and gives them equal rights. In many Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions (hadiths) there are references to the way how husbands should treat their wives. The original situation is to treat them kindly and gently. We read in the Quran what gives the meaning of:

{Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.} (An-Nisaa’ 4: 19)

This is what the Quran teaches Muslims. Therefore, it is not acceptable that the same book asks Muslims to act violently with their wives. The Quran is against hurting women’s emotional feelings, how can it allow their physical abuse?

Can a Husband Beat His Wife?

Muslims follow the Prophet’s footsteps in dealing with their wives. The Prophet never treated any of his wives badly. This is what the Prophet taught Muslims:

“The best among you is the best towards his wife, and I’m the best of you to my wives.”

With regard to the verse that people quote to support their argument that husbands can “beat” their wives, we have to understand the original word used by the Quran. The word is derived from the word daraba which should be translated as hit not beat.

The context also is very important to understand the meaning of the verse. The context is one of a repeated rebellious behavior from the wife’s side. Not in all cases a husband is allowed to hit his wife. Read the verses from Surat An-Nisaa 4:34-35. Words should not be taken out of their original context.

More importantly is that hitting, and again not beating, is to be practiced as a last resort after trying all other possible means including good admonition and refusing to share their beds.

Scholars maintain that even the hitting should be symbolic; it should not leave a mark on the wife’s body.  Even when hitting has to be practiced, the face should be avoided.

About wife beating the Prophet wonders:

“How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embraces (sleeps with) her?” (Al-Bukhari)

One wonders that how such sublime teachings would allow the beating of women.

Men are the protectors not the possessors of women

As for the issue of obedience, a Muslim wife is to obey her husband as long as he does not ask her to do something that contradicts the teachings of Islam.

When there is a difference of opinions among the spouses, they should sit together and discuss their concerns. It is the duty of both spouses to talk to the other party’s heart before reason.

Thorny issues can be solved with kind words. Mutual respect is the basis of husband-wife relationship. Men are the protectors not the possessors of women. Men are responsible for supporting their families and they are rewarded for this abundantly.

In no case women are inferior to men. Men and women are on equal footing. Both have rights and obligations under the Islamic law.

The teachings of the Quran are that of love, tolerance, equal treatment, justice, equity, peace and respect. It is, as you said, a beautiful book, but it has to be understood correctly and within the proper text.

It is your turn now to do your best to correct the image of Islam that is badly represented in the media. Use the Internet to promote a better understanding of Islam.

Engage in discussions with your colleagues and friends. Be a good ambassador to your religion. Present Islam to others through your behavior. Let the world understand that Islam is about respecting women and honoring their rights.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Abuse of Women’s Rights

What Are the Rights of the Wife?

Is It the Wife’s Obligation to Serve Her Husband?

About Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, and a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.