Does Quran Allow Muslims to Beat Women?

02 October, 2018
Q As-salamu alaykum brothers and sisters in Islam. First of all, thank you for your wonderful site. May God bless you, insha’ Allah. I’d like some explanation of surat 4, verse 34, and also the part that means “beat them (lightly).” Does the Quran allow us to beat women? Please, I’d like to know more about it. Thank you very much. As-salamu `alaykum. The verse in question, says what means: (… As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them [first]. [Next], refuse to share their beds, [And last] beat them [lightly]; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, Great [Above you all].) (Surat An-Nisaa’ 4:34)

Answer

Short Answer: In several hadiths, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) discouraged Muslims to beat women. Here are some of his sayings in this regard: “Do not beat the female servants of Allah.” “Some [women] visited my family complaining about their husbands [beating them]. These [husbands] are not the best of you.”

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Salam Dear Rany,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

It shows how you care for deepening the understanding of Islam in your heart. We’re honored you chose us to offer you this support. We hope this answer will provide you with a logical explanation from many angles of the issue.

First, let’s remember that domestic violence is a universal issue

Despite the universality of domestic violence, Muslim men involved in wife abuse have attracted more attention than others.

Their stories are highlighted in the media, giving the impression that this is an inherent part of Islam supported by the Quran, which of course is not true.

“How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace (sleep with) her?” This question was asked by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) more than 1,400 years ago. It is applicable today to all people of all faiths and cultures, considering the rates of domestic violence all over the world.

So before we elaborate, let us begin by agreeing on some important points:

There is a distinction between Islam and the behavior of individual Muslims

As in any law, creed, or faith, it is unfair to hold each and every Muslim as an official representative of the faith, perceiving his or her behavior as a reflection of Islamic teachings and assuming it is supported by the Quran.

Individual behavior is nothing but a reflection of a human individual, who could be right or wrong, gentle or violent, pious or otherwise.

If some individuals who happen to be Muslims misbehave, then this is their personal problem of bad manners or misinterpretation of the rules of their faith. It is not fair to allow their aggression to tarnish the image of a major world religion and all its millions of followers.

Islam honors and respects women

In fact, abundant evidence in the Quran and Sunnah assert the rights of women in words and deeds. Giving them rights that promote and preserve their human dignity in all aspects of life and worship. So, it is not logical that such a humane religion would encourage physical or psychological abuse of any sort against Muslims of either gender and of any age, race, or social status, much less against women.

Marriage in Islam is a sacred bond

In Islam, the marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and physical arrangement of living together, but a sacred contract, a gift from Allah, to lead a happy, enjoyable life and continue the human race.

The relationship between the spouses as described in the Quran reflects equal rights and responsibilities, and it should be based on tranquility, love, and mercy. It is the duty of both husband and wife to be a source of comfort and tranquility for each other.

Allah says what means: 

{And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts]: verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.} (Ar-Rum 30:21)

The Quran urges husbands to treat their wives with kindness. In the event of a family dispute, the Quran asks the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. Allah says what means: 

{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)

Islam is also against emotional abuse, not just physical abuse

Emotional abuse includes name calling, belittling, using threat of divorce as a weapon to manipulate the other, threatening with a real weapon (even with no intention of using it).

Even frequent teasing, though it might start as fun, may become a type of abuse if it takes the form of sarcasm or demeaning remarks.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised us to control our anger, not to call each other names, not to use vulgar language, and not to point a weapon at another person. This advice was general for all, but it should be taken even more seriously within a marriage.

Considering these main points, let’s now take a closer look at the particular verse you mentioned.

This verse has been greatly misconceived. Many people take it to allow wife beating, but this is not a correct interpretation of the verse. Islam is a whole system, so you cannot isolate one point without considering all other related issues.Does Quran Allow Muslims to Beat Women? - About Islam

When the setting is not taken into account, it distorts and falsifies the original meaning. We should also keep in mind that the original Arabic wording of the Quran is the only authentic source of meaning. If one relies on the translation alone, one is likely to misunderstand it.

The Arabic verb daraba is better understood as “hit” rather than “beat”

(which means repeated hard hitting, usually with something). The one verse in the Quran that mentions this—Surah 4:34—has to be read in its entirety and understood in Arabic.

Islam actually prohibits men from hitting women. Except in one very limited case when the wife is continuously rebellious and disobedient. Not when she disobeys one request—and only as a last resort after all else fails.

The husband should first admonish her, then abandon her bed if she continues to be rebellious. And only if those steps have failed then he may hit, not beat, her. The earliest commentators understood that the hitting was to be light enough not to leave a mark. And should be done with nothing bigger than a miswak (tooth stick).

Also, Muslims are instructed to follow the exemplary model of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was known to have never hit his wives, servants, or even an animal. Consequently, a Muslim husband does not have the right to beat his wife!

What is the definition of “rebellious” and disobedient”?

In Islam, while men and women have equal rights, those rights are not always identical. Islam intends the spouses to be complementary, not in rivalry. So, there is a clear set of rights and responsibilities for each within the contract that rules the relationship.

Islam stresses the importance of respecting contracts, most of all the marriage contract. Which is described in the Quran as “ mithaqan ghalithan” (a firm pledge).

Furthermore, there is no tyranny in an Islamic marriage. We are all told to conduct our affairs by mutual consultation, as the Quran states what means: 

{And those who respond to their Lord and keep up prayer, and their rule is to take counsel among themselves, and who spend out of what We have given them.} (As-Shura 42:38)

So in marriage, the man is named responsible for protecting, decision-making, and bread-winning. In return he has a right to have a quiet, orderly home and a loving wife to come home to. One who doesn’t make his life difficult with constant bad temper, nagging, or aggressive attitude.

The woman is named skilled homemaker, loving mother, and faithful counselor. In return she has a right to be provided for fully by a caring, faithful, protective husband. One who honors her and respects her individuality.

Both should be equally supportive, loving, and caring. Both merit respect and support from their partner.

Breaching the Contract

As in any other contract, signing means that both parties agree to the terms and intend to adhere to the rules. So failing to fulfill one’s responsibilities is a breach of the contract and merits limiting or temporarily withholding a corresponding right. Until that one gets back within the boundaries of the contract, or else the contract is nullified.

So, for example, a wife who repeatedly and intentionally refuses to consult her husband and does things that damage the well-being of the family. Or one who fails to do what they had agreed upon after consultation for no logical reason other than rebellion. Or one who intentionally does what her husband hates just to make him angry. Is certainly a type of woman who should be disciplined in order to preserve the peace and harmony of the Muslim home and the family members within it.

This is, of course, assuming that the husband is continuously fulfilling his responsibility towards his wife and family but is not getting his fair rights in return, and that all other peaceful methods of resolving the dispute have failed.

Comment by Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Commenting on this issue, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of ISNA, states:

While it is important that a wife recognizes the authority of her husband as the head of the household. The husband should also use his authority with respect and kindness towards his wife. If there arises any disagreement or dispute between them, then it should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Spouses should seek the counsel of their elders and other respectable family members and friends to patch up the rift and solve the differences.

However, in some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife. But, this is only applicable in extreme cases. It should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation. However, if there is a fear that it might worsen the relationship or may wreak havoc on him or the family, then he should avoid it completely.

The Quran on this Issue

The Quran is very clear on this issue. Allah Almighty says:

{Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them to guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) hit them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance); for Allah is most High and Great (above you all). If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation; for Allah has full knowledge and is acquainted with all things.} (An-Nisaa 4:34-35)

It is important to read the section fully. One should not take part of the verse and use it to justify one’s own misconduct. This verse neither permits violence nor condones it.

It guides us to ways to handle delicate family situations with care and wisdom. The word “hit” is used in the verse, but it does not mean physical abuse.Does Quran Allow Muslims to Beat Women? - About Islam

The Prophet’s explanation

The Prophet explained it “dharban ghayra mubarrih,” which means “a light tap that leaves no mark.” He further said that face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak or toothbrush.

It is also important to note that even this “light strike” mentioned in the verse is not to be used to correct some minor problem. But, it is permissible to resort to only in a situation of some serious moral misconduct. That is, when admonishing the wife fails, and avoiding sleeping with her would not help.

If this disciplinary action can correct a situation and save the marriage, then one should use it.

Comment by Dr. Jamal Badawi

Dr. Jamal Badawi, professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and a cross-appointed faculty member in the Departments of Religious Studies and Management, adds this:

If the problem relates to the wife’s behavior, the husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem persists, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers.

There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in bad habits and shows contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one.

The permissibility of such symbolic expression of the seriousness of continued refraction does not imply its desirability.

In several hadiths, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) discouraged this measure. Here are some of his sayings in this regard:

“Do not beat the female servants of Allah.”

“Some [women] visited my family complaining about their husbands [beating them]. These [husbands] are not the best of you.”

I hope this answer has addressed your concerns. Please let us know if you need more information, and please stay in touch. May Allah guide us all to what’s best.

Thank you and salam.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

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

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/are-men-better-than-women-in-islam/

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/woman-respond-abusive-husband/

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/abused-father-islam-say/

 

 

About Sahar El-Nadi
Sahar El-Nadi is an Egyptian freelance journalist who traveled to 25 countries around the world and currently based in Cairo. Sahar also worked in many people-related careers in parallel, including presenting public events and TV programs; instructing training courses in communication skills; cross cultural issues; image consulting for public speakers; orientation for first-time visitors to the Middle East; and localization consulting for international educational projects.