Wife Beating in Islam
By Anila Ali
Irvine , CA
No, my husband is not allowed to “beat me” according to the Qur’an!
I have been asked this question so many times that I feel it necessary to put my responses down in writing.
Let’s look at the issue of domestic violence against Muslim women on account of this verse from the Qur’an: 4:34
Yusuf Ali : 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 guard. 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).
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.
According to the Qur’an, a man, in this particular verse, has three options:
- Communicate, advise her, and settle the matter amicably.
- Abstain from sharing the same bed until she clears her head/calms down.
- If that doesn’t work, let her “go forth,” in other words, leave or separate from you.
Muslim clerics have mistranslated the word “idriboohunna” to mean “beat her lightly”. The other word in the same verse, “nushoozahunna” has also been mistranslated as “disloyalty and ill-conduct”. These words have been derived from the root words, “daraba” and “nushooz”. Let’s look at the word “nushooz”- it means “to rise/go above”. In Verse 58:11, Yusufali has translated “nushooz” accurately:
Yusuf Ali : O ye who believe! When ye are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room: (ample) room will Allah provide for you. And when ye are told to rise up, rise up Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well-acquainted with all ye do.
In other words, if a woman is rebellious and rises up against him by not listening to him, he/she has three options. In yet another verse, 4:128, Yusufali translates “nushooz’ not as disloyalty/misconduct but as “desertion”
Yusuf Ali : If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practice self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
In this case, when woman fears “nushooz”- the verse doesn’t tell her to beat or spank but advises her to amicably arrange a settlement. JazakAllah
The other word- “idriboohuna” which is derived from “daraba” has been translated as “beat them”. Whereas, “Daraba” means “to put forth/to go forth”.
In this verse, “daraba” is not translated as “beat”. Qur’an- Verse 14:24
Yusuf Ali : Seest thou not how Allah sets forth (daraba) a parable? - A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens, - of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition.
Verse 24:31 states:
“ …and let them put forth (yadribna) their shawals over their bosoms.”
“For the poor who face hardship in the cause of God, they cannot go forth (daraban) in the land..”
Thus, wife beating is not allowed in Islam according to the Holy Qur’an. The Hadiths floating around about the Prophet (PBUH) beating his favorite wife, Aisha, cannot be trusted; they aren’t the word of God. In fact, the Qur’an actually asks the man to forgive the woman for her transgressions, a small reflection of Allah’s infinite mercy and compassion.
Further proof is in the life of the Prophet (PBUH). He said in his last sermon:
“Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Before the advent of Islam in Arabia, the Arabs were burying their daughters alive; that was the extent of their ignorance. Fourteen hundred years on, many of these especially Muslim patriarchal societies have not changed much. They use misinterpreted verses from the Qur’an to justify keeping women repressed. In case of honor killings, they go utterly against the teachings of God. Some Muslims mistakenly think women are the source of evil, and must be treated harshly. They attribute this evil to Eve and how she caused Adam (PBHU) to sin. There is no verse in the Qur’an or Prophet’s sayings that verify that misinformation. In fact, it was Quintus Tertullianus (Tertullian in English), a well-known religious leader of the 3rd century of the Christian era, who spawned malicious attributes to women. “You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree, you are the first deserters of the divine law, you are she who persuades him, whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image: man,” Tertullian said of women. Of course, modern Christians have become enlightened and completely reject Tertullian’s ideas as barbaric; unfortunately the Muslim societies have adopted these poisonous views on women. Thus, these people are following Tertullianus and not Allah or Allah’s Prophet. Due to this misinformation, Islam is wrongfully viewed as a religion that keeps women as slaves for sexual gratification.
Let’s look at these verses from the Qur’an that categorically state the equality of men and women:
“…I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other...” (Holy Qur’an, Chapter Al-Imran: Verse 195)
“And whoever does some good deeds, be it a man or woman, and is a Muslim, will be admitted to Paradise and they will not be wronged (even as much as) the speck on a date seed.” (Holy Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 124)
Then the Lord, Almighty Allah, has ordained equal rights for women. Why are these men and Muslim societies treating women so abominably as if they have gone back into the times of ignorance, before the advent of Islam?
Why aren’t Muslim women rising and speaking up against oppression and injustice? Why is it that Muslim men who believe in equality and justice for women don’t speak up for them? Remember silence means your implicit approval of injustice in the name of Islam.
As Muslims, we need to look simply at the life of the Prophet of Islam. He was employed by his beloved wife, Khadija. She was his boss. She was a successful businesswomen and the Prophet never stopped her from working. His wife Aisha (PBUH) is indeed proof that women can be far more learned than men. She was a forceful advocate of women’s rights. She fought battles on the back of camels and gave women a role and respect in society.
Where are the Khadijas, Fatimas, and Aishas of the Muslim world? Unfortunately, they are being used and abused in the name of religion. Lend them a hand and they will rise up; they will fight for their rights.