A Historical Analysis Of The “Beat” Verse – Quran 4:34

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Kaleef K. Karim

Disclaimer: This article is by no means a defense of domestic violence, but a comprehensive elucidation on the Quranic verse (S. 4:34), explaining the verse in question in great detail, using the Quran, Hadith, Muslim and non-Muslim Scholarly evidence so that readers understand the verse and its implications more thoroughly.


1. Introduction
2. Qawwamuna – ‘Protectors and maintainers’
3. The Arabic word ‘Nushuz’
4. The Connection of Nushuz And Fahishah Mubayyina In The Farewell Sermon Hadith
5. The Prophet Muhammed’s Conduct With His Wives
6. Speaking to your wife (1) and then separating beds (2)
7. The Arabic word “Daraba”
8. Non-Muslim Academics on Surah 4:34
9. Classical Scholars: ‘Do Not Hit Your Wife’
10. Physical Violence: A Right Of Divorce
11. Domestic Violence: Compensating The Wife – Punishing The Husband
12. LAW – Legal Frameworks Addressing Domestic Violence In Muslim Majority Countries
13. The Quran And Prophetic Statements On Wives
14. Conclusion

1. Introduction

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel (strength) the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and GUARD in the husband’s absence what ALLAH ORDERS THEM TO GUARD. As to those women on whose part you SEE INFIDELITY (NUSHUZAHUNNA), admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them. Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.” – Quran 4:34

Some have cited the Quranic verse Surah 4:34 – as evidence that the Quran advocates and endorses wife abuse, despite the Prophet Muhammed’s example to the contrary.

This very well-known verse is cited often claiming that physical violence against one’s wife is endorsed by the Quranic verse if the husband feels that there is clear evident “Nushuz”. Nushuz according to some scholars and critics means that a simple argument or the wife raises her voice warrants the prescription described in S. 4:34. Indeed such an interpretation is problematic and against the very nature of the Quran and Prophetic model and conduct.

Over the years I have personally had a hard time as a believer understanding the verse under discussion. I felt uneasy speaking about the verse (S. 4:34) with other people, and often questioned it in my own mind why would God Almighty in All His Mercy reveal this on a wife. My own uneasiness of speaking about the verse may be due to the upbringing or the 21st century World we are living in. I firmly believe that God is Just and every verse of the Quran is a blessing. Other religious followers have their own fair share of debates and often question verses from their own sacred scriptures.

In any religious scripture, there is indeed verses where a believer and follower of that faith may feel unease at certain injunctions and orders laid out. The Bible has got his fair share of things that are deemed in today’s society to be shocking or for the believer to question and often even rejecting the literal interpretation of the reading. There is a verse in the Old Testament, for example, if a wife grabs hold of a man’s private parts defending and helping her husband out in a fight is ordered by the Bible to have her hand cut off. [1] There is the disciplining of the children in the Old Testament, where a disobedient child is ordered to be beaten with a rod (stick) until he/she comes back and listens to the father and mother. Some Christian believers have rejected this injunction and argue that it is part of the Old Testament and they are ordered to follow the New Testament. They are not obliged to follow Old Testament laws since Jesus came to abrogate it, as they argue. Other Christian scholars, Priests, and their fellow believers argue to the contrary and say that the verse of physical disciplining of one’s child is a good thing and parents should use the prescriptions described in the Bible. [2] Away from the Old Testament, there is an even more infamous verse from the New Testament, dubbed by some scholars to be an endorsement of “marital rape”. [3] The verse orders that a Christian wife has got no rights over her own private parts, and a man could go into her wife without the consent of her wife. Academics often have pointed out that the verse orders the wife to submit to the husband’s desires whenever he so wishes, and she cannot deny her husband that right. Indeed these verses are difficult for present day believers to understand. Is a present day believer going to reject these verses or are you going to interpret them to reflect today’s world? Are God’s Words to be followed and implemented forever or are they left to the society and environment these sacred passages were revealed in? These are difficult questions for a believer to answer, how we go about explaining them is left to the individual at the end of the day.

In this article, we will aim to answer the question of what is the true historical understanding for Surah 4:34? Does the verse give a husband a license to discipline his wife physically whenever he so wishes? A conclusion will be drawn by examining the reasons against this interpretation. We will aim to give earliest historical pieces of evidence backing our position that this interpretation is alien to the Prophetic model and conduct. We will aim to give a more plausible and more likely interpretation of S. 4:34 which mirrors how the Prophet Muhammed (p) himself originally understood it.

In order to understand Surah 4:34 we will go through three channels to find out its true historical meaning:

Tafsir of the Quran 4:34, let the Quran naturally explain itself i.e., having a closer examination of the words.
Tafsir of the Quran 4:34 in light of the Prophetic statements i.e., Hadith.
Tafsir of Quran 4:34 in light of the statement from companions of Prophet Muhammed (p) and the latter classical scholars.

With the above three routes, we will aim to understand the verse (S. 4:34) in its true sense.

2. Qawwamuna – ‘Protectors and maintainers’

The passage begins by stating that men are ‘protectors and maintainers’ of wives. I would like to highlight here that the verse does not say that men are superior to their wives in the sense of being a master or dictator over them. The Arabic word ‘qawwamuna’ used at the start of the verse literally means that men are “protectors and maintainers”. Dr. Ahmed K. Nazir comments on the word ‘Qawwam’ (‘qawwamuna’) in his book, he writes:

“Some quote the verse 4:34 (Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…) to say that, in Islam, men are the bosses of women. This phrase does not mean that men are the rulers or commanders of women. As human beings, Islam gives equal status to both men and women. This phrase means that men are protectors of wives and they are responsible to spend their money for the support of wives. The Arabic word ‘Qawwam’ (protectors) means ‘One who stands firm in another’s business, protects his interests, and looks after his affairs: or it may be, standing form in his own business, managing affairs, with a steady purpose.’” (Dispositions: Gazing Into the Amazing, Colorful, Global Crystal of Human Life [2009] by Dr. Ahmed K. Nazir M.D., page 108)

Thus, the Arabic word ‘Qawwamanu’ means, ‘to guard’, ‘protect’, ‘maintain’, and to take care of their wives. The claim made by some that “men are masters over their wives” is not supported from the verse. Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Religion: Q-Z also gives the meaning of the Arabic word Qawwam,

“Qawwam: Qawwam or qayyim is a person responsible for administering or supervising the affairs of either an individual or an organization, for protecting and safeguarding them and taking care of their needs.” (Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Religion: Q-Z [2005] by Dr. Ramesh Chopra, page 623)

Professor Abdur Rahman I. Doi:

“Allah informs us in this verse that men are Qawwamun i.e., protectors and maintainers of women. THE WORD QAWWAMUN SIGNIFIES A PERSON WHO TAKES THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SAFEGUARDING THE INTEREST OF ANOTHER. This position comes to men are opposed to women not only because, generally speaking, they have more physical strength and greater capacity for hard work…” (Shari’ah – Islamic Law [Revised and expanded Abdassamad Clarke – Ta-Ha Publishers LTD – Second Revised Edition, 2013] by Abd ar-Rahman I. Doi, page 216)

Islamic scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani (b. 1943):

“Now coming to the word used for men to lead, Allah Almighty has not used words like ‘king’, ‘ruler’, ‘owner’ or ‘lord’. He has used the word ‘Qawwaam’ (قوام) which REFERS TO THAT PERSON WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME TASK WHICH DOES NOT AT ALL MEAN THAT HE OWNS THE WOMAN IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE. In Islam, the ruler is not one who sits on the throne and rules but a ruler is as defined by the Prophet (ﷺ):

سيد القوم خادمهم.
‘The leader of the nation is their SERVANT.’ (Kanz ul-A’maal, Hadith no. 17517)

In today’s time when we hear the word ‘ruler’, we get the image of a king or a big leader who do not even like to speak to their subjects and not consider speaking to them worthy of their honor but the LEADER AS PER QUR’AN AND HADITH IS ONE WHO SERVES and not the one who merely issues orders and seeks to enforce them.” (“Women in Islam: Are they subservient to men?” [Translated by Adeel T. Khan] by Mufti Taqi Usmani, online source (Last accessed, 7th February, 2017) https://qurananswers.me/2014/12/08/women-in-islam-are-they-subservient-to-men/ )

Tafsir Ishraq Al-Ma’ani – Syed Iqbal Zaheer (b. 1944):

“125. The expression qawwam is an intensive form of qa’im (‘one who is responsible for’ or ‘takes care of’ a thing or a person). Thus, qama ala I-mar’ah signifies ‘he undertook the maintenance of the woman’ or ‘he maintained her‘ (see Lane VIII, 2995). The grammatical form qawwam is more comprehensive than qa’im, and combines concepts of physical maintenance and protection as well as of moral responsibility‘ (Asad).” 9 Tafsir Ishraq Al-Ma’ani – Being A Quintessence Of Qur’anic Commentaries [Iqra Welfare Trust – Second Revised Print, 2001] by Syed Iqbal Zaheer, VOL. II (Volume 2), page 236)

We can see that the word ‘Qawwamuna’ is someone who is a ‘protector and maintainer’ of a wife. A man who is financially responsible for the family. God Almighty has assigned men the role, to be a maintainer and guardian of the household, taking care of the wife’s needs i.e., food on the plate, clothing, shelter and protecting her physically and emotionally when she is down. The men are ordered in the Quran to treat their wives with dignity, kindness and are commanded that they should be protected when they feel low. In a Muslim society, the husband has full responsibility for the maintenance of his family. This is not only a moral but also a legal obligation. Anything a wife earns is her own to dispose of, either to use it herself or to contribute it to the family budget if she wishes to do so.

3. The Arabic word ‘Nushuz’

The Quranic verse hints to us that Nushuz here entails something to do with cheating. The words “Hafizatun Lil-Ghaybi Bima Hafiza” (“guarding in the unseen that which (orders) them to guard” straight after comes Nushuz. Nushuz here is connected to unfaithfulness in marriage i.e., sexual sin. It orders the wife to guard her chastity while the husband is away. In basic English terminology God commands the wife to safeguard herself and not cheat behind her husband’s back:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel (strength) the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and GUARD in the husband’s absence what ALLAH ORDERS THEM TO GUARD. As to those women on whose part you SEE INFIDELITY (NUSHUZAHUNNA), admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them. Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.” – Quran 4:34

The words “Hafizatun Lil-Ghaybi Bima Hafiza”, means the wife is told to guard the chastity of the marriage. In basic words, they don’t cheat on their husband. In this specific verse (4:34) we see that the words “Hafizatun Lil-Ghaybi Bima Hafiza” and Nushuz have a clear connection and are related to this article under discussion. Those words in the verse of the Quran here orders the wife to protect her chastity. Nusuhuz and the previous word are interconnected in order to understand the verse historically.

Another word which stands out under careful examination is “fear”. The verse starts off with telling the husband, “if you fear” (“Wa-Allati Takhafuna”/”وَاللَّاتِي تَخَافُونَ”) Nushuz. How are we determine what this means? In order to answer this, we need to ask the following question, what is there that would make a husband fear and make him worry about his wife the most in a relationship? Does shouting, raising one’s voice or have verbal discord at home sound like this suits the verse? No! The most logical explanation here is that the fear is in regards to evident cheating on the wife’s part. If you ask any husband what would make them fear or worry about their spouse doing? They would naturally say a wife being unfaithful, cheating behind his back. Committing adultery. Some of the Quran translations have alluded to this (“disloyalty” and “infidelity“):

Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938):
“As to those women on whose part ye fear DISLOYALTY…” – Q. 4:34

Yusuf Ali (Saudi Rev. 1985)
“As to those women on whose part ye fear DISLOYALTY…” – Q. 4:34

Wahiduddin Khan (Edition, 2013)
“As for those from whom you apprehend INFIDELITY…” – Q. 4:34

Syed Vickar Ahamed (Edition, 2007):
“As to those women on whose part you fear DISLOYALTY…” – Q. 4:34

Talal A. Itani (New Translation. 2012):
“As for those from whom you fear DISLOYALTY…” – Q. 4:34

Bilal Muhammad (2013 Edition):
“As for those whom you suspect DISLOYALTY…” – Q. 4:34

We have gathered the following facts from Quran 4:34,

1. “Hafizatun Lil-Ghaybi Bima Hafiza” orders the wife to guard her chastity, basically not to cheat.
2. If you fear (“Wa-Allati Takhafuna”/”وَاللَّاتِي تَخَافُونَ”) Nushuz, further shows that the order in the verse is in relation to a unfaithful and a cheating wife.

A clarification for some our readers: nushuz part, equating it with adultery but this is not necessarily only that. A husband finding his wife walking with a man holding his hand or just kissing would also fall under this definition of Nushuz. Or whenever the man returns home, he finds a man walking out the back door which results him doubting his wife also falls under this term.

In this section, we have clarified from the Quran’s point of view that Nushuz is connected to cheating on the wife’s part.

4. The Connection of Nushuz And Fahishah Mubayyina In The Farewell Sermon Hadith

The Prophetic statement recorded in a number of Hadith connects Nushuz to infidelity (adultery). The Arabic word Nushuz is connected to “Fahisha” (“بِفَاحِشَةٍ”). In the Prophet Muhammed’s farewell sermon (“Khutbat al-Wadaa”) we are told that he ordered his people to be kind to their wives. And if they are guilty of Fahisha Mubayyinah or seen a man on his bed with his wife (cheating) he is allowed (or the courts) lightly to beat his wife, without leaving any marks:

“It was narrated that: Sulaiman bin Amr bin Ahwas said: “My father told me that he was present at the Farewell Pilgrimage with the Messenger of Allah. He praised and glorified Allah, and reminded and exhorted (the people). Then he said: ‘I ENJOIN GOOD TREATMENT OF WOMEN, for they are prisoners with you, and you have no right to treat them otherwise, unless THEY COMMIT CLEAR INDECENCY (FAHISHA MUBAYYINA/”بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ”). IF THEY DO THAT, then forsake them in their beds and hit them, but without causing injury or leaving a mark. If they obey you, then do not seek means of annoyance against them. You have rights over your women and your women have rights over you. Your rights over your women are that they are not to allow anyone whom you dislike to TREAD ON YOUR BEDDING, NOR ALLOW ANYONE WHOM YOU DISLIKE TO ENTER YOUR HOUSES. And their right over you are that you should treat them kindly with regard to their clothing and food.’ ” (Sunan Ibn Majah volume 3, Book 9, Hadith 1851, Eng. Tran., Sahih Darussalam https://sunnah.com/urn/1319250)

Jami at-Tirmidhi:

“Sulaiman bin Amr bin Al-Ahwas said: “My father narrated to me that he witnessed the farewell Hajj with the Messenger of Allah. So he thanked and praised Allah and he reminded and gave admonition. He mentioned a story in his narration and he (the Prophet) said: “And indeed I ORDER YOU TO BE GOOD TO THE WOMEN, for they are but captives with you over whom you have no power than that, except IF THEY COME WITH MANIFEST FAHISHAH (“بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ”). If they do that, then abandon their beds and beat them with a beating THAT IS NOT HARMFUL (“وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ”). And if they obey you then you have no cause against them. Indeed you have rights over your women, and your women have rights over you. As for your rights over your women, then they must not allow anyone whom you dislike TO TREAT ON YOUR BEDDING, NOR TO ADMIT ANYONE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU DISLIKE. And their rights over you are that you treat them well in clothing them and feeding them.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi volume 1, Book 7, Hadith 1163. Eng. Tran., Sahih Darussalam https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/12/18 )

Jami at-Tirmidhi:

“Narrated Sulaiman bin ‘Amr bin Al-Ahwas: “My father narrated to me that he attended the Farewell Hajj with the Messenger of Allah. He expressed his gratitude to Allah and praised Him, and reminded and exhorted, then he said: ‘Which day is most sacred? Which day is most sacred? Which day is most sacred?’ He said: “So the people said: ‘The day of Al-Hajj Al-Akbar O Messenger of Allah!’ So he said: ‘Indeed, your blood, your wealth, your honor, is as sacred for you as the sacredness of this day of yours, in this city of yours, in this month of yours. Behold! None commits a crime but against himself, none offends a father for a son, nor a son for a father. Behold! … Behold! I ORDER YOU TO TREAT WOMEN WELL, for they are but like captives with you, you have no sovereignty beyond this over them, unless they MANIFEST LEWDNESS (FAHISHA MUBAYYINA/“ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ”). If they do that, then abandon their beds, and beat them with a beating THAT IS NOT PAINFUL (“وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ”). Then if they obey you, then there is no cause for you against them beyond that. Behold! There are rights for you upon your women, and rights for your women upon you. As for your rights upon them, then they ARE NOT TO ALLOW ANYONE ON YOUR BEDDING whom you dislike, nor permit anyone whom your dislike in your homes. Behold! Indeed their rights upon you are that you treat them well in clothing them and feeding them.'” (Jami at-Tirmidhi volume 5, Book 44, Hadith 3087. Eng. Tran., Hasan Darussalam https://sunnah.com/urn/740930)

Imam Nasir al-Din Abu al-Khair Abdullah Ibn Umar al-Baydawi (d. 1286):

“You have a right over your women. [The right] is yours that they should not cause anyone you dislike to TREAD YOUR BEDS [la yuti’na furusha-kum/”أَلاَّ يُوطِئْنَ فُرُشَكُمْ”] and that they should not commit an open IMMORAL ACT (FAHISHAH MUBAYYINAH). If they do, God permits you to break off relations with them in beds and to beat them, but not severely. If they finally desist they shall have their maintenance and clothing in accordance with custom (bi-‘l-ma’ruf)” (Commentarius in Koranum, [Edition H. C. Fleischer, Leipzig, 1846-8], by Nasir al-Din Abu al-Khair Abdullah Ibn Umar al-Baydawi, page 121)

The Hadith recorded in Sunan al-Kubra by Abu Bakr Ahmed Ibn al-Hussayn al-Bayhaqi (994 – 1066), the words from Surah 4:34 is clearly mentioned in the farewell sermon:

“Fear Allah concerning your women, indeed they have rights over you and you have rights over them. THEY SHOULD NOT GIVE YOUR BEDS [FURUSHAKUM/” فُرُشَكُمْ”] TO ANYONE OTHER THAN YOU and they should not permit anyone you dislike into your houses [Buyutikum/” بُيُوتِكُمْ”]. IF YOU FEAR NUSHUZ from them, then admonish them, and abandon them in the bed, and hit them without causing extreme pain [Ghair Mubarrih/” غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ”] (Quran 4:34). And their rights over you is that you provide for them and clothe them in a manner that is good. Indeed you have taken them as a trust from Allah, since you seek to make their private parts permissible to you with Allah’s word, and the one who has a trust must return it to the one who entrusted it to him.” (Sunan al-Kubra [Beirut – Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1994], by Abu Bakr Ahmed Ibn al-Hussayn al-Bayhaqi, volume 2, page 257)

So what exactly does the Arabic word “Fahisha” mean? According to Arabic-English dictionaries the word carries the meaning of “whoredom”, “harlot”, “Adultery”, “illicit sexual intercourse”, “fornicates”, and “fornication”. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

The companions of Prophet Muhammed (p) and the Tabi’een (individuals who did not meet the Prophet but met his companions)  such as, Abdullah bin Masud (d. 650), Ibn Abbas (619 – 687), Sa’id bin Al-Musayyib (637 – 715), Ash-Sha’bi (d. 722-23), Al-Hasan (d. 728), Ibn Sirin (653 – 733), Mujahid (642 – 722), Ikrimah (d. 723), Sa’id bin Jubayr (665 – 714), Abu Qilabah (d. 722-23), Abu Salih, Ad-Dahhak (d. 723), Zayd bin Aslam (d. 753), Ata Al-Khurasani (670 – 752), As-Suddi (d. 745), Sa’id bin Hilal and others have said that ‘Fahisa Mubayyina’ means “adultery” or advancing sexual desire or lust (cheating) to another man. [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

The basic order of the Prophetic statement is that a wife should not allow any but the husband to tread the bed nor enter the house, nor should she commit an immoral act – not to cheat. Nushuz in light of Prophet’s Muhammed’s (p) statement means a wife that is caught bringing a man into the husband’s bed or committing an immoral act or advancing sexual lust to another man. [22] [23]

It is a husband’s nature, especially in a patriarchal society when this verse was revealed, over thirteen hundred years ago if he caught a man in his bed with his wife, he would do something that may endanger the life of her wife and the man caught in the act. The husband may take such an action that may lead to injury or even death of the man and his wife. There have been many cases where men have caught their wives cheating and it has led to the death of women in the Western world. Many heinous cases have been reported in the Western World where a husband has taken the life of his wife due to suspicion of her cheating. [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] Just a case recently where a woman was talking to another man, the husband (Robert Bance) saw the two talking to each other in the pub, he lost it and ended up stabbing his wife 20 times for merely talking. [37] The Quran and the Prophet (p) categorically condemns and prohibits such evil actions. But sadly this happens all around the world.

God in all his Mercy Knows that it was in the nature of patriarchal male that if he saw his wife advancing sexual attention or caught cheating the man in the vast majority of cases would take to harm his wife and the man. The steps categorized in Surah 4:34 was a way to prevent the man from harming his wife. It was of controlling the anger of the man. It was steps in anger management.

The first step that was utilized in this, was to approach the wife and advise her with words where there are issues at home in relation to arguments or any other matter. If she continues causing distress and arguments and feuds continue, the husband is to separate the bed, not sleep with her. This way the husband was giving her the time to calm down, reflect and sort things out as adults. The Quran’s last resort is in relation to evident cheating of the wife only. This last step was understood as to hit lightly in the case of clear evident adultery. Scholars like Ibn Ashur, Khaled Abu Fadl, Dr. Shabir Ally and others have pointed out that the light hit (Dharb Ghayr Mubarrih) the wife receives is meted out by the courts. The husband is not allowed to touch her. They use the Quranic evidence from 4:34-35 to point out that is the courts who inflict such a punishment, not the husband. [38] [39]

With the above in perspective, one can safely say with the evidences presented that Nushuz is connected to Fahisha. Which is the stage wherein it refers to unwarranted behaviour on the wife where she is making sexual advances to another party – be that in the house or outside or clear evident adultery.

5. The Prophet Muhammed’s Conduct With His Wives

Some have argued that a simple argument, or the wife being harsh means that the husband can use physical force. Although some have interpreted Nushuz as a wife who disobeys her husband in regards to arguing with her husband or having disputes – this interpretation is alien to the Prophet Muhammed. The wives of the Prophet (p) did not hesitate to speak their mind when there were issues. For the Prophet (p) to connect Nushuz to Fahisha Mubayyina is clear, that Surah 4:34 relates to sexual advances or the wife caught cheating (adultery). There are numerous instances where the Prophet (p) had disputes and his wife annoying him, where he would not speak to them for days. He did not lash out or raise his hand against them. There is a number of famous Hadith reports where some of the wives shout, throwing mood swings and arguing with the Prophet (p). At times Hafsa, the Prophet’s wife used to argue to the extend of upsetting him, yet he kept cool [40]:

“Narrated Ibn `Abbas: For one year I wanted to ask `Umar about the two women who helped each other against the Prophet but I was afraid of him. One day he dismounted his riding animal and went among the trees of Arak to answer the call of nature, and when he returned, I asked him and he said, “(They were) `Aisha and Hafsa.” Then he added, “We never used to give significance to ladies in the days of the Pre-lslamic period of ignorance, but when Islam came and Allah mentioned their rights, we used to give them their rights but did not allow them to interfere in our affairs. Once there was some DISPUTE BETWEEN ME AND MY WIFE AND SHE ANSWERED ME BACK IN A LOUD VOICE. I said to her, ‘Strange! You can retort in this way?’ She said, ‘Yes. Do you say this to me while your daughter TROUBLES ALLAH’S MESSENGER?’ So I went to Hafsa and said to her, ‘I warn you not to DISOBEY ALLAH AND HIS APOSTLE.’ I first went to Hafsa and then to Um Salama and told her the same. She said to me, ‘O `Umar! It surprises me that you interfere in our affairs so much that you would poke your nose even into the affairs of Allah’s Messenger and his wives.’ So SHE REJECTED MY ADVICE. … A great event has happened!’ I asked him, ‘What is it? Has the Ghassani (king) come?’ He said, ‘Greater than that! Allah’s Messenger has divorced his wives! I went to them and found all of them weeping in their dwellings, and the Prophet had ascended to an upper room of his. At the door of the room there was a slave to whom I went and said, “Ask the permission for me to enter.” He admitted me and I entered to see the Prophet lying on a mat that had left its imprint on his side. Under his head there was a leather pillow stuffed with palm fires. Behold! There were some hides hanging there and some grass for tanning. THEN I MENTIONED WHAT I HAD SAID TO HAFSA AND UM SALAMA and what reply Um Salama had given me. Allah’s Messenger SMILED AND STAYED THERE FOR TWENTY NINE DAYS AND THEN CAME DOWN.” (Sahih al-Bukhari volume 7, Book 72, Hadith 734. Eng. Tran. https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/60 )

Sahih Muslim

“Abdullah b. Abbas reported: …He (the narrator) stated that ‘Umar had said: By Allah, during the days of ignorance we had no regard for women until Allah the Exalted revealed about them what He has revealed, and appointed (turn) for them what he appointed. He said: It so happened that I was thinking about some matter that my wife said: I wish you had done that and that. I said to her: It does not concern you and you should not feel disturbed in a matter which I intend to do. She said to me: How strange is it that you, O son of Khattab, do not like anyone to retort upon you, whereas YOUR DAUGHTER RETORTS UPON ALLAH’S MESSENGER UNTIL HE SPENDS THE DAY IN VEXATION. ‘Umar said: I took hold of my cloak, then came out of my house until I visited Hafsa and said to her: O daughter, (I HEARD) THAT YOU RETORT UPON ALLAH’S MESSENGER UNTIL HE SPENDS THE DAY IN VEXATION, WHEREUPON HAFSA SAID: BY ALLAH, WE DO RETORT UPON HIM. I said: You should bear in mind, my daughter, that I warn you against the punishment of Allah and the wrath of His Messenger. You may not be misled by one whose beauty has fascinated her, and the love of Allah’s Messenger for her. I (‘Umar) then visited Umm Salama because of my relationship with her and I talked to her. Umm Salama said to me: Umar b. al-Khattab, how strange is it that you meddle with every matter so much so that you are anxious to interfere between Allah’s Messenger and his wives, and this perturbed me so much that I refrained from saying what I had to say, so I came out of her apartment, and I had a friend from the Anar. … My friend, the Ansari, came to me, and he knocked at the door and said: Open it, open it. I said: Has the Ghassani come? He said: (The matter is) more serious than that. The Messenger of Allah HAS SEPARATED HIMSELF FROM HIS WIVES. I said: Let the nose of Hafsa and ‘A’isha be besmeared with dust. I then took hold of my cloth and went out until I came and found Allah’s Messenger in his attic to which he climbed by means of a ladder made of date-palm, and the servant of Allah’s Messenger who was black had been sitting at the end of the ladder. I said: This is Umar. So permission was granted to me. I narrated this news to Allah’s Messenger and as I NARRATED THE NEWS CONCERNING UMM SALAMA, ALLAH’S MESSENGER SMILED. ….” (Sahih Muslim Book 9, Hadith 3508 https://sunnah.com/muslim/18/41 )

Sahih Muslim:

“I wish if you had seen how we the people of Quraish had domination over women but when we came to Medina we found people whom THEIR WOMEN DOMINATED. So our women began to learn from their women. One day I became angry with MY WIFE AND SHE BEGAN TO RETORT UPON ME. I did not approve that she should retort upon me. She said: You do not like that I should retort upon you, but, by Allah, THE WIVES OF ALLAH’S APOSTLE RETORT UPON HIM AND ANY ONE OF THEM SEPARATES HERSELF FROM HIM FOR A DAY UNTIL NIGHT. I said: He who did that amongst them in fact failed and incurred loss. Does any of them feel safe from the wrath of Allah upon her due to the wrath of Allah’s Messenger, and she has certainly perished. ALLAH’S MESSENGER SMILED, I said: Messenger of Allah, I visited Hafsa and said: (THE BEHAVIOUR) of your companion (‘A’isha) may not mislead you, If she is more graceful than you and is dearer to Allah’s Messenger than you. Allah’s Messenger SMILED for the second time. … I said: Allah’s Messenger! seek pardon for me. And he (Allah’s Messenger) had taken an oath that he would not visit them for a month DUE TO EXTREME ANNOYANCE with them until Allah showed His displeasure to him (Allah’s Messenger).” Sahih Muslim Book 9, Hadith 3511. Eng Tran. https://sunnah.com/muslim/18/44 )

In the first report, it mentions where we are told that the Prophet Muhammed (p) isolated himself for 29 days, and he returned to his wives. Aishah (ra) informed the Prophet that he returned one day early, and it is not 30 days yet. The Prophet smiled and told her that there are 29 days in some months in a year. The purpose of it here is that the Prophet (p) loved his wives so much so that he wanted to get back to them. He didn’t demand them to apologise for what was said to him prior.

In another similar version, Umar Ibn Khattab was about to raise his hand against his daughter Hafsa for upsetting the Prophet. Prophet Muhammed (p) immediately walks in and did not allow him to touch her:

“Hafsa, like A’isha with whom she became close friends, was never at a loss for words, and was not afraid to argue with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who was content to allow her to say what she thought. One day, while speaking to Hafsa’s mother Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “I think I shall so and so.” Whereupon his wife replied, “But it would be better if you did such and such.” “Are you arguing with me, woman?” said Umar who was a fierce man who did not expect his wives to talk back at him. “Why not?” she answered. “Your daughter KEEPS ARGUING WITH THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH UNTIL SHE UPSETS HIM FOR THE WHOLE DAY.” Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) immediately put on his cloak and went directly to his daughter’s house. “Is it true that you argue with the Messenger of Allah?” he asked. “INDEED I DO.” She replied. Umar was just about to chastise her for what he considered were bad manners, when THE PROPHET (PEACE AND BLESSINGS OF ALLAH BE UPON HIM) CAME INTO THE ROOM AND WOULD NOT ALLOW HIM TO EVEN TOUCH HER. So Umar went round to visit Umm Salama, to whom Umar was related in order to try and influence Hafsa’s behavior through her.
“I wonder at you, Ibn Khattab,” she said, after she had listened to him. “You have interfered in everything. Will you now interfere between the Messenger of Allah and his wives?” Sayiduna Umar when relating this incident, continued, “And she kept after me until she made me give up much of what I thought proper.’” (Muhammad’s Life – The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad, by Ibn Kathir, [translated by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah, Office of the Grand Imam, Sheikh Al Azhar, Edited by: Aelfwine Acelas Mischler], Online source http://web.archive.org/web/20030728194043/http://www.islamic-paths.org/Home/English/Muhammad/Book/Wives/Chapter_04.htm )

A similar incident is also reported between Aisha and the Prophet (p) [41]:

“It is narrated by Nu‘man ibn Basheer: Abu Bakr came and sought permission to enter the Prophet’s house. He heard ‘A’ISHAH RAISING HER VOICE OVER THAT OF THE PROPHET’S. After being permitted, he entered, got hold of her, and said: O daughter of Umm Rooman, why are you raising your voice over that of the Messenger of Allah? The Prophet intervened and PREVENTED HIM FROM HITTING HIS DAUGHTER. When Abu Bakr left, the Prophet consoled her and said: Did you see how I saved you from him? After a while, Abu Bakr returned, sought permission to enter, and this time he saw the PROPHET JOKING AND LAUGHING WITH ‘A’ISHAH. Abu Bakr said: O Messenger of Allah, allow me to be part of your peace, just as you have allowed me to be part of your conflict.” (Related by Ahmed, graded as hasan) (The prophet Mohammad The Best of All Husbands (“Al-Nabi Sallahu Alayhi Wa-Sallam Zawja”) [Translated by Najwa Jaffer] by Dr. Ghazi al-Shammari, page 35 – 36)

There is also the incident of Aisha deliberately breaking a bowl of food out of jealousy in front of Prophet Muhammed (p) and his companions:

Anas narrated: “One of the wives of the Prophet gave the Prophet some food in a bowl. Then ‘Aishah broke the bowl with her hand, and discarded what was in it. So the Prophet said: “Food for food and vessel for vessel.” (Jami at-Tirmidhi, volume 3, Book 13, Hadith 1359. Eng. Tran., Sahih Darussalam https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/15/39)

In another version, it is said that a bowl was struck deliberately so that it breaks. The Prophet (p) calmly picks up the food:

“Anas said: “The Prophet was with one of the Mothers of the Believers when another one sent a wooden bowl in which was some food. SHE STRUCK THE HAND OF THE PROPHET AND THE BOWL FELL AND BROKE. The Prophet picked up the two pieces and put them together, then he started to gather up the food and said: ‘YOUR MOTHER GOT JEALOUS; EAT.’ SO THEY ATE. He waited until she brought the wooden bowl that was in her house, then he gave the sound bowl to the messenger and left the broken bowl in the house of the one who had broken it.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i volume 4, Book 36, Hadith 3407. Eng. Tran. Sahih (Darussalam https://sunnah.com/nasai/36/17 )


“It was narrated that Anas bin Malik said: “The Prophet was with one of the Mothers of the Believers (his wives) and another (wife) sent a bowl containing food. SHE (THE FIRST WIFE) STRUCK THE HAND OF THE MESSENGER OF AND THE BOWL FELL AND BROKE. THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH TOOK THE TWO PIECES AND PUT THEM BACK TOGETHER, THEN HE STARTED GATHERING UP THE FOOD and putting it in (the bowl). HE SAID: ‘YOUR MOTHER WAS JEALOUS. EAT.’ So they ate, and she (the wife who broke the bowl) brought the bowl that was in her house and gave the intact bowl to the Messenger, who left the broken bowl in the house of the one who broke it.” (Sunan Ibn Majah volume 3, Book 13, Hadith 2334. Eng. Tran. Sahih Darussalam https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah/13/27 )

What sort of a husband today would tolerate such an act? Here we see Prophet Muhammed (p) calmly picking up the food and eating it without reprimanding his wife.

The qualities of mercy, kindness, and leniency and patience in the Prophet Muhammed’s personality are best exhibited in his relationship with his wives and this can be seen in the following example also:

“It is narrated by Anas: Every night, the Prophet’s wives used to collect in the house of the wife whose turn it was. Zaynab entered ‘Aishah’s house and the Prophet extended his hand, so ‘Aishah said: She is Zaynab. So the Prophet closed his fist, and both (wives) began arguing until their voices became very loud. Abu Bakr, who was passing by, heard them and said: I feel like throwing dirt in their mouths. The time for prayer approached, so the Prophet got up and left without saying anything to her, but Abu Bakr came back and scolded ‘Aishah. (Sahih Muslim Book 8, Hadith 3450 Eng. Tran., https://sunnah.com/muslim/17/61 )

The Prophet’s patience can be seen clearly here. Even though his wives were arguing in front of him he did not reprimand them.

This is the magnificent patience that the Prophet (p) shown in all these instances. When Umar Ibn al-Khattab’s wife retorted to her husband over some issues, he took it as a great offence, yet the Prophet Muhammed’s wives were used to answering him back, arguing with him, raising their voices and having discussions with him, and he would calmly listen to them without denying them this indulgence. This shows the humility, mercy, and kindness and patience with which he dealt with his wives. In fact, he was so kind and patient with his wives that they would talk back to him and abandon him until night came, but he would remain patient and forgiving. Based on these instances,  and Prophet Muhammed’s use of the words ‘Fashishah Mubayyinah’ in his Khutbat al-Wadaa (farewell sermon) it shows that Surah 4:34, Nushuz refers directly to cases in which there is a clear and evident adultery or something equal to that. Not disobedience or mere violations on to the husband’s whims and wishes. For the life of Prophet Muhammed (p) refutes the claim that mere disobedience to husband warrants striking a wife, this act is abhorred, alien and unheard of when we analyse the Prophet Muhammed’s life.

6. Speaking to your wife (1) and then separating beds (2)

It is also important to highlight that when a wife was disobedient in the sense of arguing, being confrontational or raising their voices – the Quran orders to sort their differences with words. When the verbal complaint to the wife was exhausted and the wife continues with the same old behaviour in the case where it is seriously disturbing the marriage, the Quran orders the husband to separate beds. Depriving her of sexual needs. In the case of a wife who was caught inviting men into the house (cheating), making sexual advances, seriously disturbing the peace in marriage God granted the husband only in this instance to hit the wife lightly. The rule here was an exception, not the norm. Touching a wife in any other instance besides unfaithfulness (adultery) on the wife’s part, is clear that he had broken the covenant of Allah and his Messenger. Even in this case, it was suggested by some scholars it is best not to touch her, file a divorce and go your separate ways.

7. The Arabic word “Daraba”

The phrase ‘Id’ribuhunna’ for chapter 4 verse 34, has been by many critics, especially Anti-Islam propagandists have twisted and distorted the verse. The claim that the word sanctions (approves) of wife abuse has no historical basis. ‘Id’ribuhunna’, the verb of which is Daraba (“ضَرَبَ“). Daraba has many meanings, here are some of them:

“Daraba (darb) to beat, strike, … to play … (to play musical instrument)l to make music; to type ( on a type writer); to sting (scorpion); to separate, part (… people); to impose (… on s.o. s.th.). to turn away from, leave, forsake, abandon, avoid, or shun s.o. or s.th.; – (darb, … daraban) to pulsate. … to move, stir, to rove, roam about, travel. …” (M…” (Hans Wehr A Dictionary of Modern written Arabic [Edited by John Milton – Spoken Language Services, Inc. 1976, 4th edition], page 629)

In this case it is understood for the passage (Q 4:34) to mean ‘beat’ lightly (non-violent). This final step the husband was allowed to take, was in the case of clear adultery or something equal to that.

When one looks at the verse in its historical perspective, it was always understood in a symbolic way. It was pointed out by the earliest scholars of Islam that the husband is not allowed to hurt, bruise, break any part of her body and must avoid the face. Prophet Muhammad (p) stated in his farewell pilgrimage as we showed earlier:

“Treat women kindly, they are like captives in your hands; you do not owe anything else from them. In case they are guilty of open indecency (Fahishah Mubayyinah), then do not share their beds and beat them lightly but if they return to obedience, do not have recourse to anything else against them. You have rights over your wives and they have their rights over you. Your right is that they shall not permit anyone you dislike to enter your home, and their right is that you should treat them well in the matter of food and clothing.” (Jami at-Tirmidhi, volume 1, Book 7, Hadith 1163. Eng. Tran., Sahih Darussalam)

We see from the above narration the Prophet (p) commanding his early followers that they treat their wives with kindness. The Prophet (p) also mentions that if his wife is found to be “guilty of indecency” (Fahisha Mubayyina), in this case, he was allowed to strike lightly in this instance only. Furthermore, how do we know that the strike is non-violent, non-aggressive and light?

This last resort was understood by Prophet Muhammed in the above Hadith and scholars as ‘beat lightly’ or “non-violent strike’ (“ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ”), touching her in such a way as to not leave a mark, nor hurt her. Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838 – 923 AD) who is one of the earliest commentators of the Quran writes on Surah 4:34. Tabari has a tradition going back to one of the Companions of the Prophet (p) explains the word ‘beat’ as:

“I asked Ibn Abbas: ‘What is the hitting that is Ghayr Al-Mubarrih?’ He replied [with] the siwak (toothbrush like a twig) and the like’. [Narrated by al-Tabari in his tafsir [Dar al-fikr] volume 5, page 68)

Furthermore, Al-Razi (865 – 925 AD) who was a scholar also comments on the verse and mentions that as a rule,
(a) it must be a light beating and (b) the face must be avoided. He added that certain Shafi’I jurists said “coiled scarf (mindil malfuf) or his hand may be used but not a whip nor a stick (Al-Razi volume 3, page 222).

Sufyan Ibn Uyaynah (725 – 814 AD) states clearly that the punishment is “non-violent” [42] [43] [44]. From the evidence presented, it is abundantly clear that the beat was non-violent and light, that one was to use a Miswak (toothbrush) or “coiled scarf”, as the scholars stated. It is evident that the force utilised by a ‘folded scarf’ or a ‘miswak’ is, therefore, purely symbolic, it was in no way meant to hurt her. It was more of a shock.

8. Non-Muslim Academics on Surah 4:34

John Louis Esposito (b. 1940) is a professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He is a Catholic Christian he says in his book “What does Islam have to say about domestic violence?” He states that domestic violence is completely forbidden and the Prophet’s conduct is clear that he never touched any of his wives:

“Domestic violence is a serious social problem in the West and globally, and the Muslim world is no exception. Many grass-roots movements and women’s organizations who work to eradicate it through education for both men and women emphasize Quranic teachings about the rights and responsibilities of men and women and about marital relations. In some Muslim societies, men use the Quran to justify domestic violence. However, many verses in the Quran teach that men and women are to be kind to and supportive of each other. Love and justice in family relationships are emphasized, and cruelty is forbidden. Quran 30:21 states, ‘And among his signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your [hearts]: behold, verily in that are signs for those who reflect.’ Quran 4:19 further commands, ‘O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness. On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing through which God brings about a great deal of good. ’Chronologically, the last Quranic verse to be revealed that addressed relations between husband and wife was 9:71, in which women and men are described as being each other’s protecting friends and guardians, emphasizing their cooperation in living together as partners, rather than adversaries or superiors and subordinates.Likewise, the hadith (Prophetic traditions) note Muhammad’s respect for and protection of women. Muhammad said, ‘The best of you is he who is best to his wife.’ Muhammad’s wife Aisha narrated that Muhammad never hit any servant or woman and never physically struck anyone with his own hand. Neither the Quran nor the hadith record Muhammad as ever mistreating or losing temper with any of his wives, even when he was unhappy or dissatisfied. Those who use the Quran to justify wife-beating point to 4:34, which says, ‘Good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which God has guarded. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, then banish them to beds apart and strike them. But if they obey you, do not seek a way against them.’ In recent years scholars have argued that ‘obedience’ refers to women’s attitude toward God, not toward her husband. Furthermore, obedience in this verse is tied to the women’s guarding of her chastity, so that an obedient women is one who does not commit sexual immorality. The word typically translated as ‘disobedience’ (Nushuz) refers to disruption of marital harmony in which one spouse fails to fulfil the required duties of marriage. It is applied elsewhere in the Quran to bother men and women. The end of the verse admonishes men not to mistreat women who obey them. Rather than granting men the right to strike their wives, reformers argue, this verse reminds men of their responsibility to treat women fairly. Quran 4:34 lists three methods to be used in resolving marital disputes. First comes admonition or discussion between the husband and wife alone or with the assistance of arbiters. This practice, also recommended by 4:35 and 4:128, is also to be used for couples considering divorce. If this fails, the second option is physical separation, sleeping in separate beds, which gives the couple space for cooling off and thinking about the future of their marital relationship. The third and final method is to strike or hit. The striking takes the singular form grammatically, so that only a single strike Is permissible. Quran 4:34 was revealed early In the Medinan period of Muhammad’s ministry, a time and place in which cruelty and violence against women remained rampant. Thus some Muslim scholars today argue that the single strike permitted in this verse was intended as a restriction on an existing practice, not as a recommended method for dealing with one’s wife.
In the major hadith collections– Muslim, Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Nasai, and Ibn Majah- hadith about striking all emphasize that striking should be done in such a way AS NOT TO CAUSE PAIN OR HARM. THESE SOURCES TRESS STRESS THAT IN CASES WHERE A SINGLE STRIKE IS USED, IT SHOULD BE MERELY SYMBOLIC. The founder of the Shafii law of school maintained that it is preferable to avoid striking altogether. Despite the fact that domestic violence continued to exist in male-dominated cultures and to be legitimated in the name of religion, neither the majority of Quranic verses nor the hadith support or permit it.” (What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam: Second Edition [Copyright 2011] by John L. Esposito page 114 – 116)

Rev. Dr. Ira Gilbert Zepp, Jr., professor emeritus of the Religious Studies department at McDaniel College, also comments on the Quranic passage 4:34, he writes the following:

“The husband is the head of the household, is the final authority, and has due obedience and cooperation from his wife. If the wife is rebellious or disobedient, there are several options open to the husband. He may first try dissuade her with kind and gentle reasoning. If this fails, he may then refrain from sleeping with her. And if the above are not effective, he has Quranic permission to ‘beat her lightly’ (4:34).
Such ‘slight physical correction’ (as Yusuf Ali says) avoids her face and other sensitive areas. Striking your wife in the face (as was pictured in the film Not without my Daughter) and other forms of verbal and physical cruelty have no sanction in the Quran.
Many Muslims feel that although permitted, such activity is not advisable and is the exception much more than the rule. If all else fails, the next verse (4:35) suggests the couple seek help and counsel from a mediator. Perhaps the disagreement between husband and wife can be resolved in this open, balanced and neutral way.” (A Muslim Primer: Beginner’s Guide to Islam, [Copyright 1992] by Ira G. Zepp Jr page, volume 1, 127 – 128)

Dr. Chris T. R. Hewer ‘comes from a background in Christian theology, education, Islamic studies and inter-faith studies and has worked in the field of Muslims in Britain and Christian-Muslim relations since 1986.’ Dr. Chris T.R Hewer who is of Christian faith, is another in line of respected experts commenting on the Quranic passage 4:34, he says:

“An adult woman has many rights within Islam that were granted by the Qur’an and Hadith of Muhammad but for which Western women have had to fight in the twentieth century. Both men and women have an equal responsibility to follow the Islamic way of life (Q. 33.35). A Muslim woman is allowed to own property in her own right and dispose of it without reference to her husband. She normally keeps her own name after marriage. She is permitted to make her own will to dispose of her goods after death. She has an entitlement to education at all levels equal to that of a man. She is entitled to sexual fulfilment. She has a right to engage in any profession or business. She should be consulted in public affairs, following the example of Muhammad who habitually sought the opinion of some of the Muslim women before making a decision. She has the right to keep and control her earnings, it being the duty of the husband to meet all domestic expenditure, house his family and educate his children (Q. 4.34).
There are no grounds for her to be a domestic drudge, it technically being the husband’s duty to see that hot food is laid before his wife. The only duty laid upon a wife is to be open to bear children, should God bless them, and to nurse them when they are young, although even here a wet-nurse can be retained. These are of course the ideals as provided by Islamic law but the realities in Muslim families around the world do not always follow these prescriptions.
Reference is often made to the verse of the Qur’an that appears to allow a husband to beat his wife (Q. 4.34). The context here is one of nushuz, a violation of duties on the part of the religious wife. This verse of the Quran lays down four steps to be taken, which may be seen as a correction and limitation of pre-Islamic practices. First the man should speak to his wife. If this fails, he should then refuse sleep with her. Only if this fails to change her ways, is he allowed a kind of symbolic humiliation by striking her with his miswak, a piece of wood smaller than a pencil, the tip of which is used for brushing the teeth. Even this is considered inadvisable in some schools of Islam, and any form of cruelty, including verbal abuse, is unanimously forbidden. Should all this fail, then the couple should seek arbitration within the family.”(Understanding Islam: The First Ten Steps [Copyright 2006] by Dr. Chris T. R. Hewer, Allan Anderson page 129 – 130)

Christian scholar Dr. Winfried Corduan states that the verse in question is in regards “marital infidelity”. The claim often spouted that the wife can be disciplined whenever the husband so wishes is not true. I don’t agree with everything he states, but nonetheless, he presents some things that are line with the historical understanding of the verse:

“Please note that his verse is NOT an unlimited licence for Muslim men to commit spousal abuse.
– Does this verse say that husbands may thrash their wives whenever they are upset with them? OF COURSE, NOT.
– Does it say that if the wife does not obey the husband in some unspecified matter, he is allowed to proceed through the sequence of disciplines: admonition, denial of marital relations, and finally light physical discipline? STILL, NO.
– The occasion for application of this verse is very clear. The only two areas to which it applies are (1) if the wife squanders her husband’s earnings, thereby putting both of them into economic jeopardy, and (2) (based on surrounding material) if the husband has good reason to suspect MARITAL INFIDELITY ON THE PART OF THE WIFE.
Thus, there are limits to a husband’s physical discipline of his wife in both occasion and method… If the issue is not resolved, the expected OUTCOME IS DIVORCE, NOT ESCALATING unilateral punishment of the woman.” (Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions [IVP Academic – An Imprint Of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois. Second edition, 2012] by Winfried Corduan, page 127 – 128)

Although some of the opinion(s) was not true as we have already explained earlier, however, One thing that stands out here is that the above scholars all agree that cruelty is forbidden. And that the rule here was an exception, not the norm.

9. Classical Scholars: ‘Do Not Hit Your Wife’

Some of the leading classical scholars have opined to the point of not hitting at all. Rather the husband should find other ways of solving their issues:

“The vast majority of the ulama across the Sunni schools of law inherited the Prophet’s unease over domestic violence and placed further restrictions on the evident meaning of the ‘Wife Beating Verse: A LEADING MECCAN SCHOLAR FROM THE SECOND GENERATION OF MUSLIMS, ATA’ BIN ABI RABAH, COUNSELED A HUSBAND NOT TO BEAT HIS WIFE even if she ignored him but rather to express his anger in some other way. Darimi, a teacher of both Tirmidhi and Muslim bin Hajjaj as well as a leading early scholar in Iran, collected all the Hadiths showing Muhammad’s disapproval of beating] in a chapter entitled ‘THE PROHIBITION ON STRIKING WOMEN. A thirteenth century scholar from Granada, Ibn Faras, notes that one camp of ulama had staked out a stance FORBIDDING STRIKING A WIFE ALTOGETHER, declaring it CONTRARY TO THE PROPHET’S EXAMPLE AND DENYING THE AUTHENTICITY OF ANY HADITHS THAT SEEMED TO PERMIT BEATING. Even IBN HAJAR, the pillar of late medieval Sunni Hadith scholarship, concludes that, contrary to what seems to be an explicit command in the Qur’an, the Hadiths of the Prophet leave no doubt that striking one’s wife to discipline her actually FALLS UNDER THE SHARIAH RULING OF ‘STRONGLY DISLIKED’ OR ‘DISLIKED VERGING ON PROHIBITED.” (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9:378-79) (Misquoting Muhammad – The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Oneworld Publications, 2014], by Jonathan A. C. Brown, page 275 – 276)

Ibn al-Arabi (d. 1148) agrees with the opinion of scholar Ata Ibn Abi Rabah’s (653 – 732 AD) who met the companions of Prophet Muhammed (p). Ata’s statement is that even when a woman who disobeys or does something which is against the husband he should not touch her:

“…women should not be beaten, even when they disobey their husbands’ orders. They should limit themselves to be angry with their wives.” (Ahkam al-Quran [Dar al kotob al Ilmiyyah , Beirut, Lebanon] by Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi, volume 1, page 469)

Classical jurist Imam al-Shafi’I states that although light beating was permissible as evidenced in Surah 4:34, but it is not compulsory (fard) nor a religious duty. He ends with the words it is better and preferable not touch your wife, rather the husband should use words or other means to sort things out as Prophet Muhammed (p) did throughout his life he never raised his finger against any of his wives:

“…we choose what the Messenger of Allah chose himself, and we prefer that the husband does not beat his wife when she goes too far against him in her words and similar things…” (Kitab Al-Umm [Edited by Muhammed Zuhri al-Najjar. Cairo – Maktabat al-Kulliyyat al-Ashariyya, 1381/1961], by Imam Al-Shafi’I, volume 5, page 194)

The great classical Quranic commentator, Imam Jalal al-Din as-Suyuti (1445 – 1505 AD) states in regard to 4:34:

“If strife ensues between a man and wife, HE SHOULD SEEK COUNSEL from the righteous men and someone who is his peer in righteousness among the women so they can determine which one of the two is in the wrong (and help them correct it).” (Jalal al-din as-Suyuţi, Al-durar al-manthur fi tafsir bi’l ma’thur, retrieved August 30, 2010 from AlTafsir.) (The Prohibition Of Domestic Violence In Islam – A Fatwa issued by Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani and Dr. Homayra Ziad [World Organization for Resource Development And Education, 2011], page 24)

Abu l-Qasim Abdu l-Karim al-Qushayri (986 – 1072 AD):

“What is meant here is to encourage them to correct themselves in stages and with KINDNESS. But if the matter is settled by admonishing then ONE SHOULD NOT BEAT HER (with a stick or the hand) BECAUSE THE VERSE IMPLIES the conduct of engaging in sexual relations.” (Abu l-Qasim Abdu l-Karim al-Qushayri, Laṭa’if al-isharat bi tafsir al-Qur’an (Egypt: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2000), retrieved August 30, 2010 from Altafsir website.) (The Prohibition Of Domestic Violence In Islam – A Fatwa issued by Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani and Dr. Homayra Ziad [World Organization for Resource Development And Education, 2011], page 23)

10. Physical Violence: A Right Of Divorce

The right of divorce is not always afforded to victims of abuse in some religions. For example, in the New Testament (Bible), Jesus says that only in the case of clear adultery does a wife have a right of divorce. If she divorces the husband without him being unfaithful (cheating) and marries again, she is called an “adulterous” woman (Matthew 5:32; 19:9, Luke 16:18 & Mark 10:10-12). The Law in the New Testament is so strict that even if a wife were to get abused physically or verbally she is forbidden from divorcing her husband. In Islam however, this is not the case. A wife has got the right to divorce if the husband abuses her physically or even verbally.

There was an incident in the life-time of Prophet Muhammed (p) where a man by the name of Thabit Ibn Qays hit his wife and injured her. The wife went to the Prophet (p) asking for a divorce, he granted her the wish:

“Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin: Habibah daughter of Sahl was the wife of Thabit ibn Qays Shimmas He beat her and broke some of her part. So SHE CAME TO THE PROPHET AFTER MORNING, AND COMPLAINED TO HIM AGAINST HER HUSBAND. The Prophet called on Thabit ibn Qays and said (to him): Take a part of her property AND SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM HER. He asked: Is that right, Messenger of Allah? He said: Yes. He said: I have given her two gardens of mine as a dower, and they are already in her possession. The Prophet said: Take them and SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM HER.” (Sunan Abi Dawud Book 12, Hadith 2220 Eng. Tran. Sahih al-Albani https://sunnah.com/abudawud/13/54 )

This incident is also reported in Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir – Muhammad Ibn Sa’d (784 – 845) [45]:

“…Habiba bint Sahl married Thabit ibn Qays. Thabit beat her and she went to the door of the Messenger of Allah in the morning in the darkness to COMPLAIN ABOUT HIM. She said, ‘I will not remain with Thabit. ‘The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Take back from her what you gave her.’ SHE HAD A … DIVORCE from him for what he had given her, and she remained with her family.'” Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir (“The Women Of Madina”) [Translated by Aisha Bewley – Ta-Ha Publishers LTD, 2015] by Muhammad Ibn Sa’d, volume 8, page 288)

Prophet Muhammed (p) disapproved of husbands’ who hit their wives. In these above reports, the Prophet (p) clearly expresses strong dislike and disapproval domestic abuse, as such considered it was a legitimate cause for a wife to get a divorce if the husband touched (beat) his wife. [46]

11. Domestic Violence: Compensating The Wife – Punishing The Husband

Where there was a wife abused the scholars made sure she was compensated and at times the husband was even punished (lashed). The judges used to dissolve the marriage:

“In articulating their understanding of what God meant in Qur’an 4:34, no Muslim scholar has understood the verse as granting a husband unrestricted license to strike his wife. On the contrary, beginning with Muhammad (or what Muslims imagined to be Muhammad), THE MAJORITY OF THE ULAMA STRONGLY DISCOURAGED ANY ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WIVES. And all schools of law offered the wife protection and required THE HUSBAND TO PAY HER COMPENSATION FOR INJURIES. Most allowed a JUDGE TO DISSOLVE THE MARRIAGE without the wife losing any financial rights. If one takes Shariah courts as the primary interpreters of God’s law, then they repeatedly said ‘no’ to the evident meaning of the Qur’anic verse. As defendants before a Shariah court, husbands effectively had no legitimate right to strike their wives.” (Misquoting Muhammad – The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Oneworld Publications, 2014], by Jonathan A. C. Brown, page 286)

There is an interesting case in which the companion of Prophet Muhammed (p), the second Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab (579 – 644 AD) meted out a punishment, a beating on a man as a result of him causing trouble and being harsh to his wife. After the punishment, the man returns to his wife this time kind and gentle and resolves the past issues between themselves. [47]

If a wife is injured by the husband it is an “actionable as a criminal offence” according to 12th Century scholar Al-Barakat Aimad Al-Dardir (d. 1201):

“Furthermore, any “HITTING” WHICH IS INJURIOUS or leaves a mark on the woman’s body is actionable as a CRIMINAL OFFENSE.”‘ (Al-Sharh Al-Saghir [Dar Al-Ma’aref], by Al-Barakat Aimad Al-Dardir, page 512) ((An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 221)

There was a case in the 17th century Ottoman court where a wife testified against her husband. She showed evidence that she was beaten and abused by her husband. The court reprimanded the husband and ordered that he be given “discretionary corporal punishment” (Ta’zir):

“In one court case from May 1687 Fatima bt. Hajj ‘Ali filed a lawsuit against her husband testifying that he was abusing her, he had hit her with a stick on her body and on her mouth causing her to bleed. She claimed that he was constantly abusive. In her defense [sic] she brought along five witnesses. The court reprimanded the abusive husband, ordering that HE BE GIVEN TA’ZIR (DISCRETIONARY CORPORAL PUNISHMENT). (The Ottoman Empire. Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Culture: Family, Law and Politics [Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2004], by E. Semerdjian, volume 2, page 121)., (A Critical Examination of Qur’an 4:34 and its Relevance to Intimate Partner Violence in Muslim Families [Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 2010] by Nada Ibrahim and Mohamad Abdalla, page 12 -13)

Professor Jonathan A. C. Brown shows instances in history where a wife was abused or beaten the Muslim scholars reprimanded, punished the husband and made sure the wife was compensated for her injuries:

“If the husband was in fact abusive, under the Maliki school in North Africa and Andalusia judges could TERMINATE THE MARRIAGE AND AWARD THE WIFE COMPENSATION. If the wife’s behavior was unbearable, the husband could receive a divorce by judicial decree. (27. Fierro, 324-33) … a famous tenth-century Hanafi jurist in Rayy (now absorbed into modern-day Tehran) wrote that it is the judge’s, responsibility to PREVENT A HUSBAND FROM ABUSING HIS WIFE, both by assigning the wife to live in the house of a trustworthy neighbor and by requiring compensation from the husband for any injury she suffered. Traveling in the fourteenth century through Mardin, near the contemporary Turkey-Syria border, Ibn Battuta recounts how the city’s chief judge had been approached by a woman COMPLAINING THAT HER HUSBAND HAD BEATEN HER. The court had closed for the day, but the judge accompanied the woman to the couple’s home and calmly spoke with the mortified husband in the presence of a crowd of prying neighbors, instructing him to put his affairs in order and GIVE HIS WIFE SATISFACTION. Despite the limitations that the empire’s official Hanafi school placed on judges in such matters, Ottoman court records suggest a similar receptiveness to wives seeking assistance. The influential sixteenth-century chief of the Ottoman religious establishment, Ebusu’ud Efendi, issued a fatwa that a judge was permitted to use any means possible TO PREVENT A HUSBAND FROM HURTING HIS WIFE. A leading Shariah consultant (mufti) to the courts in seventeenth-century Ottoman Palestine issued a fatwa that a husband who had knocked out three of his wife’s teeth HAD TO PAY THE SET COMPENSATION SUM OF ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY GOLD COINS. A series of cases from Shariah courts in and around Aleppo in the late 1600s and early 1700s demonstrated another phenomenon: women who had stipulated in their marriage contracts that if their husbands ever struck them THEY WOULD BE DIVORCED IMMEDIATELY, keeping their dower payment and with the husband responsible for spousal maintenance. (28. Elyse Semerdjian, of the Straight Path, 138-44.) Ottoman Shariah courts could end up extending their jurisdiction into the non-Muslim minorities in the empire. In 1529, the Ottoman Shariah court in a Greek town heard the complaint of a Christian family whose daughter had been beaten to death by her husband, ultimately awarding them her wergild amount. (29. Mathieu Tillier, ‘Women before the Qadi Under The Abbasids,’ 284; Ibn Battuta, Travels, 2:354-55; Judith Tucker, In the House of the Law, 66; Yvonne Seng, ‘Invisible Women: Residents of early Sixteenth-Century Istanbul,’ 250.) Shariah courts that continued under colonial rule and others that continue to function today have taken a similar approach. Women who come before the judge with complaints of abuse and evidence to prove it receive compensation for their injuries and, should they wish, judicially declared divorces and full maintenance rights. If a woman has no witnesses or other evidence that abuse has occurred, the judge might still house her with a neighbor temporarily. Shariah court records from Zanzibar between 1900 and 1950 show that judges would refuse to dissolve the marriages of wives who claimed their husbands abused them but could provide no witnesses, from among the neighbors or family, or other evidence to that effect. If there were any witnesses, the judges immediately housed the wife with a reliable neighbor, dissolved the marriage and fined the husband. (30. Elke E. Stokreiter, Child Marriage and Domestic Violence: Islamic and Colonial Discourses on Gender Relations and female Status in Zanzibar, 1900-1959s, in Domestic Violence and the Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa, ed. Emily S. Burrill, et al., 138, 143-44.) In French West Africa in 1911, courts in Kita and Jenne (both in present-day Mali) GRANTED DIVORCES TO NUMEROUS WOMEN WHO CLAIMED THEIR HUSBANDS HAD BEATEN THEM and either brought witnesses to corroborate this or when the husband admitted it. The courts usually AWARDED THE WIFE COMPENSATION FROM THE HUSBAND, DISSOLVED THE MARRIAGE and allowed the wife to keep her dower gift. One case records the husband explaining to the judge why his wife deserved a beating. The court ignored him since, by dint of requiring legal remedy, his actions had exceeded his rights to discipline her.” (31. Emily Burrill and Richard Roberts, Domestic Violence, Colonial Courts, and the End of Slavery in French Soudan, 1905-12, in Burril., et al., 45-46.) A case from Casablanca in 1917 shows how the classical principles of Shariah procedure were still active. If neighbors claimed they heard a wife screaming but saw nothing (i.e., they could provide no evidence of abuse), THE JUDGE WOULD STILL PUNISH THE HUSBAND. In the Maliki school it was reasoned that, if the husband had not sought help from anyone when his wife was screaming, it could be assumed that he had been responsible for her distress.” (32. Fierro, 336) (Misquoting Muhammad – The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Oneworld Publications, 2014], by Jonathan A. C. Brown, page 282 – 284)

The Hanafite scholar Al-Jassas (917 -981) states that a judge must prevent a husband from abusing his wife, and if it continues the judge was allowed (permitted) to sentence him to physical punishment (“Ta’zir”) [48]:

“An ill-treated woman might file a complaint against her husband. … according to al-Jaṣṣaṣ, THE QADI MUST PREVENT HER HUSBAND FROM ABUSING HER. (Al-Jaṣṣas, in al-Khaṣṣaf, Adab al-qadi, p. 652) He can order a man to let his wife live in the house of respectable neighbors (Saliḥin) who will inform the qaḍi about the husband’s behavior with his wife. If it appears that he is in fact maltreating her, the qadi will REPRIMAND HIM OR SENTENCE HIM TO PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT. (Al-Khassaf, Adab al-qadi, p. 652.” (Women before the Qadi Under the Abbasids [BRILL – Islamic Law and Society 16 (2009)] by Mathieu Tillier, page 284)

In recent times, in Saudi Arabia for example, there have been cases of domestic abuse. A husband was punished in 2002 for beating his wife. He was made to pay over 2000 dollars as compensation to the wife and he received 30 lashes:

“In an effort to create a format for regularizing judicial rulings, the Saudi Ministry of Justice has begun publishing yearly compilations of case records that offer examples for how to rule on types of cases. The model for domestic abuse is a 2002 case handled in the Riyadh lower claims court, which heard the case of a woman who accused her husband of beating her and abusing her verbally. Hospital reports confirmed that she had suffered bruises on her back, arms and thighs as well as a black eye. The husband admitted insulting her and that he had hit her `to discipline her’ because she had insulted him foully. The JUDGE DEEMED THAT THE HUSBAND HAD VIOLATED THE QUR’ANIC PRINCIPLE REQUIRING HUSBANDS TO `LIVE WITH THEM [WIVES] ACCORDING TO WHAT IS RIGHT‘ (4:19) and, based on the medical reports, ruled THAT THE HUSBAND SHOULD PAY HIS WIFE 9,000 RIYALS (AROUND $2,400) COMPENSATION FOR HER INJURIES AND RECEIVE THIRTY LASHES for his insulting language. The excuse that the husband gave, that his wife had insulted him, held no weight before the court. Unlike the husband, she had not admitted using abusive language, nor had the husband provided any evidence for his claim.” 33 (The Saudi Ministry of Justice, Mudawwanat al-Ahkam al-Qada’iyya, 113-17. A Similar ruling in the region of Qatif recently made headlines, with a man receiving thirty lashes and ten days in prison after he admitted hitting his wife; ‘Saudi Arabia: Judge Ignores Wife, Sentences Husband to 30 Lashes for Domestic Violence,’ International Business Times, June 6, 2013, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/saudi-arabia-man-slaps-wife-domestic-violence-475491 ) (Misquoting Muhammad – The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Oneworld Publications, 2014], by Jonathan A. C. Brown, page 284 – 285)

There are many more cases in history where a husband was punished as a result of his actions towards his wife. Abuse of a wife was abhorred by the earliest scholars of Islam. If a husband was to harm his wife, the wife was compensated and at times made sure that he was punished (lashed). There was permanent laws enacted by scholars from earliest of days to punish abusive husbands. [49] [50] [51] [52] [53]

12. LAW – Legal Frameworks Addressing Domestic Violence In Muslim Majority Countries

Many Muslim majority countries around the World have implemented laws in order to protect women from being physically or verbally abused by men or their husbands. See the following article for the countries that have implemented these laws: “The Laws On Domestic Violence In Muslim Majority Countries“.

13. The Quran And Prophetic Statements On Wives

Islamic scripture has strongly emphasized and taught to love your wife, to feed them, to treat them with kindness, as it is clearly shown in the following statements from Prophet Muhammad (p) [54]:

“I went to the Messenger of Allah and asked him: What do you say (command) about our wives? He replied: Give them food what you have for yourself, and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them, and do not revile them.” (Sunan Abi Dawud Book 11, Hadith 2139. Eng. Tran., Sahih Al-Albani, https://sunnah.com/abudawud/12/99 )

The above is a clear command from Prophet Muhammed (p) not to hit your wife.

The Prophet (p) used to treat women very tenderly. [55] [56] [57] [58] He said:

‘Whoever remains patient with regards to the misbehaviour of his wife, Allah will give him a reward as great as Ayub’s (Job) for his affliction. Likewise, if a woman keeps patient with regards to the misbehaviour of her husband, Allah will give her a reward as great as Aishah’s Bint Bint Muzahim, (the Pharaoh’s wife).’ (Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak – Transmitters of this Hadith are trustworthy) (Major Sins [translators: Abdul-Hamid A. Eliwa Ali M. As-Sawi, Wa’il A. Shehab, Mahmud AI-Qastawi] by Imam Shamsu ed-Deen Dhahabi, page 136, online source http://www.islamtomorrow.com/books/major_sins/majorSins.pdf )

The best husband is the one who is best to his wife [59]:

“The Prophet said: ‘THE BEST OF YOU IS THE ONE WHO IS BEST TO HIS WIFE, and I am the best of you to my wives.’” (Sunan Ibn Majah volume 3, Book 9, Hadith 1977. Eng. Tran., Hasan, Darussalam https://sunnah.com/urn/1262960)

The most perfect faith are from the men who have the best bahviour towards their wives:

“Messenger of Allah said, ‘The believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behaviour, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.’” (Riyad as-Salihin Book 1, Hadith 278. Eng. Tran., https://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/1/278 )

A husband should not hate his wife because if he dislikes something in her, he will find something else he likes about her:

“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger saying: A believing man should not hate a believing woman (wife); if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” (Sahih Muslim Book 8, Hadith 3469. Eng. Tran., https://sunnah.com/muslim/17/81)

God loves kindness:

“’A’isha, the wife of Allah’s Apostle, reported that Allah’s Messenger said: ‘A’isha, verily Allah is kind and He loves kindness and confers upon kindness which he does not confer upon severity and does not confer upon anything else besides it (kindness).” (Sahih Muslim 2593 Book 32, Hadith 6273. Eng. Tran., https://sunnah.com/muslim/45/99 )

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111 AD) – Ihya Ulum-Id-Din:

“The Prophet of God said, “the most perfect of believers in faith are those who are the finest in manners and most gentle toward their wives.” He said, “The best among you are the most charitable toward their wives…” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 96)

Buying gifts for your spouse, there will be love between one another:

“…that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Give gifts and you will love one another.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad Book 30, Hadith 594. Eng. Tran., Hasan, Al-Albani https://sunnah.com/adab/30/57 )

Classical Scholar, Shaykh Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111 AD) has put the above report in the section of “The Etiquette Of Marriage”:

“Exchanging gifts is desirable, and results in friendship.’ The Prophet said, “If you exchange gifts, you will love each other.” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 89)

Sahih al-Bukhari:

“Whatever you spend (on your wife) will be considered a Sadaqa (charity) for you, even the mouthful of food you put in the mouth of your wife.” (Sahih al-Bukhari volume 7, Book 64, Hadith 266. Eng. Tran. https://sunnah.com/bukhari/69/4 )

Live with your wife in kindness (Quran 4:19):

“O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them… And LIVE WITH THEM IN KINDNESS. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” – Quran 4:19 (Sahih International)

Friends and allies of one other:

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” – Quran 9:71 Sahih International)

The husband and wife are likened to clothing in the Quran (S. 2:187). They guard, respect and honour each other:

“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” – Quran 2:187 (Sahih International)

In Quran 30:21 it says that God has placed “tranquality”, “affection” and “mercy”:,

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” – Quran 30:21 (Sahih International)

Ibn Kathir’s (1301 – 1373 AD) commentary on the above verse:

“Out of Allah’s perfect mercy He made their wives from their own kind, and CREATED LOVE AND KINDNESS BETWEEN THEM. For a MAN STAYS WITH A WOMAN BECAUSE HE LOVES HER, or because he feels compassion towards her if they have a child together, or because she needs him to take care of her, etc.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) [Abridged by A Group of Scholars Under The Supervision Of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri. Maktaba Dar-us-Salam – Second Edition, 2003], volume 7, page 535)

Muhammad b. al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi (d. 763 AD) exegesis on S. 30:21,

“(And of His signs) of the signs of His divine Oneness and power (is this: He CREATED FOR YOU SPOUSES) human beings like yourselves (from yourselves that ye might find rest in them) so that the husband may find rest in his wife, (and He ordained between you) HUSBAND AND WIFE (LOVE) LOVE OF THE WIFE FOR HER HUSBAND (AND MERCY) of the husband towards his wife; it is also said that this means: love of the young ones of the old ones and mercy from the older ones towards the young ones. (Lo, herein) in that which I have mentioned (indeed are portents) signs and lessons (for folk who reflect) upon what Allah created.” – (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas on Surah 30:21 – online source http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=30&tAyahNo=21&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 )

14. Conclusion:

Based on Prophet Muhammed’s use of the words ‘Fashishah Mubayyinah’ in his Khutbat al-Wadaa (farewell sermon) it shows that Surah 4:34, Nushuz refers directly to cases in which there is a clear and evident adultery or something equal to that. [60] [61] Not disobedience or mere violations on to the husband’s whims and wishes. For the life of Prophet Muhammed (p) refutes the claim that mere disobedience to a husband warrants striking your wife, this is alien and unheard of when we analyse the Prophet’s life. A careful reading of the words in Surah 4:34 also reveals that Nushuz has connotations of a sexual act outside of marriage or advancing sexual lust/desire to another man.

If she was guilty of cheating, and the husband has proof he may take his case to a court before things escalate or the man takes things into his own hands. If he happens to continue to live with her and not amending her ways, the Quran, 1300 years ago gave the approval of a husband to take the step of approving her behaviour, by a light strike. Anything beyond that he would have broken the covenant of God and his Messenger (p). And therefore a judge would have reprimanded him and punished him. Mere suspicions did not give a sanctioning or endorsement in the steps described in Surah 4:34. For a wife to be guilty, there had to be clear and evident proof from the husband’s side. Mere suspicions are discouraged and sinful at times. [62]

The Quran recognises that the male in patriarchal society fourteen hundred years ago seeing his wife cheating, the first thing he would do is to uncontrollable anger beat his wife black and blue, or at times even kill his wife. The Quranic verse (S. 4:34) was sent down to prevent the husband from carrying out such violent and detestable crime. In preventing this, it was a way of steps in anger management. The steps taken in the verse was actually to calm down the husband.

Finally, I will end with the words of Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri [63]: The Quran states very clearly in the following:

“The parties should either hold together on equitable terms or separate with kindness.” – Quran 2:229

Thus, the Quranic approach to the problem of husbands hitting their wives aims at eliminating such behaviour altogether, but it takes into account the very nature of human beings (males), the complexity of their emotions, and the need for “a gestation period” for them to achieve a higher stage of development. It also helps them reach that higher stage through a series of prescribed behavior aimed at self-control and anger management as mentioned earlier, and by describing and exhorting by words and the example of the Prophet the blissful higher stage of marital life. The Quranic verse was revealed in ancient Arabia, over fourteen hundred years ago when the world as a whole viewed beating one’s wife as a right in the male dominated patriarchal society. Today, our society has moved decidedly beyond that stage, and views wife abuse as a crime, it really is. The Prophet Muhammed and earliest Muslim jurists agree on this. How do we move forward? It is now time for the rest of the Muslims to catch up with this vision, and help the troubled men within it to move to the higher stages of consciousness described in the Quran and implemented by the Prophet Muhammed’s (p) own conduct and model. In this way, we can achieve the Quranic marital ideal of tranquility, affection, and mercy, or gracefully follow God’s injunction of parting ways in kindness. [64] [65]

Related Articles:

(1) – “Refuting The Allegation That ‘Muhammed hit his wife Aisha’ and more!

(2) – “Muhammed (p) ‘Never Hit Any Of His Wives’

(3) – “Wife-beating husband gets 30 lashes” (2012) (*)

(4) – “Saudi man gets jail and 30 lashes for slapping and spitting on his wife” (2015) (* *)

(5) – “Dear Church: It’s Time to Stop Enabling Abusive Men” (*)

(6) – “Tory MP tries and fails to block anti-domestic violence bill with 91-minute speech

(7) – “Fighting between man’s two wives: Lashes set for 15” (* *)

References & Notes:

[1] The verse from Deut. 25:11-12, on the punishment of a wife for defending her husband:
“11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” Deuteronomy 25:11-12 New International Version (NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+25
[2] On physically beating a child, this is mentioned in Proverbs 23:13-14,
“Don’t withhold discipline from a child — if you beat him with a stick, he won’t die! 14 If you beat him with a stick, you will save him from Sh’ol.” Proverbs 23:13-14 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+23%3A13-14&version=CJB. There is an article written on this verse and others: “Does the Bible Teach child Abuse, ‘Beat him with a rod?’” https://discover-the-truth.com/2013/10/09/does-the-bible-teach-child-abuse-beat-him-with-a-rod/
[3] “Does The New Testament Endorse Marital Rape?” https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/07/27/does-the-new-testament-endorse-marital-rape/
[4] Professor Francis Joseph Steingass:
“…fahish, a, shameless, obscene; excessive, unproportional; -fahisa-t, FORNICATES, WHORE; pl. fawahis, sin, FORNICATION.” (English-Arabic Dictionary: For the Use of Both Travellers and Students [LONDON – Crosby Lockwood And Son 7, Stationers Hall Court, Ludgate Hill, E.C.] by Professor Francis Joseph Steingass, page 769)
[5] Hans Wehr:
“…fahsa’ monstrosity, abomination, atrocity, vile deed, crime; ADULTERY, FORNICATION, WHOREDOM.
… fahhas obscene, lewd…”
…Fahisha HARLOT, WHORE, PROSTITUTE: – (pl. fawahis) monstrosity, abomination, atrocity, vile deed, crime, ADULTERY, FORNICATION, WHOREDOM…” (Hans Wehr A Dictionary of Modern written Arabic [Edited by John Milton – Spoken Language Services, Inc. 1976, 4th edition], page 817 – 818)
[6] Edward William Lane – Arabic-English Lexicon:
“…[gross, immodest, lewd, or obscene… Also, Adultery, or fornication; (S, Mgh, Msb, K; and so …: Bd in xii. 24; &c.:) so in the Kur iv. 23 and lxv. 1 (as well as in numerious other instances]…”
(Edward William Lane – Arabic-English Lexicon, page 2399 – 2400, online source)
[7] Rev. F. J. G. Hava, S. J.:
“بِفَاحِشَةٍ enormity. Abomination. ADULTERY. Prostitute.”
(Arabic English Dictionary for the use of students [Byrut – Catholic press, 1899, By the Rev. F. J. G. Hava, S. J., page 540)
[8] Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage:
“…f-h-sh to be excessive… obscene… adultery, to commit adultery. …Lewdness, fornication, adultery, immoral act, indecency (12:24)…” (Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage [Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2008] by Elsaid M. Badawi, Muhammad Abdel Haleem, page 696)
[9] Dictionary And Glossary Of The Kor-an – John Penrice:
“فاحشة… Filthiness, uncleanness, a filthy report, a crime, FORNICATION OR ADULTERY; Plur. … (2nd declension) Abominable crimes.” (Dictionary And Glossary Of The Kor-an, With Copious Grammatical References And Explanations Of The Text [Adam Publishers & Distributors, Shandar Market Chitli Qabar Delhi-110006., Printed in India, 1991] by John Penrice, B. A., page 109)
[10] Dictionary Of The Holy Qur’an of With References and Explanation of the Text – Malik Ghulam Farid:
“…evil, gross, lewd, obscene, or it became excessively so, (as also …). … immoral, lewd or obscene… or crime… ADULTERY OR FORNICATION. …” (Dictionary Of The Holy Qur’an of With References and Explanation of the Text by Malik Ghulam Farid M. A., page 641)
[11] Vocabulary of the Holy Quran – Dr. Abdullah Abbas Al-Nadwi:
“Adultery (2) – … And for those of your women who (may) commit adultery. [415] indecency (n.) …” (Vocabulary of the Holy Quran (“Qamus al-Faz al-Quran al-Karim”) by Dr. Abdullah Abbas Al-Nadwi, page 449)
[12] A Dictionary Of Egyptian Arabic – Arabic English – Martin Hinds & El-Said Badawi:
“..faahis /adj/outrages, extreme. Zulm fahis MONSTROUS INJUSTICE. Fahsa, faahisa, n pl fawaahis/ (act of) ADULTERY, FORNICATION. … fawahsi /adj and pl –yyal adulterous.” (A Dictionary Of Egyptian Arabic – Arabic English [Librairie du Liban, Riad Solh Sqaure, Beirut., 1986] by Martin Hinds & El-Said Badawi, page 643)
[13] Dictionary Of The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Words – English Meanings – (Classical Arabic Dictionaries Combined:
“Fahusha … Immoral conduct; indecent or LEWD or abominable… Flagrant indecency; ADULTERY, FORNICATION; SODOMY. ILLICIT SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. Its plu. Is Fawahish… Fahishatun … (act. Pic. F. sing.): ill-deed; Act of indecency; Manifest improper conduct;…” (Dictionary Of The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Words – English Meanings (With Notes) – (Classical Arabic Dictionaries Combined) [NOOR Foundation – International Inc., 2010] by Abdul Mannan Omar (Translator) – Subject Codifier Musnad Imam Ahmad Bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, page 418 – 419)
[14] Scottish scholar Robert Bertram Serjeant in footnote 13 states that there is no doubt that fahisha mentioned in the farewell sermon is about adultery:
“leave us in no doubt that fahishah means “adultery”, ‘fornication’” (Arabic Literature To The End Of The Umayyad Period [Cambridge University Press 2003] by R. B. Serjeant, page 121 (footnote 13))
[15] Fahisha Mubayyina implies adultery according to the majority of the companions of Prophet Muhammed and the Tab’ieen:
“‘except in case they are guilty of Fahishah Mubayyinah.’ meaning that the divorced wife is not to abandon her husband’s house unless she commits FAHISHAH MUBAYYINAH, in which case, she vacates her husband’s house. For example, FAHISHAH MUBAYYINAH IMPLIES ADULTERY, according to `Abdullah bin Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id bin Al-Musayyib, Ash-Sha`bi, Al-Hasan, Ibn Sirin, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu Qilabah, Abu Salih, Ad-Dahhak, Zayd bin Aslam, `Ata’ Al-Khurasani, As-Suddi, Sa`id bin Hilal and others. (At-Tabari, volume 23, page 438, Al-Qurtubi, volume 18, page 156, and Ad-Durr Al-Manthur volume 8, page 194) Fahishah Mubayyinah implies disobeying her husband openly or when she abuses her husband’s family in words and actions, according to Ubay bin Ka`b, Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah and others.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) [Abridged by A Group of Scholars Under The Supervision Of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri. Maktaba Dar-us-Salam – Second Edition, 2003], volume 10, page 36)
[16] Ibn Athir (1160 – 1233) and AI-Jawhari defined Fahisha Mubayyina in the Prophet’s Khutbat al Wadaa as “Adultery”:
“FAHISHAH” MEANS SIMPLY ADULTERY.92 (bal abuse). “92. See, e.g., 10 Ibn Mathur, Lisan al-Arab, page 192 (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ Al-Turath Al- ‘Arabi, 2nd printing of a 13th century reprint 1992) (quoting IBN AI-ATHIR as defining fahisha mubayyinah, occurring in the Prophet’s last address, AS ADULTERY … AL-ZABIDI, supra note 81, at 331 (quoting AI-Jawhari and Ibn Al-Athir as defining fahisha mubayyinah as adultery). …” (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 217)
[17] Many classical jurists stated that Fahisha Mubayyina means “adultery”:
“So what is “Fahishah Mubayyinah”? As stated earlier, MANY JURISTS SAID THAT IT WAS ADULTERY.” (Al-Tabari, supra note 32, at 211-12.), An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 217)
[18] Commenting on Surah 7:80–81, classic scholar al-Tabari (838 – 923) connects fahisha to intercourse (“sexually”):
“The transgression [FAHISHA] that they approach, for which they were punished by Allah, is “PENETRATING MALES SEXUALLY” [ityan dhukur]. The meaning is this: it is as if Lut were saying “You are, all of you, you nation of people, coming to men in their rears, out of lust, rather than coming to those that Allah has approved for you and made permissible to you from the women. You are a people that approach what Allah has prohibited for you. Therefore you rebel against Allah by that act.” That is what the Qur’an means by going beyond the bounds [israf] when Lut said, You are a people who go beyond all bounds.” (Tafsir al-Tabari min Jami al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil Ayi al-Quran, [ed. Bashar Awwad – Beirut, Muassasat al-Risala, 1994], by al-Tabari, volume 3, page 463)
[19] Al-Qurtubi (1214 -1273):
“Do you approach the TRANSGRESSION [FAHISHA] MEANS “SEXUALLY ENTERING MALES” [idkhal al-rijal]. Allah mentions this act with the term the transgression [fahisha] in order to make it clear that this act is adultery [zina]. It is just like Allah’s statement in another verse, Do not approach adultery [zina] for it is a transgression [fahisha] (Surat al-A‘raf 7:80–84).” (Tafsir al-Jami‘ fi Ahkam al-Qur’an [Cairo, Dar al-Qalam, 1967], by Al-Qurtubi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad, volume 7, page 243)
[20] “You [men] have rights against women, and they have rights against you. It is your right that they do not bring someone you dislike INTO YOUR BED, or that they commit FAHISHAH (AN ACT OF ADULTERY) Mubayyinah (which is clear and evident to all). If they do, then God has permitted you to desert them in bed, and [then] hit them lightly. If they stop, you are obliged to maintain them.”‘ (Al-Bidwaya wa Al-Nihaya Al-Hafidth Ibn Kathir, p. 202 (Beirut: Maktabat al Ma’arif 1979); Tarikh al-Tabari Muhammad Ibn Jareer p. 206 (Beirut: Dar A1-Kutub Al-Ilmiyyah 1988). (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, Page 216)
[21] Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri:
“Furthermore, even if the Prophet was not providing the meaning of the “Chastisement Passage” in his hadith, he must have been providing examples. But an instructive example must be adequately illustrative of the meaning. The examples given by the Prophet referred to two types of possible actions: (a) actions for which God has decreed hudud [specific punishments], and (b) actions that are a proximate cause of type (a) actions (such as BRINGING SOMEONE INTO ONE’S HUSBAND’S BED – A PROXIMATE CAUSE FOR ADULTERY). Had the ayah intended to cover less egregious actions, such as violations of the husband’s whims and wishes, the Prophet would have indicated so and given men a more accurate idea about the scope of their rights. He did not do so.” (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 218)
[22] 11th Century Scholar Raghib Al-Isfahani (d. 1108) connects Nushuz to a wife’s sexual “lust toward another man”:
“‘Neshz’ is the pinnacle of soil formed on the ground; rebellion of the woman and her LUST TOWARD ANOTHER MAN IS ‘NUSHOOZ’ (Raghib Al-Isfahani, Mufredat. Item hvf, Damascus and Beirut 1412/1992., online source http://www.islamandquran.org/research/beating-women.html )
[23] Modern scholars have also agreed that Nushuz here is in reference to “sexual lewdness”:
“If the Prophet used the expression fahisha mubina (a grave and known sin) to mean nushuz, then nushuz in verse 4:34 cannot simply mean “disobedience” of the wife but a “GRAVE SEXUAL SIN”, OR “SEXUAL LEWDNESS” (ABOU EL FADL, 2009, P. 110). HADDAD (2000) AGREES THAT NUSHUZ IN THE VERSE IS A EUPHEMISM FOR ADULTERY because a wife’s primary marital responsibility is spelled out in the hadith as “not allowing whom you hate to enter your bed or your house”. Therefore, nushuz refers to some serious level of misbehavior which could threaten the continuation of the marriage, not just some minor annoyances and the natural give-and-take between partners. The issue of nushuz is particularly important in Islamic law as this is the one condition where jurists agree that the wife revokes her right to maintenance by her husband (Abd al Ati, 1977, pp. 157-159), and where the imperative wadribuhunna may be practiced. But what exactly is meant by wadribuhunna?” (A Critical Examination of Qur’an 4:34 and its Relevance to Intimate Partner Violence in Muslim Families [Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 2010] by Nada Ibrahim and Mohamad Abdalla, page 18)
[24] “Jealous husband arrested after killing wife and crashing car in Somerset – jailed for life” NAME: Neil Winn. 10 Jul 2015, http://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/somerset_news/13382256.Jealous_husband_arrested_after_killing_wife_and_crashing_car_in_Somerset/
[25] “Jealous husband jailed for strangling nurse wife in her hospital intensive care unit”. NAME: Royston Jones. 11 Feb 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11406273/Jealous-husband-jailed-for-strangling-nurse-wife-in-her-hospital-intensive-care-unit.html
[26] “Jealous husband killed adulterous wife and tried to strangle son”. NAME: Craig Bidgway. 30 Jun 2008 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2223015/Jealous-husband-killed-adulterous-wife-and-tried-to-strangle-son.html
[27] “Jealous husband jailed for baseball bat terror”. NAME: Edward Wright. March 06, 2015, http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/jealous-husband-jailed-baseball-bat-terror/story-26130344-detail/story.html
[28] “Jealous husband ‘killed’ wife over suspected online affair” (Italy). NAME: Giuseppe Castro. 31 Mar 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/5085140/Jealous-husband-killed-wife-over-suspected-online-affair.html
[29] “Jailed for life: Jealous husband who murdered international concert pianist Natalia Strelchenko is locked up”. NAME: John Martin. 21 MAR 2016 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/natalia-strelchenko-murder-jailed-life-11075910
[30] “Jealous Husband Kills Wife’s Lover”. NAME: Ezekiel Igbokwe. Aug 11 2016 https://newtelegraphonline.com/crime/metro/jealous-husband-kills-wifes-lover/
[31] “Jury finds Trevino guilty of murder”. Jeffery Trevino killed his wife due her texting messages to another man: “Prosecutors said Trevino killed Steger after he got fed up with her texting the co-worker throughout their date night. Her last text to the man was at 11:44 p.m. telling him that the Minnesota Wild won their game. Prosecutors believe Trevino killed her in their master bedroom within two hours of that text message, put her in the trunk of her car, fueled the car at a gas station on Larpenteur Avenue about 2:10 a.m. on Feb. 22, and dumped her in the river.” OCTOBER 3, 2013, http://www.startribune.com/jeffery-trevino-found-guilty-of-murdering-his-wife-kira-steger/226213221/
[32] “Insanely Jealous Husband Shoots Wife’s Friend Over Facebook Messages”. NAME: Christopher Romoleroux. May 1, 2015. http://crimefeed.com/2015/05/husband-arrested-allegedly-shooting-man-messaging-wife-facebook/
[33] “Cops: Jealous husband turns violent”. NAME: Vernon Degroat Jr. Jul 2, 2015 http://www.recordonline.com/article/20150702/NEWS/150709797
[34] “Jealous Medway man Peter Wood jailed for trying to murder estranged wife Tina Wood in brutal stabbing in Wainscott when she started new relationship”. NAME: Peter Wood. 14 July 2014., http://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/medway-peter-wood-jailed-20163/
[35] “Husband charged over dancer’s death”. NAME: Parminder Singh. January 10, 2015., http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/husband-charged-over-dancers-death/news-story/f00020f1c4d30443e9b18da8c5649322
[36] “Jealous husband jailed for life”. NAME: Ian Bains. 16 July 2008., http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/jealous-husband-jailed-for-life-1-1151873
[37] “Jealous dad-of-eight knifed wife in heart after seeing her talking to another man.” NAME Robert Bance. 20 JAN 2017., http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jealous-dad-eight-knifed-wife-9656492
[38] Islamic scholar Muhammed al-Tahir Ibn Ashur (1879 – 1973):
“IBN ASHUR ARGUES THAT THE SOLE ADDRESSEE OF 4:34 AND 4:35 WAS THE COURT AUTHORITIES. In most societies, he explained, no license can be given to husbands to discipline their wives violently. This is clear if one applied Shariah procedure at a family level, for only in exceptional circumstances can a person involved in a case also act as the judge who decides guilt and metes out punishment. In addition, experience shows that husbands cannot be trusted to restrain themselves in private. Even if they are told that they can only use light blows, husbands will inevitably ‘quench their anger’ and In all likelihood transgress the limits.’ In urbanized societies and modern states, which enjoy functioning legal systems, Ibn ‘Ashur suggests that the whole verse is addressed to the state and the organs of the court. The authorities (wulat al-umur) are obligated to announce that any man who beats his wife will be punished and assign the duty of disciplining wives to the courts alone. It is the Shariah court judge who hears complaints of a wife’s unacceptable conduct. If she is guilty, the judge admonishes her, separates the couple if necessary and finally orders a beating administered should she refuse to reform.” 22 (al-Tahrir wa’l – Tanwir by Muhammad Tahir Ibn Ashur, volume 5, page 43 – 44) ((Misquoting Muhammad – The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Oneworld Publications, 2014], by Jonathan A. C. Brown, page 280)
[39] Professor of Law Khaled Abou El Fadl:
“ALTERNATIVELY 4:34 IS NOT ADDRESSED TO HUSBANDS AT ALL BUT TO THE STATE. Meaning, if there is an allegation of a grave and known sin and it is proven by the resolution of a court, a separation or corporal punishment may be ordered. In case of a disagreement not involving a grave and known sin, an arbitration may be ordered. In other words, THE REMEDY IS NOT LEFT TO THE DISCRETION OF HUSBANDS BUT IS GIVEN TO A COURT. Nothing in 4:34 necessitates that the remedy be in private hands, for history and creation have shown that when it comes to punishment husbands are hardly the one to be trusted.” (The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books [Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC, 2006] by Khaled Abou El Fadl, page 112)
[40] There is a report recorded by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111 AD), in his book titled, ‘Iyha Ulum al-Deen’ wherein we are told that one of the wives of the Prophet HIT HIM on his chest. The woman’s mother finding out what she had done, “scolded” her In turn the Prophet (p) responded by saying to leave her alone:
“It was also related that one wife hit the Prophet in the chest, so her mother scolded her. The Prophet said, ‘Leave her alone; they [wives] do worse than that.’ (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah – Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1984], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 95)
[41] This incident is also reported in Musnad Ibn Hanbal:
“It was narrated that Nu‘maan ibn Basheer said: Abu Bakr came and asked permission to enter upon the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and HE HEARD ‘AA’ISHAH RAISING HER VOICE TO THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH. He gave him permission to enter, so he entered and said: O daughter of Umm Roomaan! – and he grabbed her – do you RAISE YOUR VOICE TO THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH? THE PROPHET SEPARATED THEM, and when Abu Bakr left, the Prophet started saying to her, to make her feel happy: “Do you not see how I intervened between the man and you?” He said: Then Abu Bakr came and asked for permission to enter upon him, and HE FOUND HIM LAUGHING WITH HER. Permission was given to him, and he entered, and Abu Bakr said to him: O Messenger of Allah, make me a partner in your peace as you made me a partner in your war.” (Narrated by Ahmad in al-Musnad, volume 30, page 341- 342. The commentators said: Its isnaad is saheeh according to the conditions of Muslim) (Online source, https://islamqa.info/en/164216 )
[42] “non-violent (ghair Mubarrih)… doing it with a Miswak (a small stick used cleaning the teeth in the East/Africa) or something that is similar to that.” (Tafsir Sufyan Ibn Uyaynah [Maktabah Asamah – Edition Ahmad Salih Muhayyari – Riyad, 1403/1983], page 235)
[43] In context of Surah 4:34 the earliest exegesis ordered that the beating must not produce open wounds where blood is seen nor broken bones. (See Ahkam al-Quran [Dar al kotob al Ilmiyyah , Beirut, Lebanon], by Ibn al-Arabi, volume 1, page 468; Tafsir Kitab Allah al-Aziz [Beirut – Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 1990], by Hud b. Muhakkam Huwwariyy, volume 1, page 377; Al-kashshaf an haqaiq ghawamid al-tanzil by al-Zamahshari, volume 1, page 506; and Muharrar, by Ibn Atiya volume 3, page 107) Others went as far as to say that no trace or wound is not permissible. No beating should on the wife’s face (See al-Tafsir al-Kabir by al-Razi, volume 10, page 90 and Hadith reports)
[44] The original English translation of this was not in accord with Arabic text of Imam Ghazali’s Iyha Ulum al-Deen. As such it was amended to suit its original intent of the text:
“Know that good conduct with her means not harming her, also enduring harm from her and forbearance in the face of her fickleness and anger in emulation of the Prophet; for his wives used to talk back to him, and on occasion one would leave him for the whole night.” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 94)
[45] This report is again cited in Sunan an-Nasai, with a slight variation of words:
“Ar-Rubayy’ bint Mu’awwidh bin ‘Afra’ narrated that Thabit bin Qais bin Shammas hit his wife and broke her arm –her name was Jamilah bint ‘Abdullah bin Ubayy. Her brother came to the Messenger of Allah to COMPLAIN ABOUT HIM, and the Messenger of Allah sent for Thabit and said: “Take what she owes you AND LET HER GO.” He said: “Yes.” And the Messenger of Allah ordered her to wait for one menstrual cycle and then go to her family. (Sunan an-Nasa’i volume 4, Book 27, Hadith 3527. Eng. Tran. Hasan Darussalam. https://sunnah.com/nasai/27/109)
[46] A Man by the name of al-Walid was hitting his wife. The woman came to the Prophet (p) complaining of the mistreatment, the Prophet (p) told her to go back and tell him that she is under the protection of him and that she should not be touched. Al-Walid did not listen. The Prophet (p) asked Allah to deal with him and cursed him for disobeying his order:
“The wife of al-Walid b. Uqbah came to the Prophet of God and complained that her husband hit her. [Prophet Muhammad] said to her, ‘Return to him and tell him ‘The Prophet of God has taken me under his protection [qad ajarani].’ So she went away for an hour or so and then returned saying, ‘O Prophet of God, he did not desist [from beating] me. Muhammed cut a fringe from his robe and handed it to her, saying, ‘Tell him, ‘The Prophet of God has taken me under his protection, and this is a fringe from his robe.’ She left for an hour and returned, saying, ‘O Prophet of God, he only increased in hitting me.’ Then the Prophet of God raised his hands and prayed, ‘O Allah, you deal with al-Walid, for he has sinned against me twice.’ He repeated this two or three times.” (Ghayat Al-Maqsad fi Zawa’id al-Musnad [Beirut – Dar al-Kutub, 2001] by Nur al-Din Ali Ibn Abi Bakr al-Haythami, volume 2, page 262 – 263)
Prophet Muhammed’s stance in this Hadith report clearly conveys very strong disapproval of men who hit their wives.
[47] There is an interesting case in which the second Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab (579 – 644 AD) tries to sort out a material issue between a husband and a wife. He sent out two family members two deal with the issues, so that the husband and wife amend their past issues and get on with each other (Surah 4:35). The husband was stubborn, and it seems was continuing to be harsh and cause trouble in his household, Umar Ibn al-Khattab beats him for it. The husband then returns, this time being kind/gentle towards his wife and reconciled their issues. This story is mentioned by the great clasical scholar, Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111 AD):
“Umar sent an arbitrator to a couple, but he returned without succeeding in reconciling them; whereupon he [‘Umar] BEAT HIM saying, “Almighty God says, ‘If they desire amendment [reconciliation], Allah will make them of one mind’ [Quran 4:35].“ So the man returned and with [good] intention[s] and gentleness toward them, he reconciled them.” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), Page 105)
[48] The Hanafite scholar Al-Jassas (917 -981) did not beieve a wife can get a divorce if her husband was abusive, however, he states that the Muslim authorities (Qadi) could do anything in their power to stop him from touching her. And the husband should get punished (Taz’ir) if he hurts her. Some among the Hanafite school believe only the husband has a right of divorcing the wife, not the other way around. The divorce being on the husband’s only is not reflective of Prophet Muhammed’s model and condcuct. For we seen earlier the Prophet (p) divorced Thabit Ibn Qays’s wife when he hurt her.
[49] Classical scholar Al-Nawawi opined that if the husband hit his wife in a way of injury she was entitled to a divorce and “retiribution”:
“18th century reprint 1972) (noting that the hitting may not affect the wife’s bones or flesh. The husband may not resort to hitting his wife if he knows that it would be useless. If the husband hits his wife despite this knowledge, SHE IS ENTITLED TO DIVORCE AND RETRIBUTION). (AL-Nawawi, supra note 91, at 676-77 (stating that hitting may not cause harm or be heavy, cannot be on the face or other vulnerable areas, and if it causes harm, THE WOMAN IS ENTITLED TO DAMAGES); Al-Zuhail, supra note 106, at 7856-57 (noting that the Hanafi and Shafi’i schools of thought would find the HUSBAND LIABLE IF HE HARMED HIS WIFE…). (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1. 2003. Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 221 – 222)
[50] This was also the opinion of scholar Al-Zuhail:
“Also, if the husband reaches that unfortunate stage of “hitting,” he may hit the wife only with something as gentle as a miswak or handkerchief. 112 (112. See AL-TABARI, supra note 32, at 44; 5 Al-Nawawi, supra note 91, at 676-77 (hitting may not cause harm or be heavy and cannot be on the face or other vulnerable areas and IF IT CAUSES HARM, THE WOMAN IS ENTITLED TO DAMAGES); Al- Zuhail, supra note 106, at 7856.) (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 222)
[51] “Ali Gomaa has built on this theme in a small book of fatwas recently written for women. He took the standard late Shafi’i school position that it is not recommended for a man to strike his wife and that HE MUST PAY HER COMPENSATION FOR ANY INJURY HE CAUSES. Men who truly want to follow the model of the Prophet WOULD NEVER BEAT THEIR WIVES.” (Misquoting Muhammad – The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Oneworld Publications, 2014], by Jonathan A. C. Brown, page 278)
[52] “109. Among these is the sequential interpretation of the Qur’anic verse 4:34. See supra note 106 and accompanying text. Other limitations are mentioned in Al-Tabari, supra note 32, at 43-45 (noting that the man MAY NOT HIT THE WOMAN DHARB GHAYR MUBRAH WALA MU’ATH.THIR [IN THE FACE, OR HIT SO AS TO CAUSE PAIN OR HARM]); Al-Nawawi, supra note 91, at 676-77 (hitting may not cause harm or be heavy, cannot be on the face or other vulnerable areas. IF IT CAUSES HARM, THE WOMAN IS ENTITLED TO DAMAGES). See id. at 7856-57 (citing medieval jurists as requiring that the “hitting” does not cause fear in the wife, is not directed against the face or abdomen, and other places that could result in serious harm). (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 221
[53] While hitting was permissible in situations where the wife was guilty of lewdness or sexual lusfulness towards another man, it was preferable to abandon hitting and more graceful. In Jordan and other Muslim countries, verbal abuse was grounds for granting the wife the right to divorce:
“Finally, given the Qur’anic ideal of marital relations, the majority of Muslim scholars concluded that while the act of “hitting” is permissible in Islam, ABANDONING IT IS PREFERABLE AND MORE GRACEFUL [lajmal]. (Abd Al-Karim Zaydan, Al-Mufassal Fi Ahkam Al-Mar’ah Wa Al-Bayr page, 318 (1994); 5 Al-Razi, supra note 51, at 93.) They also concluded that A WOMAN ABUSED PHYSICALLY OR VERBALLY IS ENTITLED TO DIVORCE FROM HER HUSBAND. (114 This view has been adopted by some personal status codes such as Jordanian Code, Personal Status Code, Provisional Law No. 61 (1976), ch. 12, art. 132; Kuwaiti Code, Personal Status, pt. 1, bk. 1, tit. 3, ch. 1, art. 126.)
They lowered the bar significantly on what counts as abuse, so as to make it include verbal abuse. This interpretation is still reflected in the laws of some Muslim countries today. 115 (115. Certain Codes explicitly specify that VERBAL ABUSE IS GROUNDS FOR GRANTING THE WIFE THE JUDICIAL DIVORCE. See Jordanian Code, supra note 114, ch. 10, art. 132; Kuwaiti Code, supra note 114, pt. 1, bk. 2, tit. 3, art. 126.) (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 222)
[54] Imam Ghazali:
“Umar said, “It is necessary that a man be like a child in his family; but if they seek what he possesses, he should be found a man.’ Luq­man said, “A wise man should be like a child in his family, and when he is in public, he should be found a man.” In a commentary on the related khabar, [it is stated that] “GOD DETESTS the ja’zari al jawwaz”; THAT IS, ONE WHO IS HARSH TOWARD HIS FAMILY AND WHO IS ARROGANT. The same explanation has been offered for the term ‘utul used by Almighty God [Qur’an 68:13]: for it has been said that ‘utul designates one who has a harsh tongue and who is cruel toward his family.” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 96)
[55] “The Prophet said, “Let none of you come upon his wife like an animal, and let there be an emissary between them.” He was asked, “What is this emissary, Messenger of God?” He said, “THE KISS AND [SWEET] WORDS.” He also said, “There are three qualities which are considered deficiencies in a man: one, that he should meet someone whose acquaintance he wishes to make but parts from him before learning his name and lineage; second, that he should be treated kindly and reject the kindness’ done unto him; and third, that he should approach his wife and have sexual contact with her before exchanging tender words and caresses, consequently, he sleeps with her and fulfills his needs before he fulfills hers.” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 106 – 107)
[56] Al-Hasan the grandson of Prophet Muhammed, ‘Ali’s son. and the Prophet (p) both emphasised giving daughters away to those who are God fearing. When one who fears God, he will love his wife and be kind to her:
“A man said to al-Hasan, ‘A number of suitors have asked for my daughter’s hand in marriage; to whom should I give her?” He replied, “To the one who fears God; because if he loves her, HE WILL BE KIND TO HER; and if he hates her, he will not wrong her.” The Prophet said, “Whoever gives his daughter in marriage to a licentious man has betrayed her womb.” ’ (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah – Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1984], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), page 91)
[57] He the Prophet discouraged women from marrying men who are known for their harshness, as evidenced in the story of Fatimah bint Qays narrated in Sunan Ibn Majah and Sahih Muslim. The Prophet instructed her not marry someone who is abusive. The Prophet (p) wanted her to marry someone who is kind and loving. This Hadith report shows that he very strongly detested abusive men towards women and discouraged marriage with such men:
“I heard Fathima bint Qais say: ‘The Messenger of Allah said to me: “When you become lawful, tell me.” So I told him.’ Then Muawiyah, Abu Jahm bin Sukhair and Usamah bin Zaid proposed marriage to her. THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH SAID: ‘As for Muawiyah, he is a poor man who has no money. As from ABU JAHM HE IS A MAN WHO HABITUALLY BEATS WOMAN. But USAMAH (IS GOOD).’ SHE GESTURED WITH HER HAND, SAYING: ‘USAMAH, Usamah!?’ The Messenger of Allah said to her: ‘Obedience to Allah and obedience to His Messenger is better for you.’ She said: ‘So I married him and I was pleased with him.” (Sunan Ibn Majah volume 3, Book 9, Hadith 1869. Eng. Tran. Sahih, Darussalam)., https://sunnah.com/urn/1261870 )
[58] This story is mentioned in Sahih Muslim also:
“My husband Abu ‘Amr b. Hafs b. al-Mughira sent ‘Ayyish b. Abu Rabi’a to me with a divorce, and he also sent through him five si’s of dates and five si’s of barley. I said: Is there no maintenance allowance for me but only this, and I cannot even spend my ‘Idda period in your house? He said: No. She said: I dressed myself and came to Allah’s Messenger. He said: How many pronouncements of divorce have been made for you? I said: Three. He said what he (‘Ayyish b. Abu Rabi’a) had stated was true. There is no maintenance allowance for you. Spend ‘Idda period in the house of your cousin, Ibn Umm Maktum. He is blind and you can put off your garment in his presence. And when you have spent your Idda period, you inform me. She said: Mu’awiya and Abu’l-Jahm were among those who had given me the proposal of marriage. Thereupon Allah’s Apostle said: Mu’awiya is destitute and in poor condition and ABU’L-JAHM IS VERY HARSH WITH WOMEN (or he beats women, or like that), YOU SHOULD TAKE USAMA B. ZAID (AS YOUR HUSBAND).” (Sahih Muslim Book 9, Hadith 3527. Eng. Tran., https://sunnah.com/muslim/18/61 )
[59] Muhammad ibn Umar and others report that the Prophet said on this occasion: “She among you who fears God and does not commit a manifest abomination [fahisha mubayyina] and sticks to the back of her mat [zahr hasiriha] is my wife in the hereafter” (Ibn Sa’d, Muhammad. Fi l-nisa of Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir. [Ed. Carl Brockelmann. Leiden: Brill, 1904] Volume 8, page 150). (Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretation [Oxford University Press, 1994] by Barbara Freyer Stowasser, page 116)
[60] The triliteral root fa ḥa shin (ف ح ش) occurs 24 times in the Quran, in two derived forms: 17 times as the noun faḥishat (فَٰحِشَة) seven times as the noun faḥsha (فَحْشَآء). The following are the verses: 3:135, 4:15, 4:19, 4:22, 4:25, 6:151, 7:28, 7:33, 7:80, 17:32, 24:19, 27:54, 29:28, 33:30, 42:37, 53:32, 65:1, 2:169, 2:268, 12:24, 16:90, 29:45. In vast majority of these verses the word has connotations of adultery or sexual sin on the part of the wife or the man. http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=fH$#(12:24:15)
[61] “The Prophet said, “There is a type of jealousy which God detests, and that is the unjustifiable jealousy of a man over his wife when THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION [FOR SUSPICION]” because that suspicion we have DECREED AGAINST. Certain [types of] SUSPICION ARE SINFUL. ‘Ali said, “Do not indulge excessively in showing jealousy over your wife lest she be accused of evil behavior because of you.” (Book On The Etiquette of Marriage – Being the Second Book of The Section on Customs In The Book: The Revival of the Religious Sciences (“Ihya Ulum al-Deen”) [Translated by Madelain Farah], by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, part 2 (II), Page 99)
[62] Profesor Azizah Y. al-Hibri on the story of Job:
“An important Qur’anic precedent on the issue of domestic violence is found in the story of Job. (Qur’an 38:44) When Job was being tested, his wife lost her faith and blasphemed.’ As a result, he took an oath to hit her as punishment. A dilemma was thus created: a prophet should not engage in violent and unworthy behavior towards his wife. On the other hand, a prophet may not violate his oath. The divine solution to this dilemma is expressed in a Qur’anic verse, which instructs Job to satisfy his oath to hit his wife by “hitting” her with a handful of fragrant grass (or basil). 123 The intent was to satisfy the promise without harming the wife. In this way, Prophet Job resolved his dilemma. 123 (123. The word dighth in Qur’anic verse 38:44 means a handful of grass or even basil. See 5 Ibn Abdin, Radd Al-Muhtar 659 (Dar Al-Kutub Al-‘Ilmiyya, 19th century reprint 1994) (explaining the meaning of dighth as a handful of basil, also noting that others stated that it meant “a handful of grass or thin branches”). Cf Ibn ‘Abdin argues that the use of basil by Job is a special case, reflecting God’s mercy, and cannot be generalized to other women.) (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 223)
[63] (An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence [Fordham International Law Journal, Issue 1 2003 Article 8], Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri, volume 27, page 223 – 224)
[64] The Maliki Madhahib which is in North Africa, West Africa and parts of central eastern Arabian peninsula allowed a woman to get automatic divorce if the man was cruel, or failed to maintain her and other reasons:
“The Maliki Sunnis allowed a woman to divorce on several additional grounds, including cruelty, desertion, failure to maintain, affliction with a dangerous disease or insanity.” (Women’s Studies Encyclopedia – Revised And Expanded Edition, [Library Of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication, 1999] (edited) by Helen Tierney, volume 2, (G-P), page 748)




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9 Responses »

  1. Reblogged this on Blogging Theology and commented:
    Amazing article – just published!

  2. MashaAllah Amazing and very thorough article.

    Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan explained this verse in one of his videos so did you heard his explanation on this verse?

  3. Amazing article!! I have never seen anywhere on the internet a thorough research on this issue.

    I have written on this issue in my blog which you can find at https://izhaarulhaqq.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/explaining-quran-434-the-wife-beating-verse/

    This one is just awesome!!


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