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In the Qur'an, verse 34 of Surah an-Nisa (abbreviated as 4:34) concerns the issue of marital relations in Islam. This verse is interpreted by some Muslims as giving women complete control over their own income and property, while obliging men to be responsible for maintaining their female relatives. Muslim scholars say that the word "beating" is used in the verse, but it does not mean "physical abuse". They hold the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush. Some Muslims, such as Islamic feminist groups, argue that Muslim men use the text as an excuse for domestic violence. However, some have translated "beat" as "separate", as Arabic in its nature is a multi-meaning language, and as such no word has a fixed sole meaning.
There have been several fatwas against domestic violence. Yet there have also been many Muslim scholars throughout history who uphold the practice and "right" of husbands to beat their wives, as well as fatwas on the same; most recently from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2009.
There are some sources that claim that Muhammed himself never hit a woman and forbade it. This of course contradicts other sources, namely ahadith which state that Mohammed hit his wife, Aisha at least on one occasion (Sahih Muslim 4:2127)
- 1 Other translation of the Verse 4:34
- 2 Background on the roles of men and women in Islam
- 3 Ideas detailed in An-Nisa, 34
- 4 Debates and discussion about the text
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Other translation of the Verse 4:34
|“||Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others, and because they (men) spend of their wealth. So virtuous women are those who are obedient, and guard the secrets of their husbands with Allah’s protection. And as for those on whose part you fear disobedience, admonish them and leave them alone in their beds, and chastise them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Surely, Allah is High, Great.||”|
- as translated by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamath, see verse at alislam
|“||Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.||”|
- as translated in Sahih International, at Quran.com
|“||Men are (meant to be righteous and kind) guardians of women because God has favored some more than others and because they (i.e. men) spend out of their wealth. (In their turn) righteous women are (meant to be) devoted and to guard what God has (willed to be) guarded even though out of sight (of the husband). As for those (women) on whose part you fear ill-will and nasty conduct, admonish them (first), (next) leave them alone in beds (and last) beat or separate them (from you). But if they obey you, then seek nothing against them. Behold, God is most high and great.||”|
- Translation by Ahmad Shafaat
|“||Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property). As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.||”|
- Translation by Muhsin Khan
|“||Men are guardians of women, because Allah has made one superior to the other, and (also) because men spend their wealth (on them). So the pious wives are obedient. They guard (their chastity) in the absence of their husbands with the protection of Allah. But those women whom you fear will disobey and defy, admonish them; and (if they do not amend) separate them (from yourselves) in beds; and (if they still do not improve) turn away from them, striking a temporary parting. Then if they become cooperative with you, do not seek any way against them. Surely, Allah is Most High, Most Great.||”|
- Translation by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
|“||Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.||”|
Context of the verse
Ibn Abi Hatim has narrated through Ash’ath ibn ‘Abdil-Malik from al-Hasan that he said: “A woman came to the Prophet complaining against her husband that he had slapped her. The Messenger of Allah said: “Retribution”. Then Allah revealed the verse, “Men are maintainers of women… (4:34); so the woman returned without retribution [ad-Durr 'l-munthur, as-Suyuti]. [as-Suyuti] has narrated it from the Prophet through other chains too. Some of them say that the Messenger of Allah said: “I wanted one thing (retribution), but Allah decided otherwise"...there were some instances where Allah had amended some prophetic orders by adding to or deleting from it, but it was only in his administrative order, not in matters of the law ordained by him for his people, otherwise it would have been an invalid nullification...the Messenger of Allah used to wonder aloud: "How can you embrace the woman with a hand you had hit her with?". It is narrated also in al-Kafi through his chain from Abu Maryam from Abu Ja’far (Imam Muhammad al-Baqir) that he said: “The Messenger of Allah said: “What! Does one of you hit his wife, and then attempt to embrace her?". Countless such statements are found in the traditions; and one may understand from them the Islamic views on this subject.
Background on the roles of men and women in Islam
The Qur'an states that men are the guardians of women, and thus responsible for earning livelihood for the family and female relatives. Women, however, are given complete control over their own income and property. Nevertheless, they are responsible for educating the children, as God has given the one preference over the other. Man is also considered to be the head of the family. The Qur'an recommends that wives be obedient and adaptable to their husbands. Wives should also keep the secrets of their husbands and protect their honor and integrity. Islamic scholars consider this important in running a smooth family system.
For both men and women, zulm- known in English as actions of 'cruelty' against someone- is explicitly prohibited.
Perspectives on the idea of beating
Ibn Kathir, a medieval scholar, wrote in his tafsir (commentary on Qur'an) while explaining this verse,
"the woman from whom you see ill conduct with her husband, such as when she acts as if she is above her husband, disobeys him, ignores him, dislikes him, and so forth. When these signs appear in a woman, her husband should advise her and remind her of Allah's torment if she disobeys him. Indeed, Allah ordered the wife to obey her husband and prohibited her from disobeying him, because of the enormity of his rights and all that he does for her. ...if advice and ignoring her in the bed do not produce the desired results, you are allowed to discipline the wife, without severe beating."
“if keeping from her is ineffectual, it is permissible for him to hit her if he believes that hitting her will bring her back to the right path, though if he does not think so, it is not permissible. His hitting her may not be in a way that injures her, and is his last recourse to save the family.”
Yusuf Estes, an Islamic public speaker, has said this verse does not give a man the permission to literally "beat" his wife, rather only a light tap for a wife being "lewd" In another explanation he said a "miswaak" (tooth stick) can be used to lightly tap. This same view is also held by Khalid Yasin.
"The husband has the right to discipline his wife if she disobeys him in something good, not if she disobeys him in something sinful, because Allaah has enjoined disciplining women by forsaking them in bed and by hitting them, when they do not obey. The Hanafis mentioned four situations in which a husband is permitted to discipline his wife by hitting her. These are: not adorning herself when he wants her to; not responding when he calls her to bed and she is taahirah (pure, i.e., not menstruating); not praying; and going out of the house without his permission."
"If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored, and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury."
Egyptian Cleric Galal Al-Khatib explained,
“Maybe a light slap on her shoulder, or maybe a not-so-light pinch, or a kind of gentle shove. He should make her feel that he wants to reform her, and let her know that he is displeased with her. It is like saying: None of the measures that work with sensitive people work with you. A word would be enough for any wife with lofty morals, but with you, words do not help.”
Abdul Rahman Al-Sheha says in his book "Woman in the Shade of Islam" that the beating must performed without "hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost." Furthermore, "the purpose of beating here is a disciplinary action and not retaliation or hurting by any means".
Ideas detailed in An-Nisa, 34
The verse commands women to be qanitat. The term has been used in Quran 33:35 to refer to men and women alike, who are obedient to God. Some commentators use the term to mean obedience to the husband, while others assert that it means obedience to God. Some "scholars" agree that the husband does not have absolute control over his wife, and her first loyalty is to God.
The term "nushûz" (نُشُوز) is translated as "disloyalty and ill-conduct" by Yusuf Ali, "rebellion" by Pickthall and "desertion" by Shakir. Other scholars have drawn on hadiths to interpret the meaning of the word.
|“||The literal meaning of the word is "rebellion". But rebellion against whom and in what sense? We should certainly not think of this in terms the rebellion of the ruled against a ruler in a sultanate or dictatorship and conclude that it consists of the wife disobeying some of the husband's commands. This is because the same word nushuz is used in case of a husband in verse 128 of the same surah 4, where it is said: "If a woman fears nushuz on her husband's part..." So nushûz is something that can be feared by the husband on the wife's part or by the wife on her husband's part. It cannot therefore be understood in terms of the ruler-ruled relationship. To correctly understand the meaning of the word, it must be noted that both in the verse under consideration and in verse 128 the reference to nushuz is followed by a reference to the break-up of the marriage (see vv. 35, 130). If this context is kept in mind, then it becomes evident that nushuz means the type of behavior on the part of the husband or the wife which is so disturbing for the other that their living together becomes difficult. ...In short, nushûz is a behavior on the part of one marriage partner which comes out of ill-will and seriously disturbs the other partner.||”|
Muhammad Asad notes that Muhammad stipulated in The Farewell Sermon that "beating should be resorted to only if the wife 'has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct'.[page needed]
Debates and discussion about the text
In response to nushûz, admonishment, leaving wives in their beds and idribihunna are permitted. Islamic scholars agree such actions can not be undertaken for any reason other than those mentioned in the Qur'an (see nushûz). Muslim scholars also hold that this response is only permitted only if the husband has fulfilled his obligations, both those required of him by the Quran and those in stipulated in the marriage contract.
Admonishing and separation in bed
The first response to nushuz is wā'z (‘وَعَظ’), meaning to first admonish or scold the wife of her behaviour. There is strong agreement amongst Muslim scholars that this admonishment must be conducted in a spirit of reconciliation. Should the nushuz continue, the next step is to refuse to share the bed with the wife. Again Muslim scholars emphasize on the spirit of healing while conducting this action.
As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, God is Ever Most High, Most Great."
The word iḍribūhunna comes from the root ḍaraba (Arabic: ضرب). The word has been used many times in the Quran to mean: to hit, to travel the earth, to set up, to condemn and to give examples. Thus scholars interpret iḍribūhunna differently. Whereas many interpret it to mean "to strike", others hold that the term means "to separate". Such an action is to be administered only if neither the husband nor the wife are willing to divorce. In the context of this verse, iḍribūhunna has also been interpreted to mean "go to bed with them", the Arabic root word "daraba" being taken from the prosaic example "the stud-camel covered the she-camel".
Muslim scholars who permit hitting, emphasize that it must not be harsh, but rather light. Muslim men are never to hit their spouse's face, nor to hit them in such a way as would leave marks on their body. Scholars suggest that the response administered should be in proportion to the fault committed. Traditionally the idea of beating was "with a toothbrush" or "with a folded handkerchief."
Many jurists interpret iḍribūhunna as "more or less symbolic." Others, however, argue that a mere symbolic administration would be pointless and rather should be an "energetic demonstration" of the love of the husband. But it is agreed that the demonstration should not seriously hurt the wife.
The 2007 translation The Sublime Quran by Laleh Bakhtiar translates iḍribūhunna not as 'beat them' but as 'go away from them'. The introduction to her translation discusses the linguistic and shari‘ah reasons in Arabic for understanding this verb in context. The Prophet never beat his wives, and his example from the Sunnah informs the interpretation of this verse. This interpretation is supported by the fact that some other verses, such as 4:101 which contains word darabtum (derivation from daraba), demonstrate also the interpretation of Arabic word daraba to have meaning 'going' or 'moving'.
The Islamic scholar Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri has given the same translation in his translation of the Quran "Irfan-ul-Quran" ("(...)and (if they still do not improve) turn away from them, striking a temporary parting.(...)").
This translation is further supported by the fact that the word "darabtum" is used in the same Surah (4:94), which means to "go abroad" in the sake of Allah and which is derived from the same root word ("daraba") as "idribuhunna" in 4:34.
The book Woman in the Shade of Islam by Saudi scholar Abdul Rahman al-Sheha stated that a man may "beat" his wife only if it occurs without "hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost." American Muslim preacher Yusuf Estes has stated that men can give "a crack" used by things such as a yardstick or a rolled up newspaper.
A widely used 1930 English translation of the Koran by British Muslim scholar Marmaduke Pickthall determined the verse to mean that, as a last resort, men can "scourge" their wives. He did not view a form physical contact as the correct understanding of the text.
Whilst several Muslim scholars contest that the meaning of the word اضربوهن, transcribed as "iḍribūhunna", as ambiguous, grammatically it is not. The Quran is grammatically very specific leaving little room for interpretation on this occasion. It is the plural imperative of the form 1 of the root ضرب and as such means " give forth ". The ا prefix indicates the imperative command, ضرب is the root, the و suffix the plural of the command and finally هن, which is the third person female plural, or in layman's terms: them. In sum: " give forth a little symbolicly to hurt her feelings "
Other perspectives on idribihûnna
Furthermore, some jurists argue, the woman is not required to accept her husband's punishment, and the wife can divorce anytime. The wife can also take the husband to court, should he abuse her. If the case is decided in her favor, she has the right to retaliate against her husband.
In his book No god but God, University of Southern California scholar Reza Aslan, stated that false interpretations of the text have occurred because Koranic commentary "has been the exclusive domain of Muslim men."
The Islamic prophet Mohammed himself, according to Islamic tradition, never once struck a woman in argument. This fact is sometimes cited in debates about the text.
Muslim feminist writer Asra Q. Nomani has argued:
Indeed, Muslim scholars and leaders have long been doing what I call "the 4:34 dance" -- they reject outright violence against women but accept a level of aggression that fits contemporary definitions of domestic violence.
- Iman Hashim, Reconciling Islam and feminism, Gender & Development, 1999, vol. 7, issue 1, p 7, ISSN 13552074
- "Wife Beating in Islam: Permissible? - Marital relationships - counsels". OnIslam.net. 2011-04-21. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
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- Nomani, Asra Q. (October 22, 2006). "Clothes Aren't the Issue". Washington Post.
- cf. Ahmed Ali's translation
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- Created on Monday, 08 August 2011 22:48 (2011-08-08). "The Mercy of Prophet PBUH on Women". Systemoflife.com. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- "Sahih Muslim Book 004, Hadith Number 2127". Hadithcollection.com. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- "Surat An-Nisa' [4:34] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Quran.com. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- "Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34". Islamicperspectives.com. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
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- Tafsir al-Mizan, by al-Allamah as-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba-i, translated by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi. V. 8, p.217,220
- Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 278
- Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter:The Social Law of Islam
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Quran Tafsir.
- Ahmad, Misri (1994). Reliance of the Traveler. Beltsville, MD: Amana.
- "Women in Islam". Islamtomorrow.com. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
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- ما هي حقوق الزوج وما هي حقوق الزوجة. English translation here .
- al-Qaradawi, Yusuf (1997). The lawful and the prohibited in Islam = al-Halal wal Haram fil Islam. Cairo, Egypt: El Falah. p. 200. ISBN 9775813034.
- Excerpts from a sermon by Egyptian cleric Galal Al-Khatib, which aired on Al-Rahma TV on December 24, 2008. "Egyptian Cleric Galal Al-Khatib Explains Wife-Beating in Islam". MEMRI TV. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Addwesh, prepared by Abdul Rahman Al-Sheha ; rendered into English by : Dr. Mohammed Said Dabas ; introduced by : Dr. Ahmad Ibn Saifuddin ; revisedby : Abdulaziz (2004). Woman in the shade of Islam (3rd ed. ed.). Khamis Mushait 61311, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Educational Center. p. 111. ISBN 9960800237. "Third and final stage: Beating without hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost. The purpose of beating here is a disciplinary action and not retaliation or hurting by any means."
- Ali, Kecia (2006). "Marriage". In Leaman, Oliver. The Qur'an: an encyclopedia. Great Britain: Routeledge. pp. 389–392 (look at 392)
- Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).
- Saleem Shahzad, Can a Husband force his Wife to wear the Hijab?, Renaissance - Monthly Islamic Journal, 11(11), November 2001.
- Ammar, Nawal H. (May 2007). "Wife Battery in Islam: A Comprehensive Understanding of Interpretations". Violence Against Women 13 (5): 519–523. doi:10.1177/1077801207300658. PMID 17478676.
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his Quranic commentary states that: "In case of family jars four steps are mentioned, to be taken in that order. (1) Perhaps verbal advice or admonition may be sufficient; (2) if not, sex relations may be suspended; (3) if this is not sufficient, some slight physical correction may be administered; but Imam Shafi'i considers this inadvisable, though permissible, and all authorities are unanimous in deprecating any sort of cruelty, even of the nagging kind, as mentioned in the next clause; (4) if all this fails, a family council is recommended in 4:35 below." Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary (commentary on 4:34), Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5.
- Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, says that "If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored, and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. .
- Ibn Kathir writes that in case of rebellious behaviour, the husband is asked to urge his wife to mend her ways, then to refuse to share their beds, and as the last resort, husbands are allowed to admonish their wives by beating. Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
- USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts
- Ahmad Shafaat, Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34, Islamic Perspectives. August 10, 2005
- Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993
- Raghib, Al-Mufridat fi Gharib Al-Qur'an
- Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, says that "It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury."
- Ibn Kathir Ad-Damishqee records in his Tafsir Al-Qur'an Al-Azim that "Ibn `Abbas and several others said that the Ayah refers to a beating that is not violent. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that it means, a beating that is not severe."
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Ibn Kathir
- "The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary", Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5, passage was quoted from commentary on 4:34
- Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
- M.A.S Abdel Haleem Understanding the Qur'an 46-54
- "Towards Understanding the Qur'an" Translation by Zafar I. Ansari from "Tafheem Al-Qur'an" by Syed Abul-A'ala Mawdudi, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, England. Passage was quoted from commentary on 4:34.
- Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an), citing Tabari who "quot[es] the views of scholars of the earliest times."
- Fareena Alam. "Is wife beating allowed in Islam?". Themodernreligion.com. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- The concept of a beating with a toothbrush comes from Muhammad's statement to a disobedient maid-servant that "If it were not for the fear of retaliation on the Day of Resurrection, I would have beaten you with this miswak (tooth-cleaning twig)" [as reported by Ibn Majah, by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and by Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat]. Cited by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research at 
- Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an), citing Razi.
- One such authority is the earliest hafiz, Ibn Abbas.
- Bakhtiar, Laleh. Verse in Koran on beating wife gets a new translation. NYTimes.com
- Osama Abdallah. Systematic comparison with 4:94 Islamawareness.net
- Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi comments that "Whenever the Prophet (peace be on him) permitted a man to administer corporal punishment to his wife, he did so with reluctance, and continued to express his distaste for it. And even in cases where it is necessary, the Prophet (peace be on him) directed men not to hit across the face, nor to beat severely nor to use anything that might leave marks on the body." "Towards Understanding the Qur'an" Translation by Zafar I. Ansari from "Tafheem Al-Qur'an" (specifically, commentary on 4:34) by Syed Abul-A'ala Mawdudi, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, England.
- The medieval jurist ash-Shafi'i, founder of one of the main schools of fiqh, commented on this verse that "hitting is permitted, but not hitting is preferable."
- "[S]ome of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi'i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet's personal feelings with regard to this problem." Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).