An-Nisa, 34

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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 a degree of autonomy over their own income and property but obliging them to comply with the husband's wishes should they be congruent with Islamic principles and beneficial to the marriage. The verse is also interpreted to mean that men are also obliged to be responsible for maintenance of their female relatives.[1]

There are a number of translations of this verse from the Arabic original, and all vary to some extent.[2] Some Muslims, such as Islamic feminist groups, argue that Muslim men use the text as an excuse for domestic violence.[3] 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.[4]

Ibn Abbas, a companion of Muhammad, wrote the earliest commentary on the Quran, and to this part he himself said this is only a light tap.[5] When asked about the light hitting, he said it refers to using a siwak (toothbrush). There are sources that say that Muhammad himself never hit a woman and forbade it.[6] Furthermore, Muhammad commented on this verse, where he said “a light tap that leaves no mark.”[7]

There have been several fatwas against domestic violence.[8][9] Feminist writers have argued that society during Quranic times differed from modern times, especially in how children were reared and raised, creating a need for gender roles. However, these scholars highlight that the Qur'an can be interpreted differently as society changes.[10][11][12]

The first part of the verse about men having authority over women is meant for obedience towards God, not the husband.[13] Interpretations of what having authority means vary.[14]

Other translation of the Verse 4:34[edit]

- as translated by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamath, see verse at alislam

- as translated in Sahih International, at

- Translation by Ahmad Shafaat

- Translation by Muhsin Khan

- Translation by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

- Translation by Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran

Discussion of Translations[edit]

The sheer number of translations of the Quran and this verse in particular demonstrates that there is no one exact, literal translation of this text. Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, was published first in 1938 and has become one of the most popular English translations. This is largely due to the extensive footnotes Ali includes, and its subsidization from the Saudi Arabian Islamic officials.

Background on the roles of men and women in Islam[edit]

Further information: Namus 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 a degree of autonomy over their own income and property, provided this autonomy is exercised in a way that is agreeable to the wishes of the husband, provided his wishes not be in violation of Islamic principles.[1] 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.[20] 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.[21]

Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (Qu'ran 2:228)


For both men and women, zulm- known in English as actions of 'cruelty' against someone- is explicitly prohibited.[3]

Equality of genders throughout the Qur'an[edit]

Some say the verse does not mean men dominate women, nor the society.[14]

The equality of men and women is discussed in many places throughout the text. Unlike the Bible, the origin of sin in the Garden of Eden is carried out by both man and woman, not just Eve. This has significance because the original sin then is not the fault of the woman, but a more equal representation of the sins of both genders.

Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame (Qur’an 7:20)


The Qur'an is also very specific that both men and women should receive equal punishment for wrongdoings (24:2), and that both men and women are seen as equals under God, and will be rewarded for their faith by entering Heaven (4:124).

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes(Qur’an 24:2)


Whoever does good deed,- male or female- and he is believer, he will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to him. (Qur’an 4:124)


Male and female relationships in the times of the Prophet[edit]

In her book Qur'an and Women Amina Wadud writes about the importance of women in the time of the Prophet. During this time, women did not have access to the technology that women today have; giving birth and raising children was much more difficult due to diseases and lack of healthcare knowledge. For this reason, Wadud writes, "The Qur'an establishes his [the husband's] responsibility as qiwamah: seeing to it that the women is not burdened with additional responsibilities which jeopardize that primary demanding responsibility only she can fulfill." [26] The need to reproduce and raise children contributed to the importance of gender roles in the time of the Prophet.

Ayesha Chaudhry writes that many Muslims have this fundamentally flawed way of examining the text, writing that “Despite the potential for such verses [4:34] to have multiple plain-sense meanings, living Muslim communities place these interpretations in conversation with the pre-colonial Islamic tradition”[27]

Examples from the Prophet[edit]

The late Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Tabataba'i(1903-1981 AD) provides the following exegesis on 4:34 from both Sunni and Shi'ite sources in his Mizan:[clarification needed]

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.[28]

Al-Tabari(839-923 AD) wrote that, "The Prophet never raised his hand against one of his wives, or against a slave, nor against any person at all." In fact, when the Prophet faced rebellion of his wives, rather than beat him, Al-Tabari accounts that he instead, "stayed away from his wives for 29 nights." [29]

Debates and discussion about the text[edit]

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).[30]

"Part 1: Authority of men and its reasons"[edit]

This allots men authority over women due to following reasons: 1: Because God has given some more strength than others. 2: Because men spent from their property to support women i.e., clothing, residence, and sustenance.


The word is also used at Al-Quran 4:134. Here it is said that belivers should be Qawwamun with fairness. [31]

1: God has favoured some over others[edit]

One of the reason men being Qawwamun over women is that God has favoured some over others. It is again unknown who is fovored more but context implies that men are favoured men over women. [32]

2: Men are responsible of maintenance of women[edit]

Second reason of men being Qawwamun over women is that because men are responsible of earning for women. [32]

Part 2: Characters of Pious Women[edit]

The verse declares that pious women are: 1: Obedient 2: Guarding the unseen as God prescribes.

1: Obedient or Qanitat[edit]

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.[33] Some "scholars" agree that the husband does not have absolute control over his wife, and her first loyalty is to God.[34]

2: Guarding the unseen[edit]

Hafizat is derived from hafaz meaning to guard. The subjective form is hafiz meaning a person who guards and hafizah meaning she who guards. Hafizat is plural of Hafizah. It means that good women guard themselves in the absence of Husband as God prescribes.

Part 3: Rebellious women and advice[edit]

And those whose rebellion is feard. It is advised 1: to admonish them 2: to leave them alone in beds 3: to beat them


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.

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'.[35][page needed]

1: Admonishing[edit]

The first response to nushuz is wā'z (‘وَعَظ’), meaning to first admonish or scold the wife of her behaviour.[21] There is strong agreement amongst Muslim scholars that this admonishment must be conducted in a spirit of reconciliation.

2: leaving in beds[edit]

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.[36]

iḍribūhunna and daraba[edit]

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".[36] Such an action is to be administered only if neither the husband nor the wife are willing to divorce.[37] In the context of this verse, iḍribūhunna has also been interpreted to mean "go to bed with them",[38] the Arabic root word "daraba" being taken from the prosaic example "the stud-camel covered the she-camel".[39]

Daraba is translated by Yusuf Ali as "beat," but the Arabic word is used elsewhere in the Qur'an to convey different meanings. The phrase, "Daraba Allah mathalan" translates to, "Allah gives or sets an example." [40] The use of this word might be compared to the way "to strike" is used in English, which can mean, "to strike a pose," or "to strike a bargain," not just referring to the physical act of hitting something.[41] The use of daraba is also intentional, because a different Arabic word exists, "darraba" which is translated to, "to strike repeatedly or intensely." [40]

Muslim scholars who permit hitting, emphasize that it must not be harsh,[37][42][43] but rather light.[44][45][46][47] 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.[48] Traditionally the idea of beating was "with a toothbrush"[49][50][51] or "with a folded handkerchief."[52]

Many jurists interpret iḍribūhunna as "more or less symbolic."[35][53] 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.[37]

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'.[54]

The Islamic scholar 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.(...)").[18]

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.[55]

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."

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.[3] He did not view[citation needed] a form physical contact as the correct understanding of the text.

Some jurists argue that even when hitting is acceptable under the Qur'an, it is still discountenanced.[56][57][58]

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."[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

Feminist writer Amina Wadud writes in her book, Inside the Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam,

No community will ever be exactly like another. Therefore no community can be a duplicate of that original community. The Quran never states that as a goal. Rather the goal has been to emulate certain key principles of human development; justice, equity, harmony, moral responsibility, spiritual awareness and development.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Iman Hashim, Reconciling Islam and feminism, Gender & Development, 1999, vol. 7, issue 1, p 7, ISSN 13552074
  2. ^ "Main Menu". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Nomani, Asra Q. (October 22, 2006). "Clothes Aren't the Issue". Washington Post. 
  4. ^ cf. Ahmed Ali's translation
  5. ^
  6. ^ Created on Monday, 08 August 2011 22:48 (2011-08-08). "The Mercy of Prophet PBUH on Women". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^
  10. ^ Wadud, Amina (1999). Qur'an and Woman. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  11. ^ Mernissi, Fatimea (1991). The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam. Cambridge: Perseus Books. 
  12. ^ Chaudhry, Ayesha (2013). Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "Surat An-Nisa' [4:34] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  16. ^ "Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  17. ^ "Read Quran (An-Nisa)". The Qur'an. Search The Truth. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Minhaj Internet Bureau. "an-Nisā’ (Women". Irfan-ul-Quran. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  19. ^ "Al-Qur'an, Surah An-Nisa'". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  20. ^ Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 278
  21. ^ a b Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter:The Social Law of Islam
  22. ^ "al-Baqarah 2:228". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  23. ^ "al-A' raf". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  24. ^ "An-nur 24:2". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "An-Nisa 4:124". Islam Awakened. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Wadud, Amina (1999). Qur'an and Woman. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 73. 
  27. ^ Chaudhry, Ayesha (2013). Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 28. 
  28. ^ Tafsir al-Mizan, by al-Allamah as-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba-i, translated by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi. V. 8, p.217,220
  29. ^ Mernissi, Fatimea (1991). The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam. Cambridge: Perseus Books. p. 156. 
  30. ^ Saleem Shahzad, Can a Husband force his Wife to wear the Hijab?, Renaissance - Monthly Islamic Journal, 11(11), November 2001.
  31. ^ Template:Cite exegesis by Ahmad shafaat
  32. ^ a b Template:Cite exegesis by Ahmad Shafaat
  33. ^ Wadud, Amina (1999). Qur'an and Women. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. 
  34. ^ Ali, Kecia (2006). "Marriage". In Leaman, Oliver. The Qur'an: an encyclopedia. Great Britain: Routeledge. pp. 389–392 (look at 392). 
  35. ^ a b Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).
  36. ^ a b 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. 
  37. ^ a b c Ahmad Shafaat, Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34, Islamic Perspectives. August 10, 2005
  38. ^ Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993
  39. ^ Raghib, Al-Mufridat fi Gharib Al-Qur'an
  40. ^ a b Wadud, Amina (1999). Qur'an and Woman. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 76. 
  41. ^ Chaudhry, Ayesha (2013). Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 13. 
  42. ^ 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."[2]
  43. ^ 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."
  44. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Ibn Kathir
  45. ^ "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
  46. ^ Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  47. ^ M.A.S Abdel Haleem Understanding the Qur'an 46-54
  48. ^ "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.
  49. ^ 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."
  50. ^ Fareena Alam. "Is wife beating allowed in Islam?". Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  51. ^ 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 [3][4]
  52. ^ Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an), citing Razi.
  53. ^ One such authority is the earliest hafiz, Ibn Abbas.[5]
  54. ^ Bakhtiar, Laleh. Verse in Koran on beating wife gets a new translation.
  55. ^ Osama Abdallah. Systematic comparison with 4:94
  56. ^ 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.
  57. ^ 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."
  58. ^ "[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).
  59. ^ Wadud, Amina (2007). Inside the Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 199. 

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