Islam and wife beating
Wife beating is fully sanctioned in Islam.
Before the familiar PC brand paint brush comes out to portray me as another Islamophobe hellbent on marring the Fantasia of the religion of peace, let’s see why I make that claim:
Firstly, the infamous verse from the Qua’ran seemingly giving men justification to beat their wives : 4:34.
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.
Here the notion of feminism , that men and women are equal, is dismissed. As Allah clearly says men are in charge of women. Which is clearly not equality. To claim otherwise is disagreeing with Allah’s eternal word. However, I digress. 4:34, according to this translation gives men a clear indication they are justified in Allah’s eyes to ‘beat’ their wives. The most famous tafsir is that of Ibn kathir. I have used his to clarify this verse.
beat them) means, if advice and ignoring her in the bed do not produce the desired results, you are allowed to discipline the wife, without severe beating. Muslim recorded that Jabir said that during the Farewell Hajj, the Prophet said; (Fear Allah regarding women, for they are your assistants. You have the right on them that they do not allow any person whom you dislike to step on your mat. However, if they do that, you are allowed to discipline them lightly. They have a right on you that you provide them with their provision and clothes, in a reasonable manner
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.
So it is clear here, the meaning derived from this tafsir of the verse is one is allowed to strike his wife, albeit not severe in order to ‘discipline her’. This is still domestic abuse. Doing it however lightly, in whatever place, doesn’t neutralise the fact this is domestic abuse. The principle is still the same. The man intends to raise his hand to his wife, he is abusing her. Case closed. It DOESN’T matter if you don’t leave scars, think about the mental, emotional and internal scars a woman feels knowing her husband has subjected her to domestic violence. The Qua’ran allows a man to hit his wife.
The sahih Hadith on how Muhammad interpreted this verse is found in his infamous farewell sermon :
Ibn Majah 3,9,1851
It was narrated that: Sulaiman bin Amr bin Ahwas said: “My father told me that he was present on the Farewell pilgrimage with the Messenger of Allah. He praised and glorified Allah, and reminder and exhorted (the people). The 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. 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 on treat on your bedding (furniture), not allow anyone whom you dislike to enter your houses. And their right over you are that should treat them kindly with regard to their clothing and food.
Another references to this Sermon is
Sahih Muslim. Kitab al-Hajj. Hadith 159
Muhammad calls the women ‘prisoners’ and makes it clear that if they commit a fault, they are allowed to be disciplined by their husband. Firstly, this is pretty much establishing the role men play in contrast to women in Muhammad’s eyes. The whole point according to the 4:34 is to discipline the wife in order to make her obedient to her husband again. As Allah says, ‘the righteous women are devoutly obedient’ (4:34). This does not match up to 21st century morale , where domestic violence is seen as something thoroughly deplorable and is a criminal offence. This MAY have been applicable and morally reasonable to people in the 7th century, but the world has moved way on. It is wrong to reconcile such 7th century moral groundings to the developed 21st.
To the Muslims who say it isn’t a big issue, because Allah gives 2 steps first and it was just as a last resort, look at this Hadith:
Sunan Abu Dwaud Book 11, Number 2141:
Narrated Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab:
Iyas ibn Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.
Clearly Muhammad gave the order for the women to be beaten because they were disobedient. It shows the aim of 4:34 is to reinstate the wife’s meek submissive and unswerving obedience to her husband. Notice Muhammad did not advise to complete the first two steps of 4:34, he skipped straight to the last step. And even though Muhammad is seemingly unhappy with the outcome , ( which is hypocritical in itself as he gave permission) he still allowed this, which shows 4:34 is to be applied literally.
And to the claim that Muhammad disliked it and never hit a woman :
Sahih Muslim Book 4 Hadith 2127
…Why is it, O ‘A’isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it…
Sahih Muslim Book 9, Hadith 3506
…he found Allah’s Apostle (Peace be upon him) sitting sad and silent with his wives around him. He (Hadrat ‘Umar) said: I would say something which would make the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) laugh, so he said: Messenger of Allah, I wish you had seen (the treatment meted out to) the daughter of Khadija when you asked me some money, and I got up and slapped her on her neck. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) laughed and said: They are around me as you see, asking for extra money. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) then got up went to ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) and slapped her on the neck, and ‘Umar stood up before Hafsa and slapped her saying: You ask Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) which he does not possess. They said: By Allah, we do not ask Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) for anything he does not possess. Then he withdrew from them for a month or for twenty-nine days…
Both are classified as ‘sahih’
Sunan Ibn Majah Book of Chapters on Marriage Number 1986
It was narrated that Ash’ath bin Qais said:
“I was a guest (at the home) of ‘Umar one night, and in the middle of the night he went and hit his wife, and I separated them. When he went to bed he said to me: ‘O Ash’ath, learn from me something that I heard from the Messenger of Allah” A man should not be asked why he beats his wife, and do not go to sleep until you have prayed the Witr.”‘ And I forgot the third thing.”
It is clear Muhammad struck Aisha, his favourite child wife. Which showed he had no qualms about physically implementing the last stage of 4:34, as in his view , Aisha sneaking out of the house constituted as ‘disobedience’ and it was perfectly okay for him to punish Aisha by hitting her chest, which yet again may not have caused her physical marks, but clearly left a lasting impression on her as she remembered to comment about it years later.
And to those agreeing with the interpretation of the scholars, that it should be done lightly and leave no marks, have a look at this appalling video.
Does he leave marks ? No. The severity of the hitting can differentiate as what constitutes ‘lightly ‘ to another man differs. Again, how can you beat someone lightly without leaving marks?
For the claim that it is only done in severe cases, such as infidelity from the wife, 4:34 does NOT specify what circumstances, merely ‘wives whom you fear arrogance ‘ which can be applied to any situation. There is no restriction or specification of what offence a wife can commit to deserve a beating, which means it’s up to the husband. This is further evidenced by the Hadith :
Sunan Abu Dawud Book 11, number 2142
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: a man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.
This Hadith clearly shows it is not only allowed in exceptional circumstances , but very menial ones too. As Muhammad said , a man will not be asked WHY he beat his wife, meaning no one is owed an explanation and he is completely justified.
This is appalling to anyone with a working moral compass. It is completely illogical to anyone to deny Islam sanctions domestic violence in any way.
Thank you to the person who helped construct this article for me. Your clarity and insight was very helpful. You know who you are.