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Article 426

Is beating the woman in the Shari'ah?


By Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed

President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.

Louisville, KY



In September 2005,  an  Imam who wrote a book on how to beat  one's wife without leaving marks on her body  was  ordered by a judge in Spain to study the country's constitution.


The judge told Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, an Imam of a mosque in the southern resort of Fuengirola, to spend six months studying three articles of the constitution and the universal declaration of human rights.


Mr. Mustafa was sentenced to 15 months in jail and fined about $ 2,600 last year after being found guilty of inciting violence against women.


A judge released him after 22 days in jail on the condition that he undertake a re-education course. The Spanish government has set up a commission to find ways for the Muslim community to regulate itself. A central recommendation is that the imams should speak Spanish and have a basic knowledge of human rights and Spanish law.


In his book "Women in Islam," published four years ago, Mr. Mustafa, the Imam wrote that verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity could be used to discipline a disobedient wife. If that failed, he argued that, according to Islamic law, beatings could be sensibly administered.


"The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body," he wrote.


MR. MUSTAFA'S LESSONS, which he must pay for, will be taught by teachers from Malaga University.


According to La Vanguardia newspaper, he will have to study articles 10, 14 and 15 of the Spanish constitution. The first two address "the dignity of a person and inviolable rights" and states "all Spaniards are equal before the law."


The third one states "the moral and physical integrity of a person in no case can be submitted to torture nor inhuman or degrading punishments or treatment."


In the Qur'an, Surah 4: 34 reads:

"Men are the {qawwam} of women, because Allah has given the one more than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are {qanitat}, and guard in the husband's absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear {nushooz}, admonish them first, then refuse to share their beds, and finally {adriboo} them; but when they {ataa:} to you, then seek not against them means of annoyance: For Allah is Most High, great above you all. "

Is husband Superior and wife inferior?

Throughout the Noble Qur'an, Allah emphasizes that men and women are equal for Him – Allah will judge them in exactly the same way .  It is hard to believe  if a verse would contradict this equality. But is that really the case here? The Arabic word used is {qawwam}, an intensive form of {qaim}, meaning: 'to take care of, to stand up for,  to look after'. Therefore, does this verse say that men are superior to women? Not at all. It says: men must look after women. In Islam, men are obliged to financially provide for their wife and children. They have to pay for their housing, clothing, food, medicines, etc. That is what {qawwamoona} means: men must take care of women.

Beating  One's  wife?

The verse instructs a husband whose wife causes problems in their marriage to first talk to her about it, then leave the marital bed, then {adriboo} his wife, and all of this in view of pursuing a reconciliation as is evident from the subsequent verse 4:35.


The Arabic word used here, {adriboo}, from the root {d-r-b}, has several dozens of meanings, such as: 'to beat', but also: 'to forsake, to avoid, to separate,                                  to leave, to part'.  (DOES THE QUR'AN ALLOW BEATING OF WOMEN? By: MOHAMMED ABDUL MALEK online at

 In Surah, Al- Nur, 24:2,  describes what should be done in case of adultery:

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

This verse establishes the principle that for men and women, equal actions lead to equal punishment.  In case of  adultery men and women must receive equal punishment, surely there is no reason why they should be treated differently for any lesser marital problem.

Suppose {adriboo} means: 'to beat'.

In this case, verse 4:34 says that when a wife causes a problem in the marriage, her husband should first talk to her about it, then leave their bed, then beat her and all of this in view of increasing his chances of a reconciliation. On the emotional level, this certainly does not sound like a very promising course of action.  If   one follows the principle of 'equal behaviour leads to equal punishment' then when a husband causes a problem in the marriage, his wife can beat him. At which he could invoke verse 4:34 to beat her again, so that the result would be a perpetual physical fight between spouses! Surely, this makes no sense at all. And indeed, it is not what Allah prescribes for the situation where a husband causes a rift, as will be explained in a moment.

Suppose {adriboo} means: 'to forsake, to avoid', possibly, as Mohammed Abdul Malek suggests: 'to separate, to part'.

Then  Verse 4:34 now says that when a wife causes a problem in the marriage, her husband should first talk to her about it, then leave their bed (forsaking his sexual satisfaction), then avoid her even more (not talking to her anymore, leaving the room when she enters it, and possibly even leaving the house for a while), in order to prevent things from getting worse, and on the contrary to let things cool down and create enough space in view of increasing chances of a reconciliation.

This sounds like a very logical chain of events.

Also, application of the general rule of verse 24:2 ('equal actions, equal punishment') now means that when a husband causes a marital problem, his wife should forsake a few of her rights, avoid her husband in increasing ways, and try to work towards a reconciliation. And yes, that is precisely what verse 4:128 says:

"If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves" (Glorious Qur'an 4:128) 

Understanding {adriboo} as 'to forsake, to (gradually) avoid (more and more), possibly eventually leave altogether', clearly makes sense when relating several verses to one another.

Prophet's Example

Beating a wife, would contradict hadiths of the Noble Prophet who repeatedly said: “do not beat believing women!”. It would also contradict the Noble Prophet's instructions about anger – which he explained to originate from Satan and which he described as "a living coal on one's heart". One should not act upon ones anger, lest one would do things and regret it later. When  a  person is  angry  while  standing, "sit down", the Prophet (pbuh) said. And if one is  still angry  even in the sitting position, then one should lie down. Interpreting this verse as allowing a husband to beat his wife, surely contradicts these rulings on anger.

Furthermore, Allah says in the Noble Qur'an that one must meet bad behaviour with something that is better, not with something that is worse, in order to turn a hostile situation into a friendly one:

"Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!" (Noble Qur'an 41:13).  Therefore the word {adriboo} cannot really have meant “to beat”, can it?  It must mean something that is better than causing problems, and avoiding the problem.

Based on the foregoing,  interpreting {adriboo} as 'to beat', causes several internal conflicts with the meaning of other Qur'anic verses and  ahadith, while interpreting it as 'gradually forsaking, more and more and possibly leaving altogether', is a much more logical interpretation that is entirely consistent with the interpretation of other rules in the Glorious Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Noble Prophet Muhammad.

Return to obedience?

When the problem is solved, and  the wife is committed to the marriage again, then the husband is advised not to keep using the incident against her and to consider the incident closed. And the Noble Qur'an advises that when one of the partners causes a marriage problem, the other should gradually avoid the person who causes the problem, in order to save the marriage - irrespective of who started the strife (4:34, 4:128)

This is only an interpretation. Allah knows best.




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