by Silas


AL-NAWAWI (Reliance of the Traveller)



One of the more controversial issues in Islam is the Quran’s authorization for husbands to beat disobedient wives. This is found in chapter 4, verse 34. Additional references on wife beating are found in Muhammad’s traditions (hadith), and biographical material (sira). Many people have criticized Islam because of this harsh sanction and many Muslims have written articles seeking to mollify or defend it.

In review of the actual teachings of the Quran, hadith, and sira, Islam is rightly criticized. This command is not only a harsh way to treat one’s wife, it portrays the degraded position of married women in Islam. It will be shown from the Quran, Hadith, Sira, and other Islamic writings that this "Islamic" wife beating is physical and painful.

Before we discuss wife beating, we must review Islam’s viewpoint of women and comprehend the position, or standing, it places her in with respect to her husband. This is fundamental in understanding the command to beat the disobedient wife. Islam views the woman as inferior to the man and as such, places her in a subservient and subordinate position in the marriage relationship. The man is allowed to discipline his wife because he is her superior and responsible for her. He has the authority to beat his wife if he feels she is being disobedient. Wife beating is merely the bad fruit of a bad theological root.

When I first began to study the topic I did not realize that an Islamic marriage is not equivalent to a Christian marriage. Its rules, roles, and requirements are different. In a Christian marriage the husband is given the role as head of the household and the wife is expected to submit to the husband’s leadership. However, she is his equal in terms of social status; she is not inferior to him. In Islam the husband is also the head of the marriage, additionally he is his wife’s manager. Women are considered to be "in-between a slave and free man". Slaves are not equal to their masters, rather they are subservient, managed, and controlled. Similarly, Muslim wives are inferior to their husbands and are managed and controlled. I am not saying that the wife is the husband’s slave, do not take this to an extreme.

Muhammad’s viewpoint of women was that they "lack self-control" and thus for their own good, and societies’ good, they must be subordinate to and managed by their husbands. Wives must obey. In an Islamic marriage when a man gives his bride a dowry he is accredited the right to manage his wife. By accepting his dowry a woman is giving her husband the right to her regulation.

Muhammad urged his followers to treat their wives well and the Quran’s chapter 4 is full of these sincere admonitions. He did not want to see them beaten without cause and he wanted good marriage relationships. However, his desires for happy marriages and kind treatment do not mitigate the authority he gave men over women or the position he ascribed to women. Wives are to be treated gently and kindly but are still under the man’s authority. If she persists in disobedience to his wishes he has the right, and the responsibility, to beat her to bring her into submission once again, and re-establish a happy marriage.

This article addresses the primary theme of Islamic wife beating and is based upon the teachings of the Quran, Hadith, Sira, and renowned Islamic scholars. Following the conclusion I have a series of appendices that discuss specific issues related to wife beating.





Below are 6 English versions of the Quran verse 4:34. This passage lays the foundation for wife beating. I provided all these to show their similarity. These translations are all from recognized scholars. I have corrected some archaic spelling. My comments are in [ ] type brackets.

Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God has gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband's absence, because God has of them been careful. But chide those for whose refractoriness you have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourge them: but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great! Rodwell[1]

['Refractoriness' means hard or impossible to manage, stubbornly disobedient'].

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme. Dawood[2]

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. Pickthall[3]

Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God's guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All high, All great. Arberry[4]

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. Shakir[5]

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whom part you fear disloyalty and 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) for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). Ali[6]



The introduction emphasized the husband’s superiority over the wife. 4:34 starts by establishing that precedent. The beginning states: men are "superior", men have "authority", men are "in charge", etc. Muhammad placed the man over the wife; he is her custodian and she obeys him. Then the Quran proceeds to lay out their respective roles, then lists a progression of steps to be followed when dealing with a rebellious wife:

  1. admonish them: The husband is to verbally admonish her
  2. send them to beds apart: If that fails the husband is to sexually desert his wife
  3. beat them: If both measures above fail the husband is commanded to beat his wife.

The husband, as the manager, increases the pressure on his wife to bring her into obedience to him. If beating her doesn’t work they will move towards divorce. (Note that obedience to her husband is not required if he orders her to do something sinful, causes her physical pain, or something she is incapable of doing).

[NOTE: I placed Ali's version last because I comment on his, (and Muhammad Asad’s) translation and editing of the Quran in Appendix 1].



The reason (asbab al-nuzul) behind the "revelation" is detailed by various Muslim scholars. The quote below comes from Razi's commentary, "At-Tafsir al-Kabir," on 4:34

"A women complained to Muhammad that her husband slapped her on the face, (which was still marked by the slap). At first the prophet said to her: "Get even with him", but then added: "Wait until I think about it". Later on, Allah supposedly revealed 4:34 to Muhammad, after which the prophet said: "We wanted one thing but Allah wanted another, and what Allah wanted is best."[7]





The Hadith contains more information on wife beating in the early Islamic community. The Hadith illustrate facets of the husband & wife relationship and mention or depict physical violence against the wife. I will quote several of these to demonstrate the wife’s lower position in the marriage and the exact type of wife beating that occurred in Muhammad’s time, with his approval. In some cases due to the length I will only quote relevant portions of a hadith.

Here is a Hadith from Bukhari[8], vol. 7, # 715, that details Islamic wife beating:

"Narrated Ikrima: 'Rifaa divorced his wife whereupon Abdur-Rahman married her. Aisha said that the lady came wearing a green veil and complained to her (Aisha) and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating. It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah's messenger came, Aisha said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes! When Abdur-Rahman heard that his wife had gone to the prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, "By Allah! I have done no wrong to him, but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this," holding and showing the fringe of her garment. Abdur-Rahman said, "By Allah, O Allah's messenger! She has told a lie. I am very strong and can satisfy her, but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifaa." Allah's messenger said to her, "If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifaa unless Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you." The prophet saw two boys with Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), "Are these your sons?" On that Abdur-Rahman said, "Yes." The prophet said, "You claim what you claim (that he is impotent)? But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow.""

Let's note several items from this Hadith.

1) A woman was beaten by her husband because of marriage discord. The women did not commit any illegal sexual act. She was beaten and bruised because her husband said she was "disobedient" and he thought she wanted to go back to her former husband.

2) Aisha said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!

The woman was badly bruised. Her skin was green. Aisha acknowledged that the Muslim women were suffering (from being beaten) more than the non-Muslim women. Muslims today proclaim that Islam gave women rights but Aisha, the "mother of the believers" said otherwise! She said that the Pagan women were treated better!

3) Muhammad did not rebuke the man for beating his wife. In fact, he reproached the women for saying Rahman was impotent. Even though she was hurt Muhammad accepted her bruises and beating because to Muhammad it was not abuse. In Muhammad’s eyes she deserved the beating.


Following are a number of various Hadith relative to wife beating. Again, I have edited several of these because of length.



Sahih Muslim[9], Book 009, Number 3512:

…When my period of 'Idda was over, I mentioned to him [Muhammad] that Mu'awiya b. Abu Sufyan and Jahm had sent proposal of marriage to me, whereupon Allah's said: As for Abu Jahm, he does not put down his staff from his shoulder, and as for Mu'awiya, he is a poor man having no property; marry Usama b. Zaid. I objected to him, but he again said: Marry Usama; so I married him. Allah blessed there in and I was envied (by others).

Book 009, Number 3526:

…So I informed him [Muhammad]. (By that time) Mu'awiya, Abu Jahm and Usama b. Zaid had given her the proposal of marriage. Allah's Messenger said: So far as Mu'awiya is concerned, he is a poor man without any property. So far as Abu Jahm is concerned, he is a great beater of women, but Usama b. Zaid... She pointed with her hand (that she did not approve of the idea of marrying) Usama. But Allah's Messenger said: Obedience to Allah and obedience to His Messenger is better for thee. She said: So I married him, and I became an object of envy.

Book 009, Number 3527:

…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).



These three Hadith illustrate that some Muslim husbands could legally beat their wives without any retaliatory consequences. Abu Jahm was known to beat his wives and to treat them harshly. Although Muhammad may not have cared for it, wife beating was certainly allowed within the Islamic community.

These hadith also illustrate that wife beating is per the discretion of the husband. Not all Muslim husbands beat their wives as Abu Jahm. There was variation in the Muslim community and this variation existed because the husband determined when it was needed. What may be an unimportant infraction to one husband could be a great offense to another.




Disciplining the wife was important enough in Islamic thought that Abu Dawud devoted a small chapter dedicated to wife beating in his Hadith collection. Below are two of them.




Iyas Dhubab reported the apostle of Allah as saying: "Do not beat Allah's handmaidens", but when Umar came to the apostle of Allah 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 complaining against their husbands. So the apostle of Allah said, "Many women have gone round Muhammad's family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you".

NOTE: 28 Nov., 2011  Because the English translation is not as clear as it could be, this tradition could be interpreted to mean either the men not being the best because they beat their wives, or the women not being the best because they are complaining about their husbands beating them. Muhammad is referring to the men not being the best and criticizing them for beating their wives excessively.


Umar reported the prophet as saying: "A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife".



Like Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah also has a short chapter dedicated to the topic of wife beating.


Iyas b. ‘Abdullah, the son of Abu Dhubab reported that Allah’s Messenger said, "Do not beat the slave girls (women folk)." Then Umar visited the Holy Prophet and said, "Allah’s Messenger, women have become emboldened towards their husbands. So allow us to beat them. So, they were beaten (when permission was granted). upon this many groups of women went round the family of Muhammad. When it was morning, he, (the Holy Prophet), said, "Seventy women went round the family of Muhammad this night. Every woman was making a complaint against her spouse. You will not find them (1) the best among you.

[The note for (1) says, "The word ula’ika refers to the men who severely beat women and transgress all bound in beating them."


Ash’ath b. Qais is reported to have said, "One night Umar arranged a feast. When it was midnight, he got up and went towards his wife to beat her. I separated them both. When he went to bed, he said to me, "O Ash’ath, preserve from me a thing that I heard from Allah’s messenger. (These things are): A man will not be taken to task for beating his wife (for valid reasons) and do not sleep without observing witr prayer." I forgot the third (exhortation).



Being Muhammad’s wife had many great advantages. However, even Aisha and Hafsah (two of Muhammad’s wives) were physically disciplined. Note that in each case when Aisha was struck she was married to Muhammad and she was probably younger than 16 years old.

Sahih Muslim #2127:

…When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'Aisha, 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?…

Sahih Muslim #3506:

Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported: Abu Bakr came and sought permission to see Allah's Messenger. He found people sitting at his door and none amongst them had been granted permission, but it was granted to Abu Bakr and he went in. Then came 'Umar and he sought permission and it was granted to him, and he found Allah's Apostle sitting sad and silent with his wives around him. He (Hadrat 'Umar) said: I would say something which would make the Holy Prophet laugh, so he said: Messenger of Allah, I wish you had seen (the treatment meted out to) the daughter of Kharija when she asked me some money, and I got up and slapped her on her neck. Allah's Messenger laughed and said: They are around me as you see, asking for extra money. Abu Bakr then got up went to 'Aisha and slapped her on the neck, and 'Umar stood up before Hafsa and slapped her saying: You ask Allah's Messenger which he does not possess. They said: By Allah, we do not ask Allah's Messenger for anything he does not possess….

Bukhari volume 8, #828

Narrated Aisha: Abu Bakr came to towards me and struck me violently with his fist and said, "You have detained the people because of your necklace." But I remained motionless as if I was dead lest I should awake Allah's Apostle although that hit was very painful.

Bukhari volume 7, #132

"Narrated Zam'a, "The prophet said, "None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.""



These four hadith illustrate that striking women was acceptable in early Islam. In the first hadith Muhammad chest-slapped Aisha and "caused her pain". This action is not "wife beating" in the strictest sense, but it shows that a woman can be struck under certain circumstances. Muhammad’s ego was challenged, and he was probably frightened by seeing her shadow late at night. In his anger he struck Aisha.

The context for the second Hadith is that Muhammad had been very upset because of his wives. He almost divorced them all! His closest friends came to cheer him up. Umar mentioned that he had slapped his wife because she wanted more money than he felt he could give. Muhammad laughed when he heard that. Then he pointed out his wives’ demands for more money. As a result, both fathers were angry and slapped their respective daughters. Physical discipline was used to bring the wives into line. Muhammad didn’t slap his wives but he approved others doing it for him.

The context for the third Hadith is Muhammad delayed breaking of camp to search for Aisha’s necklace. This made things hard for his followers because there was not much water. Abu Bakr struck her violently with his fist. While this is not "wife beating" it again illustrates that striking women, even Muhammad’s wife, was an acceptable form of discipline.

In the fourth hadith Muhammad does not forbid wife beating, rather he didn't want them beaten severely as Muslim's slaves were beaten.

These hadith give us glimpses of early Islamic life. They show us how women were thought of and how they were treated. Later Islamic scholars were able to draw from these stories and develop an Islamic system of life and women continued in subjection. If wives were beaten with Muhammad’s approval then that practice would continue. Muslim women today are placed in the same position that Rifaa’s wife was placed: obey or be physically punished. We’ll see several examples of this later.






Shortly before he died as a result of poisoning by a Jewish woman [12], Muhammad addressed a crowd of Muslims in Mecca. He commented on several issues including the treatment of women. Below is the pertinent quote from Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasulallah".

"You have rights over your wives, and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not with severity. If they refrain from these things and obey you, they have right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are your wards having no control of their persons."[13]


Note here that:

  1. The beating is not to be vicious or severe.
  2. Women are "wards" under men’s control because they cannot control themselves. The Islamic definition of "ward" means a person who has been legally placed under the care of a guardian or court, or a person who is under the protection and control of another. Muslim wives are placed under their husband’s control.


The Muslim scholar Ali Dashti translates the fourth sentence from the above passage and comments:

Look after women kindly! They are prisoners, not having control of themselves at all". The passage's word in Arabic "awan" translated as "ward" or "prisoners" implies that women are in-between slave and free. In other words, because women are unable control their emotions, men are given authority over them.[14]


Like the Hadith, the Sira provide important details on wife beating. The quote above has been used many times by various writers. This is because Muhammad defined a woman’s social status as: "They are prisoners, not having control of themselves at all", and allowed them to be beaten.





Below is a large selection of commentary from some of the greatest scholars in Islam on 4:34. You will notice that their positions are uniform primarily, agreeing upon the superiority of men, the required obedience of the wife, and the right of the husband to beat his disobedient wife. Quranic verses will be in bold font. I would like to thank brother Mutee’a Al-Fadi for doing the translations of Arabic into English for the commentaries of Tabari, Baidawi, and Qurtubi. His testimony is found here: http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Alfadi/testimony.html



Tabari was a Shafi’i scholar and wrote one of the most extensive Quranic commentaries which was used by other Muslim scholars when writing their commentaries. Additionally, Tabari wrote a detailed history focusing primarily upon the Islamic world. This history is available in English as "The History of al-Tabari".

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others

This means that men are in charge of their wives in leadership and discipline, because of paying them the dowry; spending their money on them; and providing for their needs. That’s how Allah chooses to excel men over them. That’s what the commentators have agreed on.

Ibn Abbas said {Men are the maintainers of women} means that the woman has to obey her man in all of what Allah has commanded her, this includes the kind treatment of his family, the protection of his money.

Al Dhahaak said: the man is the maintainer of his wife by ordering her to obey Allah. If she refused; then he can beat her not severely.

It was said that this verse was revealed because a man hit his wife on her face, so she came to the prophet (saw). The prophet then wanted to judge in her favor. But Allah revealed { Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others}. Then the prophet called on the man and recited this verse to him and said: "I wanted one thing, but Allah wanted another".

Al Zahry said: if a man hit his wife or wounded her, he is not to be charged, unless he kills her, then he shall be killed for murdering her.

and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion

Some scholars said: it means those whom you know that they are doing something disobedient. Others said: if you see a questionable behavior by them. Then you ought to advise them and refuse to sleep with them.

{desertion} means: disobeying her husband. Ibn Abbas said: it is when the wife undermined her husband’s position and disobey him.

{admonish them} Ibn Abbas said: by following the Quran. Mujahid said: if a woman deserted her bed and her husband told her : fear Allah and come back to bed and she obeyed him, then he has no right to admonish her.

and leave them alone in the sleeping-places

There are different opinions in interpreting this part of the verse. Some said: it means, do not have intercourse with them. Others like Ibn Abbas said: it means not to share bed with them (not intercourse). Others said: it means, to abandon speaking to them in bed.

Ibn Abbas also said: it means, to stop talking to them, and to be mean to them and not have intercourse with them.

and beat them

It means: admonish them, but if they refused to repent, then tie them up in their homes and beat them until they obey Allah’s commands toward you. Scholars said: the beating that is allowed by Allah is not the severe kind. Ibn Abbas said: not severe.

Also, Ibn Abbas said: abandon her in bed, but if she refused to return, then beat her not severely and do not break her bone. Ibn Abbas said: the beating has to be with light stick or the like.

Al Qassem narrated, the prophet said: "do not abandon your wives except in bed, and when you beat them, do not beat them severely".



Ibn Kathir was also a Shafi’i scholar and is one of the distinguished Islamic scholars. His commentary (tafseer) is a favorite of Sunni Muslims. Excerpts from his commentary on 4:34 follow. The quote is very long, but it is of great value in describing how the woman is positioned in Islam, and it provides the theological justification for her beating. I quote from pages 50 through 53.

"In this verse Allah says that the man is the leader over the woman and is the one who disciplines her if she does wrong. "Because Allah has made one of them excel the other", this is because men are better than women, and a man is better than a woman. Therefore, prophethood and great kingship were confined to men, as the Prophet said, "A people that choose a woman as their leader will not succeed." This Hadith was narrated by Al-Bukhari. Added to that positions such as the judiciary, etc, … "And because they spend from their means." Here, Allah refers to the dowry and expenses, which Allah has prescribed in the Quran and Sunnah; and given a man is better than a woman, it is appropriate that he be her protector and maintainer, as Allah says: "But men have a degree over them." 2:228

Therefore, a woman should obey her husband in what Allah has commanded her with regards to his obedience and Allah’s obedience. She should be kind towards his family, protective of his wealth. The statement was also held by Muqatil, As-Sudiy and Adh-Dhahhak.

On the authority of Ali, Ibn Mardawaih narrated: "A man from al-Ansar came with a woman to the Prophet, then the woman said: "O Allah’s messenger! Her husband who was known as so and so from al-Ansar had hit her and that had affected her face." The Prophet replied: "He should not have done that." Then, the verse, "men are the protectors and maintainers of women", as far as discipline is concerned, was revealed. Therefore, the Prophet said, "You wanted something and Allah wanted something else.""

"Because Allah has made one of them excel the other and because they spend from their means." Ash-Sha’bi stated that this excellence refers to the bridal money; for if the husband reprimands her, he shall not be punished and if she reprimands him, she will be lashed. "Therefore the righteous among women, are devoutly obedient" to their husbands. "And guard in the husband’s absence" her honor and his wealth. "What Allah orders them to guard." This part of the verse means that the guarded is he whom Allah has guarded.

Quoting Abu Hurairah, Ibn Jarir narrated: "The Prophet said: "The best among women are the ones who pleases you when you look at her, obeys you when you give her an order and guards herself and your wealth during your absence." Then the Prophet recited: "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…""

"As to those women on whose part you see misconduct (nushuzuhunna)." The reference is made to those who show disobedience. It is said that a nashiza – from the verb nashaza = to disobey – is a woman who disobeys her husband’s order, opposes and dislikes him. Therefore, if a husband feels the signs of her disobedience, he should give her advice, threaten her with Allah’s Punishment for her disobedience to her husband. This is because Allah has prescribed that a wife has a duty towards her husband and she should obey him, and that it is unlawful for her to disobey him due to his excellence. The Prophet said in this context: "If I were to order one to prostrate to another, I would order a women to prostrate to her husband due to the greatness of her duty towards him."

"Refuse to share their beds." Ibn Abbas said: "A man should advise her if she accepts. Otherwise, he should refuse to share their bed." Quoting Ibn Abbas, "Sharing the bed means: a man should not have sexual intercourse with his wife, and should turn his back on her in bed. Quoting Muawiyyah Ibn Hida al-Qushairi, it is narrated in the books of Sunan (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, etc…) and Musnad: "O Allah Messenger! What is a man’s duty towards his wife?" The Prophet replied: "Feed her when you feed yourself, buy her clothes when you buy yourself clothes, do not hit her in the face, do not scold and do not desert her except in the house.""

"And beat them." If they do not abstain from their disobedience through both advice and desertion. However, the beating should be dharbun ghayru nubrah, i.e. light, according to the Hadith narrated in Sahih Muslim, on the authority of Jabir, who had quoted the Prophet as saying in his farewell pilgrimage: "And fear Allah in women, for they are your aides, and their duties towards you is that your beds should not be shared with someone you dislike. Therefore, if they disobey you, beat them lightly, and your duty towards them is that you should maintain and buy them clothes in a reasonable manner."

Scholars said: dharbun ghayru nubrah means: The husband should beat his wife lightly, in a way which does not result in breaking one of her limbs or affecting her badly.

"But if they obey, seek not against them means (of annoyance)." If a woman obeys her husband in all what he wants from her, as long as within the boundaries of what is lawful, he should not beat nor desert her."



Baidawi was a Persian Shafi’l scholar who was so respected that he was referred to as "The Judge".

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others

Men are the maintainers over women just as rulers are over their populous, and Allah gave two reasons for this exaltation:

One is due to the completeness of men’s brain over women’s deficiency, their management skills, and their extra requirement of worship; this is why men were chosen to be prophets; religious leaders; rulers; and enforcers of commandments; legal witnesses in a court of law; fighters in the cause of Allah; receivers of more share of the inheritance and in control of divorce. The other is their duty to pay dowry to their wives and provide for them.

It was told that Sa’ad bin Al Rabee’a wife became disobedient so he smacked her. Then her father went to the messenger (saw) to file his complaint, wherein the messenger ruled in her favor. Then this verse was sent down, at which point the messenger said: we wanted something but Allah wanted another, and Allah knows better.

and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion

if you fear their disobedient

Admonish them

Then advise them

and leave them alone in the sleeping-places

Do not share bed with them, or do not face them when sleeping on the same bed or do not have intercourse with them.

and beat them

Means in a non severe manner.

And these three options have to be followed in the same order



This commentary is the work of two men named Jalal. The second Jalal (Suyuti), who was a Shafi’i scholar and a Sufi, and was regarded as being one the greatest Islamic scholars. He finished the work of the first.

Men are in charge of, they have authority over, women, disciplining them and keeping them in check, because of that with which God has preferred the one over the other, that is, because God has given them the advantage over women, in knowledge, reason, authority and otherwise, and because of what they expend, on them [the women], of their property. Therefore righteous women, among them, are obedient, to their husbands, guarding in the unseen, that is, [guarding] their private parts and otherwise during their spouses' absence, because of what God has guarded, for them, when He enjoined their male spouses to look after them well. And those you fear may be rebellious, disobedient to you, when such signs appear, admonish them, make them fear God, and share not beds with them, retire to other beds if they manifest such disobedience, and strike them, but not violently, if they refuse to desist [from their rebellion] after leaving them [in separate beds]. If they then obey you, in what is desired from them, do not seek a way against them, a reason to strike them unjustly. God is ever High, Great, so beware of Him, lest He punish you for treating them unjustly.



Ibn Abbas was Muhammad’s cousin and spent much time with him. He was regarded as being one of the great Muslim scholars of his time.

(Men are in charge of women) they are in charge of overseeing the proper conduct of women, (because Allah hath made the one of them) the men through reason and the division of booty and estates (to excel the other) the women, (and because they spend of their property (for the support of women) through paying the dowry and spending on them, which the women are not required to do. (So good women) He says: those wives who are kind to their husbands (are the obedient) they are obedient to Allah regarding their husbands, (guarding) their own persons and the wealth of their husbands (in secret) when their husbands are not present (that which Allah hath guarded) through Allah's protection of them in that He gave them the success to do so. (As for those from whom ye fear) know (rebellion) their disobedience to you in bed, (admonish them) by means of sacred knowledge and the Qur'an (and banish them to beds apart) turn your faces away from them in bed, (and scourge them) in a mild, unexaggerated manner. (Then if they obey you) in bed, (seek not a way against them) as regard love. (Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted) above every single thing, (Great) greater than every single thing. Allah has not burdened you with that which you cannot bear, so do not burden women with that which they cannot bear of affection.



"Qurtubi was from Cordova, Spain, a Maliki scholar and hadith specialist, he was one of the greatest Imams of Koranic exegesis."[21]

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others

They provide for them, and from men come out rulers; princes & warriors, whereas this is not found among women.

This verse was revealed because Sa’ad ibn Al Rabee’a slapped his wife Habibah bint Zaid after she deserted him. After which, her father said: O’ Messenger of Allah, I gave him my daughter (as a bed spread for him) but he slapped her. Then the messenger said: let us judge her husband. So she left with her father seeking judgment. But then the messenger said: come back, this is the angel Gabriel has come down to me. Then Allah revealed: (we willed something but Allah willed another). And in another story: (I willed something, but Allah willed something better).

It was told that due to this incident, Sura 20:114 "…and do not make haste with the Quran before its revelation is made complete to you…" Was revealed.

Abu Raouq said: this verse was revealed because of Jamilah bint Obey and her husband Thabit bin Qais. Al Kalby said: it was revealed because of Omayrah bint Muhammad bin Muslamah and her husband Sa’ad bin Al Rabee’a…Allah has revealed that the reason why men are excelled over women because men are the providers, and hence women will benefit from that. It is also said: men are excelled over women because they have more brain ability…

and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion

If the wife hates and desert her husband

Admonish them

By using Allah’s scripture. It means to remind them of their duties, toward their husbands, which were ordained to them by Allah. The prophet of Allah (saw) said: (if I was to order someone to prostrate to another person, I would have ordered the wife to prostrate to her husband)

and leave them alone in the sleeping-places

Ibn Masud said: it is the intercourse. As said Ibn Abbas and others.

I (Al Qurtubi) said, it is a good thing; since if she loves her husband then this abandonment will be hard on her. But if she despises him, then her disobedient attitude towards him will become the more clearer.

Ibn Abbas said: to leave them alone is to tie them up in their homes just as you would tie your ride. And this is Al Tabari’s own view on this. However, Judge Abu Bakr bin Al Araby renounced Al Tabari’s interpretation on the ground of tying the wife, as he believe that Al Tabari based his view on a strange hadith regarding Asma’ the daughter of Abu Bakr who was married to Al Zubair bin Al Awaam. She used to leave her home often until people began to gossip and fault her husband for that, As a result, Al Zubair blamed his second wife for this and tied Asma’s hair and the hair of his second wife together, then he beat both of them up very severely.

This abandonment is believed by many scholars to be around a period of one month.

and beat them

Allah ordered that men begin by admonishing their wives as a first step, then abandonment, then beating if they refused to repent. This is because men are responsible to straighten their wives up. The beating mentioned in this verse has to do with the kind that is not severe and used for discipline. The kind that does not break the bone. However, it is not a crime if it leads to death. In the same manner a disciplinary will beat his son or student to teach him the Quran and manners.

In a hadith in Sahih Muslim the Prophet said: (fear Allah with your wives. You were given them by Allah’s provision, and you were entrusted with their private parts by Allah’s word. You have the right that they do not allow anyone you dislike into your bed, but if they do, then beat them but not severely) the hadith. It was narrated on the authority of Jabir Al Taweel during Hajj. This means that they should not allow anyone into your home that you dislike whether relatives or foreign women.

Al Tirmithi reported that Amro bin Al Ahwas had attended the Farewell Hajj and heard the messenger of Allah say: "Lo! My last recommendation to you is that you should TREAT WOMEN WELL. Truly they are your helpmates, and you have no right over them beyond that - EXCEPT IF THEY COMMIT A MANIFEST INDECENCY (fahisha mubina = adultery). If they do, then refuse to share their beds and beat them WITHOUT INDECENT VIOLENCE (fadribuhunna darban ghayra mubarrih*). Then, if they obey you, do not show them hostility any longer. Lo! you have a right over your women and they have a right over you. Your right over your women is that they not allow whom you hate to enter your bed nor your house. While their right over them is that you treat them excellently in their garb and provision."

Atta asked Ibn Abbas: what is the non severer beating. Ibn Abbas answered: using a small stick or the like.

It was reported also that Omar beat his wife and said, I heard the messenger of Allah say: (No man should be asked why he beat his wife).

You need to know that Allah did not allow for beating in his book except in this situation and when the major sins have been committed. Therefore, Allah has made the disobedient of wives equivalent to the commitment of major sins.

And Allah granted this privilege to the husbands over the Islamic authorities (Rulers), and allowed it for them without the need for a judge or witnesses or evidences. They were allowed this because they were entrusted by Allah to handle to take care of their wives.

Al Muhallab said: the permission was given to beat the wives when they refuse to sleep with their husbands. By comparison, if she refuses to serve him too then he is permitted to beat her too.

Her disobedient and refusal to sleep with her husband is a ground for the husband to deny her her allowance and all of her spousal rights, along with that, the husband is allowed to admonish her; refuse to sleep with her; and to beat her. But if she repented, then all of her rights will be reinstituted. The prophet (saw) said: (Allah’s mercy is on the man who hang his beating lash (stick) and disciplined his wife).


AL-NAWAWI (Reliance of the Traveller)[22]

Nawawi is one of the great Islamic jurisprudence scholars. He was a 13th century Shafi’i scholar. His work was used by Ahmad Naqib in writing "Reliance of the Traveller". This book is a "Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law". From the section m10.12, "Dealing with a Rebellious Wife", page 540,

"When a husband notices signs of rebelliousness in his wife (nushuz), whether in words, as when she answers him coldly when she used to do so politely, or he asks her to come to bed and she refuses, contrary to her usual habit; or whether in acts, as when he finds her averse to him when she was previously kind and cheerful), he warns her in words (without keeping from her or hitting her, for it may be that she has an excuse. The warning could be to tell her, "fear Allah concerning the rights you owe to me," or it could be to explain that rebelliousness nullifies his obligation to support her and give her a turn amongst other wives, or it could be to inform her, "Your obeying me is religiously obligatory"). If she commits rebelliousness, he keeps from sleeping (and having sex) with her without words, and may hit her, but not in a way that injures her, meaning he may not (bruise her), break bones, wound her, or cause blood to flow. (It is unlawful to strike another’s face.) He may hit her whether she is rebellious only once or whether more than once, though a weaker opinion holds that he may hot hit her unless there is repeated rebelliousness."

If the wife does not fulfill one of the above-mentioned obligations, she is termed "rebellious" (nashiz), and the husband takes the following steps to correct matters:

(a) admonition and advice, by explaining the unlawfulness of rebellion, its harmful effect on married life, and by listening to her viewpoint on the matter;

(b) if admonition is ineffectual, he keeps from her by not sleeping in bed with her, by which both learn the degree to which they need each other;

(c) 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.

(d) if the disagreement does not end after all this, each partner chooses an arbitrator to solve the dispute by settlement, or divorce.



Wherry was a Christian scholar who studied Islam and compiled a 4-volume set of various commentaries on the Quran. He was also able to identify the criticality of how the women is positioned in Islam and makes some in-depth comments.

Men shall have the pre-eminence. The ground of the pre-eminence of man over woman is here said to be man’s natural superiority over woman. Women are an inferior class of human beings. "The advantages wherein God hath causes the one of them to excel the other" are said by the commentators to be "superior understanding and strength, and the other privileges of the male sex, e.g., ruling in church and state, warring for the faith, and receiving double portions of the estates of deceased ancestors (see Sale in loco). Men are the lords of the women, and women become the virtual slaves of the men. The holy, happy estate of Eve in Eden can never be even approximately secured for her daughters under Islam.

The difference between the home-life of the Christian and that of the Muslim cannot be more clearly indicated than by a comparison of this verse with Gen. ii. 23, Eph. v. 28, and 1 Pet. iii. 7.



All of the scholars agree that a man is to beat a disobedient wife. He can use a stick or use his hand. He is not to break bones but he can beat her like a father beats a disobedient son.

I’ve noted the following:

  1. Tabari said: "then tie them up in their homes and beat them until they obey Allah’s commands toward you."
  2. The Jalalain and Ibn Abbas establish man’s superiority over women strongly.
  3. The only exception I take with Nawawi’s text is that he says a man cannot "bruise her". People can bruise very easily, and some bruises could become visible only after the beating. The Hadith show that a woman was bruised and accepted to Muhammad.
  4. It is permissible for the husband to beat his wife if she has a bad attitude towards him. Once again, "rebellion" is determined by the husband’s standards. The right of judging rebellion places the husband in a powerful position. He evaluates the woman’s attitudes and actions, makes a judgment, and executes his sentence. If his standards change she will have to change accordingly.
  5. Wherry could see through Muhammad’s rhetoric and state the bottom line: "Women are an inferior class of human beings". That hits the nail on the head and sums up the theology accurately. This is what I noticed after I began to study this topic in depth.




1) Muslim Clerics on the Religious Rulings Regarding Wife-Beating

This article references many articles and statements by prominent Muslims teaching wife beating: http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Area=sr&ID=SR2704 Below is a quote:

"The husband's rights on his wife are greater than hers over him." Another source states, "Men have a supervisory authority on account of the physical advantage they possess…" It is also stated, "When the husband calls his wife to his bed and she disobeys, and he spends the night in anger against her, the angels keep cursing her till the morning." In addition, "If a woman dies while her husband was pleased with her," it is explained that "she will enter into Paradise."

It is a thorough article that details what the Muslims are teaching.[24]


2) Here is a video of a Muslim cleric teaching wife beating.[25]



3) Muslim cleric: Some wives need to be beaten.[26]

Concluding his message, the preacher explains to his listeners the three types of women who must be beaten:

"[The Koran says:] 'and beat them.' This verse is of a wondrous nature. There are three types of women with whom a man cannot live unless he carries a rod on his shoulder. The first type is a girl who was brought up this way. Her parents ask her to go to school and she doesn't – they beat her. 'Eat' – 'I don't want to' – they beat her. So she became accustomed to beatings; she was brought up that way. We pray Allah will help her husband later. He will only get along with her if he practices wife beating.

"The second type is a woman who is condescending toward her husband and ignores him. With her, too, only a rod will help. The third type is a twisted woman who will not obey her husband unless he oppresses her, beats her, uses force against her, and overpowers her with his voice."


4) Clothes Aren't the Issue[27]

This article is by a Muslim women, Asra Q. Nomani, who is keenly aware of the extent of Muslim spousal abuse in the West. She challenges Muslims who teach wife beating. Sadly she has not yet admitted to herself that her prophet, Muhammad, who institutionalized wife beating in Islam. Nevertheless, she understands the command’s cruelty.

Verse 4:34 retains a strong following, even among many who say that women must be treated as equals under Islam. 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.

Not long after I picked up the free Saudi book, Mahmoud Shalash, an imam from Lexington, Ky., stood at the pulpit of my mosque and offered marital advice to the 100 or so men sitting before him. He repeated the three-step plan, with "beat them" as his final suggestion. Upstairs, in the women's balcony, sat a Muslim friend who had recently left her husband, who she said had abused her; her spouse sat among the men in the main hall.

At the sermon's end, I approached Shalash. "This is America," I protested. "How can you tell men to beat their wives?"

"They should beat them lightly," he explained. "It's in the Koran."

He was doing the dance.



This books states the justification for Islamic wife beating, page 35:

The family life should be harmonious. If anything goes wrong and there is any misunderstanding four steps are to be taken to deal with such a situation: 1) verbal advice and admonitions, 2) then the family relation is to be suspended, 3) after that slight physical correction (beating slightly) may be administered and the fourth is a family council to settle the differences if there is any.

page 36:

If she still resists, then he is to administer a slight physical correction. He is to scourge her. When he flogs her, he should remember that he is beating his own wife. He should not beat her when he is angry; whatever the cause of his anger could be. The flogging must never leave any marks on her. It should be slight and not very painful.


6) THE ISLAMIC WEBSITE http://www.aol40.com/beating.htm [29]

Below are several quotes that the Muslim author wrote justifying Islamic wife beating.

a) "The point however is, Noble Verses 4:34-36 should not be a concern for any Muslim woman, because a good woman should not intentionally disobey her husband in what Allah Almighty has permitted for him upon her and would not flirt with any man from the first place! So on the third time after the prior 2 warnings, she definitely needs some disciplinary measures be taken against her."

b) "The husband is like a "god" to his wife. Wives need to always honor and respect their husbands:

c) "It is important to know that according to Islam, the husband should always be honored and respected in his home as if he were "god". It is important for the wife to realize this fact very well. Stubborn wives have no place in Islam:"

d) "Narrated Qays ibn Sa'd: "I went to al-Hirah and saw them (the people) prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, so I said: The Apostle of Allah has most right to have prostration made before him. When I came to the Prophet, I said: I went to al-Hirah and saw them prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, but you have most right, Apostle of Allah, to have (people) prostrating themselves before you. He said: Tell me , if you were to pass my grave, would you prostrate yourself before it? I said: No. He then said: Do not do so. If I were to command anyone to make prostration before another I would command women to prostrate themselves before their husbands, because of the special right over them given to husbands by Allah. (Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2135)""

e) "The wife is responsible for pleasing her husband and making sure that he is always satisfied. It is her Islamic duty!"

f) "It is also important for the wives to know that according to Islam, their husbands are like their "gods". If bowing down to other than Allah Almighty in worship was not prohibited in Islam, Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him would've ordered the women to bow down to their husbands."

g) "The only time Islam allows a husband to beat his wife is when she intentionally disobeys her husband in what Allah Almighty has permitted for him upon her or when she flirts or show disloyalty for the third time."



These articles all illustrate the extent that wife beating is being both taught and practiced throughout the world. There are a few Muslim organizations that claim that the translation of "beat" is a poor one. I discuss that in an appendix. But by and large the "beat" definition is accepted by Muslims far and wide.




The previous section discussed the writings of various Muslims on the doctrine of wife beating. Below are examples of wife beating. Since I last updated this article many more related articles and events have arisen. I’m going to cut and paste excerpts and links from various articles and give the reader the option to read their entirety.


1) Islamic wife beating in America.

Below is an article on wife abuse in the Muslim community. Here are a few quotes, but I encourage everyone to read the article in full.

Wife Abuse in the Muslim Community[30] by Kamran Memon

"While North American Muslims loudly protest the widely-documented Serbian abuse of Muslim women in Bosnia, the abuse of many Muslim women at the hands of their own husbands in North America is hidden and ignored by the community.

Of those who reach a breaking point and seek help, many Muslim women turn to Imams but often find them unhelpful. Imams often tell these women to be patient and pray for the abuse to end. Some imams make the abused Muslim women feel guilty, telling them they have brought the abuse upon themselves and instructing them to go home and please their husbands. Other imams, who are sincerely but mistakenly misinterpreting Islam by putting the importance of family privacy above any harm that might come to the individual woman, tell the women it is wrong for them to discuss their problems with anyone other than their husbands. The Imams's reactions stem from ignorance, cowardice, or friend-ship or blood relationship with the abusive husbands. Relatively few imams have had the wisdom and courage to tackle the problem head-on. As a result of this, many abused women don't bother turning to Imams for help.


2) Islamic wife beating in Saudi Arabia

Below is an article from the BBC about a famous Saudi woman who was beaten by her husband. Note her comment in bold.

Rania al-Baz suffered multiple fractures.

A TV presenter who says she was beaten by her husband has allowed newspapers to show pictures of her swollen face to highlight domestic abuse. Rania al-Baz said her husband, Mohammed al-Fallatta, beat her so hard earlier this week that he broke her nose and fractured her face in 13 places.

She is recovering in hospital. Police are looking for Mr. Fallatta, an unemployed singer. Reuters news agency says he faces charges of attempted murder. Ms Baz's mother told Saudi media that Mr. Fallatta beat her daughter regularly.

This time, the mother is quoted as saying, he became infuriated when Ms Baz answered the telephone. After beating her, Mr. Fallatta took her to hospital and fled, her mother reportedly added.

"I want to use what happened to me to draw attention to the plight of women in Saudi Arabia," Ms Baz said.

Every morning for the past six years, Ms Baz has been the smiling face of a family programme on Saudi television. She is well-known and loved in the kingdom.

The BBC's correspondent Kim Ghattas says this is probably the first time ever that a case of domestic violence has received media coverage in Saudi Arabia. It is a deeply conservative society, where Islamic Sharia law is strictly enforced and where honour and appearances are hugely important.

The presence of problems such as domestic violence, rape, paedophilia or Aids is often simply not acknowledged our correspondent adds.

"It is considered a husband's rights that his wife should obey him," Abeer Mishkhas, of the Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News, told BBC News Online.

"This can involve coercion or violence, and we know that the majority of cases of this kind go unreported and unnoticed." More and more Saudi women go to civil courts to request divorces on grounds of violence, Ms Mishkhas says.[31]


Sandra Mackay in her book "The Saudis"[32], comments on the amount of wife beating that goes on there:

pages 138, 139

"Women survive by totally placing themselves in the hands of men. It is in this basic relationship of master and servant that a woman's physical needs are met..... Restlessness is repressed.... Obedience is security.


In 1992, the book "Princess"[33] was published. The author, Jean Sasson, used the writings of a close Saudi friend of hers and penned this book.

pages 21, 22

"Although the Koran does state that women are secondary to men...

"The authority of the Saudi male is unlimited; his wife and child survive only if he desires. ...From an early age, the male child is taught that women are of little value: they exist only for his comfort and convenience. ... Taught only the role of master to slave, it is little wonder that by the time he is old enough to take a mate, he considers her his chattel, not his partner."


3) Islamic wife beating in Spain

Spain has had significant problems with its Muslims. Here a Muslim cleric was sentenced and fined for publishing a book that teaches wife beating.

Spanish Muslim Cleric on Rules For Wife-Beating[34]

On January 14, 2004, Sheikh Muhammad Kamal Mustafa, the imam of the mosque of the city of Fuengirola, Costa del Sol, was sentenced by a Barcelona court to a 15 month suspended sentence and fined € 2160 for publishing his book 'The Woman in Islam.' In this book, the Egyptian-born Sheikh Mustafa writes, among other things, on wife-beating in accordance with Shar'ia law.


4) Islamic wife beating in Turkey

I have edited non-essential comments from this article taken from Turkish news dated Aug 9. 2000:

http://www.turkishdailynews.com/FrTDN/latest/dom.htm [35]

To beat, or not to beat, a woman. Turkey has recently been witnessing a debate between the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Pious Foundation on the status of women in Islam

In response to the Pious Foundation’s publication, "The Muslim's Handbook," which says that it is permissible to beat women, the Religious Affairs Directorate decided to publish a book to correct superstitions about the status of women in Islam.


5) Islamic wife beating in Egypt

The Guardian Weekly, a British newspaper on 23/12/1990 printed:

"In 1987 an Egyptian court, following an interpretation of the Koran proposed by the Syndicate of Arab Lawyers, ruled that a husband had the duty to educate his wife and therefore the right to punish her as he wished."


6) Islamic wife beating in Jordan

Reports from Jordan concerning the acceptance of wife beating.

April 10, 2005. Disturbing report on wife beating in Jordan[36]

Mariam highlighted a very disturbing report (in Arabic) published on al-Arabiya's website that says over 80% of Jordanian women support wife-beating! I'm not sure if this has even a smidgen of truth to it but the figures, released by Jordan's National Family Council, are quite alarming and disturbing.

According to the report:

• 83% of Jordanian women approve of wife beating if the woman cheats on her husband

60% approve of wife beating in cases where the wife burns a meal she's cooking

• 52% approve of wife beating in case where she's refused to follow the husband’s orders

Another survey in Jordan[37]

In Mahmoud Rimawi’s column in Al Rai Today a read a ‘very nice’ statistic: 91% of university students polled by the Jordanian Human Right Center approve of wife beating.

An earlier study by another organization found out that a majority of WOMEN also supports the right of a husband to beat the wife. Note: university students, not illiterates.


7) Islamic wife beating in Palestine

An article on the state of wife abuse in Palestine[38]

Are Women Well Treated By The Palestinian Authority, As Howard Dean Recently Suggested? September 02, 2003

NEW YORK - In response to the recent statement by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean suggesting that women are well-treated by the Palestinian Authority, the Zionist Organization of America has expressed concern that Dr. Dean’s advisers have not fully informed him about the widespread abuse of women in PA-controlled territories.

Poll Finds Majority of Palestinian Arabs Support Wife-Beating: A September 2002 poll taken by a leading a Palestinian Arab polling agency, the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, found:

* 56.9% of Palestinian Arabs "believe that a man has the right to beat up his wife if she underestimates his manhood." …


8) Islamic wife beating on AOL

There has been considerable discussion of wife beating on AOL. One Muslim female described how she was continually beaten by her husband. She went to the mosque and talked to the Imams there and asked for their help in dealing with him. They did nothing to help her and they discounted her story. The beatings continued. Finally, he took a baseball bat to her. She went to the police. The husband became a fugitive. After the mosque leaders saw her bruised body they believed her.

The comments from the many Muslims on wife beating are sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic. Some said that the beating was to be done with a handkerchief. Other's said it was a small twig, other's said it was not to be done at all, others said it was okay to do if the man was doing it according to Islamic rules, etc.



Obviously Islamic wife beating is a significant problem because it is supported and practiced in the worldwide Muslim community. It is not looked down upon in the Islamic world, rather it is extolled! It is much bigger than outsiders think because many Muslim women are unwilling or unable to get help. They accept this abuse as Allah’s will, and not go for help because that would be a greater degree of rebellion towards their husbands and God. This is a tragic dilemma for these unfortunate women. They are trapped between an abusive husband and an abusive god.

If inciting violence against women is illegal they will have to outlaw the Quran!






There is no need to elaborate on the physical damage that can be done to woman because of being beaten. Suffice it to say that she will suffer bodily harm done from small bruises to welts to injuries to broken bones. Even if it is not "Islamic" to break her bones a husband with the best of Islamic intentions while striking his wife can injure her by accident.



A number of medical studies prove that not only is a women physically damaged by being beaten but she suffers from psychological damage as well. And while the bruises of the beating disappear after a few weeks the psychological damage lasts for years and leaves deeper scars. Here are some excerpts.

1) "Battered", By Parker, Veronica F[39]

Physical manifestations of abuse range from minor, temporary bruising to permanent impairment and death. But while battering occasionally leaves no scars and few physical symptoms, it almost always causes psychological distress. Researchers have identified low self-esteem, poor self-image, and a propensity to anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic illness as characteristics common to victims of domestic violence.


2) "Female victims of spousal violence"[40]

This study employed data from the 1985 National Family Violence Survey to explore the predictors of fear about future abuse among 356 married or cohabiting women whose partners had previously abused them. We found that fear was higher among women whose partners had initiated the violence or who had subjected them to forced sex, or women who felt that their own use of violence would result in disastrous consequences for them. Unexpectedly, having enlisted the help of shelters, lawyers, or therapists was related to greater fear. Accounting for fear at more than one point in time may explain these findings.

One of the more insidious aspects of family violence is the climate of fear that is created for those who are victimized by it. Regardless of whether the violence has been relatively minor, or more severe, relatively infrequent or more routine, the fear that it will reoccur is an ever-present reality.



Muslim women are harmed both physically and psychologically by being beaten. These beatings take both a physical and mental toll. Islam’s wife beating is a major social problem yet their clergy insists it should be done. If outlawed or otherwise challenged they claim that their religious rights are violated.





Several points need to be raised about 4:34, the Hadith, and Muhammad's farewell address.

  1. Why does Allah tell men to beat their wives before seeking family council?
  2. Why does Allah command wife beating in the Quran but does not command men to love their wives?
  3. How does Muhammad's statement that women lack self-control and placing men over them effect a woman's self esteem?
  4. How does 4:34 and Muhammad’s "women are in-between slave and free" comment affect how women are viewed in society and culture?
  5. What is the social and psychological significance for women in the long run knowing they are physically subjected to men and can be beaten by their husbands if men begin to merely suspect that their wives are disobedient?





It’s been established that the Islamic source materials command the beating of disobedient wives. Wife beating occurred in early Islam with Muhammad’s approval and it is part of Islam’s theology for family management. This beating is meant to inflict pain in order to bring the wife into submission to her husband. The beating cannot break bones, disfigure, or injure the wife, but can cause pain and bruise her.

Islam states that the man is superior to the woman and positions the wife subordinate to her husband. As her superior he is given authority over her. If she persists in disobedience to him the Quran commands him to beat her. Muhammad institutionalized wife beating and his edict is accepted and supported by the majority of Muslims worldwide.

This legal method of harsh discipline degrades and de-humanizes women. They become servants, they become possessions, they become prized animals that are to be treated kindly but disciplined when the husband feels she is disobedient. There is no way to justify the institutionalized physical and psychological abuse of women commanded by Islam. Islam is not the solution, it is the problem.






Ali wrote for a Western audience and knew that they reject wife beating. Consequently Ali inserted many of his own words into the Quran’s text to mollify it. Ali inserted 9 different comments in the 4:34 verse. I've not found any other verse with that many insertions. Clearly something troubled him enough to cause him to butcher his Quran. Not one other translation adds "lightly" when talking about the beating because there is no "lightly" word in the actual text. Ali was a Muslim apologist and his work here is meant to soften the Quran’s real meaning.

Ali wrote that the beating should be 'light'. Now examine the Quran’s context: it’s obvious that the beating has to be severe enough to bring her into obedience. It must produce a stronger psychological effect than verbal chastisement and sexual desertion. In other words - it's got to hurt. Ali did not want to say that because it would mean that Islam is a harsh faith.



Here are Muhammad Asad’s comments on wife beating found in his translation of the Quran.

"When the above Quran verse authorizing the beating of a refractory wife was revealed, the Prophet is reported to have said: "I wanted one thing, but God has willed another thing – and what God has willed must be best (see Manar V, 74). With all this, he stipulated in his sermon on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, shortly before his death, that the beating should be resorted to only if the wife "has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct", and that it should be done "in such a way as not to cause pain (ghayr mubarrih)"; authentic Traditions to this effect are found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Nasai and Ibn Majah. On the basis of these Traditions, all the authorities stress that this beating, if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic – "with a toothbrush, or some such thing" (Tabari, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even "with a folded handkerchief" (Razi); and some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g. Ash-Shafii) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferable be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the prophet’s personal feelings with regard to this problem."[41]


Asad, like Yusef Ali, wrote with a Western readership in mind. Consequently his comments are intended to make Islam acceptable to the moral Western reader. Although he references the great scholars, his comments contradict what they taught. If Asad were truly familiar with those scholar’s works, he would know that wife beating can be done for both immoral conduct and persistent disobedience.

Another error is that he translates ghayr mubarrih as "not to cause pain". Guillaume translates it as "not severely". Ibn Kathir wrote, "not viciously" and both of these allow a degree of pain. How do you beat someone without causing them pain? The two concepts do not go together. If someone says, "I gave him a beating", be assured it hurt. If I beat you, it will hurt, otherwise it is not a beating.

Asad reaches for straws when he quotes the "symbolic", "toothbrush" and "handkerchief" rationalizations. "Beat your wife with a handkerchief"? Was he so blinded by his devotion that he actually believed this? The Islamic sources show that in the days of early Islam wife beating was painful and done with the hand or stick.





I’ve spoken with Muslims from all over the world about wife beating and received a wide range of responses. These range from, "it is no longer valid today", to, "the beating must be done with a large toothpick", to, "wife beating is okay, if done according to Islamic guidelines", to, "she can get a divorce if she doesn’t like it", to, "she deserves to be beaten if she disobeys". Contrary to what the Islamic source materials teach, most Muslim apologists in the West do the 4:34 dance and bend over backwards trying to soften the command. We’ll take a look at some of their mitigations.


Excuse 1) "The Quran allows her to divorce if she feels she cannot work out the relationship".

At first glance this sounds tolerable. The Western reader understands that getting a divorce is not that difficult to obtain and usually the wife receives a monetary settlement.

However in the Islamic world the rules of divorce are quite different. Only recently were Muslim women allowed to get a divorce in Egypt. Elsewhere it is next to impossible to for a woman to obtain a divorce in an Islamic country. Those that do, usually fare poorly when it comes to obtaining any finances from their husbands. The poor women either have to fend for themselves, with many of them having little or no job skills, or have to be grudgingly provided for by their relatives. And as the Jordanian woman remarked, in Islamic society a divorced woman is shamed. She is used goods. Getting re-married will be very challenging.


Excuse 2) "The Islamic system for wife beating is perfect, the real problem is that the guidelines for wife beating are not followed by the Muslim men. If everything were done according to the rules then it would be fine."

The "Islamic guidelines" stipulate that the beating is painful and allows her to be bruised.  When beating her in such a manner, an accident could happen, and the man could break a bone or scar the wife unintentionally.  Or the man may not intend initially to injure his wife but once the beating begins an angry husband could take it too far.  In both cases the wife is damaged severely, and the mental scars remain after the body heals.  The man says "Malish" (sorry), and the woman is left to deal with the pain. These so-called "Islamic guidelines" are a coward’s way for dealing with normal marriage difficulties. "Spousal abuse" by any other name should still be as cruel.


Excuse 3) This next excuse is a common one that criminals use to justify their crimes, "she made me do it." You can find it here as:

What if my wife is stubborn and she intimidates me to either beat her or divorce her when she is angry?[42]


How does a wife intimidate her husband into beating her? Does that make any sense to you? I don’t know many people who intimidate others into beating them. After all, isn’t the male superior to the women in Islam? How then does the wife intimidate him? This is ass-backward thinking and the Muslim’s statement above shows the depravity in the Islamic mind. They are willing to grasp at any excuse to justify Muhammad.


Excuse 4) This excuse is used most frequently and touched on earlier: "The husband must beat her "lightly". Below is a quote from one Muslim site.

In case their admonition turns out to be in vain, they should then avoid conjugal relations with them to make them realize the gravity of their disobedient attitude. In case even this step fails to improve the wives' behavior, the husbands are then advised to beat them lightly.[43]


What is a light beating? How would it sound if a man said to his co-workers, "I gave my wife a light beating last night"? Will Muslim women mind having a "light" beating? Sometimes the absurdity of the Muslims doing the 4:34 herky-jerky dance is dumbfounding. Muslim fundamentalists will do and say anything to justify Muhammad’s ignorance and cruelty. In this case we have the "light" beating. But the Islamic source materials say otherwise. Aisha said it herself:

I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!




A quick search on the net or phone book should provide you with police numbers or call centers that provide help. It is a crime for a husband to assault, i.e. "lightly beat" his wife. There have been recent court cases in which women married to Muslims who abused them have been given protection, custody of the family, and support. Additionally, the abusers have been arrested and charged with a crime. If you know of females being abused by their Muslim husbands you should take action and call the police on their behalf. Below are some groups that can help.

Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute, 1310 Clinic Drive Tyler, TX 75701, (903) 595- 6600

National Assault Prevention Center, 606 Delsea Drive Sewell, NJ 08080, (908) 369-8972

National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence, 1155 Connecticut Ave., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 429-6695 or (800) 222-2000

National Institute for Violence Prevention, Box 1035, Sandwich, MA 02563, (508) 833-0731




In 4:34 the Arabic word translated as "beat" is "idreb". The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic states that it is a conjugate of the word "daraba" which means primarily "to beat, strike, to hit"[44]. The root of "daraba" is "darb" which means "beating, striking, hitting, shooting, bombing, coining, formation, minting.[45] Other definitions of the word "daraba" are: "to behead, to apply a proverb to, to shoot, to shell, to make music, to sting, to separate, to impose, to cruise, to migrate, etc. Daraba has many meanings too numerous to list and its conjugated derivatives are used similarly in the Quran.

Several Muslim sites attack the translation of this word "beat" and assert that since this word has other meanings, depending on the context, it could also mean verbally chastise. I agree that the context of in which the word appears is critical in determining its real meaning in a passage. And, I believe that we should use the Quran to interpret the Quran, (I don’t mean a circular argument), and find other similar uses of the word in their contexts, to understand how that word can be applied.

So, first note that all of the 4:34 translations of the Quran translate it as "beat" or similar. Obviously the scholars agree on its real meaning.

Second, let’s see how the Quran uses "idreb" to determine what it means by how it is used in other verses. What are the contexts of these uses?

I find that "idrib" is used 12 times in the Quran. Beginning at 2:60 (Using Ali's translation)

2:60 - "strike" the rock with thy staff...
2:73 - "strike" the body
4:34 - refuse to share their beds, "beat" them...
7:160 - "strike" the rock with thy staff...
8:12 - "smite" you above their necks...
8:12 - and "smite" all their finger tips off them...
18:32 - "set forth" to them the parable
18:45 - "set forth" to them the similitude of the life
20:77 - and "strike" a dry path for them through the sea..
26:63 - "strike" the sea with thy rod
36:13 - "set forth" to them by way of a parable
38:44 - and take in thy hand a little grass and "strike"


Not counting 4:34, the word is used in two ways

  1. Eight times it is used in the physical action of striking
  2. Three times it is used in the context of speaking or applying a proverb.

Clearly then, the most frequent context of the word is in physically striking.

What about "applying a parable"?

Examine the context of 4:34. First, the man tries the verbal approach. He admonishes his wife and that fails to bring her into submission. Second, he has stopped sleeping with her and she still refuses to obey. Dealing with her rebellion requires a more severe step. "Applying a parable" won't do because the verbal has failed already. 4:34 describes a progression of stronger actions so something stronger must be done.

The only contextual conclusion that can be drawn is one of physical punishment, i.e. the physical "beating" meaning most frequently associated with "idreb" in the Quran. Therefore in context, "beat" is the correct translation.




There have been disagreements concerning the meaning of the Arabic word 'nushuz'. It is translated as 'refractoriness', 'rebellious', or 'disobedience'. Muslims who wish to minimize or limit the justification for wife beating have sought to tie it to "sexual immorality". In other words, "nushuz" implies that the wife is being sexually immoral.

First, review the scholar’s translations: Rodwell uses 'refractoriness', Dawood uses 'disobedience', Pickthall uses 'rebellion', Arberry uses "rebellious", Shakir uses "desertion", and Ali uses "disloyalty and ill-conduct". Disobedience to the husband is the context in all of these. None of the translators translates this as "sexual immorality".

The Hans-Wehr definition of nushuz found on page 966 translates "nushuz" as:

hostility, discord, violation of marital duties on the part of either the husband or wife, specifically, the recalcitrance of the woman toward her husband, and brutal treatment of the wife by the husband.


Re-examine 4:34. The verse first establishes man’s superiority. Then, near the middle of the verse the justification for wife beating is laid out: "As for those from whom you fear "disobedience". Disobedience is the cause for beating the wife, not sexual immorality. Finally, the cause for the husband to stop the beating is given: "Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. The wife’s "disobedience" is countered by her "obedience." Therefore, the correct interpretation of "nushuz" is disobedience, or rebelliousness, or equivalent.




Rev A: 97-08-01; Rev B: 12-30-97; Rev C: 3-19-98; Rev D: 99/02/05; Rev E: 6 April, 1999; Rev F: 6 August, 2000; Rev G: 25 August, 2001; Rev H: 3 March, 2007; Rev I: 28 November, 2011

NOTE: 28 Nov., 2011 Some Christian brothers have discussed the hadith from the Sunan of Abu Dawud, #2141, and wanted me to make a clarification on the statement “they are not the best among you.” Because the English translation is not as clear as it could be, this tradition could be interpreted to mean either the men not being the best because they beat their wives, or the women not being the best because they are complaining about their husbands beating them. An Arab Christian brother pointed out that Muhammad is referring to the men not being the best. Muhammad was criticizing the men for beating their wives excessively.



[1] Rodwell, J. M., “The Koran”, Everyman, London

[2] Dawood, N. J., “The Koran”, Penguin, London, 1995

[3] Pickthall, M., “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953

[4] Arberry, A. J., “The Koran”, Oxford, 1983

[5] Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

[6] Ali, Abdullah Yusef, “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1997

[7]“Beyond the Veil”, available from VOM, 918-337-8015

[8] Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan

[9] Muslim, Abu’l-Husain, “Sahih Muslim”, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971, translated by A. Siddiqi,

[10] Abu Dawud, Suliman, “Sunan”, al-Madina, New Delhi, 1985, translated by A. Hasan

[11] Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kazi, Lahore, Pakistan, 1995

[12] http://answering-islam.org/Silas/mo-death.htm

[13] Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, Oxford, 1955, page 651

[14] Dashti, Ali, “23 Years: A Study in the Prophetic Career of Mohammad”, Mazda, Costa Mesa, CA, 1994

[15] http://quran.al-islam.com/Tafseer/DispTafsser.asp?nType=1&bm=&nSeg=0&l=arb&nSora=4&nAya=34&taf=TABARY&tashkeel=0

[16] Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000

[17] http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/showayatafseer.php?SwraNo=4&TafseerNo=10&ayaNo=34

[18] http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=4&tAyahNo=34&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0

[19] http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=4&tAyahNo=34&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0

[20] http://quran.al-islam.com/Tafseer/DispTafsser.asp?l=arb&taf=KORTOBY&nType=1&nSora=4&nAya=34e=1&nSora=4&nAya=34

[21] Misri, Ahmad, “Reliance of the Traveler”, Amana, Beltsville, MD, 1994, page 1090

[22] Misri, Ahmad, “Reliance of the Traveler”, Amana, Beltsville, MD, 1994

[23] Wherry, E. M., "A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran", TRÜBNER & CO., LUDGATE HILL 1882.

[24] http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Area=sr&ID=SR2704

[25] http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2007/01/islam_beating_w.html

[26] http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=40276

[27] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/20/AR2006102001261_pf.html

[28] Hatimy, Said, "Women in Islam”, Islamic Publications, Lahore, Pakistan, 1991

[29] http://www.aol40.com/beating.htm

[30] http://www.steppingtogether.org/article_01.html, and http://www.jannah.org/sisters/wifeabuse.html

[31] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3631743.stm

[32]Mackay, Sandra, "The Saudis", Signet, New York, 1990

[33] Sasson, Jean, "Princess", William Morrow and Co, 1992

[34] http://www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2004/0324rosenberg.html

[35] http://www.turkishdailynews.com/FrTDN/latest/dom.htm, and http://archives.cnn.com/2000/books/news/08/10/turkey.wifebeating.ap/index.html

[36] http://www.natashatynes.org/mental_mayhem/2005/04/disturbing_repo.html

[37] http://www.360east.com/?p=429

[38] http://www.zoa.org/2003/09/are_women_well.htm

[39] "Battered", By Parker, Veronica F, Citation: RN, v58n1, pp.26-29, Jan 1995, Medical Economics Publishing Inc. 1995

[40] Swinford, Steven, “Female victims of spousal violence”, Family Relations, Jan96, Vol. 45 Issue 1, p98

[41] Asad, M., “The Message of the Quran”, Dar al-Andalus, Gilbralter, 1980

[42] http://www.answering-christianity.com/beating_yes.htm

[43] http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=544

[44] Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Spoken Language Services, Ithaca, NY, 1976, page 538

[45] ibid page 539

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