Does Islam allow a husband to beat his wife?
First and in all such cases, we must start with Allah’s word – the Quran, in which there is no doubt.
The issue of whether a man may hit his wife falls upon one word, the verb ‘dharaba’.
Quranic Arabic is a rich and extremely deep language. Thus the word ‘dharaba’ can be found in the quran many times with a variety of different meanings. These include;
Allah ‘brings forth’ an example/parable
To ‘strike’ the ground with a stick
To go away/separate
To ‘raise’ a wall
To be afflicted with
To go about/travel
‘To deal with’
In Surah An Nisa’, verse 34, Allah states, ‘Men are the protectors and maintainers of women in that which Allah has endowed some of people with greater capacity than others, and in that which they spend of their wealth. Good, righteous women are the ones who submit to Allah and are mindful in their husbands’ absence because they know Allah is All aware. As for those women from whom you fear their nushuz, admonish them then forsake them in the beds then (wadhribu – imperative form of ‘dharaba’) go away from them. However, if they obey you do not seek ways against them. Allah is indeed Most Exalted, Most Great.
The verse is very clear. If a husband sees nushuz (ie. an uprising – unreasonable demands) from his wife;
1). He admonishes/speaks to her about it
2). Forsakes her in the bed
3). Separates/goes away
*It is important to note that later in the same Surah, Allah speaks about what the wife should do if she sees nushuz from the husband. So, ‘nushuz’ is something both sexes are capable of and not just women.
Next, let us look to the Sunnah.
When the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.s) wanted more provisions than he could offer, he boycotted them and left them for 29 days. According to the verses in Surah Al Ahzaab (28 & 29), he was ordered by Allah to ask them to choose – between this life and its adornments so he would divorce them or to choose Allah, His messenger and the afterlife for Allah had prepared for the muhsinaat (good) from them, a great reward.
He DID NOT BEAT them. The Prophet (s.a.w.s) was the walking Quran and the best example. Obviously he understood the Quran better than any other ever could. If indeed it means ‘hit’ then, why did he not do so?
Moreover, the next verse in Surah An Nisa’ outlines what people should do if they see the separation between a couple (i.e. A representative from both sides to mediate between the couple). This is further evidence that the husband leaves as a last resort and does NOT hit the wife.
According to ahadith,
Aisha said: “Allaah’s Messenger (pbuh) never hit anything with his hand ever, except when fighting in the path of Allaah. Nor did he ever hit a servant or a woman.” [Recorded In Ibn Majah. Al-Albani graded it Sahih.]
Now, let us look to the other side of the argument. Those who claim that it is permissible to hit women use this hadith
Prophet said: “A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2142) . This is in fact a weak hadeeth and cannot be taken as evidence.
Those who state the verb ‘dharaba’ in this instance means ‘to hit’ also stipulate the ‘hitting’ has to be done with a siwaak (used to clean teeth) or a folded handkerchief. That it is in fact symbolic as opposed to intending harm. One must ask – what good would this do to a marriage which is falling apart? More importantly, there is absolutely no evidence from the Prophet or the Quran to back this opinion.
Lastly, Islam outlines the exact punishments for certain crimes (e.g. murder, zina, theft, highway robbery etc). Surely if a husband was legislated to hit his wife, there would be guidelines as to how, how often, how hard and so on. Rather there are none because it is the failings of some ‘scholars’ to differentiate between Allah’s religion and cultural traditions.