‘Mr Curious’ recently emailed us asking;
Why does Islam allow men to beat their wives?
There are injunctions of the Holy Quran and there are the interpretations of these injunctions. The two things are totally different. Further, up to now all interpretations of the Holy Quran were by men and, with the best will in the world, they could not help but interpret the Holy Quran to their advantage. Now, let us look at what the Holy Quran says about this.
All societies and countries make rules to regulate the breakdown of marriage. Islam does the same. Most countries of the world are now moving to the rules which the Holy Quran set down fifteen hundred years ago for regulating matrimonial breakdown. It says that if there is a complete breakdown of matrimonial relations the first thing men should do is to separate their beds. The reason is obvious. It is to protect women from being forced into having sexual relations with their husband’s against their will. Nowadays, we call it matrimonial rape. Islam recognised this fifteen hundred years ago and set about laying down rules to protect women. What next? Next talk to the wife and try and sort out the differences between each other without involving others.
What a husband is required to do if these two steps do not work is the controversial point. The Holy Quran says husband should daraba. This is translated as beat the wife. This word is used in the Holy Quran scores of times in one way or another. In only two place is it interpreted as strike. One is where Moses is asked to strike the rock with his staff and the other in relation to women. So what about the other meanings. One of them is send them away. So why not interpret these rules to say separate your beds, talk to your wives and if these measures do not sort out the problem send them away. The modern version of this is called a trial separation. If there is tension in the house and constant rows and the parties cannot sort out their problems by talking through them it seems sensible to separate for a while so that tempers cool down.
Interpreting daraba as send them away makes sense because the next instruction says if none of these measures work appoint outsiders to mediate between them. Let me ask a question. If the husband has been beating his wife to enforce his will can any sensible person think mediation will succeed? This makes the whole procedure a nonsense (may Allah forgive me for saying so).
So, the answer is that in our view Islam does not allow husbands to beat their wives.