Ask the VM: Does Islam allow men to beat their wives?

‘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.

10 thoughts on “Ask the VM: Does Islam allow men to beat their wives?

  1. Uzoma Please read the next verse which says : “And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them.” (4:35) Why will the woman want harmony if the husband has been beating her!

    As for daraba

    In different forms it occurs in 14:24; 16:75, 76, 112; 30:28; 36:78; 39:29; 43:17; 66:10,11; 22:73,43:57; 57:13; 47:4; 2:273; 37:93; 2:61; 3:111; 4:94; 101; 5:106; 14:45; 18:11; 25:39; 30:58; 39:27; 3:155; 17:48; 25:9; 43:58
    e.g. 4:94 (darabtum) translated as go forth
    2:61 (darib) march
    14:45 set forth
    3:155 (darabu) travel

    It also means to set forth an example etc.

    Islamic scholars did great work in the light of the knowledge available to them and to suit the needs of their ages. However, it does not mean that they cannot be wrong!

    I hope I’ve provided you with some food for thought but I am only a humble student looking to forward the cause of Islam and not a scholar.

  2. Hi Shahid and Mudassar let us start right from the beginning.
    This is the verse Yusuf Ali

    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 whose part ye 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).

    I am terrible sorry and i don’t want to waste your time but I cannot see anything about a mediators in verse 4.34.(unless you got a different Koran?)

    You also claim,I quote: “The word darab has other meanings which are better suited to the context.”
    Please provide some proof of your claim because according to all the islamic scholars I know the word “darb”in verse 4.34 means beat or strike and the context is the same unless it is your personal opinion which you are of course entitled to.
    Looking forward hearing from you.Thank you for your time.

  3. Uzoma You are correct it is TRANSLATED as beat or strike. That is the whole point. The word darab has other meanings which are better suited to the context.

    Does it make sense to say: Beat up your wife and if she still does not listen to you appoint mediators. Even if coercion has not worked what are the mediators going to do?

  4. Uzoma have you even read the article posted? Have a read, digest the information and then you will understand what Shahid Aziz has said in the comments section.

  5. Shahid Aziz I am sorry but as far as i know it is verse 4.34 and it is clearly translated as beat or strike.You obvisiually got it wrong.

  6. Simon

    You are wrong. The Quran does not say man can beat his wife. This is the translation given to the word zaraba by people.

    The other point you make is that woman is turned out of the husband’s house. This is not correct. The law revealed had to take account of the social structure. At that time and even now the woman went to live in a joint family system. So her father-in-law, mother-in-law, husband, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law even the father-in-law’s parents would live in the same house.

    Clearly under such circumstances. First it may not have been safe for a single person to remain there and second, it would not be fair to turf out a score of people.

    What would happen if this woman’s brothers-in-law are married and have children. Would you have these thrown into the street for the sake of one woman who cannot get on with her husband!

    The nuclear family is a recent development. I was brought up in the West and remember that our neighbour’s mother was still living at home when the grand-son got married and moved in. Your solution if the grand-son hadn’t got along with his wife would have been to throw out the old grand mother into the street as well.

    And you would not find such a society disgusting at all.

    I notice you hide your own beliefs and only criticise others.

  7. I thought the whole article was based around not taking the Quran too literally, when it tells people to beat their wives (which it does). It’s incredible that people think they’re taking a liberal and enlightened stance by saying that in the case of marital discord, it’s OK for the husband to make the wife leave, as opposed to beating her. I repeat, a disgusting religion that belongs in the dark ages.

  8. You are taking that line too literally mate…Lets hope no-one ever tells you to go jump off a bridge!!

    It doesn’t mean kick the wife out, as you are insinuating, as how would that help with the marital woes???!?! It means that the couple live apart for a spell of time to try and help resolve things.

  9. How progressive. So it’s perfectly OK for the man (of course) to be able to send the woman away, because of course she is in the wrong. What a disgusting religion.

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