Does Islam permit men to beat their wives?
A Jihad Against Violence – the Global Muslim Women Shura Council’s condemnation of domestic violence and violent extremism.
In Islam, violence against women is never tolerated. This is exemplified through the Prophet’s relationship with women in Arabia. The Prophet never struck or even lifted a finger against a woman, typifying to husbands that they must not exhibit violent behavior toward women. In fact, both the Qur’an and the Prophet encourage a tranquil and equal marital relationship between two consenting individuals, and if a woman finds herself in an abusive marriage, she has the right to leave the relationship without harm.
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (30:21)
They are as a garment for you, and you are as a garment for them (2:187)
Either retain them in a fair manner or let them go in a fair manner (2:231)
The Prophet’s Sayings
“Never beat God’s handmaidens.” (Sunnah Abu Dawud)
“The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in moral excellence, and the best of you are the kindest to their wives.” (Sunnah Tirmidhi)
Unfortunately, there exists an inaccurate perception of Islam as a religion that condones abusive behavior towards women. This is based upon a misinterpretation of the following verse: “But those [wife] from whom you fear arrogance [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. (4:34)”
This verse was revealed to offer nonviolent marital reconciliation. Unfortunately, the Arabic word “daraba” is often mistranslated as “to strike,” when it actually has over 25 meanings, including “to cover,” “to walk” and “to turn away”. An intertextual and historical analysis of the word indicates that “daraba” means “to go away from” in this verse. With the correct translation, this verse outlines three steps of resolving a marital conflict: first, the husband and wife should reconcile through communication; second, they should not sleep in the same bed to prevent physical coercion; third, the couple should separate for some time before reconciling again. Therefore, this instance substantiates that domestic violence has no place in Islam.
However, if a Muslim wife has an abusive partner, the Quranic verse, “either retain them in a fair manner or let them go in a fair manner” confirms a woman’s right to leave a violent marriage (2:231). This verse is often invoked in personal statute codes in Muslim majority countries, allowing women to also take legal action against her husband, including divorce, on the basis of ill treatment. As such, the Quran offers methods of reconciling a conflict and grants women numerous protective rights in marriage.
At WISE, we assert that interpretations of the word daraba should be in agreement with the general notions of nonviolence in marital relationships in the Qur'an. Partners are allowed to leave the marriage if they are in a harmful or unhealthy relationship. Islam unequivocally advocates for amity between marriage partners and peace in the domestic sphere.
Firoza Chic Dabby, Dahlia Khankan, Irfana Anwer, Ayisha R. Jeffries, Maha Alkhateeb, Robina Niaz, Sara Khan
“Domestic Violence and Muslim Women FAQs.” FaithTrust Institute. N.d. Web.