teacher and student

Wife Beating

1. Does the Arabic word 'daraba' necessarily mean "violent or intense or repeated striking?"


Jurists routinely use the expression "daraba al-ma' `ala wajhihi" - lit. strike water upon the face, for someone accomplishing the first rukn of wudu' (washing the face).

Also in Arabic daraba al-ard "to strike the earth" - as in verse 4:94 {When you strike the earth in the cause of Allah} - means to travel, i.e. walking with a staff.

2. Has the phrase 'wadribuhunna' in 4:34 normally been interpreted as a command or has it been interpreted as more of a recommendation?

Not even a recommendation. Al-Razi said in his Tafsir on 4:34 (1308/1891 edition 3:222): "Al-Shaf`i said: 'wa al-darbu mubah, wa al-tarku afdal - and hitting is permitted, but not hitting is preferable.'"

NB: Al-Shafi`i's position is therefore that it is "permissible", NOT "just barely permissible" as misrepresented by Muhammad Asad. [_The Message of the Qur'an_, translation and commentary of the Qur'an by Muhammad Asad (1980), footnote 45, p. 109 (one of the commentaries on verse 4:34).]

The basic rule (asl) is strict prohibition, followed by dispensation (rukhsa) as explicited by the Prophet in the hadith below, which al-Shafi`i took for his evidence in his ruling:

The Prophet said: "Do not hit the maidservants of Allah!" (la tadribu ima' Allah). Then `Umar (RA) came to the Prophet and said [NB: by way of exaggeration, cf. `Awn al-Ma`bud]: "The women are rebelling (dha'irna) against their husbands!" So the Prophet GAVE A DISPENSATION (rakhkhasa) to beat them. Whereupon women started pouring in to see the family of the Messenger of Allah and complain about their husbands. Seeing this, the Prophet said: "Many women have poured in to see the family of Muhammad, complaining of their husbands, and *the latter are certainly not the best of you*." Narrated from Iyas ibn `Abd Allah ibn Abi Dhubab by al-Shafi`i in his Musnad, Abu Dawud, al-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, al-Tabarani in al-Kabir, and al-Hakim. Al-Nawawi and al-Suyuti graded it a sound (sahih) narration in Riyad al-Salihin [RS-281] and al-Jami` al-Saghir respectively.

In a version cited by al-Razi in his Tafsir, (3:222) `Umar also states: "We the Quraysh used to have our men holding sway over our women. Then we came to Madina and found that their women held sway over their men. Then our women mixed with their women until they rebelled (dha'irna) against their husbands. So I came to the Prophet and told him: 'The women are rebelling against their husbands!' So he GAVE PERMISSION (adhina) to beat them. Whereupon, etc."

Some people who were influenced by feminism until they forgot the Adab of Islam, tend to badmouth Sayyidina `Umar for what they term his mistreatment of women. While it is true that the Arabs in general and Sayyidina `Umar in particular had a very high sense of self-respect (ghira) as attested by no less than the Prophet (in the hadith where he mentions seeing `Umar's palace in Paradise), nevertheless we should observe Adab so as not to commit a sin whenever mentioning the Prophet , his Family, and His Companions, indeed all Muslims as Allah (SWT) made the honor of a Muslim as sacrosanct as his life and property.

The Prophet also expressed astonishment at the cruelty of certain men when he said: "Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?" (Bukhari and Muslim).

The crafty little anti-Islam page on domini.org states:

"The Qur'an states:

"Righteous women are therefore obedient, And those you fear may be rebellious (nushuz) admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them."

"Some translators add the word lightly after 'beat them' in Q 4:34. Others like Mohammed Pickthall and Rodwell translate the word 'edrebouhon - beat them' as 'scourge them'. [...] But "a beating without causing injury" (agreed upon)

"So the man has the right to beat his rebellious wife as long as that beating is not like the whipping of the slave and will not result in injury."

Of course the above is false and tendentious but couched in the syrupy style typical of missionaries.

The hadith in Muslim states that the Prophet in his Farewell Pilgrimage said: "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."

*** Then he took the covenant from them and from us that they and we all heard and understood this from him, respectively, directly and indirectly, with his forefinger raised, and said: "O Allah! bear witness." ***

After this, whatever Muslim man derogates to the recommendation of the Prophet has violated his covenant with the Prophet and shall be called to account for it; and whoever of the non-Muslim men or women claims - even the Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife - that beating women is allowed in Islam, has belied the Divine witness invoked by the Prophet and shall be called to account for it in the Divine Court.

*"Mubarrih" is defined in al-Mawrid as "violent, intense, severe, acute, sharp, excruciating, tormenting, agonizing." Qatada said as narrated by al-Tabari in his Tafsir (5:68): "Ghayr mubarrih means ghayr sha'in = not disgraceful/ outrageous/ obscene/ indecent [beating]." Muhammad Asad translates it over-figuratively as "not causing pain."

3. What is the evidence for saying that this 'striking' is in fact only supposed to be carried out with something small, like a miswak?

`Ata' said: "I asked Ibn `Abbas: 'What is the hitting that is ghayr al-mubarrih?' He replied: '[With] the siwak and the like'." Narrated by al-Tabari in his Tafsir (Dar al-Fikr reprint 5:68).

Al-Razi (3:222) mentions that as a rule (a) it must be a light beating and (b) the face must be avoided. He added that certain of the Shafi`i jurists said "a coiled scarf (mindil malfuf) (NB: NOT "a folded handkerchief" as mistranslated by Asad) or his hand may be used but not a whip nor a stick."

4. Where is the hadith found in which the Prophet said to a servant-girl who had been extremely late "If I were not afraid of Allah, I would hit you with this" referring to a miswak?

Ibn Sa`d in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Al-Tabarani in al-Mu`jam al-Kabir, Abu Ya`la in his Musnad, Abu Nu`aym in Hilyat al-Awliya' and al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak narrated from Umm Salama: "The Prophet was in my house and there was a siwak in his hand. He called for Wasifa [the servant-girl] to come to him or to her [i.e. to serve Umm Salama] but she tarried until anger was visible on his face. So Umm Salama went out to her and found her playing with an animal. She said to her: "You are playing while the Messenger of Allah is calling you?" She replied: "No, by the one who sent you with truth! I did not hear you." Whereupon the Prophet said: "Were it not for fear of exaction (qawad) on the Day of Resurrection, I should surely make you sore (la'awja`tuki) with this toothpick."

Al-Munawi in Fayd al-Qadir mentioned that al-Mundhiri and al-Haythami declared its chain of transmission good. Al-Suyuti graded the hadith "fair" (hasan) in al-Jami` al-Saghir. Al-Muttaqi cited it in Kanz al-`Ummal (#39820, 39821, 39829).

5. What is the exact meaning of 'nushuz'? It is translated as disobedience, but there seem to be others who think it means something more like 'ill-will' or 'hostility' or 'ill-treatment'.

It depends on context and how these terms are themselves understood by those who use them. Ill-treatment on the part of a wife to her husband, for example, is a bit different from ill-treatment on the part of a grocer to his customer.

Nushuz is translated "Recalcitrance, disobedience, violation of marital duties on the part of the wife" in al-Mawrid Ar-Eng Dictionary.

Nushuz in the verse, as shown, is an euphemism for adultery because her primary marital duty is spelled out in the hadith as "not allowing whom you hate to enter your bed nor your house." Al-Maziri also said that another interpretation of the words in that hadith said it referred to a woman sitting in seclusion with a stranger inside her husband's house. (Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim.)

6. Is it not true that slapping someone on the face is not allowed in Islam? Is there a consensus on this point?

It is a transgression requiring exaction (qawad) which can be changed into monetary compensation (diyya) in the Four Schools, and Allah knows best.

Examples: (a) the famous hadith from Mu`awiya ibn al-Hakam in Sahih Muslim of the black woman slave whom her owner slaps and is then obligated to manumit as her compensation.

(b) Also in Sahih Muslim, the example of Suwayd ibn Muqarrin who saw a man slap his female slave and told him: "Do you not know that the face is taboo? (al-sura muharrama) I, whom you see in front of you, the seventh of my brothers, was with the Messenger of Allah and we only had one servant; one of us slapped him, so the Messenger of Allah commanded us to free him."

(c) A man from the Ansar insulted al-`Abbas's father who lived in the Time of Ignorance, whereupon al-`Abbas slapped him. The man returned to his people who said: "By Allah, we shall slap him just as he slapped him," and they girded their weapons. News of this reached the Prophet who ascended the pulpit and said: "O people! Who among the dwellers of the earth is deemed most honorable in the presence of Allah?" They said, "You." He continued: "And al-`Abbas is part of me, and I am part of him. Do not insult our dead, thereby harming our living." The people then came to the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah! We seek refuge in Allah from your anger." Narrated from Ibn `Abbas by Ahmad and al-Nasa'i with a sound chain according to al-`Iraqi in Takhrij Ahadith al-Ihya', also al-Tabarani in al-Mu`jam al-Kabir.

Al-Sindi in his commentary on al-Nasa'i's Sunan said: "Since he had begun with the insult, the slap received was not to obtain retaliation."

Note that the directive of the above hadith was royally ignored by the Wahhabi preacher of the Prophet's Mosque in Madina, Abu Bakr al-Jaza'iri, who used to shout at the top of his lungs, right next to al-Mustafa ?: "The father and mother of the Prophet are in hellfire! The father and mother of the Prophet are in hellfire!" and so until his death last year. I wonder, should we believe that Abu Bakr al-Jaza'iri and his parents are in Paradise, while the parents of the Prophet Muhammad are in hellfire? Hasbuna Allah.

The ruling of automatic manumission for striking a slave in the face is estalished by the following hadith of the Prophet :

(d) "Whoever strikes his slave in the face or beats him unjustly, his expiation is to manumit him." Narrated from Ibn `Umar by Muslim in his Sahih.

The ruling that the face is taboo is established by the following hadith of the Prophet :

(e) "If you fight your brother, avoid striking the face, for Allah created Adam in his image." Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim and al-Bukhari, the latter without the words "your brother." If this is forbidden while fighting or when interacting with a slave, then a fortiori it is forbidden outside fighting and with one's wife.

Do not be misled by the Satanic whispers of domini.org which states:

"The occasion in which Q 4:34 was revealed sheds more light on the meaning of that verse. Most commentators mention that the above verse was revealed in connection with a woman who complained to Mohammad 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 the above verse was revealed, after which the Prophet said: 'We wanted one thing but Allah wanted another, and what Allah wanted is best.'[Razi, At-tafsir al-Kabir, on Q. 4:34.]"

Crafty, crafty, and all for what? lies. Ars longa, vita brevis!

The commentators also mention that this report is narrated only from al-Hasan al-Basri who is NOT a Companion. The most that can be said of it here is that it is a weak, isolated, mursal Tabi`i report that does not have probative force.

What is more, al-Hasan himself flatly contradicts the above as he reportedly explained {wadribuhunna} to mean: "hitting that is not obscene; hitting that *does not leave a trace*" (darban ghayra mubarrih ghayra mu'aththir). Narrated by al-Tabari in his Tafsir (Dar al-Fikr reprint 5:68).

And Allah Most High knows best.

{Wa Makaru wa Makara Allah wAllahu Khayru-l-Makirin}

{Yuridun an yutfi'u Nur Allah bi Afwahihim wa Ya'ba Allah

Illa an Yatimma Nurahu wa law Kariha al-Kafirun}

Blessings and peace of Allah on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.

Hajj Gibril

GF Haddad ©

Additional information:

”In some situations a husband may be forced to use light disciplinary actions to correct the moral straying of his wife. This action is to be used only if one is sure it would improve the situation.”

Imam Senad Agic
[ES 2013-08-09]

see also:

•   Some answers on issues pertaining to women
•   Concerning The Hur al-`Ayn (Houris)


latest update: 2013-08-09
* living ISLAM – Islamic Tradition *