Thursday, September 07, 2006

“And Beat them Lightly”

From the
Islamic Society of North America’s national convention:

Sunday, 11:00-12:30 pm
Room 22
Session 9G: “…And Beat them Lightly”: An Analysis and In-Depth Discussion of Verse 4:34

This session will discuss the following: understanding the context of revelation (asbaab al nuzuul) for this verse. Emphasis will be focused on understanding the correct meaning of the verse, with specific attention given to the words qiwamah, nushuz, and daraba as well as to understand how this verse is to be applied as a protection for women, not as an abuse.

Speakers: Muzzamil Siddiqi, Rabia Karim Khan
Moderators: Mohamed Magid Ali

Here is the actual verse from the Koran


“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.” (Islam and Wife Beating) tries to explain away the problem of those who take portions of the Koran in a similar way that xians take portions of the Bible, and “misinterpret” them or use them to justify abuse and violence:

“The verse mentioned has been greatly misconceived by many people who focus merely on its surface meaning, taking it to allow wife beating. When the setting is not taken into account, it isolates the words in a way that distorts or falsifies the original meaning. Before dealing with the issue of wife-battering in the perspective of Islam, we should keep in mind that the original Arabic wording of the Qur’an is the only authentic source of meaning. If one relies on the translation alone, one is likely to misunderstand it.”

The article goes on to say:

“It is important to read the section fully. One should not take part of the verse and use it to justify one’s own misconduct. This verse neither permits violence nor condones it. It guides us to ways to handle delicate family situation with care and wisdom. The word “beating” is used in the verse, but it does not mean “physical abuse”. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained it “dharban ghayra mubarrih” which means “a light tap that leaves no mark”. He further said that face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush.”

Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. tries to make it sound as if wife beating is not so bad if done “lightly”. If my husband even tried to “chastise” me with a toothbrush, there would be hell to pay!

In the event of a family dispute, the Qur’an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not overlook her POSITIVE ASPECTS (see Qur’an 4:19). If the problem relates to the wife’s behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment and expresses contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but NEVER ON THE FACE, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one.

Silas from Answering Islam explains: “To fully comprehend the issue of Islamic wife beating her position with respect to her husband must be first understood. Wife beating is allowed because of the lower position she occupies. A person with a severe virus may run a high fever. While the fever can be quite a grave problem it is actually a symptom of another sickness at work. Wife beating is a symptom of the wife’s degraded status in Islam.”

American women have come a long way in the struggle for equal rights and treatment. Now it seems history is about to repeat itself. How can muslim men in America expect to continue with these oppressive ancient practices in a land where the laws protect the rights of women and all people? As time goes by, more and more muslim women will be using those laws to deliver themselves from these humiliating and oppressive religious practices.

1 comment:

B. James Stinson said...

Two Michigan State University law students have written a scholarly article on wife beating and wife discipline in Islamic Law, posted on the Cienfuegos blog at and I have posted brief comments on my Therapeutic Family Law blog at