Does Islam permit the beating of Women?

“Men are the support of women as God gives some more means than others, and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them). So women who are virtuous are obedient to God* and guard the hidden as God has guarded it. As for women you feel are averse,** talk to them suasively; then leave them alone in bed (without molesting them) and go to bed with them (when they are willing).*** If they open out to you, do not seek an excuse for blaming them. Surely God is sublime and great.” Al-Qur’an 4:34 (Ahmed Ali)

Footnotes:

Qawwam (root QWM) in line 1 does not mean lord or master, but provider of food and necessities of life, and through it’s form qaim, to take care of; and qanitat only means devoted or obedient to God, as in 2:116, 16:120, 33:35, etc. See Taj. Al-ghaib similarly means the unknown, unseen, and the hidden as here.

** Nushuz: Apart from rising up, ill treatment, it also means aversion to an act, and has been used in this sense here as in 4:128 for men’s aversion.

*** For the three words fa ‘izu, wahjaru, and wadribu in the original, translated here ‘talk to them suasively,’ ‘leave them alone (in bed – fi’l-madaje’),’ and ‘have intercourse’, respectively, see Raghib, Lisan al-’Arab and Zamakhshari. Raghib in his Al-Mufridat fi Gharib al-Qur’an gives the meanings of these words with special reference to this verse. Fa-’izu, he says, means to ‘talk to them so persuasively as to melt their hearts.’ (See also v.63 of this Surah where it has been used in a similar sense.) Hajara, he says, means to separate body from body, and points out that the expression wahjaru hunna metaphorically means to refrain from touching or molesting them. Zamakhshari is more explicit in his Kshshaf when he says, ‘do not get inside their blankets.’ Raghib points out that daraba metaphorically means to have intercourse, and quotes the expression darab al-fahl an-naqah, ‘the stud camel covered the she-camel,’ which is also quoted by Lisan al-’Arab. It cannot be taken here to mean ‘to strike them (women).’ This view is strengthened by the Prophet’s authentic hadith found in a number of authorities, including Bukhari and Muslim: “Could any of you beat your wife as he would a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?” There are other traditions in Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad bin Hanbal and others, to the effect that he forbade the beating of any woman, saying: “Never beat God’s handmaidens.”

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