Does Islam endorse wife-beating? Today I’ll go through the Muslim sources and explain how Islam encourages violence against women and how many early Muslims used to beat their wives, daughters and slave-girls. Domestic violence is a problem in many countries but in Islam, it is divinely ordained.
Let’s look at some statistics:
-Nearly 90 percent of Afghan women suffer from domestic abuse, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women. (Afghanistan)
Domestic violence in Pakistan is an endemic social and public health problem. According to a study carried out in 2009 by Human Rights Watch, it is estimated that between 6(0 and 70 percent of women in Pakistan have suffered some form of abuse. (Pakistan)
-Statistics in Iran show that 66% of Iranian women, at the beginning of the marriage have been at least physically abused once. (Iran)
-A recent report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) registered 139 cases of violence against women in the northern region of Kurdistan in the second half of 2008 alone. (Iraq)
-91% of university students polled by the Jordanian Human Right Center approve of wife beating. (Jordan)
In 2009, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report on Gender Equality and Social Institutions. The study concluded that eleven of the twelve countries with the highest levels of discrimination against women were Muslim-majority countries. A similar study in 2014 conducted by the World Economic Forum concluded that 19 of the 20 countries with the largest gender gap between men and women were Muslim-majority countries. Let’s see why.
Quran (4:34) – “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.” (Pickthall)
According to this verse, Muslim men can beat their wives if they disobey them. The Arabic word “daraba” in this verse means to beat, strike or hit. The English word “scourge” means to punish someone with a whip. Muslims often claim that “daraba” doesn’t mean “to hit”, but there are other verses in the Quran that use Arabic words derived from the same root as the one used in 4:34, and in each one of them, the translation is “to hit” or “to strike”. For example, 2:60 (اضرب), 2:73 ,(اضربوہ) 8:12(فاضربوہ). Some Muslims claim that “daraba” means to beat “lightly”. But the word “lightly” does not appear in the original Arabic version and is only added by translators. The Quran claims to be a clear book and explained in detail over and over again (11:1, 12:1, 15:1, 27:1, etc). If “daraba” means “to hit lightly”, then the Quran discredits its own statements because it’s not very clear.
Let’s look at the historical context of 4:34 and how it works in favor of men and not women. From Asbab Al-Nazul (Reasons of Revelation) by Al-Wahidi:
“(Men are in charge of women…) [4:34]. Said Muqatil: “This verse (Men are in charge of women…) was revealed about Sa‘d ibn al-Rabi‘, who was one of the leaders of the Helpers (nuqaba’), and his wife Habibah bint Zayd ibn Abi Zuhayr, both of whom from the Helpers. It happened Sa‘d hit his wife on the face because she rebelled against him. Then her father went with her to see the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. He said to him: ‘I gave him my daughter in marriage and he slapped her’. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Let her have retaliation against her husband’. As she was leaving with her father to execute retaliation, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, called them and said: ‘Come back; Gabriel has come to me’, and Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘We wanted something while Allah wanted something else, and that which Allah wants is good’. Retaliation was then suspended.”
So, a man hit his wife on the face and then she demanded retaliation. Muhammad initially allowed her to have retaliation against her husband. But then 4:34 was revealed and the retaliation was suspended. “We wanted something, but Allah wanted something else”. “Men are in charge of women”. Muhammad then ordered the woman to go back to her husband. “O man, take your wife by the hand”. If hitting women on their faces was prohibited in Islam, this was a really good time to demonstrate that prohibition. This shows how women are always sidelined in Islam and how Islam favors men. Let’s now turn our attention to numerous incidents of violence against women in the Muslim sources.
Sahih al-Bukhari 5825 – “Rifa`a divorced his wife whereupon `AbdurRahman bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. `Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) came, `Aisha said, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!”
*Aisha, the mother of the faithful, said that Muslim women were being treated worse than pagan women.*
Sahih Muslim 2127 – “…I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O ‘Aisha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain.”
*Muhammad hit Aisha on her chest which caused her pain*
Sunan Abi Dawood 2146 – “Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) complaining against their husbands. So the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.”
*Muhammad gave permission to beat women. The women who complained about spousal abuse were not the best women, according to Muhammad*
Muwatta Malik 30:13 – “Yahya related to me from Malik that Abdullah ibn Dinar said, “A man came to Abdullah ibn Umar when I was with him at the place where judgments were given and asked him about the suckling of an older person. Abdullah ibn Umar replied, ‘A man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and said, ‘I have a slave-girl and I used to have intercourse with her. My wife went to her and suckled her. When I went to the girl, my wife told me to watch out, because she had suckled her!’ Umar told him to beat his wife and to go to his slave-girl because kinship by suckling was only by the suckling of the young.'”
*Umar ordered a man to beat his wife*
Sahih Muslim 3506 – “…He (Hadrat ‘Umar) said: I would say something which would make the Holy Prophet ﷺ laugh, so he said: Messenger of Allah, I wish you had seen (the treatment meted out to) the daughter of Khadija when you asked me some money, and I got up and slapped her on her neck. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) laughed and said: They are around me as you see, asking for extra money. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) then got up went to ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) and slapped her on the neck, and ‘Umar stood up before Hafsa and slapped her.”
*Abu Bakr and Umar slapped their daughters, Hafsa and Aisha*
Sahih al-Bukhari 6845 – “Abu Bakr came to towards me and struck me violently with his fist and said, “You have detained the people because of your necklace.” But I remained motionless as if I was dead lest I should awake Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) although that hit was very painful.”
*Abu Bakr struck Aisha violently with his fist and the hit was very painful*
Sunan Ibn Majah 1986 – “It was narrated that Ash’ath bin Qais said: “I was a guest (at the home) of ‘Umar one night, and in the middle of the night he went and hit his wife, and I separated them. When he went to bed he said to me: ‘O Ash’ath, learn from me something that I heard from the Messenger of Allah”. A man should not be asked why he beats his wife, and do not go to sleep until you have prayed the Witr.”‘ And I forgot the third thing.”
*Umar beat his wife in the middle of the night. When questioned, he said that men are not to be asked why they beat their wives*
Sahih al-Bukhari 5204 – “Narrated `Abdullah bin Zam`a: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.”
*Muhammad gave permission to beat wives but said that you shouldn’t have sexual intercourse with them after flogging them, as you do with the slave-girls*
Ibn Ishaq P. 496 – “As for Ali he said, “Women are plentiful, and you can easily change one for another. Ask the slave girl; she will tell you the truth.” So the Apostle called Burayra to ask her and Ali got up and gave her a violent beating.”
*Ali gave a slave-girl a violent beating in front of Muhammad*
Al-Tabari, Vol. 9, P. 113 – “Allah permits you to shut them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not severely. If they abstain, they have the right to food and clothing. Treat women well for they are like domestic animals and they possess nothing themselves. Allah has made the enjoyment of their bodies lawful in his Qur’an.”
*In his Last Sermon, Muhammad said that Allah has given men permission to shut their wives in separate rooms and beat them. He also compared women with domestic animals*
Sunan Abi Dawood 2147 – “The Prophet (ﷺ) said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.”
*Muhammad said that men won’t be questioned concerning the abuse of their wives*
My question to Muslim women. Why do you support a religion that is so hostile towards you?
Thank you for reading!