This reminder is to shed some light on one of the many controversial issues about Quran and Islam. Wife beating and what is believed to be stated by God in Quran, 4:34, is one of the most misunderstood issues. For years, scholars and Hadith& Shariaa makers have been brain-washing Muslims with their own illogical interpretation of 4:34 and with the violent manner, believed to be decreed by God, the Muslim husband should use to handle his wife's rebellion. They have been very successful!!!
Dr. Rashad Khalifa, was not immune of all this traditional brain-wash just like all Muslims of the Sunni background. He tried his best, but the transformation is indeed a long term challenging process and journey. It was a traditional mess and pollution that we grew up in its midst for long. It takes years and years to be completely rid of all traces of falsehood introduced by the devil.
Enemies of God have been using 4:34 to attack Islam and discredit Quran being the word of God. It is widely and falsely spread all over the world that Islam and Quran degrade women ; Muslim women are owned and controlled by men with no rights, no dignity or freedom within or outside the institution of marriage. This is all because of this verse, few other misinterpreted verses and some other traditions that have no place in Quran.
However, God tells us in Quran that His truth will always prevail (8:8, 34:48), and that He always establishes the truth with His words (10:82). He also says that His words fixes the devil's attempts of obstructing the truth (6:112-115, 22:52-55). These three facts are in no need of defense or elaboration.
Sticking to the divine concepts:
- There is no compulsion in our religion (2:256, 2:148) ; a soul-liberating and powerful divine decree granted truthfully and equally to all humans of all genders and races. Such freedom encompasses everything and all matters- we are here on earth free to choose right or wrong, righteousness or evil, faith or no faith. We are free to sin, repent, reform or plunge deeper into sinning and deviation. All along, God has never decreed force or physical violence as a way of reform. Reform is a choice and a manifestation of our free will. Violence never leads to real reform- it leads to shame, oppression and destruction.
- Marriage is decreed by God as an announced social institution built on mutual agreement between two mature adults, a man and a woman, who mutually choose and agree to be joined by its sacred bond (7:189, 30:21, 5:5). They both follow the criteria in Quran of choosing a spouse and they both agree on and arrange all the financial elements and requirements involved in marriage (4:24, 4:4, 2:221, and many more)
- No verse in Quran defines marriage as an institution of guardianship for grown-up women within which men are entitled to discipline or punish their mature wives or to force them into a path or another. It is the traditional pollution that forces the idea of women being under guardianship all their lives, in their parents' homes and their husbands' homes. Such notion has no place in Quran. Both man and woman equally make their educated decision of marriage and mutually agree to be joined through the sacred bond of marriage based on the foundation laid down in Quran. No question that the similarities or dissimilarities in upbringing, morality, social, cultural and spiritual beliefs play a major role in the success or failure of keeping up with the sacred bond of marriage.
Guardianship is issued in Quran to take care of helpless handicapped, or mentally ill people (2:282, 16:75-76), orphaned kids until they grow up (4:2-6), women under our care (servants or dependent individuals who have no place or resource to rely on, 4:25) and of course our own kids (20:132). Other than that, there is no such thing as guardianship among grown up individuals in Quran. God's messengers have been warned against claiming any guardianship over their people (6:66,107, 4:80, 42:48 and many more). All these detailed verses and restrictions are God's divine measures to ensure and protect our freedom of choice.
- When conciliating differences and disputes fails within the institution of marriage, and after following all the divine steps when disputes happen between the couple (arbitration- 4:35, and cooling off period-2:226), divorce is issued by the Almighty, the Most Merciful, to break up that bond in the most AMICABLE and EQUITABLE manner (65:2). The verses that describe such details of AMICABLE and EQUITABLE divorce are numerously and perfectly worded in truth and justice in several chapters in Quran. Not a single verse among those who spell the divorce laws and its AMICABLE terms suggests the use of physical force as a last resort to save the marriage before proceeding to the decision of divorce.
- The use of physical force to counteract behavioral problems, attitudes, ethics or manners has no place in the entire Quran. The use of physical force to deal with personal disagreements and disputes between individuals has no place in the entire Quran. What is listed in Quran in regard of violence is in self-defense; react to violence by equitable amount of violence (2:194). An example of that is in cases of evicting the believers out of their homes and killing & oppressing them to prevent them from worshiping God and observing His rites freely (2:191-193, 8:39, 42:39-41, 26:227). God has decreed that oppression is worse than murder (2:217). Within the institution of marriage, and based on the divine concepts of standing for our rights and defending ourselves against aggression or violence, it is fair to state that both wives and husbands are equally entitled to those rights.
There are, however, certain penalties that have to be enforced within the social arena IF Quran rules the land and this is in regard of proven crimes and dealing with murder, theft, fornication, false accusations and homosexuality. The wording of such crimes is perfectly chosen by God and the penalties are clearly listed- no ambiguity or allegories whatsoever when it comes to social offenses and penalties.
- Throughout Quran, we read and understand that men and women are created equally and are both free to choose (3:195, 49:13). No where in Quran God discriminates against women or men. God states that they each have different qualities, and He acknowledges those differences. Those differences have nothing to do with preferring one gender over the other or entitling men to oppress or degrade women or to use any kind of force- mental, emotional or physical- towards them.
- With all the stated above, it is evident that the use of physical force between two mature adults who have made the decision to be joined by the sacred bond of marriage can NOT and is NOT issued by God to deal with rebellion or disputes. It is evident that such act is against the simple basic ethics and concepts of Quran.
[4:34] The men are made responsible for the women, and God has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is God's commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. God is Most High, Supreme.
[٣٤:٤] الرِّجالُ قَوّٰمونَ عَلَى النِّساءِ بِما فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعضَهُم عَلىٰ بَعضٍ وَبِما أَنفَقوا مِن أَموٰلِهِم// فَالصّٰلِحٰتُ قٰنِتٰتٌ حٰفِظٰتٌ لِلغَيبِ بِما حَفِظَ اللَّهُ // وَالّٰتى تَخافونَ نُشوزَهُنَّ فَعِظوهُنَّ وَاهجُروهُنَّ فِى المَضاجِعِ وَاضرِبوهُنَّ // فَإِن أَطَعنَكُم فَلا تَبغوا عَلَيهِنَّ سَبيلًا // إِنَّ اللَّهَ كانَ عَلِيًّا كَبيرًا
The Text:The Arabic text of the verse is divided above into its grammatical segments by : //
- The first sentence of this verse states that men are the care-givers for women BECAUSE of the certain qualities that they are exclusively given and BECAUSE they are the ones who provide for living and spend from their money.
- The second statement states that righteous women would always accept that and they would always guard such an arrangement even in their privacy, when alone, as dictated by God.
- The third statement contains certain key words as follows:
وَالّٰتى تَخافونَ means : the wives that you fear their......
It is noteworthy that this is simply based on sensing or fearing something that might or might not have come our way. It is not a case of a proven sin or a proven behavioral malfunction but rather a simple anticipation.
نُشوزَهُنَّ means: coming up with a pattern of behavior that is totally different from the normal or what is agreed upon in a challenging and rigid attitude.
It is noteworthy that this word has nothing to do with adultery, and that God has already taught us what Arabic words that describe fornication and adultery. It is also important to remember that the only condition that God would allow a husband to get his wife out of her house is if she committed a PROVEN abomination (65:1).
- فَعِظوهُنَّ means: advise them wisely.
- وَاهجُروهُنَّ فِى المَضاجِعِ means: stay away from them in beds
وَاضرِبوهُنَّ : that word has extensive volume of meanings! One of its meanings is with no doubt physical blow, hitting or beating. That could apply to all kinds of violent and forceful interactions. It indicates hitting the road either to travel, immigrate, or to seek God's provisions (mentioned in Quran several times). It could also imply stamping, making coins, making commercial deals, using force or motion to mix elements together. Another meaning that God has used numerously in Quran is to set or introduce debates or explaining/clarifying examples. An additional meaning which is the crucial one in this matter is to disregard, shun, ignore, discontinue interaction. God used that meaning in Quran, in 43:5:
[43:5] Should we just ignore the fact that you have transgressed the limits?
[٥:٤٣] أَفَنَضرِبُ عَنكُمُ الذِّكرَ صَفحًا أَن كُنتُم قَومًا مُسرِفينَ
Such meaning does not necessary imply a permanent kind of ignoring or disregarding. It is the term used when sometimes employees temporarily discontinue working in a state of protesting.
There are many other meanings for that word, all listed in "Lisan Al-Arab " Arabic Dictionary by Ibn Manthoor, Volume 5, pages 477-483. The above crucial meaning, disregard, ignore,shun, discontinue any interaction, with its numerous applications including 43:5, is listed clearly in page 480.
You could also verify this meaning in Lane’s Arabic-English lexicon:
ضَرَبَ عَنْهُ turned away a person or thing from him [or it] ;
ضَرَبَ نَفْسَهُ عَنْهُ turned away from, avoided, shunned, or left, him, or it ; ... namely, a person, or a thing.
- The forth statement is:
فَإِن أَطَعنَكُم فَلا تَبغوا عَلَيهِنَّ سَبيلًا
It means if they follow your advise (stopped whatever rebellious actions they were doing), then, do not make things hard for them.
- The fifth statement states that God is the Most High, the Supreme.
- We have heard enough justifications for the wrong understanding of 4:34 ; no righteous woman would put herself in a situation that mandates beating- it is the last resort- it is a responsibility on men to preserve marriage- it is a responsibility for men to fix and reform- men are the guardians of women- if option number one and option number two are followed, option number three of beating up a wife will never take place- some women are violent and men should be able to defend themselves- it is a test set for men to practice self-control- it is a test set by God to see who is going to hang their belief on this verse, accept or reject Quran- some women do not behave unless this humiliating and oppressive threat is in effect- some women enjoy being beaten up- the man is the leader of the ship, there has to be a leader or else the ship would sink...etc... a lot of non-sense and disgraceful thoughts that have been introduced by sick scholars for years and years until, unfortunately, such pollution has been settling down in our conscious, women and men. It is sad to note that many Righteous men, raised by righteous parents stand firm against spousal violence following their logic and instincts, while failing to support their stand by Quran or while feeling that God and Quran have let them down.
Based on all the above divine concepts in Quran, and the meaning of the words used by God in 4:34, the following translation of 4:34 should be adopted from now on, and would be taught to our kids. The Arabic text of 4:34 states:
Men are the care givers for women BECAUSE of the certain qualities that they are exclusively given and BECAUSE they are the ones who provide for living and spend from their money. Righteous women would always accept that and they would always guard such an arrangement even in their privacy, when alone, as dictated by God. If you fear rebellion from the women, you shall advise them wisely, then you may stay away from them in bed, then you may deliberately and entirely ignore them. If they follow your advise, you should not make life difficult for them. God is Most High, Supreme.
- What is more assuring and confirming the above translation is the verse that comes right after that:
[4:35] If you fear that separation is approaching regading that couple (a couple fears separation,) you shall appoint an arbitrator from his family and an arbitrator from her family; if they decide to reconcile, God will help them get together. God is Omniscient, Cognizant.
[٣٥:٤] وَإِن خِفتُم شِقاقَ بَينِهِما فَابعَثوا حَكَمًا مِن أَهلِهِ وَحَكَمًا مِن أَهلِها إِن يُريدا إِصلٰحًا يُوَفِّقِ اللَّهُ بَينَهُما إِنَّ اللَّهَ كانَ عَليمًا خَبيرًا
In 4:35, God is still talking about the same couple mentioned in 4:34. Issuing arbitration in this verse is directly connected to the scenario presented in 4:34 but of course is not limited to it ; arbitration is a basic step before going through the cooling off period before divorce. In 4:35, God points clearly AT that couple that went through the process of advise, desertion in bed, desertion at all times. He states if separation is likely to happen after that amicable desertion, meaning the wife would not follow the advise as the end of 4:34 states, then arbitration must take over to reconcile them. This progression in events would not sound that AMICABLE and LOGICAL and would not conform with all the divine ethics and concepts of Quran listed above if the previous step prescribed by God in 4:34 was violence and aggression.
- Then, later on, in the same chapter, the same scenario is presented but in case of the woman sensing rebellion from her husband:
[4:128] If a woman senses rebellion (oppression) or desertion from her husband, the couple shall try to reconcile their differences, for conciliation is best for them. Selfishness is a human trait, and if you do good and lead a righteous life, God is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
[١٢٨:٤] وَإِنِ امرَأَةٌ خافَت مِن بَعلِها نُشوزًا أَو إِعراضًا فَلا جُناحَ عَلَيهِما أَن يُصلِحا بَينَهُما صُلحًا وَالصُّلحُ خَيرٌ وَأُحضِرَتِ الأَنفُسُ الشُّحَّ وَإِن تُحسِنوا وَتَتَّقوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كانَ بِما تَعمَلونَ خَبيرًا
The same word used for rebellion in 4:34 is used in 4:128, and the same approach is recommended by God : an AMICABLE effort should be made for reconciliation.
Disputes within the institution of marriage are very likely to happen. That is why God has explained to us the ideal, amicable and humane approaches of dealing with them. It is very natural and commonly practiced by spouses to go through the different steps of advise, desertion in bed and then entirely avoiding each other or disregarding each other, day and night for a while. That is a very normal pattern and a logically, ethically and emotionally accepted one that would lead to some constructive and healthy evaluation of the matter of dispute. Physical violence has no place in marriage according to Quran. Only amicable advise, amicable desertion, arbitration, reconciliation or amicable and equitable separation.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.