Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Beating Women in Islam

The Islamic apologetic website, (dedicated to Rashad Khalifa), has an article, entitled Wife Beating and Abuse, that tries to defend Islam with regard to beating women. The article laments the problem of abusing women, which is a problem that does exist in many societies. It does exist in the west. Here is why this problem exists according to that article: “Men in Western (and Eastern) societies do not abuse their wives because of scriptural teachings, but because of a natural instinct of domination and aggression. God, knowing this, has therefore decreed a perfect law to help men control their temper and to solve any problems before resorting to physical aggression.”
Now, I do not know about you, but I certainly do not have a natural instinct of “domination and aggression”. I am sure some people do, but, to my frustration, my wife told me the bad news that I really do not have such aggression tendencies. In any case, let us follow the perfect law Allah decreed and bestowed upon us, men, to control our temper and help us with our physical aggression. According to the article, the divine solution is in this verse from, what else, the Qur’an. I am quoting verbatim from that article:

[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.

Here is the same verse as presented in the three reliable translations of the Qur’an. I am putting them down here because there are some slight differences between them and the above translation:

YUSUF ALI: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).

PICKTHAL: 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.

SHAKIR: Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

The article I am discussing does say that the above verse is abused by men in reality. The fact of the matter is that a devout man will never lay a hand on his wife. Here is a quote from that article:

In reality, a believing husband would most probably NEVER come to the stage where he would actually lay a hand on his wife. He would be much too careful to examine his own motives first, as a God fearing man, before exercising this right. As we see in the verse immediately following 4:34, when the marriage reaches this stage it's on it's way to end, as the very next words in the Quran reads; "If a couple fears separation…"

So far, so good. There are three criticisms that come to mind here. I think all are valid and necessitate rejection of the above verse:

1. A man and a woman are equals in marriage. Assuming that men are maintainers of women is just rubbish that came to us from a 1400 year old book that tried to teach people how to live back then.

2. Another substantial criticism to the above verse is that it clearly allows a man to beat up a woman. Regardless of the circumstances that allow a man to beat a woman, and regardless of how “gentle” that beating may be, the fact that the Qur’an allows in principle beating up a woman is a cause to reject at least one verse of the Qur’an.

3. I do know Arabic, and when I read verse 34 above in Arabic, I do not see but the word “beat them”. There is no (Lightly) or (as a last alternative). It just says “beat them”. Translators just try to sugar coat another evil verse in the Qur’an.

Ibn Kamuna is an Arab writer. He can be contacted at

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