Islam and Wife-Beating

“Verse 4:34 of the Quran orders believers to beat their wives; therefore, Islam is a male-dominant religion.” Many of us have heard this criticism from Christians, atheists, agnostics, and others. Personally, every time I read conventional translations of 4:34, I feel that something is deeply wrong. How could God, the Most Wise order us to beat our women? What kind of solution is that? It appears to be in contrast to the verses in which God describes marriage:
Among His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other. He places in your heart love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are signs for people who think. (30:21)
Obviously, these mixed messages have bothered many contemporary translators of the Quran…

The main problem comes from the word “Idribuhunne,” which has traditionally been translated as “beat them.” The root of this word is “DaRaBa”…

As you see, in the Quran alone we can attest to the verb “DaRaBa” having at least ten different meanings. “DaRaBa” has also other meanings that are not mentioned in the Quran. For example, in modern Arabic, you do not print money–you “DaRaBa” money. You do not multiply numbers–you “DaRaBa” numbers. You do not cease doing work–you “DaRaBa” doing work. In Turkish, we have many verbs similar to the Arabic DaRaBa. In English, we have two verbs that are almost equivalent to “DaRaBa”. These are “strike” and “beat.” Consider, for the sake of comparison, that Webster’s Dictionary gives fourteen different meanings to the verb “to strike,” and eight to the verb “to beat”! (One strikes a match, strikes a deal, strikes an opponent, strikes gold, goes “on strike” against an unfair employer; one beats another team, beats out a rhythm, beats a retreat, and so on.)…

When we read 4:34, we should not understand “idribuhunne” as “beat those women”. We should, instead, remember that this word has multiple meanings. God gives us three ways of dealing with marital disloyalty on the part of a wife. In the beginning stage of such misbehavior, the husband should begin to address the problem by giving advice. If this does not work, he should stop sleeping in the same bed and see if this produces a change in behavior. And if there is still no improvement in the situation, the husband has the right to compel a separation.

The Quran gives analogous rights to women who must deal with disloyal husbands (4:128); this is in accordance with the principle that women have “similar” rights to men in such situations, as stated clearly in 2:28. These would hardly be “similar” rights if women had to suffer physical beatings for marital disloyalty, and men did not!

Beating women who are cheating and betraying the marriage contract is not an ultimate solution, and it is not consistent with the promise of equitability and comparable rights that appears in 2:28. (This is an important consideration, because the Quran proclaims, and Muslims believe, that it is utterly free from inconsistencies.) But “striking out” disloyal wives – that is, separating from them – is consistent, and it is the best solution.

This is quite interesting. Are these your thoughts or are you quoting someone else?

As Catholics, when there is a bible passage that might be understood in opposite ways and be a source of confusion, the Church guides us to know the truth about it. We believe that Jesus began the Catholic church and promised that the Holy Spirit would be with it so it would teach truth. If a person or group believes something else, they protest, they leave the Catholic church and become Protestants. They still believe in Jesus and in what is written in the bible but do not agree with what the Church teaches about it.

In Islam, is there one older group that says they have Allah’s guidance to understand and teach what the Quran means? If one group or one person says it means to beat your wife and another person says it means what you have written above, how do you know what Allah really wants you to do?

The quote is from a Muslim website. The link is at the bottom.

In Islam, is there one older group that says they have Allah’s guidance to understand and teach what the Quran means? If one group or one person says it means to beat your wife and another person says it means what you have written above, how do you know what Allah really wants you to do?

If one wants to understand the Qur’an, then one must read and know Arabic. If someone says that a Quranic verse means x, that claim has to be tested by referring to the Arabic.

And when two people or groups who really want to submit to the will of Allah claim the Arabic means two opposite things, where is the truth of what is the will of Allah? Does Allah say that the man is to beat up his wife, to beat her very lightly, or to divorce her? What if both are referring to the Arabic? How does a Muslim (or an Islamic society) know what is acceptable to Allah?

In the Christian bible in the Acts of the Apostles an Ethiopian eunuch is sitting in a wagon reading from the Jewish scriptures. Phillip, one of Jesus’ disciples, asks him what he is reading. The man shows Phillip the prophecy. Phillip ask him if he knows what it means. The man responds, “How can I know unless there is someone to tell me?” Phillip, who was taught by Jesus, interprets the scripture to him. Then the man understands and is able to act rightly.

Who has the authority to say what the Quran tells us to do? How can we know what is the will of Allah?

I’m sure Muslims answer this question in a way that is similar to the way Christians answer analogous questions. Christians who become Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant all have to address the question of who has the authority to say what the Bible means, and different Christians come to different conclusions.

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