Let's talk Surah 4:34. When it's okay to strike your wives.

I’ve never heard the Western Muslim interpretation of this, so I would love some opinions.

Sahih International
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

What is arrogance and when does it constitute striking?

Interpretations don’t arise due to geography, so there’s no such thing as a western interpretation of any passage of any scripture.

But anyways :p, you asked a good question. The majority of surah 4 is about marriage rights, inheritance rights and stuff like that. It’s very technical and dry in some spots. So, verse 34 that quoted, the context starts at at verse 26, which says “Allah doth wish to make clear to you and to show you the ordinances of those before you; and (He doth wish to) turn to you (In Mercy): And Allah is All-knowing, All-wise”. So, what we have here is Allah saying that these ordinances, in the following verses, are ordinances from Him. That’s important, because whenever it is said “Well, this group says it’s OK to do this and that it’s OK to treat your wife such-and-such way”, it is necessary to go back to the Qur’an, preferably in arabic, to conform one’s views to the verses therein.

Back to verse 34. It’s written in between verses 33 and 35, which both talk about inheritance and marital disagreements, so therefore, verse 34 is specifically talking about a man and woman who are married to each other. Verse 34 starts out by saying that men are the protectors and/or maintainers of women inasmuch as it’s a man’s responsibility to look out for his wife. Of course, the wife needs to do the same for her husband, but men have a degree of higher responsibilty to protect their wives; men have more physical strength than women do, so when danger comes, it’s a man’s responsibility to protect his wife and family.

Moreover, it’s a man’s duty to provide [financially] for both his wife and his family. Nowhere in the Qur’an or in the Sunnah will you find obligations put upon women to provide. Of course, there were women with jobs in Muhammad’s time and there are women today with jobs, but within the context of marriage, the wife doesn’t have to provide a thing. The money she earns, she can do with it what she pleases. The money that the husband earns must be distributed, primarily, with his wife and kids [if he has any] in mind. That’s what it means to be the protector of the household; the man is the head of the household.

In the next phrase, it is said “Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard…” I’m using Yusuf Ali’s translation, but Sahih International is fine. I have it on my Kindle and I quite like it. Righteous women are obediant, but what kind of obediance is this talking about? the obediance wherein they guard what Allah tells them to guard (meaning their modesty, household and such). To whom is this obediance due? well, it says that they guard what Allah would have them guard, so, clearly, this is referring to obediance to Allah.

Wallahi, that is so profoundly important, because many men who are professing muslims will see that word “obediance” and say “See? she has to obey me! I can tell her to do whatever I want”, but that’s not what the verse is talking about. These men wanted to hear that, so they read that into the text. A wife’s obediance is first and foremost to Allah azza wa jal. The husband doesn’t get to stomp his foot and boss her around. She has rights, just as the husband has rights. These are women we’re talking about here-- not cattle.

I’ll continue this is another post, insha Allah [God willing].

Why does Allah eternally legitimise the hitting of wives?

I know you have more to post, so I’ll certainly await your next part. But I do want to add that I’m interested in what I was asking regarding arrogance and striking. What is arrogance?

…continued from part 1:

As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct…” is the next phrase; that’s how Yusuf Ali translates it. Sahih International says “arrogance”, Pickthall’s translation says “rebellion” and Dr. Muhsin Khan’s translation says “ill-conduct”. Basically, this is following what was just said about a wife’s duty to Allah. A man has the responsibility to watch over his wife and kids [if he has any] because he’s the head of the household. Since muslims value religiousity, that means that the husband has the duty to make sure that he and his family are spiritually healthy. This phrase begins by telling men what to do if their wife is in consistent sin.

First, it says to admonish them. That means that the husband tells the wife to stop doing whatever sin she’s committing (for example, if she’s refusing to pray, not giving zakat, is backbiting or gossiping all the time, etc). Admonishing her is when you tell her to stop doing something; pull her aside and tell her that she’s slacking in a certain area [or areas] and that she has to stop. Again, this is talking about disobediance to Allah, so when you tell your wife to stop sinning, you don’t do it under any imagined authority you have, you do it because it is Allah that is demanding obediance-- he is the authority under which a healthy marriage is cultivated and maintained.

Next, you refuse to share their beds. That means you don’t sleep next to her and don’t have intercourse with her. You can’t take this step in a matter of five minutes-- it can only work over a period of time. You admonish her consistently over a period of time and if she’s still rebellious, refuse to have sex with her. A woman knows that when her man isn’t interested in doing that, something is up. She’ll be able to tell that he’s pretty serious and that she needs to get her act together if this marriage is going to work. Know that this step is to be carried out only if the admonishment fails.

The next step, if both the admonishment and refusal of sex is not working then, and only then, is it permissible is to beat her. You don’t get to slap her around all you want; the prophet hated that. He said “The best of you are those that are best to their wives”. The people on this forum, and just people in general, would have you believe that prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] beat women all the time, but that is not the case.

Verse 34 concludes by saying “but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all)”. This means that if the wife at any point cleans up her act and casts whatever sin it was aside, the husband has to leave her alone. You don’t get to gossip about what she did and you don’t get to ridicule her in the future for her sin(s). Allah forgives anyone who sincerely repents and returns to Him, so if God Himself can forgive, at what point can a husband not forgive and overlook? especially since all men are sinners as well, so no husband has any business for believing he’s better off than his wife is. Both are sinners in need of salvation.

If the wife is still rolling around in her sin and is ignoring all pleading and admonishment from the husband, then just get a divorce. Yes, the verse says that the husband is allowed to use physical force, but it’s only to the extent that’s necessary (and it almost never is necessary anyway). The purpose of the admonishing, refusing sex and beating is to get the wife back to obeying Allah. It is not about the idea that a wife is a slave to her husband and he has permission to beat her if she doesn’t cook for him (cooking isn’t even a requirement of a wife anyway. Prophet Muhammad cooked for himself and his family).

So, yes, the Qur’an does permit a husband to beat his wife under certain situations and I make no apologies for it. If you don’t like that, that’s fine, but at least try to understand that said beating is only after certain steps are taken and that this “beating” is only to return her to obediance to Allah. Leaving any kind of mark on her and scarring her for life is not going to return her to obediance. I’m against domestic abuse.

He’s Sovereign. He can legitimize what He wants.

Oh man. Alright, thanks.

So, I’m going to guess you’re not in favor of, say, throwing acid at her? Or using a leather crop to whip her? Or stabbing her for disobedience? Or any one of the myriad of countless other atrocities committed using this basis for justification?

Please note, despite my tone, I am not trying to attack you personally. I appreciate your extensive discussion on the subject, and believe you to be a sincere in your dislike of abusive measures. My problem with your logic is that there are no practical limitations on the beatings, and without an authoritative interpretation, there’s no way to justify placing a limitation on them. Islam has it’s teachers (Imams?), but even they can vary widely in their interpretations of a given passage. Without a central authority given definitive rights to interpret the meaning of a given passage, you fall into the same problem we see in Protestantism, namely, that’s it’s ultimately left up to personal preference.

So yeah, you don’t think it means you can whip your wife, that’s great; but what about all the Muslims who think it basically gives them carte-blanche to do whatever they want? From what basis do you conclude that your interpretation is the correct one?

Again, I want to stress I’m not trying to attack you, I appreciate the discussion and usually enjoy your posts; I just can’t think of a kind way of phrasing the evils we’ve seen result from this sort of passage.

But there is a problem here drac,Islam is said to be a continuation of all Bible prophets messages, this includes Jesus. Jesus was a man of peace, who taught his followers to show compassion, not violence towards those who sin against God.
Even the prophets before Jesus called people to repent from sin, they did not advocate or condone violence towards those who disobey the Bible Gods commands, which are based on the love God has for mankind, and mankind’s response to this love which demands fundamentally to “love your neighbour as yourself”.

And so it begs the question, why does the god of the Quran, who is allegedly the God of the Bible permit his followers to disobey His previous commands?

Beating a wife for any reason is classified as domestic abuse, it is unacceptable in any circumstances, not least as it shows any children within marriage that violence is an acceptable alternative, to get what you want, which in turn perpetuates a violent mind-set in the next generation.

Yes, I’m against the use of acid throwing. We have the clarity of the Qur’an which in and of itself is sufficient to guide someone to a basic understanding of Islam’s tenets. If I buy a computer and ignore the instruction manual, is it my fault when my computer doesn’t work properly or is it the manual’s fault? many people who profess to follow Islam are not following it at all-- just look at ISIS and Boko Haram.

I believe in a God who has made His text, the Qur’an, clear enough so that even a child can understand it’s core values. It can certainly help to seek the aid of scholars and wise elders, but I don’t feel that that’s necessary. Objections you may have towards Protestantism are irrelevant when you discuss the faith of Islam. It’s apples and oranges.

I would contend that you cannot know what God’s love is if you don’t understand His wrath. You cannot just skip to the warm and fuzzy stuff in the New Testament and ignore everything else prior to it. To do so would ignore all the passages in the OT that sanction the death penalty upon adulterers, people who practice witchcraft, etc.

Do those prescribtions bother you? they shouldn’t. Did these death penalties run contrary to “loving one’s neighbor”? the New Testament writers didn’t think so.

I disagree with your interpretation of domestic abuse. You also accused me of approving of something I never approved of. If you read my long posts in this thread, I nowhere condoned using violence to “get what you want”. I said the exact opposite.

Good question.

I agree. No man has the right to beat his wife or any other woman.

Oh man I may get in trouble for this but I am Orthodox and we are taught very clearly that the man is the head of the household. Completely unambiguous. :shrug:

Ofcourse he is. He however must love his wife and like he takes care of his own body, takes care of her. It’s not one sided by any means.


So if it is the husband who is doing something wrong, who is the person who admonishes or beats him if needed?

The husband is responsible to God.



QUOTE] I nowhere condoned using violence to “get what you want”

But the Quran does.

Verse 4.34 is one of many said to be eternally binding upon mankind for his benefit.
It’s not my interpretation that matters, it’s what is written as clear, literal and taken to be eternally binding upon Muslims for them to live according to Allahs will, which does matter.

A person using violence on someone else to force them to obey them, is not beneficial to mankind, it is detrimental. It strips a person of their human dignity, and makes them sub serviant to another, as in a slave to a master.

The Ten Commandments are given for mankind’s guidance, they do not advocate and condone violence towards anyone, and they can be broken down into one sentence “Treat everyone as you would be treated”
If everyone did this there would be less violence in the world, which is beneficial to humanity.

This is the rebuttal I was expecting, and in your defense it’s a very common one, but it’s not a very good one. It is true that you cannot use people who reject a teaching as an argument for that teaching being invalid, this is what I say in rebuttal to people who try to attack the Church over the issue of the sex abuse scandal, but that’s teh only part of your argument that holds up.

The problem with your argument is that you cannot legitimately claim that its straight-forward enough to not be misinterpreted when good-willed people (those not intent on distorting the text to fit an agenda, and who are genuinely only seeking the Truth of the text) arrive at different conclusions as to the meaning of the text. Given that there have been various sects of Islam who have arrived at different conclusion (completely excluding extremists like ISIS or Boko Haram), that shows quite plainly that the text cannot be properly understood on its own merit. You may have your personal understanding, and it may be shared with a significant segment of the Muslim population, but in the end the only basis you have for it is the manner in which you interpret the text. Your adamant defense of your view is no different from a Protestant trying to claim that their version of what the text means is the correct one. It has no basis or ground to stand on. That is why an ultimate authority for interpretation is necessary, and that is something which Islam lacks.

It’s true that, even with a central authority, the truth can be ignored, that is a choice of free will and is not alone enough to negate a belief. I am also not trying to say that your interpretation is incorrect, or not what Mohammad intended (it is my personal belief that you are mistaken, but I do not have the scholarly knowledge of the Quran’s texts to properly defend that position as of yet); but even if you are correct, you’ve no way to legitimately prove it beyond expressing your arguments. There is no promise of protection and guidance in Islam, and no central authority upon which to rely, so in the end, it’ll be nothing more than opinions. One opinion may be more correct than another, but there’s nothing to turn to for definitely closing the debate.

Orthodox women are like all other women and just let pesky Orthodox men think that so they can get up with the real administration of the household. :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.