Does the Quran Sanction Wife Beating?
24 May, 2009
“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).” (Trans. by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
The translation of the same verse by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall
“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.”
A close reading of both the translations draws our attention to
one important point, it being: Yusuf Ali’s translation has the words
“the husband’s” in it, but Pickthall’s translation does not. That
Ali has added this word in a parenthesis proves the fact that it
does not exist in the Arabic version of the verse and that he has
added it to his translation in order to hide a truth of gigantic
proportion. We shall discuss this truth momentarily.
We find that Allah has mainly done the following three things through the Quran:
(1) prohibited idols worshipping;
(2) retained certain Pagan practices that were to His liking;
(3) abolished certain social practices of the pagans, which He disliked, and
(4) introduced some customs or practices that were not present among them, but He wanted them to follow them in their lives after they became Muslims.
We have stated the above facts so that the readers can easily
understand what we are going to state in the following paragraphs of
In the pre-Islamic days, the eldest sons of the Pagans inherited
their fathers’ widows with the flocks and the tents. Incest between
sons and stepmothers thus was not only lawful but obligatory.’1
Since this pagan practice was highly obnoxious, Muhammad retained it
in the Quran to subtly, systematically and effectively avenge the
betrayals, insults and hardships the women in the homes of his
grandfather and uncle had inflicted on him, when he was living with
them. With this intention in his mind, he had Allah reveal verses,
permitting all Muslim men to punish all the women under their
control, be they their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. One
“Your wives are as a tilth unto you: So approach your tilth when or how ye will: But do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah, and know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter) and give these (good) tidings to those who believe.” [Q 2:223]
The translator was dishonest here. He intentionally rendered
nisaa as “wives” rather than “women” to mislead the Muslims and
other readers of the Quran. The word “nisaa” in the verse includes
wives, slave-girls, and all other women over whom men exert
Effectively permitting the Muslim men to rape their women
(“Approach your tilth “where,2
when or how ye will”), but only after doing some good to compensate
for the heinous crime they are about to commit, Allah also told His
beloved followers what we read in verse 4:34, quoted above.
Though this verse has received notoriety due to the notion that
it allows the Muslim men to beat their “wives,” but hardly anyone
has truly understood its true meaning and implications. To make our
contention clear, we emphasize the following:
- This verse, 4:34, is part of a Sura that is titled “Women,” or
“An-Nisaa” in Arabic.
- The word ‘husbands” is not in the original; instead, we find
“men” in it.
- The word “wives,” or azwajaka in Arabic, is not in the
original either; instead, we see :Nissa” or “women.”
- This verse has no connection with those that precede and
follow it. In other words, it is not contextual and the
instruction it contains stands on its own.
Keeping these facts in mind, what do we find in the verse? It
says that the Muslim men are the protectors and maintainers of
women, as they support them financially (and in Muhammad’s time and
in many parts of the third world today, men commonly support their
fathers, mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters, if they cannot
support themselves). Therefore, women under the men’s patronage
should obey them and guard what Allah wants them to guard (that is,
their private parts). But if men simply “fear” disloyalty and bad
behavior from their women, they must first warn them. If they still
feel fear, they must refuse to sleep with them. And if their fear
persists, the men must beat them. However, if the women “return to
obedience” — presumably, extinguish the fear — then the men must not
seek “means of annoyance,” — presumably, further punishment —
Question is: Could Allah have given such an open and obnoxious
permission to men to beat, and not to have sex with, those women who
depend on them for their survival?
We leave the question to the readers’ imagination for an answer. But as far as we are concerned, we are sure this instruction came from the mind of a sick man, who not only consigned his Pagan blood relatives, including his father and mother, to the fire of Hell, he also permitted the Muslim men to beat, and have sex with, all the women they support with their means.
1. R. V. C. Bodley, The Messenger, p. 226.
2. The Quran, 2:222.