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The Right to Punish a Wife
« on: November 12, 2011, 12:09:28 PM »
[Please contact Joseph Islam for further details of the original thread]

Dear Friends, Mr Javed Ghamdi is considered a modern moderate scholar. He, however is of the opinion that the Qur'an gives the right to a husband to hit his wife to reform her. Here is his watered down version:

The Right to Punish a Wife
Social Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Shehzad Saleem)

Marriage is a contract in which it is the responsibility of the husband to generously provide for the expenses of his wife and children. He is required to deal with them in a way which is in accordance with the norms of decency and those of sense and reason, and which is based on graciousness and courtesy, and in which the requisites of justice and fairness are fulfilled. Similarly, it is required of a wife that she should adopt an attitude of harmony and obedience towards the husband and protect his secrets as well as his honour and integrity.

Like other contracts, this nature of the contract also requires that if any of the parties violates it and in spite of counsel and advice, rebuke and reproach is not prepared to mend its ways, then it should be punished. This punishment can be meted out by a court and by the elders of the family. The Qur'ān has given this right to the husband also. It says that if a wife becomes rebellious by defying his authority, then he can resort to three options to save the family from dismembering:

First, he should urge his wife to mend her ways. The word used by the Qur'ān is وَعَظ which means that she can be admonished and also scolded to some extent in this regard.

Second, intimate marital relations with her should be suspended in order to communicate to her that if she does not mend her ways, she might have to face severe repercussions.

Third, she can be punished physically.

A question arises about this last option: with a change in society and civilization, if exercising the first two options does not bear results and a husband is left with no alternative but to adopt the third option, can a state bind him to not take this step himself and consign this matter to a court of law?

The opinion of this writer is in the affirmative. This is because this alternative is merely another way of following the directive of God and does not annul the directive. It does not make a difference if to reform the wife the punishment is meted out by the husband, the elders of the family or a court of law. It is the will of God that if to save a family, a wife needs to be punished, then she should be punished. It is only a reformatory measure and nothing more.

(Translated from Maqāmāt by Shehzad Saleem)

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: The Right to Punish a Wife
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2011, 12:09:46 PM »
[Please contact Joseph Islam for further details of the original thread]

Salaam [Name Removed]

... and peace to you all :-)

Brother Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is no doubt a great scholar. Shehzad Saleem who has been under the tutelage of Brother Javed is also an intelligent and thinking mind which is quite evident from his writings. Both should be respected in the opinions they impart. However, neither of them is beyond academic reproach and as far as I can tell, neither of them claims to be.

MODERATORS - Please allow me a little discretionary licence to read into some of the Arabic verses which I think is pertinent for the purposes of this post so that some readers can understand some of the underlying arguments and counter arguments.

(Please do refer to your own translations / interpretations of the Quran)

Scripture for any serious academic is to be studied holistically and the best meanings derived.

In my own humble opinion, I cannot concur with this particular rendering of Surah 4.34 to affirm  'wife beating ', especially as the only viable rendering of the text of this verse.

Here are my reasons:

Let us first consider some directives of the Quran when it comes to dealing with spouses within the ambit of marriage institutions.

30:21 states that mates have been created from among yourselves so that you may find tranquillity / rest in them. The Arabic here is 'litaskunu'. Most readers on this forum will be familiar with what the word 'Sukoon' means. The verse further states that He has placed between them love (Arabic: Muwaddatan) and mercy (wa-rahmatan). The verse culminates by informing the reader that there are signs in this for those who reflect.

Therefore, from verse 30:21 it is clear that the institution of marriage is one of tranquillity, love and mercy.

Even in the complex matter of divorce, we find clear instructions of arbitration, mutual consultation and kindness with no recourse to harm or injury of any kind.

With regards the latter important point of 'injury', note the Arabic word 'Diraran' in the following verse and its prohibition. This is very pertinent to the theme of this post.

002:231 (Part)
"And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then either retain them in fair manner or set them free in a fair manner, and do not retain them for injury / hurt (Arabic: Diraran), so that you exceed the limits..."

Dirar - not only means to make inconvenient, harass or to annoy but also carries the meaning of harm, to injure or hurt. (See 3.111 as an example)

Also, we note the pretext to the admonishment as 'Nushuz' (ill conduct, treatment/ rebellion) by the 'wife'. However, what is often not appreciated is that in verse 4:128 we also note a reciprocal scenario where a wife fears 'Nushuz' from her husband. Do we expect a  'beating ' by the wife of the husband as equal and fair retribution? Clearly the verse is devoid of such correction methods.


It is in verse 4:34 where one encounters the word 'idhribohunna' which is usually translated as 'beat them'. There are two parts to this word, 'Idhribo' (1) being a verb and 'Hunna' (2), a feminine plural pronoun (referring to the wives).

'Idhrib' which is formed from the root 'D-R-B' continues to form one of the most multifaceted words in Arabic.

In the Quran, one of the meanings of 'dharab' is to give examples; to propound similitudes or to coin parables (2:26 - example given of a gnat, 14:24-5 - an example given of a goodly word; 14:45 - the dwellings of old; 16:75 - an example of a slave, 16:76 - an example of the dumb, 16:112 - a secure town, 22:73 - example of a fly, 18:32 - example given of two men with two gardens etc)

There are also many other meanings such as to set out on a journey or to travel (3:156; 4:94; 4:101; 5:106 (witnesses and travel) 73:20; 2:273); or to condemn (2:61 - The Children of Israel's complaint with regards food); to seal (18:11 - companions of the cave), to take away (as in the reminder 43:5) and of course, to strike or beat (2:60, 2:73; 7:160 (Moses (pbuh) and the rock); 8:12 (instruction to the angels); 20:77 (Moses (pbuh)); 24:31 (women and feet); 26:63; 37:93; 47:4 (battlefield); 8:50; 47:27 (angels and death))

As you can see, words forming from 'dharab' have various meanings depending on context even in the Quran.

'idhribhunna', in this exact form only appears once in the Quran and in verse 4:34 so there is no direct comparison from another part of the Quran to compare. However, as we have previously noted in examples 30:21 and 2:231, dealings with spouses carries a central theme in the Quran of peace, tranquillity, love and mercy without any sort of harassment or injury. This should not be ignored while interpreting other verses of the Quran which fall within the scope of marriage institutions, especially 4:34.

What is often not appreciated is that 'Dharaba' can also mean to turn away or shun if it appears with a preposition 'AN'. As there is no preposition 'AN' in the Quranic word 'idhribohunna', it is usually argued by academics and scholars that the Arabic word cannot therefore take the meaning of shun / turn away in this form and must be interpreted as 'beat them'.

However, in classical Arabic, it is to be noted that 'Idhribohunna' (as it appears in the Quran) would not necessarily require the preposition 'AN' to make the rendering 'shun - turn away from' operative. This is attested by well known Arabic lexicon authorities and therefore a counter argument can be posited to this effect.

This rendering to 'shun / turn away' also finds support with the overarching philosophy depicted by the Quran which underscores how marriage institutions should be managed in kindness, respect and without causing harm to one another.

Also, much is made of the time sequence in verse 4:34 by virtue of the Arabic 'wa' which means 'and'

004:034 (Part)
"...As from those whom you fear ill-conduct (Arabic: nushuzahunna) advise them (Arabic: fa'izuhunna) and (Arabic: wa) forsake their (Arabic: uh'juruhunna) beds and (Arabic: wa) ...idhribohunna ..."

This is usually interpreted as a 3 step correction method.

Any ardent student of the Quran will note that the Arabic 'wa' does not always denote a separation in time in the Quran, but can also be construed as an approach to be carried out simultaneously or in immediate succession (with no great time lapse or 'stepped' action). Let us note an example. In the very next verse, we note the 'wa' not being used as a separation in time:

And if you fear a breach between the two, then appoint an arbiter from his people and (Arabic: wa) an arbiter from her people; if they both desire agreement, God will effect harmony between them, surely God is Knowing, Aware.

Here the 'wa' does not necessarily denote a time separation.

or in the very next verse:

004:036 (Part)
"...Serve God, and (Arabic: wa) join not any partners with Him..."

So two points to note:

(1) Idrhibhunna can mean to shun / turn away and not necessarily to 'beat' (with or without the 'an' proposition)

(2) There is not necessarily a time separator in verse 4:34 which is usually understood as being left to the arbitrary impulses of the (possibly already aggressed) husband to decide what they should entail. Rather, a corrective method can include verbal admonishment, forsaken beds and the process of shunning / turning away from their spouses in relative sequence without the oft understood '3 step corrective process'.

In the end of course, only God knows best.
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell