taken from:

The Place of Women in Pure Islam
by M. Rafiqul-Haqq and P. Newton
Chpt 4, Husband's Rights


The Qur'an describes the natural relationship between the husband and the wife as one of love and mercy : "He has set between you love (mawaddah) and mercy." Q 30:21. A contemporary scholar, Sayyed Qotb sees that the love and the mercy spoken of in this verse as the natural feelings the man has for the opposite sex that was planted by the creator. Earlier scholars saw that "love" between the husband and the wife in the above verse refers to the sexual act, while "mercy" refers to the offspring of the man and his wife.[51] The important thing to note is that this love and mercy is not found in the man apart from the woman, but it is a mutual thing found in both. And the Qur'an commands men to "Consort with them (women) in kindness (ma'ruf)." Q 4:19 According to the Dictionary of Qur'anic terms and concepts the word "ma'ruf" means "customary law; enjoining good and forbidding evil."[52]

Elsewhere the word is translated many times as equitable as in Usif Ali's English translation of the Qur'an53 In other words when women behave properly they are to be treated kindly, the treatment must be equitable according to the customary laws.

There is also a Hadith that describes the good husband; "The best of you are those who are the best to their wives."[54] (that Hadith is mentioned only by Tirmizi). But how far this goodness will go in difficult times, when the wife does not behave properly?

The man according to the Qur'an has the responsibility to admonish his wife, and the right to desert her sexually, and to beat her to correct any rebelliousness in her behaviour.

The Qur'an states:

"Righteous women are therefore obedient, É And those you fear may be rebellious (nushuz) admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them."[55]
Some translators add the word lightly after 'beat them'[56] in Q 4:34. Others like Mohammed Pickthall and Rodwell translate the word 'edrebouhon - beat them' as 'scourge them'.

The occasion in which Q 4:34 was revealed sheds more light on the meaning of that verse. Most commentators mention that

"the above verse was revealed in connection with a woman who complained to Mohammad that her husband slapped her on the face (which was still marked by the slap). At first the Prophet said to her: 'Get even with him', but then added : 'Wait until I think about it.' Later on the above verse was revealed, after which the Prophet said: 'We wanted one thing but Allah wanted another, and what Allah wanted is best.'"[57]
The beating in the previous incident can hardly be described as light, unless that is what is meant by light beating. This beating comes as the last corrective measure when sexual desertion fails. Light beating after sexual desertion is an anticlimax that serves no purpose. But firm beating is the logical progression from admonishing, then sexually deserting, finally beating her. This beating must be stronger than sexual desertion to have any effect. This beating however is not like the whipping of a slave.[58] But "a beating without causing injury"[59] (agreed upon)

So the man has the right to beat his rebellious wife as long as that beating is not like the whipping of the slave and will not result in injury.

The translator of Mishkat Al-Masabih wrote in a footnote of Fatwa by Qazi Khan that said beating the wife mildly is

"allowed in four cases (1) When she does not wear fineries though wanted by the husband, (2) When she is called for sexual intercourse and she refuses without any lawful excuse, (3) When she is ordered to take a bath [to clean herself] from impurities for prayer and she refuses and (4) When she goes abroad without permission of her husband"[60]
In another footnote the translator of Mishkat Al-Masabih said,

"No wife shall refuse her husband what he wants from her except on religious grounds ie. at the time of menstrual flow or fasting. Some theologians regard this refusal as unlawful as the husband may get enjoyment from his wife in other ways, by embracing, kissing etc. The duty of the wife is to give him comforts in his bed whenever he wants her."61 (emphasis added)
This beating is the husband's unquestionable right. Ibn Kathir in his commentary mentioned a Hadith on the authority of zal Ash'ath Ibn al-Qays who was visiting 'Omar and at that time. 'Omar took his wife and beat her, then said to Ash'ath:

'Memorise three things from me, which I memorised from the prophet who said: "The man is not to be asked why he beat his wife ..."'[62]
Man's right to 'beat his wife' does not belong to the distant past. The Guardian Weekly reported,

"In 1987 an Egyptian court, following an interpretation of the Koran proposed by the Syndicate of Arab Lawyers, ruled that a husband had the duty to educate his wife and therefore the right to punish her as he wished."[63]
Sayyed Qotb a modern scholar and commentator tries to justify the provision for a man to beat his wife, found in the above Qur'anic verse:

"The facts of life, and the psy chological observations of certain forms of deviations indicate that this approach (beating the wife) is the most appropriate one to satisfy a particular form of deviation, reforming the behaviour of the person...and gratifying her...at the same time! Even without the existence of this form of psychological deviation, perhaps some women will not recognise the power of the man whom they love to have as their guardian and husband, except when the man conquers them physically! This is not the nature of every woman. But this kind does exist. And it is this kind that needs this last treatment to be set straight, and remain within the serious organisation [marriage] in peace and tranquillity."[64]
Some intellectuals, referring to the above quotation, said:

"Women's rebelliousness (nushuz) is a medical condition. It is of two kinds: The first is the condition when the woman delights to be the submissive partner who finds pleasure in being beaten and tortured. This is what is called Masochism. The second is when the woman loves to hurt and master and dominate the other partner. This is what is called Sadism. Such woman has no remedy except removing her spikes and destroying her weapon by which she dominates. This weapon of the woman is her femininity. But the other woman who delights in submission and being beaten, then beating is her remedy. So the Qur'anic command: 'banish them to their couches, and beat them' agrees with the latest psychological findings in understanding the rebellious woman. This is one of the scientific miracles of the Qur'an because it sums up volumes of the science of psychology about rebellious women."[65]
The above two quotations state that the Qur'anic injunction to beat the perverted masochist woman will cure her from her disorder. But will it rather increase her perversion by giving her the pleasure she sought? Will giving alcohol to the alcoholic be his remedy too? And why beat the sadist wife? Why not let her have her own way too, like the masochistic one? Why not let her beat and torture others? Even if this treatment is of benefit to the minority of women who are perverted, does this justify the command to beat the wife who rebels for any and every reason?

Whether or not the beating of wives is justified, this is the man's right, and his alone.

The man who fears rebelliousness in his wife must admonish her first. If that does not work, the husband has the right to desert her sexually. If that does not work either, he has the right to beat her.

Sayyed Qotb explains the dynamics of deserting the wife sexually if admonishing her does not work:

"Here comes the second phase ... the man has to make a superior psychological move against all her attraction and beauty, by banishing her to her couch, for the couch (the bed) is the place of temptation and enticement, where the rebellious woman reaches the summit of her power. If the man can conquer his disposition against her temptation, then he has disarmed her from her sharpest and most treasured weapon."[66]
Another scholar reiterating the above said:

"This sexual desertion is a remedy that curbs the rebelliousness of the woman, and humiliates her pride, in that which she treasures most, her femininity ... thus inflicting the most humiliating defeat on the woman. "[67]
The man then has the right to desert his wife sexually and beat her, if he fears rebelliousness in her. The woman, however, can not resort to such measures, if she fears rebelliousness in her husband, as is clear from the following verse:

"If a woman fears rebelliousness or aversion in her husband, there is no fault in them if the couple set things right between them; right settlement is better."[68]
It is clear from Q 4:128 & Q 4:34 that the Qur'an commands diplomacy when a woman fears rebelliousness in her husband. But when the man fears rebelliousness in his wife, the Qur'an commands the use of force and sexual desertion.

Bukhari gives an example of the wife's options if she fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part in the following Hadith:

"... narrated 'Aisha (regarding the verse:- 'If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part...) It concerns the woman whose husband does not want to keep her with him any longer, but wants to divorce her and marry some other lady, so she says to him: 'Keep me and do not divorce me, and then marry another woman, and you may neither spend on me, nor sleep with me.' This is indicated by the statement of Allah:- 'There is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable set tlement between them both, and such settlement is better.'"[69] (emphasis added)

So according to Bukhari's sound Hadith, the recommended amicable settlement for the woman who fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, is to submit to her husband's will to marry another woman, and to forego her financial and sexual rights.

Beating the rebellious wife is the last resort before divorcing her. She must be admonished first. If that does not work, the husband has the right to desert her sexually. The Qur'anic injunction to consort with women kindly is not inconsistent with beating the rebellious wife and sexually deserting her, this beating is included and part of the scope of the kind treatment. The prophet himself, who was the kindest of all Muslims to his wives, deserted them all sexually for one month.[70] Imam Ghazali puts it this way: "There is wickedness and weakness in women. Diplomacy and harshness is the remedy of wickedness, kindness and gentleness is the remedy of weakness."[71]

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