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Does Islam allow husbands to beat their wives?

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Does Islam allow husbands to beat their wives? 

Did Muhammad hit any of his wives?

How to begin research on the Qur’an & Hadith

Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said? briefly discusses Islam’s relationship to the New Testament. It is also a topic that I am often asked about and the subject of seminars that I present. Islam is often in the news due to many terrorist acts that are carried out by a very small minority of its followers. However, Islam’s teachings about women occasionally make headlines as well. The research I did for writing Echoes of Jesus often involved many hours trying to get to the earliest sources of information on the various topics covered.

I have written this article for two reasons. The first is in the hope that readers will see how easy it is to do their own basic research on a topic in Islam as taught in its sacred literature. Basically it involves reading the source material, investigating which parts of the source texts are discussed by other authors commenting on the topic of interest, learning about the context, history & culture, re-examining the source texts, and asking lots of questions. This article provides examples of accessing the source material.

The second reason is that the topic of husbands beating their wives has resurfaced in the Australian media. On 13 April 2017 the tax payer funded Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) broadcasted over the radio airways an interview with a women spokesperson – Silma Ihram – for the Australian Muslim Womens Association. This is one of the few times I have heard the ABC discuss Islam and domestic violence. The interview was in response to the release of a video by Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia. According to an ABC website (abc.net.au), the ‘video on social media saying Islam allows men to hit women in a "symbolic" way. Two panellists in the video claim men are permitted — but not obliged or encouraged — to hit women.’

During the interview Silma was speaking of the importance of understanding Islam’s stance on women by thoroughly examining the core Islamic literature, taking into account the context and other information important for interpretation. Silma referred to this core material, stating how it encourages men to treat their wives well, and also that Muhammad – the originator of Islam – never raised his hand against any of his wives. Muhammad did have many wives, and some of the passages below refer to one of them called A’isha (also called Aisha). Muslims call Muhammad the Prophet, and Allah's Apostle. 

Like Silma I consider it important that people read the literature that Islam is founded upon, such as the Qur’an (also spelt as  Koran or  Quran) and the Hadith (a.k.a ahadith). So I have gathered a few relevant quotes from a free, publicly accessible website (Islam Awakened). Note that bracketed words within the quotes are from the translation, not from myself. For example the parentheses in the quote ‘beat them (lightly)’ is indicating that the word ‘lightly’ is not in the original Arabic language of the Qur’an. I have included an extra verse in order to help with the context. I have included two English translations for each verse from the Qur’an. Chapter and verse numbers are given, which in Islam are called sura and ayat. Quotes from the Hadith were taken from http://www.quranexplorer.com/hadithebook/english/index.html.

As I am unable to select all the statements about women in the Qur’an and the Hadith, readers should do much more research before coming to any conclusions. It is important to note that this article is not making any comments about how Muslim men should or shouldn’t relate to women according to their sacred texts, nor is it making any comments about how Muslim men around the world actually relate to women. No doubt many Muslim men treat their wives and other women as if they were part of their own bodies. It also appears that in all societies there are husbands that beat their wives; domestic violence is truly a global problem.

From the Qur’an 

Sura 2:222-223. Abdel Haleem translation. Women as fields

They ask you about menstruation. Tell them: "This is a period of stress. So keep away from women in this state till they are relieved of it. When they are free of it, you may go to them as God has enjoined. For God loves those who seek pardon, and those who are clean." Your wives are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like, and send [something good] ahead for yourselves. Be mindful of God: remember that you will meet Him.’ [Prophet], give good news to the believers.

Sura 2:222-223. Yusuf Ali (1985) translation. Women as fields

They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah. For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean. 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.

Sura 4:23-24. Abdel Haleem translation. Women & bride-gifts

You are forbidden to take as wives your mothers, daughters, sisters, paternal and maternal aunts, the daughters of brothers and daughters of sisters, your milk-mothers and milk-sisters, your wives’ mothers, the stepdaughters in your care- those born of women with whom you have consummated marriage, if you have not consummated the marriage, then you will not be blamed- wives of your begotten sons, two sisters simultaneously- with the exception of what is past: God is most forgiving and merciful-women already married, other than your slaves. God has ordained all this for you. Other women are lawful to you, so long as you seek them in marriage, with gifts from your property, looking for wedlock rather than fornication. If you wish to enjoy women through marriage, give them their bride-gift- this is obligatory- though if you should choose mutually, after fulfilling this obligation, to do otherwise [with the bride-gift], you will not be blamed: God is all knowing and all wise.

Sura 4:23-24. Yusuf Ali (1985) translation. Women & bride-gifts

Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers (Who suckled you)*, foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful;- Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise. 

*I changed the words in parentheses slightly from the original.

Sura 4:33-34. Abdel Haleem translation. Husbands beating their wives

We have appointed heirs for everything that parents and close relatives leave behind, including those to whom you have pledged your hands [in marriage], so give them their share: God is witness to everything. Husbands should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in their husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teachings of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them: God is most high and great.

Sura 4:33-34. Yusuf Ali (1985) translation Husbands beating their wives

To (benefit) every one, We have appointed shares and heirs to property left by parents and relatives. To those, also, to whom your right hand was pledged, give their due portion. For truly Allah is witness to all things. 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).

From the Hadith

Bukhari: Book 3: Volume 48: Hadith 825-827. The deficiency of a woman’s mind

Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama: Some outer garments were received the Prophet and my father (Makhrama) said to me, "Let us go to the Prophet so that he may give us something from the garments." So, my father stood at the door and spoke. The Prophet recognized his voice and came out carrying a garment and telling Makhrama the good qualities of that garment, adding, "I have kept this for you, I have sent this for you."

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind.”

Narrated Uqba bin Al-Harith: That he had married Um Yahya bint Abu Ihab. He said. "A black slave-lady came and said, 'I suckled you both.' I then mentioned that to the Prophet who turned his face aside." Uqba further said, "I went to the other side and told the Prophet about it. He said, 'How can you (keep her as your wife) when the lady has said that she suckled both of you (i.e. you and your wife?)" So, the Prophet ordered him to divorce her.

Muslim: Book 4: Hadith 2127. Muhammad beating his wife on her chest causing pain

Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was 'A'isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'A'isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it. He said: Gabriel came to me when you saw me. He called me and he concealed it from you. I responded to his call, but I too concealed it from you (for he did not come to you), as you were not fully dressed. I thought that you had gone to sleep, and I did not like to awaken you, fearing that you may be frightened. He (Gabriel) said: Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi' (to those lying in the graves) and beg pardon for them. I said: Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (How should I beg forgiveness for them)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you.

Muslim: Book 9: Hadith 3506. Men beating women

Jabir b. 'Abdullah (Allah be pleased with them) reported: Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) came and sought permission to see Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). He found people sitting at his door and none amongst them had been granted permission, but it was granted to Abu Bakr and he went in. Then came 'Umar and he sought permission and it was granted to him, and he found Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) sitting sad and silent with his wives around him. He (Hadrat 'Umar) said: I would say something which would make the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) laugh, so he said: Messenger of Allah, I wish you had seen (the treatment meted out to) the daughter of Khadija when you asked me some money, and I got up and slapped her on her neck. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) laughed and said: They are around me as you see, asking for extra money. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) then got up went to 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) and slapped her on the neck, and 'Umar stood up before Hafsa and slapped her saying: You ask Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) which he does not possess. They said: By Allah, we do not ask Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) for anything he does not possess. Then he withdrew from them for a month or for twenty-nine days. Then this verse was revealed to him:" Prophet: Say to thy wives... for a mighty reward" (xxxiii. 28). He then went first to 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) and said: I want to propound something to you, 'A'isha, but wish no hasty reply before you consult your parents. She said: Messenger of Allah, what is that? He (the Holy Prophet) recited to her the verse, whereupon she said: Is it about you that I should consult my parents, Messenger of Allah? Nay, I choose Allah, His Messenger, and the Last Abode; but I ask you not to tell any of your wives what I have said He replied: Not one of them will ask me without my informing her. God did not send me to be harsh, or cause harm, but He has sent me to teach and make things easy.

Bukhari: Book 1: Volume 6: Hadith 300-302. Women in hell

Narrated Maimuna: When ever Allah's Apostle wanted to fondle any of his wives during the periods (menses), he used to ask her to wear an Izar.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion.”

Narrated ‘Aisha: We set out with the Prophet for Hajj and when we reached Sarif I got my menses. When the Prophet came to me, I was weeping. He asked, "Why are you weeping?" I said, "I wish if I had not performed Hajj this year." He asked, "May be that you got your menses?" I replied, "Yes." He then said, "This is the thing which Allah has ordained for all the daughters of Adam. So do what all the pilgrims do except that you do not perform the Tawaf round the Ka'ba till you are clean."

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  • Guest
    Miles Kitts Sunday, 16 April 2017

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you very much for your blog. It is very informative. I enjoy your work. Please keep it up!

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Guest Monday, 17 June 2019

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