Assalaamu alaykum. I would like to request the Islamweb team not to refer me to any of your previous fatwas because this is a new question. Many Muslim clerics have held the view that hitting a wife is permissible and not barbaric. However, many critics of Islam point out a hadith of Al-Bukhaari in which it is stated that Muslim women used to suffer severe torture by Muslim men in the era of Prophet Mohammed, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They quote this hadith:
Bukhari Volume 7, Book 72, Number 715: Rifa'a divorced his wife, whereupon 'Abdur-Rahmaan bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. ‘Aa'ishah said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her [‘Aa'ishah] of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by a beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allaah's Apostle came, ‘Aa'ishah said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!" When 'AbdurRahmaan heard that his wife had gone to the Prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, "By Allah! I have done no wrong to him but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this," holding and showing the fringe of her garment. 'Abdur-Rahmaan said, "By Allaah, O Allaah's Apostle! She has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her, but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifa'a." Allaah's Apostle said to her, "If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifa'a unless Abdur-Rahmaan has had sexual intercourse with you." Then the Prophet saw the two boys with 'Abdur-Rahmaan and asked (him), "Are these your sons?" On that, 'AbdurRahman said, "Yes." The Prophet said, "You claim what you claim (i.e.. that he is impotent)? But, by Allaah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow." In this hadith, it is stated that no woman suffered as much as believing women. Does this mean that Muslim men used to torture their women?
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.
There is nothing in the mentioned hadeeth that indicates that Muslim women were tortured and beaten by their husbands and that it was common during the lifetime of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, let alone him approving or denouncing it. The statement of ‘Aa'ishah "I have not seen anyone suffering as much as the believing women," means suffering life's hardships, according to Al-Qastallaani in his book Irshaad As-Saari Lisharh Saheeh Al-Bukhari (8/435).
‘Aa'ishah's statement, "Her skin is greener than her clothes!" may refer to the marks caused by a beating, and it may also mean that she was emaciated (very skinny). Al-‘Ayni commented on the hadeeth, saying, "The greenness of the skin could have been because she was very skinny or because she was beaten by her husband ‘Abd Ar-Rahmaan." [‘Umdat Al-Qaari Sharh Saheeh Al-Bukhari 6/22]
Scholars brought forth this hadeeth as evidence supporting the fact that in case of an irrevocable divorce with major separation (third divorce), it is impermissible for the divorced couple to remarry until the woman marries another man and that second marriage is consummated (and she later becomes divorced or widowed and wishes to remarry her first husband). The scholars' concern for this hadeeth was in relation to this religious ruling. As for the ruling on beating wives, it is known from many other texts indicating that it is absolutely prohibited for the husband to severely beat his wife under any circumstances and that the permissible disciplinary beating is not severe and is deemed allowable in certain cases as the last resort after exhorting her and then abandoning her in bed.
It has been reported on the authority of Jaabir that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, "…If they do that, then beat them, but without causing injury or leaving a mark." [Muslim]
The Maaliki scholar Ad-Dardeer wrote:
"Exhortation means to gently advise the disobedient wife to obey her husband and avoid the mistakes that she is making. If exhortation proves to be ineffective, then the husband is entitled to abandon her in bed, i.e. refrain from engaging in intimacy with her, in the hope that she reconsiders her actions and refrains from her disobedience. If forsaking her in bed proved to be ineffective, then it is deemed allowable for the husband, as a last resort, to discipline her by lightly beating her without causing any physical harm. Beating in this context must be without hurting, breaking a bone, or leaving marks on the body, while avoiding hitting the face or especially sensitive places at any cost. It is impermissible for the husband to severely beat his wife even if he knew that it is the only effective way to make her stop her disobedience. If he did do so, then she is legislatively entitled to request a divorce and he is liable for Qisaas (retribution). The order of these stages of disciplining methods must be followed, and the husband should not opt for a latter method unless he believes that the former one is ineffective."
It should be noted that although it is allowable for the husband to beat his disobedient wife in certain situations, it is better to avoid doing so. Al-Bayhaqi wrote, "Ash-Shaafi‘i commented on the version of the hadeeth narrated on the authority of Abu Sa‘eed, saying, 'It seems that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, forbade beating as a choice and deemed it allowable only in case he fears her aggravated disobedience and that his choice for them was that they do not beat, as he said, 'The best of you will not beat (their wives).'" [Ma‘rifat As-Sunan wal-Aathaar]
Allaah knows best.
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