Explanation of Surah an-Nisa':[4:34]
Fatwa No: 84120

Question

Please could you explain the verse 34 in Surah An-Nisa': {As to those women on whose part you see ill­conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allâh is Ever Most High, Most Great} .I really need some clarification especially on the part: {…(and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), …} . Your help would be appreciated extremely.

Answer

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 is His slave and Messenger. We ask Allaah to exalt his mention as well as that of his family and all his companions.

Allaah Says (what means): {Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allaah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband's absence what Allaah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property, etc.). As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allaah is Ever Most High, Most Great.} [Quran 4:34].

The interpretation of this verse is that Allaah gave men the duty of protecting, helping and supporting women; this means that a man is responsible for the protection, help and support of the woman, and Allaah granted him with such a right for two reasons:

1-     Allaah stated this reason in the Quran: {… because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other,…}. This excellence is due to the man being of a sound reasoning more than the woman, having a better insight and better in conducting affairs than a woman when facing emergencies and missions. It is for such reasons that Allaah assigned Prophecy, Caliphate, Jihaad (fighting in Allaah's Cause) and earning the daily bread to men.

2-     It is due to the man spending on their wives, Allaah Says (what means): {…and because they spend (to support them) from their means. …}. Thus, if a husband gives up financial support to his wife, he undermines and negates the support, maintenance and help to his wife, and the judge may divorce his wife from him.

Then, Allaah mentions in the verse the quality which a Muslim woman must have. He Says (what means): {…Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allaah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband's absence what Allaah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property, etc.)…}. This means that women must be obedient to their husbands, keep their chastity and safeguard their husbands' rights and wealth when they are absent. This form of safeguarding from a righteous woman is, in fact, from Allaah's Help and Guidance to her, this is what is meant by His Statement {what Allaah orders them to guard…}

After that, Allaah mentions the qualities of a corrupt woman, as He Says (what means): {…As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). …}.

Ill conduct in the verse means disobedience and refusal to obey her husband in what is permissible; Allaah advised the husbands to follow some steps in dealing with such disobedient wives:

1- Admonishing: Allaah Says (what means): {… admonish them…}. Admonition is to remind her of Allaah and of His Punishment and Wrath as she might repent to Allaah and fulfil her husband's rights. However, if she continues to be disobedient, then he moves to the second step.

2- Refusing to share the bed with her: He should not share the bed with her nor have sexual intercourse with her. In other words, he turns his back to her in bed. If she continues to be disobedient, he resorts to the third and last step.

3- Beating her slightly: Beating should not break a bone, disfigure a limb or spoil a benefit, like the sight and the like. Beating is among the requirements of being a protector and maintainer of the wife. However, the husband is not permitted to beat his wife unless she is disobedient. Allaah Says (what means): {but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance)}.

Resorting to beating is the last step which a husband should undertake in correcting his disobedient wife. If all of this is of no avail, then the matter should be taken to a Muslim judge who will study the matter or will appoint two arbitrators, one from his family and the other from hers, so that  they will reconcile between them or oblige the husband to divorce his wife. This is what is meant in the statement of Allaah which comes after the above verse (which means): {If you fear a breach between them twain (the man and his wife), appoint (two) arbitrators, one from his family and the other from her; if they both wish for peace, Allaah will cause their reconciliation…} [Quran 4:35].

In this concern, Allaah specifically mentions sending two arbitrators from the relatives of the husband and wife because they know the situation of the two parties better than anyone else.

Finally, the following points should be mentioned:

1- The fact that a man is more conscious than a woman and more able in doing the matters of protection and maintenance (of his wife), is a general rule and not an absolute one, as there are also women who are better than many men, they are more wise, better in conducting affairs, and more intelligent, but the religious rulings are based on what is general and dominant.

2- The religious permission for a husband to beat his wife is conditioned upon strict rules and permitted on a very limited scale. Therefore, it is very rare for a husband to beat his wife. The evidence about this is that according to reliable and trustworthy statistics published by the west, women in western societies are physically abused in large numbers compared to Muslim societies.

Finally, it should be noted that some Muslim husbands beat their wives without any right. However, it is not at all just to refer the mistakes of such husbands to a wife Islam; this means that those who try to make people doubt about the justice of Islam in this context have a vile objective  trying to fish in troubled waters, but Allaah is sufficient in defending Islam against them.

Allaah knows best.

 

 

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