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Does Submission (Islam) allow wife beating?

Some ‘Muslim’ men think that their religion supports them in abusing women. Not only by beating them, also by denying them equal rights at best, giving them little to no rights at all far too often.

Sincere students of the Quran know that this does not in any way represent the system God has decreed for His worshippers. Just as everything is open for abuse, the verse decreed to actually protect women against the violent tendencies in men has also been abused. Submission (Islam) prohibits all forms of oppression, including spousal abuse.

The verse:

[4:34] The men are made responsible for the women, and GOD has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is GOD's commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. GOD is Most High, Supreme.

At first glance people may interpret this verse as saying:

  1. Women have to obey their husbands blindly.
  2. Men can beat women if they don’t do what they want them to.
  3. Women have to stay at home.

Scrutinizing those interpretations on the basis of the whole Quran quickly generates an entirely different picture. We see instead that God prohibits wife-beating by using the best psychological approach. For example, if I don't want you to shop at Market X, I will ask you to shop at Market Y, then at Market Z, then, as a last resort, at Market X. This will effectively stop you from shopping at Market X, without insulting you. Similarly, God provides alternatives to wife-beating; reasoning with her first, then employing certain negative incentives. Remember that the theme of this sura is defending the women's rights and countering the prevalent oppression of women. Any interpretation of the verses of this sura must be in favor of the women. This sura's theme is "protection of women."

What also becomes blatantly obvious is that the practice of abusing women in the name of Islam is not because if the teachings in the Quran, but because of the misinterpretation of the same, plus the adherence to the innovations called Hadith and Sunna. To read more about these false teachings attributed to Islam, please visit:

1. Does a woman have to obey her husband blindly?

The Quran teaches us that a woman has every right to disobey a man if his orders are not righteous (58:12). A man can only be righteous if his orders are in accordance with and in consideration of ALL of God’s laws, not only the ones he likes.

One of the laws in the Quran decrees that the believers shall decide their affairs on the basis of due consultation among themselves (42:38). Without the woman in this equation, there is no due consultation. Thus, it is a duty upon the righteous man to consult his wife before making important decisions.

Ultimately it is not the voice of the man that weighs heavier in the relationship of a couple that has decided to abide by God’s laws, it is the word of God. Thus, regardless of how highly a man regards himself or his opinions, God gives him no right to make decisions that opposes His commands. Thus, a righteous man will heed a reminder from the wife based on righteous expectations. Thus, a woman should learn the scripture to be able to give her husband those reminders. She should also carefully examine the belief of a man before choosing him as a husband to make sure he respects the rights God has granted her.

Another law in the Quran commands us to treat each other in the best possible way (17:53). We are also told that love and care are two essential ingredients of a healthy marriage (30:21).

Must someone be in charge?

It is a fact of life that for people to be able to function well together they need to agree on who should be in charge. We accept this arrangement in all other aspects of our lives, such as when we choose government, when we are employed, and so on, and so on.

We do not feel oppressed for example, because we have to submit ourselves to a legal system that demands of us that we behave a certain way or else holds us responsible. We understand the logic and need for such a system and generally don’t mind following it because we want others to follow it as well, that we may feel safe where we are. Why should it be any different in a marriage situation, which in itself is an institution that must have certain rules and laws.

The order that God decreed for decision making in the family is this; children are obligated to obey their parents, unless they advice them to worship other than God (17:23, 24, 28). The parents are together responsible for making balanced decisions for the whole family. When no agreement can be reached between the husband and the wife on what course of action to take, one must have the heavier vote. This is simple logic. The only other option is if someone else decides for your family.

Verse 4:34 teaches us that God gave the man the final word in the family. Again, this must be after due consultation, without abusing his right, considering what is in the best interest and most fair for all. This is a huge responsibility to carry, especially considering the seriousness by which God regards oppression. He says oppression is worse than murder (2:190)!


2. Does a Muslim husband have the right to beat his wife to get her to do what he wants?

Absolutely not! The whole point of verse 4:34 is to protect the women in situations where men would tend to resort to violence, when tempted to take advantage of their physical strength over women. Such situations would be for example when a wife has angered her husband by behaving in a way that jeopardizes the safety or the integrity of the family.

A man can never be justified in using his strength to subdue a wife into behaving to his personal liking. The wife has the right to be an individual, with her own personal interests, career, or what have you, just as her husband. Nor can he use this option to subdue his wife into practicing the religion, since there must be no compulsion in religion (Quran 2:256).

So why does the Quran even mention beating of the wife?

What verse 4:34 does, is give a Righteous man Specific commands when dealing with a wife who is behaving in an unrighteous way, posing a threat to the safety of herself or the family. The verse is there to help him restrain his violent tendencies in tense situations by giving him strict guidelines to go by. It is a well-known fact that tendencies towards violence are generally much stronger in men than in women.

Thus, regardless of how upset a husband is about the behavior of his wife, he is not permitted to do anything else but talk to her properly first. If she ignores him and continues to commit the same transgression, he may as a second alternative stop being intimate with her as a means to persuade her. Only as a third and final option, if she insists on maintaining the behavior, has he the right to physically try to correct her.

Is becoming physical ever justified?

In our society we feel that police is justified in sometimes grabbing hold of people, and restraining them from continuing to pose a threat to themselves and others, until they realize their wrongdoing and promise to change. We see the logic in this, and fully support this action. In a marriage, God made the husband the first point of correction for a wife behaving in a way correlating to that level of misbehavior. If you still have trouble seeing the wisdom in this system, try to answer these questions:

Difficult questions to answer no doubt. This is why we must thank God for providing us with the perfect system on how to deal with these issues and made it easy for us. The system He has given us serves as a protection for the man, the woman and the entire family, all at the same time.

We have to remember that the laws in the Quran are meant to protect and preserve righteousness, goodness and fairness among God’s worshippers, and must be interpreted accordingly. The very title of the Sura 4 is “Women,” which tells us that the whole Sura is designed for the benefit of women and not to their disadvantage. Thus, any interpretation of the verses in this Sura must reflect the same.

Who will heed this system?

Verse 4:34 will only be used correctly by righteous men. Using it correctly means considering the whole verse and not only the last paragraph and viewing it in light of the whole Quran, and not only part of it (3:7, 2:85, 13:6, 3:72, 3:119).

An unrighteous man will beat his wife for no reason and for any reason whenever he feels like it, and this sad fact has absolutely nothing to do with this verse and nothing to do with religion. The truth is that very, very few women in the world enjoy the protection from the violent tendencies in men that the Quran has decreed for them.

A righteous man will be extremely careful in being fair and equitable in his marriage, making sure that he fulfills his part of the agreement before claiming the full rights of verse 4:34. Thus, it is very unlikely that he will ever use this option to physically correct his wife, since he will be much too careful in examining his own motives first.

As we learn from the verse immediately following 4:34, when it reaches this stage of considering this cause of action, the marriage is already falling apart, and divorce is the next option. For both men and women, God encourages arbitration with representatives from both families, if it comes to a point where the couple fears separation (4:35).

Divorce is another issue which has been severely abused by men. To read more about this, please visit: the section on Divorce.

Is being equal being the same?

If we hadn’t noticed it before, the Quran confirms that men and women are endowed with unique and distinct qualities, and we need each other to achieve a balanced and harmonious life.

[4:32] You shall not covet the qualities bestowed upon each other by GOD; the men enjoy certain qualities, and the women enjoy certain qualities. You may implore GOD to shower you with His grace. GOD is fully aware of all things.

Such differences become very obvious when the woman becomes pregnant and gives birth. They are also very obvious immediately after the birth, when the infant is in special need of closeness to the mother for nourishment and bonding for some time. In these situations, a woman becomes very dependant on others to provide food and protection for her and her baby. It is the man’s responsibility to provide that protection and provision.

Thus, when a couple enters into a marriage, they commit to and agree to fulfill certain functions in each other’s lives. If one party break those agreements, dishonor, disrespect or show no care for the family unit, measures must be taken. This is completely natural and just.

Unfortunately, many women of today have been misled to think that the way to become equal with men is to become more like men, and vice versa. This is really sad, because we are really bad at being like men, being women. True equality is when we can be fully equal while still allowing and enjoying all the different characteristics God gave us.

Marriage is a partnership based on love and mutual respect, in which both parties enjoy equal rights, at the same time enjoying different qualities and obligations in that partnership. Recognizing our differences, and achieving equal respect for the different obligations and responsibilities men and women have towards each other, is not a defeat, but a victory for women.


3. So, does this mean that a woman must stay at home?

This system of divided responsibilities during sensitive times is one that most people submit to naturally, and is confirmed by the Quran as being the best way. This doesn’t mean that women cannot work if they want to. The Quran teaches us that women can be leaders of nations (27:23). It does however mean that the woman has the right to choose to work outside the home, or not. How many women today enjoy this choice? How many are not forced to leave their children at daycare centers and go to work whether they want to or not? Something to think about.


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