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In Islam's holiest scripture, the Qur'an, verse 34 of Surah an-Nisa (abbreviated as 4:34) concerns the issue of marital relations in Islam. This verse is frequently interpreted as giving women complete control over their own income and property, while obliging men to be responsible for maintaining their female relatives.

A small minority of Muslims interprets the verse as meaning men have an everlasting superiority over women, and thus the authority to beat women with few regulations. This interpretation, however, is neither mainstream nor supported by any prominent Muslim religious leader.

Scriptural text

Traditions attributed to Muhammad

Muslim scholars cite sayings and traditions of Muhammad in relation to this verse.

Role of men and women

The Qur'an states that men are the guardians of women, and thus responsible for earning livelihood for the family and female relatives. Women, however, are given complete control over their own income and property. Nevertheless, they are responsible for educating the children, as God has given the one preference over the other. Man is also considered to be the head of the family. The Qur'an recommends that wives be obedient and adaptable to their husbands. Wives should also keep the secrets of their husbands and protect their honor and integrity. Islamic scholars consider this important in running a smooth family system.

Iranianmarker feminists have concentrated on one particular verse of the Qur’an ( ), part of which reads `Men are the protectors of and maintainers of women because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means’. Feminist theologians in Iran argue that as the only distinction made between Muslims in the Qur’an is that between the pious and the impious ( ), the word taken to mean `protectors and providers’ in the verse above is more appropriately interpreted as initiator in affairs’.


The verse commands women to be qanitat. The term has been used in Quran 33:35 to refer to men and women alike, who are obedient to God. Some commentators use the term to mean obedience to the husband, while others assert that it means obedience to God. All scholars agree that the husband does not have absolute control over his wife, and her first loyalty is to God.


The term "nushûz" (نُشُوز) is translated as "disloyalty and ill-conduct" by Yusuf Ali, "rebellion" by Pickthall and "desertion" by Shakir. Other scholars have drawn on hadiths to interpret the meaning of the word.


Muhammad Asad notes that Muhammad stipulated in The Farewell Sermon that "beating should be resorted to only if the wife 'has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct'.

Response to nushûz

In response to nushûz, admonishment, leaving wives in their beds and idribihunna are permitted. Islamic scholars agree such actions can not be undertaken for any reason other than those mentioned in the Qur'an (see nushûz). Muslim scholars also hold that this response is only permitted only if the husband has fulfilled his obligations, both those required of him by the Quran and those in stipulated in the marriage contract.

Admonishing and separation in bed

The first response to nushuz is wā'z (‘وَعَظ’), meaning to first admonish or scold the wife of her behaviour. There is strong agreement amongst Muslim scholars that this admonishment must be conducted in a spirit of reconciliation. Should the nushuz continue, the next step is to refuse to share the bed with the wife. Again Muslim scholars emphasize on the spirit of healing while conducting this action.

Interpretations of the Qur'an also reflect the order of the actions prescribed in 4:34:
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); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance).
Surely, God is Ever Most High, Most Great."


The word iḍribūhunna comes from the root daraba (Arabic: ضرب). The word has been used many times in the Quran to mean: to hit, to travel the earth, to set up, to condemn and to give examples. Thus scholars interpret iḍribūhunna differently. Whereas many interpret it to mean "to strike lightly", others hold that the term means "to separate". Such an action is to be administered only if neither the husband nor the wife are willing to divorce. In the context of this verse, iḍribūhunna has also been interpreted to mean "go to bed with them", the Arabic root word "daraba" being taken from the prosaic example "the stud-camel covered the she-camel".

Muslim scholars who permit hitting, emphasize that it must not be harsh, but rather light. Muslim men are never to hit their spouse's face, nor to leave hit them in such a way as would leave marks on their body. Scholars suggest that the response administered should be in proportion to the fault committed. Traditionally the idea of beating was "with a toothbrush" or "with a folded handkerchief."

Many jurists interpret iḍribūhunna as "more or less symbolic." Others, however, argue that a mere symbolic administration would be pointless and rather should be an "energetic demonstration" of the love of the husband. But it is agreed that the demonstration should not seriously hurt the wife.

The 2007 translation The Sublime Quran by Laleh Bakhtiar translates iḍribūhunna not as 'beat them' but as 'go away from them'. The introduction to her translation discusses the linguistic and shari‘ah reasons in Arabic for understanding this verb in context. The Prophet never beat his wives, and his example from the Sunnah informs the interpretation of this verse. This interpretation is supported by the fact that some other verses, such as 4:101 which contains word darabtum (derivation from daraba), demonstrate also the interpretation of Arabic word daraba to have meaning 'going' or 'moving'.

Opposition to idribihûnna

Some jurists argue that even when hitting is acceptable under the Qur'an, it is still discountenanced. Furthermore, the Qur'an commands husbands to be kind to their wives.

Furthermore, the woman is not required to accept her husband's punishment, and the wife can divorce anytime. The wife can also take the husband to court, should he abuse her. If the case is decided in her favor, she has the right to retaliate against her husband.

See also


  1. Iman Hashim, Reconciling Islam and feminism, Gender & Development, 1999, vol. 7, issue 1, p 7, ISSN 13552074
  2. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 278
  3. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter:The Social Law of Islam
  4. Saleem Shahzad, Can a Husband force his Wife to wear the Hijab?, Renaissance - Monthly Islamic Journal, 11(11), November 2001.
  5. Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his Quranic commentary states that: "In case of family jars four steps are mentioned, to be taken in that order. (1) Perhaps verbal advice or admonition may be sufficient; (2) if not, sex relations may be suspended; (3) if this is not sufficient, some slight physical correction may be administered; but Imam Shafi'i considers this inadvisable, though permissible, and all authorities are unanimous in deprecating any sort of cruelty, even of the nagging kind, as mentioned in the next clause; (4) if all this fails, a family council is recommended in 4:35 below." Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary (commentary on 4:34), Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5.
  6. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, says that "If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored, and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. [1].[2]
  7. Ibn Kathir writes that in case of rebellious behaviour, the husband is asked to urge his wife to mend her ways, then to refuse to share their beds, and as the last resort, husbands are allowed to admonish their wives by beating. Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  8. USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts
  9. Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993
  10. Raghib, Al-Mufridat fi Gharib Al-Qur'an
  11. Ahmad Shafaat, Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34, Islamic Perspectives. August 10, 2005
  12. Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, says that "It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury."[3]
  13. Ibn Kathir Ad-Damishqee records in his Tafsir Al-Qur'an Al-Azim that "Ibn `Abbas and several others said that the Ayah refers to a beating that is not violent. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that it means, a beating that is not severe."
  14. Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Ibn Kathir
  15. "The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary", Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5, passage was quoted from commentary on 4:34
  16. Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  17. "Towards Understanding the Qur'an" Translation by Zafar I. Ansari from "Tafheem Al-Qur'an" by Syed Abul-A'ala Mawdudi, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, England. Passage was quoted from commentary on 4:34.
  18. Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an), citing Tabari who "quot[es] the views of scholars of the earliest times."
  19. Is wife beating allowed in Islam?
  20. The concept of a beating with a toothbrush comes from Muhammad's statement to a disobedient maid-servant that "If it were not for the fear of retaliation on the Day of Resurrection, I would have beaten you with this miswak (tooth-cleaning twig)" [as reported by Ibn Majah, by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and by Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat]. Cited by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research at [4][5]
  21. Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an), citing Razi.
  22. Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).
  23. One such authority is the earliest hafiz, Ibn Abbas.[6]
  24. Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi comments that "Whenever the Prophet (peace be on him) permitted a man to administer corporal punishment to his wife, he did so with reluctance, and continued to express his distaste for it. And even in cases where it is necessary, the Prophet (peace be on him) directed men not to hit across the face, nor to beat severely nor to use anything that might leave marks on the body." "Towards Understanding the Qur'an" Translation by Zafar I. Ansari from "Tafheem Al-Qur'an" (specifically, commentary on 4:34) by Syed Abul-A'ala Mawdudi, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, England.
  25. The medieval jurist ash-Shafi'i, founder of one of the main schools of fiqh, commented on this verse that "hitting is permitted, but not hitting is preferable."
  26. "[S]ome of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi'i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet's personal feelings with regard to this problem." Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).
  27. "On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing and God brings about through it a great deal of good."

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