The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement Blog

Miracles, Myths, Mistakes and MattersSee Title Page and List of Contents

See: Project Rebuttal: What the West needs to know about Islam

Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

Read: Background to the Project

List of all Issues | Summary 1 | Summary 2 | Summary 3

Archive for February, 2016

Case Study 5: Wife-Beating? Why Beat Around the Bush When There is No Validation in Quran!

Monday, February 1st, 2016
Case Study 5: Wife-Beating? Why Beat Around the Bush When There is No Validation in Quran!

The words wa-ḍribū hunna, used in the verse 4:34 of the Quran, are mistranslated as "and beat them" to justify wife-beating. Wa means "and", the word translated as "beat" is iḍribū, and hunna means "them" in the feminine tense. Translating iḍribū as "beat" is one of the most flagrant slaughters of a word in Quran.

(Note on terminology: The imperative iḍribū is a command in the plural to carry out the action known as ḍarb. Whenever a word occurs before an imperative such as iḍribū, the last vowel of that word replaces the initial i of the imperative; thus we have here: waḍribū. Note also that the Arabic letter represented by in modern transliteration used to be represented as dz, and is sometimes written as just d, as in some references below.)

The action of ḍarb has several meanings and connotations including to ‘seek away’ or ‘turn them away.’ Ignoring the Quran and Sunnah, some of the translators have chosen to use the most violent and the most out of context meaning of this word. Reading verse 4:34 in context of the immediately following verse 4:35, it becomes crystal clear, and leaves no room for any doubt, whatsoever, that this word is used here in its most non-violent and its most reconciliatory sense. Furthermore, all other verses in Quran addressing the exact same topic of a discord between a husband and a wife, one and all, in unison, prescribe civilized, community-based solutions and not violence.

The Prophet himself is on several records to have harshly condemned any and every sort of violence towards one’s wife. Since it is established that Prophet Muhammad was the ‘the Quran walking,’ it follows that he would never have condemned any act permitted by the Quran.

This word in itself is not the root cause of pain and suffering for women. Rather, the wrong meaning attached to it is what can become a justification for human rights violation in the name of Allah. Below are quoted its root, forms and meanings, all of which are far removed from its misuse to beat one’s wife:

Dzaraba – This word admits a great variety of meanings and interpretations as: To heal, strike, propound as an example, put forth a parable, go, make a journey, travel, mix, avoid, take away, put a cover, shut, mention, state, propound, set forth, compare, liken, seek away, march own, set, impose, prevent, fight, traffic with anyone’s property for a share in the profit, leave for sake, take away thing (with ‘an). Dzaraba bi arjulihî: He travelled. Dzarab al-ardza: Without or with : To travel. Dzaraba fulânun al-gha’ita: To go to relieve the bowels, go to privy, go for earning livelihood. Lâ tudzrabu akbâd al-ibili illa alâ thalâthati masâjida: La Turkal flâ yusaru ilaihâ: One must not ride to go but for three mosques. Adzrabu: To go and sworm. Dzârib: Depressed ground; Hard ground in a plain; sandy valley; Commissioner as he has to travel much. Dzarabtu lahû al-ardza Kullahâ: I went searching him everywhere. Dzarbun: Kind Manner; Lean; Thin; Similar; Alike; The act of striking; A blow; Going from place to place; Vicissitude of life; Affliction especially that which relates to one's person, as disease, death, degradation is common and general suffering. Dzaraba (prt. 3rd. p.m. sing.): He set forth, coined, propounded, compared, gave, mentioned, traveled, took away, avoided (with ‘An). Dzarabû (prf. 3rd. p.m. plu.): They set forth. Dzarabtum (prf. 2nd. p. m. plu.): Ye went forth, set forth. Dzarabnâ (prf. 1st. p. plu.): We have set forth. We put over a cover (with ‘Alâ). Yadzribu (imp. 3rd. p. m. sing.): He illustrates, sets forth, compares, likens. Confirms. Yadzribûna (imp. 3rd. p. m. plu.): They smite, travel. Yadzribna (imp. 3rd. p. f.plu.): She draws over, strikes. Lâ Tadzribû (prt. neg. m. plu.): Coin not. Nadzribu (imp. 1st. p. plu.): We set forth, narrate, will leave (with ‘An). Idzrib (prt. m. sing.): Strike; Go; Seek a way; March on. Idzribû (prt. m. plu.): You strike. Dzuriba (pp. 3rd. p. m. sing.): Held up; Will be set up. Dzuribat (pp. 3rd. p. f. sing.): They are smitted. Dzarbun (v.n. used in the sense of imperative to emphasize the command). Dzarban (v.n. acc.): Going about; Striking. (L; T; R; LL) The root with its above forms has been used in the Holy Qur’ân about 58 times.1

The linguistic spread of the word Dzaraba is so extensive that the ‘Arabic-English Lexicon’ by Edward William Lane (London: Willams & Norgate 1863) allocates to it six pages of three columns each i.e. pages 1777 – 1783.2

At the end of this chapter are listed all the verses from Quran, a total of 53, in which the usage of Dzaraba is identified with all its variations and none of which mean corporal punishment. Even where Dzaraba is used for being ‘smitten’ or a physical ‘strike,’ that usage is fully qualified in the same or adjoining verses, with what, how to, how much and why, to smite or strike. However, it is never, ever used in the sense of beating or corporal punishment.

Wife-beating is an example where a disgusting behavior by men is justified by fishing in Quran for its validation. A barbaric meaning is injected ‘into’ Quran, rather than reading the decent rules of a civil society ‘out of’ Quran. Such abhorring reasoning is found not in Quran, but in certain translations, one of which is quoted below from Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi, the translator:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made one of them excel over the other, and because they spend out of their possessions (to support them). Thus righteous women are obedient and guard the rights of men in their absence under Allah's protection. As for women of whom you fear rebellion [Arabic: nushūzahunna], admonish them, and remain apart from them in beds, and beat them [Arabic: iḍ’ribūhunna]*. Then if they obey you, do not seek ways to harm them. Allah is Exalted, Great (4:34).

* This does not mean that a man should resort to these three measures all at once, but that they may be employed if a wife adopts an attitude of obstinate defiance. So far as the actual application of these measures is concerned, there should, naturally, be some correspondence between the fault and the punishment that is administered. Moreover, it is obvious that wherever a light touch can prove effective, one should not resort to sterner measures. 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. (See Ibn Majah, 'Nikah', 3 – Ed.)

If you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both want to set things right, Allah will bring about reconciliation between them. Allah knows all, is well aware of everything (4:35).3

Irrespective of who said what in their translation and then tried to reconcile the stated meaning of allowance for beating of wife with lengthy apologies, the fact remains the same, that they all advocate wife beating. Additionally, even if for the sake of an argument ‘beat them’ is assumed to be the correct meaning, then nowhere in Quran will one find the extent and limits of the allowed beating of wives by their husbands. Such translations essentially give a vengeful husband the ‘license’ to beat his wife into disfigurement or death? It only nurtures the evil of ‘honor killings.’

Before we take the translation of verse 4:34, sanctifying wife beating, seriously, we also read in the same translation and in the same chapter –“Do they not ponder about the Qur'an? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found in it much inconsistency (4:82)”4 With this standard of Quran we have to make sure if this translation of verse 4:34 is inconsistent with other verses, which factually it is. We do not have to remind the translator of verse 4:34 above that according to his own translation of another verse‘…They [–wives] are as a garment to you [–husbands] and you [–husbands] are as a garment to them [–wives] … (2:187).’5 If both spouses are garments of protection and grace for each other and if per chance, according to verse 4:34, the wife sheds her obligation of being a garment for her husband, it still remains obligatory for the husband to remain the garment of protection and grace, not that of violation, for his wife and resort to beating her. In another verse from the same translator it states “…Live with your wives in a good manner. If you dislike them in any manner, it may be that you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good for you (4:19).6 Unless someone can justify wife beating as being consistent with living with good manner (that is enjoined on the husbands) translation of verse 4:34 flagrantly contradicts 4:19. In another place in the same translation we find “…who restrain their anger, and forgive others. Allah loves such good-doers (3:134).7 According to this translation, on the one hand Quran encourages suppression of anger and promotes forgiveness while on the other in verse 4:34 it perpetuates anger when it gives the option to beat one’s wife. By the standards of Quran, where there is no inconsistency therein (4:82), this translator woefully creates inconsistency when he allows beating of a wife by her husband and thus leaves us no option but to reject his translation of verse 4:34.

Inflicting physical punishment on women was sadly common in many societies, and, unfortunately, some men derive the legitimacy of punishing their wives from the word Adzribu stated in this verse [4:34]. Adzribu is derived from dzaraba a word with a great variety of meanings and interpretations in the Arabic language and in the Holy Qur'an. Such meanings include to heal, strike, put forward an example, put forth a parable, make a journey, move away, travel, mix, cover, impose, prevent, or take something away. This word has been used in the Holy Qur'an fifty-eight times with different meanings (cf. 30:28; 43:5; 2:273; 2:60; 2:61;18:11;57:13). Thus, adzribu does not mean here [in verse 4:34] to strike physically and it certainly does not mean to inflict physical punishment on women. Meanings such as “take something away” or “put forth an example” (symbolically) can be used as the translation of this word here. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) [–the first and foremost exegete of Quran,] is reported to have said, "You will not find these men as the best among you who punish their wives" (Daud 12/42). Also, He rhetorically asked, "Could any of you beat his wife and then lie with her in the evening?" (Bukhari).8

If the verse 4:34 allows for physical punishment of one’s wife in a marital dispute, no matter how mild the punishment inflicted, then such a husband who beats his wife is merely following the injunction in Quran. How is it then even possible for the Prophet to abhor such a follower of Quran, if the Quran allowed wife beating in the first place. We have two choices in this example, either Quran as translated above is wrong or the Prophet is misquoted, but not both could be right simultaneously. Obviously, neither Quran can be wrong for its actual message of non-violence towards anyone, especially the women, nor the Prophet could be wrong for hadith attributed to him of non-violence towards wives. Once again, without even discussing the linguistics, we are left with no choice but to reject wife beating as the utterly wrong meaning attributed to Quran. On the reverse we have the following hadith about the Prophet:

Abu Abdullah Al-Jadali narrated: "I asked 'Aishah about the character of the Messenger of Allah. She said: 'He was not obscene, nor uttering obscenities, nor screaming in the markets, he would not return an evil with an evil, but rather he was pardoning and forgiving."[Tirmidhi]9

We also have another verse from Quran about the sublime nature of the Prophet and a corresponding hadith attributed to Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, that the Prophet was “the Quran walking” in his character:

68:4. And you possess outstandingly high standard of moral (excellence).10

Narrated Sa'd bin Hisham: “…I said: Mother of faithful [-Aisha], tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah (). She asked: Do you not recite the Quran ? The character of Messenger of Allah () was the Qur'an…” [Sunan Abu Dawud’]11

How is it possible for a walking talking Quran to not have followed its injunction, and allowed wife beating? Rather on the reverse, we have hadiths from Aisha which only prove that he was a man far removed from violence and follower of Quran in this matter:

"The Messenger of Allah () never beat any of his servants, or wives, and his hand never hit anything." [Ibn Majah]12

"Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam did not hit anything with his mubaarak hands, besides the time when he made jihaad in the Path of Allah. He did not hit a servant nor a women (wife, slave girl etc.)"[ Shama’il Muhammadiyah (–Tirmidhi)]13

“Messenger of Allah () never hit anything with his hand neither a servant nor a woman but of course, he did fight in the Cause of Allah. He never took revenge upon anyone for the wrong done to him, but of course, he exacted retribution for the sake of Allah in case the Injunctions of Allah about unlawful acts were violated.” [Muslim]14

In marital discord, no matter how egregious, and alleged on the wife, it cannot be left in the hands of a husband to inflict corporal punishment. In another place a verse from the same translation removes the authority to arbiter in a dispute from individuals and vests it with the government, relegates to the example of the Prophet and if the matter is beyond the former two, it shifts it into the hands of Allah:

Believers! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those from among you who are invested with authority; and then if you were to dispute among yourselves about anything refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you indeed believe in Allah and the Last Day; that is better and more commendable in the end (4:59).15

At least in the example of the Prophet, there is no wife beating to be found, but this translator did find it in Quran. One of the worst allegations in a marriage is that of a charge of adultery on a spouse, especially the wife, which for an arrogant ‘honor killer’ husband is a trigger happy moment. Even in such an extreme situation Quran does not allow beating of one’s wife, as conceded by Mawdudi (see his translation of verse 24:6-10 below). But, none-the-less, ignoring this, Mawdudi, allows for violence for merely “rebelling” against the husband in verse 4:34, whereas in Quran the matter is required to be referred to Allah, as explained in the verses from the same translator:

As for those who accuse their own wives but have no witness except themselves, the evidence of one of them is that he shall swear four times by Allah and declare that he is true (in his charge). Then the fifth time he shall declare that Allah's curse be upon him if he be false (in his charge). (As for the woman), it shall avert the punishment from her if she swears four times by Allah that the man is false (in his charge) and the fifth time she invokes Allah's wrath upon herself, if he be true (in his charge). If Allah had not shown you His grace and mercy and if Allah had not been most Forgiving and All-Wise, (you would have been in a great fix because of accusing your wives)(24:6-10).16

Even if the adultery is witnessed or falsely alleged, the authority to punish is not in the hands of individuals, but can only be carried out by the state:

The woman and the man guilty of fornication, flog each one of them with a hundred stripes – and let not any pity for them restrain you in regard to a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day, and let, some of the believers witness the punishment inflicted on them (24:2).17

As for those persons who charge chaste women with false accusations but do not produce four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes and never accept their evidence afterwards, for they themselves are transgressors, except those who repent and reform themselves; Allah is Forgiving and Merciful (24:4-5).18

Under any law, there cannot be a double punishment for a given crime because according to the translator under discussion “…do not commit aggression because Allah does not like aggressors (2:190).19 However, according to the same translation it may be allowed so, first beating of the wife by the husband (4:34) and later lashing by the state (24:2).

The weakness of the translation of verse 4:34 quoted above can be ascertained for its meaning of another word ‘Nashuz’ which is also referred to in the same verse and also in another place quoted below from the same translation:

If a woman fears either ill-treatment [Arabic: nushūzan] or aversion from her husband it is not wrong for the husband and wife to bring about reconciliation among themselves (by compromising on their rights), for settlement is better. Man's soul is always prone to selfishness, but if you do good and are God-fearing, then surely Allah is aware of the things you do (4:128).20

This translation reeks of double standards. The word ‘Nashuz’ is taken for rebellion by a wife in verse 4:34 and ill-treatment by a husband in verse 4:128. In the former case, when allegedly wife is at fault, the quoted translation sanctions violence against wife first which essentially defeats any chance of reconciliation in the subsequent verse 4:35. In the latter case, in verse 4:128, it advocates reconciliation alone when the alleged fault lies with the husband. Whereas, we know that in Quran a wife has equal rights and at par with the husband ‘… And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner…(2:228)’.21 Should we then presume that to reclaim their equal rights, denied by said translator in marital discord, wives too must resort to inflict spousal abuse? This self-created contradiction in Quran can be expunged merely by using the correct and contextual implications of the word ‘Adzribu’ in verse 4:34 for its non-violent meanings e.g. ‘seek away’ or ‘turn them away’. These meanings pave way for reconciliation between the estranged couple enjoined in the subsequent verse 4:35. By such appropriate meanings for ‘Adzribu’, both verses 4:34 and 4:128 are normalized and their mutual contradiction is thus resolved along with the contradiction with verse 2:228 and many other verses that specifically mention kind treatment of wives in general any specifically in marital discord. Such sensible approach does not diminish message of Quran. It only diminishes violence in the society and increases reconciliation in a household in which the consequent victims might not only be the spouses themselves, but also the children and other family members.

Quran addresses marital discord from both ends of the spectrum. It addresses the view point of the husband, the likely head of household, in verses 4:34-35 and the aggrieved wife in verse 4:128.

Aggrieved husband – The ignorant justify violence towards women while relying on verse 4:34 which according to them allows wife beating. This assertion is similar to stoning to death. The sources for both maybe found elsewhere, but not in Quran. The following is a plain reproduction of verses 4:34-35 and their footnotes from English Translation of the Holy Quran, by Maulana Muhammad Ali in its revised edition by Zahid Aziz. By contrasting Muhammad Ali’s translation to Mawdudi’s, readers can judge for themselves how ignorantly Quran is misused by some, the likes of which include Mawdudi, to condone an ignominious behavior of wife beating for which there is no room in Quran in its plain read below:

4:34. Men are the maintainers of women22, with what Allah has given some of them above others and with what they spend out of their wealth. So the good women are obedient (to Allah)23,…

Obedience here signifies obedience to Allah. This significance of the word is made clear by a comparison with 33:31, 33:35, and 66:5.

33:31. And whoever of you [– Prophet’s wives] is obedient to Allah and His Messenger and does good, We shall give her a double reward [– greater reward], and We have prepared for her an honourable sustenance.

…guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded…

This refers to their guarding the husband’s rights. The two qualifications of a good wife as given here are her obedience to God and chastity.

…And (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish24 them, and leave them alone in the beds25

The word translated here as desertion, when used about a woman in connection with her husband, means her rising against her husband. This is explained by the commentators in a number of ways; for example, her leaving the husband’s place and taking up an abode which he does not like or that the wife resisted her husband and hated him and deserted him. The remedy for her correction is that she is to be admonished, but if she persists in the wrong course, her bed is to be separated, i.e. a cessation of sexual relations.

…and turn them away (from wrongdoing)…

Editor’s Note: The words translated as “turn them away” use the term darb, and have often been translated as “beat them”. Maulana Muhammad Ali rendered them as “chastise them” and explained that very slight chastisement was allowed only in extreme cases, which should not leave an impression, and further that this permission is meant only for the crass type of people in society among whom such chastisement is acceptable. However, as he pointed out in his footnotes on verses 2:60 and 2:73, the verb darb signifies “all kinds of actions except a few”; and apart from striking it is used to mean, for example, marching on, setting forth a parable, and likening. In these other senses it is commonly used in the Quran. It is used in 43:5 as meaning to turn (something) away: “Shall We then turn away the Reminder from you…?”, which is how Maulana Muhammad Ali and many other translators have rendered this verse. This sense seems to be applicable here. Thus the meaning here would be that by admonishing and, if necessary, breaking off sexual relations, the husband should turn the wife away from her wrong course, or it may mean that if these measures fail he should turn her away from himself, i.e. divorce her. It may be added that the Quran clearly forbids a man from causing injury to his wife. In its rules for divorce, husbands are told about their wives: “retain them with kindness or let them go with kindness and do not retain them for injury” (2:231), “retain them with kindness or part from them with kindness … do not injure them in order to impose hardship upon them” (65:2, 6). In fact, only a few verses prior to v. 34 above, in v. 19, husbands have been instructed as follows about their wives: “Nor should you cause them hardship… And treat them kindly. Then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it”.

…So if they obey you, do not seek a way against them. Surely Allah is ever Exalted, Great.

4:35. And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them. Surely Allah is ever Knowing, Aware.26

This verse lays down the procedure for divorce. It is not for the husband to put away his wife; it is the business of the judge to decide the case. He is required to appoint two arbiters, one belonging to the wife’s family and the other to the husband’s. These two arbiters will find out the facts, but their objective must be to effect a reconciliation between the parties. If all hopes of reconciliation fail, a divorce is allowed, but the final decision for divorce rests with the judge who is legally entitled to pronounce a divorce. Cases were decided in accordance with these directions in the early days of Islam.

Of note is that verses 4:34-35 outline progressive steps in a married relationship gone sour, where each step essentially gives a pause to rethink, forebear and reconcile i.e. to give a verbal advice – admonish them; temporary separation – and leave them alone in the beds; symbolic termination of certain privileges – turn them away; mediation – if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If there was any remote possibility of allowance for ‘wife beating’ in verse 4:34, then for sure there is no residual chance for mediation as outlined in verse 4:35.

One of the criticism levelled against verse 4:34 is that it is male centric. Like any statue of law its narrative is that of male gender, but in no way negates the rights of the female gender. The reverse is equally applicable:

2:228. … And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner…27

The rights of women against their husbands are here stated to be similar to those which the husbands have against their wives. The change in this respect was really a revolutionizing one, for the Arabs hitherto regarded women as mere property. Women were now declared to have rights similar to those which were exercised against them. The equality of the rights of women with those of men was never previously recognized by any nation or any reformer.

Similarly, as pointed out in the footnotes quoted from Maulana Muhammad Ali above, other verses ensure as an injunction, explicit kindness towards wife even during the divorce process when each party might be expectantly hateful towards the other:

4:19. O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to take women as heritage against (their) will…

Among the pre-Islamic Arabs, when a man died his elder son or other relations had a right to possess his widow or widows, marrying them themselves if they wished, without settling a dowry on them, marrying them to others, or prohibiting them from marriage altogether. This is abolished by these words.

…Nor should you cause them hardship by taking part of what you have given them, unless they are guilty of manifest indecency…

This passage remedies another evil. Some husbands who were dissatisfied with their wives gave them trouble in order to force them to claim a divorce and remit the dowry (i.e., the legally-due nuptial gift from the husband to the wife). This is disallowed. If the judge finds that the fault lies actually with the husband, he will not allow the dowry to be remitted in his favour. It can only be taken back if the woman is guilty of immoral conduct. In such cases, when the fault is with the woman, she may be required to return it wholly or in part.

…And treat them kindly. Then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it.28

If per chance verse 4:34 is interpreted to allow ‘wife beating’ then such a deduction will create contradiction in Quran as the verse 4:19 above enjoins the husband quite clearly to treat them kindly always, even when there is property dispute during the divorce process:

4:20. And if you wish to have (one) wife in the place of another and you have given one of them a heap of gold, take nothing from it. Would you take it by slandering (her) and (doing her) manifest wrong?

Another social evil was that a husband, wanting to marry another woman instead, would accuse his wife of adultery or other gross immorality, thus compelling her to obtain a divorce by paying a large sum of money.

4:21. And how can you take it when you have been intimate with each other and they have taken from you a strong covenant?29

Marriage is here called a covenant or agreement between the husband and the wife. As there can be no agreement unless both parties give their consent to it, marriage in Islam can only be entered into with the free consent of the husband and wife.

In another place Quran ensures the kind behavior towards wife even at the conclusion of the divorce, a time when mutual hatred and apathy might run amok:

2:231. And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then retain them with kindness or let them go with kindness and do not retain them for injury so that you exceed the limits…

If the husband is proved to give injury to the wife, he cannot retain her, and she can claim a divorce. Injury to the wife may be of a general nature or one given with the object of compelling her to remit her dowry to obtain a divorce. It is for the judge to see that the husband is not taking undue advantage of his position. On the other hand, the husband is enjoined to show liberality to the divorced wife, and the judge would no doubt see that the injunctions of the Quran were observed. It is made clear in 4:35 that decision in matters of divorce rests with the judges appointed, not with the husband or the wife.

…And whoever does this, he indeed wrongs his own soul. And do not take Allah’s messages for a mockery,…

The injunctions relating to the kind treatment of women must not be taken lightly, we are told here. Retaining women to cause them injury has already been declared to be a transgression and emphasis is now laid on the proper observance of these injunctions by stating that these are most serious matters relating to the welfare of society as a whole.

…and remember Allah’s favour to you, and what He has revealed to you of the Book and the Wisdom, instructing you by it. And keep your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is the Knower of all things.30

If we read the above verses on a range of behavior expected of the husband towards his wife, then these verses quite vividly put the husband at the service of the wife i.e. Men are the maintainers of women (4:34) and treat them kindly (4:19). This benevolence is enjoined on husbands towards their wives even after divorce i.e. if…you have given one of them a heap of gold, take nothing from it (4:20) and when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then retain them with kindness or let them go with kindness and do not retain them for injury (2:231).

Aggrieved wife Similar to verses 4:34-35 for aggrieved husband, the aggrieved wife is also given her equal and similar rights:

4:128. And if a woman fears ill-usage from her husband or desertion, there is no blame on the two of them if they effect a reconciliation between them. And reconciliation is better. And greed is met with in (people’s) minds. And if you do good (to others) and keep your duty, surely Allah is ever Aware of what you do.31

Quran addresses both husband and wife to be just in their marital dispute the cause of which might be beyond the individual spouses and extend to involve relatives and others, and the consequent arbitration requiring testimony, which it mandates in verses 4:35 and 4:128:

4:135. O you who believe, be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness for Allah, even if it is against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives — whether he is rich or poor, Allah has a better right over them both. So do not follow (your) low desires, that you deviate. And if you distort (the truth) or turn away (from it), surely Allah is ever Aware of what you do.32

In conclusion, there is no basis for aggression towards one’s wife in Quran and Sunnah. Quran does not allow any maltreatment of women even after their divorce. On the contrary, kind treatment must be shown towards women under all circumstances. If the dispute is beyond the prerogative of a household, the matter is referred to authorities, communal or governmental, who then have to arbiter in light of Quran and Sunnah.


Listed below are all the verses from Quran, a total of 53, in which the usage of araba is identified with all its variations and none of which mean corporal punishment:

2:26. Surely Allah does not disdain to set forth [Arabic: yaḍriba] any parable — a gnat or anything above that. Then as for those who believe, they know that it is the truth from their Lord; and as for those who disbelieve, they say: What is it that Allah means by this parable? Many He leaves in error by it and many He leads aright by it. And He leaves in error by it only the transgressors,33

2:60. And when Moses prayed for water for his people, We said: March on [Arabic: iḍrib] to the rock with your staff. So twelve springs flowed from it. Each tribe knew their drinking-place. Eat and drink of the provisions of Allah, and do not act corruptly, making mischief in the land.34

2:60. And (recall the time) when Moses prayed for water for his people and We said (to him), `Go with your people and smite [Arabic: iḍrib] that particular rock with your staff.' So (when he did so) there gushed forth from it twelve springs so that every tribe came to know of its drinking place. (We said,) `Eat and drink of sustenance provided by Allâh and commit not transgression in the land like peace-breakers.'35

2:61. And when you said: Moses, we cannot endure one food, so pray your Lord on our behalf to bring forth for us out of what the earth grows, of its herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions. He said: Would you exchange what is better for what is worse? Enter a city, so you will have what you ask for. And degradation and humiliation were stamped [Arabic: ḍuribat] upon them, and they incurred Allah’s wrath. That was so because they disbelieved in the messages of Allah and would kill the prophets unjustly. That was so because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits.36

2:73. So We said: Strike him [Arabic: iḍribū-hu] with it partially. Thus Allah brings the dead to life, and He shows you His signs that you may understand.37

2:273. (Charity is) for the poor who are confined in the way of Allah, they cannot go about [Arabic: ḍarb-an] in the land; the ignorant man thinks them to be rich on account of (their) abstaining (from begging). You can recognize them by their mark — they do not beg of people demandingly. And whatever good thing you spend, surely Allah is Knower of it.38

3:112. Degradation will be [Arabic: duribat] their lot wherever they are found, except under a covenant with Allah and a covenant with people, and they shall incur the wrath of Allah, and humiliation will be made to cling [Arabic: duribat] to them. This is because they disbelieved in the messages of Allah and killed the prophets unjustly. This is because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits.39

3:112. Smitten [Arabic: ḍuribat] are they with ignominy wherever they are found unless they have a bond (of protection) from Allâh, or a bond (of security) from the people. They have incurred the displeasure of Allâh and have been condemned [Arabic: ḍuribat] to humiliation. That is so because they would disbelieve in the Messages of Allâh and would seek to kill the Prophets without any just cause. And that is so because they rebelled and had been transgressing as usual.40

3:156. O you who believe, do not be like those who disbelieve and say of their brethren when they travel [Arabic: ḍarabū] in the earth or engage in fighting: If they had been with us, they would not have died, or been killed; that Allah may make it a regret in their hearts. And Allah gives life and causes death. And Allah is Seer of what you do.41

4:34. Men are the maintainers of women, with what Allah has given some of them above others and with what they spend out of their wealth. So the good women are obedient (to Allah), guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded. And (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the beds and turn them away [Arabic: iḍ’ribūhunna] (from wrongdoing). So if they obey you, do not seek a way against them. Surely Allah is ever Exalted, Great.42

4:94. O you who believe, when you go forth [Arabic: ḍarabtum] (to fight) in Allah’s way, make investigation, and do not say to anyone who offers you salutation, You are not a believer, seeking the good of this world’s life. But with Allah there are abundant gains. You too were such before, then Allah conferred a benefit on you; so make investigation. Surely Allah is ever Aware of what you do.43

4:101. And when you journey [Arabic: ḍarabtum] in the earth, there is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve will give you trouble. Surely the disbelievers are an open enemy to you.44

5:106. O you who believe, call to witness between you, when death draws near to one of you, at the time of making the will, two just persons from among you, or two others from among others than you, if you are travelling [Arabic: ḍarabtum] in the land and the calamity of death befalls you. You should detain them after the prayer. Then if you doubt (them), they shall both swear by Allah (saying): We will not take for it a price even for a relative, nor will we hide the testimony of Allah, for then certainly we shall be sinners.45

7:160. And We divided them into twelve tribes, as nations. And We revealed to Moses when his people asked him for water: March on [Arabic: iḍ’rib] to the rock with your staff; so out flowed from it twelve springs. Each tribe knew its drinking-place. And We made the clouds to give shade over them and We sent to them manna and quails. Eat of the good things We have given you. And they did not do Us any harm, but they wronged their own souls.46

8:12. When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, so make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike [Arabic: iḍ’ribū] above the necks and strike [Arabic: iḍ’ribū] every finger-tip of them.47

8:50. And if you could see when the angels cause to die those who disbelieve, striking [Arabic: yaḍribūna] their faces and their backs, and (saying): Taste the punishment of burning.48

13:17. He sends down water from the clouds, then watercourses flow according to their measure, and the torrent bears along the swelling foam. And a scum like it arises from what they melt in the fire for the sake of making ornaments or tools. Thus does Allah compare [Arabic: yaḍribu] truth and falsehood. Then as for the scum, it passes away as a worthless thing; and as for that which benefits people, it remains behind in the earth. Thus does Allah set forth [Arabic: yaḍribu] parables.49

14:24. Do you not see how Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] a parable of a good word as a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are high,50

14:25. yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] parables for people that they may be mindful.51

14:45. And you dwell in the abodes of those who wronged themselves, and it is clear to you how We dealt with them and We made (them) [Arabic: waḍarabnā] examples for you.52

16:74. So do not coin [Arabic: taḍribū] likenesses for Allah. Surely Allah knows and you do not know.53

16:75. Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] a parable: There is a slave, the property of another, controlling nothing, and there is one to whom We have granted from Ourselves a goodly provision, so he spends from it (on good works) secretly and openly. Are the two alike? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know.54

16:76. And Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] a parable of two men: One of them dumb, controlling nothing, and he is a burden to his master; wherever he sends him, he brings no good. Is he equal with him who enjoins justice, and he is on the right path?55

16:112. And Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] a parable: A town safe and secure, to which its means of subsistence came in abundance from every quarter; but it disbelieved in Allah’s favours, so Allah made it taste a pall of hunger and fear because of what they did.56

17:48. See, what they liken [Arabic: ḍarabū] you to! So they have gone astray, and cannot find the way.57

18:11. So We prevented [Arabic: faḍarabnā] them from hearing in the Cave for a number of years,58

18: 11. So We sealed [Arabic: faḍarabnā] up their ears (to cut them off from the outside world) in their Place of Refuge for (only) a number of years.59

18:32. And set forth [Arabic: wa-iḍ’rib] to them the parable of two men — for one of them We made two gardens of grape-vines, and We surrounded them with date-palms, and between them We made corn-fields.60

18:45. And set forth [Arabic: wa-iḍ’rib] to them the likeness of the life of this world as water which We send down from the cloud, so the vegetation of the earth becomes luxuriant by it, then it becomes dry, broken into pieces which the winds scatter. And Allah is the Holder of power over all things.61

20:77. And certainly We revealed to Moses: Travel by night with My servants, then strike [Arabic: iḍ’rib] for them a dry path in the sea, not fearing to be caught, nor being afraid.62

22:73. O people, a parable is set forth [Arabic: ḍuriba], so listen to it. Surely those whom you call upon besides Allah cannot create a fly, though they should all gather for it. And if the fly carry off anything from them, they cannot take it back from it. Weak are (both) the invoker and the invoked.63

24:31. And say to the believing women that they lower their gaze and restrain their sexual passions and do not display their adornment except what appears of it. And they should wear [Arabic: walyaḍrib’na] their head-coverings over their bosoms. And they should not display their adornment except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or harmless male servants, or the children who do not know women’s nakedness. And they should not strike [Arabic: walā yaḍrib’na] their feet so that the adornment that they hide may be known. And turn to Allah all, O believers, so that you may be successful.64

24:35. Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. A likeness of His light is as a pillar on which is a lamp — the lamp is in a glass, the glass is as it were a brightly shining star — lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, whose oil gives light, even though fire does not touch it — light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He pleases. And Allah sets forth [Arabic: yaḍribu] parables for mankind, and Allah is Knower of all things —65

25:9. See what parables they set forth [Arabic: ḍarabū] for you — they have gone astray, so they cannot find a way.66

25:39. And to each We gave [Arabic: ḍarabnā] examples and each did We destroy with utter destruction.67

26:63. Then We revealed to Moses: March on [Arabic: iḍ’rib] to the sea with your staff. So it parted, and each side was like a huge mound.68

29:43. And these parables, We set them forth [Arabic: naḍribuhā] for people, and none understand them but the learned.69

30:28. He sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] to you a parable about yourselves. Do you have, among those whom your right hands possess, partners in what We have given you, so that you are equal in it, you fearing them as you fear each other? a Thus do We make the messages clear for a people who understand.70

30:58. And certainly We have set forth [Arabic: ḍarabnā] for people in this Quran every kind of description. And if you bring them a sign, those who disbelieve would certainly say: You are only deceivers.71

36:13. And set out [Arabic: wa-iḍ’rib] to them a parable of the people of the town, when messengers came to it.72

36:78. And he strikes out [Arabic: waḍaraba] a likeness for Us and forgets his own creation. Says he: Who will give life to the bones, when they are rotten?73

37:93. So he turned upon them, striking [Arabic: ḍarban] with the right hand.74

38:44. And take in your hand [a] few worldly goods and earn goodness [Arabic: fa-iḍ’rib] therewith and do not incline to falsehood. Surely We found him patient; most excellent the servant! Surely he (ever) turned (to Us).75

38:44. And (We commanded him,) `Take in your hand a handful of twigs and strike [Arabic: fa-iḍ’rib] (the riding beast) therewith. And do not ever incline towards falsehood. Indeed, We found him steadfast. An excellent servant was he. He was always turning (towards God) in obedience.76

39:27. And certainly We have set forth [Arabic: ḍarabnā] for people in this Quran examples of every sort that they may be mindful.77

39:29. Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] a parable: A man belonging to partners differing with one another, and a man (devoted) wholly to one man. Are the two alike in condition? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know.78

43:5. Shall We then turn away [Arabic: afanaḍribu] the Reminder from you altogether because you are a people committing excesses?79

43:17. And when one of them is given news (of the birth) of that the like of which he ascribes [Arabic: ḍaraba] to the Beneficent, his face becomes black and he is full of rage.80

43:57. And when the son of Mary is mentioned [Arabic: ḍuriba] as an example, lo! your people raise a clamour at it.81

43:58. And they say: Are our gods better, or is he? They set it forth [Arabic: ḍarabūhu] to you only by way of disputation. Indeed, they are a contentious people.82

47:3. That is because those who disbelieve follow falsehood, and those who believe follow the Truth from their Lord. Thus does Allah set forth [Arabic: yaḍribu] their descriptions for people.83

47:4. So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, strike [Arabic: ḍarba] the necks; then, when you have overcome them, make (them) prisoners, and afterwards (set them free) as a favour or for ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (shall be so). And if Allah please, He would certainly exact retribution from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the way of Allah, He will never allow their deeds to perish.84

47:27. But how will it be when the angels cause them to die, striking [Arabic: yaḍribūna] their faces and their backs?85

57:13. On the day when the hypocrites, men and women, will say to those who believe: Wait for us, that we may borrow from your light. It will be said: Turn back and seek a light. Then a wall, with a door in it, will be raised [Arabic: faḍuriba] between them. Within it shall be mercy, and outside of it punishment.86

59:21. If We had sent down this Quran on a mountain, you would certainly have seen it falling down, splitting apart because of the fear of Allah. And We set forth [Arabic: naḍribuhā] these parables to people that they may reflect.87

66:10. Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] an example for those who disbelieve — the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them, so they (the husbands) did not avail them at all against (the punishment of ) Allah, and it was said: Enter the Fire with those who enter.88

66:11. And Allah sets forth [Arabic: ḍaraba] an example for those who believe — the wife of Pharaoh, when she said: My Lord, build for me a house with You in the Garden and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from the wrongdoing people.89

73:20. Your Lord knows indeed that you pass in prayer nearly two-thirds of the night, and (sometimes) half of it, and (sometimes) a third of it, as do a group of those with you. And Allah measures the night and the day. He knows that (all of) you are not able to do it, so He has turned to you (mercifully); so read of the Quran whatever is easy for you. He knows that there are sick among you, and others who travel [Arabic: yaḍribūna] in the land seeking of Allah’s bounty, and others who fight in Allah’s way. So read as much of it as is easy (for you), and keep up prayer and give the due charity and offer to Allah a goodly gift. And whatever of good you send on beforehand for yourselves, you will find it with Allah — that is best and greatest in reward. And ask forgiveness of Allah. Surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.90

NOTE: Many aspects of this chapter have been compiled with the help of online resource:

1 Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.328-329
3 An-Nissa: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
4 ibid
5 Al-Baqarah: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
6 An-Nissa: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
7 Al-I-Imran: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
8 ‘The Exegesis of the Holy Quran’ as Explained by Nooruddin, Excerpted from footnote to verse 4:34, p. 469.
9 ‘Jami` al-Tirmidhi’ – Chapters on Righteousness And Maintaining Good Relations With Relatives. Link:
10 Al-Qalam – The Pen: Nooruddin
11 ‘Sunan Abu Dawud’ – Book of Prayer (Kitab Al-Salat): Voluntary Prayers. Link:
12 ‘Sunan Ibn Majah’ – The Chapters on Marriage. Link:
13 ‘Shama'il Muhammadiyah’ – Noble Character And Habits Of Sayyidina Rasoolullah. Link:
14 ‘Riyad as-Salihin’ – The Book of Miscellany. Link:
15 An-Nissa: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
16 An-Nur: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
17 ibid
18 ibid
19 Al-Baqarah: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
20 An-Nissa: ‘Tafheem ul Quran’ by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)
21 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
22 This is the contractual duty of husbands in marriage keeping in view that women on their part bear with issues unique to their gender, for example, menstruation, pregnancy, labor, postpartum, breast feeding, childcare and home maker, besides nurturing a home and its environment out which the husband is able to undertake his stated obligations outside the home.
23 Despite that Men are the maintainers of women, there is no reciprocity of obliged subjugation of women to their husbands, and rather they are to adhere to laws of Allah in matters of daily living and not of a man, the husband. This nullifies the apparent material advantage of a husband over his wife.
24 Merriam-Webster: 1 a: to indicate duties or obligations to. b: to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner. 2: to give friendly earnest advice or encouragement to.
25leave them alone in the beds’ – a temporary separation, for example, to live in a separate room. This also prevents any abuse of the wife that might emerge from the all too common escalating arguments and consequent rage when there is close proximity of the disagreeing parties.
26 Al-Nisa – Women: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
27 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
28 Al-Nisa – Women: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
29 ibid
30 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
31 Al-Nisa – Women: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
32 ibid
33 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
34 ibid
35 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
36 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
37 ibid
38 ibid
39 Al`Imran – The Family of Amran: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
40 ibid
41 ibid
42 Al-Nisa – Women: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
43 ibid
44 ibid
45 Al-Maidah – Food: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
46 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
47 Al-Anfal – Voluntary Gifts: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
48 ibid
49 Al-Rad – Thunder: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
50 Ibrahim – Abraham: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
51 ibid
52 ibid
53 Al-Nahl – The Bee: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
54 ibid
55 ibid
56 ibid
57 Bani Israil – The Israelites: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
58 Al-Kahf – The Cave: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
59 Al-Kahf – The Place of Refuge: Nooruddin
60 Al-Kahf – The Cave: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
61 ibid
62 Ta Ha: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
63 Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
64 Al-Nur – The Light: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
65 ibid
66 Al-Furqan – The Criterion: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
67 ibid
68 Al-Shuara – The Poets: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
69 Al-Ankabut – The Spider: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
70 Al-Rum – The Romans: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
71 ibid
72 Ya Sin: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
73 ibid
74 Al-Saffat – Those Ranging in Ranks: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
75 Sad: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
76 Sad – The Truthful God: Nooruddin
77 Al-Zumar – The Companies: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
78 ibid
79 Zukhruf – Gold: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
80 ibid
81 ibid
82 ibid
83 Muhammad: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
84 ibid
85 ibid
86 Al-Hadid – Iron: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
87 Al-Hashr – The Banishment: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
88 Al-Tahrim – The Prohibition: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
89 ibid
90 Al-Muzzammil – The one covering himself up: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz