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Template:Criticism of Islam sidebar The relationship between Islam and domestic violence is disputed. These ideas are justified with reference to the Qur'an, especially An-Nisa, 34, which discusses forms of beating in certain circumstances. The scholars allowing "beating" stress that it is a last resort, discountenanced, and must be done lightly so much so not to cause pain or injury.[1]

Treatment of domestic violence in the Qur'an

An-Nisa, 34

Verse 34 of an-Nisa is one of the most important verses for husband and wife relationship in Islam. In most translations, it gives permission to men to beat/hit (they both have the same word in Arabic) their wives if they fear "rebellion," or "nushûz". The rebellion referred to in this verse is against God (through promiscuous behavior in public), and not a reference to disobedience against the Husband. Many interpretive problems have arisen regarding the occasions (if any) on which beating is appropriate, the type of beating prescribed, and whether beating remains discountenanced even if acceptable.

Proper and improper occasions for beating

Beating (as well as admonishment and leaving wives in their beds) is permitted after "nushûz" (نُشُوز), which is translated as "disloyalty and ill-conduct" by Yusuf Ali, "rebellion" by Pickthall and "desertion" by Shakir. Ibn Abbas, cousin of Muhammad and early Qur'anic exegete, states that nushuz refers to disobedience in sexual matters; while another early commentator, at-Tabari, explains that nushuz means to refuse intercourse due to a feeling of superiority and elevation over the husband.[2]

In some exegeses such as those of Ibn Kathir and Tabari, the actions prescribed in 4:34 are to be taken in sequence: the husband is to admonish the wife, after which (if his previous correction was unsuccessful) he may remain separate from her, after which (if his previous correction was still unsuccessful) he may hit her [1][2][3][4][5]. Contemporary Egyptian scholar Abd al-Halim Abu Shaqqa refers to the opinions of jurists Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani and al-Shawkani who state that hitting should only occur in extraordinary cases.[6]

Type of beating prescribed

Some Islamic scholars and commentators have emphasized that beatings, even where permitted, are not to be harsh[1][7][8][9][10][11] or some even contend that they should be "more or less symbolic."[12][13] According to Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Ibn Kathir, the consensus of Islamic scholars is that the above verse describes a light beating.[14][15] Abu Shaqqa refers to the edict of Hanafi scholar al-Jassas (d. 981) who notes that the reprimand should be "A non-violent blow with siwak [a small stick used to clean the teeth] or similar. This means that to hit with any other means is legally [Islamically] forbidden."[6]

Scholars and commentators have stated that Muhammad directed men not to hit their wives' faces,[16] not to beat their wives in such a way as would leave marks on their body,[16][17] and not to beat their wives as to cause pain (ghayr mubarrih).[12] Scholars too have stipulated against beating or disfigurement, with others such as the Syrian jurist Ibn Abidin prescribing ta'zir punishments against abusive husbands.[18]

Undesirablity of beating

Some jurists argue that even when beating is acceptable under the Qur'an, it is still discountenanced.[19][20][21] Ibn Kathir in concluding his exegesis exhorts men to not beat their wives, quoting a hadith from Muhammad: "Do not hit God's servants" (here referring to women). The narration continues, stating that some while after the edict, "Umar complained to the Messenger of God that many women turned against their husbands. Muhammad gave his permission that the men could hit their wives in cases of rebelliousness. The women then turned to the wives of the Prophet and complained about their husbands. The Prophet said: 'Many women have turned to my family complaining about their husbands. Verily, these men are not among the best of you."[22]

In some recent high-profile cases such as that of Rania al-Baz, Muslim women have publicized their mistreatment at the hands of their husbands, in hopes that public condemnation of wife-beating will end toleration of the practice.[23]

Incidence of domestic violence among Muslims

Domestic violence is considered by many to be a problem in Muslim-majority cultures.[24]

The incidence in many Muslim-majority countries (where women hide their bruises and little is ever reported to authorities) is uncertain, but believed to be great by Muslim feminists. In some Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia,[25] reports indicate that domestic violence is quite widespread. One recent study, in Syria, found that 25% of the married women surveyed said that they had been beaten by their husbands.[26]

One study found that half of Palestinian women have been the victims of domestic violence.[27] A WHO study in Babol found that within the previous year 15.0% of wives had been physically abused, 42.4% had been sexually abused and 81.5% had been psychologically abused (to various degrees) by their husbands, blaming low income, young age, unemployment and low education.[28]

A 1987 study conducted by the Women's Division and another study by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1996 suggested that domestic violence takes place in approximately 80 percent of the households in the country.[29][30][31] In Pakistan, domestic violence occurs in forms of beatings, sexual violence or torture, mutilation, acid attacks and burning the victim alive (bride burning).[32]

According to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in 2002, over 90% of married women surveyed in that country reported being kicked, slapped, beaten or sexually abused when husbands were dissatisfied by their cooking or cleaning, when the women had ‘failed’ to bear a child or had given birth to a girl instead of a boy, or had an illicit affair.[33]

The prevalence of domestic violence has been cited as a cause of high rates of suicide, mostly through self-immolation, among Kurdish women in Iran.[34]

Availability of remedies for abused wives

Prosecution for domestic violence

According to Ahmad Shafaat, an Islamic scholar, "If the husband beats a wife without respecting the limits set down by the Qur'an and Hadith, then she can take him to court and if ruled in favor has the right to apply the law of retaliation and beat the husband as he beat her."[35]

However, laws against domestic violence, as well as whether these laws are enforced, vary throughout the Muslim world.

Domestic violence is not explicitly prohibited in Pakistani domestic law[36][37] and most acts of domestic violence are encompassed by the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance. Nahida Mahboob Elahi, a human rights lawyer, has said that new laws are needed to better protect women.[38] The police and judges often tend to treat domestic violence as a non-justiciable, private or family matter or, an issue for civil courts, rather than criminal courts[39]. In Pakistan, "police often refuse to register cases unless there are obvious signs of injury and judges sometimes seem to sympathise with the husbands."[40]

In Saudi Arabia, only in 2004 did the first successful prosecution for domestic violence occur after international attention was drawn to the case of Rania al-Baz.[25]

In Tunisia, domestic violence is illegal and punishable by five years in prison.[41]


Template:Ambox/small Though some Muslim scholars contend that Islam permits women to be divorced in cases of domestic violence,[42] divorce may be unavailable to women as a practical or legal matter.[43]

See also

  • Honor killing
  • Taliban treatment of women
  • Women and Islam
  • Submission, a film by Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali that is critical of the relationship between Islam and domestic violence


  • Islamic feminism
  • Violence against women
  • Women's rights
  • Domestic violence
  • Christianity and domestic violence


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi's viewpoint on man beating disobedient wife and original Persian Q&A article.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Roald (2001) p. 166
  3. 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.
  4. 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]
  5. 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 light tapping. Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  6. 6.0 6.1 Roald (2001) p. 169
  7. At-Tafsir al-Kabir" on 4:34, Razi; allowed the beating of the wife on the face
  8. Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, Al-Nawawi, section m10.12, "Dealing with a Rebellious Wife", page 540; may hit her as long as it doesn't draw blood, leave a bruise, or break bones
  9. Sheikh 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][4]
  10. 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."
  11. Ahmad Shafaat, Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34, Islamic Perspectives. August 10, 2005
  12. 12.0 12.1 Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (his translation of the Qur'an).
  13. One such authority is the earliest hafiz, Ibn Abbas.[5]
  14. "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
  15. Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50-53
  16. 16.0 16.1 "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.
  17. Muhammad is attributed to say in the Farewell Sermon: "And if they commit open sexual misconduct you have the right to leave them alone in their beds and [if even then, they do not listen] beat them such that this should not leave any mark on them." Sunan Ibn Maja 1841
  18. Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic cultures, p. 122
  19. 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.
  20. 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."
  21. "[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).
  22. Ibn Kathir 1981 vol I: 386, Sunan Abi Dawud, Book of Marriage #1834, ad-Darimi, Book of Marriage #2122; quoted in Roald (2001) p. 167
  23. Al-Jadda, Souheila. "Saudi TV host's beating raises taboo topic: domestic violence against Muslim women." Christian Science Monitor (May 12, 2004).
  24. Constable, Pamela. "For Some Muslim Wives, Abuse Knows No Borders." Washington Post (May 8, 2007).
  25. 25.0 25.1 Amnesty International
  26. Zoepf, Katherine. "U.N. Finds That 25% of Married Syrian Women Have Been Beaten." New York Times (April 11, 2006).
  27. Alexander, Doug. "Addressing Violence Against Palestinian Women". International Development Research Centre (June 23, 2000).
  28. Faramarzi, M. et al. Prevalence and determinants of intimate partner violence in Babol city, Islamic Republic of Iran. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 11 Nos 5 & 6 (September 2005) (World Health Organization).
  29. Ministry of Women's Development (1987), "Battered Housewives in Pakistan", Islamabad
  30. State of Human Rights in 1996, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. p. 130;
  31. See also Price, Susanna. "Pakistan's rising toll of domestic violence." BBC News (August 24, 2001).
  32. "Women's Rights - Our Struggle to fight for the rights of women". Ansar Burney Trust. http://www.ansarburney.org/womens_rights.html. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
  33. http://web.archive.org/web/20090816184509/http://www.amnesty.org/en/alfresco_asset/1e47f8c5-a459-11dc-bac9-0158df32ab50/asa330102002en.html Pakistan: Violence against women: Media briefing (Amnesty International Press Release)
  34. Esfandiari, Golnaz. "Iran: Self-Immolation Of Kurdish Women Brings Concern." Radio Free Europe (February 8, 2006).
  35. Ahmad Shafaat. "Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 34." Originally published 1984, revised 2000. Islamicperspectives.com
  36. Alice Bettencourt (2000). "Violence against women in Pakistan" (PDF). http://www.du.edu/intl/humanrights/violencepkstn.pdf.
  37. Rehman, I.A. The Legal rights of women in Pakistan, theory & practice. page 9, 1998.
  38. "There needs to be special legislation on domestic violence and in that context they must mention that this is violence and a crime." Quoted in Price, Susanna. "Pakistan's rising toll of domestic violence." BBC News (August 24, 2001).
  39. Yasmine Hassan, The Haven Becomes Hell, (Lahore: Shirkat Gah, 1995), pp. 57, 60.
  40. Price, Susanna. "Pakistan's rising toll of domestic violence." BBC News (August 24, 2001).
  41. Sterett, Brittany. "Tunisia Praised for Efforts To Protect Women's Rights." U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs. June 10, 2005.
  42. According to Ahmad Shafaat says, "The wife has no religious obligation to take the beating. She can ask for and get divorce any time."[6]
  43. Marriage and Divorce in Islamic South East Asia, by Gavin W. Jones


  • Roald, Anne S. (2001). Women in Islam: The Western Experience. Routledge. ISBN 0415248965.
  • Suad Joseph, Afsaneh Najmabadi, ed. Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 9004128190.

External links