Monday, September 17, 2012

"Lies" about wife beating in the Qur'an - Yvonne Ridley

Here's Yvonne Ridley, famous former captive of the Taliban and convert to Islam, explaining to a sophisticated and worldly-wise  Muslim interviewer, how she came to Islam. The whole interview is interesting but I particularly want to draw your attention to a section from 8.03 onwards (reproduced below) where Yvonne explains how she promised her Taliban captors she would read the Qur'an if they released her:
Y.R.: "I was given a Qur'an with an index in the back. So I thought I'll make this easy, I'll cherry pick all the subjects relating to women - so I'm looking for the chapter on how to beat your wife, how to subjugate.."  
Interviewer (shocked and bemused): "How to beat your wife?"
Y.R.: Yes!
Interviewer (disbelieving): "In the Qur'an?!"
Y.R.: "Well- yes...this is twisted idea of what this evil and violent and oppresses women! And I couldn't believe what I was reading because the Qur'an makes it, as you know, crystal clear that women are equal in sprirituality, worth and education...." 
 It's worth pausing here to note how deeply shocked (apparently) the interviewer is at the thought of the Qur'an containing anything so misogynist and hateful as an instruction to beat your wife, and how Yvonne Ridley so blithely attributes this to her brain-washing in the West. Now let us look at verse 4:34 from the Qur'an. I give the three translations (Asad, Yusuf Ali and Pickthall) as found at IslamCity:Qur'an Search in case any reader should accuse me of using Western/Zionist propaganda:
4:34 (Asad) MEN SHALL take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the right­eous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guar­ded.  And as for those women whose ill-will  you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!
4:34 (Y. Ali) Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and 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): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). 
4:34 (Picktall) Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.
(Note that, as always, words in brackets have been added by the translator to aid comprehension of the "clear" Qur'an. Thus Yusuf Ali's "lightly" after the word beat is his, not Allah's words.) We are thus left with two possibilities. 1. Both the sophisticated and apparently well-educated interviewer and Ridley have genuinely never read this verse, or have forgotten its existence. 2. They are so far down the road of cognitive dissonance that they can convince themselves that this verse doesn't mean what it patently does. Oh - there's of course a third possibility: that 4:34 has been mistranslated by two Muslim Arab speakers and a Arabic specialist and these mis-translations have been allowed to stand without correction on an Islamic site. Muslims reading this might be interested to read how a respected Muslim Q&A site deals with this issue.
There is nothing in the Qur’aan that suggests that a man is allowed to beat his wife. 
Nothing? Are you absolutely sure? Well, the site does actually grudgingly admit that a hadith by Muslim mentions something about hitting your wife:
4 – And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fear Allaah with regard to women, for you have taken them as a trust from Allaah and intimacy with them has become permissible to you by the words of Allaah. Your right over them is that they should not allow anyone to sit on your furniture whom you dislike; if they do that then hit them but not in a harsh manner. And their right over you is that you should provide for them and clothe them on a reasonable basis.” Narrated by Muslim, 1218. What is meant by “they should not allow anyone to sit on your furniture whom you dislike” is that they should not allow anyone whom you dislike to enter your houses, whether the person disliked is a man or a woman, or any of the woman’s mahrams [close relatives to whom marriage is forbidden]. The prohibition includes all of them. From the words of al-Nawawi. The hadeeth may be understood as meaning that a man has the right to hit his wife, in a manner that is not harsh and does not cause injury if if there is a reason for that, such as her going against his wishes or disobeying him. 
Er- but I thought you started this explanation by saying there was nothing in the Qur'an which suggested a man was allowed to beat his wife...Let's read on. Perhaps all will become clear.
This is like the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “As to those women on whose part you see ill‑conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allaah is Ever Most High, Most Great”[al-Nisa’ 4:34] 
Ah - now we get to the nitty-gritty. But wait, what's this? More brackets? Beat them (lightly, if it is useful)?!  "Excuse me darling, I'm just going to beat you lightly as I think it may be useful"
If a woman rebels against her husband and disobeys his commands, then he should follow this method of admonishing her, forsaking her in bed and hitting her. Hitting is subject to the condition that it should not be harsh or cause injury. Al-Hasan al-Basri said: this means that it should not cause pain.  
So now it all becomes clear. There is nothing in the Qur'an saying a man may beat his wife ...except the verse that says a man may beat his wife..but he can only do this lightly so that it doesn't cause injury. Now, if you are a woman reading this, please tell me honestly that you feel comfortable believing that your God spent his time telling mankind it's OK to beat you lightly if you misbehave.
The purpose behind this is not to hurt or humiliate the woman, rather it is intended to make her realize that she has transgressed against her husband’s rights, and that her husband has the right to set her straight and discipline her. 
So says Islam Q&A. Remember Yvonne Ridley's remark to the interviewer? "The Qur'an makes it crystal clear that women are equal." How strange then that God regards an equal partnership as one wherein one partner has the right to discipline the other if she goes against the other's rights but this right is not extended back. This is obviously some magic definition of equality that only Yvonne Ridley and Islamic clerics know about.  Go ahead and worship this misogynistic creation if you want. But I'll tell you plainly now that such a deity is not worthy of polishing my wife's shoes. And Yvonne (if you ever read this) how dare you, how DARE you suggest to vulnerable women that there is nothing in the Qur'an that relates to beating women. The lies and distortions that have to be committed to portray the Qur'an as a feminist text should make any intelligent woman's blood boil.  --------------------------------  Note: Many Muslims reading this will claim that "to beat" here has the meaning to hit lightly with a bunch of fragrant grass or a tooth-pick because of various diverse hadith. I would simply ask them to consider the likelihood of the following:
"Wife! You are being rebellious - I admonish you!"
"Screw you, Ahmed. Do the washing up for once in your life!"
Right! It's separate beds tonight- we'll see how you like that!"
Next morning. "Wife - have you come to your senses yet?"
"No! Do the bloody washing up, will you?"
(Exasperated) "Right - you've really asked for it now. It's time for the tooth-pick!"
"Oh no- not the tooth-pick! Darling you were right all along! I'm so sorry! I shall do as I'm told in future!"


  1. Hitting refers to a small stick with which one cleans one's teeth.
    You have deliberately misread the Qur'an.
    These are lies.

    1. Did you actually read the post, Anon?
      How likely is it that a woman would "return to the right path" after being tapped lightly with a tooth brush? Don't forget this is AFTER she has been scolded and THEN forced to sleep away from her husband.
      Just accept that your holy book tells you to hit women. Then ask yourself if an omniscient God would say such a thing. Then come to your senses and start to QUESTION the whole ridiculous charade.

  2. A husband is only allowed to resort to this option [ which certainly cannot be called or labeled as physical abuse or wife beating ] in case his wife is guilty of some manifest indecency [ nushuz ]. In dealing with a wife in "nushuz" , a husband should first first try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her [ reminding her of God and His teachings ]. 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 hit/tap her lightly, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas. This rule is based on Prophet's statement in the Farewell Pilgrimage hadith, which describes the "only" permissible form of discipline in this case as "ghayr mubarrih" which means: "non" violent , brutal or painful

    1. Thanks Anon. Tell me, has it never occurred to the author(s) of the Qur'an that a husband might need bringing back to the right path? Why is it always assumed that it's the wife who needs chastising?
      What a sexist, misogynistic belief.

  3. I beat my wife with an Oral B toothbrush.
    Much the best implement for getting her back on the straight and narrow I find.
    I thank Allah for such wise and clear advice.

  4. I tried that but she retaliated with her hairbrush. Do you think Allah would allow me to use an electric one? I understand the Prophet once used a ... actually, given the recent reactions, I think I'll stop there.

  5. The first quote from the Q&A website actually says "bit" not beat. The person who gave the answer was probably thinking about biting which is not mentioned in the quran

  6. Ah yes - that age old question we all ask ourselves: Does God allow us to bite the wife.
    Answer: Yes - but brush your teeth afterwards.
    And Allah knows best

  7. I researched this last year and the toothbrush (miswak) thing comes from al-Tabari's tafsir on verse 4:34 - (select surah and ayat and it's sentence/paragraph labeled 7442). Here's someone's translation:

    "I said to Ibn ‘Abbaas, what is the kind of hitting that is not harsh? He said, Hitting with a siwaak and the like. "

    "hitting that is not harsh" is الضَّرْب غَيْر الْمُبَرِّح (literally beating non-severely)

    There's a widely seen piece of apologics that somewhat disingenuously translates this as "a light tap that leaves no mark", but that's just a modern invention to make it seem more acceptable, if nonsensical.

    There are several similar quotes before and after of people saying it's not a severe beating. The next one 7443 says Muhammad said the same thing (beating non-severely is with a toothbrush or similar). The previous one 7441 has Qatada saying that ضَرْبًا غَيْر مُبَرِّح (beating non-severely) means أَيْ غَيْر شَائِن (which is non-disgraceful/ outrageous/ obscene/ indecent). I'm using the translation from [url=]here[/url] for the word شَائِن

  8. There's also this hadith in Sahih Muslim:

    Near middle it says "You too have right over them, and that they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely."

  9. The meaning of "beat" in 4:34 is problematic with the following verse as it is highly unlikely a peaceful conflict resolution step such as arbitration would be recommended after allegedly permitting physical violence. In addition, 4:36 discusses and emphasises being kind/good to all, and is linked to 4:34-35 by "wa/and", which makes this context even less favourable to the traditional understanding. 4:34 implies husband wants to reconcile, proven by him undertaking a series of conflict-resolution steps and "if you fear", thus it is unlikely he would do anything that would harm his chances of achieving this goal, i.e. to beat his wife.
    The word in question in 4:34 is "idriboo" / ٱضْرِبُو for which the Arabic root is Dad-Ra-Ba (ض ر ب). Thus, it is often claimed that DRB + object (e.g. person) only means one thing and that is strike/hit/beat.

    Is this really true? Based on part 1, as discussed previously, let us look to The Quran:

    There is not a single occurrence of DRB in which "beat" is the likely meaning.
    when DRB+object is used with no prepositions, it NEVER means to physically hit/strike.
    even when body parts are mentioned as what to DRB with or what to do DRB to/upon (e.g. 8:12, 8:50, 18:11, 24:31, 37:93, 47:4, 47:27) it doesn't mean a physical hit/strike, or at least there is not one clear example showing it does.
    when used with an object with no prepositions (e.g. Jesus, parable, truth, falsehood, the captives, fronts/backs, a dry path) DRB always means "to put/show forth" and using a literal strike/hit/beat meaning in these occurrences would not work.
    the only times it can possibly mean a literal hit/strike is when the preposition "bi" (with/by) is used.

    Thus, this claim is only based on a wrong or poor interpretation of some verses of The Quran, most notably 2:73, 8:12, 8:50, 38:44, 47:4, and 47:27.

  10. Peace To All,

    What most failed to realize is that the Quran explains itself, and it is clear and complete. So whomever is taking the works of translating it, should do so according to how the words are used in the Quran, then rightly translate according to the message of the Quran and not schools of thoughts, hadiths, traditions, cultures, etc. If most translators of the Quran would have taken this approach, as the Quran says, " READ, Proclaim, In the Name Of Your LORD", then this would not be a debate, discussion, etc. It would just be what it is. In the context of how the word translated to mean, BEAT, etc, in various Quranic translations, one will never conclude that it should be translated as "Beat, Hit, Scourge, Punish, Etc.. But since this is intentionally being mistranslated as such, tells Me that someone is concealing the TRUTH. But as the Quran revealed, "Falsehood Must Perish". Now the "Beating" and other passages being wrongly translated, will be exposed and all that FALSEHOOD will Perish!!