Marital Disputes: Not resolved by Wife Beating

 Men are the supports of women, since Allah has favoured some over others in certain respects, and since men are required to bear all family expenses from their (men's) property. The righteous women then are obedient guardians of privacy as Allah has guarded it. And as for those women, on whose part you fear refractoriness [in God’s law], admonish them [in the teachings of God], leave them alone in beds and (iDrubuhunna) turn away from them. Then if they obey you [in God’s law], do not resort to any punitive measure against them. Indeed, Allah is High, Great. (4:34 transl: M. Shafi)

'IDrib' which is formed from the root 'D-R-B' continues to form one of the most multifaceted words in Arabic.

In the Quran, one of the 'meanings' of 'Darab' is to give examples; to propound similitudes or to coin parables (2:26 - example given of a gnat, 14:24-5 - an example given of a goodly word; 14:45 - the dwellings of old; 16:75 - an example of a slave, 16:76 - an example of the dumb, 16:112 - a secure town, 22:73 - example of a fly, 18:32 - example given of two men with two gardens etc)

There are also many other 'meanings' such as to set out on a journey or to travel [depart] (3:156; 4:94; 4:101; 5:106 (witnesses and travel) 73:20; 2:273); or to condemn (2:61 - The Children of Israel's complaint with regards food); to seal (18:11 - companions of the cave), to take away (as in the reminder 43:5) and of course, to strike or beat (2:60, 2:73; 7:160 (Moses (peace be upon him) and the rock); 8:12 (instruction to the angels); 20:77 (Moses (peace be upon him)); 24:31 (women and feet); 26:63; 37:93; 47:4 (battlefield); 8:50; 47:27 (angels and death))

As it can be seen, words forming from 'Da-ra-ba' have various 'meanings' depending on context even within the Quran. Thus, the root meaning can be deduced as to make impact [physical/non-physical contact] in order to change the condition or stituation. Therefore, any rendition that emenates from the root meaning may be appropiate [without constraining the means such as: seperation, marriage counselling, summon to civil authorities, or other appropiate disciplinary actions as an ultimatum] depending on the context or circumstances.

IDribuhunna, is often translated as in the meaning “strike them”. However, the above translation [albeit not restrcted to it] seems more befitting to the context as the very next verse calls for reconciliation

If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation; for Allah has full knowledge and is acquainted with all things." (4: 35)

Failing reconciliation or the couple not choosing to do so, at this stage a divorce procedure may be necessary, thus permitted in Islam. God gives adequate guidelines in this regard:

For those who swear that they will not approach their wives, there shall be a waiting period of four months: if they go back, remember God will be most forgiving and merciful, but if they are determined to divorce, remember that God hears and knows all. (2:226-7)

Even in the complexity of getting a divorce, women must not be harmed in any way.

And when you divorced wives, and they reached their term, then, hold them back as one who is honourable or set them free as one who is honourable. But hold them not back by injuring them so that you commit aggression. And whoever commits that, then, surely, he did wrong himself. And take not to yourselves the signs of God in mockery. Remember the divine blessing of God on you, and what He caused to descend to you from the Book and wisdom. He admonishes you with it. And be God-fearing of God and know that God is Knowing of everything. (2:231)

Moreover, it is important not to read Quranic verses in isolation concerning particular issues, rather all related verses must be referred to [see Quran 25:33].

In the Quran the relationship between the husband and wife should be based on mutual love and kindness. Allah says: "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect." (30:21)

The Quran urges husbands to treat their wives with kindness. In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. Allah Almighty says: “Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.” (Part 4: 19)

Words should be understood in the correct context and not misapplied. Just like in English the word “striking”, (as in the keyboard) can mean typing, but it also may imply beating or striking as in harming, amongst other meanings, depending on the context of the word. So too, in Arabic the word for iDribu can have various meanings. Thus, in this context it certainly does not mean domestic abuse or harming from whichever 'meaning' of the words it is taken from.

For Believers [Muslims] the Quran must be the ultimate criterion for judging all 'secondary sources' (See Quran 25:1). In light of the foundational and clear verses of the Quran (See Quran 7:3).


And Allah knows best.


For Younger Readers

God teaches in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims that:

  • Unity in marriage is important

  • Peace, love and mercy in marriage are signs from God

  • Divorce is allowed if marriage is not working out

  • No violence is allowed within marriage

  • Kind treatment is very important even when divorcing