The Qur’an says:
Those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance — [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. (4:34)
(Sahih International Translation.)
This verse instructs men on how to deal with their wives who commit “Nushooz” (literally “rising up”) — usually translated as rebellion, ill-conduct, disobedience or arrogance. It lays out three steps in the imperative:
- “Advise them!”
2. “Separate in bed from them!”
3. “Hit them!”
Many Muslims are understandably deeply uncomfortable about the Qur’an directing men to hit their wife, even if it is a last resort. They argue that the phrase idribuhunna (اضربوهن) doesn’t mean hit them, but rather means something like; “Go away from them,” or “Leave them alone” and cite various figurative meanings that the Arabic word daraba (ضرب) can have.
This is however, false and betrays ignorance of the Arabic language.
The verb daraba ( َضَرَب ) means hit/strike/beat. However it can have various figurative meanings when used with a preposition such as; عن or an adverb such as; مَثَلًا
Verse 34 of Surat al-Nisa uses neither. It takes its object directly. Therefore it can only mean hit/strike/beat.
If the Qur’an had wanted to convey the meaning of “Go away from them/Leave them alone” it would have to be واضربوا عنهن
One can see from the Qur’an itself that each time the verb ضرب is used without either a preposition or adverb, it means hit/strike/beat. For example:
يَضْرِبُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَأَدْبَارَهُمْ “They hit their faces and their backs” (8.50)
ضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ “Strike the necks” (47.4)
اضْرِبُوهُ “Hit/Strike it” (2.73)
It is only when the verb َضَرَب is used with a preposition like عن (from/about) or في (in) or لِ (to/for) or adverbs like مَثَلًا (example/similitude) or جَدَلًا (disputation), that it doesn’t mean Hit in a literal sense.
أَفَنَضْرِبُ عَنْكُمُ الذِّكْرَ صَفْحًا “Should we turn away the reminder from you?” (43.5)
ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا “Allah strikes a similitude” (14:24)
ضَرْبًا فِي الْأَرْضِ “Going forth in the land” (2:273)
ما ضربوه لك إلا جدلا “They do not set it forth for you save by way of disputation” (43:58)
In the only figurative use of daraba where neither a preposition or an adverb is used, it is explicitly stated at the end of the verse that it is a parable.
كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ
Thus doth Allah show forth Truth and Vanity. For the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus doth Allah strike up parables. (13:17)
Plus the words “truth” and “vanity” are abstract nouns, which means it can’t be anything other than figurative.
But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this interpretation is; Why would God use a word that means hit when that’s precisely what he doesn’t want you to do?
Did God not foresee that people might think that if he said “hit”, they would think he means hit — which is exactly what happened!!
Thank goodness a handful of progressive Muslims & Qur’anists, influenced by modern views of what’s acceptable, suddenly discovered the real meaning cunningly disguised by an appalling choice of words and faulty grammar.
Did God not realise that this terrible choice of language would result in many women being hit? The exact opposite (according to them,) of what he wanted? For a perfect book that cannot be improved on, I can think of quite a few ways to vastly improve this verse — if the intention was to prevent hitting as these progressive Muslims claim. There are several words that mean “leave” or “go away” that have no connotation to “hit” that God could have used such as: اتركوهن (leave them) or أعرضوا عنهن (turn away from them) or انصرفوا منهن (go away from them) as well as many others. Was God not able to check his thesaurus to find a better word?
For a book whose prime claim to fame is its miraculous, inimitable divine eloquence & clarity it would be poor style of staggering proportions to use a word that carries the very meaning one wants to avoid and in a grammatical construction that an all knowing God would know full well would totally mislead people.
This interpretation is of course deluded gibberish and the only thing it achieves is to reveal how desperate some Muslims are to avoid what the Qur’an actually says.
Finally there is a verse in the Qur’an that addresses what a wife should do if she fears “Nushooz” from her husband and it is interesting to compare it.
“And if a woman fears “Nushooz” or desertion on her husband’s part there is no sin for them both if they make terms of peace between themselves and making peace is better.” (4:128)
So a man who fears nushooz from his wife can hit her, but if a woman fears nushooz from her husband, she can make peace with him.
Professor of Shariah, Saalih ibn Ghaanim al-Sadlaan in his book: “Marital Discord” (Al-Nushooz) explains:
“There is no sin upon them if they come to some kind of agreement between themselves in which she may give up some of her rights in order to stay in the marriage. For example, she may give up some of her rights to maintenance or housing with him. Or she may give up all of either or both of those rights in order to remain under his protection in a noble marriage. Or she may give up part or all of her dower in exchange for his divorcing her.”