By Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi
In relation to this particular issue, instead of following our desire (pursuing things as per our inclination or convenience) we should look for authentic information in the light of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), this issue has been elaborated by Allah in the Holy Quran, in Surah Al-Nisaa verse 34, in the following words, “Men are the custodians of women, because from amongst them Allah has given preference to one over another, and because men have spent their wealth (as per Allah’s commandment). So the virtuous women are obedient. In the absence of their men they guard their rights through the protection provided by Allah. And in relation to those on whose part you fear desertion, firstly counsel them, (in case counselling does not work) leave them alone in the beds (as in do not share the bed with them) and (if the former two measures do not reform them then you can) beat them”. In the light of this verse of the Holy Quran few people think that wife beating is a part of religion, even though, rather than adding on to tension between husband and wife, the Holy Quran has invariably urged believers to employ means through which unparalleled love, affection, attachment and sympathy could develop between the husband and the wife. As far as the Islamic Sharia is concerned, both husband and wife are repeatedly asked to be mindful of their responsibilities (conscious of each other’s rights and obligations in relation to one another), alongside being respectful towards each other. Few verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are mentioned in this regard:
1. Allah says in the Holy Quran, “O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to take women as your subject against their will. Nor should you confine them by taking a portion of what you have given them, unless they are guilty of manifest indecency. And treat them kindly. Then if you do not like them, it could very well be possible that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it” (Surah Al-Nisaa, verse no. 19). In this verse of the Holy Quran Allah has categorically told men that the wife is just as respectable as her husband and she is not his slave. As per the essentials of humanity it is required that she is treated nicely and her honour and integrity are always taken care of.
2. In relation to the objectives of Nikah, Allah has mentioned two important ones in the Holy Quran, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has established between you (husband and wife) affection and mercy. Verily, in that are many signs for those who reflect and contemplate” (Surah Al-Room, verse no. 21). Allamah Ibne Katheer (RHA) has written that no two souls have the kind of love, affection and attachment between them as shared by the husband and wife.
3. In Surah Al-Baqarah, verse no. 228 Allah has mentioned, “As per what is reasonable, these women have rights over their husbands (as regards living expenses etc.) similar to those of their husbands over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.). However, men have a degree (of responsibility) over them”. This implies that just the way a husband has rights over his wife the wife also has rights over her husband. Companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and commentator on the Holy Quran Hazrat Abdullah bin Abbas (RZA) says, “I adorn myself for my wife just the way she does for me because Allah says, “As per what is reasonable, these women have rights over their husbands (as regards living expenses etc.) similar to those of their husbands over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.)” and I want to perform all the duties I am obliged to towards my wife because Allah says, “men have a degree (of responsibility) over them” (Musnaf Ibne Shaibah 196/4, Ibne Jareer 453/2, Baihaqi 295/7).
4. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgement must not create trouble for his neighbours and I command you to treat your women kindly because they have been created from the ribs and the most tilted part of a rib is its upper side. In case you want to straighten it you would end up breaking it and in case you leave it on its own it will remain tilted. This is why I command you to treat your women with kindness” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitaab Al-Nikaah).
5. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “No believer man should have any malice towards any believer woman. In case he does not like one of her habits he should develop a liking for some other habit of hers” (Sahih Muslim – Kitaab Al-Ridaa’). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has commanded the husband to treat his wife with kindness and ignore those habit of hers he does not like. Suffice it to say that the husband has been instructed to overlook the shortcomings of his wife so as to ensure that life is lived in a pleasant manner.
6. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “In matters related to women have fear of Allah. You have taken them under Allah’s security and protection and you have made their private parts Halaal (permissible) for you through the word of Allah. They are under your obligation to not let any of those enter the house you do not approve of. In case they do not do so beat them but do not beat them severely (and do not hit them on their face ever). And as per their right over you, you must attend to their alimony and clothing requirements as per the customary rule” (Sahih Muslim – Kitaab Al-Hajj – Baab Hajj Al-Nabi).
7. On the occasion of the last pilgrimage, after praising Almighty Allah,
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered a sermon in which he said, “Beware! I instruct you to be kind in relation to your women because they are under your custodianship and supervision, but they are not your slaves. And you have no other right over them except one related to intercourse. However, in case they openly indulge in indecency, do not let them sleep with you. And beat them lightly. And then if they become obedient to you stop looking for ways to torture them. Be aware of the fact that you have rights over your wives and your wives have rights over you. As far as your rights over them are concerned they should not let those sit on your bed you do not approve of. In fact they should not even let those people enter your house. And as far as their rights over you are concerned you should provide for them the best possible food and clothing” (Tirmidhi).
8. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “None of you should beat your wife like a slave, then perhaps by the time day ends he has intercourse with her” (Sahih Bukhari – Kitaab Al-Nikaah). In the light of this saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) it becomes quite clear that it is generally not allowed to beat wives. In fact, beating her or disgracing her for trivial and petty things is looked down upon in Islam.
9. Ayesha (RA) says that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never beat anyone, neither any woman nor any servant. Although, he took part in battles fought in the name of Allah. And whenever anyone caused harm to him he did not seek revenge. However, whenever someone intervened in relation to Allah’s commandment, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) avenged in the name of Allah” (Sahih Muslim – Kitaab AlFadaail). In his commentary on this saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Imam Nawwi (RHA) says that though there is provision for beating wife and servant in Islam (in case they indulge in grave indecency), it is better to not do that. Mullah Ali Qaari (RHA) has written that in case one’s wife or servant commits a major wrong it is better not to beat them, however, in the case of children, to ensure the right upbringing for them, it is appropriate to occasionally beat them for their disobedience.
10. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He among you is good who is good to his family members and when it comes to family matters I am the best of you all” (Sunan Tirmidhi – Kitaab Al-Manaaqib). In a tradition quoted above it has been mentioned that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never beat any woman in his entire life.
11. Jaabir (RZA) says that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instructed the believers to not to hit their women on their face (Sahih Muslim). In his commentary on Sahih Muslim, Imam Nawwi (RHA) writes, “It is not permissible to hit on the face of any living creature”. A woman is the best of all the creatures that is why under any circumstances it is not permissible for any man to hit on the face of a woman. In fact, to do this is to commit a major sin. In case, a person, for any reason, hits his wife on her face then (since it is a matter of rights of fellow human beings) he will have to firstly apologise to his wife and seek her forgiveness. Once the matter is settled between him and his wife then he will have to seek forgiveness from Allah too.
In the light of these aforementioned verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) one thing that becomes as clear as daylight is that in order to live a pleasant life full of love and affection both husband and wife should discharge their responsibilities (towards each other) properly. For instance, it is the responsibility of husband to pay Mehr, take care of all the expenditures of his wife to the best of his capabilities, arrange for a proper place for her stay, treat her with kindness and care, turn a blind eye towards some of the shortcomings of his wife especially when she has other positive attributes, help her wife in household chores especially when she is sick. Ayesha (RA) said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) could do all the household chores. He could sweep the floor on his own, patch up his clothes and even repair his shoes (Bukhari). Similarly, it is the responsibility of the wife to obey her husband, look after the wealth and honour of her husband, behave nicely with her husband and treat him well, contribute fully in properly running the domestic sphere and training the children in the best possible manner. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “If a woman (specifically) regularly offered five daily prayers, earnestly observed the fasts of the holy month of Ramadan, remained watchful of her private part and obeyed her husband, it is as if she entered the paradise” (Musnad Ahmad).
There is no denying that in terms of humanity both husband and wife are the same. However, in relation to managing the affairs of daily life, Islamic Sharia has, to some extent, given preference to man. In other words man is deemed responsible, something regarding which, in the light of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there is a consensus in the Muslim community. So what needs to be understood is that the relation of husband and wife is not akin to one between the ruler and the ruled, king and slave. Instead both husband and wife are important in their own right. Just because man is called the custodian it is not permissible for the husband to scold or beat his wife every now and then. The life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is an ideal example before us and throughout his life not even once did he beat any of his wives. Instead, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) repeatedly urged his companions to treat their wives with kindness, be compassionate to them when they felt low, and be patient about things they find slightly improper (in their wives). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said, “Beware! Be nice to your women because these women are under your supervision”.
In case a woman is actually disobedient to her husband and her disobedience is majorly affecting the inner workings of the household, the Creator of both man and woman has provided the solution for this in the Holy Quran (Surah Al-Nisaa, verse nos. 34 & 35) in these words that firstly the husband should try to make his disobedient wife understand her fault and then (in case that does not work) he should leave her alone in her sleeping bed (as in he should not share the bed with her) and if this too does not work then he can beat her lightly. However, as per
Islamic Sharia it is better if the matter is resolved without beating. If the matter does not get resolved even after employing these three strategies then Allah has said that wise and sensible people should come under one roof from both the sides and try to resolve the issue. It is better if the matter is resolved because Islamic Sharia wants the matter to be resolved. But there are occasions when it becomes quite difficult to bring out an agreement between husband and wife as a result of which their staying together becomes an ordeal (for each of them). In such a situation it is considered better for both the husband and the wife to end their marital relations. As mentioned in the article with the help of suitable arguments, the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) too lead us in that direction. In case disobedience is on the part of husband, as in he is not discharging his duties and responsibilities properly, then every possible attempt will be made to ensure that he discharges his duties rightly. In such a situation a woman is allowed to seek Khalaa (separation from husband). However, a woman does not have the right to beat her husband in case he is found noncompliant because no teaching or instruction of this kind is found in the verses of the Holy Quran or sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Therefore, on this issue, rather than objecting we should have faith in what Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) have commanded us as Allah has mentioned in the Holy Quran, “When Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter then there is simply no scope for a believing man or a believing woman to intervene in that matter (they have no choice in that affair).
And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error” (Surah Al-Ahzaab, verse no. 36). Similarly Lord Almighty has said, “But no (O Prophet), by your Lord, they will not be true believers until they make you the judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then whatever you decide they should find within themselves no discomfort in relation to that and fully submit (with utmost willingness) themselves before that decision” (Surah AlNisaa, verse no. 34).
To sum it up, it is not permissible for the husband to beat his wife for some ordinary mistake or fault of hers. In case some major noncompliance on the part of the wife comes to his notice then attempts must be made to resolve the issue in the light of verse no. 34 of Surah Al-Nisaa, as mentioned earlier in the article.
[Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi is a renowned Islamic scholar. He is currently based in Saudi Arabia. He can be contacted on his Mobile # 00917017905326 or on Whatsapp Number 00966 508237446]