Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. [Quran Verse 4:34]
EXPLANATIONMen are managers in a household, not in general sense. These are gradual steps in the case of a wife who is not faithful to her husband. These rules were allowed to save a failing marriage, not as a means to control one’s wife on a day to day basis.
The verse starts by saying, “Men are protectors and maintainers of women…” The word used in Arabic for protectors and maintainers is ‘qawwam’ (plural qawwamoon) which implies a person who safeguards and takes care of a woman. The next clause “guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded” is also significant because it creates a condition for the next sentence that follows, implying that a woman should not expose her body to somebody who is not her ‘mahram.’ And finally it says, “As for women of whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and remain apart from them in beds.” These verses are clearly about infidelity, short of adultery itself. And for a woman who is not faithful to her husband, the husband should first take the approach of admonishing her, if that doesn’t work he should stop sleeping with her, and if all else fails, he may beat her in order to save the marriage. The summary of the verse is that if a husband is working hard and financially supporting his wife, the least he should expect is that his wife remains faithful to him and not fool around. The next verse also recommends that “[4.35] And if you fear a breach between the two, then appoint judge from his people and a judge from her people; if they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them, surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” The emphasis is on efforts to save a troubled marriage, and the verse should not be misconstrued to allow a husband to beat his wife whenever he chooses.
This verse has be read in light of the explanation that Prophet Muhammad himself had provided. As Maududi has written, “Whenever the Prophet (peace be upon 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 upon him) directed men not to hit across the face, nor to beat severely nor to use anything that might leave marks on the body. (See Ibn Majah, ‘Nikah’).” The Arabic word used is ‘zarb’ which is used in the sense of ‘hit.’ And as Prophet Muhammad taught, it has to be so light that it shouldn’t leave any mark. The idea is to admonish and to get the person to understand that the marriage is in serious trouble.
The Quran clearly says, “Live with your wives in a good manner. If you dislike them in any manner, it may be that you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good for you” (Quran, 4:19). So, God commands man to be good to his wife even if he dislikes her. What more can be said? Even the biggest feminist wouldn’t come up with a statement like that!
There are also many Hadiths which one needs to take into account:
“Admonish your wives with kindness”.
“A Muslim must not hate his wife; and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, then let him be pleased with another that is good”.
“Do you beat your own wife as you would a slave? That must you not do”.
“I (Muaviyah b. Haidah) said, “O Apostle of God! What is my duty to my wife?” He said, “That you give her to eat as you eat yourself, and clothe her as you clothe yourself; and do not slap her in the face nor abuse her, nor separate yourself from her in displeasure.”
“Give your wife good counsel; and if she has goodness in her, she will soon take it, and leave off idle talking; and do not beat your noble wife like a slave”.
Muhammad said, ‘Beat not your wives.’ Then Omar came to the Rasul (Muhammad) and said, ‘Wives have got the upper hand from hearing this.’”
“He is the most perfect Muslim whose disposition is best; and the best of you are they who behave best to their wives”.
“A virtuous wife is a man’s best treasure.”