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Wife Discipline

Allah, the Exalted, stated in the Glorious Qur'an:

(... 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, Allah is Most High, Most Great.)

[4:34]

Islam forbids beating women and warns strictly against it. The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) never beat any of his wives or servants, as his wife Aishah (may Allah exalt their mention) reported in an authentic tradition (Bukhari #2328). Women are, in general, weaker than men in their physique and stamina. Women are often unable to defend themselves against violence. Although beating of women is generally forbidden, Islam permits the beating of wives in a restricted and limited sense only as a final solution and acceptable valid reason when all else fails. This is analogous to spanking children when all else fails and they must learn a lesson in obedience for their own protection and success.

In the verse we quoted, Allah deals with the case of a wife who behaves immorally towards her husband's rights. The treatment of this extremely sensitive issue comes in gradual stages, as we have noticed from the verse. Medicine, or treatment of any ailment, can be very bitter at times. But an ill person will take the remedy gladly and bear the bitterness of the medicine in order to be cured from his illness. The remedy to treat a wife blameworthy of immoral behavior, as we have noticed, comes in three gradual stages:

  1. First stage: The stage of advice, counseling and warning against Allah's punishment. A husband must remind his wife of the importance of protecting his rights in Islam. This stage is a very kind and easy one. But, if this treatment does not work and proves to be ineffective, then the husband may resort to the next stage.
  2. Second stage: To leave the wife's bed. Or, if one sleeps in the same bed with her, he will turn his back to her, not touch her, talk to her or have intercourse with her. This stage, as noticed, combines both strictness and kindness, although it is a very harsh practice on both. But, if this treatment does not work, then the husband may resort to the final stage of discipline explained below.
  3. Third and final stage: Beating without hurting, breaking a bone, leaving black or blue marks on the body, and avoiding hitting the face or especially sensitive places at any cost. The purpose of beating her is only to discipline and never retaliation or with desire to hurt by any means. Islam forbids severe beating as punishment.

The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) said:

"None of you should beat his wife like a slave-beating and then have intercourse with her at the end of the day".

[Bukhari #4908]

This treatment is proved to be very effective with two types of women, as psychologists have determined:

The first type: Strong willed, demanding and commandeering women. These are the type of women who like to control, master and run the affairs of their husbands by pushing them around, commanding them and giving them orders.

The second type: Submissive or subdued women. These women may even enjoy being beaten at times as a sign of love and concern.

G. A. Holdfield, a European psychologist, in his book Psychology and Morals states the following:

"The instinct of submission strengthens at times, in the human being so much that a submissive person will enjoy seeing someone overpowering him, over-ruling him and being cruel to him. Such a submissive person bears the consequences of his submission due to the fact that he enjoys the pain. This is a wide spread instinct amongst women, even if they do not realize it. For this very reason, women are well known for bearing more pain than men. A wife, from this type of women, becomes more attracted and admiring of her husband when he beats her. Nothing, on the other hand, will sadden some women, as much as a soft, very kind and very obedient husband who is never upset regardless of being challenged!"

Beating, according to the Islamic teachings, is listed as the last and final stage of disciplining methods. Islam does not permit, allow or even condone beating unless the first two stages are proven to be ineffective. Moreover, beating must not be employed as a remedy, if a wife prefers to be divorced.

The three stages of discipline stated in the verse of the Glorious Qur'an are only meant to be a means of discipline for the protection of the family unit. One form of destruction of a family is when the wife becomes a victim of divorce. Islam aims to relieve unnecessary pains, problems and conflicts.

The practice of beating wives is in other non-Muslim societies is far more brutal and frequent. Wife beatings in theses societies are often with intent to inflict pain and harm to the wife; something strictly prohibited in Islam as mentioned previously. Recent statistics show that in Britain, the number of wives who have been brutally beaten by their husbands has risen from 6,400 in 1990 to 30,000 in 1992. This number jumped to 65,400 women in 1995. Statisticians expect this number to double 124,400 towards the end of the twentieth century! These statistics, as the report says, were based on information gathered from the police department. But, what about the unreported cases of wife beating, and the beating of women in general, which are not reported!

Mrs. Annie Besant compared Islamic Laws and Western legislation on women's rights and said:

"Islamic Laws are among the best laws known to the world, insofar as woman is concerned. It is the most fair and just legislation. It exceeds the Western legislation concerning real estate, inheritance and divorce laws. It acts as a guardian for women's rights. Phrases such as One Wife is Sufficient for a man, and Polygamy, mystified people and turned them away from the real misery which Western women suffer from and live through. Many husbands left their wives after they got what they wanted from them. In fact such men show no care, concern or mercy for their wives."