Explaination of Verse 34 in Surah Al-Nisa
  • Question:

    The verse 34 in Surah Al-Nisa, that explains that the men are favored over the women and according to most of the English translations also mentions the word "beating", that is if a wife shows immoral behavior. Please clarify the true meaning of the verse, as there are many people who seem to be very confused about it.

    Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

    Thank you for your question.

    The verse you have referred to is as follows:

    “Men are caretakers of women, since Allah has made some of them excel the others, and because of the wealth they have spent. So, the righteous women are obedient, (and) guard (the property and honor of their husbands) in (their) absence with the protection given by Allah. As for women of whom you fear rebellion, convince them, and leave them apart in beds, and discipline them. Then, if they obey you, do not seek a way against them. Surely, Allah is the Highest, the Greatest” (Qur’an 4:34)

    Points and Clarifications Derived from the Above Verse:

    • Allah is not suggesting that men are superior, rather Allah is clarifying that men are “care-takers” of women. This is why in Islam a man must be responsible for the well being and financial stability of four women; mother, wife, daughter and sister. This point also shows that the honour is for women in this aspect. This is a brief of the actual meaning of the word “Qawwam” in the verse, meaning the man is the caretaker of the woman.

    • The Arabic word ‘dharb’ has many meanings. Refer to Arabic linguistic manuals and Fiqh terminology. It can certainly mean ‘beat’ but here the verse, in today’s context, the more appropriate translation would be ‘take measures of discipline and reconciliation’. The purpose of the verse is to give advice to the couple to improve the marital situation and eliminate problems. Beating or domestic violence will not solve the problems rather intensify them, due to physical hurt, police charges, court cases, restraining orders, separation, jail time, children and extended family being stressed etc.

    • The best explanation of any verse is in the life and example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is very clear that despite having challenging situations, at times, in his marriages, he (peace and blessings upon him) never ever beat his wives nor did he ever engage in any form of abuse.

    • Disciplinary measures to solve marriage problems in today’s time and age would entail family therapy, counselling, post-nuptial agreements, anger management therapy, problem solving workshops etc.
    We hope this helps clarify the verse.

    And Allah knows best.

    Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Badat
    Hadith of the Day Imam
    Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto and Director of Mathabah Institute
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