Qur'an Verse 4:34 - 'Beat the Wife?'

From the time the Qur'an was revealed, it has unfortunately been subject to gross misinterpretation and mistranslation by traditional sexist men, particularly in regard to the rights and roles of women in society. The most obvious example of this, which can be seen in several English translations of the Qur'an, is that of verse 4:34, where the particular word in Arabic with root Da-Ra-Ba ض ر ب has been mistranslated to apparently allow beating of the wife. As ridiculous as this sounds, this misinterpretation is in-fact the result of a biased inclination of a misogynistic attitude in some men, instead of an honest reflection of the most appropriate meaning of the word. By analysing the rules of Arabic grammar, the relevant history and verses of the Qur'an, this article aims to present the reasoning and evidence behind a much more likely meaning of the verse, as well as highlight the deficiencies of interpreting the word as 'beat them' in this context.


Rules of Engagement

There has been a lot of eye-opening debate on the Free-minds discussion board about the topics of engagement and marriage. I wholeheartedly agree with the opinion that we need to understand the original Quranic language as opposed to interpretations where the meaning of the words has been twisted by Talmudic Muslim (Sunni) distortions. One example is the expression “ma malakat aymanukum” which literally means “that possessed by your oath.” When studying the Quran, I had found that in many cases the literal translation of expressions provides a more accurate and consistent indication of their meaning than traditional interpretations. For example, the expression “ma malakat aymanukum” has been traditionally translated as “spoils/captives of war” when in fact the Arabic word for captives of war is “asra” and the Prophet was strongly prohibited from keeping war captives (see 8:67). Moreover, slavery is against God’s natural system.


Are Two Women Equal to One Man?

According to today’s Muslim scholars and leaders, women are not fit to rule or hold any office of significance because God has indicated that they are deficient when compared to men. The Muslim scholars will tell you that in the Quran God has made the testimony of ONE man equal to that of TWO women because women are forgetful and emotionally driven.

Any sane and rational person who has worked or studied with women will know that they can be just as smart, if not smarter, than most of their male counterparts. At the same time, I have yet to find this fictional woman who forgets or whose memory is weaker than a man’s (we all wish this was the case sometimes). Let us examine the verse where all these unequal and sexist conclusions have been drawn:


Menstruation and Religious Duties

According to Muslim scholars, a woman is not allowed to perform her religious duties if she is menstruating. A woman has been disallowed from performing her Salat (prayers performed to get closer to God) if she happens to be menstruating. Worse still, woman are also told that they are not allowed to fast either if they are menstruating. The logic behind the prohibition is that women are in a state of impurity and are unclean when menstruating.

The question is, when God is all knowing and He is fully aware of how women are physiologically different from men, why would He forbid women from performing not only their Salat but also fasting as well.


Companions of Heaven

Based on “hadiths” (claimed sayings of prophet Muhammad), some traditional Muslims believe that Muslim men will be rewarded with 70 “houris”/companions/fair maidens specially created for them and two believing women from this life. Some of the descriptions found in these “hadiths”, previous and current interpretations and translations of the Quran are very demeaning and offensive to all women and any decent man who believes in God and the authenticity of the Quran.

This corrupted belief had –and still has- lamentable implications in the way women are treated up to today in the “Muslim” world.


Divorce in Islam

You are Divorced! Divorced! Divorced!

These have become the most dreaded three words that any Muslim woman can hear in her lifetime, for they signify not only the end of her marriage, but a hard and difficult road ahead where she has to re-build her entire life when the only foundation she has spent years building has just fallen away.

Can it really be so simple? Can years of building, sharing and loving be shattered beyond repair by the mere utterance of words?

Is it that God's system which rules our lives and the universe fails us at this moment we need it most and leave a wife without a marriage and leaves children without a family?


Polygamy in Islam

One of the most wide spread myths that has been associated with God's religion over the centuries is the issue of "Polygamy". It is customary for people when they think of Islam, or even when they embrace Islam, that they automatically have a license to marry more than one wife (upto a maximum of 4).

Men tend to fantasize that this is due to the high sexual libido that God has given them and that it is part of their Homo-Sapien right of male domination.


Applying the Concept of "Limits" to the Rights of Muslim Women

Within the Islamic thought, one would come cross slogans such as "Islam is sound for all places and times", and "Islam is the solution". At the same time we have serious contemporary problems like: human rights, democracy, constitutional authority, and the rights of women. In solving these problems, several trends surfaced in the Muslim/Arab world, such as the following:


Are Women to be Beaten?

In some parts of the Middle East and other areas of the Muslim world, a woman may be beaten severely by her husband or male relatives for something as ridiculous as not having dinner prepared on time. It is a common theme amongst some male Muslims to beat their women whenever they think it is deserved and they can rest assured that the entire Islamic Scholars will be right behind them for support.

Although this may sound bizarre, the Muslim Scholars have told people that God has ordained in His holy book that women may be beaten if their male counter-part is not pleased with them. The verse that Muslims claim gives a green light to commit violence against their women-folk is the following:


Women's Dress Code In Islam

God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, insists on making His religion easy, practical and enjoyable for His true believers. God also told us that those who reject Him or His books are making life miserable for themselves and for their loved ones who follow in their footsteps. He reminds us in the Quran that He has placed no hardship on us in practicing our religion (see 22:78).

"You shall strive for the cause of GOD as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in practicing your religion - the religion of your father Abraham..." 22:78