Reflections: Is Hitting Women Permissible In Islam?

Knowledge is everything. When you are constantly seeking to gain knowledge and questioning everything, that is when you are truly utilizing the gift of thinking for yourself. When you don’t seek out knowledge, that is how ignorance manifests itself. Some of the main issues that people (both Muslims and non-Muslims) have about Islam stem from pure ignorance and utter lack of knowledge on a given subject. One of the most “debated” subjects in Islam is how people genuinely believe that hitting women in any form has a place within the religion. Astaghfirullah.

Recently, we’ve unfortunately had to witness Muslims not only believing, but actively trying to convince others that it is permissible for men to hit their wives. I cringe at even verbalizing that idea. Let’s get some basic understanding on the foundation of Islam down first. The Quran, in its entirety, is absolutely perfect. Every ayah in the Quran was sent down by Allah (SWT) and has a specific function and meaning. A lot of people get flustered and confused over several ayahs in the Quran when they read the English (or any other language) translations at face value. This is the part where we need to seek out resources and knowledge. What (or should I say, who) is our point of reference when following this deen correctly? The answer is our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has set the ideal example for this Ummah. There is not even one instance within the prophet’s life where he hit a woman, let alone his wife, or disrespected them in any way. Many people refer to certain Surahs in the Quran where the English translation alludes to the notion that men are “superior” to women and are allowed to oppress, disrespect, and hit them. If one actually took the time and patience out to really understand these ayahs, they would easily be able to understand that violence towards anything on Earth, especially women, is not of this religion.

Oppression in Islam is haram (not permissible under any means). There are verses in the Quran that tell us that we should stand up for the oppressed. In the Quran, verse 42:40 states “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives.” This verse tells us that we should consistently stand against injustice no matter who it is that we have to stand against. Where we see injustice it’s our job to point it out and stand up for the oppressed.

“Our prophet (PBUH) was an activist. He cared about the poor, he was a human rights activist. He fought for women’s rights, he was a feminist. He loved the earth, he was an environmental activist. He loved animals, he was an animal rights activist.” 

– Linda Sarsour (ICNA Atlanta 2015)

So how can you say that Islam allows Muslim men to hit their wives? The problem is not Islam, it’s society and culture. In all cultures around the world, men are constantly taught in both discrete and overt ways that they are somehow “better” than women. The problem is that culture has told you that men don’t have to know how to clean, cook, do their own laundry, or even make their bed because “that’s what a wife is for.” This idea is so deeply rooted in your brain that you believe that your wife is supposed to take care of you the same way your mother did. You need to understand that your wife does not have the same responsibilities your mother did when you were 5. Now I’m in no way shape or form saying that you shouldn’t take care of your husband but that does not mean that you have to do every little thing for him nor should he demand that you do. Marriage is a relationship, not a dictatorship.

The verse that people most commonly refer to, to defend “beating” your wife is 4:34. Here’s an explanation of what this verse means. Men were made to be the protectors and providers for women not their oppressors. No one has any right to become violent towards anyone else, especially towards women. If your wife and you don’t get along, seek help from professionals who can help you both. And even then if you can’t work out your issues, divorce was made permissible for that very reason.  

The problem with people who tend to think this way are people who don’t speak or understand Arabic and when things are translated into another language it loses the authentic meaning of what was being conveyed. Another problem is that, people don’t understand the context things were said in. If you just look at the life and characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad, you would know that he repeatedly expressed the utmost respect and gratitude towards women. As the prophet (PBUH) said himself, “The best of you are the ones who are best to their wives.” 

Hitting your wife, or any woman at all is NOT okay under any circumstance. Ever. Please do not try to twist the truth of this religion to benefit your culture views and values. Islam is much greater than that. It is also important to acknowledge that we are not masters of this religion, so we should not speak on subjects as if we are scholars who have devoted their entire life into studying every intricate detail of the Quran, Hadith, and Sunnah. There is always so much more to learn and there are so many valuable, accurate resources available for us to expand our knowledge.

If you would like even more in depth explanations about this topic and ayah of the Quran, please check out these helpful resources:

Nouman Ali Khan: “Hitting Women – That’s Messed Up”

Mufti Menk: “Is Wife Beating Allowed In Islam?”

May Allah (SWT) guide our hearts and minds to understanding and protect us from ignorance.

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