In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the
husband to treat his wife kindly and not overlook her POSITIVE ASPECTS (see Qur'an 4:19). If the problem relates to
the wife's behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient.
In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a
separate bed from hers. There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment and expresses contempt
of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that
may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but
NEVER ON THE FACE, making it more of a symbolic measure then a punitive one. Following is the related Qur'anic text:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women. because
Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the
righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to
those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) do not share their beds, (and
last) beat (tap) them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is
Most High, Great (above you all). (4:34)
Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:
a. It must be seen as A RARE EXCEPTION TO THE REPEATED
EXHORTATION OF MUTUAL RESPECT, KINDNESS AND GOOD TREATMENT, discussed earlier. Based on the Qur'an and hadith this measure
may be used in the cases of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable
requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then, other measures, such as exhortation, should be tried first.
b. As defined by hadith, it is NOT PERMISSIBLE TO
STRIKE ANYONE'S FACE, CAUSE ANY BODILY HARM OR EVEN BE HARSH. What the hadith qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih, or
light striking, was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolic) use of miswak (a small natural toothbrush)! They further
qualified permissible "striking" as that which leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen-centuries-old
qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from "abuse" in
the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort, and "lesser of the two evils" measure that
may save a marriage does not meet the definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence, " or "wife battering" in the 20th
century law in liberal democracies, where such extremes are so commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.
c. The permissibility of such symbolic expression of
the seriousness of continued refraction DOES NOT IMPLY ITS DESIRABILITY. In several ahadith, Prophet Muhammad
(P) discouraged this measure. Among his sayings are the following: "Do not beat the female servants of Allah;" "Some
(women) visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you;" and"[It
is not a shame that] one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her at
the end of the day." (See Riyadh Al-Saliheen, op.cit,p.p. 137-140). In another hadith the Prophet(P) said:
...How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion
camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?... (Sahih Al-Bukhari,op.cit., vol.8.hadith 68,pp.42-43).
d. True following of the sunnah is to follow the
example of the Prophet Muhammad (P), who NEVER RESORTED TO THAT MEASURE, regardless of the circumstances.
e. Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They
respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures and circumstances. Some measures may work in some cases
and cultures or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. by definition, a "permissible" act is neither
required, encouraged or forbidden. In fact it may be BETTER TO SPELL OUT THE EXTENTof permissibility, such as
in the issue at hand, rather than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified, or ignoring it all together. In the absence
of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way, which can lead to excesses and real abuse.
f. Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed
by any "Muslim" can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an or hadith). Such EXCESSES AND VIOLATIONS
ARE TO BE BLAMED ON THE PERSON(S) HIMSELF, as it shows that they are paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions
and failing to follow the true Sunnah of the Prophet (P).