Islam Teaching: How to Beat Women

As any regular reader knows (as if the blog's title didn't make it clear enough) this is a Christian blog. All of us writing are Christian. We all share a Christian worldview and Christian morals. As such, we recognize that not everyone shares our beliefs and values. Certainly, we cannot expect people who follow other religions (or a-religions in the case of atheists) to hold the same values that we do because one of the basic foundations of any worldview is the person's beliefs about God. If one believes in no god, then that leads to one conclusion about the world. If one believes in the deistic god of Thomas Jefferson and others, then that leads to another conclusion.

But recognizing that people will come to different conclusions about what is right and wrong depending upon their worldview, there is something seriously wrong with the beliefs of Islam when it leads to stories like the following:

Wife-beating made simple
Saudi cleric teaches fine points of how to 'discipline' women

A religious leader in Saudi Arabia has provided instructions to young Muslims about how to deliver a beating to their wives, saying, "the beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly. He must beat her where it will not leave marks."

The report comes from the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors media reports throughout the Middle East.

The Saudi cleric, Muhammad Al-'Arifi, said on the video captured from LBC Television by MEMRI, "Men beat women more often than women beat men. I said that some women beat their husbands because this happens, but it is rare, and there is no need to hold conferences on wives who beat their husbands.

"Allah created women with these delicate, fragile, supple, and soft bodies, because they use their emotions more than they use their bodies. Therefore, while the man may use beating to discipline his wife, she sometimes uses her tears to discipline him. He gets what he wants by screaming, while she gets what she wants from him by crying and displaying emotions. For men, women's emotions may be fiercer than the strike of a sword," the cleric said.

MEMRI, which has a web page dedicated to video clips on the rights and wrongs of beatings, said the cleric reported two options before the beatings.

"First, 'admonish them' – once, twice, three times, four times, 10 times. If this doesn't help, 'refuse to share their beds.' In such a case, the husband does not sleep with his wife, or, in other words, he is angry with her. He gives her the silent treatment, refusing to talk to her. If he comes to eat, and she asks him: 'How are you?' – he doesn't answer. If she asks him: 'Do you want anything?' – he doesn't answer. He distances himself from her in bed and in conversation; he does not sleep with her, but goes to sleep in another room. He shows her that he is angry with her," the cleric said.

I really don't know how any woman can become a Muslim in a free country. Yet, that's exactly what's happening in Europe. News reports say that unprecedented numbers of British people, nearly all of them women, are converting to Islam. This makes no sense for women. After all, even if one believes the lie that the Bible makes women second-class citizens, the Biblical verses on women (read in their worst light) are nothing compared to the regular teaching and practice of Islam with respect to women. The idea that women can be beaten by their husbands appears to be the norm -- not the exception to the rule. Perhaps some liberal form of Islam teaches more respect for women, but I sure haven't seen it.


Weekend Fisher said…
<< The idea that women can be beaten by their husbands appears to be the norm -- not the exception to the rule. >>

The idea that women can be beaten by their husbands is a teaching of Mohammed's that anyone can see for themselves in the Qur'an; the items quoted by the cleric are quotes from the relevant verse. And the cleric being quoted here, from my understanding, *is* the more liberal view of that interpretation of that verse, that 'admonish' and 'refuse to share their beds' should be tried before beating, which is the order in which things are listed in the Qur'an though according to some writers, not all interpreters assume an order of precedence or an SOP from the order in which the remedies against the wife are listed.

I think the main attraction of Muslim men is that they aren't ashamed of their religiosity, devoutness, or faithfulness. They also aren't embarrassed by being confident or taking leadership. (Assuming the woman doesn't have some latent death-wish/masochism thing going ... )

Take care & God bless
Anonymous said…
The problem is that you are looking at the Qur'an in isolation. You need to read the sunna (practices) of the Prophet, which are as legitimate a source of law as the Qur'an, and you also need to look at the very long history of tafsir (interpretation) surrounding this verse. The fact that this verse is frequently used by abusive men to justify abuse is no different from any other situation in history where religion was used to justify irreligious actions.

I recommend the following website on Islam and Wife-Beating:

By the way, the Christian Bible has some pretty choice things to say about the role of women (I seem to remember 1 Corinthians 7 saying that women do not have the right to refuse sex). Let he who is sinless cast the first stone.
BK said…
It certainly is possible that I'm looking at the Koran in isolation. I do not claim to be an expert on Islam. However, beating women alone isn't the only issue.

And as far as the 1 Corinthians 7 verses, I suggest you re-read them. It's pretty clear that Paul is encouraging husbands and wives to not withhold sex from each other, and even adds in verse 6: "But this I say by way of concession, not of command." Clearly, that is not a teaching that "women do not have the right to refuse sex" as you claim).
BK said…
And I should add that the Koran clearly teaches that it is okay to beat your wife. The teaching is found in Quran 4:34. It reads (according to one translation):

"Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme."

It should be noted that even the articles linked don't say that men can't beat their wives, but try to explain that the beating should be no more than a light touch and only as last resort:

"It is important to read the section fully. One should not take part of the verse and use it to justify one's own misconduct. This verse neither permits violence nor condones it. It guides us to ways to handle delicate family situation with care and wisdom. The word "beating" is used in the verse, but it does not mean "physical abuse". The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained it "dharban ghayra mubarrih" which means "a light tap that leaves no mark". He further said that face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush."

It does appear that there are a number of verses that make it clear that husbands are supposed to treat their wives with kindness, however.

I leave it to the reader to wade through these verses.
Anonymous said…

the Koran clearly teaches that it is okay to beat your wife. The teaching is found in Quran 4:34.

come on now bk, just three days ago you said that non-believers should not insist what the correct teaching of the Bible is. Now you are quoting Quran and explaining how that is should be interpreted. That is naughty.

Anon also has a point "Let he who is sinless cast the first stone". Christians Church is not really pushing the equal rights to the women.

BK said…
Hey Peter,

Let me clarify since I thought I made it clear in the two comments. I do not claim to be an expert in Islam. I certainly accept the Islamic teachers' views over my own, but as I said in the other post one should not accept their teaching if they try to turn black into white. What is clear from the actual reading of the text and the interpretation from the Islamic writers themselves is that the Islamic teaching is that it is acceptable for the husband to beat his wife. The question is how hard is it okay to beat her. The writers linked agree that the beating should be done in love and only in limited circumstances. Beyond that, I leave it to the reader to interpret what is said. Thanks for alerting me to the fact that I may have been misinterpreted.

Not all of the Christian church is pushing for the equal rights of women. But that is back to J.L. Hinman's post, above, about how Christians don't always do a good job of being ambassadors for Christ. Back to reading the texts in context and reading all of the texts, there are differences in the understanding of what the texts say about the roles of women and men in the church, but those roles are not limitations but part of God's plan. Their purpose is not to make unequal, but society sometimes sees it as inequality because society tries to ignore the differences that are inherent in men and women as God created them. And for the most part, the differences are irrelevant in 99% of the cases. But details on that point are for another post -- not here.
Two Michigan State University law students have written a scholarly article on wife beating and wife discipline in Islamic Law, posted on the Cienfuegos blog at and I have posted brief comments on my Therapeutic family Law blog at

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