Corporal punishment in the Qur'an

From Spanking Art

Corporal punishment in the Qur'an is mentioned in sura 4:34.

Verse 34 of sura 4 An-Nisa (The Women) is related to the issue of marital relations in Islam.

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.
  — Sura 4:34 translated by M. H. Shakir


The sura has been interpreted in many different ways, but a consensus seems to be that the Qur'an states certain differences between the husband's and wife's role in a marriage. Wives should be obedient and adaptable to their husbands. They should also keep the secrets of their husbands and protect their honor and integrity. Husbands are considered to be the heads of their families, including their wives. They are the supporters and responsible for their wives. They have authority, but never absolute control over them.

The chastisement mentioned in sura 4:34 (here translated as "beating", in other translations as "scourging") has been interpreted in in many different ways too. An extreme position, held only by a small minority of muslims, is that men have an everlasting superiority over women, and thus the authority to beat women with few regulations. On the opposite end of the spectrum are modern interpretations such as the Qur'an translation by Professor Ahmed Ali (1993) which completely omits any reference to beating.

Muhammad stipulated in The Farewell Sermon that "beating should be resorted to only if the wife has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct". According to a certain hadith, Muhammad himself once hit one of his wives, 'A'isha, in the chest causing her pain. He hit her because she thought Muhammad was going to sleep with one of his other wives (when it was her turn), and she followed him to where he received a "revelation" from Allah. However, other transmitters of hadith have stated Muhammad saying: "Never beat God's handmaidens" in reference to believing women.

Muslim scholars who permit hitting emphasize that it must not be harsh, but rather light. Muslim men are never to hit their spouse's face, nor to hit them in such a way as would leave marks on their body. Scholars suggest that the response administered should be in proportion to the fault committed. Traditionally the idea of beating was "with a toothbrush" (meaning miswak, a stick from the Salvadora persica tree) or "with a folded handkerchief."

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