The domain name
to The Quran: chapter 4, verse 34. It is considered by some to be the
most controversial verse of this book as it has been traditionally
interpreted to allow wife beating by the husband. There has been much
discussion of this verse, criticism as well as justification, in online
forums, articles, books, magazines, TV, online videos etc. More
recently, disputes have arisen amongst those classifying themselves as muslims with regard to
correct meaning of this verse, with some
translations of The Quran now opting for a different understanding.
The aim of this study will be: to review all relevant occurrences,
accurately translate and analyse
verse 4:34, then review the evidence both FOR and AGAINST this verse
allowing a husband to beat/strike his wife, with a summary
and conclusion at the end. This
unique approach was chosen because with so much information (and
misinformation) about this verse it has become very difficult and/or
time consuming to get an accurate understanding of this issue.
The word in
4:34 is "idriboo" / ٱضْرِبُو for
(ض ر ب).
1: Review of all occurrences of Dad-Ra-Ba in The Quran
Part 2: Translation and
analysis of 4:34
Part 3: Discussion of
evidence For/Against wife beating
Part 4: Summary with
Review of all occurrences of Dad-Ra-Ba in The Quran
(DaRaBa) derived from this root has many different meanings, in fact,
it is possibly one of the most diversely used words in the Arabic
language. This is primarily because it is often used figuratively as an
expression meaning something different to the literal meaning of the
phrase. It is estimated that about 100 meanings in all have been given
for this form in Classical Arabic dictionaries. It is also recorded in
these sources that specific meanings are associated with certain
prepositions or subjects, and whilst these are not rigid laws, they can
be seen as patterns of common usage. The Quran itself uses this word in
different ways as we will now analyse below (they are numbered only for
DRB fee al ard = journey in the land/earth
3:156, 4:101, 5:106, 73:20]
Some translators use "go out", "move
DRB fee sabeeli Allahi
journey in God's way/path
This is taken literally and non-literally by
DRB + mathal = propound/cite
[2:26, 13:17, 14:24, 14:25, 14:45, 16:74, 16:75, 16:76, 16:112, 17:48,
18:32, 18:45, 22:73, 24:35, 25:9, 25:39, 29:43, 30:28, 30:58, 36:13,
36:78, 39:27, 39:29, 43:17, 43:57, 43:58, 47:3, 59:21, 66:10, 66:11]
regard to the translation of DRB in the above verses there is
variation, depending on translator, e.g. some use variations in 17:48,
25:9, 43:58, 43:17.
kathalika yadribu Allahu
al haqqa wa
al batila = in this way God propounds/cites the truth and the
this verse some use "collides", "puts/shows forth" (e.g. Ibn
Kathir), "points out" (e.g. Al Jalalayn).
AAala athanihim fee al kahfi
AAadadan = So We sealed/covered on/over their ears
in the cave some years
verse is literally
saying the effect of "DRB on/over their ears in the cave" lasted
several years. This seems to suggest God
kept them isolated in the cave, when they were hiding out, thus cut
off from the outside world. Mustansir Mir in "Verbal Idioms of The
Qur'an" says it is an idiom meaning to prevent someone from hearing
something, sealing off, or put to sleep. The only other related example
in which DRB with something is done on/over something else is 24:31,
when covers are cast over
Walaw tara ith yatawaffa allatheena kafaroo almala-ikatu yadriboona wujoohahum
wa adbarahum wa thooqoo
AAathaba al hareeqi
= And if you could but see
themselves, i.e. at death) those
who reject striking their faces/fronts and
backs and (say) "taste
the penalty of the fire."
itha tawaffathumu almalaikatu yadriboona
wujoohahum wa adbarahum
= So/then how (will it
be) when the angels/controllers*
take them (unto
themselves, i.e. in death) striking their
faces/fronts and their backs?
is better translated as controllers, i.e. forces in control of certain
functions/laws. There are some controllers we know about, e.g. those
found in nature: F=ma, E=mc² etc. and some we do not know about.
the above two verses, translators commonly use "beat / strike / smite",
and whilst this may seem acceptable on the surface this translation
does have significant problems when examined more closely:
says if only you could see, thus clearly implying
that what the controllers are doing cannot be seen. And since it is at
time of death, then the controllers cannot be striking the physical
fronts/faces and backs as this would be observable. It could be
suggested that at death, this is a special/unique transition phase so
perhaps the controllers are indeed beating/striking but in a different
somehow, and the living simply cannot see it.
problems with verses such as 7:37, 16:28, 8:51,
6:93-94 in which the controllers are in communication with people being
taken at death, and the ones taken are listening properly and
answering, but this is highly unlikely if they are being beaten at the
clear problem with 6:93 when it describes the
controllers as stretching/extending forth or opening their hands/powers
taking them at death saying "Bring out your souls...". This sounds
unlike striking/beating, and there is no implication of this in the
verse at all.
indeed a beating/striking causing pain in some
way, then this would be the only example in The Quran of an explicit
punishment between death and the 'day of
the controllers take those who are good with a
greeting of peace/salam in
16:32 and there is no mention of taking them
gently for example.
To explain away these anomalies
it could be suggested 8:50 and 47:27 refer to post Judgement not at
death, which would be much more plausible if DRB is interpreted in a
punishment way, i.e. beat/strike, but no trasnlator or tafsir/interpretation I have read
gives this option.
is there possibly a more suitable translation? Whatever the controllers
doing it is to their "fronts and backs" and this creates an imagery of
a complete surrounding, coming at them from all directions, i.e. there
is no escape. This imagery is similar to 6:93 mentioned above. Further,
see 6:61 and 21:39. The only other occurrence of the exact same form
"yadriboona" is in 73:20 in which it
means journey or go/move about. Thus, taking the evidence
into account, the Classical Arabic meanings of DRB and its usage in
The Quran, it could be translated as the controllers
on or put forth or go/move about their fronts and backs, i.e. come at
them from all directions. Even the English translation of "strike" has
similar imagery to this, but "beat" does not. That is not to say it
cannot mean "beat", it theoretically could, but it is not a
translation when cross-referenced.
As a side note, in M. Asad's notes, he says the early commentator Razi
saw this phrase as an
allegory: "They have utter darkness
behind them and utter darkness before them", suggesting he did not
agree with the commonly stated understanding of beating/striking
wal yadribna bi
khumurihinna AAala juyoobihinna = and let them draw/cast with their covers over/on
bi-arjulihinna = and let
them not strike/stamp/move
Asad translates it as "swing their legs", and in his notes says: The
is idiomatically similar to the phrase daraba bi-yadayhi fi mishyatihi,
"he swung his arms in walking" (quoted
in this context in Taj al-'Arus), and alludes to a deliberately
This expression seems to effectively imply any movement of the feet
that would result in revealing beauty that is meant to be hidden is not
allowed (see the full verse of 24:31). It may be interesting to note
that to restrict its meaning to strike/stamp would still allow hidden
beauty to be revealed by other types of feet movement, thus one could
argue for a simpler translation such as: move about, put/cast forth,
propound, set. See 38:42 as a comparison, which more clearly implies a
specific/literal usage of the feet.
Afanadribu AAankumu al ththikra = Should
use "turn/keep away", "disregard", "move" and even "should We omit
reminding you" (e.g. Mustansir Mir, "Verbal Idioms of The Qur'an").
Simply, "put forth" can also be used, and it may be interesting to note
that "AAan kumu / from you"
was used, possibly to show instead of
'to put/show forth from one place/person to another place/person' (i.e.
the default action of DRB) the process is actually reversed, i.e. taken
away from one place/persons.
fa duriba baynahum bi soorin = then put forth between them with a wall
use "set-up", "separated", "placed". However, "duriba" is in the
passive form, meaning: the subject is being acted upon, i.e. the wall
receives the action expressed in the verb, thus the translation of
"separated" is inappropriate here.
fa idrib lahum tareeqan fee
al bahri yabasan = then indicate for them a dry path in the sea
"strike", "assign" (e.g. Lane), "choose" (e.g.
Tabari). It is important to note that Moses was given the above
instruction even before setting off in his journey, and when he reaches
the sea he doesn't automatically know what to do and awaits guidance
from God and receives it by way of inspiration (see 26:61-63). If we
couple this information with the fact that Moses did not literally
strike a dry path, it shows that it is highly unlikely DRB in this
instance had a meaning of "strike", hence perhaps many translators not
translating it as such.
idrib bi AAasaka
bahra fa infalaqa = strike with your staff the sea,
then it split/separated
idrib bi AAasaka
al hajara fa infajarat
min hu = strike with your staff
the rock, then vented from it (twelve springs)
idrib bi AAasaka
al hajara fa inbajasat
min hu = strike with your staff
the rock, then gushed from it (twelve springs)
It is likely that in the above case, the rock cracked or breached, see
idriboohu bi baAAdiha = cite /point out
with some of it (the murder)
beginning with an accurate
translation according to the Arabic:
And when you (M,P)
killed a soul (F,S),
then you (M,P)
in it (F,S), and God
shall bring out what you
So We said: "idriboo him
(M,S) with some of it
(F,S)." Like this God revives the dead (P) and He makes
you realise His signs/revelations, maybe you reason/comprehend. [2:73]
Please read M.Asad's notes on the above:
Muhammad Asad - End Note 57 (2:73)
The phrase idribuhu bi-ba'diha
can be literally translated as "strike
him [or "it"] with something of her [or "it"]" -and this possibility
has given rise to the fanciful assertion by many commentators that the
children of Israel were commanded to strike the corpse of the murdered
man with some of the flesh of the sacrificed cow, whereupon he was
miraculously restored to life and pointed out his murderer! Neither the
Qur'an, nor any saying of the Prophet, nor even the Bible offers the
slightest warrant for this highly imaginative explanation, which must,
therefore, be rejected-quite apart from the fact that the pronoun hu in idribuhu has a
gender, while the noun nafs (here
possibly refer to nafs. On
the other hand,
the verb daraba (lit., "he
struck") is very often used in a figurative
or metonymic sense, as, for instance, in the expression daraba fi
'l-ard ("he journeyed on earth"), or daraba 'sh-shay' bi'sh-shay' ("he
mixed one thing with another thing"), or daraba mathal ("he coined a
similitude" or "propounded a parable" or "gave an illustration"), or `ala darb wahid
applied" or "in the same manner"), or duribat
("humiliation was imposed on them" or
"applied to them"), and so forth. Taking all this into account, I am of
the opinion that the imperative idribuhu
occurring in the above
Qur'anic passage must be translated as "apply it" or "this" (referring,
in this context, to the principle of communal responsibility). As for
the feminine pronoun ha in ba'diha ("some of it"), it must
relate to the nearest preceding feminine noun-that is, to the nafs that
has been murdered, or the act of murder itself about which (fiha) the
community disagreed. Thus, the phrase idribuhu
bi-ba'diha may be
suitably rendered as "apply this [principle] to some of those [cases of
unresolved murder]": for it is obvious that the principle of communal
responsibility for murder by a person or persons unknown can be applied
only to some and not to all such cases.
Muhammad Asad - End Note 58 (2:73)
Lit., "God gives life to the dead and shows you His messages" (i.e., He
shows His will by means of such messages or ordinances). The figurative
expression "He gives life to the dead" denotes the saving of lives, and
is analogous to that in 5:32 . In this context it refers to the
prevention of bloodshed and the killing of innocent persons (Manar I,
351), be it through individual acts of revenge, or in result of an
erroneous judicial process based on no more than vague suspicion and
possibly misleading circumstantial evidence.
Three or more people (i.e. masculine plural) killed the soul/person.
Three or more people (i.e. masculine plural) were concealing (i.e. it
was them who did it, as confirmed by the start of 2:72).
The part in red cannot
they returned to him,
i.e. their master). Not to
mention that this would be a strange way for God to show how He does
it, as it
involved using partners to do the task.
"the dead" (al mawta) is
plural thus weakening the common/traditional
interpretation further, as it is not in this manner God revives the
dead elsewhere in The Quran.
The part in blue must
The expression "God revives the dead" may also mean God revives the
spiritually dead, i.e. them who were in the wrong (see the clear
examples of 6:122, 27:80, 30:50-52, 8:24), thus, this seems the most
likely interpretation in my opinion. Although, M.Asad's is also
The previous stories in this chapter are separated by "ith /
to ببعضها / bibadiha).
Thus, applying the most likely option, we have: "idriboo him (i.e. each one accused)
with some of it (the murder)".
see if there is a meaning
that fits. Lane's Lexicon states that DRB on its own can mean "to point
or make a sign", i.e.
point out or indicate. When we re-read the context of 2:72-73, it
becomes obvious the perpetrators were accusing each other (i.e.
finger at each other, so to speak) to conceal the truth that they did
it, so God was to bring forth what they were concealing: so We said
"point out him with some of it (the murder)". The only ones doing the
pointing/accusing were the guilty. Thus, whomever of them (i.e. of the
ones accused) was pointed out by the others also accused was assigned
some part/responsibility of the murder. In this way, they could not
escape what they had done, and indeed, God exposed them and brought out
what they were concealing. The end result was that they took collective
responsibility, each of him a part. Sharing of a sin/crime if a group
were responsible is mentioned elsewhere in The Quran, e.g. 24:11.
Further, other Classical Arabic meanings of DRB can also be used,
such as: cite,
propound, indicate, assign, put/show forth.
Interestingly, in the tafsir of "al-Jalalayn" (see altafsir.com) it
says the revived murdered soul pointed
out his murderers. Ironically,
this comes close to the truth; possibly indicating a remnant of the
true understanding of this verse still remained, and likely became
superficial/superstitious over time.
see Lane's Lexicon. In it, it specifically states the translation we
have used. By deduction, we can work out it does indeed mean "you
accused each other". The whole phrase literally means "you
averted/repelled/pushed away each other". What are they
averting/repelling/pushing away? The Quran tells us, it is "feeha = in
it". Thus, the only possibility is they are literally pushing away in
the dead body (highly unlikely), OR, they are pushing away in the
murder, and logically, the latter can only mean they were pushing away
the accusation or the sole responsibility for it. This is further
proven by what follows, when it says they were concealing/hiding. Thus,
one simply needs to ask: what can they (the ones who did it) possibly
be concealing by repelling each other in the murder? The translation
then becomes obvious.
To conclude, the
the subject of murder, specifically,
just recompense) for those who use their intellect, 2:179, and
provides us with a
khuth bi yadika dighthan fa idribbihi wala tahnath = And
take with your hand a bundle, then strike with it, and do not
According to traditonal
interpretations 38:44 was a symbolic strike by
Job/Ayyub (upon his wife) with
blades of grass, meaning a light/negligible
strike was used.
M. Asad's note
In the words of the Bible (The Book of Job ii, 9), at the time of his
seemingly hopeless suffering Job's wife reproached her husband for
persevering in his faith: "Dost thou still retain thine integrity?
Curse God, and die." According to the classical Qur'an-commentators,
Job swore that, if God would restore him to health, he would punish her
blasphemy with a hundred stripes. But when he did recover, he bitterly
regretted his hasty oath, for he realized that his wife's "blasphemy"
had been an outcome of her love and pity for him; and thereupon he was
told in a revelation that he could fulfill his vow in a symbolic manner
by striking her once with "a bunch of grass containing a hundred blades
or more". (Cf. 5:89 - "God
will not take you to task
for oaths which you may have uttered without thought.")
Ibn Kathir (1301-1372 CE)
article taken from this
In this version, it is implied Job promises to strike his wife a
hundred stripes simply for her asking why he
doesn't call upon God to remove his affliction. This seems a natural
question to ask and at most, perhaps shows lack of
steadfastness/patience by her,
as note, she does not disbelieve in God, and even acknowledges only God
can remove the affliction. Interestingly, Job effectively asks this
very thing in
21:83. Also, Job is described as a man of patience/sabr, but seemingly had no patience
for his wife in this example. It should be noted that punishment
for this type of alleged offence by his wife is nowhere to be found in
and it could be argued this would actually go against its principles.
Lastly, when Job's family is returned to him it is described as a mercy
in 21:84 and 38:43, i.e. implying it is a positive, making it even less
likely that his wife played a negative role in his situation.
Reference: Vol. 15,
p. 212 of this
In this version, it is said during the
ailment of Job, his wife used to beg for him and Satan told
her a word of disbelief to say and she told her husband Job, so he
became angry with her and took an oath to strike her one hundred
lashes, so God ordered Job to fulfil his oath by striking her with
the bundle of thin grass.
(authors: 1459 & 1505 CE)
In this version, it contradicts the above two accounts, and says it was
when she was late in coming to him
once. This seems an overly harsh punishment to administer for such an
incident, and does not befit the character of Job as described in The
Abbas (authors: 687 & 1414 CE)
In this version, it says it was because she said something that
displeased God, hence the punishment. It should be noted strongly, that
punishment for allegedly saying something that displeases
God is completely unheard of in The Quran, even though there are many
examples in it of people ridiculing the prophets, God and The Quran.
Therefore, this seems highly unlikely.
It should be noted that NONE of the above
contradicting authors cite any Traditional narrations/ahadith to give weight to their
interpretations. This could be because no such Traditional narrations/ahadith exist for this verse, and
if they do not, then it is
exactly these stories originated from. It is possible they were an
embellishment or simply made up to explain the verse. This can be
further confirmed by the Biblical account where there is no mention of
this incident. It should also be noted that even though
The Quran mentions Job briefly (4:163, 6:84, 21:83, 38:41-44), some
aspects of his story are not mentioned in the Biblical version and vice
The traditional interpretation is also
problematic for another significant reason: if true, it would be the
only example of an oath being expiated by way of symbolic gesture in
The Quran. In 5:89 and 2:224-225 it clearly states that God will not
hold us to account for thoughtless words in our oaths, or those not
intended by the heart. And provides us ways to redeem if we break
earnest/sincere oaths, e.g. by charity, abstinence/fasting.
Some commentators have used the traditional story of Job to rationalise
the interpretation of "beat lightly" in 4:34 even though the
circumstances are entirely different.
So, is there an alternative translation and
understanding of 38:44? Since DRB and "dighthan (~bundle/handful)" have multiple
meanings, there are several possibilities according to Classical Arabic
upon closer examination of the story of Job in The Quran, the most
probable answer is actually contained therein:
when he called unto his Lord: "I have been afflicted with harm, and you
are the most merciful of the merciful." [21:83]
We responded to him, and We removed what was with him of the harm, and
We brought him his family and like thereof with them as a mercy from Us
and a reminder to those who serve. [21:84]
recall Our servant Job, when he called upon his Lord: "The
serpent/cobra* has afflicted/touched me with
and suffering/punishment." [38:41]
with your foot, this is a cool spring to wash with and drink."
And We granted his family to
and like thereof with them as a mercy
from Us; and a reminder for those who possess intelligence.
take with your hand a handful, then put forth / fling with it**,
and do not incline towards falsehood***".
found him patient. What an excellent servant! Indeed, he was oft
*Arabic: shaytan, root:
** Arabic: bihi (with it). "hi" refers to a masculine and the
closest preceding masculine is the cool spring. Interestingly, "Dighthan" can also mean "wash
without cleansing" as well as "handful", thus
and likely refers to
the washing mentioned in 38:42, giving a perfect self-contained
possible, but lesser likely, is that DRB could also mean "fashion or
put a cover", i.e. a dressing or pressure bandage, with a handful of
researching the word "tahnath"
(Root: Ha-Nun-Thaa) in Classical Arabic dictionaries, as this form of
word is only used once in The Quran, a common meaning was "incline
towards falsehood", "say what is untrue", hence Maulana Ali's rendering
for example: "And
'opposing force' be it from oneself or elsewhere), but only two
occurrences in which shaytan is
Those who consume usury, they do not
stand but as one might stand whom the serpent/cobra confounded* from its touch. That is because they
have said: "Trade is the same as usury." While God has made trade
lawful, and He has forbidden usury. Whoever has received understanding
from His Lord and ceases, then he will be forgiven for what was before
this and his case will be with God. But whoever returns, then they are
the people of the Fire, in it they will abide eternally. [2:275]
i.e. their footing/position/mentality/reasoning is weak, in disorder,
corrupted, they cannot think/speak sensibly etc.
*root: Kha-Ba-Tay, also has a meaning of "touch with a hurt
as to corrupt/disorder and render one insane".
Further, 38:41 is the
only occurrence where shaytan is
which is false promises,
deceit, temptation, delusion etc we can see that 38:41 and 2:275
are different, i.e. shaytan
is applying a different methodology here, so the obvious question is to
ask why? The evidence points to because in these two occurrences it
means serpent/cobra. The Quran also uses this meaning for shaytan in 37:64-65 ("It
2) drink water - this may help slow down heart rate, rehydrate from
exhaustion or lost fluids, help calm oneself, and possibly increase
rate of venom washout from the body.
3) wash the wound with handfuls of water, or apply
hence this advice.
This is also shown by 2:275.
Also, the words "patient" and "oft-returning" at the end of the verse
do suggest a recovery period, and are thus appropriate for the context
of a snakebite.
"satan" is referenced as inflicting a physical harm, Chapter 2:7 " So
Satan went forth from the
presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of
his foot even unto his crown." After this part, his friends came to
him, and implies he was in pain/grief and in a recovery period and did
not speak (perhaps on purpose, i.e. "do not incline towards
falsehood"), after which he showed signs of despair,
like giving up, but
eventually his condition was restored, and became blessed again. Quite
often, The Quran corrects myths, the story of Job is perhaps just
To conclude, the
and is a self-contained explanation.
duribat + AAalayhimu = pitched
[2:61, 3:112, 3:112]
use "stricken", "covered", "cast", "stamped", "imposed". This word form
is in the perfect passive, meaning the people referenced have received
the action expressed in the verb DRB. Mustansir Mir in 'Verbal Idioms
of The Quran' explains this idiom
as: the image is that of pitching a tent, i.e. covering someone over
with shame or disgrace; or one splattering a wall with sticky mud,
shame and disgrace have been made to "stick" to a person.
idriboo fawqa al-aAAnaqi wa idriboo minhum kulla bananin = so strike above/over the
and strike from
them every/each finger/extremity.
use "smite". Translators are divided when it comes to the issue of who
is being addressed by this command, even though the verse itself
clearly states who is being addressed at the start, and that is the
angels/controllers. In terms of what is more likely, it should be noted
that this verse is likely
addressed to the controllers than to the believers, due to the Arabic
construction (i.e. no obvious break in addressee throughout and the
first "fa" refers to the
controllers, thus the second "fa"
it is impractical
and illogical to command all believers when in battle to strike
above/over the necks and each/every finger from the enemy. Especially
is no need for doing both! Therefore it more likely refers to the
controllers, as we shall now examine:
When your Lord inspires* to the angels/controllers** “I am with you so
keep firm those who believed. I shall cast terror into the hearts/minds*** of those who reject; so
above/over the necks, and strike from
them every/each finger/extremity.” [8:12]
is better translated as controllers, i.e. forces in control of certain
functions/laws. There are some controllers we know about, e.g. those
found in nature: F=ma, E=mc² etc. and some we do not know about.
is often used like the
English word "heart", meaning the physical
organ, but more often for the locus of feelings/intuitions etc.
verse seems to imply then: God will instil/cast terror into the
heart/minds of those who reject, and then nature's forces
take their course,
resulting in affecting anything above the neck, e.g. the
throat/mind/thoughts/senses/breathing and limbs/fingers of the
likely causing impairment of their performance. Instilling a sense of
terror/fear in someone often results in their
mind/thoughts/senses being affected/paralysed, and often results in
trembling/shaking, especially transferring to the hands, which would
likely result in weak fighting skills (swordsmanship or accuracy of
arrows) when in battle. It is also interesting to note that when
someone is fearful or anxious/nervous, their throat often becomes dry
and precipitates an involuntary gulp reaction, i.e. a manifestation of
fear/anxiety. Physical manifestations of anxiety: trouble
concentrating, feeling like
your mind's gone blank, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle tension,
fatigue, headaches (source).
The above understanding may also help clarify the confusion some
translators have about 8:17 on who really
did the defeating and who really did the casting (Arabic: rama, root: Ra-Miim-Ya). As it
likely refers to the use of "cast"
Lam-Qaf-Ya) done by God in 8:12. Also see 33:26 for comparison. Interestingly,
if we take "rama" to mean
"throw or cast"
as in arrows or pebbles in 8:17 as done by some translators, then
obviously the believers did not strike above
the necks and each finger, making this interpretation even less likely.
As is common, there
are conflicting accounts between the traditional tafsirs on 8:17 and
what was thrown, e.g. Asbab Al-Nuzul
by Al-Wahidi (arrow), and Tafsir al-Jalalayn (pebbles), and
al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs (dust). See M.Asad's
Interestingly, some traditional interpretations take 8:12 to mean the
"angels" literally struck off the necks in battle (but neglect to
mention the fingers!), but if this was the
case, then there would be little need for 8:17 to re-affirm who
really did the defeating, i.e. God, as it would be rather obvious. To
resolve this problem, some say just as the believers were to
strike the necks with their swords the heads of the enemy would fall
off, and this was the angels at work! It is a fanciful explanation, but
again, they neglect to mention the fingers, or the logic of this
application. Thus, the division amongst translators as to whom the
command refers is likely related to their misunderstanding of DRB,
hence their awkward explanations.
conclude, 8:12 is addressed to the controllers, and DRB does not mean a
literal/physical "strike" e.g. by sword, as is commonly understood,
unless taken metaphorically. Thus, may be better rendered as "put
forth" or "put into commotion" in these two occurrences.
al rriqabi hattaitha athkhantumoohum = so
the necks until when
have overcome them
use "hit", "smite", "strike-off". Whilst this is the most common
translation, it should be noted that it is taken by many as an idiom
(e.g. Al-Jalalayn, Ibn Kathir), meaning slay or kill.
This seems a plausible interpretation as in
when you encounter those who have rejected/concealed, then put forth
captives; until when
you have subdued/overcome them, then
strengthen the bind. Then after either grace/favour or ransom,
until the war lays down its burdens. That, and had God willed, surely
He would have gained victory Himself from them, but He tests some of
others. And those who get killed in the cause of God, He will never let
their deeds be put to waste.
is a verbal noun, indicating the act of doing as well as the noun
itself, e.g. then putting forth / bringing about the captives.
2) In a
swords and arrows no
commander would order his soldiers to aim for the necks alone.
"unuq" (as used in
8:12 also with DRB). RQB is
always used to mean slaves/captives.
they were supposed to be beheaded, there would not be a need for an
instruction regarding captives. Thus to overcome this apparent
omission, many traditional commentators translate "fa
shuddoo al wathaqa"
as "then tie the bond" and
say this refers to taking prisoners of war. However, the word
"strengthen/tighten (Arabic: shuddoo)"
and thus provides strong proof that this phrase is about bringing
about captives from the enemy.
5) This translation makes sense because during open/active fighting,
not be totally secure, and could only really be secured once the enemy
has been subdued/overcome. Thus, this verse is implying aim to bring
about captives, not necessarily kill them, which shows mercy and less
aggression in such a situation, even if it means getting killed.
6) One meaning of DaRaBa found in Lane's Lexicon is "he made or caused
be or constituted" which is similar to the suggested meaning discussed
7) I am not
aware of a Classical Arabic Dictionary which
references verse 47:4 under the root entry of DRB or RQB.
8) 47:4 refers to those mentioned in the previous verses, going by its
use of connective particle "fa", then these people were not fighting or
killing, thus killing them may violate the law of equivalence [2:190,
4:90, 5:8, 16:126, 42:39-43].
9) Interestingly, Traditional Tafsirs (altafsir.com) also mention this
possibility along with the common understanding. Ibn 'Abbas: "...and
taken them prisoners, (then making fast of bonds) keep the prisoners in
captivity...". Tafsir al-Jalalayn: "...take them captive and bind
the bonds (al-wathāq is what
is used to bind [yūthaqu] a
side note, it is interesting to note the difference in phrasing of
this verse compared to 8:12, giving further weight to each of them
having different meanings as discussed.
AAalayhim darban bi al yameeni = then he turned upon them striking with the right hand
"smiting". In this example, Abraham turned upon man-made idols,
breaking them into pieces, see 21:58. Since they were likely stone
idols, it is unlikely to mean "beat" as this would be an impractical
and very difficult way of breaking/smashing idols, hence no translator
used this translation. For similar reasons, literally
striking WITH the right hand is also unsuitable, unless understood
properly. Even though nearly
all translators use "striking" it is important to note that this
doesn't really give the full picture of what likely happened. If someone is
right-handed, they can easily lift one statue up and slam it on the
ground or against a rock or other statues, in order to break them into
pieces. This is the most likely scenario. This interpretation is
encapsulated in many sources. The following Classical Arabic
dictionaries (Lisan ul 3arab;
Al-Sah-haah fil lugha; Al Qamoos al-Muheet and Maqayees allugha) have
1- With might and right
2- By his right hand
2- By his oath, as per 21:57 where he made an oath to destroy the
Asad sees the
phrase in question as a metonym for "with all his
says it is an idiom meaning "strike with full force".
we can clearly see, a literal "striking with the right hand" e.g.
punch, karate-chop, slap etc is problematic and not the only
understanding. Therefore, are there any Classical Arabic meanings of
DRB that possibly fit better IF this verse is taken literally? The
following could be used: casting
flinging/throwing, putting forth.
It may also be interesting to note that if it is taken as a literal
striking/hitting, then DRB on its own is unlikely to mean with hand.
If it did, there would be no need to mention what to DRB with in this
End Notes for
has been shown
that there is not one clear occurrence in The Quran in which "beat" is
meaning of DRB.
the default meaning of DRB is "to put/show forth (from one
person/place to another person/place)". This core meaning fits into
every occurrence, and thus could be seen as its basic/core meaning.
Lane's Lexicon states that its meaning is "to put into commotion" which
is similar. Of
course, with various prepositions and subject matter, this basic
meaning can be refined and better rendered depending on situation.
interesting to note
from (11) and (12) that in similar contexts, The Quran switches
from a non-literal/physical use of DRB (e.g. indicate) to a
of DRB (e.g. strike / put forth / point out), by
stating what the physical objects are and their interaction with the
preposition "bi (with/by)".
The only verses
preposition "bi" is used
with DRB are 24:31, 57:13, 26:63, 2:60, 7:160, 2:73, 38:44, 37:93, and
in all these occurrences the meaning is a literal/physical usage:
khumurihinna AAala juyoobihinna = and let them draw/cast with their covers over/on
fa duriba baynahum bi
soorin = then put forth between
idrib bi AAasaka
bahra fa infalaqa = strike with
idrib bi AAasaka
= strike with your staff the rock, then vented
from it (twelve
idrib bi AAasaka
= strike with your staff the rock, then gushed
from it (twelve
idriboohu bi baAAdiha = cite /point out him with some of it (the murder) [2:73]
khuth bi yadika dighthan fa idribbihi wala tahnath = And take with your hand a
handful, then collide /put forth with it, and do not incline towards
AAalayhim darban bi al yameeni = then he turned upon them striking with
There are two verses that may need
2:73 should be noted that a murder/crime is
something specific and a real world tangible object and thus can be
referred to as such. This might offer a possible reason as to why 2:73
was traditionally translated as it was, because if a
murder/crime was not seen as a valid object/reference to DRB with, then
the only other valid object would be the dead heifer.
38:44 the act of DRB upon what/whom is not
specifically mentioned, thus several interpretations may have existed
at the time. Once the true context and meaning is identified as shown
previously, this aspect becomes self explanatory and what/whom is not
It is interesting to note that these are the only two verses with
preposition "bi" that require
careful study in order to reveal the most
likely answer, thus for these two verses it is likely several
interpretations may have existed. If physical/literal strike was one
interpretation, then these verses could have been used to favour a
physical/literal striking in 4:34.
If DRB in 47:4 is taken as a physical strike as is commonly done,
albeit as an idiom, then it would be the odd one out, as it does not
use "bi". This gives further weight to the alternative understanding
Translation and analysis of 4:34
(immediate context before 4:34 is wealth/inheritance, and after is
And do not envy what God
of you over others. For the men is a portion of what they gained, and
for the women is a portion of what they gained. And ask God from His
favour, God is knowledgeable over all things. [4:32]
And for each We have made inheritors from
the parents and the relatives left, and those you made an oath with you
shall give them their portion. God is witness over all things.
The men are
supporters/maintainers of the women with what God preferred/bestowed
some of them over others and with what they spent of their money, so the
righteous women are dutiful/obedient; guardians/protectors to the
unseen with what God guarded/protected. And as for those women you fear
their uprising/disloyalty, then you shall advise them, and (then)
in the bed, and (then) idriboo them.
they obeyed you, then
seek not against them a way; Truly, God is High, Great. [4:34]
And if you (plural)
feared disunion/breach/rift between them two, then
appoint a judge from his family and a judge from hers. If they both
want to reconcile, then God will bring agreement between them. God is
Knowledgeable, Expert. [4:35]
been left untranslated
4:34 and context
root: Qaf-Waw-Miim) occurs in the same form in:
4:135 (stand / stand up / support / maintain with justice as witnesses
5:8 (stand / stand up / support / maintain for/to God as witnesses with
M. Asad: The expression qawwam is an intensive
of qa'im ("one who is
responsible for" or
"takes care of" a thing or a person).
Thus, qama ala l-mar'ah
signifies "he undertook the maintenance of the
woman" or "he maintained her" (see Lane's Lexicon, Volume 8, p2995). The
form qa'im can be found in 4:5 and
It should be
noted that the occurrences of 4:135, 5:8 and 4:5, 5:97
cancel out some male-centric translations, such as "charge of" (M.
Pickthal), "managers of" (Arberry, Hilali/Khan/Saheeh), "superior to"
(Rodwell) which simply do not fit once cross referenced. It refers to a
wider duty of care/responsibility, such as providing for the
family/household which is discussed in several verses [2:228, 2:233, 65:6], and
default role/duty for men, but not the only role as it can depend on
situation. Contrast this to The
Quran never mentioning managing one's wife or being in charge of her
and the correct meaning becomes obvious. In fact, there is not one
example of God addressing the husband/wife relationship in this manner,
e.g. all examples involving decisions between marriage partners are in
the reciprocal Arabic word form, e.g. "taraadaa"
"tashaawar" [2:233], which
means they are mutual. If society is to be governed by mutual
consultation [3:159, 39:18, 42:38, 58:11], then naturally this
principle should apply to the most basic social unit, the family, and
done with what is maruf (honourable,
known/recognised as good, befitting, fairness, kindness), see 2:231,
If one wishes to refer to
(look after them) in Bukhari
Lastly, the actual verse of 4:34 clarifies/limits the scope of meaning
of "qawwamoon" to maintenance,
i.e. because of God bestowing more on
some of them than on others and with what they spent (perfect tense,
i.e. an action done/completed) of
their money. To state the obvious, without spending on someone, a
cannot be regarded as a supporter/maintainer of them, whether male or
"...bima (with what) faddalaAllahu (God preferred) baAAdahum (some of them) AAala (over/above/on) baAAdin* (others)..." *masculine
This likely refers to al
rijal (the men) as indicated by keeping the
same suffix reference later in the sentence, i.e. its logical and
See "baAAdahum AAala baAAdin" / "some
of them above others" in 2:253 and 17:21, and also 6:53 "baAAdahum
bi baAAdin" / "some of them with others", for a comparison.
possible interpretations of this phrase:
God preferred on some (men/women) over others (men/women)
God preferred on some (men) over others (men)
God preferred on some (men) over others (men/women)
keyword being "some". Thus, whichever way it is translated it proves
the obvious, that not all men are preferred/bestowed equally,
not all men are preferred/bestowed more than women. Also, the term
"preferred" is general, unless made specific in context, and in this
case may refer to distribution of wealth, e.g. inheritance, as
mentioned by similar phrasing in 4:32. Since spending
wealth is mentioned separately, the preference likely refers to the
that men do not have the physical burden of pregnancy, birth and
suckling, hence are in a more favourable position to work/provide, by
It should be noted that
some traditional commentators interpret this phrasing to suggest men
are preferred to women with respect to various things but this is
completely disproven by the Arabic itself,
as the masculine plural is used in the phrase. The masculine plural in Arabic either
refers to an all male group or male+female group, NEVER all female
group. To add to this point, the same phrasing is used for preferring
some messengers to others [2:253] and some prophets to others [17:55]
and yet The Quran repeatedly tells us not to make distinction among
them. The best person according to The Quran is
is the most righteous/pious/God-conscious [49:13]. It should also be kept in mind that
each person will be judged according to how they conducted themselves
what they have been given [6:165]. In other words, with privilege comes
can see, The Quran is not stating a fixed rule, i.e. that all men
are the maintainers/supporters of women, they are only so if they
fulfill the criteria and it is referring to the wider
duty of care/responsibility men have as mentioned above. It is conditional.
"dutiful/obedient" (Arabic: qanit,
is used in The
Quran to mean "dutiful/devout/obedient to God" in all verses and in
some verses is used to
describe both man and woman [2:116, 2:238, 3:17, 3:43, 4:34,
16:120, 30:26, 33:35, 33:35, 39:9, 66:5, 66:12].
There is one exception to this, when in 33:31 it states "qanit to God
and His messenger", but this still implies it is in the context of
God's commands. For example, the root Tay-Waw-Ayn is commonly used to
mean "obey" in The Quran without the dutiful/devout connotation, thus
if obedience to the husband was meant this word would have been more
Though qanit is mostly
translated technically correct as "obedient," when read in a
translation it can convey a false message implying women must be
"obedient" to their
husbands as their inferiors. The same word is mentioned in 66:12 as a
description of Mary who, according to the Quran, did not even have a
husband. Also, in this verse as Mary confirmed the Words of her Lord
and His revelations she is described as of those who are "qanit", again
implying it is in the context of abiding by God's message. This is
reinforced by what follows, see below.
"...guardians/protectors to the unseen/private
with what God
guarded/protected..." - may be related to what came before, i.e.
implying part of being dutiful/obedient is to be this. When used for
humans in this way, the unseen (al
ghayb) cannot refer to THE unseen,
i.e. the same unseen as God knows THE unseen, thus must refer to what
is unseen/hidden/private from the people at large and/or her husband,
but not to the person addressed. Seems to imply that whatever God
ordered to be guarded (i.e. via scripture) in private/unseen, this is
what they should
guard. Also see 12:52 for an example of betrayal in the ghayb/unseen/private.
"...And as for those women you
fear..." (Arabic: takhafoona, root:
Kha-Waw-Fa) is in the imperfect
form, meaning an action in the process of being done, NOT completed.
This should be carefully compared to 4:128 in which this same word is
in the perfect form (i.e. an action done/completed). Thus, in 4:34 the
fear being felt by the husband is an ongoing thing, about something
that may or may not take place. It is important to note that the
context strongly implies that the husband does not wish to end the
marriage, hence him "fearing" and the conflict-resolution measures that
(Arabic: nushuz, root: Nun-Shiin-Zay) is the literal meaning
and in context means rising up (above relationship/marital limits).
It is interesting to note
that there is a measure of relativity about nushuz in
the sense that what constitutes
nushuz in the eyes of one person may not be so viewed by another,
or the judgment that one's spouse has been guilty of nushuz is
partly a subjective and personal one. That is why the verse says: "if
you fear nushuz..." instead of for example, "if you
find nushuz...". In other words, nushuz is unlikely
something in the husband's presence or obvious/blatant in his presence
as 4:34 says "if
you fear", so it is reasonable to assume it refers to something not
done in the husband's presence. This could be related to the earlier
use of "...guardians to the unseen...". If we take these factors into
account, it suggests unseen
"disloyalty/infidelity/ill-conduct/rebellion" in some way.
them..." (Arabic: ithoo, root:
Waw-Ayn-Za), and does not indicate in a harsh manner, as can be seen by
its occurrences in The Quran, for example 31:13-19. The "fa" meaning
then/so means whatever follows can only apply to the wife in whom the
husband fears nushuz, not others. It also implies that what
follows is a sequential order of recommendations and not simultaneous.
in the bed..." (Arabic: hjuroo, root: ha-Jiim-Ra), means
forsake, leave off,
abandon [see 19:46, 73:10, 74:5].
It is important to note this verb applies to the husband, NOT the wife,
thus translations such as "banish them to beds apart "(M. Pickthal), "send
them to beds apart" (Dawood), are incorrect. This is further proven by
the use of "fee" meaning "in".
Lastly, "al madajiAA"
(root: Dad-Jiim-Ayn) literally means "the place of
rest/sleep/reclining", thus could mean bed or even bedroom. With regard
to "al madajiAA" there is no
half measures, it clearly means fully
abandon/desert them in this. It strongly implies no sexual relations.
Also, this step reinforces the implication that it is unlikely to be a
simultaneous series of steps, as "abandon them in the bed" would only
be done at sleeping time, implying a time gap. This step should not be
viewed as totally against the wife, as it would also result in the
husband re-evaluating their relationship, and make him weigh up his
fear against his desire to be with her, thus helping
As a side note, if a spouse is possibly having an affair, then not
sharing beds (i.e. no sex) could also potentially reduce spread of
sexually transmitted diseases, giving another benefit of this
obeyed you..." (Arabic: ataAAna,
root: Tay-Waw-Ayn) is in the perfect form, i.e. an action
This "obeyed" MUST refer to something in the context, thus the only
possibility is the admonition/advisement given by the husband. Note how
Tay-Waw-Ayn is used here and not Qaf-Nun-Ta as used previously, which
implies that there is a difference in connotation between these words,
reinforcing our finding as discussed previously.
perhaps interesting to note that "if they obeyed you" may have an
anything other than advisement is regarded as seeking a way against
them, i.e. abandoning them in bed and (then) idriboo
them. We will discuss later that it is possible to infer that the
'abandoning them in bed'
step could be limited in time, whilst the advisement part whilst still
maintaining normal sexual relations does not have a time limit, further
reinforcing this first step as what is preferred, hence it being first.
if YOU feared disunion/breach/rift between
them..." (Arabic: shiqaqa,
root: Shin-Qaf-Qaf), and the "feared" before it is in the perfect form,
i.e. an action done/completed. The "you" is in the plural form and can
only refer to the community/court/authority/etc.
appoint a judge..." (Arabic: ibAAatho hakaman, roots:
Ha-Kaf-Miim), literally means to put in motion or send/appoint a
judge/arbiter. The Arabic confirms that the plural "you" can ONLY refer
someone/something in a position to put this in motion, so it cannot
mean either side's family for example.
Also, appointing an arbiter from each side is not a simple task as it
would require representations from husband and wife or each side of the
suggests the process has become formalised, i.e. judicial. This clearly
court/authority is involved at this stage.
"reconcile" (Arabic: islahan,
In order to better
understand 4:34 we must also translate and analyse 4:128, in which a
wife feared nushuz from her husband:
They ask you for divine
women. Say, "God instructs you regarding them, as has been recited for
you in the book about the women orphans who you want to marry
without giving them what has been ordained/written for them, as well as
the powerless children, and stand for orphans with equity.
Whatever good you do, God has full knowledge of it. [4:127]
And if a woman feared from her husband
uprising/disloyalty or alienation /turning away, then there is no blame
upon them that they reconcile between themselves a reconciliation; and
the reconciliation is better. And miserliness/selfishness is present in
the souls, and if you do good
and are conscientious/forethoughtful, then surely God is aware what you
And you will
able to be fair between the women even if you make every
effort; so do not deviate all the
deviation so you
leave her as one hanging. And if you reconcile and are
conscientious/forethoughtful, then surely God is Forgiving, Merciful.
And if they separate, then God will provide
each of them from His bounty. God is Vast, Wise. [4:130]
of 4:128 and context
"And if a woman feared..."
(Arabic: khafat, root: Kha-Waw-Fa) is in the perfect form,
meaning an action done or completed. In contrast to 4:34, it is not an
ongoing fear, it is perfect tense, i.e. the
"nushuz or iAAradan" is feared to have taken
place or is feared to be
happening. This is a crucial distinction. Interestingly, even though it
is in the past tense, the word
"feared" is still used, and not "found" or "committed" for example,
meaning it still does not refer to something obvious/blatant, and there
is an element of relativity/subjectivity to it. This is an important
point to reflect upon.
"...uprising or turning away..."
(Arabic: iAAradan, root:
Ayn-Ra-Dad) literally means "turning away" and is stated separately
from "uprising /
Again the word "feared" implies a degree of relativity, i.e. judging
"iAAradan" is subjective, thus
is not something obvious. Many
translators opted for "desertion" which is not quite right because in
the context the husband is unwilling to initiate divorce, which implies
"desertion" is unlikely to be feared. Also, whatever "iAAradan" means
it must be sufficiently distinct from "nushuz"
by Yuksel et
opt for similar words such as
Interestingly, this may shed light on why 4:128 uses "wa/and" as
a continuation from the previous verse 4:127 which is about the man
wishing to marry an orphan woman in an non-Quranic manner, e.g.
without giving them what is written for them (e.g. inheritance if any,
dowry). So, let's
assume, this same man already has a wife, there are only a few
(1) if the current wife gives consent, then all is fine.
(2) the wife says no, and the husband accepts the decision without
(3) the wife says no, and the husband disagrees or agrees superficially
but becomes suspected of causing problems.
Situation (3) would result in the wife being in fear of rising up
(above marital/relationship limits, e.g. disloyalty/infidelity) or
turning away (alienation), from her husband. As we can see, our
understanding of "nushuz" and "iAAradan" fit perfectly in
both 4:34 and 4:128. Please note, that is not to say that what is being
discussed in 4:128-129 is a husband doing such a thing, it is only one
possible situation, and this specific situation simply helps to serve
as a checking mechanism to ensure we have a reasonable grasp of the
words being used.
also be noted that since nushuz can
Since the wife feared a wrong has been done, emphasis is given that
even in such a situation reconciliation is better, i.e. better than
being uncompromising or separating. This can be equally applied to a
reversal of situation, as shown by 4:34. One possible reason for the
use of "there is no blame upon them that they reconcile" is because of
other verses which state "adulterer for adulterer", "marry those who
are good", "corrupt women are for corrupt men, good women for the good
men" etc, see 24:3, 24:26, 24:32. In other words, a suspected/unproven
case of wrongdoing, is not the same as a proven case, so there is no
blame if they reconcile. It could be argued that this explanation does
not quite explain WHY it adds "...between themselves", as
assigning blame upon a couple if
they reconciled between themselves seems a very unusual thing to
seemingly simple yet important
observation will be returned to later. It should be noted that
the command is a
conditional one: "And IF a woman feared.... then.....".
(Arabic: al shshuhha,
(Arabic: tattaqoo, root: Waw-Qaf-Ya)
literally means guarding or guarding oneself by means of something,
i.e. by being forethoughtful/conscientious/mindful/preserving of one's
duty, guards oneself from any possible punishment from God.
do not deviate all the deviation..." (Arabic: fala
tameeloo kulla al mayli, root: Miim-Ya-Lam), see 4:27
similar occurrence (Arabic: tameeloo maylan AAatheeman).
This implies some deviation has occurred, advising not to deviate all
the way, i.e. emphasising to do the right thing. This usage further
reinforces the implication that the husband is in the wrong in this
situation or the cause of negativity, and use of the perfect/past tense
as one hanging..." (Arabic: ka al muAAallaqati,
root: Ayn-Lam-Qaf) literally means like/as the suspended/hanging/stuck.
Lane's Lexicon states for this specific context: a wife whose
husband has been lost to her or been left in suspense; neither
husbandless nor having a husband; husband does not act equitably with
her or release her; left in suspense.
It is clear from 4:129 that the husband has
initiated divorce/talaq yet and is given two options: either
reconcile (i.e. act equitably) or separate (i.e. divorce her).
One may wonder if the wife is in such a situation, why doesn't she
initiate divorce/release? The likely answer is given in 4:128 by the
"feared", as the usage of this word in The Quran is when whatever is
feared is undesired by the subject. Unlike other words, which are
closer to: suspicion, doubt, perceive, think or suppose (Arabic roots:
sh-k-k, w-j-s, za-n-n). There is also a possibility that she may be
financially dependent on him, thus if she initiates release, courts may
allocate less in settlement, especially if no provable wrongdoing has
been committed by the husband [see 2:229, 4:20]. Thus she may not wish
to divorce but is unhappy with her husband and/or marriage. Hence the
emphasis on the husband to do the right thing. Similarly, we can see in
4:34, when it is the husband fearing something, he adopts a
preventative procedure, i.e. whatever he fears is undesired by him.
if they separate..." (Arabic: yatafarraqa, root: Fa-Ra-Qaf)
is in the dual form.
The only other time this root is used in the context of divorce
procedure is 65:2, in which the couple separate/fariqoo, after
initiating divorce/talaq and
completion of the provisional divorce
interim waiting period, i.e. to separate/FRQ is the final step.
Discussion of evidence For/Against wife beating
sequence for 4:34-35 is as follows:
advise them --> abandon them in bed --> idriboo them --> authority
feared breach/rift thus appoint arbiters --> reconcile or
understand the sequence of events, we must fully understand the
divorce procedure according to The Quran:
- 'cooling-off' period for those who
swear away from their wives sexually, limited to 4 months [2:226]*
- after this 4 month 'cooling-off'
period, the options are: revert to normal relations or divorce/talaq [2:227]
- post-divorce interim/waiting period
is 3 menstruation periods or 3 months, if
pregnant it is until they deliver, if widowed it is 4 months and 10
days [2:228, 2:234, 65:4]
- if no sex has taken place after
marriage, then no interim period is
required after divorce/talaq [33:49].
- during post-divorce interim period,
wife remains in the same house, and is compensated by way of
maintenance during this period in the same living standard as the
husband, each according to their means [2:236, 2:241, 65:1, 65:6-7]**
- divorce is automatically retracted
if sex between the couple takes
place during the interim period [inference from 2:226, 33:49, 65:1]***
- if couple reconciles, then divorce/talaq may be retracted twice
interim-period. If divorced a third time it is final unless she marries
another then they divorce, only then can original partners re-marry. If
the couple fear they will not maintain God's bounds, then wife may give
some dowry back to
release herself [2:229-230]
- if couple still wishes to follow
through with the divorce/talaq after
- exceptions exist, in certain
- the onus is upon the person in the
wrong to rectify the situation or initiate divorce/release, and it is
obligation upon the contract-breaking party to compensate the other
[2:229, 2:237, 4:19, 4:128-129, 33:28, 60:10-11]
note, the last
point is also mentioned in traditional Islamic law and sources, see
M.Asad's note on 2:229. This
male who only did so for
lustful reasons then wished to end the marriage later, as he would then
have to compensate her.
*Also possibly provides a time limit
practice of the time in which husbands did not have sex with their
wives but also did not divorce them, see 58:1-4, 33:4; i.e. leaving
them in a state between marriage and divorce. Similar to what is
implied by 4:129.
**And the same goes for the lesser
situation of 'cooling-off' period. Obviously, the wife would not be
removed from the home for the lesser serious 'cooling-off' period then
brought back just for the post-divorce interim period.
from 2:226 is that resumption of sexual relations is equated to
reconciliation, thus no initiation of divorce. Hence, same proviso for
post-divorce interim period, i.e. sex = reconciliation.
plural usage in
the following verses it can be seen that the court/authority becomes
2:229 ("... and if you (plural) fear that the couple will not uphold
65:1 ("... and you (plural) keep count of the period...")
Which makes sense, because it is only after divorce/talaq that
the authority would be needed to make things official and ensure The
Quran's laws are being followed, e.g. record divorce
date, keep count of the interim period, possible
examination of marriage
contract, mediate, determine
compensation/maintenance, living arrangement and
any settlement (if disputed).
The traditional/common understanding is that divorce/talaq has not taken place, and the
dispute can be resolved or the marriage terminated by the arbiters
themselves, in conjunction with the court/authority.
This information is not explicitly
mentioned in The Quran, but it seems the implied and logical sequence
of events. What is not explicitly mentioned however is that
whilst it is clear the authority has become involved by 4:35 and is
appointing arbiters, is how and
why has the authority got involved?
How does the authority know the extent of disagreement between the
couple? How did they find out there was a problem in the first place? Who told them? To answer these
questions, we will now analyse this seemingly unaddressed problem:
4:35 states "And if you
(plural) feared shiqaqa/disunion/breach/rift
between them", meaning, feared the couple will not come to an agreement
or resolution on their own, due to them turning away from each other
and/or a variance in view [see 2:137, 2:176, 11:89, 22:53 on usage of
Sh-Q-Q]. Also see what Lane's Lexicon says about this
it is used with between/bayna as
The situation implies to not come to an agreement or resolution is a
form of shiqaqa/breach/rift, which has a
negative connotation, and hence "reconciliation is better" according to
4:128. "Feared" is in the perfect tense (i.e. an action done/completed) in 4:35. Note it does not say
or such like, implying a degree of relativity/subjectivity about the
situation, i.e. shiqaqa in this case is not
something definite. This eliminates some translations which translate shiqaqa as
amount of information
for the authority to ascertain.
Bearing in mind The Quran's many
references on honesty, speaking what is best etc and its significant
negativity towards gossip, slander, spying on others, backbiting etc it
is difficult to imagine how the authority could uncover such
information in a just and appropriate manner, other than by directly
[e.g. 4:148, 58:1]. Not to mention the impractical and somewhat
arbitrary nature of a court/authority deciding amongst itself to get
involved in some cases and not others. If the authority
is informed indirectly, this is impractical and would mean they become
concerned about a marital disagreement that is not serious enough to
warrant divorce/release or be brought up by either spouse directly, yet
they intervene anyway. This is unlikely.
involvement prior to divorce/talaq would
it is very
odd that The Quran would not explain how this apparent exception to the
rule comes about. Especially so, since this situation would be quite a
common occurrence, and The Quran treats divorce very seriously and
discusses the procedure and options in detail, yet apparently neglects
It has been
argued that idriboohunna in
means "separate (from) them" ('Quran: a Reformist
Translation') or "go away from them"
Quran' by Laleh Bakhtiar), which interestingly has
some support in the traditional commentaries and fits better than
"strike/beat". However, I
it does not imply divorce/talaq,
talaq to mean divorce
AND since the contract-breaking party compensates the other, it would
be unfair for the husband to initiate divorce when he has done nothing
wrong in this case. There are other problems with this understanding as
it is not quite a conflict-resolution step and if not meant to imply
divorce/talaq then it
seemingly penalises the husband implying he
should move out. Also, any degree of leaving/separating/shunning may
fall afoul of doing iAAradan (alienation
Quran is the
As we can see, a mechanism should exist that
allows the authority to be notified and resolves a situation like this
in a fair manner. We will now review
from The Quran itself to see if an answer is given.
There is one example in The Quran which has aspects similar to the
situation in 4:34, shown below:
context is sexual relations between a married couple:
God will not call you to
for your casual oaths, but He will
call you to account for what has entered your hearts. God is Forgiving,
For those who swear
away* from their women,
months, then if they go back/revert**, then God is
Forgiving, Merciful. [2:226]
on the divorce, then God is
And the divorced women shall
3 menstruation periods... [2:228]
*root: Alif-Lam-Waw, see Lane's Lexicon.
In this situation the husband swears to be
away sexually from the wife, up to a period of 4 months, after which,
he must return to normal marital relations or divorce. In this example,
swearing away is not some sort of routine thing, as it clearly implies
the sequence can end in the husband divorcing his wife. And of course,
we can reasonably
assume if a couple are happy with each other sexual relations would be
the norm. A maximum of 4 months is likely given as it protects the
affected spouse from being in this unfavourable position for a long
time with no resolution, e.g. see 58:1-4, 33:4, and similar to what is implied
Thus, this example is similar to 4:34 because the husband would almost
certainly discuss the situation with his wife first, then swear to be
away from her sexually (i.e. abandon them in the bed). In 2:226-227 the
step after abandon them in bed is either: reconcile or divorce, there
is no mention of idriboo-hunna
(traditionally translated as beat/strike-them).
So, is this a different situation to
the traditionally understood sequence in 4:34 or are we meant to assume
is an option even though it is not mentioned? Well, the obvious
difference is that in 4:34 the husband is fearing nushuz/uprising/disloyalty from his
does not want the marriage to end, but in this case, he is the one
considering divorce and there is no hint of the wife being the source
of negativity. So, the recommendation seems to be a general one: if one
partner is considering
an end to the marriage, it is permissible to have a cooling-off period,
limited in time. Afterwards, they must either reconcile or
divorce/release (which would require authority involvement).
example from The Quran in which events are mentioned prior to a divorce
can be found in 66:1-5. In this example, the wives of the prophet
disclosed a private matter, then it goes on to say they should ask God
for forgiveness, but if they band together against the prophet, then
this situation may lead to divorce. Interestingly, wives banding
together could be considered a form of uprising/nushuz, but the options
given here are only: repent/amend or divorce. Again, no mention
implication of beating/striking.
Furthermore, in the
example of 33:28 it says if the wives of the prophet prefer the
material gain of this world then the prophet will provide such and
release them in a good/gracious manner. Again, there is no mention of
any hostile actions even though the behaviour of the wife is
unbefitting for a believer. Interestingly, the word divorce/talaq is not used in this case,
possibly because the prophet/husband was not at fault hence this word
is not appropriate.
An interesting example also appears in
58:1-4 in which a
woman argues with the prophet complaining about her husband, and how
the husband has estranged/alienated her by claiming her to be as his
mother's back, which was a practice of the time, making the wife
unlawful for himself but also not technically divorcing her allowing
her to remarry, i.e. leaving her stuck/suspended.
This is an interesting example because if we suppose this could be
classed as a case of iAAradan/alienation
the next step the wife took was to cite her husband's behaviour/actions
to the authority, which would have been the prophet at the time. The
correlation is specifically with 4:129 which advises the husband not to
leave her stuck/suspended and this is the EXACT situation described in
58:1-4, thus showing that in a situation of no resolution, the next
step would be to cite the partner/situation to the authority. If we
correlate this example to what the next step would be in 4:34, if the
steps are followed and no resolution is forthcoming, the next step
would be to cite the partner to the authority. This would explain how
the court/authority knew of the situation between the couple in 4:35.
Since 'idriboo them' is the
only step in between "abandon them in bed" and the authority becoming
aware of the situation, is there a Classical Arabic meaning of DRB that
fits in the sequence? The answer is a resounding yes, as one of its
primary and most common meanings is: to cite/propound, declare/mention,
put/show forth, point out or indicate. As we can see, it is a perfect
If the wife can cite her husband to the authority when the
problem/deadlock in her marital situation is not her fault in 58:1-4,
what is stopping the husband from doing the same with his wife in 4:34?
The answer is of course: nothing.
This understanding would make The Quran cater for all possibilities,
giving this view further weight. The onus is on whoever is in the wrong
to either amend or initiate divorce/release, and this gives us the
following theoretical possibilities:
1) husband is in the wrong, wife unhappy, he divorces wife, with
compensation if applicable.
2) husband is in the wrong, wife happy, no divorce.
3) husband wishes to end marriage, wife happy, he divorces wife, with
compensation if applicable.
4) wife is in the wrong, husband unhappy, she releases herself from
marriage, with compensation if applicable.
5) wife is in the wrong, husband happy, no release.
6) wife wishes to end marriage, husband happy, she releases herself
from marriage, with compensation if applicable.
7) whoever is in the wrong does not initiate divorce/release, spouse
can cite them to court/authority, then judgement and/or arbitration as
For the court/authority to be involved at situation 7 also makes
logical and practical sense because in a situation of unfairness a
court/authority is needed for mediation/resolution. Since whichever
partner initiates divorce/release may have to provide compensation, a
mechanism must be in place to solve the problem if the partner in the
wrong refuses to do so, most probably in order to protect their wealth.
This link to wealth also perfectly explains the context surrounding
both verses, 4:34 and 4:128, and why neither partner who is potentially
in the wrong is initiating divorce/release, i.e. the wife in 4:34 and
the husband in 4:128. It is recommended to re-read the verses bearing
this understanding in mind. As we can see a coherent, logical and
practical explanation is easily formed with this understanding. It
should be noted that the
however the court/authority came to find out about the couple in
how did the court/authority come to find out about the couple in 58:1-4
in the exact same situation of breach/rift, i.e. no resolution? She
the husband to the authority. If the traditional position somehow
implies the couple used a different method in 4:34 to make the
authority aware of the situation, then they have to
explain why the difference between the two examples, without causing a
logical and practical inconsistency. For example, in "K. al
nasikh wa-l-mansukh" by Abu Ubaid al-Qasim b. Sallam (d. 224AH/839), one of
the earliest works in its field, it comments on the tafsir/interpretation
of 4:35 and says "the story establishes the principle that the spouses
may withdraw their invitation to the authorities to act". Thus, it is
clear from the traditional commentary the spouse would inform the
court/authority of the problem, before they intervened. This provides a perfect
link with DaRaBa and all points to one answer: in a situation of no
reconciliation and the partner in the wrong will not initiate
divorce/release, the step prior to the authority intervening is
for one partner to cite/indicate the other (to the authority).
it is often noted that for the husband, iAAradan/alienation
by the wife is not
mentioned in 4:34, yet it is mentioned in 4:128 when done by the
husband, but if we imagine that the husband is trying to advise/counsel
his wife and it does not work, then abandons her in bed, making
her reflect further, and
this does not work, then this does imply an element of alienation by
the wife to her husband, i.e. she is not listening to him, she is
compromising, they are growing apart.
This would make the two
situations much more alike in comparison.
Since shiqaqa means breach/rift without talaq/divorce in 4:35,
arbitration should be called for in
4:128-129, as this is a clear example of breach/rift IF the situation
continues as is, but arbitration is not automatically called for: why?
This identifies why The Quran states in 4:128 "...then there is no
blame upon them that they reconcile between themselves a
reconciliation, and the reconciliation is better", i.e. better than an
irreconcilable breach/rift between them. As it implies at this point,
others would be involved or at least can get involved if requested, but
there is no blame upon them that they attempt to reconcile between
It is very important to note the "fa"
and 4:34 when the husband fears uprising/disloyalty from
his wife, as 4:34 gives steps in-between, THEN discusses mediation by
others? To illustrate what I mean, see the diagram below:
husband fears uprising/disloyalty
---> abandon in bed
---> (if still no resolution) idriboo/cite them
feared breach/rift (i.e. no resolution) thus appoint arbiters
if a wife feared
uprising/disloyalty from husband
---> then no blame upon them that
they try to
reconcile between themselves
---> but if situation continues
as is, i.e. no resolution, authority/arbiters can get involved
(THINK: what would come before this step)
The only difference between the two situations is the husband is
fearing (imperfect tense, i.e. action in the process of being done,
incomplete) in 4:34 and taking conflict-resolution steps, and in 4:128
the wife feared (perfect tense, i.e. action done/completed), so this
logically implies once the spouse reaches the stage of feared a
wrongdoing has happened or is happening THEN others can be involved BUT
there is no blame upon them if they reconcile between themselves first.
In fact, it is effectively a recommendation prioritising
reconciliation. In other words, do not hastily escalate the situation
and get the authority involved. As a side note, in addition to logic
and context, this also provides more evidence that to take one's time
in trying to resolve the situation, i.e. do not execute all 3 steps
(advise, abandon in bed, idriboo)
So, if we imagine in 4:34 the husband fears uprising/disloyalty, and
tries the conflict-resolution steps (advise, abandon in bed), and his
wife does not respond or compromise etc he would eventually reach a
point where he would think it is more likely uprising/disloyalty is
occurring than not occurring or feels no resolution will take place,
and would then "cite/indicate them". As we can see the husband tried to
reconcile first and did not hastily escalate the situation. If we
correlate this sequence to 4:128, as soon as the wife feared
uprising/disloyalty The Quran implies others can theoretically get
involved, but no blame upon them if they reconcile between themselves
first. But if the situation continued as is and she is left
hanging/stuck as implied by 4:129, authority can get involved
(confirmed by the example of 58:1-4). This would also explain the
conditional "and if..." at the start of 4:128, as prior to this, the
wife may just have had suspicions but not feared uprising/disloyalty
has actually happened.
For sake of clarity,
let's then re-arrange the
steps to show the sequence for 4:128 if the husband didn't do the right
thing and left her hanging/stuck/suspended (i.e. no resolution):
if a wife feared
uprising/disloyalty from husband
---> then no blame upon them that
they try to
reconcile between themselves
---> (if still no resolution,
e.g. she is suspended/stuck, do as 58:1-4) idriboo/cite them
authority/arbiters can get involved
A perfect match with
In both 4:34 and
4:128, the spouses try to reconcile first, and if it does not work
one spouse cites the other/situation to the authority who can then get
Thus, the sequence of events in 4:34 and
4:128 are identical. All the information reinforces and compliments
each other. Interestingly, there may be no other explanation that is
possible that could provide such equality and coherence, i.e. idriboo MUST
mean "cite/indicate, point out, declare, put/show forth" otherwise it
will create inconsistencies, and any inconsistencies would have to be
With regard to inconsistencies, one of the most important criteria to
appreciate when trying to understand the message of The Quran is to
bear in mind its rather imposing and impressive claim:
Do they not ponder on The
If it was from any other than God they would have found in it much
We will now examine other information from The Quran itself to see if
this helps us determine the more likely answer (beating/striking or
The meaning of "beat" in 4:34 is problematic with the following verse
as it is highly unlikely a peaceful conflict resolution step such as
arbitration would be recommended after allegedly permitting physical
violence. In addition, 4:36 discusses and emphasises being kind/good to
all, and is linked to
4:34-35 by "wa/and", which
makes this context even less favourable to the traditional
may happen or is happening
does NOT prove anything, i.e. that a wrongdoing has actually taken
place. So if equivalence is required for an actual wrongdoing [16:126,
42:40], then it cannot be more for a suspected
wrongdoing. If there
were any imbalance in this in The Quran, this would make it
inconsistent and therefore would be tantamount to an internal
contradiction. This is unacceptable.
investigate information before acting upon it [see 4:94, 17:36, 49:6]
but there is no mention of doing this in 4:34 before allegedly
beating/striking one's wife, which would be highly unusual.
believers are ordered to be compassionate, offer protection if
requested, not transgress limits, and this is with people who were
potentially trying to kill them [see 2:190, 9:6, 16:126, 42:41-42] so
suggest having more compassion in this case than with one's own wife
would be unusual.
wants to reconcile, proven by him undertaking a series of
conflict-resolution steps and "if you fear",
thus it is unlikely he would do anything that would harm his chances of
achieving this goal, i.e. to beat his wife.
up some of her dower of her
own freewill? Quite simply, they cant. Thus, it is unlikely The Quran
a course of action which makes
its other principles hard or perhaps impossible to confirm or follow.
It is therefore
beating would be
under duress/coercion is clearly invalid and
by The Quran [16:106] thus to somehow
for it here would be tantamount to contradiction. Similarly, when it
says "the righteous women are obedient/dutiful" in 4:34, it cannot
refer to a situation in which the woman is beaten or physically
threatened into obeying, as this would be a false righteousness and
ones who spend in prosperity and adversity, and who repress anger, and
who pardon the people; God loves the good doers.
5:8 ...do not let hatred of a
people get in the way of being
Meaning, even if you hate a person, still be just, which means if
wife in 4:34 is less than "hated" this means one must be just in the
lesser situation. Anything to the contrary would be a conceptual
Also if one has to live/consort with kindness with a wife even if he
dislikes her [4:19],
then if he likes her it would make sense he would have to be even nicer.
"...and do not
harm/afflict them to
straiten/distress/hardness on them..."
What this tells us (and all present
English translations) is that during the interim period, a husband is
forbidden from harming, hurting, injuring or using force against her,
on her etc while for a woman who wants to stay married, it is
permissible for her
husband to beat her, according to traditional understanding! A logical
and conceptual inconsistency.
if 4:34 allows wife
beating then this means when The Quran says do not straiten them, or
with them to cause harm etc, this implies to do such a thing would be
a wrongdoing thus would give the wife a legitimate cause for divorce or
compensation, i.e. The Quran recommends a course of action which
with a valid reason for divorce, giving a logical and conceptual
To deny this would require some artificial demarcation to be made-up of
injustice or unfair treatment is and why the wife cannot seek requital.
Interestingly, in the alleged sayings of prophet Muhammad (i.e.
Traditional Ahadith) he is
exactly in this way and gives permission
wife to retaliate in the same manner upon hearing a husband struck his
wife [possibly due to his understanding of 16:126, 22:60]. Of
course, the traditional accounts dismiss his reaction by saying he was
wrong in this and 4:34 was revealed showing that a husband could
Suspect stories like these are often found in Traditional Ahadith when
(i.e. non-Quranic) beliefs/practices are put forward, e.g. kissing of
stone is extremely unusual for a strictly monotheistic anti-idolatry
as islam but to explain this
the narrator says he wouldn't have done it himself if he never saw the
do it, or when Abu Huraira tells Umar of the testimony of faith in
includes Muhammad's name Umar knocks him to the floor for uttering such
but then Abu Huraira produces sandals
from the prophet implying this is his
for the legitimacy of what he is saying. There are many similarly
dubious reported sayings in the Traditional Hadith books.
Is it a coincidence that the other
more obvious examples in The Quran of a
person DRB to another person (2:73 and 38:44) have been severely
mistranslated and the distortion just so happens to favour the meaning
of striking/beating? In a misogynist environment, which The Quran was
revealed in, it is possible that not so long after initial revelation
the interpretation of these verses became twisted in favour of
returning such justification for men to oppress women. The
evidence of the do not beat one's wife mixed within the traditional
they were not able to eliminate the evidence against it completely.
Quran is as it
complete [6:114-115, 18:10], clear [2:99, 6:126, 7:52, 11:1, 44:2],
detailed [12:111, 16:89], contains all necessary examples [17:12,
18:54] etc then if DRB means
beat/strike in 4:34, then it isn't
clarified at all, i.e. with what? where? severity? limits? Neglecting
to mention these things would be highly unusual for The Quran. Is there
example of a physical punishment like this which is not clarified? Is
there any other example of a physical punishment that is issued by
individuals without evidence rather than through a court/authority with
Further, according to the sequence in 4:34, the steps imply an
escalation, thus if DRB is symbolic striking (as some suggest) this
makes little sense as to how this would resolve the situation, and why
it is an escalation.
if this method could be shown to work, at
most, it could only work
in a minority of cases.
O you who
believe, it is not lawful/allowed for you to inherit the women
forcibly/unwillingly, and nor
that you hinder/prevent/constrain/straiten them to take away some of
gave them unless they commit* a clear
lewdness. And live/consort
in kindness, so if you dislike them, then perhaps you may dislike
something and God makes in it much good. [4:19]
And if you desire to exchange a mate in
place of another, and you have given one of them a large amount, then
do not take anything from it. Would you take it by falsehood/slander
and a clear sin? [4:20]
*imperfect, i.e. unless they commit (in future) a clear lewdness.
if a husband wishes to replace one wife with another, they cannot take
away anything of the dower. This reinforces and proves 4:19 refers to
making life difficult for the wife, so the husband can take back a part
of what he has given her of the dower and the only way that can be done
is if the couple agree that they may not uphold God's limits [2:229] or
the wife releases herself [60:10]. So this verse refers to the husband
treating his wife badly in some way so that she
agrees to do either of these, which of course would be unjust. This
causes a severe problem for the possibility
that in 4:34 it means wife beating, as this would be a clear
contradiction in The Quran. To further reinforce this understanding,
the verse clearly states itself that it is about a husband being with a
wife he may dislike, but there may be good that he does not realise.
The next verse then discusses divorce which the next logical step for a
husband who dislikes his wife.
Interestingly, traditional explanations from Ibn Kathir, Al-Jalalayn
and others insert their own interpretation and render it as "... and
prevent them (from marrying others)" and "what you gave them" refers to
what women were bequeathed in an inheritance by their deceased
husbands. Not only is this
an absurd extrapolation, it makes no sense because the right to take
something away from what was given to the wife in case of clear
lewdness is the right of the husband only (i.e. the one who gave the
dower), not others. Most translators
do not opt for this absurd interpretation. It is possible
unusual interpretation is given to cancel out the fact that a husband
cannot make difficulty for his wife to take away what he gave her, i.e.
must treat her fairly in marriage, even if he dislikes her. This more
proper interpretation would of course cause problems in understanding idriboo as
any case, in a situation of an unloved wife who is prevented from
marrying others (i.e. not divorced properly), then the resolution to
this situation is already given in 58:1-4.
a partner is not allowed to straiten/constrain his wife to take
from what he gave her (unless she commits clear lewdness), then if he
fears or suspects lewdness, he must do less, NOT more, e.g. beat. To do
so would be a contradiction.
And if you have divorced
the women, and they have reached their required interim period, then
either you remain together with
ways with fairness/kindness.
transgress; whoever does so
is doing wickedness to his
soul; and do not take God's
revelations lightly. And remember God's
blessings towards you, and what was sent down to you of the scripture
and the wisdom, He warns you with it. And be aware of God and know that
God is Knowledgeable in all things. [2:231]
*Arabic: maruf, can mean "honourable,
known/recognised as good, befitting, fairness, kindness".
reconcile with them to harm them, but somehow are we meant to believe
the traditional interpretation that prior to divorce, it is allowed to
harm them by beating, as in 4:34? In which case, The Quran would be
saying a wife
who has been officially divorced then the couple gets back
together, should be treated better than a wife not divorced! Where
is the logic/consistency in this? There is none, and would effectively
promote women to choose divorce over marriage, and thus such an
understanding of 4:34 is significantly problematic. Such an
interpretation could be tantamount to ordering munkar (bad) and deterring from maruf (good), which is the
definition of a munafiq (hypocrite)
And when you (plural) divorced the women, then
they reached their term/time, then do not
prevent/hinder/constrain/straiten them (F) that they marry their
partners/mates, if they mutually agreed/accepted between them
with the kindness/fairness... [2:232]
Some say the underlined part refers to 'former husbands' other say it
is 'other partners', some translations do not clarify.
If "other partners/mates", the reasoning is as follows:
It is plural throughout.
If it did mean former husbands, seems like this scenario would be
covered in the previous verses.
Since one doesn't, as far as I'm aware, "nikah/marry" their former husbands
at the end of the term time, this is an unusual usage UNLESS it means
after they officially separate, i.e. two witnesses make it final, THEN
they wish to get back together later, i.e. remarry. But then this would
make those doing the preventing/hindering/straitening other people
which doesn't fit the flow of the verse, i.e. makes the "and if you
(plural) divorced the women" at the start redundant and potentially
misleading. I say this because if the husband mutually agrees on
remarrying then he is obviously not the one doing the
preventing/hindering/straitening, leaving the only option to be: others.
Why wait till end of their time/term, and then say the above? That
imply one must wait till the end of the term time before reconciliation
with their former husbands. Unless it is just saying that even after
the end of the period, doesn't mean it is over for all time, they can
still get back together, even though this is mentioned in the previous
verses so is an unlikely interpretation.
The following verse 2:233 refers to mothers who have been divorced,
implying a continuation of subject, i.e. situations that might occur
The "wa-itha" (and when) at
the start of 2:232 implies it is discussing
a different situation, not the same one.
"their azwaj" can mean the
female's spouse/husband/mate/partner BUT if
they are divorced, seems unusual to refer to them as "theirs", and
obviously, he is not her husband before re-marriage. So either way the
more appropriate translation is "their mates/partners".
The structure of 2:231 is very similar and refers to the husbands doing
the divorcing, not an inserted unmentioned group of others. If it meant
others, then it could have been added to 2:231.
The reason I bring up this clarification is that The Quran implies
mutual agreement is required between the two before marriage, giving an
equal footing to each side. Thus the likelihood of any male-female
dominance interpretation elsewhere is reduced and/or eliminated. It is
interesting to note that traditional commentators (exclusively male)
often opt for the interpretation that favours men. It is not uncommon
to find a repeated pattern of misogynistic interpretations amongst
translators, thus it is fairly clear that this was the environment the
early interpretations were exposed to and thus based on. In such a
situation, it makes it more likely that 4:34 has been interpreted to
mean beat/strike even though the evidence clearly suggests otherwise.
In fact, no traditional commentator that I have read uses The Quran
itself to justify
such a view, which is very noteworthy.
"And he entered the city
unexpectedly, without being noticed by the people. He found in it two
men who were fighting, one was from his own tribe, and the other was
from his enemy's. So the one who was from his own tribe called on him
for help against his enemy. Moses then punched/struck him (fa wakazahu musaa), and killed
him. He said: This is from the work of the devil; he is an enemy that
clearly misleads. [28:15]
It is interesting to notice here that the verb 'daraba' is not used at all when it
is obviously about a physical act of hitting/striking. It is not "fa darabahu musa" but "fa wakazahu musa".
Other Arabic root words for strike/beat: n-b-d, kh-f-q, h-z-m, r-d (as
"rfqat, trqa" as nouns, j-l-d 24:2, r-k-D 38:42, latama, rafasa, ha-sh-sha, sakkat:
What if the man is too weak to beat his wife? Is this man apparently
disadvantaged by The Quran in such a case? Not to mention, some females
can easily beat up males. The traditional/common interpretation
artificially inserts an inequality in that a woman apparently cannot
beat/strike her man. As far as I'm aware, no explanation for this is
given by most (perhaps all) translators. Some might suggest that for a
wife to strike her husband is ill-advised because generally men are
stronger than women thus he could retaliate and harm her more, but this
could equally be applied to the man! These days, a woman simply needs
to take a baseball bat to him in his sleep. Perhaps they will then
argue that is why it suggests the husband to abandon them in bed first!
In any case, many women can beat up men easily, so I do not think this
reasoning has any validity, or at least not enough to be a point for
Counter evil with good [2:148, 28:54, 13:22, 16:126, 23:96, 41:34] -
thus counteracting suspected
evil with physical harm would be contradictory, if done in 4:34.
If DRB in 4:34 means "beat/strike", this would be the only example of
husband as: judge, jury and executioner; the only example of guilty
verdict based on a fear/suspicion; the only clear example of
non-equivalent punishment; the only example of punishment for no
actual/proven crime etc. These are fundamental concepts core to The
Quran and cannot be put aside, unless they can be explained away
without causing logical/conceptual inconsistencies.
If it is only the husband who fears
disloyalty/uprising/infidelity, or even if he is sure of it, and if
there are no witnesses/evidence, then he must follow the procedure in
24:6-9 and cannot take it upon himself to administer any punishment.
Since a "fear/suspicion", as in 4:34, is certainly less than being
sure, it also cannot warrant any punishment. Anything to the contrary
would be an internal inconsistency in The
If we imagine a real life scenario in which a husband thinks his wife
is guilty of disloyalty/infidelity and therefore undergoes the steps in
4:34, as traditionally understood, then before the wife is "hit/beat"
she simply needs to say "let's go to court and apply 24:6-9 to your
accusation" to which the husband would be dumbfounded as he is
allegedly allowed to "beat" her yet according to 24:6-9 his accusation
would be rejected by the court! Thus giving us the ridiculous situation
of a wife being legally vindicated of her husband's accusation yet is
still allowed to be punished by her husband! There is no escaping this
obvious contradiction in the traditional understanding. It should be
noted however that traditional exegetes have attempted to remove this
problem by insinuating 4:34 discusses a case of clear
disloyalty/infidelity, even though this contradicts the actual Arabic
of The Quran. This view is also discussed later.
In 65:1, it clearly states that the husband can only evict the wife
from the home if she has committed a clear/evident lewdness/immorality (fahish mubayyin), thus logically
one must do less punishment for a suspected immorality as in 4:34.
Thus, the only logical position left for the traditional/common
understanding is to say wife battery is less harsh than eviction, thus
logically acceptable. Of course, this subjective opinion has no basis
in The Quran, and is a forced position resulting from their view.
The Quran does not recommend us to solve our conflicts by violence but
peacefully when possible. Is there any other example in The Quran in
which non-violence is met with violence?
IF the traditional view is if beating doesn't work, then it moves onto
next step which is arbitration this would imply the authority decides
upon "ok, you have beat them enough, we feared no reconciliation, now
it is time to appoint arbitration!". How is this even practically
possible? Do they inspect the beatings? Do they give a time limit on
beating? Do they take the husband's word for it when it comes to how
much beating is enough and how long for and if it was done in an
appropriate manner? These questions are of course impractical,
The traditional suggested sequence of events follows a somewhat unusual
pattern in that:
abandon them in the bedchamber ---> reduces physical
'beat/strike' them ---> adds to the physical contact/interaction
Now let us look at the verses discussing the relationship between male
and female, to see if wife beating fits:
O people, we created you
same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes that
you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of God
is the most God-conscious/righteous. God is Knowledgeable, Aware.
And from His signs is that
created for you mates from yourselves that you may reside with them,
and He placed between you affection and mercy. In that are signs for a
people who reflect. [30:21]
"...They are a garment for
you are a garment for them..." [2:187]
And those who say: "Our
grant us from our mates and our progeny what will be the comfort of our
eyes, and make us righteous role models." [25:74]
And the believing men and
they are allies to one another. They order good and deter from doing
Recompense for a
is its equivalence, but whoever pardons and makes right, then his
reward is upon God. He does not like the wrongdoers/unjust.
...oppression is worse than
murder... [2:191, 2:217]
Not equal are the good and
response. You shall resort to the one which is better. Thus, the one
who used to be your enemy*
may become your best friend. [41:34]
O you who believe, from
spouses and your children are enemies*
to you; so beware of them. And
if you pardon, and overlook, and forgive, then God is Forgiver,
These verses show that with an enemy one should resort to action that
is better, and even if one considers a spouse an enemy, one should
forgive etc. Thus, if we give an example of two wives: one in whom
fears uprising/disloyalty, and the other is considered an enemy, it is
recommended to forgive the enemy wife whilst the suspected wife should
be beaten, according to the traditional/common understanding. This
would mean a harsher punishment for a lesser offence, giving another
Examples of unrighteous/rebellious wives in The Quran, such as the
wives of Noah and Lot but no mention of striking/beating them is given.
The traditionally accepted view amongst Muslims is that verse 4:34
allows wife beating. Within this understanding, there are various
shades of interpretation, depending on school of thought, sect or
scholar, e.g. one can only beat lightly, it is only a last resort and
thoroughly disproved of, can only be done in a certain way, can only be
done once, it is a symbolic beating not causing actual harm etc. Some
have even used this verse and traditional sources to sanction wife
beating for other than what the context of the verse discusses.
now review the
Word meaning and preposition usage: the word in question is "idriboo" (Arabic root: Dad-Ra-Ba)
meanings are indicated by way of prepositions. Thus, it is often
claimed that DRB + object (e.g. person) only means one thing and
Based on part 1, as discussed previously, let us look to
- there is not a single occurrence of
which "beat" is the likely meaning.
- when DRB+object is used with no
prepositions, it NEVER means to physically hit/strike.
- even when body parts are mentioned
as what to DRB with or what to do DRB to/upon (e.g. 8:12, 8:50, 18:11,
24:31, 37:93, 47:4, 47:27) it doesn't mean a physical hit/strike,
or at least there is not one clear example showing it does.
- when used with an object with
no prepositions (e.g. Jesus,
parable, truth, falsehood, the captives, fronts/backs, a dry path) DRB always means "to put/show forth" and
using a literal strike/hit/beat meaning in these
occurrences would not work.
- the only times it can possibly mean a
literal hit/strike is when the preposition "bi"
(with/by) is used.
claim is only based on a wrong or poor interpretation of some verses of
The Quran, most notably 2:73, 8:12, 8:50, 38:44, 47:4, and 47:27.
2) Early understandings: early
interpretations/tafsirs, which were written
by males, say it means "beat/strike/scourge", e.g. see altafsir.com,
narrations/ahadith. It is very important to
commentator who puts forward the meaning of beat/strike uses The Quran
itself as evidence for their view.
his (source). Interestingly, nearly all commentators
mention prophet Muhammad
initially ruled in favour of the wife in cases of wife beating, but was
apparently over ruled when 4:34 was revealed, to which he allegedly
said "I wanted one thing, but God wanted another". Qurtubi even states
this was the reason 20:114 was revealed, yet other sources cite chapter
20 to be earlier revelation than chapter 4.
(alleged companion of prophet Muhammad) gave his view on the severity
of hitting, and said it is as with a small stick, e.g. siwak. The
famous jurist, Al Shafi (about 200 hundred years after prophet
Muhammad's death), interpreted it as a "miswak" which is a small stick used
for cleaning the teeth. Another famous commentator, Razi, quotes
another early jurist who said it can be a coiled scarf (mindil malfuf). It is hard to
understand how striking in such a symbolic
manner would help bring about resolution however. The very fact that early
commentators showed variation in meaning strongly suggests there was no
famous commentator, mentions suspecting a wife of something based on
conjecture is sinful! And when referring to 4:34 he mentions wife
beating (albeit not harshly or leaving a mark) but also mentions that
the wife should be separated gradually, in increasing steps, and even
cites an example in which the prophet apparently separated from his
wife for a month. They key point is that even though Ghazali mentions
the process of separating from the wife gradually with respect to 4:34,
he somehow interjects wife beating even though this has nothing to do
with separating gradually. Also, if the wife is suspected of doing
something disloyal not in the husband's presence then leaving her alone
for 30 days doesn't seem to make much sense. Also, a husband's duty of
maintenance of the wife/family would still be present, thus abandoning
them for such a period may not be practical.
if we correlate this traditional interpretation with the implication in
4:34 being that anything other than or after advisement is implied to
be seeking a way against them, and 2:226-227, that could indicate why,
in theory, step 2
(abandoning them in bed) could be limited in time. Interestingly, they
apply no such limit for idriboo them. Thus, according
to this traditional position, step 2, the lesser harsh step is limited
in time, yet the more harsh step, i.e. if it means beating/striking, is
not limited in time. This would result in a logical and conceptual
inconsistency in their interpretation of The Quran. Since there is no
time limit implied for idriboo,
It could also be argued that separating oneself from one's wife, except
in the house, actually goes against some traditional ahadith. Unless
Ghazali meant in the house only, but this would render his
interpretation a little odd and impractical.
should also be noted
commentators also give variations in understanding on other aspects of
this verse, i.e. there is no coherent view. Also, not all early
commentaries were reviewed as there are many (at least several hundred*), thus only the more popular ones
*source: www.idc.nl based
the British Library Arabic script collections.
Tabari, Ibn Kathir, Razi, Qurtubi: source: www.maktabah.org/index.php/quran/tafsir.html
Baidawi: source: www.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/showayatafseer.php
Traditional Narrations (ahadith):
narration/hadith about wife
beating references the prophet Muhammad's alleged speech during his
Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasulallah":
"You have rights over your wives, and they have rights over you. You
have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they
should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to
put them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not with severity. If
they refrain from these things and obey you, they have right to their
food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for
they are your wards having no control of their persons."
“The Life of Muhammad”, Oxford, 1955, page 651. (Translation of one of
the earliest accounts of prophet Muhammad, apparently written about 150
years after his death)
"And fear Allah in women, for they are your aides, and their duties
towards you are that your beds should not be shared with someone you
dislike. Therefore, if they disobey you, beat them lightly (dharbun ghayru nubrah)..."
Sahih Muslim, narrated on the
authority of Jabir, who had quoted the Prophet as saying in his
In a hadith in Sahih Muslim, narrated
on the authority of Jabir Al Taweel,
the Prophet said: "fear Allah with your
wives. You were given them by Allah’s provision, and you were entrusted
with their private parts by Allah’s word. You have the right that they
do not allow anyone you dislike into your bed, but if they do, then
beat them but not severely...".
Al Tirmithi (no. 276) reported that Amro bin Al Ahwas had attended the
Farewell hajj and heard the
Allah say: "Lo! My last recommendation to you is that you should treat
women well. Truly they are your helpmates, and you have no right over
them beyond that - except if they commit a manifest indecency (fahisha mubina). If they do, then
refuse to share their beds and beat them without indecent violence (fadribuhunna darban ghayra mubarrih).
their garb and provision."
(source: one and two)
Different versions of this narration exist, which is problematic when
trying to draw solid conclusions, but not unexpected when such
narrations are based on hearsay recorded generations after the event.
Two versions discuss beating them because of committing "fahisha mubina" (open/clear/evident
immorality/lewdness/indecency), whilst the other two do not mention
this. It should be strongly noted that "fahisha mubina" is NOT the context
of 4:34 in which the husband fears (imperfect) such a thing, and it
clearly mentions the ghayb/unseen/private,
clearly implies, according to these two
narrations, that in 4:34 a husband cannot beat his wife because these
narrations are not applicable, which is the
opposite of the traditional/common understanding! If a verse had to be
chosen which most closely resembles the content of this narration it
would be 4:15-19, and therefore any punishment may have been in
Some commentators interpret "fahisha
mubina" in this case as "adultery" (source), but
if this is the case, then beating is not the punishment, but lashes are
according to The Quran. Thus, this may have been a reference to that
punishment, i.e. lash but not with severity. Interestingly, in
Classical Arabic dictionaries, DRB used on its own in this way
principally means to strike with a weapon/object, e.g.
with a whip, which matches this context.
Also, some commentators think that stoning to death is the punishment
for adultery (even though it is not in The Quran), but this opinion
does not match the above narrations. Some consider the verses
sanctioning stoning to death to have been eaten by a goat, and that is
why they are not found in The Quran. Some consider the punishment for
adultery/fornication to have been abrogated by later verses, e.g. first
it was confinement to the home, then it was lashing, then a combination
of lashing and stoning depending on situation, i.e. a gradual
implementation to ease transition. There is no coherent view amongst
again in prophet Muhammad's alleged speech in
his farewell hajj it makes
reference to such fahish.
Ibn Kathir also makes mention of a husband allowed to annoy his wife if
she commits a proven fahish, which
resolve the many problems in this interpretation.
a mix of narrations: some
sayings state that prophet Muhammad disproved of beating one's wife in
whilst on other occasions he apparently allowed it, some say beat but
the face, some not severely,
sometimes stating husbands who do such a thing are not the best among
the believers, sometimes saying the best are those who treat their
women/family well, Aisha claims Muhammad did not hit a woman but
reports in another narration he struck her and
caused her pain etc.
Such variation is common amongst hearsay recorded generations after an
event, and is not equal to dealing with one consistent source [Quran,
At best, traditional narrations are seen as a mix of truth and
falsehood, hence weak and strong classification.
If we assume these narrations
actual discussion of the time, there does seem to be a mix of opinion,
or at least one can say there is no coherent view. It is possible some
at the time wished to interpret 4:34 to mean
hit/beat and favoured this view, or this view became dominant shortly
afterwards amidst the
environment which The Quran was revealed in.
(do not strike her on the face)
(do not beat her)
(do not beat them)
(do not beat, then given permission, but such men are not the best)
(man will not be asked why he beat his wife)
(negative towards wife beating)
(Aisha says Muhammad never hit a woman)
(Muhammad strikes Aisha)
(negative towards wife beating)
(striking women in Muhammad's presence)
(marrying a wife beater not recommended)
(Abu Bakr, 1st Caliph, strikes Aisha violently)
(wife flogging V slave flogging)
(wife beating V slave beating)
“The most perfect of believers in faith are those who are the finest in
manners and most gentle toward their wives.” referenced
hadith/narration in Imam
"The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best
of you to my wives." Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (3895) and Ibn Majaah
(1977); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi. Also see
Classical Arabic Dictionaries: it is often claimed they give the
meaning of hit/strike/beat for same or similar usage. This is only part
of the story however.
an instrument (e.g.
sword, whip, cane), if it is used alone (i.e. with no
prepositions/where/what/how). This seems to be its meaning by default
in this construction. Interestingly, this provides a possible
reason as to why some early jurists may have interpreted DRB in 4:34 to
mean hit with a small stick, toothbrush stick, scarf (i.e. they needed
instrument to DRB with in this construction).
In the entry for DRB, none reference 4:34
of The Quran and therefore
do not give the meaning
of beat/hit/strike in this case.
In the first Classical Arabic
Dictionary: Kitab Al Ayn by
Khaleel Ibn Ahmad, no entries mean "to hit/strike"; some
mean, indirectly: to strike with a sword: click
reference. This could imply the
meaning of literally/physically striking with/without an instrument was
not a common meaning for the time, or at least not the most common, and
only later did it
become so, as recorded in later dictionaries.
Conversely, WKZ (also
used in The Quran), signifies “to punch, to strike” with no instruments by default, but can be used with an
instrument if specified.
Ibn Manzour in Lisaan al
Arab lists what I think is an important entry:
"DRB: used for any action
except a few; he DRB in trade, he DRB in the earth, he DRB in
the way of God” etc. This implies the word DRB had a very wide
application in usage. Similar to this is also stated in Kitab al Ayn.
To beat is
blows/hits/strikes, hence this meaning should be seen more as an interpretation not an
actual meaning or true/literal translation.
Lane's Lexicon states "daraba"
on its own means to
strike once. It is possible this is also one of the reasons some saw it
symbolic strike with a stick since by itself it can mean this and it is
only once. Similarly, the later Arabic dictionary al-Munjid restricts
usage to instruments, and also states it means to strike once.
Even though Lane's Lexicons lists "beat" as a meaning for DRB it does
not provide a comparable example to 4:34 in which it means
"hit/strike/beat". In fact,
no Classical Arabic dictionary provides such an example. The
only comparable example found was in the famous grammar book "al kitab"
by Sibawayh (who was a student of Khaleel Ibn Ahmed) in which it is written:
زيداً / Abdullah struck Zaid
However, due to this word's meaning, in this context the
default meaning would be struck with sword in battle/war, e.g. killed.
It is not explained as beat/hit.
The dictionaries seem to suggest the meaning "strike/beat"
does not stand for "daraba" by itself. Every strike or "darba" has a
different word, depending on what part to strike and using what. The
verb "daraba" by itself means to strike with a sword, cane or whip; and
this is from all arabic dictionaries. That is most likely why they say
in the beginning of the entry: al darb: known (i.e. its meaning is
known, thus it is not explained). There is DaaRaBa (form III): whip
each other; a scorpion darabat (form I)= sting; a wound= hurts;
dariiba (passive participle): whatever is struck with a sword. The word
"known" implies it is what's known to linguists, thus, based on the
evidence in the entries: DaRaBa on its own means to strike with a
sword/stick as in a quarrel or in war. The abbaside poet (al-Mutannabi)
ومرهف سرت بين
الجحفليـــن به **** حتى ضربت و موج الموت يلتطم
(on a light, slim "horse" I passed between two big armies until I
(darabtu) amongst the waves of death)
Transliteration: wa murhafun sirtu bain al- ja7falaini bihi **** 7atta
Darabtu wa mawju-l-mawti yaltaTimu
In Abraham's example in 37:93 it is DRB with his hand (if
taken literally), thus DRB by itself does not mean with the hand. Also,
the Classical Arabic dictionary Lisaan al Arab and Taj al Arus it
أَهْوَ" meaning "he
stretched his hand
towards such a thing (e.g. to take it)" or "point/indicate with hand to it",
Under other root entries, the use of some words are explained by the
dictionary authors using DRB to mean hit/strike/slap however, for
him with a stick” this is given the meaning “he DRB him with a stick”
“he SML him with a stick” this is given the meaning “he DRB him
with a stick”
“he SQL him with a stick” this is given the meaning “he DRB him
with a stick”
“he LBJ him with a stick” this is given the meaning “he DRB him
with a stick”
“he LBJ his self to the earth” this is given the meaning “he DRB
his self to the earth”
“he SKK him” this is given the meaning “he DRB him”
“he SKK him with a sword” this is given the meaning “he DRB him”
“he LTG him with his hand” this is given the meaning “he DRB him”
“he ZLG him with a stick” this is given the meaning “he DRB him
with a stick”
entry of nushuz it only
cites the part
of nushuz: when a woman
rejects her husband. It continues: "he is also nashez as per verse
also, and if he stays away from her, beat/harmed her (darabaha)". This is interesting
because if DRB is cited under nushuz,
behaviour is nushuz.
other words, God's
suggested solution to prevent a
marriage ending gives the women a legitimate reason for ending the
marriage. Of course, this is highly unlikely. This information can be
found in both Lisaan al Arab and Al-Sihah
far from conclusive that this is its meaning in this verse. In
such a situation, The Quran should be used as the criterion which
clarifies usage and meaning.
(in chronological order)
kitab al ayn - khalil ibn ahmad (~718-786)
al Dajmharah (~838-933)
Makayis al Lughah (~1004)
Al Sihah (~1003)
al qamus al muhit (14th century)
Note: Before I begin this summary, I would like to state that
I did not expect to discover what I did when I undertook this study. In
fact, the meaning of "put/show forth, declare/cite/indicate" for 4:34
was a meaning I had read, but did not seriously consider. I only did so
about halfway through my
study, when the evidence began to accumulate and by the end it had
become overwhelming, and I was forced to reject any and all previous
understandings that I may have had. I simply could not ignore what The
Quran was telling me. For the purposes of full disclosure, it should be
noted that at one point I did consider "strike/beat" as a possibility,
but that was until I did a complete re-analysis of the occurrences of
DRB in The Quran.
A detailed analysis of every occurrence of DRB in The Quran showed
there is not one clear occurrence of "beat", and in almost all cases,
this meaning is problematic or would not make sense.
Classical Arabic dictionary gives "beat" in an example without
specifying where/what/how/etc. They do not provide one example in which DRB appears with no
where/what/how meaning anything other than "strike (with
sword/whip/cane, kill in battle)". None reference 4:34 at all.
The Quran uses DRB to possibly mean a literal strike/hit the
preposition "bi" (with/by) is
always used in the context. This subtle distinction may not have been
fully appreciated or suppressed in a misogynist environment or lost
over the years. Please note the significant time gap between the first
Classical Arabic dictionary and later ones, thus the meaning of this
word could have shifted over the years which is very common in a living
language. For example, today it is quite common for Arabic speakers to
use DRB to mean "hit/punch/smack/strike" without specifics/preposition,
even though this usage is unheard of in Classical Arabic dictionaries,
thus convincing an Arabic speaker of today that DRB could mean
something other than this can be difficult.
DRB is taken to mean "beat/hit/strike" in 4:34 it causes significant
problems logically and conceptually, and in a few instances causes
contradiction within The Quran. This is also probably why no Quran
commentator, past or present, uses The Quran itself to justify this
internal example of 58:1-4 provides perfect explanation and correlation
for 4:128-129, and also 4:34-35. All other evidence within The Quran
reinforces this finding. The understanding put forward in this work is
also the only understanding to provide a logical and sequential link
from 4:34 to 4:35.
All examples of DRB with a direct object and no prepositions
mean "put/show forth", providing internal consistency of usage. And
when used in the same way as 4:34, i.e. applied to a person in 43:57
and 2:73 it means the exact same thing. In 43:57 Jesus is the second
object of the verb DuRiBa, and in this verse it is in the perfect
passive form meaning the object received the action expressed in the
verb, i.e. Jesus received DRB, i.e. Jesus was put/shown forth /
cited/indicated (as an example) by those disputing. In 43:57 "mathala"
could be considered an adverbial accusative that names or modifies the
action of the verb. So the type of "darab" of the object "Jesus" is
that of an "example". As we can clearly see a literal/physical striking
of Jesus is nonsensical, and if we remove this modification of the
verb, this shows when applied to a person as the object DRB on its own
means to cite/indicate or put/show forth. A perfect match with 4:34 and 2:73.
is inconsistency in early understandings regarding the origin of the
verse, its interpretation,
and significant overlap with other verses etc but it could be argued
they agree on
the basic points. Not all early
commentaries have been reviewed, only the more well known ones. The evidence suggests that traditional narrations have been
incorrectly associated with 4:34, and are more suited to 4:15-19.
evidence exists in the traditional narrations/ahadith AND Classical
Arabic dictionaries showing that if "beat/hit" is chosen it would cause
contradiction amongst these sources.
a sheer balance of probabilities as to which view is correct, it is
clear The Quran says one thing, and non-Quranic sources (traditional
narrations, early commentators, Arabic dictionaries) suggest another
variation/inconsistency. If "hit/beat/strike" is chosen then the only
possibility, without causing a contradiction with The Quran, is if it
is done with absolutely no pain caused, i.e. symbolic. Anything more
would be a criminal act. This may explain why some early
commentators/jurists chose to interpret it in a symbolic way. Of
course, this is not the meaning The Quran overwhelmingly points to, but
it is the only viable option left for the traditional/common position.
Lastly, if 4:34 meant to
clearly mean "beat/strike" why does The Quran
use one of the most multiple meaning words in the Arabic language?
Similarly, one could ask, if it was not meant to mean "beat/strike" why
use a word that could have this implication? I believe the reason for
this is two-fold: 1) only a careful study of The Quran leads to
deciding which one is the most likely choice 2) it is one of many
internal distinguishing mechanisms contained within The Quran. By the
latter point, I mean many read The Quran and use it to justify their
crimes, whilst others can read The Quran and use it as a force for
good. Some examples:
The oft quoted "kill non-believers" verses in which the context is
never considered as it always refers to self-defence and never
transgressing the law of equivalence etc. Some use these verses to
justify murder whilst others use it to discredit The Quran and/or islam - neither side reads the
context, giving an insincere
bringing out their true colours.
The verse which recommends us to give the excess when we give [2:219]
which to those naturally stingy/insincere will use to justify
withholding and giving less and whilst others who are naturally
righteous/sincere will know exactly what to give: that which is truly
due in an honourable manner.
When verses discuss women's dress code, emphasising modesty, some will
interpret that to the utmost extreme and ask women to fully cover up,
whilst others will never request such a thing as they truly fear
exceeding the just limits set out in The Quran. As such there is no
consensus on women's dress code (see this
link for verse references). In fact, it could be said that an
internal distinguishing mechanism is purposely built into The Quran,
Knowing this, it could be said that The Quran
used the most
profound and distinguishing of word choices in 4:34 and surely God
would not choose His Words in a haphazard manner. If multiple options
exist, then a word meaning must be chosen that is consistent with the
spirit of The Quran and certainly not one that contradicts its content
remember that a
book is sometimes
good as its reader. Whatever disposition a person has will determine HOW they understand The
Quran. Their moral convictions will determine what they will get from
and how they will interpret it, what they choose to apply. More
importantly, it will determine which
definitions of any given word
they will gravitate to and seek
to uphold. In part, this is the beauty of The Quran: it can bring out
is already within us: our true selves.
like to end with reflecting on the concept inherent in the
traditional/common understanding of 4:34, and that is to punish another
based on a fear/suspicion because one is in a position of power to
do so. An act
inherently unjust to the ordinary
person, but when it comes to practices in the name of a religion,
will commit the most heinous of acts, no matter how irrational. But how
wicked is such an act? Let us all turn to The Quran for an answer.
same word "fear" (Arabic root: Kha-Waw-Fa) occurs 120 times in The
Quran and there are other examples in which believers fear something
(e.g. fear injustice/sin from one making a statement [2:182], fear not
maintaining God's bounds [2:229], fear not acting justly to the orphans
or their mother in marriage [4:3], fear betrayal from those with a
treaty [8:58], fear unexpected visitors [38:22]) and in ALL cases there
not a mention of resorting to physical violence. To my utmost surprise
only one example showing punishment or threat of physical punishment
based on a fear/suspicion, and the figure threatening to do such a
thing was the
undisputed greatest tyrannical archetype in The Quran: Pharaoh.
God judges with the truth, while those they call on besides Him do not
judge with anything. Certainly, God is the Hearer, the Seer.
they not roamed the Earth and seen how was the consequence of those who
were before them? They used to be stronger than they, and had built
more in the land. But God seized them for their sins, and they had no
protector against God.
is because their messengers used to come to them with proofs, but they
rejected. Thus God seized them; for He is Mighty, severe in punishment.
We had sent Moses with Our signs, and a clear authority.
Pharaoh, Haamaan, and Qaroon. But they said: "A lying magician!"
when the truth came to them from Us, they said: "Kill the children of
those who believed with him, and spare their women." But the scheming
of the rejecters is always in error.
Pharaoh said: "Leave me to kill Moses, and let him call upon his Lord.
I fear that he may
change your system, or that he will cause evil to spread throughout the
is promising you will afflict you. Surely, God does not guide any
"I am but showing you that
which I see, and I am but guiding you in the right path."
Those who dispute about God's signs
without any authority that has come to them, it is greatly abhorred
with God and by those who believe. God thus seals the hearts of every
God sanction believers to act in a manner that in any way could be
likened to the greatest of all tyrants?
Please reflect upon this story of Pharaoh, and the justification he
gives, the next time someone advocates physical punishment based on a
fear in 4:34.
call upon all my dear brothers and sisters in faith to reflect upon
this information and the guidance given to us in The Quran, for if one
not read and try to apply a guide, then one cannot expect to be guided.
If one does not utilise light to illuminate their surroundings then
they will not be able to see. If one does not open themselves up to
receive, then they will remain closed. It is that simple. The
time has come to free ourselves from the chains and shackles that we
have built for ourselves like the past communities before us who
corrupted God's Words with man's words, holding
back from walking the path God intended for us: to promote peace,
freedom, betterment and justice for all. Surely, such a community would
worthy of God's blessings. No community can succeed if they oppress
half of their number, no community can succeed if they shackle half
their potential, and no community can succeed if they turn away from
God's message. This is God's promise, and He will surely fulfil His
part, the time has come to fulfil ours.
We have cited in this Quran every
example for the
people. But man was always most argumentative. [18:54]
I seek other than God as a judge when He has sent down to you the book fully clarified?
Those whom We have given the book know it is sent down from your Lord
with truth; so do not be of those who have doubt. And the word of your Lord is
completed with truth and justice, there is no changing His words.
He is the Hearer, the Knower. And
if you obey the majority of those on Earth they will lead you away from
God's path; that is because they follow conjecture, and they themselves
do nothing but guess. [6:114-115]
puts forth the example of a man who has for his masters several
partners that dispute with each other, and a man depending wholly upon
one man. Are they the same? Praise be to God; most of them do not know.
will die, and they will die. Then,
on the Day of Resurrection, you will quarrel at your Lord. Who then is more wicked
than one who
lies about God, and denies the truth when it comes to him? Is there not
in Hell an abode for those who deny the truth? [39:29-32]
not to change
the condition of
a people until they change what is in themselves... [13:11]
The men are supporters/maintainers of
the women with what God bestowed on some of them over others and with what they spent
of their money, so the righteous women are dutiful; guardians to the unseen
with what God guarded. And as for those women you fear their disloyalty, then:
(first) you shall
advise them, and (second) abandon them in the bed,
and (lastly) cite them (to
the authority). If
obeyed you, then seek not against them a way; Truly, God is High, Great. [4:34]
And if you (authority)
feared a rift between them two, then appoint a judge from his family and a judge from hers. If
they both want to reconcile, then God will bring agreement between them. God is
Knowledgeable, Expert. [4:35]
be upon you.
'Verbal Idioms of The Quran' by Mustansir Mir [source]
'Arabic-English Lexicon' by E.W. Lane [source]
'Dictionary of Holy Quran' by Abdul Manan Omar [source]
(multiple resources used)
(concordance/grammar/dictionary in one)
Quranic Arabic Corpus
This work would not have been
the many people who have contributed to this topic (both for and
without the resources now available to anyone wishing to study
The Quran in detail.
For these stepping stones, I am indebted and truly thankful. If my work
has helped strengthen the foothold of future generations who seek to
walk the path, then all praise is due to God.
This work reflects my personal
understanding, as of February 10th, 2010. Seeking knowledge is a
process and I will try to improve my understanding of the signs within
'the reading' (al quran) and
out with it, unless The God wills
information is correct
best of my knowledge only and thus
should not be taken as a fact. One should always seek knowledge and
themselves when possible: 17:36, 20:114, 35:28,
49:6, 58:11. If God willed, the
outcome of this
work will be beneficial.
And do not follow what you
have no knowledge of; surely the hearing, the sight and the heart, all
of these, shall be questioned about that. [17:36]