Why Muslim women need to stop justifying domestic violence in the name of religion

Published: May 11, 2017

Muslim men are allowed to hit their wives – not with fists, but gently using only short sticks and pieces of fabric, as per a video recently released by the Australian women’s branch of Hizbut Tahrir.

The video, posted on the Islamic political group Hizbut Tahrir’s Facebook page, shows two Australian Muslim women from Sydney telling a small audience of veiled women that Muslim husbands are in a position of leadership in ­a marriage and “it goes hand-in-hand that he would have the right to undertake disciplinary ­measures”.

The verse under discussion proposes three potential responses to unfaithfulness on part of the wife, namely, admonishing them, abandoning them in bed, and to beat them (4:34).

“What a beautiful blessing from Allah that he said not to take all the steps at one time. It is one after the other,” says Ms Latifi, while emphasising how men are only permitted and not encouraged or obliged to beat their wives on accord of unfaithfulness.

“He’s not responding through anger or frustration or rage; he’s responding in obedience to Allah’s (swt) commands, in a measured and staged way, because we know when people talk about violence against women, often it happens in the heat of the moment, in anger, in frustration and what not, whereas here, it’s managed.”

“It’s symbolic,” she insists, while a fellow panellist adds, “And a beautiful blessing.”

Justifying domestic violence, Ms Allouche says a husband might decide to hit his wife if she strayed from the teachings of the Holy Quran, because,

“He loves his wife, he fears for his wife, it’s almost a natural consequence.”

When I stumbled across this video for the first time, I had no doubt in my mind that this was quite obviously a satirical piece targeting the normalisation of domestic violence in conservative Muslim societies. As a satirical piece, I thought it was brilliant. And then came the hollowing realisation – the two women actually believed every word they were saying.

The verse in question has long been used by men to justify domestic violence in the name of Islam, but what comes as a surprise is the lack of resistance by educated Muslim women on this particular interpretation of this verse.

Religion, you see, is not set in stone. Anyone with a basic grasp of Islamic theology will tell you that apart from the very basic pillars of religion, there is difference of opinion in almost everything else. This particular verse is no different. Some interpretations of this verse argue the case that the Arabic verb ‘wadhribihunna’ which is translated as ‘beat them’ can also mean to ‘separate with them’, according to the context.

Looking at the verse from a rational perspective, it makes little sense that God in all His Wisdom would permit beating your wife as a last resort to ‘discipline’ her when the very foundation of marriage should be based on love and mutual affection (30:21). If the foundation of the marriage has been compromised on part of unfaithfulness, beating your wife hardly seems like a way forward. Rather, the interpretation that if mutual dialogue and barring intimacy doesn’t work, the couple should separate as a last resort seems much more sensible and befitting.

We usually suspend critical thinking in matters of religion because we’ve been taught, consciously and subconsciously, to never question what we’ve been brought up with. But this is a direct violation of the Holy Quran’s most fundamental of messages – dare to think for yourself, and do not blindly follow anyone as everyone is responsible for their own soul.

You cannot say that Islam is egalitarian while simultaneously maintaining that men are allowed to beat their wives. This is a glaring contradiction in belief, no matter how you try justifying it. It is high time that Muslim women acquaint themselves with the egalitarian roots of Islam and reject any and all interpretations which suggest otherwise. Such a step will be paramount in addressing the deep misogyny that is unfortunately rampant in our cultures.

For the love of all that is sacred, please do not be complicit in your own oppression.

Rohail Waseem

Ro Waseem

The author is a Muslim who writes about Progressive Islam. He runs a weekly blog on Patheos (www.patheos.com/blogs/quranalyzeit) and has contributed some of his articles to Huffington Post, Onfaith, & Tikkun, among others. He tweets as @Quranalyzeit (twitter.com/quranalyzeit)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Saud Umar Khan


  • Striver

    Let’s be honest and avoid headlines that generalise and play to the false stereotypes. An honest headline could have been ” Hizb women justify domestic violence” or similar.
    This is an example of one of the pathetic practices of Dawn. Recommend

  • Anon

    Zakir Naik also says the same what these women are saying………what do you say about……..just google his videos and you can get your answer.Recommend

  • fze

    Domestic violence is not justified under any pretext. Stop hiding behind the religion and stop construing wrong meanings to aayat and sunnah to justify the wrong doings.Recommend

  • Mama

    Its women like these, who are Islam’s worst enemies. When you suspend logical thinking and start behaving like sheep,Recommend

  • farhan

    yup quran(Surah nisa) and hadith(Bukhari) say it clearly..Recommend

  • Faraz

    Zakir Naik is a Fraud Recommend

  • siesmann

    IS there no law against domestic violence in Australia?Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    “Beating wife lightly” is allowed by the religion. But how light is “lightly”?Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    When you subjugate women for a 1000 years, they don’t even know if they have any rights. It will take a long time to get over the mindset.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Zakir Naik himself is in hiding and won’t face the charges levelled in India and Bangladesh against himRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    Girl:I like oranges.
    Feminist:You have been taught to like oranges , actually you like apples.

    Girl:No means no.
    Feminist:It only applies to boys , not to us.

    Hypocrisy at its finest.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    So much for the for the big talk – Islam treats men and woman as equals.. Recommend

  • rationalist

    That the quran recommends/permits husbands to hit his wife, isn’t it bad enough? Why all this spinning to make it look “acceptable and benign”? It is amazing to see Muslims tie themselves in knots to justify irrational and primitive edicts!Recommend

  • rationalist

    That depends on the mood of the husband and how the wife is!! Recommend

  • rationalist

    There were no Hizb women when the prophet came up with these revelations from God.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    A light beating increases blood circulation and gives “Laali” to complexion. This is high-tech cosmetology invented 800 years back.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Law cannot forcibly enter the bedroom. For the law of the land to apply, there has to be a complaint first.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    There is a common thread between this topic in discussion and other practices (at the minimum permitted halal acts) in islam. Those other practices include (1) four wives at a time (3) triple talaq and (3) female genital mutilation.
    It is not just Hizb woman that are practicing those acts. Additionally, many girls and woman have left their homes in Europe, Australia etc., and even Pakistan to join ISIS. They were not Hizb woman. Some even posted videos and FB comments on how good their lives are as sex slaves of ISIS. One Indian muslim woman (Uzma) left India to marry a Pakistani muslim man who was already married and has four kids. She even told the muslim man not to tell her brother that he has another wife and four children and also that he is not that much educated. She was an educated woman and I have not read that she was a hizb woman. She just had a change of heart after seeing the reality facing her. One female doctor of Indian origin was recently caught here in USA for having performed several FGM’s on girls as young as 6 years old in her clinic in USA.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “When you suspend logical thinking and start behaving like sheep,”….

    hmmmm… Doesn’t Islam demand that one fully submit and follow what is stated in the quran and the hadiths without question and not “think logically”?Recommend

  • fze

    Test it domestically, you’ll get to know. Recommend

  • fze

    Things you don’t understand don’t dabble into it. Stick to your religion of sati and devi, devtas.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Sorry my religion doesn’t sanction it.Recommend

  • Striver

    (1) four wives at a time: yes this is allowed in Islam and for good reason. How many practice it? In the Arab world it is not uncommon. Outside of the Arab world, it is not common.
    (2) Triple talaq: there are several schools of thought on this in Islam. There is room for change here and many would accept change. Some have abused the triple talaq.
    (3) Female genital mutilation: This is cultural and is practiced in Somalia and surrounding areas on the false belief that it leads to cleanliness; nothing to do with Islam.
    (4) Sex slaves are not allowed in Islam or any civilized society. Those who joined ISIS are misguided. Out of 1 billion Muslims if a few join ISIS you cannot say it is prevalent. I would be right in saying that you are taking this totally out of context.
    (5) Uzma and Pakistani man are two human beings behaving as typical human beings. Just because they are both Muslims does not necessarily mean they are following Islam in their personal relationship. She simply should have investigated the man more thoroughly. It shows immaturity of mind of both.
    I hope I have put this in context for you.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    (1) Triple talaq is not uncommon outside Arab world as you claim. In Pakistan, you have prominent persons like Shabaz Shafir, Hussein Nawaz, Nail Gabool, and many more. See what Nail Gabool says in this video which was a Ramzan program.too:
    In India some non-muslims in bollywood have converted to islam only to take a second wife. Hurriyat woman’s wing leader Asiya Andrabi’s husband has complained publicly in India that his wife Asiya has been forcing him to take more wives. Many muslim woman have this mindset.
    (2) Triple Talaq – See how Imran Khan divorced Reham Khan. He sent her a triple talaq text when she was on in a plane on her way to London and divorced her. He did not even pay her any financial settlement. He represents progressive Pakistan and is well educated from UK universities.
    (3) FGM – It is practiced even today by huge section in muslim community. >90% of Bhora muslims practice it in India, Pakistan and even her in USA. Most muslim females in Malaysia have undergone this procedure. The Indian origin female doctor who has admitted to performing FGM surgeries in USA is also a Bhora muslim. There are reports that claim that the number of muslim females who are above today and have undergone FGM is around 200 million which is as much as the population of all females in India and Pakistan taken together. FGM is not for any cleanliness as in most cases a lot, and entire organ is cut off. Also, if cleanliness was the case, God or evolution would have taken care of it. God is not going to give something that needs to be discarded. The objective is making woman slaves and women are for it too.
    On Uzma’s case, it is her willingness to marry a man who already is married and has four children. She wanted the man to keep it a secret from her own family too.Recommend

  • Nana

    Then why are you so curious? Move on, man.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    @Nana, you don’t like the subject, don’t talk about it. That’s where your mandate begins and ends.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    The verse says what it says. Don’t like the religion? Leave.Recommend

  • Striver

    Here in lies the problem. You have little knowledge of Islam and Pakistan. Its a cliche now but is still true, little knowledge can be dangerous. To me and any Muslim reading your comments, your lack of knowledge is the problem in understanding the issues.
    But, I don’t think you want to understand them. You want to use these to further reinforce your prejudices and hatred. Prejudices and hatred are based on ignorance. Sort your self out.

    You have totally misinterpreted Imran Khan’s talaaq. Again you don’t what you are talking about.

    You are telling me lies about FGM being prevalent. You are showing me you hate Muslims.Recommend

  • Videlicet

    The religion doesn’t give the option. It advocates killing those who leave it.Recommend

  • http://www.indianess.com creativeIndian

    Well, we all the root cause of all evil. Don’t we? One book to rule them all.Recommend