In chapter four of the Quran entitled Women there is a very controversial verse (4:34). Translators and Arabic readers alike have misinterpreted the Arabic word idribuhunna to mean ‘to beat’. The root word daraba has one of the longest lists of definitions in the Arabic dictionary. It is the principal multiple meaning word in Arabic.
Many translators, imams, mullahs and scholars have chosen to use the traditional interpretation of the word to mean that a woman can be beaten for disloyalty to or rebellion against her husband.
A reminder here that chapter four is dedicated to the protection and care of women and that the Quran states that men and women are equal to one another in their rights as believers (3:195). So does this rule apply to men who are disloyal to their wives?
Yusuf Ali’s uses his own parenthesis throughout his translation of the verse and as if to apologising to women he adds the word (lightly) after he has beaten us.
…As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance)…
Marmaduke Pickthall would have women scourged, a word which can mean cursed, terrorised, tormented or devastated.
…As for those women, from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them…
Mohamed Shakir also used the word ‘beat’ when dealing with deserting wives. Does this apply to deserting husbands too?
…and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them…
Rashad Khalifa also says that women should be beaten but he puts in parenthesis that it should be used as a last resort.
…If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them…
Edip Yuksel has a very different take on the word and translates it as ‘separate from’.
…As for those women from whom you fear disloyalty, then you shall advise them, abandon then in the bed chamber, and separate from them, if they obey you, then do not seek a way over them…
In his Reformist Translation of the Quran, he and his co-authors have listed ten meanings ascribed to the word ‘daraba’ and have given verses from the Quran in which the word is used in the context of its definition:
• To travel, to get out: 3:156, 4:101,
• To strike: 2:60, 73, 7:160
• To beat: 8:50, 47:27
• To set up: 43:58, 57:13
• To give (examples): 14:24, 45, 16:75, 76, 112
• To take away, to ignore: 43:5
• To condemn: 2:61
• To seal, to draw over: 18:11
• To cover: 24:31 (used to tell women to cover their chests, cleavage, not their heads)
• To explain: 13:17
The controversial verse 34 has been interpreted by misogynistic males who have decided that this one word daraba gives men the right to beat disloyal, rebellious wives.
The verse also says that righteous women who are under the care of a man will happily go along with his wishes, if he is the sole breadwinner and captain of the ship.
If a rebellious woman chose not to comply with his wishes then first, he should discuss it with her; then if she is his wife abandon the bed chamber; finally if that fails, separate from her until they come to an agreement.
It would seem more logical that this was the instruction from God, because if, as is the case in some households today, the wife is the sole bread winner, then surely her word is that of captain. Could a husband then be beaten and scourged if he rebels and is disloyal to his wife, after she has put in a hard day’s work to place food on the table and pay the bills?
Chapter 30, verse 21
Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquillity and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think