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Q & A Continued
How to understand the
Issues of Women's
Doesn't the Qur'an 4:34 Put Men Above Women, Even
Giving them the Right to
[For introductory notes to this answer see
previous issue on "Wife's
obedience to Husband."
Qustion from Adam Seedat, South Africa:
How do you reconcile your view on the wife's
obediance to verse 4:34 which
deals with the light beating of the wife?
[by Kaukab Siddique]
Many Muslims in our times have delinked the
Qur'an from the Hadith which
enshrines the life of the Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh). When these misled Muslims
take the Qur'an, they take it one verse at a time
and try to make the claim
that in itself each verse is ultimate in meaning.
Thus when they are faced with
chapter 4 verse 34 of the Qur'an, we find Muslims
taking these postures:
1. Some say the verse makes men the "rulers" of
2. They add that women must obey their husbands
3. They claim that if men display "nushuz"
(rebellion) against the husband,
then the husband can carry out a three stage
withdrawal from the wife,
resulting in him beating her (lightly) for her
4. The commentary of this group gives the
impression that women are the
slaves of men.
These are the ‘modernist' apologists who are
reacting to the West's attack on
the Qur'an. They make weird efforts to twist the
meaning of the verse to
avoid its obvious meaning. The Pervaizi sectarian
types use the dictionary. They
find that, Arabic being a versatile language, the
word used for 'beating' can
also mean having sex. So they grab hold of this
straw to, in their thinking,
save Islam from barbarism which Western
writers accuse it of. For them
4:34 does not imply inequality at all.
[Some writers, who are not Pervaizi but also want
to have "Qur'an alone,"
like Amina Wadud, have worked hard on 4:34 to
make it say what it obviously does
The problem with the writings of this group is
that it creates a "Qur'an"
made in its own image according to which there is
no issue of application or
context. For them, there is no difference between
war torn Afghanistan and an
'Islamic' conference in a Hilton Hotel.
In my book
THE STRUGGLE OF MUSLIM WOMEN,
shown the original, Islamic
way of understanding the Qur'an, which is through
My viewpoint is that the Qur'an was a PROGRESSIVE
here means that it went from stage to stage. The
HADITH indicates and provides
SOIAL CONTEXT without which the Qur'an cannot be
understood. I note in my
book, for instance, that according to HADITH,
4:34 was revealed in the early
al-Fadail). That was a time when the
Muslim community was not perfectly formulated and
people coming into Islam,
especially women, had to be disciplined to
understand that they could no longer keep
in touch with men they knew beforehand. Sexual
promiscuity was common in
pre-Islamic Arab society. Also, on marriage, men
would not take proper economic
care of the wife. Hence the emphasis on this
verse on men being "maintainers and
I also showed that the word NUSHUZ in 4:34 is not
about the willfulness or
rebellion of the wife but, as indicated by
Hadith, sexual misconduct. It's the
kind of loose sexual behavior which can undermine
As the Qur'an was revealed progressively, Sura 24
verses 6-10, do not
indicate any right to physically discipline the
wife. In fact these verses indicate
that even where the husband is alleging adultery,
he cannot do anything other
than to take an oath. The Hadith makes it clear
to us that the Prophet (pbuh)
forbade men to hit their wives. His SUNNAH, which
is the model for all
Muslims, shows, according to hazrat ‘Ayesha
(r.a.), that he never raised his hand
against any woman.
From Hadith, we know that the last
verses on male-female
relationships were 9:70-71 and these state very
clearly that BELIEVING MEN AND
WOMEN are EACH OTHER'S GUARDIANS and PROTECTORS.
[These verses do not say that
men are guardians and protectors of the
Obviously, by the time Sura
Tauba (chapter 9) was revealed, the Islamic
community led by the Prophet (pbuh)
had reached its perfection, which of course we
know from Hadith.
Those who have a static view of the Qur'an
tie themselves into knots by
applying the "Qur'an only" method to 4:34 (of
course in the process adding the
Arabic dictionary while leaving out the Hadith).
(To be continued)
2003-08-02 Sat 07:15ct