“Husbands should take good care of their wives, with (the bounties) God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in their husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them (of the teachings of God), then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them: God is most high and great.”
I had prayed to Allah (swt) to help me to understand this verse, because I honestly could not understand why Allah (swt) would allow hitting in a marriage.
Allah answered my dua with the video at the end of this post. I highly recommend that every Muslim watch it and that you also subscribe to the Bayyinah Institute youtube channel for more great Islamic videos.
The video begins by explaining that the theme of this surah, Surah Nisa, is that of laws which are about extreme, unusual cases. One verse says, for example, that a man cannot marry his mother or sister. This law is about an unusual case because it’s obvious to most people that such a marriage is wrong.
Nouman Ali Khan states, “This belongs to surah Al-Nisa so we must ask what conversation is this ayat a part of?Allah (swt) is talking about the most unusual cases…laws are for criminals so they cover the most unusual cases”
Basically the video is saying that hitting is only allowed in the case when a wife is clearly cheating on her husband. If the husband has a suspicion that she is cheating on him, but he is not sure, he should advise her, then not share the same bed, and then if he actually catches her with another man, he is allowed to hit her in this very extreme case.
Nouman Ali Khan explains that the hit cannot be hard and cannot leave a mark, according to many hadiths. He states,
“So this is only for a case of repeated infidelity of a wife and it drives a man nuts and he ends up losing his cool.”
This verse applies to when a man literally catches his wife with another man.
Nouman Ali Khan consulted with multiple Islamic scholars who all agreed with this meaning of the verse. The question is: why are so many Muslims not aware of this verse’s true meaning?
This verse is about protecting the fidelity and loyalty within marriage.
Yesterday I happened to read an authentic hadith which basically says the same thing!
The Prophet (peace be upon him) at the Farewell Pilgrimage stated, “If they (your wives) are guilty of open lewdness (i.e. sexually inappropriate behavior), then refuse to share their beds, and hit them, but not severely. But if they return to obedience, (then) do not seek means (of annoyance) against them. You have rights over your women and your women have rights over you. Your rights over your women are that they should not let anyone whom you dislike sit on your bed and they should not let anyone whom you dislike enter your house. Their rights over you are that you should feed and clothe them well.”
(Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1163 – he said this is a saheeh hasan hadeeth. Also narrated by Ibn Maajah, 1851)
Nouman Ali Khan ends the video by urging people in abusive relationships to seek help:
“If you hit people you have a problem. If you’re in an abusive marriage you need to get help–tell someone.”
This video was so meaningful to me because many Muslims misunderstand this verse. As Nouman Ali Khan says,
“…To have a problem with an ayah and you’re a Muslim–there’s something that needs to be resolved here…No ayah should be considered a curse or negative.”
Here is the video: