Verse 34 from Surah al-Nisa’ has been widely used to support, validate or justify the acts of violence towards wife.
“And if you sense ill-conduct from your women, advise them first, if they persist, do not share their beds, but if they still persist, then discipline them gently.” (An-Nisa’ 4:34)
According to scholars of Tafsir like Ibn Kathir and Al-Qurtubi, the translation/interpretation of dharb in verse 34 of surah An-Nisa’ refers to a blow that does not cause any injury after steps taken by the husband to discipline his wife have failed. In this case, the scholars have put in some additional conditions such as that the blow is not injurious, does not leave any scar, and should not hit the face or other sensitive and soft areas of the body such as the face. Darul Ifta’, Egypt, also stresses that the beatings should not be for the purpose of insulting or humiliating the spouse. This differs from domestic violence where the spouse is beaten to the point of injury and the violence occurs as a result of the abuser not able to control his emotions and anger.
At the same time, there are also the opinions of Islamic scholars who disagree with the interpretation of dharb with the meaning of hitting. Instead, they reinterpreted the verse with a fairer and balanced interpretation in line with the recommendations of the Prophet s.a.w.
The scholars have established that any reinterpretation of the verses of the Qur’an must be an interpretation that reconciles the context of logic and syara’. It takes into account the re-examination of the wisdom behind the syara’, the context and values contained in the Qur’an. In this matter, the reinterpretation takes into account the values and teachings in the Qur’an that tell husbands to serve their wives with makruf or good and forbid them from hurting and harming others. It is therefore necessary to understand the reinterpretation in accordance with the principles of shariah based on the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w., prophetic biography and the life history of the companions. In fact, the best understanding of the Qur’an is to reflect on the morals of the Prophet s.a.w. alone with his wives.
There are also contemporary Islamic scholars who are of the view that dharb here does not mean a blow but carries a general meaning for the word dharb according to the siyaq of the Qur’an which is to sever ties, separate, leave and keep away. It takes into account the advice from the sunnah where the Prophet s.a.w. separated himself from the residence of his wives. This was the most extreme but wisest choice made by the Prophet s.a.w., and not by means of beatings or by anything that physically hurt his wives.
The meaning of this separation is more important and appropriate than the interpretation of the meaning of a blow/beating which would lead to pain, physical injury and violence. All these meanings are far from the meaning of a friendly relationship between the husband and wife or the bond of love between them.
Advice not to hit is more appropriate
Without denying the views of the majority of scholars who are more inclined to the permissibility of beating a nusyuz wife as a means to educate, it is important for us to understand this view while appreciating the teachings of the Prophet s.a.w. as well as his conduct with his wives.
The Prophet s.a.w. never educated his wives by beating except that it was sufficient to simply separate himself from the residence of his wives. Unless engaged in religiously driven warfare, the Prophet s.a.w. himself had never resorted to violence. It was reported from Aisha r.a.: “The Prophet of God, may peace and blessings be upon him, never hit anyone with his hand, neither a woman nor a servant, except when struggling in the path of God.”
Such is the conduct of the Prophet s.a.w. towards his wives which is the best interpretation of the context of the hit in the Qur’an because the conduct of the Prophet s.a.w. is the Qur’an.
On the other hand, in all marital conflicts, it is necessary to re-evaluate everyone’s mistakes and shortcomings as a whole, that is, including both spouses’ responsibilities in the marriage. Any domestic conflict does not simply focus on the issue of the wife’s obedience towards the husband, but also the husband’s responsibilities towards his wife that needs to be obeyed. Couples also need to take into consideration each others’ grievances. Any frequent misunderstandings and disagreements are among the signs of communication problems between the couple. In this case, it is important for every couple to be tolerant and accepting of each others’ differences. If this persists, then the couple should seek immediate help from a third party such as a family counsellor.
Most certainly, domestic violence is strictly forbidden in Islam. There is no permission to cause any injurious beating, slap on the face, kicking and so on. This is the view agreed upon by all Islamic scholars.
 Muhammad ‘Imarah, Haqaiq Wa Shubhat Hawla Makanat al-Mar’ah Fi al-Islam, (Kaherah: Dar al-Salam, 2010),171.
 Dar Al-Ifta’ Al-Misriyyah, “I am Pregnant and My Husband Beats Me Up. Is He Allowed to Hurt Me?” Dar Al-Ifta’ Al-Misriyyah. Accessed 17 October 2021. https://www.dar-alifta.org/Foreign/ViewFatwa.aspx?ID=6834.
Siyaq is an indicator used to determine the intended meaning of the speaker or the word order. It is a frame in which the elements of the text and the linguistic unit function to connect, not only the words but also the series of sentences and the situations and conditions that accompany them. Then, the reader and listener of the text would be able to find its meaning and idea from the whole set of elements. Please refer to M. Quraish Shihab, Kaidah Tafsir: Syarat, Ketentuan dan Aturan Yang Patut Anda Ketahui Dalam Memahami Al-Quran. (Jakarta: Lentera Hati, 2013), 253-254.
 Dr ‘Abd al-Hamid Abu Sulayman, Dharb al-Mar’ah: Wasilah Khilafat al-Zawjiyyah, (Virginia: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002), 26.