BATTERING OF WOMEN
The Qur'an foresees beating both for men and women as punishment for adultery. Man's self-styled prerogative to batter his spouse for subduing her is irreconcilable with the justice fostered by our religion. Over long centuries in which supremacy of strength prevailed, women's rights were trodden upon and the weaker sex, as she was called, had been denigrated. The same mentality had interpreted the Arabic word 'darb' as beating and suited the action to the word. The word has in fact a variety of meanings, only one out of twenty or so meanings is indeed 'beating': thus, in marital disputes and misunderstandings, the man believed to have the privilege and supremacy over her and battered her.
The Prophet, embodiment of the Qur'an, has always revered women and never behaved harshly toward them despite occasional misunderstandings between them as we infer from the Qur'an. Yet, because of ignorance, malevolence they try to vilify the Islam and depreciate it especially in the eyes of women. Beating of wives is not prescribed in the Qur'an and the Prophet himself is never reported to have done so, even though gently.
BEATING OR REMOVAL
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),(keep her away?); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): (4/34)
In the verse three alternatives are suggested to the husband: 1) Admonish her; 2) If this fails to serve the purpose, let them alone in their beds; 3) If even the last attempt proves to be in vain, see to it that they are temporarily removed from their domiciles. The objective is to keep the family united and not disrupt the matrimonial ties. The third alternative, given by the Arabic word fadribuhünne has been the cause of controversies and some interpreters and commentators translated it as beating.
The Arabic word 'fadribuhune' has been interpreted in divergent ways. It is an imperative case of the root 'darb'. The word has been used in the following verses in the Qur'an and has some twenty meanings. To illustrate by a parable (Surah 14/24), (Surah 75-76), (Surah 30/28); to go abroad, to stray (Surah 4/94; Surah 5/106); To strike a path (Surah 20/77); To transgress (Surah 43/5); To be covered, branded with humiliation (Surah 2/61; 18/11); To smite (Surah 8/50); to strike by hand ( 37/93), To smite (8/12), to beat with a stick ( Surah 2/60, Surah 7/160), (Surah 26/63); )Surah (38/44).
The said word should be interpreted as 'removal'. Had it been interpreted as 'beating', an innocent woman who would have given her husband for one reason or another cause to suspect a disloyalty on her part would have been unjustly beaten by her husband. Flogging of an adulteress is prescribed in Surah 24/2. (Prof.Dr. Yaşar Nuri Öztürk, Islam Nasıl Yozlaştırıldı. pp 341-348)
APPLICATION OF VERSES IN THE LIGHT OF SUNNA
Sunna is the body of Islamic custom and practice based on Muhammad's words and deeds. Muhammad, sent by God as His messenger to communicate the mankind the divine law and practice of it, has behaved toward his wives with utmost gentleness and indisputable probity despite occasional matrimonial misunderstandings. The verses (33/28-34) and (66/1-5) reflect his behavior and opinion about them. Let none of you beat his wife as if she were his slave. How can you beat your spouse with whom you will be sharing your bed at night! Such were his injunctions.
In connection with the application of the verse 4/34, the slander brought against Aisha, Prophet's wife, is very important. An allegation had been brought into circulation slanderous as it turned out, about having had illicit relations with Sawfan on their joint return from the Prophet's expedition in the year 5/627, when, after having become separated from the main caravan, they sought to catch up with it on a solitary trek through the desert. In fact Aisha had left the group to answer the nature's call and upon coming back she had realized that she had mislaid her necklace; so she had gone back to fetch it but upon return she had seen that the caravan had already left. Sawfan, a rear guard, had seen and taken her as pillion rider. This event had created suspicions in Muhammad's heart about her chastity. Yet, she had not beaten her; and Aisha, downcast had to move to her father's abode. The revelation did not delay to come, however. The verse 24/11-21 had acquitted her of all blame. (See. Öztürk-Asrı Saadetin Büyük Kadınları, p. 56)
To our mind, Islam does not enjoin battering of wives. This is corroborated by the Prophet's own deeds.
As regards re-interpretation of the Qur'an in the light of contemporary developments, a religious council to be set up must tackle the problem and enlighten our public accordingly.