Do you want to clearly understand this topic, what happens if a wife disobeys her husband in Islam? Do you want to know whether Islam encourages beating women or not? Do you want to know the Muslim wives’ rights and duties concerning this matter? If YES, kindly take your blue glasses off first. This means you should take the matter by reason not unreal or biased input.
The first thing you should consider is that you need to know who is the One who legislates these rules. To understand this point, I will give you an example. If you go to work at a company, you are supposed to know the rules of the company in order to follow them. These rules may appear at first glance incomprehensible and unacceptable to you. But the things will certainly change if you know the boss, love his traits, and see his employees really love him. If you apply that to our case, you will see the same. The owner of this world who makes the rules for it is Our Creator. He describes Himself as “The All-Knowing”, “The Wise”, “The Entirely Merciful”, “The Affectionate” and many others.
In fact, we see the effects of His attributes in our life. But sometimes we cannot see the reality of that for two reasons; we have limited power as finite human beings, and there is no meaning for the concept of “test” if we can see everything as it is in this finite life. Moreover, God is The Creator of both men and women. He loves them, creates them completing each other, and tests them by different things in order to be held accountable for their outcome; men will be accountable according to the abilities granted to them by their Creator, and the women will be the same. To illustrate, God creates men stronger than women. Consequently, men’s test is to be fair and not to use their strength out of God’s instructions. On the other side, women’s test is to obey their husbands unless they order them by what displeases God. To sum up, if a man or a woman breaks the law, he will be punished in the Hereafter.
But what will happen in our life if a woman disobeys her husband? God says in the Holy Quran: “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah [one true God] has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.” “Arrogance” in the verse means major rebellion or refusal of basic religious obligations. (Saheeh international interpretation)
So the verse has three stages:
First stage: The stage of advice, counseling and warning against Allah’s penalty. A husband must remind his disobedient wife with the importance of following the instructions of the husband in Islam. This stage is a very kind and easy one. But, if this treatment does not work and proves ineffective, then comes the next stage.
Second stage: To leave the wife’s bed. Or, if one sleeps in the same bed with her, he will turn his back to her, not touch her, talk to her or have intercourse with her. This stage, as noticed, combines both strictness and kindness, although it is a very harsh practice on both. But, if this treatment does not work, then turn to the final stage of discipline below.
Third and final stage: Beating without hurting, breaking a bone, leaving blue or black marks on the body and avoiding hitting the face, at any cost. The purpose of beating here is a disciplinary action and not retaliation or hurting by any means. It is to let the wife know that her behavior, conduct and attitude towards her husband are not acceptable. Beating, in this case, and according to Islamic teachings, is restricted and limited to be a form of treatment only. Beating a wife is not meant to be a form of humiliation, a form of forcing and compelling the woman to do things against her own will, or a means of hurting her physically. In fact, it is reported that Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the leading companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and a scholar of early Muslims, hit only with the “Siwak” (the natural wooden root that is used for brushing the teeth). Islam forbids severe beating as punishment. Again, the beating of a wife must be in strict privacy. A wife must not be beaten before her children or anyone else for that matter. Beating is considered a means of discipline and right upbringing. A father, for instance, may spank his child for doing something wrong. A teacher will also spank a student for doing something wrong, such as neglecting a homework, being late or tardy to class or school, cheating on the test, talking back to the teacher, and so on. Striking here is a means of upbringing and discipline. That is why Allah illustrated at the end of the verse that deals with beating the disobedient wife that: “But if they return to obedience, seek not against them means [of annoyance]” (Women in the shade of islam – Chapter four Misconceptions about Women in Islam, 2016)
Surprisingly, the verse is ended by a threat understood from God’s Attributes mentioned at the end of the verse, to men if they do not abide by its obligations. So we can conclude that this verse is a solution for an already existing problem. Islam is not that religion of monasticism. It is engaged in the community’s daily life to organize it.
Also, this problem is, unfortunately, widespread in the whole world. For example, in the USA, a woman is beaten every 15 seconds by her partner; it happens at some time in 25-35% of American homes; 4,000 women die from such abuse each year (FBI).
Also, in “statistics in Britain, it was declared that the number of wives who have been brutally beaten by their husbands has risen from 6,400 in 1990 to 30,000 in 1992. This number jumped to 65,400 women in 1995. Statisticians [expected] this number to double 124,400 towards the end of the twentieth century! These statistics, as the report says, were based on information gathered from police department. But, what about the unreported cases of wife-beating, and women in general, which are not reported.” (Women in the shade of islam – Chapter four Misconceptions about Women in Islam, 2016)
To be honest, the Muslim communities are not away from such phenomenon. But that does not mean they are correct or they represent Islam. It means that there are Muslims who do not abide by the obligations of God. And if they do not repent, they will be punished.
Finally, Islam is the religion of happiness and peace. God says: “And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, we would have opened [i.e., bestowed] upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied [the messengers], so we seized them for what they were earning.”