Dismantling the Concept of Male Superiority in Islam • The Muslim Women TImes


It is dishonest to disclaim that the noble Prophet (PBUH) didn’t encourage equality between women and men for a society as conventional as a bedoiun Arab society within the seventh century.

Qur’an 4:34 stays one of the vital weaponised verses of the Qur’an. Traditional Muslims use it to justify the subjugation of Muslim ladies. Opponents of Islam additionally weaponise it to defend their declare that Islam is certainly unfriendly to ladies. This verse has been on the new plate of many from inside and outdoors the Muslim group, who try and interpret it in step with their varied goals. But one frequent settlement even amongst Muslims is that the phrase of Allah, written in basic Arabic, is topic to interpretation – as solely God alone is aware of completely what he meant. A partial literal translation of the verse goes thus:

“Men are the Qawwam of women because Allah has given the one more than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are Qanitat, and guard in their husbands’ absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear Nushuz, admonish them first, then refuse to share their beds, and finally, adriboo them; but when they ataa to you, then seek not against them means of annoyance; For Allah is most High, great above you all.”

Noble Qur’an 4:34

The Historical Context of Qur’an 4:34

The majority of Tafsir students narrate the incident which led to the revelation of Qur’an 4:34. During the time, ladies got here to report instances of ill-treatment from their spouses. The mostly cited model is that of Habibah, the spouse of Sa’d bin Rabi’ who got here to complain to the Prophet (PBUH) concerning the slap she obtained from her husband, within the Tafsir by Ibn Kathir. Faced with this example, the Prophet (PBUH) who was identified for his aversion to all types of violence reacted sternly by telling ladies that they’ve the proper to retaliate primarily based on the precept of Qisas – an eye fixed for an eye fixed. The Prophet (PBUH) permitted the ladies to punish their husbands’ mistreatment by any therapy of the identical magnitude. Undeniably, this seems to be a revolutionary response by the requirements of that point and even at the moment! It is dishonest, judging from this incident, to disclaim that the noble Prophet (PBUH) didn’t encourage equality between women and men for a society as conventional as a bedoiun Arab society within the seventh century.

One can simply think about the discomfort and dissatisfaction that the boys of the time would have felt on the Prophet (PBUH)’s judgement. They felt stripped of their authority and superiority. Deeply harm by what the Prophet (PBUH) had stated, the boys went to the Prophet (PBUH) en masse to complain that his ruling would incite the ladies to insurgent towards their husbands. The Prophet (PBUH) then obtained the revelation of Qur’an 4:34 as a response to this challenge. When he introduced the revelation of this verse to the companions, he stated; “Muhammad determined one factor, and God determined one other“.

At first look, this revelation would seem to contradict the prophet (PBUH)’s preliminary determination, however a cautious examine of the verse in addition to an identical verse addressing ladies in Qur’an 4:128, exhibits that the intent of the Qur’an was to supply a framework for mutual understanding devoid of violence and animosity.

Qawwam: A Privilege or A Responsibility?

Qur’an 4:34 begins with the phrase “men are the Qawwam of women“. The word Qawwam is just one of the five controversial words used in this verse. The arabic word “Qawwam” is an intensive type of the phrase “Qaim” which implies “to take care of“. Therefore Qawwam simply means “caretaker“. This word simply implies a responsibility towards women; a duty of care. It does not symbolise superiority, neither does it denote privilege. Men are the caretakers of women because Allah has given the one more than the other. The question which begs to be asked is “What has Allah given one more than the other?”

God has blessed males with extra bodily power than ladies. With such privilege comes accountability. The bodily stronger individual is liable for caring for and defending the one who’s bodily weaker. The Prophet (PBUH)’s ruling that girls ought to return their husbands’ mistreatment would have been problematic since males are bodily stronger than ladies and would at all times have the higher hand. Allah is stating on this verse, that the benefit of bodily power ought to be used to look after and shield ladies, quite than maltreat them. One should then marvel how this interprets to superiority?

Qanitat: Obedient to the Husband or Devoutly Pious?

Right after the outline of Qawwam comes the phrase “Therefore the righteous women are Qanitat, and guard in their husbands’ absence what Allah would have them guard“. The majority of scholars interpret the word “Qanitat” as which means “obedient to the husband“. However, Qanitat, which is a feminine plural of the word “Qanit” which stems from the basis phrase “Qa-na-ta” seems in a number of different verses within the Qur’an to imply those that are devoutly pious. Allah makes use of the phrases Qaniteen and Qanitat to explain women and men who’re devoutly pious and obedient to Allah. Therefore, Qur’an 4:34 incorporates no foundation in any respect for a departure from the unique which means. One is left to marvel why this phrase all of the sudden took on the which means of “obedience to the husband“, when in actuality, Allah is just saying that the ladies who’re devoutly pious are those that guard of their husband’s absence what Allah would have them guard. There ought to be no ambiguity on this.

Nushuz: Disobedience or Hostility?

Qur’an 4:34 then goes on to say that “As to those women on whose part you fear Nushuz“… The most widespread interpretation of the word “Nushuz” on this context is disobedience or misbehaviour. However, the phrase, which stems from the basis phrase “na-sha-za” actually means “to rise” or “to raise up“. The word appears five times in the Qur’an. In Qur’an 2:259, Allah uses this word to mean that God can “resurrect” a useless animal. Whereas, in Qur’an 58:11, God makes use of this phrase to imply that He will “raise” the place of the believers after we ‘come up‘, or problem ourselves to be higher individuals who turn into extra educated, higher in character and extra useful to society. God will steadily ‘increase‘ us to turn into such folks, as a result of God is aware of the efforts we put in.

In Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa): nushuz is one thing that each wives and husbands can do. When it involves the “Nushuz” of the husband in Qur’an 4:128… “And if a woman fears Nushuz from her husband”, the tafsir students interpret the phrase as contempt, cruelty, desertion or hostility. But with regards to the “Nushuz” of the spouse in Qur’an 4:34, one is left to marvel why the phrase takes on a distinct which means as ‘disobedience, arrogance or misbehaviour“. In the context of marital discord, Nushuz literally means “to rise up against virtue“, and it carries the same meaning for both men and women. Thus, in Qur’an 4:34, it implies “marital discord”.

Adriboo: To Beat or To Abandon

The Qur’an states that if males concern Nushuz on the a part of ladies, they need to first “admonish them”, then “refuse to share their beds” and at last, “adriboo” them; all of those with the objective of pursuing a reconciliation. The Arabic phrase “Adriboo” which stems from the basis phrase “da-ra-ba” has a number of meanings amongst that are to beat, to separate from, to disregard, to alter, to seal (Quran 18;11), to desert, to cowl (Qur’an 24:31), to take for example, amongst others.

How do we all know which which means matches the context of Qur’an 4:34? One option to discover out is to check the utilization of the phrase “daraba” on this verse to its utilization in different verses of the Qur’an.

Assuming the phrase “adriboo” on this context means “to beat“, it could then imply that after a husband has admonished and forsaken his spouse’s mattress, the subsequent plan of action could be to beat her with the objective of a reconciliation. On an emotional degree, this plan of action could be counterproductive and would solely make issues worse. It additionally doesn’t make sense that after ladies had complained to the Prophet (PBUH) about their husbands beating them, Allah would then instruct males to guard and care for them, but in addition beat them when there’s a discord.

Assuming the phrase “adriboo” means “to abandon or to forsake or to avoid” as Muhammad Abdul Malek suggests, it could imply that when a spouse causes discord within the marriage, the husband ought to first admonish her, then go away her mattress (deny her sexual satisfaction), then abandon or keep away from her (not speaking to her anymore and even leaving the home for some time) in an effort to cease issues from getting worse and create sufficient area for reflection on the a part of the spouse. This feels like a extra logical sequence of occasions and could be in step with the objective of reconciliation that Allah has in thoughts.

Understanding “Adriboo” as to steadily keep away from or abandon clearly is smart when trying on the greater image or objective of reconciliation. Beating a spouse contradicts the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and the hadith that tells Muslims “do not beat believing women“. Therefore, interpreting the word “adriboo” as “to beat” could be in battle with meanings of different Qur’anic verses and hadiths. Understanding it to imply “abandoning” or “gradually forsaking” is a extra logical interpretation and is according to different rulings within the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) who was totally against all types of restrictions or violence in the direction of ladies, be it bodily or verbal. The interpretation of “adriboo” as to beat can also be according to the motion of the Prophet (PBUH) who, following a marital discord along with his wives, left them and remoted himself for a interval of 1 month.

It is not sensible {that a} verse of the Qur’an instructing males to take care of their wives, then goes forward to inform them to beat them. What appears logical is that this verse instructs males to take care of their wives and when such wives create discord within the marriage, such males ought to first speak to them, then keep away from them within the marital mattress, then forsake their presence much more by avoiding their firm altogether, and presumably go away the home for some time, with the objective of constructing the wives sober.

Ataa: Returning to Obedience or Giving In To Reconciliation?

Finally, Qur’an 4:34 states that “but when they ataa to you, then seek not against them means of annoyance; For Allah is most High, great above you all“. This means that when the marital problem has been resolved, then the husband should not use the incident against her and consider the problem solved. The arabic word used in this verse is “Ataa” which has a number of meanings akin to “to come”, “come back”, “retrace”, “backtrack”, “bring”, “come home”, “comply” “accommodate”, “give in” or “agree”. In the context of this verse, the phrase might be understood to imply “giving in to reconciliation” or “retracing their steps”. Linguistically, there’s no compelling necessity to translate the phrase “ataa” as “obedient to the husband“. As earlier established, there’s no reason to translate “Qanitat” as ladies who’re obedient to their husbands, so this verse doesn’t indicate {that a} spouse who had hitherto disobeyed her husband has now returned to the obedience of her husband. It will not be a matter of disobedience and obedience. It is, quite, a matter of “nushuz” marital discord and reconciliation. And Allah alone is aware of greatest.

Mohammed Abdul Malek interprets the latter a part of Qur’an 4:34 as follows:

“As for those women whose animosity or ill-will you have reason to fear, first admonish them, then leave them alone in bed, and then separate from them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek a way against them”

Conclusively, Qur’an 4:34 doesn’t implement male superiority over ladies. It solely seeks to create an understanding on the character of the connection between women and men and to supply an answer for marital discord.


  1. Noble Qur’an 4:34, 4:128, 18:11, 24:31
  2. does the quran sanction the beating of girls (archive.org)
  3. Asma Lanrabet, Women within the Qur’an, Translated by Myriam Francois-Cerrah, Published in England by Square View.

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