Manipulation of 4:34 in order to instate male dominance

Men are 'qawwamoon ala al-nisaa" by means of what God has favoured some over the others, and through what they spend of their money. The righteous women accept this willingly and they guard the secrets as God has guarded it. As for the women from whom you fear irrational behaviour, you shall first advise them, then desert them in bed, then you may strike them out. If they obey you, you are not to seek further action against them. God is Most High, Great. 4:34

1- The words:
"qawwamoon ala al-nisaa"
These words have been misinterpreted to mean that God granted men licence to have full control over their wives and for their wives to obey them blindly!
2- The word: "adribuhhunna"
This word has been interpreted to mean that, if the first two options do not work, men are granted a licence by God to physically beat their wives if they experience rebellion from them.


First:"qawwamoon ala al-nisaa"

The Arabic words
'qawwamoon ala al-nisaa' mean that men are responsible for the financial maintenance of their women. This meaning is confirmed by the words that follow in the verse.
- The words 'by means of what God has favoured some over the others' confirm that the word 'qawwamoon' relates to financial support and maintenance.
God favoured men over women in inheritance; men receiving double the share of women.
After reading 4:34 it becomes clear that God did not grant men double the share of women in the inheritance because God favours men, but because God placed on men the responsibility to support their wives financially. The financial duty placed on men to support their women (4:34) justifies the inheritance rule (4:11). In contrast, women receive half the share of men in inheritance but are fully supported by their men and with no financial duty placed on them. Not a bad deal for women, is it?

What about the situation, as is the case with many families these days, where both husband and wife are working and supporting the family on an equal basis? Equally, what about the situation where a woman is the sole bread earner of the family due to being a divorced woman with children, or due to the terminal illness, or death of her husband? Surely in such cases the justification in 4:34 for the male to receive double the female would not be applicable, so why in such cases would a woman inherit half the share of the man?

God always considers all situations and for that, God has devised a solution so that no one is wronged. The solution that God devised to maintain fairness in all situations, is in commanding all people, when they feel death near, to write an equitable will in which they have the freedom to apportion to the beneficiaries in accordance to their needs:

It is decreed upon you that if any of you feels death approaching, should he leave anything of value, a will should be written equitably for the parents and the close ones. This is a decreed obligation on the reverent. 2:180

1- The command in this verse is not only to write a will when death is near but to make sure that the will is written equitably. This very important word "equitably" is a further instruction for the testator to bequeath his estate fairly in accordance with the needs of each beneficiary. By doing so, God is allowing the testator to overrule the inheritance rules given in the Quran.

2- God did not set an upper limit for what a testator may bequeath in his will, and so in principle, the testator can bequeath all his estate in the will.

3- In addition, when we read the verses of inheritance, such as 4:11 and 4:12, we note that God granted the will priority in payment. Upon the death of any person, the will and the debts of the testator are to be paid before any other payments. If any money should remain after these are paid, then, and only then are the rules of inheritance in the Quran to be followed.

It follows that if a parent has a son and a daughter where the daughter is struggling financially, while the son is well off, the parent can bequeath to the daughter an equal or greater share in his estate than the share of the son. The will is the tool given by God to all believers to fine-tune the inheritance allocated to every family member in accordance with the specific needs of each member.


The root of the word
'adribuhhunna' is 'daraba'. The word 'darab' has been used in the Quran in multiple meanings and not just the physical beating.
The following are the uses of the word in the Quran:
  • To travel, to get out: 3:156; 4:101; 73:20; 2:273
  • To strike: 2:60,73; 7:160; 8:12; 20:77; 24:31; 26:63; 37:93; 38:44; 47:4
  • To beat: 8:50; 47:27
  • To cite examples: 14:24,45; 16:75,76,112; 18:32,45; 24:35; 30:28,58; 36:78; 39:27,29; 43:17; 59:21; 66:10,11
  • To leave out, withhold or strike out: 43:5
  • To be stricken with, condemned: 2:61
  • To seal, to draw over: 18:11
  • To cover: 24:31
To determine which of the above is the correct meaning of the word "adribuhhunna" as used in 4:34, it is essential to select the meaning that does not violate other Quranic verses, and that is in harmony with message and spirit of the Quran.
We read in 4:19 a clear instruction from God to men to treat their wives kindly, 'you shall live with them in kindness'. It would be contradictory for God to instruct men to live with their wives in kindness, yet at the same time allow men to physically beat up their wives (regardless of the reason for the beating)!
This immediately eliminates the possibility of the word in 4:34 to mean physical beating.
Physical beating is also in violation of 30:21 in which God stresses the love and mercy between husband and wife.
Physical beating also violates the words in 5:87, which contain a clear command from God forbidding all aggression.

The word 'daraba' is also used in the Quran to mean to strike out, leave out, or withhold, such as in the following verse:

Should We 'nadrib aankum' (withhold from you, strike you out) the Reminder from you, disregarding you because you are an excessive people? 43:5

Out of the above uses of the word 'daraba' the meaning of withholding and striking out is the only meaning that makes sense and is in line with the spirit of the Book.
It follows that God is instructing the man three options in dealing with his wife if she acts irrationally. If the first two options do not work, then the husband has the option of striking his wife out by separating from her.

The reason God's words in 4:34 said "strike her out" (separate from her) and not 'divorce her' is because God set a rule in the Quran which requires a couple to separate for 4 months before they can go on with a divorce. This is regarded as a cooling off period which safeguards against divorces that are executed in haste at the spur of a moment of anger.

Those who wish to separate from their wives shall wait four months. If they reconsider, then God is Forgiver, Merciful.
And if they decide to go through with the divorce, then God is Hearer, Knowledgeable. 2:226-227

If after a separation of 4 months the couple still wish to divorce, then a divorce can be executed.