Dr. Zakir Naik, a popular Muslim apologist has said on numerous occasions that the teaching of the Qu’ran regarding beating your wife is a symbolic beating. Not only that, it’s on the third warning you give your wife while she is being disobedient. Never mind the idea of treating a woman like a dog that is acting up is a disgustingly misogynistic idea, instead of trying to shy away from that at all, Naik instead opts to say the beating is symbolic of disapproval with the wife’s actions.
The passage Naik is referring to is Chapter 4 in the Qu’ran verses 34-35 which state
“Man are the upholders and maintainers of women by virtue of that in which God has favored some of them above others and by virtue of their spending form their wealth Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in their husbands absence what God has guarded. As for those from whom yo fear discord and animosity, admonish them, then leave them in their beds, then strike them…”
The rest of the verse essentially says that if they listen to you after that, stop beating them or refusing to share the bed with them.
Now, while someone might understand not sharing the bed with someone you’re mad at (men sleeping on the couch for doing something against their wives wishes is a pop-culture reality) I don’t think anyone besides domestic abusers could see “strike them” and be okay with that.
Also, the Qu’ran only says to strike them, it doesn’t mention the amount of force you put into it. Though, to be fair, it could be interpreted only as hitting them once. It is domestic abuse regardless.
The study Qu’ran says of these verses “The commentators are unanimous in asserting that to strike here refers only to a moderate and non-injurious form of physical force….not to leave a mark…not even cause pain…it means hitting with a siwak a thin flexible twig chewed on for dental hygiene.
So, the scholarly consensus among Muslims is that at that time it was referring to a symbolic beating with a toothbrush. Naik goes on to say the modern day equivalent would be to hit your wife with a handkerchief.
There are two problems with this. It’s not even the interpretation that is the problem, I can accept the scholarly consensus, though I don’t think the interpretation is obvious from the context. I’ll happily grant them their interpretation. The problem still remains that the Qu’ran has a low view of women, exemplified here and in other areas. The other problem is that many people do not read it this way an use it to justify beating their wives. The abuse of a system does not disprove the system, but perhaps the scholarly muslims can seek to make this idea better known among the muslims who use this verse to justify beating their wives.