Towards a New Interpretation of Quran 4:34

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Abstract

For almost fourteen centuries, Muslim men and women believed, or have been led to believe, that beating wives is a permitted act in Islam and the Quran has been used to support this physical violence against women. Permissible violence against women has mainly been justified on the basis of the Quranic verse 4:34. Since its revelation, there has been a long time challenge to explore the real meaning of the verse. The translations and interpretations of this verse have caused much consternation among scholars, including this author. However, important attempts have recently been made to define or interpret the verse. In this study, two different strands of interpretation are explored: patriarchal and egalitarian. While there are many interpretations of the verse, this study focuses only on the works of some of the most renowned scholars and theologians. A critical analysis of different approaches to the interpretation of this verse shows that the contradictions and complexities related to the verse are not inherent in the Quran itself but are rooted in the intentional or unintentional neglect and misuse of the text by authoritative Muslim scholars. This study argues for a more progressive approach to interpreting the verse which is compatible with a holistic comprehension of the text and teaching of Islam.

Hawwa

Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World

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