Siddiqi: beat her lightly
I wrote about the Qur’anic sanctioning of wife beating, and of the travails of the Spanish Imam Muhammad Kamal Mustafa, who landed in hot water for writing a book justifying the practice, in Islam Unveiled. Now MEMRI has more on this. Some highlights:
On January 14, 2004, Sheikh Muhammad Kamal Mustafa, the imam of the mosque of the city of Fuengirola, Costa del Sol, was sentenced by a Barcelona court to a 15 month suspended sentence and fined â‚¬ 2160 for publishing his book ‘The Woman in Islam.’ In this book, the Egyptian-born Sheikh Mustafa writes, among other things, on wife-beating in accordance with Shar’ia law.
On pages 86-87, Mustafa states: “The [wife-]beating must never be in exaggerated, blind anger, in order to avoid serious harm [to the woman].” He adds, “It is forbidden to beat her on the sensitive parts of her body, such as the face, breast, abdomen, and head. Instead, she should be beaten on the arms and legs,” using a “rod that must not be stiff, but slim and lightweight so that no wounds, scars, or bruises are caused.” Similarly, “[the blows] must not be hard.” 
Mustafa noted in his book that the aim of the beating was to cause the woman to feel some emotional pain, without humiliating her or harming her physically. According to him, wife-beating must be the last resort to which the husband turns in punishing his wife, and is, according to the Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 34, the husband’s third step when the wife is rebellious: First, he must reprimand her, without anger. Next, he must distance her from the conjugal bed. Only if these two methods fail should the husband turn to beating.
These three steps come from Sura 4:34 of the Qur’an: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.”
Sheikh Yousef Qaradhawi, one of the most influential clerics in Sunni Islam and head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, has advocated non-painful wife-beating.
In his 1984 book ‘The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam,’ he wrote:
“Because of his natural ability and his responsibility for providing for his family, the man is the head of the house and of the family. He is entitled to the obedience and cooperation of his wife, and accordingly it is not permissible for her to rebel against his authority, causing disruption. Without a captain the ship of the household will flounder and sink.
“If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored, and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury.Rather, this ‘beating’ should be of the kind which the Prophet (peace be on him) once, when angry with his servant, mentioned to him, saying, ‘If it were not for the fear of retaliation on the Day of Resurrection, I would have beaten you with this miswak (tooth-cleaning stick)’ [as reported by Ibn Majah and by Ibn Hibban, in his Sahih].
Islamic Affairs Department of Saudi Arabia’s Washington, DC Embassy: Men Have a Supervisory Authority because of Their Physical Advantages
According to the website of the embassy of Saudi Arabia’s  Islamic Affairs Department (IAD),  wife-beating is permitted in accordance with Qur’anic verses and Hadiths used by the IAD to explain the rights a husband has over his wives:  “The husband’s rights on his wife are greater than hers over him.” Another source states, “Men have a supervisory authority on account of the physical advantage they possess”¦”  It is also stated, “When the husband calls his wife to his bed and she disobeys, and he spends the night in anger against her, the angels keep cursing her till the morning.”  In addition, “If a woman dies while her husband was pleased with her,” it is explained that “she will enter into Paradise.” 
Answering the question: “Does Islam allow wife-beating?” Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) stated: “It is important that a wife recognizes the authority of her husband in the house. He is the head of the household, and she is supposed to listen to him. But the husband should also use his authority with respect and kindness towards his wife. If there arises any disagreement or dispute among them, then it should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Spouses should seek the counsel of their elders and other respectable family members and friends to batch up the rift and solve the differences.
“However, in some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife, but this is only applicable in extreme cases and it should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation. However, if there is a fear that it might worsen the relationship or may wreak havoc on him or the family, then he should avoid it completely.”
According to Siddiqi, “The Qur’an is very clear on this issue. Almighty Allah says: ‘ Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them to guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance); for Allah is most High and Great (above you all). If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation; for Allah has full knowledge and is acquainted with all things. (4:34-35)’
“It is important to read the section fully. One should not take part of the verse and use it to justify one’s own misconduct. This verse neither permits violence nor condones it. It guides us to ways to handle [a] delicate family situation with care and wisdom. The word ‘beating’ is used in the verse, but it does not mean ‘physical abuse.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained it ‘dharban ghayra mubarrih,’ which means ‘a light tap that leaves no mark.’ He further said that [the] face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush.”
Siddiqi cites a Hadith to use caution when beating one’s wife: “Generally, the Prophet (pbuh) used to discourage his followers from taking even this measure. He never hit any female, and he used to say that the best of men are those who do not hit their wives. In one Hadith he expressed his extreme repulsion from this behavior and said, ‘ How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace (sleep with) her?’ (Al-Bukhari, English Translation, vol. 8, Hadith 68, pp. 42-43)”
Siddiqi adds: “It is also important to note that even this ‘light strike’ mentioned in the verse is not to be used to correct some minor problem, but it is permissible to resort to only in a situation of some serious moral misconduct when admonishing the wife fails, and avoiding from sleeping with her would not help. If this disciplinary action can correct a situation and save the marriage, then one should use it.” 
Since it is in the Qur’an, these men can’t say that it is wrong to beat one’s wife. They can only insist that it must be done gently. This bodes ill for those who hope that other elements of Islamic law, such as the institutionalized discrimination of dhimmitude, can be set aside.