Man and woman are the two halves of the institution of the family. However the control of this institution is vested in the hands of man. It is his responsibility to see to it that the institution is not laid to waste. To this end, the Qur'an has exhorted man to exert to the utmost of his ability. Observe the verse that explains the course of action that is to be taken for this purpose: 'Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God 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 God would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye 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 God is Most High, Great (above you all).'(4:34)
Breach of discipline has been mentioned in the verse only after it has explained the nature of the good woman. In the vision that emanates from the Qur'an, the good woman is the one who 'are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what God would have them guard.' For the preservation of the family and the moral fabric of society, such a nature is indispensable in women. Alongside this she must also be one who guards, in secret, that which Allah would have her guard.
How many men can tolerate life with a spouse who always quarrels with her husband and is bent upon disobeying all that he asks her to do? What will be the condition of the children who grow up in a family atmosphere that is rife with mutual distrust and quarrels? The Qur'an commands against such a state of affairs. There is much that is due from a wife that is the right of the husband alone. It is not the characteristic of a good woman that she gives them to him in his presence and to others in his absence. She can, in no wise, give anything - whether it be a gaze or a word uttered - that is due to the husband alone to any other person. When that happens it becomes the reason for the disruption of the family. Such disruptions can never be allowed to happen. The Qur'anic prescriptions on the matter proceed in the context of this all-important objective.
The Qur'anic recommendation is that all indiscipline that leads to the disruption of the family must be taken out by the root itself. To wait till such tendencies develop and blossom into full-fledged arrogance is to actually create the very cause of disruption of the family unit. At that advanced stage, there will not be much use in treating the problem. For all such treatment will prove ineffective. The condition of the children living in a family that, devoid of all peace and tranquility, is heading towards utter chaos is, indeed, quite pitiable. It becomes imperative, therefore, that, if such tendencies for indiscipline become apparent at a distance, certain remedial action, albeit in a step by step manner, needs to be taken to save the family from disruption. It is in such circumstances that, in order to ward off indiscipline, the Qur'an has permitted the man to take recourse to certain measures. These measures are, however, not in the least meant to harm, avenge or punish. On the contrary, they are meant to correct and unify through the elimination of any tendency for exhibiting indiscipline.
The measures recommended by the Qur'an are as follows:
'As to those women on whose part ye 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 God is Most High, Great (above you all).'
An ill-disciplined woman must first be advised. She should be made aware of the consequences of her actions in this world and the next. Sound advice will, indeed, suffice as an effective remedy if the lapses have occurred owing to the natural dispositions of the woman.
There might be cases where stern instructions and advice do not work. In many such cases the main reason behind the failure of the husband's loving pleas and emotional advices will turn out to be arrogance, pure and simple. Arrogance is usually born out of beauty consciousness, of being wealthy and of the high status of the woman's family. It is here that the second measure must come into play. She must be separated from one's bed. The bedroom is the place in which attraction and temptation reign supreme. Therein lies the very power base of the arrogant woman. That she is separated from there would mean that her arrogance has been looked down upon with contempt. It is, indeed, a stern measure against the sharpest weapon in the armoury of the ill-disciplined woman. It goes without saying, however, that the man who rises to employ this measure must of necessity be equipped with the greatest self-control and determination. Those will, indeed, be nights which will cause even the most arrogant of women to think deeply. The knowledge that her mate is in no need of that because of which she tended to become arrogant will definitely serve to change the mind of the woman.
The Qur'an instructs that even in cases where separation from one's bed fails, the family must not be allowed to disintegrate. Cases where, after verbal appeals prove ineffective, separation from one's bed also fails to deliver are rare indeed. When such situations do arise, the level of indiscipline will have reached its highest extent. There can then be no other solutions.
It is only as the next step that the Qur'an prescribes 'beating' as a possible solution. It is only after all other peaceful means have been exhausted that the Qur'an recommends beating her as a preventive measure. At other times, however, Prophet Muhammad has been one person who spoke out vehemently against the beating of women. 'Those who beat their wives are devoid of all decency.' (Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah): this was his own opinion. Indeed, he had asked on one occasion: 'Have you no sense of shame? To beat one's own wife even as one would his slave; and then to have intercourse with her!' (Muslim, Ahmed). It is certain, therefore, that the Qur'an, which was revealed through the Prophet who said that 'the best of you is the one who is kindest to his wife.' (Tirmidhi) would never, without sufficient reason, command that the woman be beaten. It is only as a means to check a bigger evil '“ as a last resort when all other options fail - that the Qur'an has recommended beating. And that, too, the Prophet had particularly exhorted that she must not be beaten in such manner as to lessen her self-respect as is the case when she is struck on the face or likewise. She is never meant to be harmed or humiliated. On the contrary, it is only to correct her that the Qur'an recommended beating as a last resort. Indeed, much like the father who beats his child; like the teacher who beats the student, it is very much a stern instruction emanating from the emotional depths of a caring instructor. The highest objective of this instruction being the safe recovery of the institution of the family from certain collapse.