The Hadith: Do not beat your wife as you beat your slave-girl

A narration in Sunan Abu Da’ood[1] states that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: Do not beat your wife as you beat your slave girl.

The full narration is lengthy so let us take a look at the relevant paragraph from it.

 قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ لِي امْرَأَةً وَإِنَّ فِي لِسَانِهَا شَيْئًا يَعْنِي الْبَذَاءَ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَطَلِّقْهَا إِذًا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ لَهَا صُحْبَةً وَلِي مِنْهَا وَلَدٌ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَمُرْهَا – يَقُولُ عِظْهَا – فَإِنْ يَكُ فِيهَا خَيْرٌ فَسَتَفْعَلُ وَلاَ تَضْرِبْ ظَعِينَتَكَ كَضَرْبِكَ أُمَيَّتَكَ

I (the narrator Laqit) then said: Messenger of Allah, I have a wife who has something (wrong) in her tongue, i.e. she is insolent. He said: Then divorce her. I said: Messenger of Allah, she had company with me and I have children from her. He said: Then ask her (to obey you). If there is something good in her, she will do so (obey); and do not beat your wife as you beat your slave-girl.[1]

The full context indicates that this was a way of explaining or conveying the message of not beating the wife. It also does not encourage beating of slave girls.

Al-Khattabi states:

 وإنما فيه النهي عن تبريح الضرب كما يضرب المماليك في عادات من يستجيز ضربهم، ويستعمل سوء الملكة فيهم. وتمثله بضرب المماليك لا يوجب إباحة ضربهم، وإنما جرى ذكره في هذا على طريق الذم لأفعالهم ونهاه عن الاقتداء بها وقد نهى صلى الله عليه وسلم عن ضرب المماليك إلاّ في الحدود وأمرنا بالإحسان إليهم.

It forbids severe beating like the beating of the slaves by the one who beats them and makes wrong use of his authority with regards to them. And the similitude of beating the slaves does not mean permissibility of beating them. The mention of it is made by the way of condemnation of their deeds and it prohibit imitating the same. Verily the Prophet (ﷺ) has prohibited the beating of the slaves except by the way of prescribed punishments (hudood) and he has ordered to be kind towards them.[2]

Likewise as-Sindi states:

، والتشبيه ليس لإباحة ضرب المماليك، بل لأنه مما جرى به عادتهم

And the similitude is not provided in order to denote the permissibility of beating the slaves rather it was utilized because it was general practice (i.e. in seventh century Arabia) for slaved to be beaten.[3]

The statement was spoken as a similitude and the beating of slave was mentioned as an example. If one were to say that so-and-so treats his friends like animals, this would mean that he treats them poorly and would not indicate as to how he treats animals. Perhaps this person is very nice towards animals; the statement is a figure of speech. Similarly, not treating ones wife as a slave-girl is to be understood in like manner.

Moreover, this can be confirmed by the fact that the narrator Laqit Ibn Sabirah had come to the Prophet (ﷺ) as a part of a delegation from Iraq from the tribe of Banu al-Muntafiq. For ‘as you beat your slave-girl’ to be literal, the Prophet (ﷺ) would have to know Laqit Ibn Sabirah quite well from well before and would have to know how he treats his slave-girls and would even have to know if he had any slave girls or not.

Moreover, the Prophet (ﷺ) has explicitly stated as to how to treat the slaves.

Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari reported: “When I was beating my servant, I heard a voice behind me (saying): Abu Mas’ud, bear in mind Allah has more dominance over you than you have upon him. I turned and (found him) to be Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ). I said: Allah’s Messenger, I set him free for the sake of Allah. Thereupon he said: Had you not done that, (the gates of) Hell would have opened for you, or the fire would have burnt you.[4]

“Zadhan reported that Ibn Umar called his slave and he found the marks (of beating) upon his back. He said to him: I have caused you pain. He said: No. But he (Ibn Umar) said: You are free. He then took hold of something from the earth and said: There is no reward for me even to the weight equal to it. I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: He who beats a slave without cognizable offence of his or slaps him, then expiation for it is that he should set him free.[5]

Narrated Al-Ma’rur: At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names.”  The Prophet said to me, ‘O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothersand Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.’[6]

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: “When the slave of anyone amongst you prepares food for him and he serves him after having sat close to (and undergoing the hardship of) heat and smoke, he should make him (the slave) sit along with him and make him eat (along with him), and if the food seems to run short, then he should spare some portion for him (from his own share) – (another narrator) Dawud said:” i. e. a morsel or two”.[7]

Narrated AbuDharr:  “The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Feed those of your slaves who please you from what you eat and clothe them with what you clothe yourselves, but sell those who do not please you and do not punish Allah’s creatures.[8]

Indeed, Allah knows best.


[1] Book 1, Hadith 56

[2] Ma’alim al-Sunan

[3] Hashia ‘ala Musnad

[4] Sahih Muslim, book 15, no. 4088

[5] Sahih Muslim, book 15, no. 4079

[6] Sahih Bukhari, vol 1, book 2, no. 29

[7] Sahih Muslim, book 15, no. 4096/4097

[8] Sunan Abu Da’ood, book 41, no. 5142

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4 thoughts on “The Hadith: Do not beat your wife as you beat your slave-girl

  1. Well, there’s also this too to try to defend: Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 132:
    “Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Zam’a:
    The Prophet said, “None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.” The work of the Islam apologist is never done.
    Which is a wiser statement for Muhammad to make:

    A) “None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.”

    or

    B) NONE OF YOU SHOULD OWN SLAVES, NONE OF YOU SHOULD FLOG SLAVES, AND NONE OF YOU SHOULD FLOG YOUR WIFE ?

    Do please explain why it was better for Muhammad not to prohibit beating slaves, and beating wives, and owning slaves when he had the chance.
    If Muhammad had prohibited slavery, do you truly believe that Muslims would have enslaved people for centuries?

    • It appears you have not read the article to which you are commenting. In case you have read it, you haven’t understood it. Now I’m having difficulty as to how to explain it to you in more clearer terms than what has been written above! The other narrations you quote have more or less the same words and the explanation is also the same. Perhaps these lines from the passage would clarify the concept to you.

      If one were to say that so-and-so treats his friends like animals, this would mean that he treats them poorly and would not indicate as to how he treats animals. Perhaps this person is very nice towards animals; the statement is a figure of speech. Similarly, not treating one’s wife as a slave-girl is to be understood in like manner.

      As to the slave beating, you have again ignored everything from the article and made comments. Read the references four to eight.

      If you don’t like reading, I’ll make it easier for you through a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGy4Osb_Pt8

      Relax and do not make the hate of Islam your life mission.

      • If Muhammad had simply said: “None of you should own a slave,” would the Muslims have been involved in the slave trade for centuries? YES OR NO?
        You write: “Similarly, not treating one’s wife as a slave-girl is to be understood in like manner.” So is it then okay to treat a slave girl poorly? In any case, Muhammad placed a restriction on what he said. He said: “None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave AND THEN HAVE SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH HER IN THE LAST PART OF THE DAY.” Muhammad did NOT have to add that last part (about the sexual intercourse) but he chose to do so. Consequently, we can infer that on days that a husband does not have sexual intercourse with his wife, he can flog her just as badly as he flogs a slave girl.
        You provide hadiths in which Muhammad encouraged some measure of kindness toward slaves. This does not mean that the Sahih Bukhari hadith I provided is incorrect. All this means is that Muhammad FORGOT WHAT HE SAID EARLIER. That Muhammad could be forgetful is attested to by his wife Aisha: Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, recalls: Narrated: Aisha
        “The Prophet (SAW) heard a man (reciting Quran) in the Mosque, and he said, “May Allah bestow His Mercy upon him. No doubt, he made me remember such-and such Verses of such-and-such Sura which I DROPPED (FROM MY MEMORY).” [Sahih Bukhari, 3:823].
        You are far more moral than Muhammad ever was. There is no need for you to continue to surrender your brain to him. If you need a god you can use your own imagination to derive your own god, rather than rely on the god of Muhammad’s imagination.

      • It’s not that simple, buddy. I know from our perspective today slavery is indeed a bad thing but it was not considered inherently evil in the past. However, you will be surprised, Prophet Muhammad (s) did consider it bad and devised policies that it eventually ended. He outright abolished enslaving people straight away and as for the question re. those ‘already enslaved’ from before, then he devised great policies that eventually led them to freedom. If you free a person living his whole life in slavery, you expect the freed slave to thrive or even survive? Those who know no skills or art would die miserably and hence, the Prophet (s) instructed the people to teach the slaves skills; moreover, when people came to him to ask for an expiation for a sin, he would say ‘free a slave’. Freeing a slave was considered a very noble act and many a times, the freed slave would remain with the former owner. If you’ve watched Games of Thrones, you will perhaps appreciate how this culture works (the freed slaves wanted to return to slavery happily and the queen was shocked about it).

        I suggest reading this for a bit of background info on the matter: https://qurananswers.me/2016/03/05/black-slaves-of-the-white-prophet/ The links quoted are also essential to read.

        Who were taken as slaves if taking in new slaves was prohibited? The enemy combatants! You may use the word ‘slave’ for them or alternatively, you may call them ‘enemy combatant prisoners’. If you have a choice of being sent to prison for the rest of your life or live as a ‘slave’ with someone, in their home, what would you choose? Mind you, the term slave does injustice to this concept because the ‘captive’ eats the same as the holder, he is not to be beaten, not to be given excess work and the holder must assist him with his work, the one who holds him cannot eat while he remains hungry and so on. The ‘captive’ also moves freely, gets sunlight, roams around and everything else a free person does. Compare this with the prison system in the US. I am more than certain, if given the choice, everyone in US prison would choose the Islamic slavery.

        Don’t be put off by the European/American slave trade – beating, whipping, torturing a ‘captive’ is forbidden in Islam. Moreover, Robert Nichols states: “The nineteenth century British imperial system developed indentured and ‘contract labour recruitment’ to operate commercial plantations from Caribbean to Fiji. This has been studied as a substitute for abolished slave labour and as an ideological system creating permanent, docile worker pools”. The British ‘reformed’ slavery into modern employment system and this is what Islam had done centuries ago. I know semantics hurt and the word ‘slave’ gives a negative connotation but Islam is far from it.

        Regarding, the beating of slave girl part, you misunderstood the point and missed out on some important details mentioned right there in the piece. ‘And the similitude of beating the slaves does not mean permissibility of beating them. The mention of it is made by the way of condemnation of their deeds and it prohibit imitating the same.’

        The statement was spoken as a similitude and the beating of slave was mentioned as an example. If one were to say that so-and-so treats his friends like animals, this would mean that he treats them poorly and would not indicate as to how he treats animals. Perhaps this person is very nice towards animals; the statement is a figure of speech. Figures of speech in different languages vary.

        If you appreciate my morals, you should appreciate the source as well and the source is what you criticize.

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