What is Nushuz?

Sometime back, my family was having a discussion about a family friend, whose daughter-in-law was treating her badly. My brother joked that the either the husband should let go of his wife or he should be firm. My dad further added jokingly that the husband should just grab his wife by her ponytail and slap her. This rather misogynistic and sexist comment reminded me of the famous Qur’anic injunction that allows a man to beat his wife for disobedience and about which I had blogged earlier.

I quickly added that if the husband is a true Muslim believer, he can surely beat his wife if she is being disobedient. To this, my dad said that the Qur’anic command is about (sexual) misconduct and cheating and does not apply to disobedience alone.

spank

The agnostic researcher in me did not quite buy this argument and quickly went back to the Qur’anic verse to find the actual Arabic word and its various translations. Due to my insufficient knowledge of Arabic, I was not able to specifically pinpoint the word but was able to locate the part of the verse that spoke about this matter and honed in on a couple of candidate words.

Still not able to decide on the Arabic word, I Googled “Arabic word disobedience” and found a website that listed 4 Arabic words as the translation of disobedience. The last word, نشوز, transliterated as Nushuz was the word I saw in Qur’an. This confirmed my belief that the actual word used in Qur’an can be translated as disobedience, which may not necessarily refer only to sexual misconduct.

I then looked at the six Qur’anic English translations of this word and the following table provides that information:

Translator Translation
Sahih International Arrogance
Muhsin Khan Ill-conduct
Pickthall Rebellion
Yusuf Ali Disloyalty and ill-conduct
Shakir Desertion
Dr. Ghali Non-compliance

As evident from from the table, all translations differ in defining Nushuz. As far as I see, the instructions are very clear in the Qur’an. And, as I’ve blogged earlier, they are utterly inhumane. Disobedience, arrogance, ill-conduct, rebellion, disloyalty, desertion and non-compliance of a wife can be addressed by beating her up. Period.

I further Googled the word Nushuz to land on a webpage, which provided a few more descriptions of this word. Haleem translated it as “high-handedness” whereas Amina Waddud and Sayyid Qutb take it to mean a “disorder between the married couple”. Lastly, Muhammad Asad translates it as “ill-will”.

We can, therefore, say that there certainly is no agreement amongst the English translators of the Qur’an as to what is the “true meaning” of Nushuz. As I’ve argued in one of my earlier posts, Qur’an has unnecessarily burdened us non-Arabs with the task of learning Arabic in order to understand and appreciate the message of Allah Almighty, which obviously flies in the face of Allah’s compassion and mercy. What more complications does the Qur’an entail?

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