Marriage is a contract in which it is the responsibility of the husband to generously provide for the expenses of his wife and children. He is required to deal with them in a way which is in accordance with the norms of decency and those of sense and reason, and which is based on graciousness and courtesy, and in which the requisites of justice and fairness are fulfilled. Similarly, it is required of a wife that she should adopt an attitude of harmony and obedience towards the husband and protect his secrets as well as his honour and integrity.
Like other contracts, the nature of the contract also requires that if any of the parties violates it and in spite of counsel and advice, rebuke and reproach is not prepared to mend its ways, then it should be punished. This punishment can be meted out by a court and by the elders of the family. The Qur'an has given this right to the husband also. It says that if a wife becomes rebellious by defying his authority, then he can resort to three options to save the family from dismembering:
First, he should urge his wife to mend her ways. The word used by the Qur'an is وَعَظ which means that she can be admonished and also scolded to some extent in this regard.
Second, intimate marital relations with her should be suspended in order to communicate to her that if she does not mend her ways, she might have to face severe repercussions.
Third, she can be punished physically.
A question arises about this last option: with a change in society and civilization, if exercising the first two options does not bear results and a husband is left with no alternative but to adopt the third option, can a state bind him to not take this step himself and consign this matter to a court of law?
The opinion of this writer is in the affirmative. This is because this alternative is merely another way of following the directive of God and does not annul the directive. It does not make a difference if to reform the wife the punishment is meted out by the husband, the elders of the family or a court of law. It is the will of God that if to save a family, a wife needs to be punished, then she should be punished. It is only a reformatory measure and nothing more.
(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)