A man has the right to physically discipline his wife, although a beating should not be severe enough to leave marks, the Federal Supreme Court in the United Arab Emirates has ruled.
The ruling was made after a man who injured his wife and daughter appealed a decision made by lower courts. The Sharjah Court of First Instance had imposed a fine of 500 United Arab Emirates Dirhams ($136US - £85) for abuse, and that was later upheld by the Sharjah Court of Appeals. Not happy with the decision, the man involved appealed at the Federal Supreme Court.
The discipline in question left the man’s wife with an injured lower lip and teeth, while his daughter had bruises on a hand and knee.
The man said he accidentally hit his wife while attempting to discipline his daughter.
The court ruled that the man did not have the right to beat his daughter because, at 23, she was an adult. Under Sharia law, puberty is evidence of adulthood.
“Although the [law] permits the husband to use his right [to discipline], he has to abide by the limits of this right," The National quoted Chief Justice Falah al Hajeri as saying in his ruling.
“If the husband abuses this right to discipline, he cannot be exempted from punishment."
Under Islamic law, a man is to try admonition and abstaining from sleeping with his wife as means of discipline before resorting to beating.
"It's unlawful in Sharia - if taken in its entirety - to injure one's wife. It's unlawful to insult the dignity of one's wife,” Jihad Hashim Brown, the head of research at Tabah Foundation, told The National.
He said Islamic texts encourage Muslims to treat their wives in "love and kindness" and that “it’s time for a divorce” if it is felt there is a need for beating.
"The vast majority of scholars overwhelmingly agree it is forbidden to injure or insult the dignity of one's wife," Brown added.
Dr Ahmed al Kubaisi, the head of Sharia Studies at UAE University and Baghdad University, told The National: "If a wife committed something wrong, a husband can report her to police, but sometimes she does not do a serious thing or he does not want to let others know; when it is not good for the family. In this case, hitting is a better option."
Dr Jassim al Shamsi, the dean of the college of law at UAE University, said Sharia makes it clear that beatings should not be severe, and that love and respect are more important to couples than discipline.
"The law does not ask husbands to beat their wives, it only means a man cannot be charged with anything if the beating did not leave any marks," The National quoted Dr al Shamsi as saying.