Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:
a. It must be seen as a rare exception to the repeated exhortation of mutual respect, kindness and good treatment.
Based on the Qur'an and Hadith, this measure may be used in the cases of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz ). Even then, other measures, such as exhortation, should be tried first.
b. As defined by Hadith, it is not permissible to strike anyone's face, cause any bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadith qualifies as "dharban ghayra mubarrih ", or light striking, was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolic) use of siwak !
They further qualified permissible "striking" as that which leaves no mark on the body.
It is interesting that this latter fourteen-centuries-old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from "abuse" in the legal sense.
This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort, and "lesser of the two evils" measure that may save a marriage does not meet the definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence, " or "wife battering" in the 20th century law in liberal democracies, where such extremes are so commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.
c. The permissibility of such symbolic expression of the seriousness of continued refraction does not imply its desirability. In several hadiths, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) discouraged this measure. Here are some of his sayings in this regard:
*"Do not beat the female servants of Allah" ;
*"Some (women) visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you."
*In another hadith the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?”
d. True following of the Sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who never resorted to that measure, regardless of the circumstances.
e. Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures and circumstances. Some measures may work in some cases and cultures or with certain persons but may not be effective in others.
By definition, a "permissible" act is neither required, encouraged or forbidden. In fact it may be to spell out the extent of permissibility, such as in the issue at hand, rather than leaving it unrestricted or unqualified, or ignoring it all together.
In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way, which can lead to excesses and real abuse.
f. Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any "Muslim" can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an or Hadith).
Such excesses and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself, as it shows that they are paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and failing to follow the true Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)."