Shiite Imam Bassem Al-Sheraa said in a class he taught at the Az-Zahraa Islamic Center in Detroit, Michigan that when the Quran refers to beating one's wife, it is referring to a beating that does not cause pain and that should be done using a sewak dental twig. He explained that the purpose of the "beating" is to clarify and remind the wife that she has misbehaved, and that it is only to be done when verbal admonishment and forsaking her in bed have been ineffective in getting her to change her ways. Imam Al-Sheraa compared the "beating" to slapping the hand of one's child when he reaches to touch an electrical socket or eats something dangerous. The video was uploaded to the Az-Zahraa Islamic Center's YouTube channel on May 27, 2019. For more from Imam Bassem Al-Sheraa, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7002.
Bassem Al-Sheraa: "The Quranic verse that people cite in order to attack Islam, claiming that Islam permits wife-beating... Who says that 'beat them' means that the beating should cause pain? The Prophet Muhammad explained this Quranic verse. He said that 'beat them' means beating them with a sewak. A sewak is a twig one uses to clean one's teeth...That's the sewak. The beating is not meant to cause pain. According to Islamic jurisprudence, if you beat [your wife] and any part of her body becomes red, you have to pay compensation.
"What kind of beating does not cause pain? [The Prophet] said that the beating is meant to remind her that she has misbehaved in cases when words [of admonishment] do not make her change her ways. First, the husband follows 'forsake them in bed.' He turns his back to her. But what if she says: 'I'm better off [like this]. I don't want to see your face. Turn around'? He can snub her, refuse to talk to her... But what if she says: 'I don't care'? Admonishing her doesn't help either. It is just like when your child reaches to touch the electrical socket or a fire... What do you do? You go like that! It is just like when your child picks up something dangerous and is about to eat it...You hit his hand like that as a reminder. This is a reminder and a means of clarification. This is what the 'beating' means."