Palestinian Media Watch presents this clip (and transcript below) from Official Palestinian Authority TV from last week in which the Mufti of Gaza, Hassan Al-Laham, clarifies just when and how it is proper to hit your wife. Take note:
Mufti: "Allah created a solution for this [marital strife]. How? Allah said: Warn them [the wives], and separate from them, and hit them, and bring an arbitrator from his family and an arbitrator from her family. [Only] after this comes divorce. The husband starts with a warning."
PA TV host: "Explain to our viewers the steps a husband should take."
Mufti: "The warning needs to be made politely by the husband to his wife, while he shows good relations, dialogue, respect and humanity. She who stands before you is a human being. She is an independent person and deserves respect. You did not buy her as a slave, nor did you buy her in the market. She is a respectable woman from a respectable family, just as you are a respectable man from a respectable family. It may be that she is from a more socially respectable family than yours, however she became your wife, and she is under your command, and is under your care, so that you should treat her according to Allah’s command. The warning should be made using a good word, good treatment and a positive look."
TV host: "In order to stop the conflict from getting worse and resolve it."
Mufti: "It is a warning. When she makes a mistake he will explain: 'You shouldn’t do this and that.'"
TV host: "What is the stage after the warning, honored Sheikh?"
Mufti: "'[Quran:] Warn them [the wives] and separate from them.’ The separation means separation in the bedroom, in the home. Not outside. In other words, he will not show other people that there is a problem. But inside the home, at bedtime, if he separates from her and does not speak to her in the bedroom, she will ask why, and he will explain: ‘You made a mistake and I am angry about it.’ Perhaps this will lead to reconciliation...
"After the warning and separation, comes the hitting - hitting that does not make her ugly. The Prophet [Muhammad] said: 'Do not hit the face and do not make her ugly.' [Hadith] In other words, not hitting that will bring the police, and break her hand and cause bleeding, or hitting that makes the face ugly. No. As it is said [in a Hadith] 'If not for this [fear of retaliation], I would give you painful blows with a small brush.’...
"The hitting is not meant to disfigure, harm, or degrade. The hitting will be like a joke. He will hit her jokingly. Not a blow that breaks a bone or makes the face ugly, and he will not curse and the like. This hitting is a kind of reminder that the love and friendship that Allah commanded, is still found between us [the couple]."
So now you know. Hitting your wife isn't degrading or harmful, according to "The Prophet"; it's a joking reminder of how much love there is between you.