Head of the Cairo-based al-Azhar University's committee for fatwas or religious rulings has approved a woman's right to fight back if her husband uses violence against her, according to press reports on Monday.
"A wife has the legitimate right to hit her husband in order to defend herself," Sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Atrash was quoted as saying by Egyptian independent daily al-Masry al-Youm.
"Everyone has the right to defend themselves, whether they are a man or a woman... because all human beings are equal before God," he added.
Al-Azhar is Sunni Islam's highest authority. The declaration by Atrash comes after similar rulings by religious leaders in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Saudi Sheikh Abdel Mohsen al-Abyakan had, a few days ago, stressed the fact that a wife should resort to "the same kind of violence" as her husband used against her, whether it be with a leather strap or a wire cable.
On Sunday, prominent Turkish Muslim preacher and writer Fethullah Gulen even ruled that a woman should return the violence with interest.
"She should give back two blows for each one received," the paper quoted him as saying.