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Domestic Violence: An Islamic Perspective

10 24 15



By: Sh. Abdur Rahman Khan
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and ICNA would like to join the rest of the nation in bringing about the awareness of its dangers and sufferings. However, awareness is not enough. I would like to focus on the Islamic perspective on domestic violence and provide solutions to this menacing misconduct in society. Although women can perpetrate domestic violence against men, studies show that domestic abuse is mostly carried out by men against women. Thus, in most of this discussion, I would focus on violence against women.

Domestic violence is not limited to a geographic location or a particular group, even though in some societies it is more prevalent than others. Over the years it has become a global crisis, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, wealth or geography.

In the USA alone, despite its many laws, regulations, awareness, talk shows etc. addressing domestic violence, statistics have shown that 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. The impact of such wrongdoing is immense to say the least. Children in such relationships are often affected—whether directly or indirectly and have life-long impact on negative behaviors. One can imagine the level of domestic violence in societies where laws are far less forceful.

To find genuine solution to this problem, we must go back to Divine guidance from our Creator as statistics show more violence and less solution. When Islam came to Arabia, if there was one social evil that was prevalent at the time, it was domestic violence. Women were treated as commodities and properties only to be inherited at the death of their male guardian. They were used and abused and the most brutal of all abuses against females at the time was female infanticide. The Qur’an mentions in 16:58-59

And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! (58) He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision. (59)

With this evil behavior in the backdrop, Islam has not only liberated women in the Arabian society but provides global principles by which women are given their full rights, justice and fairness they deserve.

Ibn al-Qayyim one of the greatest scholars of Islam of the 8th century Al Hijrah, describes the purpose of Islamic Shari’ah as follows:

“Shari’ah is based on wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the afterlife. Shari’ah is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good. Thus, any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to the Shari’ah, even if it is claimed to be so according to some interpretation.”

Islam teaches that men and women are all from the same substance and we recite this verse at every wedding sermon and often during our weekly Friday sermons. It is 4:1 in which Allah SWT says:

O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.”

Reading this verse, one wonders that if all humans are created from the same pulse rather the same source, then why are we so different from each other. More specifically, why did God create different genders, even different races and ethnicities? The Qur’an provides us with the answer in 49:13

O people! We created you from a [single] male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may become acquainted with each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous.

Hence, the most favored in God’s sight is the one who is most pious.

Islam offers a new dimension to the way men and women ought to interact with each other. It informs and guides to the idea that men and women both have a mutual obligation to enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil and to serve their Creator as supporters to each other. In 9:71 Allah SWT says:

The believers, men and women, are Auliya’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma’ruf (what Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (what Islam has forbidden); they perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. (71) 

Our Creator wants us to live in peace and harmony with each other. The Qur’an repeatedly describes the relationship between husband and wife as one of tranquility, affection, and mercy. Further, it enjoins husbands to live with their wives in kindness or leave them amicably. We are told in 30:21 that the very purpose of marriage and starting a family unit is based upon these noble universal values.

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect. (21)

Marriage is a sharing between two halves of society and that its objectives, besides perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. In fact, an entire chapter exclusively entitled “Women” describes guidelines of behavior, a code of ethics and conflict resolution in all aspects (e.g., care, inheritance, marriage, divorce, conflict resolution, etc.) that relate to women. For this reason Umar (RA) used to say:

Teach your family Suratun Nisa (Chapter 4) and Suratun Nur (Chapter 24).

Finally we have the example of the Prophet (PBUH) as our role model of what a marital relationship based on care, mercy, kindness, mutual consultation and justice ought to be. He used to say to the Companions (RA):

The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Also Ibn `Abbas (RA) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said:

The best among you is the best towards his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives. (Ibn Majah)

In reference to the relationship between husband and wife, The Prophet said: “A believer should bear no malice to his wife, if he dislikes one of her habits, he [ought to remember that he] likes another of them”.

It is well-established that Prophet never hit any of his wives, although they argued with him and held different opinions from him. He strongly reprimanded men who hit their wives and later had intimate relations with them. He PBUH ordered “Give her food when you take food, clothe when you clothe yourself, do not revile her face, and do not beat her”.

In conclusion there is no room whatsoever for domestic violence in Islam. Under no circumstances is such abuse against women, in its various manifestations, encouraged or allowed in Islam. There is mutual respect and understanding. There is love and compassion. There is care and mercy.

Yes, even if there are disputes and differences among spouses The Qur’an guides:

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good. (4:19)

Let us all strive to end Domestic Violence! End with Domestic Violence!