Domestic Violence Hurts Muslims Too: Stop the Hurt Now
By Aneesah Nadir
This past October marked the observance of Domestic Violence Awareness
Month nationwide. Three to four million women are beaten annually and every 15 seconds, a woman is abused in her home. Nationally,
domestic violence has become the number one cause of death among women. Some people might react by saying, "That's a tragedy
that doesn't effect Muslim families." On the contrary, it does. While research on the prevalence of family violence among
Muslims is just beginning, Imams, community leaders and social workers across North America confirm that Muslim women, children
and men are being affected by this devastating social problem.
Spousal abuse is described by The Family Violence Prevention Fund as "a pattern
of purposeful behaviors, directed at achieving compliance from or control over the victim." A pattern of assault and coercive
behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion characterizes spousal abuse.
Behaviors include shoving, pushing, destruction of valuables, hurting pets and loved ones; even children.
Physical violence may lead to broken bones, head injury, vision loss, and death.
Among victims, emotional abuse leads to a broken spirit and feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and oppression. Domestic
abuse knows no boundaries. It occurs among well-known and little known community members, the rich, the poor, the well educated
and uneducated, foreign born and American born, all cultures, racial and religious groups-including Muslim converts and non-converts.
The signs include controlling behavior, isolation, uncontrolled anger, unexplained
bruises, patterns of irrational thinking and victim blaming, intimidation; "joking" about taking another wife, name calling
and remarks that degrade the victim's self esteem. Domestic violence is cyclical pattern, going from explosion to remorse
and finally, back to explosion. Women and men are victims. Often one spouse inflicts abuse on another but both spouses may
also hurt each other.
Children in these families are our most vulnerable victims. The majority of battered
women have children who are hurt physically and emotionally by the violence in their homes. More than half the children whose
mothers are battered are likely to be physically abused themselves. Domestic abuse also occurs during pregnancy and can severely
impact the child in utero. 8% to 26% of battered women were pregnant during the abuse. When children are raised in violent
homes, they usually grow up to perpetuate the cycle of violence in their families.
Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) instructed
Muslims regarding women, "I command you to be kind to women." He said also, "The best of you is the best to his family (wife).
The Qur'an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives, even if a wife falls out of favor with her husband or
disinclination for her arises within him. It also outlawed the pre-Islamic practice of inheriting women as part of the estate
of the deceased. A translation of Qur'an says, "O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will.
Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them, except when
they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a
dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing through which Allah brings about a great deal of good (Qur'an 4:19)."
Dr. Jamal Badawi, author of "Gender Equity in Islam," discusses Chapter 4, verse
34 of the Qur'an that is often used to justify maltreatment of women. He indicates, "Under no circumstances does the Qur'an
encourage, allow, or condone family violence or physical abuse. In extreme cases, and whenever greater harm, such as divorce,
is a likely option, in an effort to save the marriage it allows for a husband to administer a gentle pat with a miswak (a
small natural toothbrush) to his wife that causes no sort of physical harm to the body nor leaves any sort of mark. It may
serve to bring to the wife's attention the seriousness of her continued unreasonable behavior and may be resorted to only
after exhausting other prerequisite steps."
Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said, "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:" and
"[is it not a shame that] one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe sleeps with her
at the end of the day." (Riyadh Al-Saliheeen, p137-140). In another Hadith, the Prophet (Pbuh) said, "...How does anyone of
you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her...(Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, hadith
Domestic violence is preventable by building our iman (faith), remembering and
implementing the commands of Allah and the example of His Prophet (Pbuh). Marriage preparation education and premarital counseling
can help future spouses learn skills that will assist them in developing a healthy, violence free family life. Anger management,
communication skills, stress management, decision-making and problem solving skills are also very important life skills that
can help to prevent domestic violence. During October and throughout the year, Khutbas and halaqas should focus on Islamic
ways to prevent family violence.
As Imams, community leaders, brothers and sisters we cannot be tolerant of family
violence on any level. This is a problem that will not be eliminated unless we act. We must recognize the signs of spouse
abuse and act to prevent it or work towards its elimination. We must stop encouraging the marriage of individuals with a family
history of domestic abuse that has not been resolved through counseling and sincere repentance to Allah. We must encourage
couples to seek spiritual and professional help.
Shelters are needed for women and children seeking a safe, protective, Islamic
environment. Islamic Social Services are needed to provide preventative education, support and crisis intervention. Insha
Allah, we must become partners against domestic violence. Spread the word. Stop the hurt.