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Gender Violence


Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA




Status of Woman in Islam


The Qur'an warns about those men who oppress or ill-treat women:

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 dowry you have given them - except when they have become 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 something and Allah will bring about through it a great deal of good. (4:19)

Unlike other religions, which regard women as being fixated of inherent sin and wickedness and men as being possessed of inherent virtue and nobility, Islam regards men and women as being of the same essence created from a single soul. The Qur'an says:

O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and reverence the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you. (4:1)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Women are the twin halves of men." The Qur'an emphasizes the essential unity of men and women in a most beautiful simile:

They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them. (2:187)

Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other's chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife's company and she in his. "The garment is the grace, the beauty, chastity or the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." Islam does not consider woman "an instrument of the Devil", but rather the Qur'an calls her muhsana - a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of righteousness in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a most virtuous act. He said: "When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion." He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: "Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower)." The Qur'an has given the reason for the existence of marriage in the following words:

And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (30:21)

Before the advent of Islam women were often treated worse than animals. The Prophet (pbuh) wanted to put a stop to all cruelties to women. He preached kindness towards them. He told the Muslims: "Fear Allah in respect of women." And: "The best of you are they who behave best to their wives." And: "A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good." And: "The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is."

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was most emphatic in enjoining upon Muslims to be kind to their women when he delivered his famous Khutbah on the Mount of Mercy at Arafat in the presence of one hundred thousand of his Companions who had gathered there for the Hajj al-Wada (Farewell Pilgrimage). In his Khutbah he ordered those present, and through them all those Muslims who were to come later, to be respectful and kind towards women. He said:

"Fear Allah regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have got (rights) over them, and they have got (rights) over you in respect of their food and clothing according to your means."

 The predominant idea in the teachings of Islam with regard to men and women is that a husband and wife should be full-fledged partners in making their home a happy and prosperous place, that they should be loyal and faithful to one another, and genuinely interested in each other's welfare and the welfare of their children. A woman is expected to exercise a humanizing influence over her husband and to soften the sternness inherent in his nature. A man is enjoined to educate the women in his care so that they cultivate the qualities in which they, by their very nature, excel.

The Shari'ah requires a man, as head of the family, to consult with his family and then to have the final say in decisions concerning it. In doing so he must not abuse his prerogative to cause any injury to his wife. Any wrongdoing of this principle involves for him the risk of losing the favor of Allah, because his wife is not his subordinate but she is, to use the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him), 'the queen of her house', and this is the position a true Muslim is expected to give his wife. In contrast to these enlightened teachings of Islam in respect of women, Western talk of women's liberation or emancipation is actually a disguised form of exploitation of her body, dispossession of her honor, and deprivation of her soul.

Prophet Muhammad 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 68, p.42-43).

Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) 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 Quran 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.


Abuse in Muslim homes includes pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, beating, bondage, and refusing to help a wife when she is sick or injured. There are different types of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, etc). Violent 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.  Gender violence is not a private matter between a husband and wife that it should be ignored. Domestic violence can lead to the destruction and separation of a Muslim family, which is already so fragile in a predominantly non-Muslim environment. The destruction of one family is the destruction of one unit of the Muslim community. Muslim community leaders or Imams have a duty to help those suffering in this crisis. Not only must we help the sister who is being abused, but also the abuser must be stopped. Gender violence can lead to the murder of a woman, and the murderer will be put in jail. In USA the children would be separated from parents and most probably they will be put in non-Muslim foster homes if this happened.

Battered women should be transferred to the nearest battered women's shelter. One should know if there are crisis hotlines available, as well as shelter houses or safe houses where women can stay if they are trying to escape from a violent husband.

The Muslim community should develop protection plans in order to assess the level of crisis in a home and help women. This is important because when there is an emergency involving a Muslim woman who wants to contact Muslims, shelters and crisis lines can refer the woman to the mosque or Islamic center and the Imam or another Muslim. Men and women have to start taking it seriously and present it in Halaqahs (Islamic study circles) and Imam should cover it in Friday Khutbahs (sermons).

One should remember that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was married for 37 years of his life and never hit his wives.

Every Muslim family should be made aware that the Islamic rules of good behavior apply to one's family just as much as to the whole Muslim community.

Shelters for abused women

It is the responsibility of the Muslim community to make sure the mosque or Islamic center is open at all times for abused women to seek refuge in.  Muslim women would prefer to turn for help to their community before going to non-Muslim shelters and calling non-Muslim run crisis lines.  Only when the mosque is a "safe spot" then only women would consider the mosque as one of their first points of refuge in an emergency. There should be adequate safety in the mosque for women fleeing violence.

In case of crisis there should be contact mechanism as to who should be contacted and how that person should be contacted. In mosques and Islamic centers, support groups should be established for abusers and the abused (disjointedly) so they can share their experiences with other Muslims who may have suffered from domestic violence as well. Wise, responsible, and dependable persons should run this group.

Many Muslims believe that this tragedy doesn't affect Muslim families. This delusion is wrong and it does affect the Muslim families living in North America.

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.

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired?


You can continue to be frustrated, alienated, trampled on or you can decide to follow the word of your Rabb (Lord) and do something about the injustices in the Islamic community hurdled at women, children and just men who defend them. Remember Allah says Oppression is worst than slaughter. The Prophet prohibited oppression for himself and his followers. It is up to you! Just men and just women there is a group that doesn't care about what association your local Masaajids is a part of or your social/economic status. Our collaboration is looking for dedicated, committed, independent thinking and acting people who truly love Allah and try to live by the Noble Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Just men and just women who understand that any form of abuse is HARAM! Just men and women who understand that anyone who perpetrates abuse and does not repent and then seek help for their problem is a determent to our Muslim communities. Just men and women who understand that rape, incest, beatings, murder/suicides, honor killings, acid attacks, burnings and battering are not just signs of personality traits (that should be covered up) but crimes and should not be covered up by anyone especially our leadership (some continue to ignore what is going on in their communities). Just men and women who no longer will go along with the status quo (male or female imposed) just to 'be in' and help cover up these heinous crimes. (Reference  http://www.baitulsalaam.freehomepage.)



Strategies To Keep Anger At Bay




Simple relaxation through deep breathing, can help calm down angry feelings. If both the partners in a relationship are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both to learn the relaxation techniques.

Some simple steps one can try:

  • Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut."
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  • Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
  • Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.

Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you're in a tense situation.

Cognitive Restructuring

Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "oh, it's awful, it's terrible, everything's ruined, and "tell yourself," it's frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow." Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, that it won't make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse).

Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it's justified, can quickly become irrational. When you're unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions-frustration, disappointment, hurt-but not anger. Some angry people use this anger as a way to avoid feeling hurt, but that doesn't mean the hurt goes away.

Problem Solving

Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it's a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. There is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to find out that this isn't always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem. Face the problem with your best intentions and efforts and make a serious attempt to face it head-on, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.

Better Communication

Angry people tend to jump to-and act on-conclusions, and some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if you're in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don't say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.

It's natural to get defensive when you're criticized, but don't fight back. Instead, listen to what's underlying the words: the message that this person might feel neglected and unloved. It may take a lot of patient questioning on your part, and it may require some breathing space, but don't let your anger-or a partner's-let a discussion spin out of control. Keeping your cool can keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one.

Using Humor

"Silly humor" can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective. There are two cautions in using humor. First, don't try to just "laugh off" your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Second, don't give in to harsh, sarcastic humor; that's just another form of unhealthy anger expression.

What these techniques have in common is a refusal to take yourself too seriously. Anger is a serious emotion, but it's often accompanied by ideas that, if examined, can make you laugh.

Changing Your Environment

Sometimes it's our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation and fury.

Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some "personal time" scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. One example is the working mother who has a standing rule that when she comes home from work, for the first 15 minutes "nobody talks to Mom unless the house is on fire." After this brief quiet time, she feels better prepared to handle demands from her kids without blowing up at them.

Some Other Tips for Easing Up on Yourself

Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight when you discuss things at night—perhaps you're tired, or distracted, or maybe it's just habit—try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks don't turn into arguments.

Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes you furious every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don't make yourself look at what infuriates you. Don't say, "well, my child should clean up the room so I won't have to be angry!" That's not the point. The point is to keep yourself calm.

Finding alternatives: If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a project-learn or map out a different route, one that's less congested or more scenic. Or find another alternative, such as a bus or commuter train.



If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. A psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior.


October is designated as the Domestic Violence Awareness Month in America. Statistics show that three to four million women are beaten annually and every 15 seconds a woman is abused in her home (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Report to the nation on Crime and Justice. The Data. Washington DC Office of Justice Program, US Dept. of Justice. Oct 1983).

 Nationally, gender violence has become the number one cause of death among women. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between ages 15 and 44 in the United States - more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1991)

Battered women are more likely to suffer miscarriages and to give birth to babies with low birth weights. (Surgeon General, United States, 1992)

Battering is the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through violence and other forms of abuse. The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, isolation, etc. to coerce and to control the other person. The violence may not happen often, but it remains as a hidden (and constant) terrorizing factor. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1990)

"One in five women victimized by their spouses or ex-spouses report they had been victimized over and over again by the same person." (The Basics of Batterer Treatment, Common Purpose, Inc., Jamaica Plain, MA)

Women of all cultures, races, occupations, income levels, and ages are battered - by husbands, boyfriends, lovers and partners. (Surgeon General Antonia Novello, as quoted in Domestic Violence: Battered Women, publication of the Reference Department of the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA)

"Approximately one-third of the men counseled (for battering) at Emerge are professional men who are well respected in their jobs and their communities. These have included doctors, psychologists, lawyers, ministers, and business executives. (For Shelter and Beyond, Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service Groups, Boston, MA 1990)

Battered women are often severely injured - 22 to 35 percent of women who visit medical emergency rooms are there for injuries related to ongoing partner abuse. (David Adams, "Identifying the Assaultive Husband in Court: You be the Judge." Boston Bar Journal, 33-4, July/August 1989)

One in four pregnant women have a history of partner violence. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1992)

Women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay. (Barbara Hart, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1988)

Nationally, 50 percent of all homeless women and children are on the streets because of violence in the home. (Senator Joseph Biden, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Violence Against Women: Victims of the System, 1991)

There are nearly three times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for battered women and their children. (Senate Judiciary Hearings, Violence Against Women Act, 1990).

Family Violence Statistics


Between 11and 42 million women experience serious assault by an intimate partner each year.

47% of men who beat their wives do so at least 3 times per year.3

Nearly 1 in 3 adult women experience at least 1 physical assault by a partner during adulthood.4

Only about one-seventh of all domestic assaults come to the attention of the police.5

Each year, an estimated 3.3 million children witness their mothers or female caretakers being abused.6

40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse children.7

Young women, between the ages of 16-24 in dating relationships experience the highest rate of domestic violence and sexual assault.8

An average of 28% of high school and college students experience dating violence at some point.9

26% of pregnant teens reported being physically abused by their boyfriends -- about half of them said the battering began or intensified after he learned of her pregnancy.10

Requests for emergency shelter by homeless families with children increased in 68% of US cities surveyed in 1999.11

57 % of homeless families identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness.12

Between one- and two-thirds of welfare recipients reported having suffered domestic violence at some point in their adult lives; between 15 - 32% reported current domestic victimization.13

Black women experience intimate partner violence at a 35% higher rate than white women.14

A battered woman who is not a legal resident, or whose immigration status depends on her partner, is isolated by cultural dynamics, which may prevent her from leaving her husband or seeking assistance from the legal system. These factors contribute to the higher incidence of abuse among immigrant women.15

While same-sex battering mirrors heterosexual battering both in type and prevalence, its victims receive fewer protections. Seven states define domestic violence in a way that excludes same-sex victims; 21 states have sodomy laws that may require same-sex victims to confess to a crime in order to prove they are in a domestic relationship.16

1Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey (NCJ-154348) August 1995, p. 3.

2American Psychological Association; Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 10.

3AMA Diagnostic & Treatment Guidelines on Domestic Violence, SEC: 94-677:3M: 9/94 (1994).

4American Psychological Association; Violence and the Family Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 10.

5Florida Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Florida Mortality Review Project, 1997, p. 3.

6American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 11.

7American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 80.

8Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence. May 2000.

9Brustin, S., Legal Response to Teen Dating Violence, Family Law Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2, 331 (Summer 1995) (citing Levy, In Love & In Danger: a teen's guide to breaking free of an abusive relationship, 1993).

10Brustin, S., Legal Response to Teen Dating Violence, Family Law Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2, 333-334 (Summer 1995) (citing Worcester, A More Hidden Crime: Adolescent Battered Women, The Network News, July/Aug., National Women's Health Network 1993).

11The United States Conference of Mayors, A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: 1999, December 1999, p39.

12The United States Conference of Mayors, A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: 1999, December 1999, p. 94.

13Raphael & Tolman, Trapped by Poverty, Trapped by Abuse: New Evidence Documenting the Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Welfare, p. 21 (1997).

14Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence. May 2000.

15Orloff et al., With No Place to Turn: Improving Advocacy for Battered Immigrant Women, Family Law Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2, 313 (Summer 1995).

16Barnes, It's Just a Quarrel', American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 24.  

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