Domestic violence hurts
Muslims too: Stop the hurt now
October is 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.
One reaction may be, "that's
a tragedy that doesn't effect Muslim families". But 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.
Spouse 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 assaultive 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
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
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, from explosion to remorse 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
Domestic abuse also occurs during
pregnancy and can severely impact the child in utero. According to the
statistics eight percent to 26 percent 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(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
A translation of Quran 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. (Quran 4:19)"
Dr. Jamal Badawi, author of
Gender Equity in Islam, discusses Chapter 4, verse 34 of the Quran which is
often used to justify maltreatment of women. He indicates, "under no
circumstances does the Quran 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, in some cases, 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 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).
Domestic violence is preventable
by building our Iman (faith), remembering and implementing the commands of
Allah and the example of His Prophet. 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 (sermons) and study circles should
focus on Islamic ways to prevent family violence.
As Imams, community leaders,
brothers and sisters we can not 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 which has not been resolved through counseling and sincere
repentance to Allah. We must encourage couples to seek spiritual and
Shelters are needed for women and
children seeking a safe, protective, Islamic environment. Islamic Social
Services are needed to provide preventive education, support and crisis
intervention. Insha Allah (God willing) we must become partners against
domestic violence. Spread the word. Stop the hurt.
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