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Domestic Violence

By Imam Ashraf Carrim

Domestic violence has become a phenomenon of our times today. And unfortunately, it is rife in Muslim communities all over the world.  We remain far from a solution to this dilemma. We must ask the question, why? Why, despite our modernism, our knowledge and ever-changing technology- that our societies persist in committing violence and abuse in homes? WE must ask ourselves, why, despite the laws and the social and financial ramifications, this vile act still persists in our communities? Gone is the era that believed that violence, especially domestic, was a product of poverty? This mindset has been disproved today- domestic violence does not discriminate between wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, age, language, race or religion.

The perpetrators of domestic violence appear in all aspects of life, and by all kinds of people- politicians, clergy, professionals, laymen and the poor. The fact that some Muslims justify their reasons for committing acts of domestic violence to be ordained in the Holy Qur’an is itself a heinous crime to Islam. Let me clarify Islam’s position regarding this.

According to Islam, a Muslim is an individual who, by freely submitting to the will of God, understands the commandments and his/her role in life. In this sense, morality becomes the essence of Islam. God-consciousness cannot produce its moral and behavioral consequences if it is not deeply rooted in the human heart and mind by free will and full conviction.

Sound spirituality with sound morality is the goal of Islam. Allah states in this verse of the Holy Quran:

“The believers , men and women are protectors one of another, they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayer, practice regular charity, and they obey Allah and his Messenger. On them Allah will pour His Mercy, for Allah is exalted in power, Wise.”  (Quran 9:71)

The Holy Prophet (SAW) was asked who can be considered to be the most perfect in Imaan. He replied:

“The most perfect among believers is that person who is most perfect in his moral life”.

Islam seeks to implant firmly in man’s heart the conviction that his dealings are with God, who sees him at all times and in all places. Therefore, violence in the home is a contradiction of the principles of Islam. Marriage is considered one of the highest institutions and loved by Allah therefore, marriage is a commitment and a solemn promise made before Allah, and bound by duties of honor and love by both husband and wife. This has been declared by Allah in the Holy Quran:

“And among His wonders is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you might find restfulness and satisfaction, and He has engendered between you affection, and tenderness: surely, in that are signs for people who think/reflect.” (Quran 30:21)

Since love and tenderness between a married couple is endowed by Allah, any conduct or action that is rooted in violence is neither tolerated nor permitted in Islam. This is evident from the above verse. However, people who perform these actions of beating their spouses use a single word from a long verse which is from Surah Nisa to justify their violence. Now let me explain to you this verse and clarify any misconceptions:

Allah ordains in this verse of the Holy Quran:

“Men have to support, sustain and take full care of women, according to what Allah has given of advantages and consequently one over the other, and what they have to spend out of their possessions. Righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard there unseen private behavior as Allah has required. And as for those women whose defiance and offensiveness you have reason to fear, admonish them, and refrain from any contact with them, and hit them (lightly)[if this becomes unavoidable and fair to prevent very serious harm caused by them against themselves or others]: But if they want to keep you company, do not try in any way to be unfair or harmful to them, Allah is All High All Great. And if you fear a breach between a married couple, bring forth an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people if they want to set things right, Allah may bring about their reconciliation: Surely Allah is All Knowing All Aware.” (Quran 4:35)

The first of the above verse make it clear that a men’s relation to his wife and his family is one of responsibility, not superiority. As the man is physically released from the burden of childbirth and child rearing, he has to be the person responsible for supporting, sustaining and taking full care of the wife and the family. This is the men’s legal responsibility and as long as man is fulfilling his legal and moral responsibilities towards his wife and his family, he deserves love and respect, not superiority and authoritativeness. This verse also indicates three ways of dealing with spouses who are disobedient. The Holy Quran mentions the following way:

- Firstly, advice them – in this way Islam is directing us to speak to each other and keep open the channels of communication. If this fails then proceed to the next step.

- Secondly, to refrain from any contact with them in bed – if the situation worsens and the wife persists in her disobedience and disregard, then only does the Quran allow an action that is physical.

- Hit them – this word wadribuhunnah comes from the root word daraba which means – to hit. Mufassireen (commentators of the Quran) have defined this word as a mild, physical measure to show one’s contempt and disapproval of the disobedience.

These are the three measures that are to be determined according to the degree of the act, not for mere repetition or continuation of the same kind of it. No beating or physical reaction can be justified merely for a repetition of what deserves only advising or avoiding contact in bed. The only situation when a physical intervention by the husband can be justified is when the wife’s disobedience takes the physical form of causing harm to herself, the husband or the children. (Causing fire, using a weapon, etc). In such a suddenly emergent cause, no advice or avoidance in bed can work and a physical intervention has to be practiced to stop the action. The Holy Prophet (SAW) in his farewell pilgrimage indicated that only a “Flagrant shameful conduct” of a wife may allow a physical reaction from the husband, and the commentators of that tradition and the jurists restricted this form of punishment to a very light and symbolic action such as beating with a siwaak, (a small instrument like a toothpick used for cleaning the teeth).

Since the Quran and the Prophet during all his life repeatedly emphasized man’s obligation to treat women justly and kindly, and warned against any moral or physical offence against them, it is incompatible that a man can beat or commit acts of violence against his wife.

There is NO record or evidence that the Beloved Prophet (SAW) ever beat or abused any of his wives. If we are followers of Muhammadur Rasoolullah (SAW) how can we claim that we are following the Sunnah when we commit such acts of violence against our sisters? Is this Islam? No! No! My brothers and sisters in Islam, Islam is Peace not abuse. I appeal to those who do not have the knowledge, do not interpret the Holy Quran for your own convenience or to justify your wrong doing.

I hope that this has cleared any misunderstanding or misconceptions regarding verses of the Quran that supports beating and abusing women. Islam’ viewpoint is absolutely clear that under no circumstance does Islam condone violence against any individual especially the wife.

May Allah guide each one of us to correct moral behavior so that we can live according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammadur Rasoolullah (SAW). Aameen

Imam Ashraf Carrim

International Institute of Tolerance

Muslim Women's League
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