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Domestic Violence in Islam

Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money.

Domestic violence is not specific to a particular religious group. It is important to live your life according to the will of God so knowing what the Holy Book says about various aspects of life is pertinent. “The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character. The best of you are those who are the best to their women.” Allah says:

وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّمَّا خَلَقَ ظِلَالًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنَ الْجِبَالِ أَكْنَانًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ سَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمُ الْحَرَّ وَسَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُم بَأْسَكُمْ كَذَٰلِكَ يُتِمُّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْلِمُونَ

“And Allah (has) made for you from what He created, shades and (has) made for you from the mountains, shelters and (has) made for you garments to protect you (from) the heat and garments to protect you from your (mutual) violence. Thus He completes His Favor upon you so that you may submit.” (Surah An-Nahl 16:81)

Abusive behaviour towards a woman is also forbidden because it contradicts the objectives of Islamic jurisprudence – specifically the preservation of life and reason, and the Quranic injunctions of righteousness and kind treatment. Allah says:

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ وَرِضْوَانٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

“Allah has promised the believing men and the believing women Gardens, flow from underneath it the rivers (will) abide forever in it and dwellings blessed in Gardens (of) everlasting bliss. But the pleasure of Allah (is) greater. That, it (is) the success great.” (Surah At-Tawbah 9:72)

Domestic violence is against the law, but is it also a sin against God, Allah Almighty says in the Quran:

1. ‘Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in the husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, hit them lightly. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great.’(4:34)

2. And among His signs is this: He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.”  (Sura 30 Ayat 21)

3. The Believers, men, and women are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise(Sura 9 Ayat 71)

4. “The nobler among you in the sight of God is the more righteous among you.” (Quran, 49:13)

5. “O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to take women as heritage against (their) will. Nor should you straighten them by taking part in what you have given them unless they are guilty of manifest indecency. And treat them kindly. Then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it.” (Quran, 4:19).

6. “Retain them in kindness or release them in kindness. But do not retain them to their hurt so that you transgress (the limits). If anyone does that he wrongs his soul. Do not take God’s instructions as a jest“ (Qur’an 2:231).

7. Once the prophet, on whom be peace, was asked what are the obligations of husbands toward their wives. He replied: ‘Feed her when you eat and provide her clothing when you provide yourself. Neither hit her on the face nor use impolite language when addressing her.’ Marriage is a partnership based on love and mercy. (Quran 30:21)

8. O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things) (Qur’an, 49:13).

9. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they should commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free [unmarried] women. This [allowance] is for him among you who fears sin, but to be patient is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (4:25)

10 The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. (9:71)

The Prophet took several measures to end the abuse of women:

1.    He fought abusive behaviour in word and deed:

  • The Prophet used his sermons repeatedly to order men to stop abusive behaviour towards women.
  • e once called an emergency community meeting to address the issue of men beating their wives, as described above.
  • The Prophet forbade women’s sexual exploitation and harassment, as well as the stalking of women.
  • Women could seek justice and divorce against abusive husbands.
  • Instituted punishment by law for those who falsely accuse women.
  • Prohibited men from stopping their spouses from attending the mosque.

2.  He empowered women:

  • The Quran declared that women have rights similar to men.
  • He established women’s right to inheritance while declaring that they were not obligated to use their wealth to assist husbands in covering household expenses.
  • Quran ordered that women be consulted in family and community affairs.
  • He instituted educational programs for women. Many women became teachers in his lifetime.

3.  Marriage reform:

  • The Prophet banned several abusive forms of marriage in pre-Islamic Arabia.
  • e prohibited temporary marriage.
  • He forbade the pre-Islamic practice of men having an unlimited number of wives. The number was drastically reduced to four, with the condition that polygamy could only be practised if a man could guarantee equality in the treatment of wives. Otherwise, a man could marry only one wife.
  • He established that a marriage without the consent of the bride is invalid.

4.  Preaching good behaviour

  • The Prophet elevated the status of motherhood by declaring that Paradise is under the feet of mothers and that to serve them merits three times more reward than serving fathers.
  • He declared that a person who does not prefer his sons over his daughters would be with him in Paradise.
  • His last sermon to the community reminded men to fear God by being just towards women.

The ideal relationship between husband and wife in the Quran is the following verse:

  • “Spouses as garments for one another.” (Quran 2:187)
  • “live with your wives in kindness and equity.” (Quran 4:19)
  • “If they intend to harm or transgress against their wives.” (Quran 2:231)
  • “By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence.” (Surah An-Naziat, 1)
  • “And reminding believers that men and women are protectors of one another. (Quran 9:71)
  • “The nobler among you in the sight of God is the more righteous among you.” (Quran, 49:13)
  • “Retain them in kindness or release them in kindness. But do not retain them to their hurt so that you transgress (the limits). If anyone does that he wrongs his soul. Do not take God’s instructions as a jest.” (Quran 2:231)
  • “Ah now!- But a little while before, wast thou in rebellion!- and thou didst mischief (and Violence)!” (Surah Yunus, 91)

The issue of domestic violence ultimately transcends concerns of religious law and originates in the personal development of the abuser himself. It is thus incumbent upon us as individuals and as religious communities to provide safety nets for victims of abuse and to educate our members on the harms and prohibitions of domestic violence. Allah says:

وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ صَنْعَةَ لَبُوسٍ لَّكُمْ لِتُحْصِنَكُم مِّن بَأْسِكُمْ فَهَلْ أَنتُمْ شَاكِرُونَ

“And We taught him (the) making (of) coats of armour for you to protect you from your battle. Then will you (be) grateful?” (Surah Al-Anbiya 21:80)

The worship of God, which Muslims believe is the sole reason for their existence, is an all-encompassing concept that applies equally to one’s relationship with God as well as with His creation. In Islam, one cannot perfect their Worship of God, unless they perfect their relationship with others. The kind treatment of others, including one’s spouse, can therefore not be ignored as an obligatory act of Worship and a sign of piety to God. Allah says:

رَبَّنَا وَآتِنَا مَا وَعَدتَّنَا عَلَىٰ رُسُلِكَ وَلَا تُخْزِنَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّكَ لَا تُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

“Our Lord, grant us what You promised us through Your Messengers and (do) not disgrace us (on the) Day (of) [the] Resurrection. Indeed, You (do) not break the promise.” (Surah Ali Imran 3:194)

Islam teaches the individual to constantly consider which deeds and behaviours will be pleasing to Allah and to interact with others in a way that will be pleasing to Him. As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) related, “The best amongst you in the sight of God are those who are the best to their wives.”

It is through attaining a higher level of God-consciousness that Islamic principles can contribute to the elevation of society. As a believer sincerely contemplates how his deeds will be viewed by God, he learns to improve his conduct with others, including his spouse.