October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). In the United States, DVAM was launched in October of 1987 as a way to connect and unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues while raising awareness for those issues. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community around the world. Across races, religions, and nationalities, one in three women will be abused in their lifetime by an intimate partner. Different societies respond differently to these kinds of social ills, and Islam has a very concise approach as to how we should approach this issue.
What does Islam say about domestic violence?
According to a research article published by Yaqeen Institute titled Islam and Violence Against Women: A Critical Look at Domestic Violence and Honor Killings in the Muslim Community, Tessneem AlKeik addresses the question of what role religion plays in allowing or prohibiting domestic violence. She writes, “Well, for one, abusers take advantage of misinterpretations of religious texts and exploit scripture as a justification for harming others both physically and mentally. Religious communities and leaders, on the other hand, can provide fundamental resources to raise awareness of the harms and impermissibility of domestic violence and provide support for victims.”
The article begins with outlining the framework by which Muslims study this issue, using the two main sources of Islamic law. Those are the Holy Quran, and the example set by Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God. Muslims use these two holy sources of knowledge, processed, engaged with, and analyzed by scholars, to derive morality and principles by which they govern their life. This knowledge applies to all aspects of life, including domestic violence.
What does the Quran say about the treatment of one’s wives?
The research articles delves into the Quran’s revelations that directly address the marital relationship and its dynamics.
“And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” [Quran 30:21]. God also commands men in another verse to “live with your wives in kindness and equity” [4:19], while other verses threaten them with God’s admonishment if they intend harm or actually transgress against their wives [2:231]. Furthermore, there are verses that recognize the complementary nature of marriage by describing spouses as garments for one another [2:187] and reminding believers that men and women are protectors of one another [9:71]. These verses set the standard and paradigm of love, compassion, and mutuality for spousal relationships.”
What did the Prophet ﷺ model?
The Prophet ﷺ is an example to all Muslims, the best man and best of creation who ever walked the Earth. From him we learn how to model the commandments in the Quran. The Prophet’s wife narrated that, “the Messenger of God, peace and blessings upon him, did not strike a servant or a woman, and he never struck anything with his hand.”
The Prophet Muhammad stated, “An honorable man treats women with honor and respect, and only a despicable person treats women poorly.”10 Other hadith, or narrations, relate the story of a companion of the Prophet who asked the Messenger, “What do you say [advise] about our wives?” to which the Prophet replied, “Share with them the same food you have for yourself, and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them, and do not revile them.”11 Moreover, the Prophet proclaimed, “Would one of you beat his wife like a slave and then sleep with her at the day’s end?!” thereby emphasizing the absurdity of someone harming his wife.12
How did the Prophet ﷺ Respond to a Survivor?
There are many narrations similar to the one described above where the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ responds with abhorrence toward domestic violence. The research article shares a powerful example with the wife of a man named al-Waleed ibn Uqbah, where she approached the Prophet to complain about her husband.
“She said, “O Messenger of God! Al-Waleed has beaten me!” The Prophet responded, “Say to him: the Prophet has protected me.” It was not long before she returned, saying, “He did not give me anything except more beatings!” The Prophet then tore a piece from his garment [as a symbol of proof for his protection] and said, “Say to him: Verily, the Messenger of God has given me protection.” It was not long before she returned once more and said, “He did not give me anything except more beatings!” The Prophet then raised his hands and he said: “O God, you must deal with al-Waleed for he has sinned against me twice.”13”
“In another instance, the Prophet actively supported a victim of domestic abuse, Habeeba bint Sahl, the wife of Thabit bin Qays and the neighbor of the Prophet Muhammad, by helping her leave the abusive relationship. When Thabit struck Habeeba, she turned up at the door of the Prophet Muhammad. After telling him about her situation, she said, “Thabit and I can no longer be married.” The Prophet then summoned Thabit, settled their financial affairs, and ensured that Habeeba was able to safely return to her family.14 In addition to these courses of action, the Prophet Muhammad took proactive measures to guarantee women would not be married off to harmful men. It was narrated that the Prophet approached Fatima bint Qays to inquire whether she was ready to get married. She had received proposals from Muʿawiyah, Abu Jahm, and Usama ibn Zayd. In order to help her make the correct decision, the Prophet advised her, “As for Muʿawiyah, he is a poor man without money [and cannot sufficiently provide for you]. As for Abu Jahm, he is a man who habitually hits women. [Therefore] I advise you to marry Usama.”15”
The Yaqeen journal article, in addition to another one refenced titled Women in Islamic Law: Examining Five Prevalent Myths, provide great answers to the question, what does Islam say about domestic violence?
This month, community members around the country take a moment to remember, respect, and deliberate over the social ill that is domestic violence and how it plagues our communities. Islam’s approach and example in addressing domestic violence is one many activists, leaders, and active community members seek to implement in a difficult and painful world.