By Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds
International Women’s Day (8 March) is a day to highlight the achievements and struggles of women. It is often alleged that Islam suppresses women but this could not be further from the truth. More than 1400 years ago Islam gave women rights; rights that could not have been imagined by other civilizations.
As with any other community, in some instances, there is disparity between the sublime teachings of Islam and the cultural practices of Muslims. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to reflect on those cultural that are un-Islamic and resolve to tackle those social ills. One such misconduct that has crept into certain parts of the Muslim community is Domestic Abuse.
Domestic abuse and violence occurs against women in all societies regardless of culture, ethnicity, religious background and socio- economic status. According to White Ribbon Campaign 45% of UK women have experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. According to Women’s Aid, one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. It has been estimated that domestic abuse costs the public £23 billion per annum.
This article has not been written because Muslim women are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than women belonging to other communities or that Muslim men are more violent than men from other communities. This is not the case at all. Instead, the intention is to remind ourselves of the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) so that such un-Islamic practices do not take place in any Muslim household. Such un-Islamic behaviour does not only affect our personal happiness or relationships in this world but rather has serious implications for the next world.
In his 38 years of married life, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never abused any of his wives and was extremely gentle and compassionate with his family. In fact, one of the companions is reported to have said: “I have never seen anyone more kind to his family than Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).” [Muslim].
Women as well as men can be victims of domestic abuse which manifests in various forms, most commonly as physical violence, but also as emotional abuse and financial control. Abusers excuse their violent actions towards their victims as a consequence of frustrations resulting from financial difficulties, problems with the children, family members or colleagues, cultural pressures, or an inferiority complex and they let out their frustration by abusing their spouses. In order to justify their actions, they sometimes, distort the meaning of a particular passage of the Glorious Qur’an [Qur’an 4:34] and take it out of context.
In fact, instead of condoning domestic abuse, Islam is a way of life that brings peace and harmony through submission to Allah, the Exalted. It offers an entirely different picture of how husband and wife relations should be conducted.
The Prophet said “The worst of people are those that are quick to anger, but slow to self-correct.” [al-Amālī al-Mutlaqah] He (peace be upon him) also said “The best of acts is to cause another Muslim to feel joy.” [Targhib] .We can infer that the opposite is true then, that the one of the worst acts is to cause another Muslim to be depressed and sad.
Allah Almighty says in the Glorious Qur’an that when men retain their wives in marriage it should not be to take advantage of them rather kindness and affection should be the mark of their relationship: “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 own soul. Do not take God’s instructions as a jest.” [Qur’an 2:231].
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has equated perfect belief with good treatment to one’s wife and has also declared it as one of his practices (Sunnah). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said: “The most perfect believer is one who is the best in courtesy and amiable manners, and the best among you people is one who is most kind and courteous to his wives” [Tirmidhi].
Domestic abuse or violence not only brings the whole institution of marriage into disrepute but it can also lead to young Muslim women becoming disillusioned with Islam, or in some instances, even leaving Islam altogether because they perceive that the Muslim community has failed to live up to the Islamic promise of protection, peace and kindness.
Domestic violence must therefore be dealt with in an appropriate way in order to educate, provide assistance and prevent future occurrences in those who suffer.
This devastating social crisis affects men, women and children across the UK and hinders their physical, social and psychological functioning. Domestic abuse can only be properly dealt with if members of the family as well as the whole community realise the grave effects of domestic abuse on the whole family as well as on the community.
Faith leaders, Imams, mosques can also play a key role in promoting Islamic family values amongst the Muslim community. Mosques should have trained officers or Imams willing to help. Help the sisters when things get tough and provide support to the family. Further, young men and women should be educated about their respective rights and responsibilities in marriage so that it is instilled in them that tension at home or at work must not result in domestic abuse and violence. Married spouses’ aim should be to develop a healthy, violence-free, family life.
Finally, a person who resorts to domestic abuse must also realise that he is not only destroying his family life but is also going against the teachings of Islam. He should, on the one hand, try to acquire important life skills, such as anger management, communication skills, stress management, decision making and problem solving skills, that can help to prevent domestic violence; and on the other hand, he must aim to strengthen his relationship with His Lord so that he finds inner peace and harmony.
Most men are not violent towards women, but many men ignore the problem, or see it as something which does not have anything to do with them. Men and Women must join together to stand up for justice, equality and compassion for the other gender.