Domestic Violence: A Violation of Islam
9/30/2010 9:25 PM
Editor's Note: This is actually an introduction to an excellent publication by Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) Shura Council. We encourage all our readers to follow the link provided in this post and read the entire publictaion. Afterward, please post your comments here for further discussion.
The WISE Shura Council is a global and inclusive council of Muslim women scholars, activists, and specialists. The Council endeavors to connect Islamic principles to society’s most pressing issues and develop holistic strategies for creating positive social change. In the following statement, the Shura Council condemns domestic violence as an absolute violation of the teachings of Islam.
Domestic violence, also known as “intimate partner violence,” is a form of violent or oppressive domination over a family member or partner. It occurs in families and relationships around the world and across culture, religion, race, and geography. Domestic violence manifests in various forms, most commonly as physical violence, but also as emotional abuse and financial control. Many of those who suffer from domestic violence fear for the safety of their lives and are thus reluctant to come forward. Although domestic violence victimizes both men and women, the majority of the victims are women.
As a worldwide phenomenon, domestic violence remains an ever-present reality in the lives of millions of Muslims. Throughout the world, violence destroys the ability of Muslim women to thrive within their families, communities, and nations. Moreover, perpetrators of domestic violence often try to justify their acts in the name of Islam.
Domestic violence has been condemned by national and international laws worldwide and is a clear violation of the teaching of Islam, as represented in the Holy Qur’an and the example and sayings (Sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad, and guiding principles of Islamic law (maqasid al-Shari’ah). The members of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) and its Muslim Women’s Shura Council, recognize justice, fairness, and equality as the core values of Islam, and reject domestic violence in all its forms, everywhere.
Refuting Domestic Violence
While domestic violence results from a diverse set of factors, it is important for Muslims to reclaim the discourses of non-violence and peace from within the Islamic traditions. This is particularly important as some Muslims try to excuse domestic violence on the basis of Surah 4, verse 34 of the Qur’an. Likewise, some non-Muslims point to 4:34 to condemn Islam as sexist and violent towards women. Both of these groups assume that this verse specifically gives husbands the right to beat, or at least physically chastise, their wives.
In most English translations, the second half of this verse is translated as follows:
As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty [nushuz], first admonish them, then abandon their sleeping places, then beat them [lightly] [udribuhuna].
While at first glance the meaning of this verse may seem apparent, in order to properly apply it, several factors must be taken into account. Together, these provide a compelling refutation of the view that domestic violence is sanctioned by Islam:
A. A linguistic analysis of the word daraba;
B. Confusion over the meaning of nushuz;
C. Intertextual analysis of the Qur’an;
D. The general message of the Qur’an;
E. The Prophet’s example;
F. The Maqasid al-Shari’ah; and
G. Historical context and the Qur’an’s pattern of gradually eliminating certain practices.
Jurists of the pre-modern tradition largely understood daraba in 4:34 to mean “beat.” Although their methodology was sound, it was informed by the context of their patriarchal societies. The Shura Council considers the following explanation to be more relevant, constructive, and just for contemporary Muslim families and societies. This conscious departure is similarly backed by sound methodology, especially as jurists have always been comfortable developing different meanings of words or interpretations of verses in light of new evidence and changing circumstances. Read More Read More