Stop Domestic Violence: Wake Up, Speak Up, Team Up
7/15/2012 12:00 AM
Domestic violence is an injustice that is prohibited in Islam. Islam promotes peace, love and tranquility (“Sakinah”) inside the home and within marriages. Muslims in general are asked to help stop violence and injustice against people by stopping their oppressors and abusers. Project Sakinah, an initiative of Dar al Islam, has taken a lead in doing so. The project encourages the community as a collective to stop domestic violence and to foster healthy Muslim families in North America.
A major source of confusion and misunderstanding about the permissibility of domestic abuse in Islam to discipline one’s wife is the disputed translation of the famous verse 4:34 of Quran. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, like many other scholars, translates it as following:
“… As to those women on whom part ye fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (And last) spank them (lightly); …
This and similar translations have been challenged on two grounds by several Muslim scholars in the recent years. The first is on grounds of alternate meanings of the word “durbahunna.” For example, the Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council writes in its report Jihad Against Violence: Women Struggle for Peace:
In classical Arabic, the word daraba has 25 different meanings. “Beat” or “chastise” are two of them, but another is “go away from.” Therefore, the verse could be interpreted:
As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty, first admonish them, then abandon their sleeping places, then go away from them.
The second way of challenging an improper interpretation that insists on “beat” or “chastise,” is the fact that there exists no evidence of domestic abuse in the married life of the blessed Prophet Mohammed. Even at the time of dispute at home, he chose to stay away from his wives instead of “beating them even lightly,” providing further evidence against that interpretation.
In addition, there are several sayings of the blessed prophet condemning all kinds of oppression and abuse. Here are just a few:
- “Do not abuse anyone, do not look down upon any good work, and when you speak to your brother, show him a cheerful face.” [Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1889]
- “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor…” [Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 631]
- Anas Bin Malik reported, Allah’s Apostle (PBUH)* said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle ((PBUH)* ! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (PBUH)* said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 633]
The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)* clearly forbids all forms of abuse by any person against another. He also advocates for Muslims to help all who are involved in abuse, whether as victims or perpetrators, encouraging us to help oppressors by stopping them from oppressing others.
These are just a few among many sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and verses from the Quran that serve as beacon of lights for our staff at Project Sakinah. This project aims not only to raise awareness about domestic violence, but also to build teams to combat this kind of violence across Muslim communities in North America. We advocate preventing and stopping domestic violence through encouraging action by families, communities and institutions. These actions can be taken in three simple steps: Wake Up, Speak Up, Team Up.
The philosophy behind these steps is derived from the famous Hadith (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, PBUH) in which he is reported to have said: “If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart, and this is the weakest faith.” This supports our view that simple awareness of domestic violence without action is a symbol of the weakest faith. Speaking out against it is better than simply being aware of it, and teaming up to actively combat it is better than simply speaking out.
At Project Sakinah, it is our view that in this fast pace, high-tech media world, people’s attention can easily be diverted from one issue to another in a matter of minutes. People may get excited about one thing for a couple of days and forget about it a week later.
Many of us remember a cartoon character campaign on Facebook from last year. Tens of thousands of people changed their profile picture to their favorite cartoon character. The idea was that by changing pictures, they would be raising awareness about child abuse. When in reality, many of them were merely talking about their favorite cartoons. At the same time, several other people were asking how this kind of campaign was actually going to stop child abuse. What is the use of a campaign of awareness in the absence of action?
Raising awareness about domestic violence is similar—whether it is done by wearing purple ribbons or headscarves; through holding a seminar, a conference or a workshop—whether through organized walks or through online activism. Unfortunately, awareness campaigns alone cannot effectively combat domestic violence unless they are followed by some form of actions taken by the people supporting them.
Project Sakinah works to mobilize Muslim American and Canadian community members to address domestic violence
This is why Project Sakinah focuses on actual mobilization and organization of Muslim American and Canadian community members to address this issue. Stopping domestic violence needs consistent efforts and solid actions taken by not only professionals and parties involved directly, but also by family members, communities, faith based organizations, and institutions.
Through our grassroots efforts we hope to introduce preventive measures including pre-marital counseling, couplehood trainings, anger management workshops and several other programs to various communities through mosques and Islamic centers. We are also engaging community members in dialogues about their matrimonial choices, the concept of manhood and womanhood and the role of their mosques and families in shaping these perceptions.
We are urging all Muslims in North America to join hands with us. This is a community project. Its success lies in the community’s hands, and as the blessed prophet Mohammed said:
“…Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs…” [Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 631]
 “Allah” is the Arabic word for “God”
Note: This article was first published in "Connect Point" a publication of Peace by Peace.