The Muslim Wheel of Domestic Violence

The Muslim Wheel of Domestic Violence was developed by Sr. Sharifa Alkhateeb. It conveys some of the ways religion can be distorted to justify abuse against women and children in the family context. It is an adaptation of the Power and Control Wheel developed by the Domestic Abuse Project of Duluth, Minnesota.

Muslim Wheel of Domestic Violence
Sharifa Alkahteeb

 Click on any of the sections for details. 
Using Isolation

  • husband says that as the "qawwamun" (manager) of his wife, he has the God-given right to control her every movement, who she sees and talks to, what she thinks, what she reads
  • wives are made to get permission to use the telephone, go grocery shopping, visit parents
  • even if marriage contract gives her full mobility, husband ignores it


Minimizing, Denying, Blaming

  • directing children to lie about/trivializing the abuse
  • denying the abuse by calling it "discipline"
  • saying the wife caused the abuse
  • tells wife that divulging episodes of abuse equals violation of her Islamic responsibility to respect her husband's privacy and God will condemn her for it


Using Children

  • children told they are being beaten to prevent becoming too "American"
  • father threatens to get custody from Islamic court, send children overseas, marry them off young or kidnap them
  • children's trauma symptoms used as excuse to batter wife
  • father encourages children to insult, disrespect mother
  • husband says he has to abuse mother to stop child abuse


Using Male Privilege

  • husband's dominance and inflexibility extolled as Qu'ranically mandated requiring obedience in all matters
  • wife's opinions, aspirations, plans considered as "Western" and un-Islamic
  • children verbally/physically abused as "right" of Muslim father
  • wife encouraged to fear husband
  • repeats bogus Hadith [religious text] about women bowing to men


Using Economic Abuse

  • refusing to allow wife to get education or training
  • refusing to let her get a job
  • demanding she quit a job
  • taking her entire paycheck while Islam allows her to keep it all
  • hiding family income


Using Coercion and Threats

  • threatening to marry another wife
  • threatening "God-ordained" wife beating (Qu’ran 4:34)
  • threatening to leave her without money
  • threatening to spread the word that she is an adulteress
  • making her drop charges to preserve extended family's reputation


Using Intimidation

  • grossly dirtying her kitchen several times a day
  • having the local Imam [clergyman] tell the wife that the abuse is her fault
  • customs are disguised as religion
  • hiding/destroying important documents
  • taking all her jewelry and selling it
  • apologizing to others for her disobedience
  • collecting, displaying weapons
  • stalking


Using Emotional Abuse

  • belittling/calling wife unfit Muslim mother
  • making fun of her inadequate Islamic knowledge
  • calling her names/calling her crazy
  • making her believe she is incapable of directing her own life
  • telling abused women they must be quiet, docile, obedient to uphold family honor
  • lying to her extended family in letters
  • saying her lovemaking is inferior to Americans


The Muslim Wheel of Domestic Violence is available in .pdf format suitable for use as a handout. Download a Copy.



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