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Domestic Violence and Muslim Women FAQs

Are Muslim women more abused than other women?

Domestic violence affects women of all cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Preliminary research suggests that 10% of Muslims experience or have experienced physical violence.

If a Muslim woman is covered, is she more likely to be a victim of abuse?

Covering, or wearing hijab, is not an indicator of abuse. Rather, it is a way that many Muslim women choose to express the Islamic value of modesty. Most Muslim women in the US who wear hijab do so because it is their choice. Many Muslim women say that hijab liberates them from being objectified. However, in some Muslim-majority countries, governments may force women to dress in a certain manner. Forcing this dress code is abusive because it violates her right to choose how she practices her religion.

What is Islam’s position regarding domestic violence?

Islam prohibits all forms of oppression and injustice (Qur’an 5:8; 4:135; 42:42-43). Muslims scholars agree that Islam does not allow any form of abuse.

Doesn’t the Qur’an instruct men to beat their wives if they are disobedient?

Verse 4:34 in the Qur’an prescribes a step-by-step process for husbands to address a wife’s behavior if she is acting in a manner that would threaten the integrity of the family unit (such as promiscuous behavior). The Arabic word that has often been translated as “beat her” also has many other meanings, such as “leave her.” Scholars who choose the translation of “beat” emphasize that it is symbolic and can leave no mark or injury. These scholars suggest that the husband might use the equivalent of a tissue or blade of grass to make his point. Abusers may take this verse out of context and forget the multiple teachings that emphasize equity, mutual compassion and respect in the marital relationship (Qur’an 4:1; 30:21; 42:38; 49:13; 65:6).

What does Islam say about ending abuse?

Islam holds its followers responsible for speaking out against injustice and doing whatever is possible to end all forms of oppression (5:8; 42:42-43). The Qur’an reminds victims of oppression that if they are powerless to end the oppression, God’s earth is spacious enough for them to find a place free of oppression (4:97).

Will God be angry if I get a divorce or leave my husband if he is abusive?

God hates all forms of oppression. The Qur’an clearly allows divorce and provides details on the just manner in which a divorce should take place. Although Islam teaches that God dislikes divorce, he has not prohibited it. On the other hand, the Qur’an clearly prohibits injustice and oppression. The Qur’an has provided divorce as a peaceful solution (See Qur’an 2:227-242; 4:19 -21; 65: 1-8). The Prophet Muhammad married a woman who had been divorced, reinforcing the acceptability of divorce in the Muslim community.

Is abuse a punishment for past sins?

Numerous verses in the Qur’an serve as reminders that God will test each person in his or her lifetime in a multitude of ways (2: 155; 3:142, 3:186; 29:2). Even the most righteous people will be and have been tested. For some people, their test may come in the form of an abusive spouse. Rather than believing that suffering through the abuse is a way to atone for past sins, a person who is being abused could focus on ways to overcome the test. Overcoming the test might include remaining steadfast in one’s faith, continuing to pray, protecting oneself and one’s children from abuse, and seeking ways to end or escape the oppression and injustice.

Won’t God be angry that I am not obeying my husband?

Muslims must never obey anyone who is commanding a behavior that is contrary to God’s teachings. When obeying a husband involves behavior that is hurtful or destructive to oneself or others, a Muslim wife must remember that her primary obedience is to God. Muslim husbands should remember that their responsibility is to lead a healthy family unit in which all members are striving to implement God’s teachings, not to serve under the husband’s rule. Both husband and wife are directly accountable to God.

After years of being insulted and abused by my husband, I feel repulsed by him. Will I be punished if I avoid intimate relations with my husband?

The Qur’an emphasizes the mutual rights of husband and wife in all areas, and specifically in the sexual relationship, which should be mutually satisfying (2:187; 4:1; 30:21). A husband must take care of his wife emotionally and physically in order to exercise his right to intimate relations. If a spouse feels repulsed, it is important to explore appropriate options and interventions to remedy the situation.

Isn’t it better for my children to have two parents than to leave the abusive relationship?

Children are greatly impacted by witnessing abuse between their parents, or by growing up in a home where the victim may be experiencing depression as a result of the abuse. The damage to children is long-term and can affect their personality, their ability to study, and their future relationships. It is more important for children to live with a healthy parent who can be a good role model than to grow up in a climate of fear and anxiety when one or both parents are abusive.

Why does my partner abuse me? Is there something wrong with me?

People are abusive for many different reasons: they may have grown up in abusive homes and learned abusive behavior or they may believe they have the right to control others. But the bottom line is that people abuse because they can get away with it and because it is effective in controlling others. The person who is abusive is the one who has a problem. An abusive person will always be able to find fault with others and blame others, rather than taking responsibility for problems and trying to find solutions.

Is this my fate?

Islam teaches that each person has been given freedom of choice and is accountable for his/her own life (2:256; 13:11 ; 88-21-24). Although having an abusive partner may be a test, it does not have to be a life sentence. Part of dealing with the test may include finding ways to end or escape the abuse and helping yourself and your children seek safety.

What if I can’t forgive the abuser?

Forgiveness is a process that can best occur when the abuser takes responsibility and owns the abusive behavior. When the abuser seeks repentance and makes amends, it is much easier to forgive. Forgiveness can take many years. In the meantime, it is important to focus on being safe and spiritually and emotionally healthy.

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