I Guds namn, Den Barmhärtigaste, Den Nådigaste
Domestic Violence – Wife beating and abuse, A Quranic Perspective
By: Fatimah Khaldoon
Domestic violence represented by wife beating or abuse is rampant in this country and around the world. While the exact numbers on domestic violence incidents differ, because this is such an under-reported crime there are statistics on which most experts agree.
1. In 1984 the US Surgeon General declared domestic violence as this nation’s number one health problem. (US Surgeon General)
2. A woman is beaten every 15 seconds by her partner; it happens at some time in 25-35 % of American homes; 4,000 women die from such abuse each year. (FBI)
3. Physical abuse by male social partners is the single most common source of injury among women ages 15 to 44, more common than auto accidents, muggings and rape by a stranger combined. (U.S. Surgeon General, 1989)
4. In USA, medical costs from domestic violence total at least $3-5 billion annually. At least another $100 million can be added to the cost to businesses in lost wages, sick leave and absenteeism. (Sylvia Porter, For Your Money’s Worth)
5.Women of all cultures, races, occupations, income levels, and ages are battered – by husbands, boyfriends, lovers and partners. (Surgeon General Antonia Novello, as quoted in Domestic Violence: Battered Women, publication of the Reference Department of the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA)
6.Approximately one-third of the men counseled (for battering) at Emerge are professional men who are well respected in their jobs and their communities. these have included doctors, psychologists, lawyers, ministers, and business executives. (For Shelter and Beyond, Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service Groups, Boston, MA 1990)
Statistics as these should awaken all those in denial of the fact that wife beating and abuse is an endemic disease in all different cultures, religions and communities. It is as common in Western as it is in Eastern societies.
Men in Western (and Eastern) societies do not abuse their wives because of scriptural teachings, but because of a natural instinct of domination and aggression. God, knowing this, has therefore decreed a perfect law to help men control their temper and to solve any problems before resorting to physical aggression.
These statistics reflect the failure of modern societies in treating this perilous condition in men. Despite advances in modern psychology and improved understanding of behavioral patterns of men, civilized and uncivilized, a successful solution to this aggressive behavior has not been found by man.
A solution has however been presented to the world in the Quran, the Final Testament, more than 1400 years ago, in verse 4:34.[4:34] The men are made responsible for the women, and GOD has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is GOD’s commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. GOD is Most High, Supreme.
At first glance this verse may appear as if promoting physical abuse of women. But when reading 4:34 carefully one realizes that it actually prohibits abuse and beating of women by using the best psychological approach.
The advise to first talk and then avoid sexual contact, provides the necessary time and space for both parties to cool off, reason, examine the problem and reach a favorable agreement for both of them.
Abuse of a wife will not happen if the man learns to follow the clear commandments of God in this verse and in the order decreed. Abuse will only happen when a man does not follow these commandments, and thus fails to cool off and reason with himself or with his wife.
Sura 4, where we read 4:34, entitled “The Women,” is one of the longest chapters in the Quran. It deals with many of the rights and responsibilities of women, rights that were first available to western women only a few decades ago, and some that still aren’t. The theme of this Sura is to defend women’s rights, and countering injustice and oppression of women. Thus, any interpretation of verses in Sura 4 must be in favor of the women, not the other way around.
Unfortunately 4:34 is extremely abused by many of the so-called “Muslim” men in the world. While disregarding their own obligations and their own righteousness, these men only focus on the third step of handling this difficult condition as described in 4:34, skip the first two necessary steps and give themselves the excuse to beat their wives. They find support for their misguided and biased views, and for treating their spouses unjustly, in the fabrications of the so called Hadith and Sunna. They thus misrepresent the true Islam (Submission), and divert people from this perfect and just religion for all.
We have to remember that the right given to the man in 4:34, can only be claimed when you have a situation with a righteous man on one hand dealing with a situation in which his wife repeatedly commits “Neshooz” which is an unrighteous, wicked and rebellious act. Abusing this law and the attempt to apply it to regular daily marital disagreements is not warranted by the strong and selective wording of the verse. Furthermore, for a man to demand or claim this right, he must first give that woman all the rights God has given her and follow all aspects of the commandment without skipping any part of it. God clearly says in the Quran that He has decreed for the men and the women rights and obligations equitably (2:228).
In reality, a believing husband would most probably NEVER come to the stage where he would actually lay a hand on his wife. He would be much too careful to examine his own motives first, as a God fearing man, before exercising this right. As we see in the verse immediately following 4:34, when the marriage reaches this stage it’s on it’s way to end, as the very next words in the Quran reads; “If a couple fears separation…”
Most women in the world today do not enjoy the protection verse 4:34 grants them. Instead they are unjustly abused, verbally and physically, by unrighteous men in unrighteous ways, and get beaten up for the most trivial of reasons, or for no reason at all. According to 4:34 even if the husband has a good reason, he is not allowed to lay a hand on his wife until he has passed all the previous steps.
The woman’s responsibility in a marriage starts the day she chooses a husband. If she wants to enjoy her God given rights, she must obey her God given commands, and choose a believing husband. Thus, she can expect from him to treat her in accordance with God’s decree, and not transgress against her. She can expect from a believing husband that he will heed any reminder she gives him, if he forgets. If she chooses to disregard God’s commands, she has to know that there will be consequences.
If women expect the men’s deeds to have consequences, they should expect the same for themselves. These consequences are however well controlled to protect the women from the outrage of the angry husbands as we can find in God’s law for the believers in 4:34.
We also learn that one of the traits of the righteous is that they suppress anger.[3:134] “…They are suppressors of anger, and pardoners of the people. GOD loves the charitable.”
The nature and essence of a healthy relationship between a husband and wife is beautifully expressed in the following verse from the Quran:[30:21] Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think. [3:195] “Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you MALE OR FEMALE, YOU ARE EQUAL TO ONE ANOTHER………”
When facing difficult times, even if the man dislikes his wife, God has decreed;[4:19] O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit what the women leave behind, against their will. You shall not force them to give up anything you had given them, unless they commit a proven adultery. You shall treat them nicely. If you dislike them, you may dislike something wherein GOD has placed a lot of good.
And when divorce happens, the full respect to the wife is urged,[2:229] Divorce may be retracted twice. The divorced woman shall be allowed to live in the same home amicably, or leave it amicably. It is not lawful for the husband to take back anything he had given her. However, the couple may fear that they may transgress GOD’s law. If there is fear that they may transgress GOD’s law, they commit no error if the wife willingly gives back whatever she chooses. These are GOD’s laws; do not transgress them. Those who transgress GOD’s laws are the unjust.
In conclusion; A BELIEVING wife and a BELIEVING husband will NEVER get to the point where beating of the wife enters the picture. A BELIEVING couple will consult one another and agree on the best way to solve their differences as verse 4:34 and the whole scripture recommends.
We have to know that we are not in this world to protect unrighteous behavior. We are in this world to be given a last chance to make the right choice and submit to God alone. Making the wrong choices will have consequences for all of us, both in this world and in the eternal Hereafter, for women and men equally.
God is the Most Just, the Most Merciful.