‘Contrary to what critics of Islam may say, domestic violence is not permitted in Islam. In Nour’s domestic violence booklet, their Islamic advisors and consultant shuyookh explain the ‘misunderstood verse’ “… and beat them” (An-Nisa:34) and clarify that the Prophet (SAW) explained it as ‘dharban ghayra mubarrih’ which translates as ‘a light tap, as light as a feather stroke that leaves no mark’. […] we know that the Prophet (SAW) was the perfect example of the teachings in the Qur’an and it is clear from his seerah that he never struck a female, child or servant despite it’s ‘permissibility’ which would denote that it is something to avoid.’
This article written in SISTERS magazine by Nour’s Khalida Haque exemplified what it is, in specific, that constitutes domestic violence. Interestingly, under the sub-section, ‘Domestic Violence and Islam’, she mentions how critics misconstrue the meaning of passages in Surah An-Nisa to prove the inherent misogyny that Islam supposedly encompasses. Perhaps, however, the topic of how the practitioners of Islam use the same interpretation as the critics, in order to condone their aggression towards the women in their lives, was not explored to its full extent. On a recent trip to Pakistan, I spoke –very generally- to a few sisters who painted a vivid picture of the society in which they lived. The idea was not to create an East and West binary of any kind, but rather, to gain perspective of how DV is viewed in other parts of the world. Growing up in the West, violence in the home is something that is immediately flagged as an exploitation of justice, as unacceptable and crude. But how is it received in a space where culturally, relations between the husband and wife- no matter how publically aggressive or volatile- are not to be interfered with? Of course, there is subjectivity from family to family and home to home, nonetheless, I collected fragments of conversations, and just recently, began to turn them over in my mind.
My Urdu was still kicking into gear when I asked the first sister about domestic violence, and I stammered and struggled to translate the concept to her. The sweet eyes beneath her furrowed forehead suddenly lit up when she finally understood what I meant. It turned out that this sister in particular did not know the word for it in Urdu either, because to her, it was not an obtrusive unjust concept. It was an accepted norm within her immediate community, the struggling working-class of Lahore’s Model Town. ‘It’s just something that happens’, she laughed, ‘It happens every day. Just this morning I heard that a man a few blocks over killed his wife and boy because he had a drinking habit and couldn’t afford to feed them. So he just killed them. Trust me this happens.’ I looked at her skeptically, so she continued, ‘Look, if you don’t believe me I can bring you the morning paper. But this is so common that most go unreported. It’s only people like us who know the extent. It’s just something that happens.’ She went on to explain that circumstance, disrespect towards women, and the consensus that women were the inferior sex in Pakistani society were the root causes. She recounted stories, one after the other, of how many times she had been assaulted on the street by strange men, followed home day after day, and in one instance, barely evaded a kidnapping. ‘The girls I know, we get married so at least there will be someone to look out for us, pick us up, drop us off, so that we don’t have to go through this every day.’ From what I knew about this particular sister, who both wore hijab and internalized it, this conversation was, to say the least, painful; her only want was to study, which was proving to be an impossible task under the circumstances. ‘I think it’s the poverty around here that turns men crazy. I think they feel helpless, so they take it out on us.’
My mother later explained to me that there is, in fact, the concept of domestic violence in Pakistan, and reassured me that it is something that is accounted for. She claimed that the families, if not the police, would surely intervene if they thought that there was abuse within a marital relationship. Nonetheless, this did not stop me from wondering how a country, which consists predominantly of Muslims and was very much built on the premise that Islam would be openly practiced and implemented, could have such a high tolerance towards the maltreatment of women. My thoughts led me to another conversation that I had had with a sister, who told me that her ex-husband justified beating her on numerous occasions, on the basis that Islam condoned the notion that women belonged to their husbands; which made her at his disposal, and more importantly, under his control. But if control became the subject, then perhaps the problem did not stem from a discrepancy in cultural practice, but from the misinterpretation of Islamic text, by men who seemingly skim-read the parts of the Quran in which women were given rights and honor (to the extent that heaven was said to be laid under her feet) and skipped straight to the parts where men were given divine permission to strike their wives. Could the idea of patriarchal supremacy still reign, perhaps latent or subconsciously, in the psyche of some Muslim men, or dangerously, in men? Jacqueline Rose, in her recent article ‘Nigella Lawson, Charles Saatchi, and the ugly face of patriarchal power’, conveys this phenomenon in the most eloquent manner,
‘Masculinity in thrall to itself is ruthless. As feminism has also argued, it is a colossal act of self-deceit. When a husband assaults a wife, it is often his own weakness – the fact that men, thank goodness, cannot in fact control all women all of the time – which he is trying to repudiate. This kind of power has to trash suffering in order to hold on to itself, which is why, threatened by a woman with its loss, he will push her face into the dirt.’
It is a question, maybe, of what would then stop a man from pushing his wife’s face into dirt, make him unwrap his hands from her throat, to stop him from hurting what he was made to protect. It is a question that men need to ask themselves, and answer honestly, if only in the secrecy of their own minds. They say that they believe women to be their equals, but do they truly believe it? Or is the idea that it is ‘just something that happens’ ingrained unconsciously within men and women alike, the world over? When we marry, do we marry with the expectation that at some given moment, we may strike, or be struck, or that we may be silenced? And if so, then why so? Is it because of scripture or culture? Is it because of our psychology or society, or is it a combination of all of these factors coming at us in one blow? Why are so many Muslim families hurting all over the world because of bruised hearts and angry fists? Is it to retain power, or to assert an authority that was never a given?
Out of all of this fog, this generalization and speculation came one certainty. That the Prophet (s.a.w) never hit a woman, a servant, or a child in his entire life. He was not only the best of examples, he set out the rulings and guidelines and showed the Muslims how to operate within them. And with this knowledge, we should feel a sense of shame, because in his blessed presence, no one would have the permission to think that ‘it is just something that happens’. In his presence, no man alive would dare strike a woman. Perhaps, the next time we think about what we do behind closed doors, the next time we refuse to get involved because of our cultural norms, we should think about what we would do if the Prophet (s.a.w) was watching us, and perhaps realize, if only momentarily, that his Creator actually is.
 Khalida Haque, ‘What Constitutes Domestic Violence?’, SISTERS, http://www.sisters- magazine.com/index.php?route=articles/articles&articles_id=45 [2013-03-08]
 Jacqueline Rose, ‘Nigella Lawson, Charles Saatchi and the ugly face of patriarchal power’, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/20/nigella-lawson-charles-saatchi-ugly-face-patriarchal-power-grillo-trial [Friday 20 December 2013]
Does Domestic Violence have a cure?
A recent article in The Mirror relayed the accounts of four men, all of whom fall under that sprawling umbrella term ‘Domestic abuser’. The question posed was whether these men could, in time, be ‘cured’ of their violent dispositions and habituations through a programme that focused on ‘physical violence, psychological abuse and the impact on children’, claiming to have the potential to reform them and restore them to their families. Nonetheless, the controversy is initiated at the first use of the term ‘cure’; it implies that domestic violence is a disease, something intrinsic, uncontrollable, and ultimately blameless. It allows for the abuser to evade responsibility; it is dismissive, and catastrophically so.
In good sport, we can analyze the success stories from this treatment. Stuart and Peter were two men whose marriages were, according to the article, saved from the changes in behavior and subsequent epiphanies that were bought on by the programme. Stuart stopped his abusive behavior when he realized that his children knew about what he did to his wife behind closed doors. Not wanting his children to hate him, he used the thought as his deterrent. However, can this really be classed as a story of success? Stuart’s behavior did not change because of the realization that beating his wife was wrong, but because he became aware that he may lose his children as a result of it. It is evident that there is still something categorically wrong in the pathology of the abuser – the way in which he treats his victim is not changed because he views her differently, but because intervening bodies threatened to take something away from him if he did not stop. By the same token, Peter was an average Joe who one day ‘lost control’ after a long day at work and punched his wife in the face. His progression in the course remains unmapped; nonetheless, his story is another example of these repetitive dismissals of responsibility and blame that have become a staple of the abusive condition. Other stories include men who failed to complete the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, and it can only be assumed that they carried on with their sexual perversities and sporadic beatings on other victims. But with this said, can a course like this really ‘cure’ men who beat women?
Interestingly, the very first thing that the article asks us as readers to do, is to conjure up an image of what we perceive an abuser looks like. To wholly understand the pathology of a violent perpetrator, we must ask ourselves this: What situation or helpless disposition could possibly cause us to consistently harm our significant other? Only in doing this, in trying to imagine ourselves beating back the hands that rock the cradle and hitting the faces of the people whom we swore we’d protect, can we begin to see how completely ludicrous a ‘cure’ is. For in assuming a cure, we establish an excuse, and in doing this, we dismiss the imperative notion of choice. We all have the choice to spit poisonous words or to bite our tongues, to raise our fists or to walk away, to accept responsibility or to say we that we are susceptible to loosing control and evade blame entirely. It stands to question whether anyone reading the article, when asked to think of what abusers look like, came up with a picture of themselves.
Source: Derbyshire, Victoria
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/victoria-derbyshire-domestic-violence-treatment-2345505 [7 Oct 2013]
This pain is so strong..
What did I do wrong?
There’s not a day I don’t go without trying.
Taking my medication and resting is not all i do.
Some days I get up n run too.
Five years ago what I went through suffering in silence …
A marriage full of violence..
Memories of the slaps across my face are nothing but a feeling of disgrace…
How can I forget the kicks and them times he played mind tricks?
Pushed on my back,being strangled and punched to the ground.
Amazed at how I didn’t crack and how i Never made a sound…
I remember how I would silently cry and ask why?
Pleading on my knees
I would beg him it to stop please.
Sometimes he didn’t
Some days he couldn’t
But in the end I knew he wouldn’t…
I try not to cry I try not to show the pain ,
But day in day out the memories drive me insane…
Will I ever be free from the words he said to me the way he beat me?
Even-though he’s hundreds of miles away
The memories will always stay…
If I’d known that till this day I would be paying the price…I wouldn’t have never made that sacrifice…
I keep telling myself the past and it’s torture,
Has no place in my future.
To believe that is so hard when deep within I have been left scarred.
Doesn’t he know what he did to me is not all history?
Its what he did to me is making his life sad its me that’s behind his every tears.
He knows how he treated me was bad and that he fears.
Now i know he wasn’t strong.
He made me feel I was always in the wrong…
Back then I had no voice but today he has no choice…
With each passing day,
Night in night out he may try and block it out..
but the past will never go away.
This memory of ours will always stay…©
“It’s all your fault! You deserved it!”
The above words are commonly heard by victims of domestic abuse. And according to these words, it is they who are responsible for the actions of the abuser. I’m sure there are a number of “you what!”s escaping lips at this precise moment; however ask a person who has been at the brunt of domestic violence who they blame for their situation. More often than not their answer will be themselves. So many of their responses will start with ‘If only …’, ‘Maybe if …’ or ‘Perhaps I could …’ And they will continue to believe that they are at fault because the other person has been, for months or years, telling them vehemently and without hesitation that that is the case.
Afshan Khan has been serving the community for 27 years in Islamic counselling and Mediation service for Muslim women. It was an honour for Nour to get hold of her as she shared her expertise in this field. The workshop proved effective through its interactive nature. Many sisters were able to engage with sister Afshan and disclose their personal feelings hoping to take something positive back home.
I have often found myself questioning how fashion magazines sometimes feature women in compromising poses, some which I find more worrying than others. I have found and selected three images, all taken from popular magazines of models being strangled. Violence against women is portrayed clearly in all three photographs, but I wonder if this is a boundary that is too commonly crossed. Is this a disregard for what is an acceptable form of expression within fashion and should this be addressed? How could photographs like this effect ending violence against women? Does it affect the people experiencing it in real life?
Born into the hands of a tyrant,
You held me closely near your chest,
Enveloped me with your breath,
As I listened to the sound of your heart
And, that is where it all began.
Salaam aleykum readers
It is always humbling when Nour is supported by other organisations in helping us to reach our goals and to give us a reassuring confidence that we will insha’Allah grow bigger and better to help those who are suffering from domestic violence. We have always stressed the importance of our Imaams leading any initiative related to preventing and educating communities about DV, so that it may be successful. Our Imaams are our pillars, and on those pillars can we build and generate our strength. We are so excited to tell you that Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA) have given us this new found strength, and we hope to be theirs too insha’Allah.
Perhaps the most commonly misquoted and misunderstood verse of the Holy Qu’ran is Surah 4:34. Many muslims and non-muslim misinterpretate this verse. In this article we shall study the meaning of this verse by explaining the crucial arabic words in question correct. Further we shall interpretate this passage in the light of the authentic sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Surah 4:34 reads:
Men are “qawwamuna” over women, because God has given some more than others, and because they support them from their means, and the righteous women are the truly devout ones [ God fearing ] , who guard in their husbands absence the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded. And as for those women whose “nushuz” you have reason to fear, remind them [ of God and His teachings ] ; [ next ] then leave them alone in bed; then [ as a last resort ] “hit” them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great ! [ Surah 4:34 ]
The BBC show Panorama, through secret filming, has found that Shari’ah courts are not helping women in domestic violent situations.
The Telegraph states: “85 councils operating in mosques and houses across the country has revealed that the courts, which are run by sharia councils, are ruling in favour of men meeting estranged wives or having access to children when they have found to have been abusive”