Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

Islamic View on Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) takes place in October. As a way of uniting individuals and organisations involved in domestic violence issues while raising awareness for those issues, DVAM was founded in October 1987. Every community around the world suffers from domestic violence. One in three women will be abused by a partner in their lifetime, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Different societies respond differently to these social ills, and Islam has a concise approach.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence in Islam: what does Islam say?

Tesneem Alkeik discusses what role religion plays in allowing or prohibiting domestic violence in an article published by Yaqeen Institute titled Islam and Violence Against Women: A Critical Look at Domestic Violence and Honor Killings in the Muslim Community. For one thing, abusers exploit misinterpretations of religious texts to justify their physical and mental abuse.

In contrast, religious communities and leaders can provide fundamental resources to raise awareness about the harms and impermissibility of domestic violence. Using the two primary sources of Islamic law, the article explains how Muslims study this issue. The Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God, are examples.

Scholars process, engage with and analyse these two holy sources of knowledge to derive the morality and principles that govern their lives. In addition to domestic violence, this knowledge applies to all aspects of life.  

What does the Qur’an say about how a person should treat their wives?

The research articles look into the revelations of the Quran that specifically address the dynamics of marriage.

“And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” [Quran 30:21]. God also commands men in another verse to “live with your wives in kindness and equity” [4:19].

In contrast, other verses threaten them with God’s admonishment if they intend to harm or transgress against their wives [2:231].

Furthermore, some verses recognise the complementary nature of marriage by describing spouses as garments for one another [2:187] and reminding believers that men and women are protectors of one another [9:71].”

These verses serve as the standard and example of married relationships’ love, compassion, and reciprocity.

What did the Prophet ﷺ  prefer as a model?

The best man and best of creation to have ever walked the Earth, the Prophet is an inspiration to all Muslims. He teaches us how to follow the Qur’an’s precepts. “The Messenger of God, peace and blessings upon him, did not strike a servant or a lady, and he never struck anything with his hand,” the Prophet’s wife narrated.

The Prophet Muhammad stated,

“An honourable man treats women with honour and respect, and only a despicable person treats women poorly.”10 

Other hadith, or narrations, relate the story of a companion of the Prophet who asked the Messenger, “What do you say [advise] about our wives?” to which the Prophet replied, “Share with them the same food you have for yourself and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them, and do not revile them.”11 Moreover, the Prophet proclaimed, “Would one of you beat his wife like a slave and then sleep with her at the day’s end?!” thereby emphasizing the absurdity of someone harming his wife.12

The Prophet’s ﷺ Initial response to a Survivor

There are other narrations like the one just mentioned where the Prophet Muhammad expresses his disapproval of domestic violence. The study paper gives a strong example of a woman named al-Waleed ibn Uqbah complaining about her husband to the Prophet Muhammad.

“She said, “O Messenger of God! Al-Waleed has beaten me!” The Prophet responded, “Say to him: the Prophet has protected me.” It was not long before she returned, saying, “He did not give me anything except more beatings!” The Prophet then tore a piece from his garment [as a symbol of proof for his protection] and said, “Say to him: Verily, the Messenger of God has given me protection.” It was not long before she returned once more and said, “He did not give me anything except more beatings!” The Prophet then raised his hands and said: “O God, you must deal with al-Waleed, for he has sinned against me twice.”13.

In another case, the Prophet actively supported Habeeba bint Sahl, the wife of Thabit bin Qays and the Prophet Muhammad’s next-door neighbour, in leaving an abusive relationship. Habeeba came to the Prophet Muhammad’s door after Thabit struck her. She explained her situation to him and told him, “Thabit and I can no longer be married.” The Prophet then called Thabit, arranged their finances, and ensured Habeeba could return home safely. 14

The Prophet Muhammad also made efforts to ensure that women would not be married to bad men in addition to the actions taken. It was reported that the Prophet asked Fatima bint Qays if she was prepared for marriage. Usama ibn Zayd, Abu Jahm, and Muawiyah had all proposed to her. The Prophet told her, “As for Muawiyah, he is a poor man without money [and cannot sufficiently provide for you],” to help her make the right choice. Abu Jahm, on the other hand, is a man who frequently hits women. Therefore, I suggest that you wed Usama. 15

What does Islam say about domestic violence? It is well-answered in the Yaqeen journal article and in a related one titled Women in Islamic Law: Examining Five Prevalent Myths.

This month, people in communities around the nation pause to reflect on the social ill of domestic violence and how it affects our communities. Many activists, leaders, and involved community members want to follow Islam’s method and example in dealing with domestic violence in a challenging and terrible society.

Visit Yaqeen Institute for more on this topic.