Dr. Aneesah Nadir –
Every nine seconds another woman in the U.S. is beaten. One of every four women nationally experience domestic violence. Most are between 20 and 24 years old and 85% are women but men also experience domestic abuse.
Domestic violence hurts Muslim families and communities too. During a halaqa in Anytown, USA, sisters worried about how to help their friend who was being physically and emotionally abused by her husband. It was as if she walked on eggshells when he was home. She was rarely able to go out. He called her bad names, threatened to take another wife and send her back to her country without her children. He told her she wasn’t a good Muslim wife because she wasn’t obedient.
Spouse abuse is described as “a pattern of purposeful behaviors, directed at achieving compliance from or control over the victim.” It is also a pattern of assault and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks. Spousal abuse is also characterized by economic and religious manipulation. Behaviors include shoving, pushing, destruction of valuables, hurting pets and loved ones – even children.
Physical violence may lead to broken bones, head injury, vision loss and death. Among victims, emotional abuse leads to a broken spirit and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Domestic abuse occurs among the rich and the poor, the well-educated and uneducated, foreign-born and American-born, all cultures, racial and religious groups – including Muslim converts and born/raised.
Signs include controlling behavior, isolation, uncontrolled anger, unexplained bruises, patterns of irrational thinking and victim blaming, intimidation, “joking” about taking another wife, name calling and remarks that degrade the victim’s self-esteem.
Children in these families are our most vulnerable victims. The majority of battered women have children who are hurt physically and emotionally by the violence in their homes. Domestic abuse also occurs during pregnancy and severely impacts the unborn child. More than half the children whose mothers are battered are likely to be physically abused themselves.
Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad pbuh instructed Muslims regarding women, “I command you to be kind to women.” He said also, “The best of you is the best to his family (wife). Prophet Muhammad pbuh said, ‘Do not beat the female servants of Allah.’” Islam urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives.
It’s time we work together, as a community, to prevent domestic violence and promote peaceful marriages filled with love and compassion. Here are seven steps that can be taken:
- Each of us must strengthen our relationship with Allah and His Messenger pbuh and develop inner taqwa so that we make a commitment not to hurt a servant of Allah for fear of displeasing Him.
- Engage in marriage preparation education to learn skills that will assist in developing a healthy, violence-free family life. Anger management, communication skills, stress management, decision making, problem solving and conflict resolution skills are essential for a healthy, peaceful marriage.
- Select a prospective mate who loves Allah, has a balanced temperament and is not controlling. Have your family engage in reference checks to learn more about the prospective mate and how he or she handles control and anger.
- During October and throughout the year Khutbas and halaqas should focus on lessons from Quran and sunnah to prevent family violence.
- As Imams, community leaders, brothers and sisters, we cannot tolerate family violence on any level. This is a problem that will not be eliminated unless we act. We must recognize the signs of spouse abuse, act to prevent it and work towards its elimination.
- Shelters are needed for women and children seeking a safe, protective environment. Islamically based counseling and social services are needed to provide preventive education, support and crisis intervention. We must encourage couples to seek professional as well as spiritual help.
- Affordable legal services are needed to help women experiencing domestic abuse get the help of a qualified law firm.
With Allah’s help we must become partners in the fight against domestic violence.