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Domestic violence in Islam

Ramdaan is the month of Quran and Muslims all over the world are refreshing their links to the

divine message. The message of Quran is crystal clear; all human beings are children of one

Allaah, born to one parents (Adam and Eve) and we should live on this earth as one community,

the human race. If we do that, human beings will find peace and there would be no fear or

sadness for anyone. No person would be subservient to any other person or dependent on anyone

else for his needs. All matters will be taken care of in the light of the divine guidance and man-

made laws would perish. The social justice system would be implemented on this earth and the

world would be lit with the light of divine guidance. The abilities of each individual would be

nurtured so that he would gain his best potential in this life and achieve a never ending, eternal

life of happiness and success in the hereafter. This is the gist of what many scholars have

compiled from their study of Quran and that is the straight path, the Sirat e Mustaqeem which

will lead us to the paradise which is promised to us, in this world and in the hereafter.

Quran is such a living miracle that no matter how many times you go through it, you are never

satisfied and each time you ponder on any issue, you find new guidance, new light which you

had missed earlier. A huge barrier we non-Arabs find in our study is the dependency on

translations because Arabic is not our mother tongue and even those of us who try to learn some

level of Arabic are hindered in its understanding because apart from technicalities, we do not

know the phrase of the language which is an integral part of Quran study as the language in

which it was first revealed was the pure language of Arab bedouins so it is beyond our reach

now. Many scholars of yesteryears like Muhammad Asad spent years of their life in the deserts
of Arabia and learnt the pearls of Arabic from bedouins so his translation of the Holy Quran

depicts that phrase of the language but still, it is a difficult translation for us. In today’s world,

another young scholar Nouman Ali Khan is trying to explore the beauty of this miraculous

language and trying to share his love of this Quranic Arabic with us. People like me are hooked

on to his lectures and at times we are amazed by the in depth analysis he presents in his research.

I invite all of my readers to listen to him and read his books as they are huge blessings in our

times where the main focus is on the grammatical analysis and meaning of each and every word

of Quran, keeping in view its chapter, its background, its context and especially the subject that it

is focusing on. It is a vast treasure and a treat for the new generation to enjoy the light and non-

judgmental way NAK tries to get his message through keeping in mind the time and era in which

we are living. He is definitely no saint and we can differ from his opinion in any matter that does

not satisfy us but the work he is doing is simply too marvelous to ignore.

I will share only one topic in my article today because it is an issue that raises too many

questions and disturbs too many egos and that is ‘Domestic violence in Islam’. The overall study

of Quran states unambiguously that men and women are born equal, they enjoy same status in

the eyes of Allaah who is the creator of both of them, they get equal opportunities in this world

to earn their position in the hereafter and they can get best position only due to their sincere

efforts to live according to Islam to please their lord. No favors to any particular gender from

Allaah, just different roles according to their different physiques. The roles are according to the

social needs and for the survival of human race. No one is superior or inferior! Now the problem

arises when there is one part of Quran, surah An Nisa where in verse 34 it is stated that men are

Quwaam of women and later in the same verse it is stated that in a situation where a wife is

becoming rebellious, you can hit her. I have seen and heard both religious and secular people
misinterpreting this verse and either abusing it or distorting it to the extent so as to change the

whole concept of a happy family life that Allaah wants us to enjoy in this world. As I stated in

the beginning, the highest aim of our existence is creating a peaceful society where the rights of

each and every individual are safe guarded according to the commandments of Allaah. The basic

unit of society is the family and if there is unrest in this unit, you will find unrest in the whole

society. So we have to thrash out this matter and digest its essence once and for all, in order to

regain the equilibrium which has been lost due to the misinterpretation of this verse alone.

Secular people hate this verse because it shows that wives are inferior to husbands who can beat

them so they are disillusioned by the whole Quran. How can Allaah be unfair to wives and allow

domestic violence? On the other hand, the religious section has distorted it so much to their own

benefit that the men have become dictators in their own houses and simply lost the beauty and

love that should come with the relationship of a husband and wife. I personally feel that religious

men are to be blamed more for this misinterpretation because they let their own wishful thinking

to exaggerate their role given to them by Allah because nowhere in the Sunnah or teachings of

our Prophet (s) do we find any shred of evidence which justifies that sick behavior. It’s most

disastrous effect on society was oppressed wives who were scared of their husbands, fearful of

their fate in case they made any mistake which could lead to domestic violence, their anger, hate

and resentment which naturally arises after getting abused at the hands of a person who was

supposed to be their protector and lover. The end result, hatred being passed on the kids,

emotionally disturbed children, broken houses and damage to the overall fabric of society. That

is why I’m writing the explanation which I found with NAK because even the misinterpretation

of this single verse of Quran has deeply damaged the fabric of our society for generations and
it’s high time that we understand what the divine verse actually means and build our family life

on a positive note instead of cutting the very branch of the tree on which rests our whole society.

Now in the words of Nauman Ali Khan, this verse belongs to surah An Nisa and a lot of legal

instructions are being given here like A) polygamy B) inheritance C) punishment D) who is it

haram for you to marry etc. What is common in these topics, the most unusual and exceptional

cases are being discussed here! For example take polygamy, verse 3 says, “If you are raising

orphan girls (they are not your mahram) you are allowed to marry one of them or two of them, or

three of them or four of them (in order to avoid violating them so if the urge becomes too strong,

marry them instead of abusing them)” but let’s see, how many of Muslims are raising orphan

girls today which gives them the right to marry four of them? I don’t want to side track my main

topic but I can’t help myself because I have witnessed these mullahs sitting in T.V shows, selling

this verse to the masses and misinterpreting it by quoting only half the verse which says, “ ….so

marry one or two, or three or four”. They hide the truth from the people without explaining that

this is an exceptional case and that the whole verse or sentence clearly states “If you fear for the

orphan girls…..” It is not a general instruction to Muslim men to go ahead and marry four

women without any reason just to satisfy their cardinal desires. This is what Allaah told the

scholars of Bani Israel that they should not sell Allaah’s verses cheaply but that is exactly what

today’s mullas are doing. Anyway let’s get back to the topic in An Nisa and another unusual

case, “….Allaah has forbidden for you, your mother, your daughters, your aunts….” Again this

is not a normal case. Who wants to marry their mothers or daughters or sisters or nieces or aunts

etc? This order is absolutely for some disturbed psychopath kind of weird people who used to

practice this in ancient times. Usually many laws are made for criminals instead of normal law

abiding people in order to check their madness. They cover the periphery of the society instead
of the main body. That is what surah Nisa is doing. It is talking about some crazy extreme


‫ظ ه‬ ِّ ‫ظاتٌ له ِّْلغَ ْي‬
َ ‫ب ِّب َما َح ِّف‬ َّ ‫ض َو ِّب َما أَنفَقُواْ مِّ ْن أ َ ْم َوا ِّل ِّه ْم فَال‬
َ ِّ‫صا ِّل َحاتُ قَانِّت َاتٌ َحاف‬ ٍ ‫علَى َب ْع‬
َ ‫ض ُه ْم‬
َ ‫ّللاُ َب ْع‬ َ ِّ‫علَى النه‬
َّ َ‫ساء ِّب َما ف‬
‫ض َل ه‬ َ َ‫الر َجا ُل قَ َّوا ُمون‬
‫ِّ ه‬

ً ِّ‫ع ِّليًّا َكب‬

}34{ ‫يرا‬ ‫سبِّيلً إِّ َّن ه‬
َ َ‫ّللاَ َكان‬ َ ‫علَ ْي ِّه َّن‬ َ َ ‫اج ِّع َواض ِّْربُوه َُّن فَإ ِّ ْن أ‬
َ ْ‫ط ْعنَ ُك ْم فَلَ ت َ ْبغُوا‬ َ ‫شوزَ ه َُّن فَ ِّعظُوه َُّن َوا ْه ُج ُروه َُّن فِّي ْال َم‬
ِّ ‫ض‬ ُ ُ‫َواللَّتِّي تَخَافُونَ ن‬

Now we come to the verse 34 of An Nisa which should be understood with this background in

mind. “Men are responsible for their women”, their care taker َ‫ قَ َّوا ُمون‬.The word Quwaam has the

same root word of Allaah’s name Qayyum which means, “Allaah is the caretaker of everything”

Do we imagine Allaah hitting or breaking others as a part of this care? No! That is not meant by

ٍ ‫علَى َب ْع‬
taking care. Next “Because Allaah gave preference to some over others”.‫ض‬ َ ‫ض ُه ْم‬
َ ‫ّللاُ َب ْع‬ َّ َ‫ِّب َما ف‬
‫ض َل ه‬

Allaah did not say “He gave preference to men over women”. He could have said it clearly but

He did not so it is a criminal act if we write that down in the translation of the verse as if Allaah

has said that. Men were given some preferences and benefits and women were given some

preferences and benefits. In this case, men have been given the responsibility to take care of

women or maintaining them. “…..and because of what they spend from their money….” ْ‫َوبِّ َما أَنفَقُوا‬

‫ مِّ ْن أ َ ْم َوا ِّل ِّه ْم‬Spending their money on women is the duty given to them by Allaah and anyone from

our materialistic society today will not take it as a privilege but as a burden as every material

necessity would be provided to the wives instead of asking them to go out and earn for

themselves. “……Good women are subservient to Allaah” ٌ‫صا ِّل َحاتُ قَانِّت َات‬
َّ ‫ فَال‬Here again, not

subservient to their husbands but to Allaah because that is how the word Qanoot is used

everywhere in the Quran whether its Dua e Qanoot or it is ordered, “qunoo lillahi qaaniteen”.

“…..Good women are subservient to Allaah, they are guardians to what is in the unseen”

meaning they guard their dignity and faith even when their husbands are not around, “…. on

َ ‫ بِّ َما َح ِّف‬and then He said “…for

account of what Allaah has decided what should be guarded” ‫ظ هّللا‬
whom you are afraid of their uprising” ‫ تَخَافُونَ نُ ُشوزَ ه َُّن‬.What is uprising? This word is again used in

the same surah for men, a man going against his wife, abusing or hitting her is also nushooz and

makes a woman afraid of her husband’s uprising meaning some kind of outrageous behavior.

What is outrageous behavior for women? It is definitely not putting three spoons of sugar instead

of two in a tea cup of her husband or raising her voice in an argument which qualifies her for

nashooz. The sad reality is, these are the simple mistakes where a husband can hit his wife and

believe that he has a right to do that according to this verse. NAK asked his teacher Prof Abdul

Haleem about this verse and he explained that this verse deals with a contrast between good

women and bad women who are uprising. They do the opposite of what good women do. Good

women are subservient to Allaah and bad women will defy Allaah’s Commands. Good women

are loyal to their husbands and bad women will cheat on their husbands. Next the verse states

“…. If you are afraid that she is cheating on you” َ‫ تَخَافُون‬which grammatically means that you are

continuing to be afraid instead of meaning that you were afraid, not that she is doing it but if you

become suspicious that she is acting weird and that suspicion is getting stronger and stronger

ُ ‫ فَ ِّع‬sit with them and talk. Ask them about their weird behavior, air
“……give them advice” ‫ظوه َُّن‬

your suspicion without losing control, tell them you need to know what is going on and counsel

them. But if it does not work, “….leave the bed” ِّ‫اجع‬ َ ‫ َوا ْه ُج ُروه َُّن فِّي ْال َم‬.Abandon them in beds, put
ِّ ‫ض‬

a space between yourself and them, distance yourself. You are disgusted, upset and afraid that

something is not right but you have not seen anything and the fear is growing. Now the worst

case scenario, you actually catch her cheating on you! You see her with someone or some

convincing evidence so now you lose your mind and actually hit her in a fit of rage “…so hit

them” ‫ َواض ِّْربُوه َُّن‬This is the place in Quran which creates a storm in the minds of all secular,

progressive, emancipated intellectuals who simply cannot digest this. Now let’s take the
“Muslim” out of it and see what would a non-Muslim do in such a situation? People usually snap

in such a situation like this and even commit murders in a blind fit of rage. This is illegal all over

the world with strictest of punishments yet there are thousands of such cases in even advanced

countries like the US or UK where violence takes place if a husband or a boyfriend catches his

partner cheating on them. I am not justifying it yet this behavior arises when emotions take over

your common sense. The best behavior should have been to break your ties with an unfaithful

women yet you decide to injure her and land in jail for her unfaithfulness. Now after hitting the

women husband feels bad so Allaah gives him some kind of license in this particular case

scenario keeping his emotional state in mind. So in its harshest of interpretation, this verse deals

with the case of repeated perpetual infidelity from the wife which drives a husband nuts and he

finally loses it. This is an exceptional case and does not concern with normal circumstances and

is definitely not a norm.

Muslims should have absolute faith in their miraculous Quran because these are the words of the

All Mighty Allaah who is the most Just. We should drop our apologetic behavior towards our

divine message and clarify the Deen instead of hiding the truth. Next the verse states “…. if they

َ َ ‫ فَإ ِّ ْن أ‬forgive them

start obeying you again, do not make a case against them” ً‫ط ْعنَ ُك ْم فَلَ ت َ ْبغُواْ َعلَ ْي ِّه َّن َس ِّبيل‬

and start over for the sake of your family! Subhanallah. Even if her crime is too hurtful, do not

let your egos come between you and move on if she wants to repent and you really want to

forgive her. The fact is that after spending a long time with your wife, watching your kids grow

up and your house turning into a home, you will not be ready to undo everything because of one

mistake, no matter how unacceptable, so Islam advises you to be generous and lenient. “Verily,

Allaah is the Greatest, most High” ‫يرا‬

ً ِّ‫ع ِّليًّا َكب‬ َ ‫إِّ َّن ه‬
َ َ‫ّللا َكان‬
This is one interpretation of the verse which allows hitting a wife in an exceptional case. What is

most remarkable about it is that the word wadriboohuna does not simply mean ‘hitting’ in

Arabic and has served other meanings. The softest interpretation of this word is that if you find

your wife cheating on you, simply ‘walk away’ and leave her as in a temporary separation. There

is no grammatical evidence that the word wadriboohuna is being used literally because there is

no proposition in the verse. The 2007 translation The Sublime Quran by Laleh Bakhtiar, who is

an Ameriacan convert, she translates iḍribūhunna not as 'beat them' but as 'go away from them'.

The introduction to her translation discusses the linguistic and shariah reasons in Arabic for

understanding this verb in context. The root letters d r b, translated as ‘beat’ when accompanied

by a preposition, have multiple meanings: with preposition ‘fi’ it means to travel; with the

preposition ‘ala’ it means to stomp; with the preposition ‘an’ it means to turn something away;

with the preposition ‘bayn’ it means to set up between, to separate. Without any modifying

preposition (as is the case with 4:34) other meanings become possible, including to encompass;

to cast, throw or fling upon the ground; to engender; to make a sign or to point with the hand; to

prohibit, prevent or hinder from doing a thing one has begun; to seek glory; to avoid or shun; to

be with shame; to be in a state of commotion; to be in a state between hope and fear; and to go

away. Laleh also elaborated that the Prophet never beat his wives and his example from the

Sunnah informs the interpretation of this verse where in one instance when there was some

domestic trouble in his household, he (s) just separated from his wives for a short period of time.

Judging from the way he has been portrayed, the Prophet knew innately that it was wrong to

harm another human being. He knew that according to 16:126 a verse that was revealed before

4:34, one is allowed to settle the score in case any harm is done to them. ‘And if you punish, then

punish with the like of that with which you were punished’ (16:126). Therefore, conceivably if a
husband harms his wife by beating her, according to this verse of Surah An Nahl, his wife would

be allowed to punish her husband in the same way. In addition, the Prophet’s respect for the

female gender was legendary. This included not only his wives, the mothers of the believers, but

his daughters as well. He had a very special relationship with his youngest daughter Fatima. How

could he ever beat his wives and not consider that someone might beat one of his beloved

daughters? Moreover, he knew that marriage was based on mutual respect and love. Quran often

tells husbands and wives to consult on issues with each other. It would be unfair and unjust to

think that God would have revealed a verse that allowed husbands to beat their wives instead of

withdrawing for a short period of time and allowing the anger to subside. The Islamic scholar

Tahir-ul-Qadri has given a very similar translation in his translation of the Quran "Irfan-ul-

Quran" “...and (if they still do not improve) turn away from them, striking a temporary parting"

This translation is further supported by the fact that the word darabtum is used in the same surah

4:94 which means to ‘go abroad’ in the sake of Allah and which is derived from the same root

word daraba as idribuhunna in 4:34. So in harshest case it is allowed for infidelity and in the

softest sense it would mean that you should simply leave your wife and walk away.

From the context of this surah we realize that this verse is not at all about domestic violence

rather it deals with protecting the fidelity and loyalty inside a marriage. It is the ignorance about

what the divine words really mean that Muslim men have gotten this license to hit their wives on

trivial issues and it is about time that we educate them and stop this abuse once and for all. Even

a child can understand that husbands hit wives when they are angry so how would the word

takhaafoona, you were constantly afraid, be justified? You were not afraid but angry when you

hit her for spoiling your dinner or misplacing an important document so that verse is not giving

you any authority to raise your voice or your hand on your equal life partner. Sure it can happen
in some circumstances but then it should be correctly understood that it was a mistake and has

consequences so that behavior should be corrected as soon as you calm down. If your wife has

raised her voice in anger and is arguing with you, you jump ahead and term it as uprising or

nushuz but again, were you afraid of her raised voice or did that anger you? You were angry and

Allaah has not given you any authority to hit her if you were first not afraid of what was

happening, or talked to her, or left her in bed before hitting her. One simply cannot pick and

choose words from one single verse and justify ones wrong behavior. The whole procedure

should be done first in order to qualify for eventually hitting her. This would be termed as abuse

of Allaah’s Commands and that is what is being done in Allaah’s name by Muslims. The verse

34 started with the word quwamoon or caretaker who by definition nurtures his family so even if

the children just witness their father abusing their mother, it would be a traumatic and

emotionally scarring experience for them which could distort their fragile personalities and a

father should never do that to his own kids. Only one verse later in ayah 36 Allaah is ordering us

to be best towards our parents, best to our close relatives, best to our neighbors, best to orphans,

best to poor segments of society, best to the ones who travels with you etc but we still think that

husbands should not be best towards their wives and they can hit or abuse them whenever they

feel like it? That simply just not add up and makes no sense. This is abuse of Allaah’s words and

sick behavior can be understood when Quran says that people like these take the Quran and tear

it to pieces, Qurana izzeen. They tear a piece out and the rest of the speech does not count!

If one wants to hit people, he has got an issue and that is not normal. Do not drag the Quran into

this mess. People like these need psychiatric help because when there is physical abuse, there

will also be psychological abuse. In this case, if a Muslim women believe the common

explanation by ignorant mullahs, they would start thinking that they were somehow responsible
for the abuse they got and they deserved it. The husband would justify his actions from Quran

and make her feel that other people don’t care what is happening to her. This could lead to self-

loathing and eventually extreme behavior abnormalities where the victim is unable to seek

outside help and can have suicidal tendencies in order to escape. So sisters, get out of abuse and

seek help! This is not patience or sabar in order to be a good wife and this is not what Allaah has

asked you to bear.

There is no tolerance in Islam for abuse and our noblest Prophet (s) who was otherwise a mercy

for all mankind, was very strict about it. Leave the matter of injustice to a fellow Muslim, he

once saw a mark on a donkey which was made when someone had hit him and he said, “May

Allaah curse the one who did that to him”. Ali (r) advised people to marry their daughters to

people fearing Allaah so if they love them, they would honor them and if the dislike their wives,

at least they would not abuse them. NAK says, if your daughters come home to you after a

divorce in one piece, not abused, don’t be angry rather be thankful because Allaah protected her

from bodily harm. There are several fatwas in place that state that a marriage can be nullified by

a counsel if the husband has physically abused his wife so domestic violence can easily end in an

ugly divorce.

Dear brothers in Islam, learn the correct commands of Allaah and do not be misguided by

ignorant mullahs who have completely distorted the most beautiful relationship that comes into

existence by taking Allaah as you witness. It is the strongest bond if you act upon Allaah’s

instruction which would turn you into a happy family who love each other and support each

other in good times or bad times and yet it is also one of the weakest of bonds if taken casually

that can be broken easily by merely uttering a few words. So beware of Allaah and don’t take

His commands or this relationship lightly. I sincerely pray that all Muslim men and women find
joy and peace in this most beautiful and satisfying relationship and thus turn our society into one

that radiates that love and positivity to the whole world. Ameen.

Ayeza Haider

27th Ramdaan ul Mubarak