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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 23 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Domestic Violence and Islam: The Spirit of Islam


By Yaminay Usman Mustafa

May 23, 2014

DOMESTIC violence is a grim and undeniable reality. It is a heinous violation of basic human rights. The patterns and the forms of violence vary from place to place. Across the world at least one woman out of three is a victim of violence; she could be beaten, or verbally abused in her lifetime. It has serious health impact on the victim, which cannot be eradicated by one intervention but though a mixture of legal, jurisdictional, administration, educational, health and other service-related actions. As mentioned earlier a variation is observed in the definition of the Domestic Violence (DV) and it varies from context in which the term is used. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines DV as “[Any act of gender based violence that results in or likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, includes threats of such acts coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in Public or in Private Life]” Whereas, the behavioural definition of DV is: “A pattern of assaultive and/or coercive behaviours, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners”

[DV is a range of exploitation that happens in the house, amongst family members or couples. The distinctive appearance of DV involves an adult male culprit and a female victim. Any form of forcefulness committed by family or group member towards another could come under domestic violence (DV). So, a house can be considered as one of the most unsafe places for a woman. In Pakistan the condition is horrible regarding domestic violence. Just in the 4 provinces of Pakistan there were a total number of 8548 incidents of violence against women were reported during the last four years. Whereas Punjab stands on the first with total number of 5722 cases of violence against women. Here the number of reporting is less, the major amount of cases are not even reported. (Aurat Foundation, 2010).

When Pakistani men are asked about the reason for domestic violence they use Islam as an alibi to justify their act. But when one deeply study Islam the results comes out opposing, instead Islam provides a lot of rights to women. There are many Hadiths of Holy Prophet (PBUH) which further proves this which are discussed in this article, like:

“O [People! Dread Allah with regard to your wives. You have taken them into your possession with the permission of Allah]. Similarly another saying of the Prophet (PBUH)”[Amongst the most perfect of Momins in Imaan is he who is best Character and amongst the best of them is he who kindest towards his wife” .In this Hadith Islam clearly admonishes husband to misuse his right over his wife and to dread Allah in respect to his relation with her, as God has placed her in his trust. This is his lawful duty through the scared contract of Nikah to take care of his wife. If a man mistreats his wives he is breaking Gods trust.

This is a huge thing and this shows that Islam gives women an honourable and respectful position and Allah Himself have taken their affairs as His responsibility. Another Hadith, which is my personal favourite, which says “He is the best amongst you who is the kindest towards his wives and I am the kindest amongst you towards my wives.”Here again treating women politely and kindly is further attested. Holy Prophet (PBUH) not only made use of theoretical directive for attaining superiority amongst Muslims but also he has achieved it and practically displayed it for other Momins to take lessons from it.

The most common reason for domestic violence in Pakistan is when wives fail to perform their house chores properly, their husband choose to verbally or physically abuse them. When I studied Islamic literature regarding women’s duty for undertaking house chores, I found that in Islam it’s nowhere written that women are duty bound to perform house chores, it’s a supplementary act. To further accentuate my point I am quoting another beautiful saying of Prophets (PBUH) “The woman that does her domestic chores attains the rank of those upholding Jihad.”. In Islam Jihad is given tremendous importance and is considered to be an epitome of personal struggle. Here equating domestic work with Jihad proves the amount of weight given to this act of women. This shows that women aren’t duty bound to perform domestic chores. But when they do they will get Ajar (reward) for it, which is equivalent to Jihad.

Similarly in South Asian societies especially in Pakistan and India, dowry is another major cause of domestic violence, regarding which Quran says “[And give women their dowries as a gift. Then, if they are pleased to give some of it to you, consume it with good health and enjoyment””An-Nisaa: 4. {this shows that dowry is women’s own property and if she allows her husband then she can give it to him, otherwise she is not bound to. But in Pakistan many girls can’t get married because of the pressure of dowry. Many become victims of violence by not having satisfactory dowry. But this ayah clearly states that unless the woman explicitly allows her husband to use it, he has no right otherwise. It’s her property and she can use it or dispose it on her own consent.

Another very important thing is the issue of Translation, when Quranic text is translated it loses its original meaning and many misinterpretations are done. But in reality in Pakistan majority of men brutally hit their wives in rage over trivial issues (like not properly cooking, ironing etc.) which is absolutely “haram” and not endorsed by Islam. So a man is not allowed to hit his wife in a way which would leave a mark and even for doing that certain conditions are there. As Prophet PBUH said “So beware of Allah regarding women for you have taken them as a trust from Allah and you have made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah….And, they have the right over you to provision and clothing according to custom ].” Bukhari & Muslim It’s a man’s religious duty to provide his family with food and money. As dictated in the above mentioned saying. He doesn’t do any favor on his wife by earning for her as it’s her religious right and he is the benefactor and provider of the family.

[So we have observed the role of Islam in domestic violence and how it’s manipulated. The initiatives like “Sister’s In Islam” by Malaysian Islamic group which advocates provision of women in light of Islam, is indeed a commendable one which clarifies certain misconceptions about Islam. Such efforts should also be started from Pakistan to make people aware of the Real Islam. Other than that, to edify the rural people who are mostly illiterate the role of the religious leaders and scholars comes, who have an access to the mainstream people.

Hence, they should be requested to converse the issues related to women’s rights in Mosques, Madaris and religious institutions of other faiths as well. They can help to educate people towards seeing the repercussions of exercise of the violence of women in a society and inform them of where their wives obligations to them end. These religious leaders can alter traditional attitude of people, more than any women’s rights organizations because millions of people are already devotees of their ideology. Lastly, we all should built a habit of self-study, rather than blindly following what we are told, this can help us to develop an objective and biased free thinking.

Yaminay Usman Mustafa is a student of M. Phil in Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, PIDE Islamabad