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The Stark Problem of Family Violence: How Does Islam Resolve It?

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

24 November 2015

Family Violence is a broader term than Domestic Violence. It includes violence between family members, as well as violence between intimate partners. The term Domestic Violence is mostly used to cover violence taking place within intimate relationships in domestic settings. Nevertheless, sometimes both are synonymously used to intrinsically have the same meaning. Hence, this article focuses on the broader term to address all-round violence within a family, without any possible exclusivity. It then provides a brief overview of Islamic teachings and its methods of redress for the family violence. Not only do these teachings remedy physical violence or criminal acts, but, as the study of Qur’an and Hadith has demonstrated, all forms of violence — psychological, emotional, physical, and economic — are categorically and strictly prohibited in Islam.

The phenomenon of family violence is very deep-rooted. Every day, we seem to be bombarded by stories and news in the media about family violence. This violence occurs in the behaviour of a husband towards his wife and vice versa.  In some cases, the parents and in others the children are depicted as victims of violence. Sometimes, the spark of violence extends to other family members, relatives, neighbours and co-citizens. By and large, almost everyone is confronted with family violence.

The acts of family violence are not confined to any particular group of people. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, caste, country, minority or majority and Muslims or non-Muslims. Therefore, blaming any particular religion for causes of family violence will not bring any solution. To say, if some Muslims practice violence in their family, it is merely because they let themselves be possessed of demonic influences. The Din, Islam they believe in is absolutely free from every cause leading to family violence.

From the Islamic perspective, family violence is nothing but a mere violation and open transgression on Islamic teachings. Islam has admonished Muslims about their obligations towards their families. As a complete code and conduct of life, Islam has emphatically called them to exercise love, sympathy, tolerance, patience, peace, cooperation and respect in their family affairs. So, we Muslims as a family must keep in our minds the teachings Islam has taught us, so as to save ourselves from every kind of violence.

Islam forbids Violence and Calls for Love between Husband and Wife

One of the leading objectives of Islamic Shariah in legislating marriage is that love, friendship, peace and good ties of kinship prevail between the spouses. It is for this reason that Allah the Almighty ordered the husband to live with his wife lovingly and honourably. He says: “treat them (wives) honourably”. The context of the verse is about the duty of a husband towards his wife. In its broader understanding, treating wife honourably means prohibition of violence over a wife. So, a husband in Islam is not allowed to exercise violence over his wife.

In another verse, Allah the Almighty says, “Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good” (Quran, 4:19).

Allah the Almighty has given equally balanced rights to the married couples in matter of living, expenses, caring, obedience and respect, as He the Almighty says, “And, according to usage, women too have rights over men similar to the rights of men over women. Men, however, have an advantage over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, Most Wise.”. (2:228)

It is forbidden for a husband to practice any kind of violence over his wife, as Allah the Almighty says:  “Retain them (wives) in kindness or release them in kindness. But do not retain them for injury; so that you exceed the limits, and whoever does this, he indeed is unjust to his own soul” (2:231). The word “dirar” (ضرار) has multiple meanings; such as ‘hurt’, ‘injury’ ‘harm’, ‘damage’, ‘detriment’ and ‘wound’ etc. With any of these meanings, it would be fully appropriate to derive a sense from this verse that practicing any kind of violence over wife to cause injury or harm or damage is forbidden in Islam.   

In addition to the Qur'anic verses, there are many Ahadith that teach the husband to maintain good ties of kinship, love and gentleness for his family. The prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, “The best among you are those who behave well with their women (wives) and daughters” (Al-Baihaqi).To be best for wife and daughter in the modern day, it is binding upon a husband to keep away from the practice of violence over his wife and daughter. So, the above referenced verses of the Qura’n and Hadith have a mutual agreement on forbidding the acts of violence over wife. 

Once someone asked Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) what are the obligations of husbands towards their wives. He replied: "Feed her when you eat, and provide her clothing when you provide yourself. Neither hit her on the face nor use impolite language when addressing her" (Mishkat Shareef, chapter on the maintenance of women).

In another Hadith narrated by Imam al-Bukhari, the lady Aisha (Radiallahu Anha) said “the prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was in the service to his family”. (Bukhari)

As for wife, Islam suggests her to conduct good relationship with her husband. Allah the Almighty says: “So the pious wives are obedient. They guard (their chastity) in the absence of their husbands with the protection of Allah” (4:34). The Quran describes the obedient wife as pious. 

Guarding the chastity is equally the responsibility of both men and women. In another verse, Allah the Almighty says to the prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam), “Direct the believing men to keep their eyes always lowered and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is Well Aware of the (works) which they are busy doing” (24:30).

The sacred texts of the Qura’n and Sunnah imply that both husband and wife are obliged to fulfil their respective duties towards each other. Obedience to each other’s responsibilities is binding upon them. The spouses ought to take care of each other’s emotions and sentiments. Their primary purpose must essentially focus on co-operating each other in joy and sorrow with patience. They should never let themselves be possessed by anger, as it is unlawful in Islam. Anger destroys the faith of a man and often breaks even good ties. The Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, “Verily anger spoils faith just as aloes spoils honey” (Al-Tabrani and al-Baihaiqi). So, the husband and the wife must avoid getting angry, as it causes nothing but tension, depression, frustration, mental torture and violence. Adhering to Islamic teachings is therefore binding upon both of them to bring prosperity and peace in their married life, and thus to save from every kind of violence.   

Islam forbids Violence and Calls for Love between Parents and Children

Relation between children and parents in Islam is of great sacredness. Islam has endowed them with their respective rights to consolidate this sacred relationship. The rights given to them include features of tolerance, patience, benevolence and love. These features, if truly taken into practice as a part of faith as they are per se, will never ever ensure the child-to-parent violence or parent-to-child violence.

However, before going into some details of Islam, can you imagine what it would be like to be physically attacked by a child who you have brought up to be caring and loving for you, at least in your old age? Can you explain the pain of violence you are getting from your parents, even in return for your passionate obedience? Well, leave it, as you would probably feel unease or keep the violence secret from others in case they judge you and your children. However, it is very easy to know the solutions Islam has given to such an embarrassing situation or save the sacred relationship between parents and children from any possible violence. Parents and children both need to keep in their mind the ideal teachings of Islam. For them, It is just as important to know what not to do (i.e. the actions that will lead to violence) and how best to resolve their matter.

According to a verse of the Qura’n, kindness towards parents has been stated as a second priority right after the confession of the oneness of Allah the Almighty. Allah says “Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him and do good to parents” (4:36). By doing good to parents, we mean good manners with them such as obedience, kindness, love, respect, non-violence and tolerance.

There are other verses too, where Allah commands the children to behave with their parents kindly:

“And We have enjoined upon man to behave benevolently with his parents. And if they contend with you that you should associate (others) with Me, of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. To Me you (all) have to return. So I shall inform you of (the deeds) which you used to do (in the world). (29:8)

“And We emphatically enjoined upon man (to do good) to his parents—whose mother bore him (in her reproductive system) in pain after pain, and whose weaning also takes two years (and commanded him:) ‘Give thanks to Me and to your parents. (You) shall return to Me alone.” (31:14)

He the Almighty also says, “And We have commanded man to be benevolent towards his parents. His mother bears him (in the womb) with pain and gives birth to him with pain. And bearing him (in the womb) and weaning of him (i.e., the period of pregnancy and feeding) is (spread over) thirty months. Till, when he attains to manhood and then reaches (the age of) forty years, he says: ‘O my Lord, bestow on me the ability to give You thanks for the favour which You have done to me and my parents, and that I may do such deeds as may please You, and endow me and my children with virtue and piety. Assuredly I turn to You, and certainly I am of those who obey You in submissiveness.’ (46:15)

Let alone talking about violence over parents, Allah the Almighty has forbidden even saying ‘Ugh!’ to them.

“And your Lord has commanded you not to worship anyone other than Allah, and treat parents with benevolence. If either or both of them attain old age in your presence, then do not say even ‘Ugh!’ to them, nor reproach them. And always speak to both of them submissively, observing polite manners. And always lower your wings of submissiveness and humility out of soft-heartedness for both of them, and keep supplicating (Allah): ‘O my Lord, have mercy on both of them as they brought me up in (my) childhood (with mercy and clemency).” (17:23-24)

According to a Hadith "To be good and dutiful to one's parents" is one of the deeds loved most by Allah the Almighty. (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, “He is not from us who does not have mercy on our children and does not honour our old” (Al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim)

Islam forbids Violence and Calls for Love among Relatives and Neighbours

Goodness, forgiveness, love and mercy are crucial factors for maintaining a good and strong relationship. Their absence will break all bonds of kinship, spread corruption, violence in the land and cause curse of Allah the Almighty.

Allah the Almighty says: “And those who break the promise of Allah after making it firm and sever all (the relations and obligations) that Allah has commanded to be kept unified, and do mischief and strife in the land— upon them is the curse and for them is an evil home” (13:25)

The Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: "By God he is not a believer, he is not a believer, he is not a believer,” It was said, "Who is that, O Allah's Apostle?” the one who could not provide peace and security to his neighbours." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Number 45)

This Hadith applies to all neighbours, whether or not they are Muslims. So, a Muslim is one who provides peace and security to all neighbours regardless of their creed or colour. This Hadith obviously prohibits Muslims from practicing every kind of violence over his neighbours.

Besides, there are numerous Hadiths or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) that call for love, kindness, goodness and forbid violence. Some of them are as follows:

"Maintaining good ties with kinship, good manners, and being kind to neighbours brings blessings to the house hold and increases its life span". (Ibn Majah)

"Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

"Whoever is kind, Allah will be kind to him; therefore be kind to man on the earth and He Who is in heaven will show mercy on you."(Abu Dawud & Tirmidhi)

"He who desires that his life be prolonged and he be granted more provisions and to be protected from the evil end, then let him fear Allah and maintain good ties with kinship". (Al-Haakim)

"Maintaining good ties with kinship brings love between relatives and increases wealth and prolongs life". (Al-Tirmidhi)

“O’ people spread greetings, feed people, keep kinship ties and pray at night while people are sleeping and you will enter paradise safely” (al-Hakim)

Having explored the Islamic solutions to the rising problem of family violence, we as a Muslim community should not let any kind of violence occur in our family. It is essential to memorize these solutions, for we may have to utilize them, when sensing the concerned problem. A family can never achieve progress unless all its members are non-violent, tolerant, benevolent, loving, caring and peaceful towards one another. Therefore, the husband and the wife, the parents and the children, the neighbours and the relatives- all should remember this Islamic suggestion for a successful life in the world and a great many rewards in the hereafter. Though, the problem of family violence is not confined to Muslims alone and though Islam forbids family violence, they should never forget that the problem is not only destroying their family life but also defaming the Identity of Muslims and Islam together. Hence, to maintain their dignity and identity around the world, Muslims are in great need of practicing true teachings of Islam and inculcating sound happiness and love into their family life.    

A regular columnist and English-Arabic translator for New Age Islam, Ghulam Ghaus is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He completed the classical Islamic sciences from a Delhi-based Sufi Islamic seminary Jamia Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Zakir Nagar, New Delhi with specialization in Tafseer, Hadith and Arabic. He completed his Alimiat and Fazilat respectively from Jamia Warsia Arabic College, Lucknow and Jamia Manzar- e- Islam, Bareilly, U.P. He did his graduation in Arabic (Hons) and post-graduation (Arabic) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.