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Domestic Violence Series

Domestic Violence Series: A Hidden Evil and Muslim Communities

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

It is the extreme, sensational cases that make it to the front pages of the newspaper. We were all horrified when we heard of Nazish Noorani, a young mother killed by her abusive husband. What we don’t hear are the voices of the abused behind the closed doors of many homes across social, economic, ethnic, racial and gender lines. They exist in our community just as they exist in the non-Muslim communities. We see these men in our masjids, their wives suffering in silence at our picnics and our dinner parties. Domestic violence is, again, a human problem, much like sexual harassment.

By definition, domestic violence is a pattern of abuse – physical, sexual, financial, spiritual, emotional and verbal, including disparagement, blame, being ostracized, isolated and condemned. Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Not one incident but a pattern. Men are victims too, 835,000 a year in the US alone, of physical, emotional and financial abuse.

Many cultures think it is the man’s God-given right to hit a woman. According to Change from within: Muslim perspectives about Domestic Violence, even the term Domestic Violence is looked upon as suspect by many Muslims because it is reminiscent of “western feminists ideals and doesn’t occur in traditional Islamic texts”. Another reason that many do not publicly bring this issue up is because it re-enforces the stereotype that Islam is a violent religion. Others do not want to pry into ‘private lives’ except to tsk tsk over the plight of another.

In abusive situations where women are the victims, the ones who do gather the courage to tell are told by their families to go back to their abusers for the sake of family, honor, name, children, to be patient and forgive her spouse after the abuse.  Cultural narratives often define why many women do not seek help – i.e. thinking that your husband is Majazi Khuda, a metaphorical God – especially in the South Asian culture.  What is that? That is not Islam. That is Jahiliyyah (ignorance). Growing up, I heard that term, on the television as well as socially, enough times to think that it was a part of the dīn. So to me, it is not surprising that 85% of the women who did seek shelter in the U.S. from abusive marriages were immigrants (according to a survey of shelters by Peaceful Families project.) But this could also be because they could not afford to fly back to their countries of origin or did not have the same support system that indigenous Muslims may have.

Not all Muslim men who abuse their wives do it because they believe it is their Islamic right – many are not religious nor do they think religion is part of the equation.  What is especially troubling is when men who are aspiring to piety and learning about the dīn, engage in violence at home and think it is justified in the religion. These attitudes are disseminated by preachers who spew misogynistic statements like some women can only be controlled through striking or telling men that their wives are dirty beings from the dunya. They make religion hell for women and anyone who speaks out against this is deemed anti-Islamic. How do you think a man will act when he goes home after listening to one of these sermons?  We need to think. People are leaving the religion because of how some Muslims treat women, using ‘Islam’ as a weapon.

Have you ever heard in the sīrah of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the Mercy to the World, that he ever struck anyone, wife, child, servant, ever? If you aspire to follow his Sunnah, be a husband like him. He was the living embodiment of the Qur’ān. We also know that this issue is dealt in Islam under the broader umbrella of prohibition of oppression and abuse. Allāh hates oppression, so we should hold on to our spouses in goodness, lifting each other spiritually or let them go.

We learn from our shuyūkh, who learned from scholars who have given up their lives for the dīn, sacrificing 20 or more years before making tafsīr of the Qur’ān, that laymen, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who bring up the verses in the Qur’ān suggesting that Islam condones domestic violence, need a reality check.  Ibn Ashur, the Grand Mufti of the Zaytuna in Tunisia in his tafsīr (Tafsīr al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir) says that men should be punished by authorities when they have lost control of their hawwas and hit their wives, when they commit domestic violence, when they use a verse from the Qur’ān as a means to justify their anger, their rage. According to Ibn Ashur, it is the greatest irony that the verse in the Qur’ān  which came down to eliminate domestic violence is used to propagate domestic violence.

Renowned scholars say that any woman who is suffering from domestic abuse should go to the proper authorities and report her husband because he is committing a sin. If the Muslims won’t help her then she can go to anybody else who will grant her sanctuary.  In our dīn, even animals have rights and no one can humiliate or torture them so what about the daughters of Adam, the best of creation?

What should we do as a community?

We need to ask ourselves: do we know what to do if we are faced with such a situation?

What would we do personally if someone who was in an abusive relationship ever approached us for help? How can we be resources to our abused sisters? One of the many things that you can do is join our Khutbah about Domestic Violence Drive – commit your local masjid or mussalla Friday khuṭbah to this topic to spread awareness and start discussions in our communities. Conversations need to take place at the community level urging counseling, psychological and spiritual, for abusers and the abused.

We need to ask ourselves: do our masājid have counselors or ties to domestic violence shelters? For example, in a survey conducted by Peaceful Families most DV shelters have on average 35 mosques in the vicinity but only 12% have any ties to the shelter. Only 6% of imams have any domestic violence training.

We need preachers like Imam Khalid Latif, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, Imam Zaid Shakir, Maulana Tariq Jameel, and Shaykh Abdullah Hasan, Brother Dawud Walid who frequently speak about this topic and have the knowledge to address this issue. Our own Shaykh Yahya has a post coming soon on the Sunnahs of Love. (Click on the links to hear their views on domestic violence and how to treat your spouses).

We need parents who raise sons who know how to treat women like the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) treated the women in his family and teach our daughters to model that tranquility in their own relationships. We need teachers and counselors who can talk to young men and women about how to manage their relationships in ways that please our Creator and who teach young women to respect themselves and recognize signs of abuse. We need doctors and lawyers in our communities who can speak and educate their patients and clients. We need safe homes in our communities where victims/survivors can go. We need unique solutions that include community-based accountability because we cannot always rely on the police because of the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and racist policies practiced by the authorities.

We cannot let traumatized men and women suffer in silence wondering: Who would speak to me, for me?  This is our tradition; this our duty.

Interview with Umm Yousef, a survivor and DV advocate

Researchers who have interviewed hundreds of abusers say that it is all about control. In this video, the abuser say that he would plan out exactly how he would treat his family seconds or hours before the incident. Many people who are not in an abusive relationship question why victims don’t leave, blaming the victim instead of the perpetrator.

Hope is one of the most common factors that experts see. Many women feel like they would be sinning if they leave. Dependency is another major factor. To find out more about this from a personal view, I interviewed Umm Yousef, who had the courage to leave her abusive marriage. She found shelter in My Sister’s House and urges you to support their work.

[Hena Zuberi]:  Many people ask, why don’t women leave or why do they keep going back to men who abuse them? What would you say to them?

[Umm Yousef]:  On average, it takes women seven tries to leave an abusive husband. In a way, I am lucky because I did it on the third try, but not before getting back together with my ex and making a baby. To understand why women go back, one has to understand and be aware of many factors including the very nature of the cycle of abuse, the effect of brainwashing, traumatic bonding (also known as Stockholm Syndrome) and the possibility of there having been inter-generational violence (i.e., abuse in a woman’s family of origin.)

Another huge reason for staying is fear. One aspect of that fear, in addition to fear of the unknown, relates to the studies that have shown time and again that THE MOST dangerous time for a woman is when she attempts to leave the abuser. Oprah did a show at one point encouraging women in DV relationships to take the threat assessment test that is used to access the threat level to elected officials. To counteract his loss of power and control over the woman, an abuser usually escalates the aggression and abuse, at times to the point of death or serious injury.

Ultimately, if a woman is contemplating leaving an abuser the most important thing is to have two kinds of plans:  an emergency plan if it gets out of hand before the victim is really “ready” and a more long term plan for stability. In one online forum I visited, women had whole bank accounts set aside for leaving their ex, were scoping out apartments, and planning their restraining orders. While this would give a woman the best chance of staying “out” of the relationship by making as clean of a break as possible, there are always those situations where a woman has to leave in the middle of the night with just the clothes on her back and her shoeless children. And that is where emergency DV shelters, friends and family play a vital role.

It bears mentioning that some of the other reasons women choose to stay in an abusive relationship can also include a partner’s promise to reform, shame, concern for her children, lack of support, exhaustion, gender-role conditioning, economic concerns, practicalities of the situation, feelings and personal beliefs.

When it is put that way sometimes it can put it in perspective and instead of the oft heard “why did you stay?” more people will be able to understand and empathize with how insurmountable an obstacle it seemed for her to leave. Even now, almost a year later, I still have the occasional desire to go back because it is familiar, and, as the saying goes, the devil that you know…

[HZ]:  Psychologically, how have you been impacted by the abuse? Do you see changes in yourself after getting out of the situation?

[UY]:  I think the biggest impact the abuse had on me was on my self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Secondarily would be the effect it has had on my children and my ability to bond and be a loving mother. I sincerely believe that the abuse exacerbated the post-partum depressions I had with all three of my pregnancies. After 10 years of emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual abuse I attempted suicide at the end of 2010. For many months during my initial attempt at divorce and after I separated for good I experienced anxiety and panic attacks. I have seen multiple therapists and counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, etc, including two marriage and family therapists and a trauma psychologist. Basically, what I have heard time and time again is that while I am “out” in the sense that I am no longer living with him it is far from over. Healing will take time, and in effect, because we have children together, I will never get completely free from the abuse. He will always have a link to me through our kids and will exercise that bit of power and control, continuing to use me as a target for his anger and aggression, from time to time.

[HZ]:  How prevalent is DV in marriages between American converts and men from overseas?

[UY]:  Unfortunately, from what I have seen, pretty frequent. I think this stems from a lack of proper understanding of Islam, lack of knowledge of a woman’s rights and a husband’s responsibilities, and a lack of guidance and support for new sisters. A Muslim man who comes to the USA, sometimes solely for the Green card, can get away with a lot more marrying a new Muslim whereas many things she may believe, or not even know to ask about would not be tolerated in an “Islamic” culture. An American woman’s idea of “feminism” also allows a man to take advantage of her financially for sure. I think mixed cultural marriages are more likely to be solid if they are built on a foundation of deep knowledge and understanding of the religion and a desire to implement its precepts. Unfortunately, I am the first to admit I did not do enough knowledge seeking before taking my shahādah, and as the years progressed and I came to know details of the religion, strengthened myself as a Muslim and began insisting on my rights, my marriage also got rockier.

[HZ]:  How would you explain the feeling of being abused to a person who has never suffered it himself/herself?

[UY]:  The best explanation or metaphor that I came across over the last few years after I came to understand that what I had experienced in my marriage was, in fact, abuse was a YouTube PSA (public service announcement) that shows a woman slowly struggling and drowning in a tank of water, and just as she is about to drown the water gushes out and she gets a moment of relief, only to have the tank start filling up again. That is how the cycle of abuse works and feels. In fact, women who have been in abusive relationships for a long period of time learn how to “relieve the tension” as it were and trigger the abuse in order to get that sense of relief, and they also of course try to prolong the period of calm after the storm. In this way women try their best to modify and change their own behaviors in an effort to better survive in the only way they know how, to live with and around the abuse, and to live through each incident.

[HZ]:  As a survivor, what advice can you give other women in similar situations?

[UY]:  Every woman is a survivor, the ones in their marriages and relationships, and the single divorcees. Every day women survive. The more important signpost I can place in front of a woman is not survival; it is the ability to thrive. If a woman is merely hanging onto each day, then that is not a self-loving way to be, so I can only suggest that each woman take a long hard look at her unique situation and experiences and see if she can find a way to thrive in her own way. Ultimately each woman has to make the decision to leave and make it work or stay and make it work for her. No one can tell her what the best thing to do is, and she knows her abuser more intimately than anyone else ever will, and only she can know how safe it is to do either of those actions.

One more thing I would have to add that is of increased concern for an American convert to Islam is the issue of dual nationality and dual citizenship for children born in the USA. Parental rights are strongly in favor of the man in Islamic countries and none of the so-called Muslim countries are signatories on the Hague convention, an international convention that attempts to prevent and aid in the persecution and return of abducted children. Converts married to dual citizenship men should be especially aware and mindful of this point because while abduction out of the state can be devastating, often international child abduction can be nearly forever.

Resources
Turning Point (New York)
Muslimat Al- Nisaa Baltimore, MD
Project Sakinah

UK

Nour Domestic Violence (London)

Texas

AnNisa Hope Center (http://www.annisahopecenter.com/index.html)
Daya: Serving Families in Crisis (http://www.dayahouston.org/resources.php)
Houston Area Women’s Center (http://www.hawc.org)

California

Niswa Los Angeles
Nisathe Bay Area, CA:

Illinois
Apna Ghar
Hamdard Center

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Here is an updated list of Muslim organizations in the US on the Peaceful Families website.
Please add resources from your locality – we will add them to the list.

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    October 19, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    May Allah reward you for this much-needed article.

    “even the term Domestic Violence is looked upon as suspect by many Muslims because it is reminiscent of ”
    “western feminists ideals and doesn’t occur in traditional Islamic texts”.

    This is absolutely spot-on. Unfortunately, as I’ve recently discovered, in some cultures the “religious” guys actually use respected sheikhs as a weapon against their wives by threatening them that by not obeying their husband, or by asking for a divorce, attempting to leave, etc. these women will end up angering Allah and end up in Hell. There is simply not enough awareness about the sheer HARAAMness of domestic violence!

    The scholars and students of knowledge really must learn how to deal with cases of DV in their communities by providing the Islamic evidence against it and repeatedly reminding the men about the punishment that awaits anyone who transgresses the rights of a fellow Muslim or oppresses them – even and especially when that fellow Muslim is their wife!

    There also needs to be awareness that the ‘traditional advice’ of telling a woman to be patient and make du’a and consider her children more than herself, is simply not appropriate. Imagine if a local Imam is approached by a sister in the community, who reveals to him her dire situation, and after knowing full well the danger she’s in, he sends her back home to be further abused… Allah only knows the responsibility that this person will bear for the harm that has come to this Muslimah.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 22, 2011 at 2:04 AM

      Jazakillah Khayr Sister- this series is indeed needed but what I am finding is that many people just feel too uncomfortable commenting on this issue. It’s like we are crossing a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed. It is amazing how many great women resign to this way of life. May Allah SWT reward them with pious partners in the Aakhirah. I am so greateful to Umm Yousef for answering my questions so eloquently and truthfully. I have followed her online and witnessed her ups and downs and her faith in Allah is so so strong. MashaAllah.

      Verbal abuse can be just as debilitating as physical abuse- you see the scars in physical violence but emotional scars can ruin a persons life and personality.Haraamness fits the description perfectly.

      The reason why I think the shuyookh (especially in Muslims countries) are to ‘blame’ is that they hold power that no one else aside from maybe television holds. You can turnoff the TV but at a khutbah or dars they have a captive audience. The khutbahs that I did find from over sees overseas are so filled with vitriol against women that it so sad. If very respected shuyookh speak about women in such a derogatory manner, how can it not affect the psyche of the listener?

  2. Avatar

    Muslimah

    October 19, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Nice article, masha’Allah!

    It would also be interesting to throw light on the abuse of young muslim girls by their fathers, brothers, or sometimes entire families, forcing them into marriages, denying the right to education, etc. eventually depriving them of the basic human rights of peace, love, mercy, justice and freedom that Allah has promised for all!!! All this under the pretense of the shariah — with parents calling themselves a child’s God in this world and messing up their lives because of the desire to have control and power over them.

    • Avatar

      melaika

      October 22, 2011 at 1:06 AM

      I second that, Muslimah

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 22, 2011 at 2:06 AM

      InshaAllah Sister, this is the start of the series we hope to address many pf these issues in the follow up posts. Please keep our writers in your duas. All good is from Allah SWT and any mistake I made I purely from my own nafs.

  3. Avatar

    Zari

    October 19, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    Assalamualaikum Sr. Hena,

    Jazakallahu khayran for this wonderful article. There is a lot going on in the Indian blogosphere with this month being the Violence Against Women Awareness Month. This is a tangential question, but I’d be grateful if you could point me to any resources that discuss the hadith, “If it were allowed to prostrate oneself in front of anyone except Allah, then a wife must bow down in prostration in front of her husband”. A lot of Sheikhs talk about how obedience is required from a good Muslim wife. I’ve heard that in one halaqa, the ustadha actually said, “Even if the husband asks you to lick dirt off his feet with your tongue, you must obey”. I believe that it’s these kind of statements that give (religious) men the authority that they can get away with domestic violence.

    I’d love to know your views on this.

    Jazakallahu khayran,
    (a big fan of yours since the niqab debate)-that was Sister Hebah-HZ

    • Avatar

      Zari

      October 21, 2011 at 8:56 PM

      I’m so sorry Sr. Hena! My sincere apologies.

  4. Avatar

    Deak Twon

    October 19, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    “Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.”

    I never understood this, even when I was desperate to leave my husband. I thought that Islamically, he has every right to control me however he felt like it. Hasn’t Allah given him power and control over me?

    So it took me several attempts before I left, but when I did, it wasn’t because I thought he was evil or because he was a bad person. I thought I myself was a horrible person for not being able to put up with the demands he made of me. Like, if every other woman is capable of being patient with their husbands, why can’t I? Why was my behavior changing such that I was angry and resentful and sometimes I couldn’t even stop myself from expressing those sentiments even when I tried. So I would feel even worse that he had done nothing wrong (from an Islamic stand point) while my own behavior couldn’t be justified.

    In the end, I chose to leave not because he had done anything which was directly haram, but because I could no longer “be patient” with a controlling husband.

    I still don’t think he’s evil, I think he’s simply doesn’t understand that just because Allah has given him the right to control his wife, that doesn’t mean he should use it. And if he does use it… well, my divorce is nearly finalized, Alhamdulillah.

    • Avatar

      Shahzad

      October 19, 2011 at 5:27 PM

      Assalamu ‘alaikum,

      There is a difference between a man’s position as a leader in his family versus a pathological need to control others. The latter is a character flaw and a sign of a weak man. And angers me that men and women have come to believe that such people are simply exercising the right that Allah has given them.

      Wassalaam,

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 20, 2011 at 1:11 AM

      From Shaykh Hasan: SubhanAllah. There is a difference between to control and to maintain. Allah has charged the men to maintain the women, but this does not mean that they can control their wives as puppets on strings. When someone starts to control another human being they start to make the other person feel inferior and suppressed. The controller starts to feel that he has the ability to do what he desires to the other person. That feeling can manifests in most cases in subordination and engendering some sort of harm to the controlled, in most cases to show the superiority of the controller.

      How can Allah allow men to suppress and make their wives feel low or inferior? Husband and wife should be equal partners, sharing each other’s grief, pain and happiness. When the wife feels that she has to be patient and that this is something encouraged in Islam (in this instance), then the marriage transforms from being a partnership of mutual love and respect to a dictatorial liaison. And this is something that Islam came to abolish. Wallahu ‘alam

      • Avatar

        Shamsa

        October 20, 2011 at 4:27 PM

        Who is to say what constitutes “maintanence” and what would be categorized as “control”? It is not a wife’s place to judge her husband’s intention, so how does she recognize if she is being abused or she is simply being protected?

      • Avatar

        ANMB

        October 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        Very interesting article by another Islamic Scholar in Mumbai:

        Islam prohibits `marital rape`
        By [Sheikh] Asghar Ali Engineer

        May 1, 2009

        http://archives.dawn.com/archives/189504

    • Avatar

      Sabeen Mansoori

      October 20, 2011 at 7:53 AM

      Allah (swt) gave no one the ‘right’ to oppress another.

  5. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    October 20, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    Good to hear the views of a woman who left her abusive marriage, though after 10 years. That is one less murder victim.

    Briefly, some brothers asserted my desire for Khul’a was ‘seeking permission’ for divorce and hence my ex had the right to turn it down. I went home, called on Allah The Most High, “You gave him authority over me. You have authority over him. MAKE him issue that divorce.”

    Meanwhile, I brought the marriage to a stand-still and embarked on a full-scale rebellion. I severed all communication with him, though we still slept in the same room. I have a policy not to act contrary to my pleas to Allah; putting up with the abuse was hence out of the question. Of course, I was careful not to do anything that could remotely lead to more abuse.

    4 weeks later and after 8 months of marriage, he uttered divorce.

    Indeed Allah, my Rabb has power over all things,
    Umm Sulaim

  6. Avatar

    Zahra

    October 20, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    This is a timely and very well-written article, jazaki Allahu khairan sister Hena!

    “According to Ibn Ashur, it is the greatest irony that the verse in the Qur’ān which came down to eliminate domestic violence is used to propagate domestic violence.”

    Is more commentary available on this verse? I think that can be a very practical, educational project for our community – having reliable scholars comment on this verse and make the tafsir well-known to the community.

    Secondly, there is also a Muslim women’s shelter in the Bay Area, CA: http://asknisa.org/

    • Avatar

      June

      October 20, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      Assalam alaykum,
      When I was first researching Islam I, having grown up with a mother who is a feminist, researched the women’s issues first. If I am not mistaken, when they say “According to Ibn Ashur, it is the greatest irony that the verse in the Qur’ān which came down to eliminate domestic violence is used to propagate domestic violence” the are referring to Sura 4:34, yes?

      Dr. Mohsin translation: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allâh has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allâh and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allâh orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property). As to those women on whose part you see ill¬conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allâh is Ever Most High, Most Great (34)

      This, of course, bothered me at first so I did some research on it. I found this commentary to be the most helpful. And on the related note of the man’s role to maintain his wife I found this commentary. It’s clear the man has “control” to some extent but certainly not to the point of controlling every minute of the wife’s day under the threat of shouting, hitting, or other punishment if she goes out of line.

      Though I am still curios about commentary on the hadith about a woman prostrating before her husband if it was allowed, as the poster “Zari” mentioned.

      • Avatar

        ANMB

        October 22, 2011 at 12:06 PM

        One opinion of the word “darraba” and it’s translation that should be more seriously considered:

        Furor over a five-letter word
        http://www.thestar.com/article/268835

        • Avatar

          ANMB

          October 22, 2011 at 12:12 PM

          And I cannot help but wonder if Dr. Lalah Bukhtair’s translation of “darraba” is more accurate:

          Furor over a five-letter word
          http://www.thestar.com/article/268835

          And it is interesting that an ISNA representative wanted to ban the book, and Dr. Ingrid Mattson responded:

          The Islamic Society of North America through it’s President Ingrid Mattson, issued a statement supporting Dr. Bakhtiar’s translation. Read more [ http://www.sublimequran.org/2007/10/26/isna-presidents-message-of-support/ ]

          http://www.sublimequran.org/ 

          • Avatar

            ANMB

            October 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

            SubhanAllah.

            “It should be noted, in fact, that Bakhtiar’s interpretation of Qur’anic verse 4:34 is not new, although we do not deny that she arrived at her position independently. A similar interpretation was offered by Dr Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman, Rector of the International Islamic University of Malaysia, in a 2003 special edition of “Islamic Horizons,” ISNA’s flagship publication. It is unfortunate that many Muslims are unaware of the depth and sophistication of Qur’anic exegesis. ISNA is committed to rectifying this lack of knowledge and expects our administrators to promote ISNA’s values and mission.”

            http://www.sublimequran.org/2007/10/26/isna-presidents-message-of-support/

  7. Avatar

    A.Stranger

    October 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    “even the term Domestic Violence is looked upon as suspect by many Muslims because it is reminiscent of ”
    “western feminists ideals and doesn’t occur in traditional Islamic texts”.

    Firstly Jazake Allah Khair for addressing this issue and Umm Yousef for talking about your personal experiences.

    I have to point out the above quote, yes in conservative and lacking proper Islamic education circles that is perhaps the mentality, but most definitely not an Islamic on.

    Even those who are pursuing religious education tend to think that this topic is addressed by “Modern scholars”. But that’s not true. When we have such an approach, the onlookers tend to think that Islamic is backwards and allows abuse and it is the modernised individuals who are doing what is right and condoning Domestic Violence.
    Sheikh Abu Bakr Al Jaza’iri is a Khateeb at Masjid Al Haram and he is around 90 years old, MashaAllah – may Allah preserve him. In his tafseer of Surah Al Majadalah he referred to this issue directly, over and over again. And I am ashamed to say this but I was impressed that someone as old as him would talk about this, someone who comes from a very un-westernised society. And this is PROOF, that our true Islamic Scholars (with correct Aqeedahs) don’t accept domestic violence, but they condone it.

    As for scholars telling sisters to be patient, of course Muslims have to have Sabr.
    Patience is not a moral characteristic that makes life difficult for a believer but it is an act of worship that ALLOWS the believer to get through the rough time with sanity intact. And scholars do advise to seek help. Patience is advised for the women’s internal well being. And it goes hand in hand with seeking help from a third party.

    I pray non of our sisters in Islam have to ever go through something like this.

    • Avatar

      Dawud Israel

      October 20, 2011 at 4:03 PM

      +1

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 22, 2011 at 2:42 AM

      I think the study was referring to the actual term ‘domestic violence’ instead of the concept. It could be the results they recieved from the people they surveyed- those are not my thoughts at all.
      The Grand Mufti I quoted was born in 1879, so you are absolutely right that this is not a new or modern approach to the din. This is an age old problem and the Qur’an was send down to abolish it.

      JazakAllah khayr for your wise comments.

      • Avatar

        A.Stranger

        October 26, 2011 at 12:59 AM

        Oh no! I didn’t mean you! I meant the general mentality that people tend to have towards this term, or even concept. :) MashaAllah you did a great job sister :)

  8. Avatar

    Haleh

    October 20, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Jazakillah khair for starting this Domestic Violence Awareness. It plagues all societies and the number one way to address it is through knowledge. MashaAllah a well written article!

    A special thanks to Um Yousef for sharing her personal story and giving sound advice.
    May Allah help all those in oppressive relationships.

    Haleh

  9. Avatar

    aliya

    October 20, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    i wonder how men would cope with getting beaten up all the time and living in fear?…
    Patient much? LOL

  10. Avatar

    Abdullah

    October 20, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    • Avatar

      A.Stranger

      October 22, 2011 at 3:36 AM

      This is so sad! And it’s absolutely despicable how it’s been done “in the name of Islam”.

  11. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    October 20, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Bismillah,

    If there is one thing that the Prophet (s) demonstrated in his 40+ years of married life to 13 different woman, i might add, is that loving your wife is the Sunnah.

    That is quickly followed by the Sunnah of Divorce.

    The Prophet (s) divorced more than one of his wives. Hafsa (ra) the daughter of Umar (r) was returned by Allah’s instruction on account of her faith.

    Divorce is not shameful.

    It surprised me to see so few comments on such an important piece…in particular the silence from the brothers.

    I believe Sr. Hena alluded to a new post of mine coming out titled the Sunnah of Love.
    Please read it insha Allah.

    yahya Ibrahim
    http://www.facebook.com/yahya.adel.ibrahim

  12. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    October 21, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    No one is ALLOWED to prostrate to another. It is an excellent idea to read up on it to clear up doubts and misconceptions.

    My surprise is at the silence of women. They are usually the victims of domestic abuse. I’m particularly interested in reading the views of women regarding what is happening to them and WHY it is happening.

    Patience is until Allah makes a way OUT OF DISTRESS, and not a passive resignation to fate. And by out of distress, I meant out of distress ALIVE AND WITH MINIMAL TRAUMA. I just thought I should clarify that to avoid misconceptions I support women being sent to Jannah via courier service (murder).

    Umm Sulaim

  13. Avatar

    Farhan

    October 21, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    I will NEVER be a domestic abuser.

    • Avatar

      umm abdullah

      October 21, 2011 at 11:32 PM

      inshAllah

  14. Amad

    Amad

    October 21, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Men who beat their wives are cowards. There is no other word to describe it.

  15. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 22, 2011 at 11:33 AM

  16. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 22, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    MOSAIC: The Tool That Could Save Your Life
    The Oprah Winfrey Show | April 15, 2010…

    According to security expert Gavin de Becker, a woman dies every four hours in the United States at the hands of her boyfriend or spouse. Gavin also says these crimes are often predictable and preventable.

    To combat domestic violence, Gavin has developed a potentially lifesaving tool called MOSAIC. This online assessment is free and protects the user’s identity.

    http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/MOSAIC-Gavin-de-Beckers-Online-Threat-Assessment-Tool

  17. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 22, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Suzette Haden Elgin’s
    Verbal Self Defense Home Page
    http://www.adrr.com/aa/

  18. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Chastising Women:

    A Means to Resolve Marital Problems?

    AbdulHamid A. AbuSulayman1

    http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm/study_res/islam/gender/abusulayman_nowifebeating.html

  19. Avatar

    UmmH

    October 24, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    Hello,

    I currently live with abuse – my husband does not allow me friends, to go out alone without him watching like a hawk, believes he can dictate how I dress or speak. Anytime, he gets angry with me (like the other day when I wished to hold onto a small amount of MY money for myself) he yells and lectures me about how horrible I am- how I should be thankful I have him (as no one else would have me), how I don’t care for my children, and on and on. This line of verbal assault typically lasts hours and can start for something as simple as me not turning off the computer fast enough to address is sexual needs. Of course it always ends with him wanting to get his sexual needs met, to make up, and the whole time I am dead inside becuase if a man loves you he wont treat you like trash and then climb on you after like nothing happened.

    Now, who do I go to? Here in my town in the USA – the Imam doesn’t speak a lick of English – plus I know I would be told to be patient – he is the man – he CAN dictate who I spend time with (even to make it so I have NO support – it was in the Prophet’s last sermon don’t you know) and limit me outside of the home (like making it impossible for me to volunteer etc). I had to reach out to strangers essentially to seek support, and always in the back of my head feel guilt for my hubby’s favorite rant how everyone is out to get him for being Arab – so the poor guy doesn’t have a fighting chance. The message being these strangers don’t CARE about me but simply want to break up a Muslim home…..

    Ladies, don’t put up with this. As I type, I think I better get off quick and start cleaning the hard drive before he checks out my computer – and it ain’t healthy. He may not hit me, but frankly I would rather he did. You should have more articles for women like me who cant save money. can’t call someone easily, who have no support whatsoever. The ones who are under constant watch. I currently plan to contact a Muslim brother within the community that is American and should understand both sides to negotiate a seperation/divorce that wont involve restraining orders, but can’t help fearing he will give me the same line of “have more patience”. I am broken to the point, it is difficult to meet the needs of my children much less myself and I recognize that.

    Dear strangers, I add you to my list of support – please keep me in your dua.

    • Avatar

      Umm Sulaim

      October 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM

      My dear girl as-Salam alayk,

      May Allah be with you.

      There are many issues on my mind which I shall refrain from revealing for the simple reason I do not get involved in other people’s relationships.

      I wish I could offer other forms of assistance: housing, finances, etc. But you are in the US; you would have been welcomed in my home while you sort yourself out.

      If you do eventually get a divorce from him, I shall be here, In Sha Allah with full moral support.

      It is a pleasure to read a woman actually KNOWS what is happening to her hurts her. Your options may include advice from social services and lawyers. You might want to check the internet for free online advice; only be sure the site is genuine.

      Of course, I say remain patient (see my comment above). And may Allah be with you and your children.

      Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      Sunshine

      October 24, 2011 at 2:57 PM

      Sounds like my ex exactly.

      Hang in there, Allah will make a way out for you InshaAllah.

    • Avatar

      mimi

      October 24, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      Assalamu’alaikum UmmH, I’ve recently started praying Tahajjud regularly and will pray for you and your family :) Please stay strong and don’t lose hope.

    • Avatar

      ANMB

      October 24, 2011 at 4:51 PM

      as salaam ‘alaikum UmmH,

      Please contact Peaceful Families for more information:

      PFP is a national organization devoted to ending domestic violence in Muslim families by facilitating awareness workshops for Muslim leaders and communities, providing cultural sensitivity trainings for professionals, conducting research, and developing resources. More about our programming.
      http://www.peacefulfamilies.org/index.php

      Peaceful Families Project
      P.O. Box 771
      Great Falls, VA 22066
      Email: info @peacefulfamilies.org
      Phone: 703.474.6870
      Please note that we do not provide direct services.

      If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home and need assistance, please contact one of these locally based groups [ http://www.peacefulfamilies.org/LocalMuslimOrgs.html ] that provide direct services so they can assist you.

      You may also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE.

      http://www.peacefulfamilies.org/contact.html

      I would also suggest that you read the various links in the comments of this article, that may be beneficial for you as you find your way, insha’Allah.

      May Allah (swt) make it easy for you.

      JAK
      ASA

  20. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 25, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Egypt sheikh backs women’s right to beat husbands
    By AFP
    Monday, 27 October 2008 4:54 PM

    Sunni Islam’s highest authority has approved a woman’s right to fight back if her husband uses violence against her, Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported on Monday.

    The declaration by Sheikh Abdel Hamid Al-Atrash, who heads Al-Azhar University’s committee for fatwas or religious rulings, comes after similar rulings by religious leaders in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    “A wife has the legitimate right to hit her husband in order to defend herself,” Sheikh Abdel was quoted as saying.

    “Everyone has the right to defend themselves, whether they are a man or a woman… because all human beings are equal before God,” he said.

    Over the last few days, Saudi Sheikh Abdel Mohsen Al-Abyakan stressed the fact that a wife should resort to “the same kind of violence” as her husband used against her, whether it be with a leather strap or a wire cable, the paper said.

    Turkish Sheikh Fathallah Julun went one step further and ruled that a woman should return the violence with interest.

    “She should give back two blows for each one received,” the paper quoted him as saying.

    Rights groups quoted by Amnesty International say that 35 percent of Egyptian women killed per year die as a result of domestic violence.

    http://www.arabianbusiness.com/egypt-sheikh-backs-women-s-right-beat-husbands-84010.html

  21. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 26, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    SubhanAllah. And is it any wonder that the cultures that deem “abuse” as “correcting women” and justify it with Islam, that it also affects the children in Islamic educational settings?!?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2053034/What-going-Britains-mosque-schools-Beatings-humiliation-lessons-hating-Britain.html

  22. Avatar

    ANMB

    October 26, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Excerpt from article:

    What IS going on in Britain’s mosque schools? Beatings, humiliation and lessons in hating Britain
    By PAUL BRACCHI
    Last updated at 1:36 AM on 25th October 2011

    . . .

    In 2006, Dr Siddiqui, then leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain — a forum set up back in the Nineties to lobby and campaign on issues affecting Muslims — accused local imams of not taking their duty to protect children seriously.

    Anyone with ‘less than a fistful of beard’ must be avoided ‘the same way you stay away from a serpent or a snake’, some children were instructed. Non-Muslims were referred to as the ‘infidel’

    His concerns were spelled out in a damning 35-page publication, Child Protection In Faith-Based Environments:

    http://www.muslimparliament.org.uk/Documentation/ChildProtectionReport.pdf

    ‘The Muslim community,’ he wrote, ‘is at present in a state of denial — denial of the fact that child abuse takes place in places of worship including mosques and madrassas and families. It is a taboo subject.

    ‘There is very little discussion taking place in the community on the subject at any level. Hence, when such a crime is committed, the victim knows no one to turn to and the abusers are answerable to no one.’

    . . .

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2053034/What-going-Britains-mosque-schools-Beatings-humiliation-lessons-hating-Britain.html

  23. Avatar

    Nina

    November 13, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    Excellent. I was a victim of domestic violence for 14 years. I got out

  24. Avatar

    zakir

    September 5, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    Mashallah, good article. I was specially impressed with the comments shared.

    While definitely agreeing on the major abuse of women in Islam, I think we should also highlight abused and battered husbands in Muslim communities. These cases remain much more secret because a Muslim husband is supposed to be a strong character and he is never seen as a weak one battered by an abusive Muslim wife.

    I am writing this after seeing a few cases first hand.

    As a community, we should help and support abused wives as well as husbands.

    May Allah help us build healthy relationships.Ameen.

  25. Avatar

    dora

    November 12, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    ‘My name is Dora I am from United States, I was in a relationship with Ben and we loved and cherished ourselves for 3 good years and every thing was going on smoothly but February 14, 2012 a day I can call a lovers day we both had misunderstanding because I answered a call from a guy that is asking me out for a date but I refused, and he told me that the relationship is over and that he is fed up with me and I begged him because I love him so much but he refused me I was so down cast and I felt the world has come to an end for me but my friend told me about a spell caster that helped her sister out in getting her relationship back, a good job and favor in any of her endeavor but at first I was scared but I have to give this man a trial because I love Ben very much and I am not willing to loose him to any woman, so I ordered returning my love spell from this great spell caster that made me a happy woman again to say it all my ex came back to me with much love and a caring heart…i am testifying to this great spell caster ATINGO TEMPLE. if you need his help you can contact him on atingospiritualtemple@live.com

  26. Avatar

    color

    February 8, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    As Salaamu Alaikum, I sit here in front of my computer telling the short story of my life. the constant belittleing, calling me Dunya, all I evrer wanted to do was practice Islam peacful and meet some one who was to take care of me turned into me takeing care of him and separte from me if I didnt do what he wanted me to. I have to stop because I’m not strong enough to type the story

  27. Avatar

    Nemat

    September 14, 2013 at 1:46 AM

    Dear sister,

    “Patience is until Allah makes a way OUT OF DISTRESS, and not a passive resignation to fate. And by out of distress, I meant out of distress ALIVE AND WITH MINIMAL TRAUMA. I just thought I should clarify that to avoid misconceptions I support women being sent to Jannah via courier service (murder)”.
    I will keep you in my duaa, oh beloved sister. Never believe that a man has the right to control you or oppress you. InshaAllah u find a way out of this. So theres no Imam in ur communtiy that can help?

  28. Avatar

    Sana

    November 7, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    Speaking about DV is such an easy thing to do. Doing something about it, is a whole other thing. I see too many Imams speak out about this topic, but they are hands off when it comes to protection of survivors. We must be responsible for what happens within our communities. Restraining orders are placed against abusers, and being an attorney myself, I am shocked at how communities and Muslims stand with perpetrators of domestic violence. Please ask the victim personally what their order looks like, so that one is not assisting in the crime of violation of a restraining order. Nobody is above the law.

  29. Avatar

    ALI AJALA

    November 3, 2016 at 3:36 PM

    islam wants us as muslim brothers to be leader in our home, “leader”, which means someone others can see as a good example, but most muslim brothers chose to be a bad example, and people are using them to judge others. i am a Muslim and im proud to be one. alhamdulillah

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#Society

Guilting Victims Is Disobeying God: The Abuse of Forgiveness

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It is undeniable that God loves forgiveness. It is also undeniable that God views forgiveness as exponentially more superior than blame, punishment, and retaliation. Personally, I highly doubt that there is in existence a single survivor, even one trapped in toxic anger and bitterness, who would deny this fact. So the question here isn’t really about God loving forgiveness. Rather, the question is about whether or not we—the judgmental outsiders (even if we happen to be survivors)—accept that God also loves justice.

The question is also about whether or not we sincerely accept that God supports whatever decision victims of wrongdoing make in addressing what happened to them, so long as they don’t violate anyone’s rights in the process.

In forced forgiveness culture, the answer is no to both of these questions: No, we don’t accept that God loves justice, and no, we don’t accept that God supports victims’ right to choice. Yes, many of us give lip service to acknowledging this. But the words are like a dismissive wave of the hand before we get right back to guilting survivors of abuse into doing what we say they must, God’s teachings be damned.

Ironically, in this forced forgiveness approach, it is we ourselves who are in danger of falling into sin and wrongdoing. And this danger is much more imminent than the hypothetical possibility of a survivor’s heart being filled with anger and bitterness if they don’t forgive. However, we are too busy imagining that we know better than everyone else, God included, to even perceive the looming harm hanging over our own hearts and souls.

In Islamic tradition, there are many places in the Qur’an in which God describes the traits of sincere believers. In one part, He prefaces this description with a reminder of the nature of the things humans enjoy in this worldly life. He says what has been translated to mean:

“So whatever you have been given is but a passing enjoyment for this worldly life, but that which is with Allah (i.e. Paradise) is better and more lasting for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord” (Ash-Shooraa, 42:36).

Given that several verses that follow address both forgiveness and wrongdoing, this introduction is quite profound in that it reminds every person, regardless of circumstance, the nature of this transient world and how we should understand our experiences in it. This allows the reader to put his or her mind in the right place before even processing the traits of the sincere believers who will be in Paradise. God goes on to list several traits of these believers:

“And those who avoid the greater sins and immoralities, and when they are angry, they forgive. And those who have responded to [the call of] their Lord and establish the Salaah (obligatory prayer), and who [conduct] their affairs by mutual consultation, and who spend out of what We have bestowed on them” (Ash-Shooraa, 42:37-38).

For those involved in forced forgiveness, they would read this description and immediately think, See! This is what I’m talking about. God says that true believers forgive wrongs! So what’s going on with all these angry, bitter people refusing to forgive those who wronged them? However, in this description of those who forgive, God didn’t mention wrongdoing at all. He mentioned only that they are angry. He doesn’t even mention why they are angry. Yes, wrongdoing is certainly implied in the verse, but it is not mentioned specifically. This is no small point.

Some people might say that this wording is merely a technicality, and that I’m being nitpicky in even pointing it out. Thus, they argue that this wording has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that everyone should forgive, no matter what abuse, oppression, or wrongdoing they suffered. However, when we say this, what we fail to realize is that not only is the emphasis on anger quite significant; it is also the point, as the verses that follow make undeniably clear.

Before quoting the verses about wrongdoing, I think it is important to mention how we should understand the wording of things in the Qur’an, especially when the same topic is addressed more than once in the same context. Generally, whenever a topic is discussed more than once and in some detail, what is and is not mentioned in each context points to important traits we are to focus on in understanding them. In some cases, these important traits are found in contexts outside the Qur’an, such as in the reason for revelation and in the prophetic example. However, in this case, the important traits are mentioned quite clearly in the verses themselves.

In the above context, when forgiveness is mentioned as the immediate response, the emphasis is on the fact that the person is angry, not that he or she has been wronged. The profound wisdom in this emphasis cannot be overstated.

In our daily lives, there are many things that anger us: A friend refuses to speak to us, and we have no idea why. Someone is late picking us up to an important appointment. A business partner agreed to do something then dropped out at the last minute. A person cuts us off in traffic or quickly steals our parking space. Our husband or wife is focused more on their smartphone or career than on us. And the list goes on.

One lesson we can glean is this: When facing day-to-day things that incite anger, for the sincere believer, the default response is that of forgiveness. By praising this trait in His servants, God lets us know that our daily behavior should foster environments of peace, understanding, and empathy instead of hostility and retaliation. No one is perfect. Thus, from time to time, we’ll all be insensitive, unreliable, and even flat out wrong, thereby inciting justifiable anger in others. However, as a general rule, it is in everyone’s best interests to be forgiving and merciful in these circumstances. Otherwise, the world would be full of quarrelsome, vengeful people who feel justified in avenging even the slightest offense.

This is not to say that none of the scenarios I listed are sometimes more serious than they initially appear, or even that we have to forgive these scenarios every single time. I give these examples only to make the point that what is being described in the Qur’an is the fact that sincere believers—those endowed with authentic spirituality—have a forgiving nature. And this nature is manifested most when they are justifiably angry yet still choose to forgive.

However, when an egregious wrongdoing has occurred, the emphasis is no longer on forgiveness; it is on justice. In this case, the sincere believers are described as follows: “And those who, when an oppressive wrong is done to them, they help and defend themselves” (Ash-Shooraa, 42:39).

In the verse that follows, it is only after it is explained that the retribution should fit the crime that the option to forgive is mentioned:

“The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto [in degree]. But if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Verily, He loves not the wrongdoers” (42:40).

Interestingly, God does not stop here in discussing the rights of those who have been wronged. He goes on to let victims know that not only do they have full right to not forgive, but also, should they exercise that right, no one has the right to blame them in any way. He says:

“But if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong [done] to them, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress people and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice. For such there will be a penalty grievous” (42:41-42).

Here is where seeing and understanding the original Arabic would be tremendously helpful in comprehending the powerful message being conveyed here. However, to get a glimpse of the deeper meaning, I offer this explanation: What is being translated as “there is no cause of blame” (i.e. against the victim who decides to not forgive), a more literal translation would be “there is no path, road, or means [that can be taken] against them.” By using the Arabic word sabeel—which is translated as cause above but has the literal meaning of waypath, or road—God is shutting down every possible justification anyone can use to criticize, blame, or harm a victim who chooses to not forgive.

In other words, it doesn’t matter whether this justification of blame, criticism, or harm is rooted in good intentions or not, if it is directed at the victim of wrongdoing, God simply does not allow it. If we do take this pathway of blame, then we are the ones who are wrong.

Even if we are simply perplexed or sincerely disappointed at their choice to not forgive, once they make their decision, we have no right to express disappointment or criticism, as this expression itself can be a sabeel (a pathway of blame) against them—no matter how harmless, innocent, or well meaning it appears to us.

After God makes this point crystal clear, He then effectively tells us: If you still feel in your heart or mind any inclination to criticize, blame, or express disappointment toward anyone as a result of this circumstance [which resulted in the victim not forgiving], then shift all of your attention back to the one who started this whole problem in the first place: the abuser, wrongdoer, or oppressor: “…The blame is only against those who oppress people and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice.”

Only after God establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt the victim’s full right to choice—and the prohibition of any form of blame or harm against them as a result of their choice—does He return to the topic of forgiveness:

“But indeed, if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs” (42:43).

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#Society

Be A Caller Not A Judge

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I am sure the readers will have come across numerous notices at some mosques discouraging certain types of people attending the mosques. Here is an example of many I have had the displeasure of reading:

‘We will not assist in counselling unless you are Islamically and decently dressed’.

I am not sure whether the advocates of this notice really understand the purpose of counselling or what the role of the imam should be in the community.

To discourage people from seeking help because they may not be ‘appropriately’ dressed in one’s eyes defeats the very purpose of counselling. It takes enormous courage and bravery to seek help and to read these dogmatic and crude attitudes is very disheartening. The job of an Imam/counsellor is not to judge but enable people to explore their concerns and worries.

Counselling is not about preaching to people. It is not about changing people the way you may want others to be. It is certainly not about imposing your understanding onto others. It is not about judging others by how your own worldview is. A counsellor is not there to sit you down and tell you what to do – instead they will encourage you to talk about what’s bothering you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking. The counsellor may then look to create a plan of action to either help you reconcile your issues or help you to find ways of coping. A lot of the time those who seek help simply want to be heard and listened to and the counsellor will facilitate that.

Imams/counsellors will encounter diverse groups of people from all backgrounds. It is the responsibility of the imam/counsellor to exhibit empathy with everyone without being judgemental.

One of the impediments of being an effective Imam counsellor is the lack of awareness of other people’s states and conditions as well as the lack of appreciation of the multi natured or the diversity of approaches and intellectual foundations people are exposed to. In order to be effective helpers and practitioners in the community, Imams/counsellors should take into consideration what may be termed as the ‘Diversity- and relationship – oriented empathy’ attitude towards the members of the society.

What is empathy?

Different theoreticians and researchers have defined it in different ways. Some see it as a personality trait, a disposition to feel what other people feel or to understand others ‘’from the inside’’, as it were. Others see empathy, not as a personality trait, but as a situation-specific state of feeling for understanding of another person’s experiences. Covey (1989), naming emphatic communication one of the ‘’seven habits of highly effective people,’’ said that empathy provides those with whom we are interacting with ‘’psychological air’’ that helps them breathe more freely in their associations and connections. Finally, Goleman (1995, 1998) puts empathy at the heart of emotional intelligence.

It is the individual’s ‘’social radar’’ through which he or she senses others’ feelings and perspectives and takes an active interest in their concerns. These and other academics, although they provide us with different definitions, nevertheless, their language is lyrical in giving us the maqsad (spirit) of what empathy denotes. It is a natural trait (jibillat) which also can be acquired through learning and understanding one’s own condition and experiences of others.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was fully cognisant of the pivotal role empathy plays in developing astute and diligent human beings and always was keen to educate people from an early age on this important value.

Below are some examples:

  1. Anas Ibn Malik narrated that “the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to mix with us (the children) to the extent that he would say to a younger brother of mine, ‘O Abu-‘Umayr! What did the Nughayr (a kind of bird) do?’ “(Bukhari). This demonstrated to the children that they were valued. This was the Messenger of Allah, who was a leader of thousands, a husband, father – despite these and other heavy duties and obligations, he had time to play with the children. This made them feel that they are loved, cared for and appreciated.
  2. Whenever he would enter Medinah he would carry his grandchildren and other children nearby on his mount. Again, given them the important attention children need.
  3. In another well-known tradition, a young companion related that he spent many years with the Prophet and not once did he complain or rebuke him.
  4. He would carry his granddaughter Umamah on his shoulders even while he was praying. Some narrations mention that he hastened to complete the prayer because of them. These and other examples show the great teacher and counsellor the Prophet was (peace be upon him).

Learning, inculcating and teaching empathy may solve many of the problems we face in our society.

The WAVE Trust, an international charity dedicated to raising public awareness of the root causes of violence in the society and the ways to reduce it, commissioned research that came up with some amazing findings: ‘’Empathy is the single greatest inhibitor of the development of propensity to violence. Empathy fails to develop when parents or prime carers fail to attune with their infants’’ (Hosking & Walsh, 2005, p.20). To attune to a child means ‘’attempting to respond to his or her needs, particularly emotionally, resulting in the child’s sense of being understood, cared for, and valued’’. (p. 20)

In many instances, it is argued that those who carry out acts of violence or cruel behaviour in the society have had issues and problems at their early life which were not dealt with but suppressed, and in their later stage of their life some external agent (s) or incident triggers some of the feelings and they lash out expressing their inner turmoil which results in cruel and sometimes inhumane behaviour.

As stated above it is of paramount importance for Imam counsellors to understand that the people they serve originate from diverse backgrounds. People will differ in ability, age, economic status, education, ethnicity, group culture, national origin, occupation, personal culture, politics, religion – to name a few. It is from the prophetic methodology to incorporate these variables and factors in one’s dealings with people. Below are some examples from the sunnah to illustrate some of the approaches being discussed:

  1. While the prophet was once returning to his house after talking to his companions in the mosque, a Bedouin pulled him by the collar and said rudely: ‘O Muhammad! Give me my due! Load up these two camels of mine. For you will load them up with neither your own wealth nor the wealth of your father.’ To this impertinence the prophet responded without expressing any sign of offence: Give that man what he wants! (Abu Dawud). The Prophet understood the nature, cultural difference, economic status, and psychological state of the Bedouin and did not resort to rebuke him for his rudeness and disrespect towards him.
  2. Zayd ibn San’an narrates: Once, Allah’s Messenger borrowed some money from me. I was not yet Muslim then. I went to him to collect my debt before its due time, and insulted him, saying; ‘You the children of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, are very reluctant to pay your debts!’ ‘Umar became very angry with this insult of mine and shouted; ‘O enemy of Allah! Were it not for the treaty between us and the Jewish community, I would cut off your head! Speak to Allah’s Messenger politely!’ However, Allah’s Messenger smiled at me and, turning to Umar, said; ‘Umar, pay the man his debt! And add to it the amount of twenty gallons because you have frightened him!’ Umar relates the rest of the story: ‘We went together. On the way, Zayd spoke to me unexpectedly; O Umar! You got angry with me. But I have found in him all the features of the Last Prophet recorded in the Torah, the Old Testament. However, there is this verse in it: ‘His mildness surpasses his anger. The severity of impudence to him increases him only in mildness and forbearance.’ In order to test his forbearance, I uttered what I uttered. Now I am convinced that he is the Prophet whose coming the Torah predicted, so, I believe and bear witness that he is the Last Prophet.’ (Suyuti, al-Khasais). The mildness and empathy of Allah’s Messenger sufficed for the conversion of Zayd, who was on another religion and culture.
  3. Even in the realm of worship, the Prophet was diligent and understood the different abilities and circumstances of the people. When a complaint was circulated about an imam because he prolonged the prayer, the Prophet climbed the pulpit and said: O you people! You cause aversion in people from prayer. Whoever among you leads a prescribed prayer should not prolong it, for there are among you people who are sick or old or who are in urgent need.’ (Bukhari). He even reproached his beloved companion, Muadh ibn Jabal when he prolonged the night prayer, saying, ‘Are you a trouble-maker? Are you a trouble-maker? Are you a trouble-maker? (Muslim)
  4. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ‘No Arab is superior over a non-Arab, and no white is superior over black (Ahmad), and superiority is by righteousness and God-fearing alone (Sura Hujurat, 49, 13). He also declared that even if an Abyssinian Black Muslim were to rule over Muslims, he should be obeyed. (Muslim). During the time of the Messenger of Allah, the same kind of racism we encounter today, under the name of tribalism, was prevalent in Makkah. He understood the biases and prejudice people had and eradicated it from the outset.

These are few examples out of many where the Prophet showed and articulated diverse and multicultural competencies. The more Imam counsellors understand the broad characteristics, needs, and behaviours of the people they serve, the better positioned they will be to demonstrate the true compassionate nature of Islam.

Below is a basic list of competencies adapted from different books, articles and experiences of individuals:

  1. Beware of your own personal culture, including your cultural heritage, and how you might come across to people who differ from you culturally and in a host of other ways.
  2. Beware of the personal-cultural biases you may have toward individuals and groups other than your own.
  3. As an Imam/counsellor, be aware of both ways in which you are like any given individual you are helping and ways in which you differ. Both can aid or stand in the way of the support process.
  4. Come to understand the values, beliefs, and worldviews of groups and individuals you will encounter. In other words, to feel what other people feel or to understand others ‘’from the inside’’, as indicated above.
  5. Come to understand how all kinds of diversity, group, cultural, ethical or otherwise, contribute to each person’s dynamic make up.
  6. Be aware of how socio-political influences such as poverty, oppression, stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice, and marginalisation might have affected people with whom you encounter or with those you are trying to have a dialogue.
  7. Establish rapport with and convey empathy to people. Both in the individual and collective capacity.
  8. Initiate and explore issues of difference between yourself and the people you are working with. Always bearing in mind that Islam does not place any barriers between people. In the end your interactions (and the barriers between us and them) with people are personal.
  9. Design non bias strategies and plans for people that factor in the diversity, education and upbringing they received.
  10. Finally, asses your own level of competence and strive to improve in all areas outlined above.

To conclude, our approach should be about working with people the way they are, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, however, it does not imply that you need to apologise for who you are.

Written in 2009, posted with minor modifications.

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UK Faith Leaders Launch Call For UK Government To Take Critical Action On Violence Against Women

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Faith leaders group photo

Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu faith leaders gathered in the House of Lords to launch a joint call for UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women – and for MPs to support the Istanbul Convention Private Member’s Bill (PMB) by voting for it on 16 December.

The gathering, hosted by Lord McColl and organised by the IC Change campaign for the Istanbul Convention, Restored and Faith Action, follows on from faith leaders’ declaration against domestic abuse launched in 2015.[1]

This call from faith leaders comes as, on average two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former male partner and 85,000 women are raped and more than 400,000 sexually assaulted each year.[2]

Violence against women and girls takes many forms and is widespread in the UK. The Istanbul Convention is the strongest tool in the box that the Government has to respond.

The Convention – aptly described as ‘the best thing you’ve never heard of’ – is a set of life-saving minimum standards on tackling violence against women for a State’s response to the epidemic.

If the UK Government ratified the Istanbul Convention, it would bring unprecedented positive change for women and girls – supporting those experiencing violence, ensuring a stronger prosecution system, and stopping violence from happening in the first place by dealing with its root causes. It would protect funding for domestic violence shelter, rape crisis centres and ensure education on healthy relationships in schools.

The Government promised to make the Convention law over four and a half years ago and it still has not happened.

That’s why faith leaders have united to call on the UK Government to demonstrate its commitment to ending violence against women by making the Istanbul Convention UK law.

More immediately, faith leaders are calling on MPs to attend a debate on 16 December on a life-saving bill for women that would require the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention – and to vote in its favour. And they are asking people across the UK to write to their MPs to ask them to do this. Please find details below on how you can get involved!

Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, says: ‘Violence against women is an injustice and a violation against the dignity of human beings made in the image of God that the Church must speak out on. The Istanbul Convention provides a strong, practical framework to help us tackle the issue comprehensively in a way that has never been done before’.

‘As faith leaders it is our duty to combat the menace of domestic abuse in our society. We must show unity to call our leaders to do whatever it takes to protect the most vulnerable people in the society,’ Abdullah Hasan, Imams against Domestic Abuse.

This December we have a rare opportunity to change the individual stories of women and girls across the UK who face violence every day and secure this vital protection from violence for them.

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, adds: ‘We urgently need a stronger framework in which to combat such evils, to make people more aware, to enable us to combat it, to prosecute the perpetrators and prevent its recurrence. This is exactly what the Convention provides’

Faith leaders are calling on people to support this bill by writing to their MP and asking them to go to the debate and vote for the bill.

So what can you do to get involved?

We need to make sure that 100 MPs turn up to Parliament to support it so that it can pass on to the next stage.

However, the 16th December is on a Friday morning – a time when many MPs would normally be in their local constituencies. That’s why we need your help to it’s essential for to contact your MP and to tell them why it’s so important for them show up and support the Bill.

Please write to your MP or arrange to meet them to ask them to attend the debate on 16 December and vote in favour of the Istanbul Convention bill.

You can find all the resources you need here on the IC Change website, including a template letter to help you write to your MP and top tips for meeting your MP. Let IC Change know at info@icchange.co.uk if your MP says yes.

@ICchangeUK I #ChangeHerstory #IstanbulConvention I www.icchange.co.uk/pmb

 

 

[1] http://www.restoredrelationships.org/news/2015/07/16/press-release-house-lords-interfaith-meeting-stop-domestic-violence-uk/

[2] http://icchange.co.uk/about/violence-against-women/

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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