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Domestic Violence Series

The End to Hitting Women: Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence | Imam Abdullah Hasan

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misconstrued verses in the Qur’an by Muslims and non-Muslims alike is verse 4:34, the so-called ‘chastisement verse.’

Those who claim that the verse allows husbands to hit their wives argue that the verse suggests a three step solution in the event of a family dispute where ill-conduct has been committed on part of the wife. The verse instructs first that the husband may exhort his wife and appeal to her reason (wa‘ẓ). If the problem continues, the husband may then express his displeasure by sleeping in a separate bed. If the wife persists in the deliberate mistreatment of her husband, expression of contempt, and disregards her marital obligations, the husband, they argue, as a third step, may resort to ḍarb as a means to ‘save the marriage’.

The verse prescribes these three conflict resolution measures in the case of a dispute between husband and wife. The most contentious segment of the verse is the imperative waḍhribūhunna (hit them). The word, coming from the trilateral root ḍ-r-b, in this verse has commonly appeared in modern English translations of the Qur’ān as “hit” or “beat lightly”. The addition of “lightly” reflects a dependence on traditional commentary (tafsīr) of the verse. Other translators have instead used words such as “tap” and “pat” to represent a physical type of admonishment that is not at the level of hitting or beating. All of these translations, I would argue, do not take into account the context of the verse vis a vis the passage following it. Others have posited seemingly far-fetched translations, wherein, they argue; ḍarb implies sexual intercourse, or the temporary separation of husband and wife. Although the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did separate from his wives when a dispute arose, I argue that this is not the primary purport of the verse.

Insofar as a translation must maintain a ‘literal’ expressive framework, the most adequate one-word translation of the word ḍaraba would be “to percuss” or, “to strike’’ or tap lightly as a doctor would examine a patient”. In this study, however, I will show that the real meaning of waḍribuhunna is not literal, but that the imperative is a stand in for a metonymic expression of anger and display of displeasure. This interpretation, I argue, has basis in the works of the Muftī (judge) of Makkah and the student of Ibn Abbās (interpreter of the Qur’ān), ‘Aṭā’Ibn Abī Rabāḥ (d. 114 AH), and is, in fact, suggested by the writings of a large number of scholars.

In this brief study I will provide a comprehensive overview of the phrase waḍribūhunna from it’s linguistic (lugha/philology), rhetorical (balāghīyya), jurisprudential (fiqhiyya), exegetical (tafsīriyya) framework, and include some supporting traditions (ḥadīṭh) of the Prophet. I will not be able to delve into similar discussions surrounding the terms qawwāmūn, wahjurūhunna,  nushūẓ (in detail) and other such controversial terms in this particular verse will not be the focus of this article. They will be addressed in a much more extensive study “Spousal Reprimand in Islam”, God willing. The following remarks on the phrase wadhribūhunna are only summarized from it.

Forward

Dr. Jasser Auda

I was pleased to read this booklet written by my dear brother, Imām Abdullāh Hasan under the title “The End to Hitting Women: The Qur’ānic Concept of Ḍarb (‘hitting’)”. Imam Abdullah is bringing new insights into the interpretation of verses from the Qur’ān that are often misinterpreted and misused to justify violence and oppression of women, a position taken by several (mis-)interpreters in a way that is unfair to Islam and its eternal teachings.

We need such insights to understand the book of God and the traditions of His Prophet (peace be upon him), especially with regards to two subjects: women and governance. Several (mis-) interpreters have rendered such subjects in a way which, in my view, is contrary to both the spirit and objectives of the Sharī‘ah.

The question then arises: how can we differentiate between a valid interpretation or re-interpretation (which is the case here) and an invalid misinterpretation? We must resort to the absolute and universal objectives (maqāsid) of the Sharī‘ah.

Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 748 AH/1347 CE), one of the greatest scholars of Islam, described the Sharī‘ah as follows:

“Sharī‘ah is based on wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the afterlife. Sharī‘ah is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good. Thus, any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to the Sharī‘ah, even if it is claimed to be so according to some interpretation.’’[1]

Thus, we can argue that the same verses that Hasan explains here were previously subject to misinterpretation because the outcome and the meaning go against these absolute and eternal values of Islam: justice, mercy, wisdom, and goodness. In the issue of marriage, specifically, God says:

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put Love and mercy between your (hearts), verily in that are signs for those who reflect.”[2]

With regards to marriage specifically then, we can add a fifth objective: love. It is about time that our fiqh (Islamic ethics and rules) are renewed in order to align our behaviour with these eternal and absolute values; justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, and love. These absolute objectives are fixed ends that reign over the changeable means, and their universality governs how we understand the Sharī‘ah in different contexts of place and time.

May God reward Abdullah Hasan and widen the circles of benefit of his works.

Dr. Jasser Auda

Doha 24.11.2013

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Sh. Abdullah Hasan graduated with an Imam Diploma, BA and Ijaza Aliyah in Islamic Studies [Theology & Islamic Law, taught completely in Arabic] from a European Islamic seminary. He holds a diploma in Arabic from Zarqa Private University (Jordan), studied at the faculty of fiqh wa usuluhu (Jurisprudence and its principles) at the same university while receiving training in various disciplines privately with some of the leading Scholars of Jordan and the Middle East. He studied Chaplaincy at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE). He is a Licensed Islamic Professional Counsellor (LIPC), specialising in youth and marriage therapy. In addition, he is a specialist in Zakat and Islamic philanthropic studies. He served, as an Imam, several Muslim communities in the UK. Sh. Abdullah Hasan has enormous interest and passion in the field of community and people development. He has over 10 years of management, leadership and training experience within the third sector. He is the founder of British Imams and Scholars Contributions & Achievement Awards (BISCA), which is a national platform to celebrate, support & nurture positive leadership within the community. The Founder of British Institutes, Mosques & Association Awards (BIMA), which is national platform celebrating the achievements of mosques and Islamic institutions. He also founded Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA), an international coalition of leaders to end domestic abuse, and is a member of the National Council of Imams & Rabbis, UK.,

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Fritz

    December 22, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Sad to say, psychological abuse is probably more common that physical abuse (and both are deplorable)

    Unfortunately, the former is very often perpetrated by woman (sometimes unknowingly) and can be just as toxic. It would be great to see an article also deal with this element to provide a comprehensive warning.

  2. Avatar

    Shazan

    December 22, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Assalam o Alekum!
    Jazakillah khair Brother! This is a burning issue and require considerable attention.

  3. Avatar

    Mahmud

    December 22, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    What makes me uneasy is that it seems to be clear that the word means “hit” literally as the hadith on the matter are pretty clear….the ayah was revealed and then the women complained an so on……..

    • Avatar

      Mahmud

      December 28, 2013 at 1:48 AM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Can I at least get a reason as to why my comment was edited? I merely started it with expressing gratitude to the Imam for defending the apostasy law in Islam(where the murtad is killed) and then said I felt a bit uneasy about the conclusions here……

      What is wrong with that? May I get a reason?

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        December 29, 2013 at 1:20 AM

        Your wording was unclear and we couldn’t understand what you were trying to convey in the beginning of the comment.

        • Avatar

          Mahmud

          December 29, 2013 at 11:46 AM

          Best to assume well then…..

          In any case, while I find this article to be pretty strange, I say, Imam Abdullah Hasan has been helpful to me, I loved his website(when it was up!) as he had a very nice article on Ibn Ashur and other stuff we might not easily find easily elsewhere which is always something to appreciate.

          In addition, I can’t thank him enough for his explanation of certain hudud laws, the difference of opinion among Ulema concerning it, and he finally made the apostasy law make sense as I didn’t fully understand it before(although every law in Sharia must be accepted even if we do not understand it.)

          Here is the wonderful blog he used to use, it has very nice explanations of certain Hudud laws, and the beautiful explanation of the apostasy bit is on the bottom:
          http://maqasid.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/unnatural-offences-the-controversy/

          Good to see an Imam with a strong foundation in Arabic and Fiqh. Islam QA is nice because they should daleel in English translation and everything, but Imam Abdullah Hasan explained it in a very easy to understand manner.

          Fiqh is usually something not easy on the layman so I naturally appreciate it when someone is willing to go into the time and detail necessary to explain a certain issue, especially controversial modern ones and not be apologetic.

          • Avatar

            Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

            December 30, 2013 at 12:20 AM

            I understood that clearly worded comment Alhamdulillah. :)

            -Aly
            *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  4. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    December 22, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    don’t want to diss or sidestep this, but the real issue is Muslim teens. I just got battered by my son. He refuses to study. The go into a funk at about 13 and fight to not come out of it. At the time they should be launching themselves into the world, they sulk and underperform and expect parents to take care of them forever. I am pretty sure this is more wide spread than the battering. I know not to hit my wife. My kid doesn’t know he’s not supposed to hit me. So who’s out here to stop me from ending up in an emergency room? I’ve talked with the police. It’s like, since I’m a guy…so what?

    • Avatar

      RCHOUDH

      December 24, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      Salaam Brother,

      I pray things get better between you and your son. Do you know if anything is bothering him at school or if he’s having trouble understanding certain subjects? Sometimes kids act out of tremendous stress and anxiety over school. Hopefully things will get better for your son soon In sha Allah.

  5. Avatar

    Motie Omari

    December 22, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahe wa barakatuh

    Jazaka Allahu khairan Imam Abdullah for writing this exceptional essay on 4:34 and to MM for publishing the above article.

    ISNA Horizons magazine several years ago dedicated a whole issue on Domestic Violence and included was the essay you quoted for Dr. Abdulhamid Abu Sulayman; highly recommended along with your essay

    [http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/quran_434_chastising_women_a_means_to_resolve_marital_problems/]

    Also, a Qur’an student in the UK has published a website and 88 page book solely dedicated to ayah 4:34 that can be read for free at his site or bought from Amazon. *

    [http://quran434.com/]

    Also; here’s a helpful essay by Yusuf Estes to help couples maintain the love and respect in their marriages and hopefully will never ever face discord or any type of abuse:

    28 Tips To Be A Successful (Muslim) Spouse!
    – Yusuf Estes

    [http://islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/1779] *

    May we all be blessed and guided to better understand the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah in sha Allah.

    Thank you, your brother,

    Motie Omari مطيع العمري

    P.S. In regards to the respectable brother who stated that his son was hitting him; very sorry to read that, many kids get influenced from the violence in video games, abusive friends, or even abusive siblings/parents; not necessarily physically, rather emotionally or verbally

    We make dua’ that perhaps a local Imam/Scholar or family therapists trained in family counseling can assist your family and son to find out why he hit his own father, wa nauthu billah.

    ===========================================================

    * NOTE from Yusuf Estes: Marriage is considered “Half the Deen” (very important part of Islam).

    Yet we are seeing failures in marriages all around us. Family fights are on the rise, women and children are being abused and many families are falling apart. More and more marriages are ending up in divorce even amongst the most religious of families, and the Muslims are no exception.

    So many marriages are failing these days, even amongst the most religious of families, and Muslims are no exception.

    This greatly saddens me and I hope by publishing this article here on our website, we might come to a better understanding and better relationship with our spouses, in sha’ Allah.

  6. Avatar

    mustafa

    December 22, 2013 at 6:58 PM

  7. Avatar

    mustafa

    December 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM

  8. Avatar

    mustafa

    December 22, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    sheikh abdullah adhami’s interesting video on wife beating

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKMPVpjYrN4

  9. Avatar

    25 years In Islam

    December 23, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Verbal Abuse can be worse than Physical Abuse especially if your spouse is manipulative. People often assume you did something to deserve the abuse, so you get no support or sympathy. May Allah protect us from all forms of violence.

    • Avatar

      SisterX

      December 30, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      I appreciate this topic being presented. It would be nice if more articles on MM could also address issues of domestic violence, as well as emotional and verbal abuse.

      In my personal experience, I think both the abuser and the abused are well aware that these behaviors are not encouraged by Islam. Unfortunately Islamic rulings are often wrongly used to justify and allow the abuse to continue to take place because there is such an emphasis on obeying the husband. The wife, meanwhile often has no support in the community because there is a feeling that it is a private manner, she should not expose his mistakes, and that perhaps some may feel that she somehow deserves the abuse.

      On the other hand, Islamic rulings can be a source of empowerment to Muslim women. Understanding your rights in Islam can help you identify when your rights are being violated.

  10. Avatar

    cedar

    December 24, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    While I myself am not knowledgeable in this area. I still find it odd to break from the overwhelming majority opinion on this topic. There are also multiple sources from the sunnah (more explicit, less ambiguous) that bolster the majority view. I can see the need to advise people, but to sidestep this and portray this view as mistaken is very hard for me to accept :)

  11. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    December 24, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Jazakillah ul khair for this informative article. I’ll be sure to finish reading it soon and pass it on to others who may benefit from it. I was recently speaking to someone about the issue of domestic violence in Muslim communities and, while conceding that it is a major problem, he also said that other sorts of abuses take place in Muslim communities too, such as parental abuse. I stated that while it’s true about other forms of abuse being prevalent right now unfortunately (whether it was parental, child, and/or sexual abuse) I couldn’t think of any other abuse where Islam was used to “justify” said abuse like spousal abuse. That particular ayat has been misinterpreted all too often by people who fail to take into context and apply it properly to the real world.

  12. Avatar

    Hina Ansari

    December 24, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    Asalamu-alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

    JazakAllah Khayr for this highly essential, revealing and explanatory article, and for the links posted in the replies/comments above.

    I will inshaAllah pass this on.

    Wasalaam

  13. Avatar

    Riz Khan

    December 25, 2013 at 2:23 AM

    Mashallah! great effort and we as one Ummah require such efforts on large scale. I was looking at the list of countries given in the article “The Best and Worst Places for Women” link below
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/09/20/best-and-worst-countries-for-women-the-full-list.html
    All the best countries for women are non muslim countries while the worst lies down the list are mostly muslim countries.

    Some shocking facts- the worst country according the list is Chad (165), Aghanistan, Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Solomon Islands, Niger, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Saudi Arabia (147).

    The best countries according to the list are Iceland (1), Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, United States of America, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Luxembourg, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Philippines, Belgium, United Kingdom Romania (20).

    I was shocked to find Saudi Arabia and Pakistan amongst the worst 18 countries for women. Let us suppose for a moment that this list is not correct; still we all know the women position in muslim countries is not exemplary. We all know Islam gave unprecedented rights to women but why this is not reflected by the society. Is there anything wrong? was/is our scholars and prominent leaders somewhat lax in this respect? There is a need of such initiative taken by all the muslim scholars. Those who lead prayers should emphasise to treat women gently, respectfully and with love. Each and every forum should be use to advocate for the rights of wormen. It is disgusting to find muslim countries with high domestic violence.

  14. Avatar

    Riz Khan

    December 25, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    A good idea for muslim women seems to be having martial arts training before marriage.. at least a black belt. Also giving permission to husbands to have 4 wives may prove beneficial as four wives are more likely to beat a single husband than the other wary around.

  15. Avatar

    Mahmud

    December 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Advertising is allowed but my comments aren’t? The most I said was I felt uneasy with the conclusion……….

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      December 27, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      WaAlaikum Assalam Wa Rehmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu:

      You are on moderation, the spammer is now on the spam list. All comments are subject to our comments policy. Please don’t go down the why path again. Any moderated comments will take time to approve or may not be approved.

      Best Regards
      CommentsTeam

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  17. Avatar

    Mahnoor Khalid

    January 2, 2014 at 4:09 AM

    Assalam.o.alaekum
    Women’s rights have got a great importance in Islam. Islam does not allow to beat women.
    In a Hadith the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is reported to have said: “How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?”
    Quran is the central religious text of Islam,According to Quran the relationship between the husband and wife should be based on mutual love and kindness. Allah says: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Quran: Ar-Rum 21)

  18. Avatar

    Parvez

    January 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    I have a question as to how is the word daraba in the Quran [4:34] meptaphoric and not literal?

    regarding the verse [Surah nisa verse 34];

    Ibn `Abbas (ra) and several others said that the Ayah refers to a beating that is not violent. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that it means, a beating that is not severe. [Tafsir Ibn kathir]

    The most prominent sahaba in regards to tafsir of the Quran ; Abdullah Ibn Abbas (ra) surely has more authority then Ata ibn Rabah.

    All the 4 Madhabs understood the particual part of the verse as literal and also all the verses of the Quran related to social, marital, fiqh matters are to be taken as what the verse apparently states thus literally.

    The Quran is the clear book of guidance and not a book of secret codes.

    If the particular daraba in verse [4:34] is metaphoric and means anger and not literal, then why did most of the classical scholars understood it as literal?

    why is there not an arabic word clearly stating anger in that verse?

    This clearly proves that verses related to fiqh and social matters are to be taken as literal.

    lets not change the interpretation of the Quran in order to please the athiest and agnostics.
    Our purpose of following the Quran is only to please Allah (swt).

    hence the verse means lightly hitting the wife as last resort if she is rebellious.

    even the human history of ten of thousands of years followed this way as lightly hitting the rebellious wife as last resort.

    the fiqh laws of the quran is practical and does not go against the human nature.

    just because the non muslims have changed their moral values and social values does not mean we should follow them. in fact the kaafir’s radical change clearly proves they were wrong in many social and moral matters therefore there is no evidence to suggest that some how after 10,000yrs that all of a sudden they know what is right now with no authority from Allah.

    • Avatar

      MuFu

      September 23, 2015 at 4:04 PM

      While I agree with you that womans can make use of heavy mental violence in a partnership and that this is not seen as harmful as physical violence I must remind here, if you want to have the right to hit your woman you are doing good doing this in a country where it isnt forbidden. Like it or not, find it reasonable or not, but in a western society we have to bow to western laws and therfore we dont hit anyone, be it woman or man. Hitting was never a good solution in a conflict, it is shutting down the expression of dissatisfaction of the other at that moment _but_ it doesnt solve the true problem!

      • Avatar

        Parvez

        November 5, 2015 at 10:26 PM

        Yes I agree that if the law states no hitting unconditionally than its ok to follow such law.

        However the writer of the article seems to suggest that the religion itself implies such law, which i respectfully disagree due to few reasons.

        please note Islam does not support abuse and the beating of women, words whose meanings are reflected from experiences of violence against women in the west. People have to be careful with their words. The fact that Prophet Muhammad never hit one of his wives does not mean it is not allowed for a husband to do so when the Qur’an has permitted it. This is a logical fallacy and it does not take someone a great distance to discover that there are many narrations where Prophet Muhammad upheld the permission of correcting one’s wife using a physical reprimand

        1. There is no authentic chain of narrators back to ‘Ata regarding the writer’s argument. This is important, especially if someone wants to use it to change the meanings of all other evidence on the issue.

        2. It is only a statement of ‘Ata and cannot stand against hadith. The author’s idea cannot explain the ‘chastise them in a way that leaves no mark’ (dharb ghayr mubarrih) phrase in the hadith of the Farewell Pilgrimage when the Messenger of Allah said:

        “Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by words of Allah. You too have rights over them, that they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, (in that case) chastise them in a way that leaves no mark (i.e. not severe). Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a befitting manner.” [Muslim – hadith 2950]

        It is important here to make the point that this statement is reported by Muslim and it refers to the last pilgrimage of Prophet Muhammad, just three months before his death, which refutes the idea that there was a transition in culture from Mecca to Madinah.

        3. ‘Ata hismelf narrated, I asked Ibn ‘Abbas: What is the beating that leaves no marks? He said, ‘With a tooth stick and the like.” [Al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Ta’wil al-Qur’an]

        4. Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam did not allow abuse of women but he allowed husbands to physically reprimand their wives.

        Iyas ibn Abdullah ibn Abu Dhubab reported the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. [Al-Sajistani, Abu Dawud, as-Sunan, Trans. Yasir Qadhi. (Riyadh: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2008) Hadith 2146; classified as sahih by Al-Albani]

        The Prophet was educating his companions to be the best to their wives even if they were sometimes disobedient. However, he did not forbid them to reprimand them physically. As he was the best amongst them and the best to his wives, he did not hit them when they complained and were out of line.

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  20. Avatar

    Abu ali

    July 18, 2015 at 12:38 AM

    Hmmm. Seriously reading about domestic abuse — physical and emotional on Islamic websites one would come to the conclusion that good Muslim women never abuse their husbands, that it’s ALWAYS the husband doing it.

    No.

    I wish the likes of Shk Mohammed Sharif et al would start taking the issue of abuse against husbands seriously rather than treating it as a joke a chuckling about wives verbally and emotionally abusing their husbands and almost excusing this unacceptable behaviour with references to bent ribs etc.

    Until we can accept that this is a problem the lives of thousands of Muslim men will continue to be ruined by something for which there appears to be no recourse!

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#Society

Guilting Victims Is Disobeying God: The Abuse of Forgiveness

Umm Zakiyyah

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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

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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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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#Current Affairs

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

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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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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